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Essential Warm-up and Cool-Down Exercises to Get the Most out of Your Next Workout

When you workout, your body will thank you for warming up and cooling down!

Exercise Disclaimer: Before starting any new workout regimen, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain, or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, you should stop immediately. The workout below is merely a suggestion and should be adjusted to fit your individual needs and goals.

Why Warm-Up?

Before you begin your workout, think about warming up your muscles like you would warm up your car; you’re gradually revving up your cardiovascular system by slowly increasing your heart rate, breath, and blood flow to your muscles at the start of your activity. By incorporating a good warm-up, you’re helping to minimize stress on your heart and increase the temperature and flexibility of your muscles.

“How long should I warm-up for?”

When planning out your workout, remember to make time for an adequate warm-up. Aim to warm up for 5-10 minutes. The more intense your workout activity will be, the longer your warm-up should be. Even if you only have 30 minutes to work out, make sure the first 5 minutes are dedicated to getting your body ready for intense exercise.

Here are some of my favorite warm-up moves to get you started.

First, I recommend starting any warm-up by opening up the spine. Perform a flat back down stretch BEFORE making your way into spinal twists to help lengthen your spine and create more space between the vertebrae.

A warm-up should also include more dynamic moves, actively taking joints through their full range of motion while rehearsing movement patterns. The more a joint moves in the socket, the more synovial fluid it creates which helps lubricate the joints Here’s a series that I like to go through to warm up my whole body:

A dynamic move warm-up series takes joints through their full range of motion.

  • Good mornings – keep your back flat and hinge at your hips

  • Walk-Outs – focus on a strong plank position to fire up your core

Remember to utilize all planes of motion and joint actions when you’re warming up for a workout. We have three planes of motion in our bodies; below are warm-up exercises for each.

The Lunge Matrix is a great warm up for everyone. The body is being moved through all ranges of motion. Get your blood flowing and be intentional with your movement, not rushing through it!

If you’re tight from a recent workout or have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), plan to work in a little extra time for static stretching before your workout.

Why Cool-Down?

A successful workout will push your muscles to the point of exhaustion, causing them to feel like they tighten up. A good cool-down can help with recovery, reduce injury, and accelerate lactate recovery in your blood.

Adequately slowing down after exercise will help bring down your body temperature and restore your heart rate to a resting level while keeping your blood flowing throughout your body. Even if you don’t have time for a full cool-down, avoid stopping exercise suddenly, as that might cause you to feel light-headed and uneasy.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your cool-down:

  • Cool down for 5-10 minutes

  • Walk it out or slow down moves until your heart rate gets below 120bpm

  • Repeat warm up at a slower pace

Don’t Forget about Stretching

A combination of slow, steady stretches and an active cool-down is recommended to help improve flexibility and range of motion around the joints. Check out these tips for proper stretching:

  • Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds, or until it feels comfortable to move on

  • Your stretches should be strong but not painful

  • Avoid bouncing to protect the ligaments and tendons around your joints

  • Breathe while you’re stretching. Inhale while moving into holding the stretch, and exhale to sink deeper into the stretch.

Try out the World’s Greatest Stretch – one of my favorites!

The Bottom Line

In a perfect world, you would have ample time to complete a full warm-up and cool down before and after every workout. It can be tempting to skip a warm-up or cool-down, but there are so many benefits to the body when you add these critical elements with purpose and intention.

Warming up beforehand can ensure that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. Just like a car – you wouldn’t set off on that summer road trip without a full tank of gas! Taking time to let your heart rate come back to reality after a good sweat sesh can help you stay injury-free and ready for another great workout next time!

What are your favorite warm-up and cool-down exercises? Let us know in the comments below!

All content of this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this blog.

Kelly Sherman, MS, NC, CGP, CPT, is a licensed nutritionist specializing in empowering women to reclaim their health by cutting through misinformation and ditching the diet culture. She has a master’s degree in nutrition and is degreed in exercise science as well as a certified personal trainer. With over 20 years of experience in the field, she combines the best of both nutrition and exercise sciences to best help her clients reach their potential. To nourish is to flourish!

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