How do you warm up and cool down from exercise? While what constitutes the proper way to do this is widely debated with different research pointing to different answers, it can be said that static stretching before you begin an activity is no longer considered effective. All the literature agrees on one thing, that you want an active warm up, meaning performing stretches and activities that activate the most amounts of muscles.
There really is no definitive length on how much you are supposed to warm up before a race or before training. The goal of any warm up is to open up your joints and increase blood flow to the muscles. If you fail to do this and you exercise 'cold' you could be missing out on your full potential. For example one of the exercises that is shown in our video below is hip openers. With this exercise, when done properly it allows the whole hip capsule to open up and for fluid to be able to lubricate the entire joint so that you can use the full range of motion of the hips when exercising. If you do not do this as part of a warm up, you may shorten some of your hip range of motion which will affect your workout. If you are experiencing back pain, this could be one of the reasons.
Check out our video for a very short sequence of exercises that allows the most amounts of muscles to be targeted. There are certainly more complete warm up sequences that can be done. This is essentially the bare minimum. It only takes about 5-10 minutes, but it opens up the spine, the hips and gets the blood flowing throughout the body. You should not feel pain when you are performing these warm up activities; if you do, back off the stretch.
1. The first stretch has been termed the 'World's Greatest Stretch' because of the amount of movements and muscle groups involved. There are lots of variations on this stretch. Move through it slow and deliberate and take each movement to the end range if it is comfortable. Do about 5 on each side or until you feel loose.
2. Hip openers. If you need to hold onto something to get the maximum range of motion out of these then do that. The goal is not to have to hold onto anything but in the event that you cannot maintain your balance then make sure you hold onto something so you get the largest range of motion. Perform 5-10 on each side or until you feel that you have opened up your hips.
3. Single Knee Chest. This motion can be done standing still or walking. But make sure that you grab your knee and hug it all the way up to your chest. If you are choosing to walk, just take a small step forward after each repetition. Do about 5-10 of these on each side.
4. Skipping. Yes skipping. Skipping is a great warm up. When you skip to warm up you want to make sure that you emphasize jumping up and not out. And you also want to make sure that you are driving both your arms and your legs. Get the most amount of muscle recruitment from the arms and the legs.
Performing this routine will loosen up your joints and muscles, and it will not take you long to do it, allowing you to quickly move on to your activity and your day.