This article is intended to educate coaches about the importance of proper warm-up and cool-down practices. The reasoning for proper warm-up and the different types will be discussed as well as the rationale for proper cool-down following strenuous exercise. No matter the skill level of your athlete, you should always begin your workout with a proper warm-up. The purpose of the warm-up is to stimulate the cardiovascular system and to warm up the muscles that the athlete will be using during the activity. Although I am not providing it for this article, research has shown that many injuries that occur during training are caused due to improper warm-up before exercise.
6 REASONS TO WARM-UP:
- Warming up increases overall body and muscle temperatures which increase blood flow to the active muscles.
- Warm-up increases the body and muscle temperature which helps to increase the rate of energy production.
- Contraction and reflex times are improved with higher muscle temperatures.
- Exercising without warm-up places a potentially dangerous stress on the heart. Warming up reduces the stress on the heart.
- Soft tissue (tendons, ligaments, muscles) injuries are less likely with proper warm-up.
- There is also a psychological benefit from proper warm-up (the athlete feels more ready to participate).
TYPES OF WARM-UP PROGRAMS
There are three basic types of warm-up programs that will be discussed. They are:
- Specific Warm-up
PASSIVE WARM-UP – This is the least effective of all three methods. It basically consists of the use of an external source of heat, such as a Jacuzzi, sauna, or steam room. Various types of sports creams are also used by some people to help with warming up. None of these methods are effective, unless accompanied by one or more of the other forms of warm-up because they do little to increase the temperature deep within the muscles.
GENERAL WARM-UP – Involves activities that stimulate and increase the blood flow to the working muscles. Such activities as jogging, jumping jacks or some basic calisthenics, are effective warm-up exercises. They stimulate the cardiovascular system and lungs, as well as preparing the muscles for vigorous activity.
SPECIFIC WARM-UP – Is necessary in skill activities (tennis, baseball, basketball, etc.) and when training with heavy weights. As the term implies, the specific warm-up prepares the specific muscles that will be used in an activity. For example, hurdlers generally do not do push-ups before a race but engage in some mild running and practicing specific leg movements involved in hurdling.
Specific warm-up activities consist of easier movements or practice sets with lower resistance. The intensity of the specific warm-up is gradually increased leading up to more vigorous activity. All exercise programs where a specific warm-up is necessary, should always follow the general warm-up. Several popular methods are jogging, swimming and walking. Although some of these can be confused with the general warm-up, remember it has to do with the intensity levels at which you are performing them at.
DURATION OF A WARM-UP – Prior to your more specific warm-up, a general warm-up should last in the 5 to 10 minute range. The more vigorous the exercise program or higher skill of the sport, the longer the warm-up should be.
WARM-UP INDICATIONS – Heart rate is a good indicator for judging the effectiveness of your warm-up. The heart rate should be no more than 10 beats above or below the low-end of your training heart rate range. A break of light sweat is also another good indicator of a sufficient warm-up.
Following the completion of any exercise program, it is important to gradually cool-down. This is necessary to prevent the pooling of blood in the extremities, which if stopped suddenly could result in feeling lightheadedness, nausea and possible fainting. Recovery from any rigorous physical activity is enhanced by participating in some sort of light activity such as walking, slow jogging or easy swimming.
COOL-DOWN INDICATIONS – To check for proper cool-down, monitor your athlete’s heart rate. Their heart rate should have returned to about 100 beats per minute. The time it will take to return to an appropriate level depends on the intensity of the workout and the athlete’s physical condition. The less fit an athlete, the longer it will take to recover compared to an athlete who is in better shape.
The cool-down should also include a series of flexibility exercises covering the entire body. Athletes who engage in weight training will find that stretching after their workout will enhance their rate of recovery and reduce any residual muscle soreness.
CONCLUSION – It is important for the athlete to be informed about the reasons for warming up and cooling down. The athletes must be prepared for specific exercises and movements involved in the activity. Emphasis should be placed on the cool-down as well as the warm-up and workout itself.