Before you dive headfirst into your workout, a proper warm-up is always a good idea to give your body adequate time to prepare. Research shows that warming up can improve your performance, but what kind of stretches should you be doing ? In this article, we take a closer look at the concept of warm-ups and the cool downs, as well as tips and tricks to maximize both to the best of your ability.
The Warm-Up: Static Or Dynamic Stretches?
For decades, static stretches versus dynamic stretches before or after a workout has been a big debate. Do you perform dynamic stretches before your workout, or should you stick to static stretches? While, generally, you should include some aerobic activity to get your heart rate up during a warm-up, you would also want to add a stretching routine. Stretches can help improve your range of motion with certain exercises or sports maneuvers. Research suggests that static stretching is particularly useful to perform before your workout for increasing range of motion . This same research also indicated that your warm-up should be relevant to the activity you are about to perform.
Static stretches involve elongating specific muscle groups and holding this lengthening for about 20-30 seconds. Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, include more movement such as lunges or leg swings. Overall, it seems a combination of the two may provide the most optimal warm-up routine, as long as you are performing stretches relevant to your sport or activity. For instance, if you are about to go for a run, stretching the major muscles of the leg, like the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and glutes, can prove beneficial to your overall performance. You can use static stretches to improve your range of motion, without risking injury, and use dynamic stretches to help warm up your body and get the heart rate up.
The Cool Down: What Should You Know?
At the end of your workout, a cool down is often recommended to help your body gently return to a balanced state. Static stretches are frequently recommended to help reduce muscle soreness, and research supports this. One scientific review indicated that static stretching could help reduce muscle soreness within 72 hours after exercise . Since stretching can also increase range of motion, it can further significantly reduce a person’s risk of injury by improving their flexibility over time.
In addition to stretching exercises, there are various factors to consider when striving to achieve optimal muscle recovery. As part of your cool down, you should consider partaking in an infrared sauna session. Studies indicate that infrared sauna usage post-exercise can improve one’s athletic performance, particularly for endurance athletes . This post-workout routine can also help you relax, decreasing stress throughout the body. It is also crucial to give your body enough time to rest in between each workout since your muscles need adequate time to recover and repair. This rest period may include light exercise, other infrared sauna sessions, stretching and/or yoga. Hydration is also necessary before, during and after a workout. Sufficient water intake can help clear lactic acid and other exercise byproducts, as well as prevent dehydration.
The Warm-Up vs. The Cool Down: Which is More Important?
In an ideal world, you should perform a proper warm-up and cool-down routine when performing any exercise. If you want to boost performance, your warm-up may be crucial in achieving this; while a cool-down, along with other activities (like an infrared sauna session), helps increase muscle recovery. A well-rounded exercise routine should incorporate all this before and after to ensure optimal health while reducing any injury risks. Take the time to make your warm-up and cool-down happen, otherwise, you may be missing key benefits that can improve your overall performance and health.
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 Samson M., Button D.C., Chaouachi A., & Behm D.G. (2012). “Effects of dynamic and static stretching within general and activity specific warm-up protocols.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, Journal of sports science & medicine, 1 June 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737866/.
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