Friday, September 3, 2010

It's not a stretch to stretch.

Stretching after a hard workout.
Failure to do proper warm-up or cool-down is the main cause of many exercise related injuries. Sometimes we are so eager to get into the action, that we tend to just jump into our exercise routine without giving our muscles proper time to warm-up. This causes the muscles (that were inactive and cold) to experience a sudden stretch - causing them to break and tear. Result: painful muscle injuries.

Similar injuries can happen if you don't do a proper cool-down after an intensive workout. Your expanded muscles need to slowly cool-down. If you immediately go from exercising to complete rest, you will end up with muscle cramps.

Follow these guidelines for warm-up and cool-down to ensure that you enjoy your exercises and remain injury-free.


If you are doing cardiovascular workouts such as running, cross-trainer, elliptical etc. the warm-up and cool-down will be slightly different compared to resistance workouts.

1.1. WARM-UP FOR CARDIO: Generally speaking, you don't need to do specific warm-up exercises when doing cardio workouts. For example, if you are going to do running, than your warm-up portion could be a brisk walk and/or a light jog for around 5 minutes to ensure that your muscles are warmed-up before you start your run. No specific stretching exercises are required. However, if you want to do some stretching exercises, there is no harm is doing some - provided you do them after a brisk walk or a jog. 

You can do these 5 lunge workouts before your run to get all your leg muscles nice and warm. REMEMBER: If you choose to do them, do so only after a 5-minute brisk walk or a jog.

1.2. COOL-DOWN FOR CARDIO: Stretching after a hard run is very important!!. Do not go from running to a complete rest, otherwise you will end up with muscle cramps. Your cool-down should be a light jog or a brisk walk for 5 minutes followed by some stretching exercises that target your quads and your tendons.

This is an excellent video demonstrating cool-down exercises that are ideal after a hard run.


Warm-up and cool-down is different for resistance workouts, and will depend on the type of resistance workout that you plan to do. For example, some people may focus on just 1 or 2 muscle groups during their entire workout while others may do a full-body resistance workout. My general rule of thumb for warm-up and cool-down when doing resistance workout is as follows:

2.1. WARM-UP FOR RESISTANCE WORK: Do a 10-minute cardio-workout, usually jogging or on an elliptical machine. The elliptical is ideal for warm-up because it works both the upper and lower body. I prefer to do jogging - simply because I love jogging.

In addition to the cardio, I do specific warm-up for each resistance workout. For example, if I am doing a 120 pound bench-press (currently my max limit), I do a warm-up set of 6 reps with 60 pounds (50% of my max capacity) before going for the maximum weight of 120 pounds.

2.2. COOL-DOWN FOR RESISTANCE WORK: My cool down after a resistance workout session is to do stretches and a 5-minute jog or a brisk walk.

The following exercises can also be used for both warm-up and cool-down when doing resistance workouts.

That's all for now.

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