Many age-old exercise myths have been dispelled by modern science and proven to be untrue. It’s now commonly accepted that a woman can perform strength training without bulking up her muscles, and that crunches alone won’t flatten a beer belly. One other theory is whether or not you should warm up and cool down before and after exercise. As we’ll explain, they both are incredibly important. Here’s why.
Jumping straight into any high-intensity workout without some form of a dynamic warm up might not result in an injury, but it can make all the difference in your performance. Dynamic warm ups work by gently stretching, warming up, and activating your muscles, getting them ready for the demands that are soon to follow.
There’s no set of exercises that are best for this purpose. Just make sure your movements are full and controlled, and relate to the muscles you’re about to use. For running, you might want to lightly jump on the spot or use a skipping rope. If you’re about to hit the swimming pool for a few laps, you might want to go with arm circles and jumping jacks instead.
Once you’ve sailed through your intensive exercise of choice, you’ll find that your heart is pumping and your body warm and filled with energy. This is the perfect time to implement a few static stretches. Your body will use this time to cool down, so be sure that none of the stretches are too challenging on your muscles or joints.
The aim of a static stretch is to relax a muscle or body part entirely, holding the position for 30 seconds to minute each time. This movement will increase your tissue flexibility as well as general circulation in the area.
Why you should do both
It’s important that you do dynamic warm ups before exercise and static stretching afterwards. Stretching out muscles that haven’t been warmed up fully can cause tightness, and ending a session with a vigorous cool down won’t help ease your heart rate and muscle tension. By following this routine, you’ll be sure to prepare your muscles properly for exercise and start the recovery process to eliminate the likelihood of injury.