The Importance of a Warm Up and Cool Down

posted Feb 6, 2012, 1:43 PM by LASP Team   [ updated Feb 7, 2012, 3:14 AM by Murray Ryan ]
Warming up for exercise is often rushed and a cool down is often ignored all together. However both of these activities are an important part of performance and injury prevention! The warm up prepares the body and mind for activity and helps to prevent injury. The cool down helps the body to clear the chemical by-products (e.g lactic acid) that build up during activity, while reducing stiffness and tightness in the musculo-skeletal system. Warming up and cooling down effectively can enhance your performance, reduce injury risk and improve how you feel the next day. 

Here are some tips to help you and your team prepare appropriately for exercise and recover quickly afterwards.
The Warm Up
A structured warm-up depends on the competitive level and age of participants. It should be shorter and less intense for younger or more inexperienced participants, compared to a warm up for adults or professionals. 
  • The warm-up should incorporate all muscles groups, movements and activities specific to the sport.
  • Start at low intensity and gradually build to the level required in competition.
  • More emphasis should be on moving muscle groups through full range of movement ie. active or dynamic stretching. There is less emphasis on static stretches. Static stretching is okay to do as a part of a routine warm-up but needs to be followed by dynamic movement/sport specific warm-up. 
  • As a general guideline, a structured warm-up may include the following in order
    • light jog
    • dynamic stretches/mobility (lunge walks, arabesques, squats, knee to chest pulls, hip turn-outs, hip swings, lower back rotations, arches)
    • running including sideways, backwards, high knees, heel flicks, skipping
    • repeated sprints building to maximum intensity (if required in the sport)
    • sport specific warm-up
  • Overall the warm-up may take approximately 10 minutes. 
The Cool Down
  • Occurs immediately after training/games for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Should include appropriate re-hydration and re-fuelling.
  • Needs to involve all muscle groups used in the specific sport (similar to warm up exercises) 
  • Low intensity body movements (eg walking instead of running), then some light active stretches. 
If you have any questions about how to best prepare for your activity or sport, please speak to your Physiotherapist or call us on (02) 4647 3373.