Warm-up & Cool-down Examples

Last week we went over the importance of the warm-up and cool-down. This week we are getting practical.

So what does a warm-up and cool-down look like?

Just like any other answer, it depends.

It depends on what your workout consists of. First off, a warm-up usually consists of similar movements to that of the workout. This way your muscles have a sneak peek to what is coming but it isn’t strenuous. It’s to get your heart rate up and core temperature elevated as well as lubricating your joints so you can do work.

My typical workout is an all over body strength based one with cardio built in. So with that I like to get all my muscles moving and grooving in the beginning. Now these moves aren’t too exciting, just basic stuff. I leave the more exciting movements for the actual workout. I stick with getting my arms moving up and down and around. Then get my legs involved by kicking and hiking up my knees or kicking my butt.

See I told you it was nothing exciting but it works… My body gets the message that it’s about to start working harder and that’s the point!

Now some warm-ups that I view to be more exciting are combat moves. So adding some punches and hooks. That really gets my blood pumping but still I take it at a moderate pace. If I’m feeling really sore then I might add in some stretches to the start or use the foam roller to give my muscles the added attention they need. Now with stretching and foam rolling at the beginning you need to be careful not to go overboard because your muscles might be cold and not as limber so don’t over do it. Just enough to make it manageable to start moving more and then you are off to the races with the workout. I still like to ease into my workout until I feel good and warm but that doesn’t take too long when I do the warm-up.

Warm-up Example:

  •  Move arms up, down and around
    • Reach ups
    • Reach across
    • Arm/Shoulder circles forward and back
    • Any sort of punches (jab, hook, upper cut, etc.)
  • Move legs forward, sideways and backwards
    • High Knees
    • Butt Kicks
    • Front, side and back kicks
  • Do a Bodyweight version of exercises in the workout
    • Walking or slow Jumping Jacks
    • Side to Side Lunges
    • Bodyweight Squats
    • Jog in Place

Moving on to the Cool-down

Afterwards I like to keep moving side to side or marching to help my body transition. Then I start stretching each muscle group even while moving side to side until I feel my muscles relaxing. I work from either the top – down or bottom – up. That way I don’t miss a major group. And if I work a specific body part extra hard I take a little bit of extra time stretching that.

So let’s say I want to do my normal stretching. I’ll start with my upper body and stretch out my shoulders and triceps, chest and biceps and back, then sometimes my neck and wrists. Then I’ll move down to the lower body and stretch my hamstrings and inner thighs and quads, then my calves and hip flexors and occasionally my outer hip/thighs and ankles. My next inclination is to stretch the sides of my body and take a few deep breaths reaching up to the sky and back down to end the cool down. This has just been my routine and makes the workout feel complete.

Cool-down Stretches:

  • Upper Body
    • Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch
    • Overhead Tricep Stretch
    • Wide Arm Chest Stretch 
      • thumbs pointed up, then down for biceps
    • Forward Clasped Hands/Rounded Back Stretch
    • Gentle Neck and Wrist Circles
  • Lower Body
    • Standing Forward Fold & Wide Leg Forward Fold Stretch  
    • Side Lunge Stretch 
    • Standing Quad Stretch
    • Warrior 1 Yoga Pose or High Lunge Calf and Hip Flexor Stretch
      • back heel is planted for calf and back hip pushing forward for hip flexor
      • added side stretch bonus if you reach up and over with same arm as back leg
    • Tricky Outer Hip/Thigh Stretch 
      • cross opposite foot over leg to be stretched and reach up and over to feel the stretch in your outer thigh
    • Gentle Ankle Circles
  • Feel-Good Finale
    • Side Stretch 
      • reach up and over for each side
    • Inhale & Exhale
      •  circling arms overhead on the inhale and circling arms down on the exhale (repeat twice or more)

To be honest, I forget to do some of these stretches at each of my cool-downs. So there is always room for improvement. And writing out this list is probably going to prompt me to be more thorough in my own cool-down practice than I had intended. So thanks for joining me on my stronger journey as well. You all hold me accountable and I appreciate you!

So does any of this speak to you? Do you have a favorite warm-up or cool-down move? Leave them below!

Tune in next week for another great element to your workout: Upper Body Strength

The Importance of a Warm-up & a Cool-Down

During the next few posts, I’m going to go over elements to a great workout. These are what I have found to be important in my experience. You might have some thoughts on expanding my list so please leave that in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think.

There are many elements to a great workout.  Two very important parts that I’d like to highlight are not only  important, but they can be under appreciated.  These two elements are the Warm-up and Cool-Down.

Why are they so important you ask?  Well, stick around and I’ll tell ya. 

They are the bookends of a workout. They aren’t often highlighted and yet they are important. Have I been in a rush to skip these because of time? Yes. But do I know these two elements are vital? Yes again. So it’s a struggle to give these elements the respect they deserve. And when I don’t give them the time of day, my body lets me know! I know making more of an effort to incorporate them will help me reap the full benefit of my workout. Both the warm-up and cool-down do not take a lot of time to do in the grand scheme of things but it is easy to skip them.
To make sure we prioritize them, let’s remember what their functions are.

The warm-up helps us warm our body and muscles up. This enables us to perform better and activate more muscles during our workout. It helps us get into the groove of a workout rather than come in cold and tight.

The cool-down on the other hand prepares our body to go back to our daily activities that aren’t so strenuous. It helps our body prepare for the restoration after a workout. Think about what happens during and after a workout. During the workout, we are pushing our muscles to work hard and in turn we break down our muscles. (Don’t get freaked out.) Then when we allow our bodies to rest and re-fuel, our body miraculously rebuilds itself. And it rebuilds itself stronger than before because it knows what the previous demands were and it wants to be prepared for next time. During a cool-down, we are slowly cooling our body down and stretching our muscles so that they don’t stay in a tight state. Tight muscles can cause pain or injury and utilizing stretches after a workout can help to lengthen the muscles back to their before workout state or even better. Just to make it clear, during workouts, we ask our muscles to do work. When muscles do work, they shorten in length to produce power. But to keep our muscles healthy and supple, we need to lengthen them after we ask them to do work. We can’t just leave our muscles tight and expect them to be able to produce that same amount of power as before.

Disregard the Bird Poop Please & Thank You!

Think of a car. (I can’t believe I’m using a car analogy. First because I don’t know much about cars and second, I’m no car geek. I use a car to go from point A to point B. But here it goes.)

A car works best if you start it and wait for a minute to start driving. And a car works best if you ease on the gas at the beginning and then build momentum and speed after that initial “warm-up” phase. But if you demand that the car start and then go to 60 mph within a few seconds, it will do its best and probably be okay the first few times. Asking a car to do this repeatedly will inevitably wear on it and the car won’t last long.

As far as the cool-down in car-speak, think of a car stopping as it’s cool-down. You can slam on the breaks and it should work the first few times. But over time you will wear out the break pads and once those are gone, you’ll start grinding the metal brakes. Then it’s a matter of time before your car won’t break when it needs to and there is where we have trouble.

So if you are the newest model on the road, this might not apply to you. But if you want your “car” to last a while and you have already been around the block several times, you might want to pay attention to the warm up and cool down phase of your workout.

Tune in next week as we go over what a warm up and cool down might look like for you.
And if this resonates with anyone or you have a comment, leave them below!!