Hide this
 

When and How Should You Warm Up, Stretch, Exercise, and Cool Down?

September 08, 2010 | 59,269 views
Share This Article Share

I get tons of questions about this topic. There seems to be a lot of confusion about stretching.

We all seem to not have enough time in the day for all that we need to do for fitness and fat loss. So it is logical that most of us skip stretching. But that is a big mistake.

I know it seems counterintuitive but saving time by skipping this step will not get you to your goals faster.

My point is, cut back on your work out time instead, and make sure to incorporate these simple stretching techniques for maximum results. You will become more flexible and lower your risk for injury. You will also be able to stay more consistent to your work out schedule, thus obtaining better results.

The proper sequence of an intense work out should be:

  • Warm up
  • Light stretching
  • 40 – 50 minutes of intense resistance training
  • Intense stretching the last ½ of the intense resistance session
  • Cool down

Step 1: The Warm Up

It is very important to transition into an intense work out with 10 minutes of low level cardiovascular activity. Some modes of exercise that work well are jumping jacks, jump rope, martial art kicks, squat thrust, or any full body calisthenic type exercise.

However, my favorite mode is power walking on the treadmill.

Your starting speed should be nice and slow. I’m 5'9" and start at 3.5 mph and increase the speed by 0.1 mph every minute. Over the course of the 10 minute warm up I will go from 3.5 mph to 4.5 mph.

During the 10 minute warm up, focus on a power-walking stride.

There are many variations of a power-walk, but the one I like the most is very unique and warms the muscles below your hips better than standard walking technique.

Three technique reminders of my unique power-walk stride are:

  • Stand tall (chest open blades back) like a soldier at attention
  • Long stride challenge. Keep legs stiff and elongate each stride
  • Dig heels in tread by pointing toes back toward head

This unique technique will take the tension out of bad places (bones, joints, and ligaments) and put it in the “hot spots”: buns, hips, hamstrings and quads. These hot spots burn a lot of calories because of the amount of muscle they contain.

Why – The 10 minute warm up increases your core body temperature and gets your juices flowing. This is very important to stay safer during the intense exercise segment. It gets synovial fluid moving and oils the joints.

Mentally it is a nice transition into clearing your mind and getting ready for the intense work out. You need to treat the exercise session like a meditation and work on the mind/muscle connection during each contraction. That is hard to do when you are thinking about other things during the work out.

The warm up is also a great time to visualize, goal set, and incant (say out loud what you want).

How - Jump rope, calisthenics, including jumping jacks, side bends and kicks. My personal favorite warm up activity is power-walking on a tread mill or out side.

Step 2: Mild Stretching

It is very important to implement some light stretching before the intense exercise session. One light stretch per body part for about 5-10 seconds is usually sufficient.

Doing so increases blood flow to your muscles and also increases synovial fluid in your joints (a type of self lubrication process). Mild stretching also increases the range of motion of your muscles and is a nice transition from the low level warm up into the intense exercise session.

Step 3: Intense Exercise

If you want to gain muscle and lose fat you must incorporate resistance training with free weights, kettle bells, functional exercises, and plyo-metrics.

You’ll want to push your muscles to failure in the 10 -15 rep range for 2 or 3 sets per exercise.

Step 4: Intense Stretching

During the last half of the intense exercise session, stretch out each target muscle after each exercise.

Each stretch should last 4-5 seconds as you let your breath out and elongate the loose muscle. Increase the stretch a little bit on each progressive stretch, up to 6 times.

Why - To elongate and relax muscles.

Each exercise shortens and tightens the muscle up, so it makes sense to stretch. Stretching the muscle helps bring in fresh blood. This process brings nutrients to the muscle to immediately start the recovery process.

Stretching the muscle also aids in removing lactic acid, which is a negative byproduct of the muscle going to failure. It is like the exhaust coming out of an engine. If you have too much lactic acid accumulation, your muscle will be slow to heal.

Stretching during and after an intense work out means your muscles will not get as sore, and they will not stay sore as long.

Step 5: The Cool Down

How — 10 minutes of slow walking on a treadmill is ideal.

Why — For the same reasons youperform intense stretching during and after intense exercises.

The cool down not only brings fresh blood into areas to help with lactic acid removal, it also brings your heart rate down to resting pulse quicker. A proper cool down also helps lower a raised heart rate down to resting heart rate safely.

A proper cool down simply makes you feel recovered after feeling like a whipped puppy after intense exercise. It kick starts the recovery process as well.

Getting the body and the life of your dreams is not just about consistent intense work outs.

Remember, you should only be working out 3-4 hours per week. During intense work outs you are tearing the body down, causing controlled micro tears in your muscles. You are also depleting your energy reserves.

Improving your fitness level is also, and perhaps more importantly, about learning how to recover.

This article covers the basic of your first line of defense in the recovery process. Nutrition, rest, sleep, and healthy lifestyle choices are also imperative in a well rounded recovery program.

You do have the power to change. Get a Better Body, Get a Better Life!

Your Healthy LifeStyle Coach,


Darin L. Steen