5 Great Warm Up and Cool Down Exercises
You've read how important a proper warm-up and cool down are to your safety and performance, so what exactly should you do?
A few pointers can go a long way when it comes to warming up and cooling down - and it doesn't need to take all day.
Related - 3 Step Warm-Up for Maximum Performance
If you can spend even 10 to 15 minutes warming up and invest another 10 to 15 minutes for cooling down, you will notice a performance and recovery boost. One thing to be mindful of is the higher-intensity workouts that you perform, the more important it is to warm up and cool down.
I'd honestly put a little more time into your warm-ups if you know you have a high-intensity workout planned. Warming up gets you prepared both physically and psychologically.
If you are about to do something like yoga or Pilates, skipping the warm up or cool down isn't as big of a deal as you think. Since your heart rate never gets that high, it just isn't necessary.
What to Do When You Warm up and Cool Down?
The main goal of a warm up or cool down is that you want to perform a series of mobility exercises to get your muscles and joints moving - especially moving in different planes. So for a warm up, do exercises that mimic the same movement patterns you will be using during your workout.
So, for example, if you are doing heavy back squats today, start with some bodyweight squats and some lateral, front, or reverse lunges.
If you are preparing to do a run, do some bounding or carioca drills.
5 Great Warm Up and Cool Down Exercises
This certainly isn't a comprehensive list of exercises that you can do for a warm up or cool down, but these exercises, in particular, will target your weak spots and improve performance.
Bear crawls are simple when it comes to what you have to do - but the execution of these exercises are hard.
So get on the floor on your hands and knees. Keep your back flag and start walking like a four-legged animal. Place your opposite hand and knee forward and continue to alternate sides.
You'll want to look straight ahead when you are completing these.
Bird-dogs are a unique exercise that many specialists recommend. From personal trainers to chiropractors and physicians in sports medicine, they all agree that a bird-dog is great for stability, spinal strength, and help improve balance.
So get on the floor on your hands and knees again. Get into a tabletop position where your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips. Brace your core and extend one leg out behind you while you simultaneously raise the opposite arm directly in front of you.
Hold the position for a few seconds, return to your starting position, and repeat for several reps before you switch sides. You want to keep your back flat and your head in line with your spine throughout the movement.
Trust me, it's as hard as it sounds - but it's worth it.
While I'm still unsure of the name, this does help open up some spinal mobility and improve core strength.
Get down on all fours again, into the same tabletop position as the bird-dogs. Place your knees hip-width apart and gently lift your head so that your back curves. Hold for a one count.
Slowly drop your head down between your shoulders and raise your upper back until it is rounded like a cat.
Repeat this for several reps.
A seemingly over-sensationalized exercise on social media, a solid glute bridge can help you activate your glutes and improve posterior strength.
Please note stacking plates on a barbell to do these just to show off won't help you.
So lie down on your back, bend your knees, and put your feet hip-width apart. Push into the floor with your heels, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips off of the floor. Hold the top position for several seconds before you lower your hips back down to the floor.
Repeat for several reps.
Ankle and Shoulder Circles
Your shoulders are critical in many movements and since they are such a complex joint, they need some help.
I deal with a lot of ankle pain due to surgeries and being overweight, so I can attest that ankle circles can help and improve mobility.
Stand tall and shift your weight to one side. You can also do this sitting down, too.
Lift your foot and roll the ankle of your raised foot in a circular motion. You'll want to roll both ankles in both directions.
Stand tall and extend one arm out to your side. Without moving your torso, focus on moving your arm in a slow, controlled circle.
Focus on your shoulder joint and make sure to control your circle so you do not cause any damage.
Just like with your ankles, complete reps with both sides, going both directions.
Wrapping It Up
Warming up and cooling down are two important parts of your workout that you shouldn't skip.
If you feel fine and don't understand why you would "waste time" on something like this, just give it a few years. Ask any elite lifter or someone who's lifted longer than you've been alive - they will all tell you that properly warming up and cooling down have kept them relatively injury-free.
You can get away without doing them, but you are leaving a lot on the table in regards to strength and those precious gains.