Let’s face it. We’re all guilty of skipping warm-ups and cooldowns when working out. And the bad news is, it could be affecting the effectiveness of your workout.
Warming up helps get your muscles ready for the strain you’re going to put them through. It’s just like starting your car in the morning and letting the engine run for a bit before you drive off. Spending a few minutes on your warm-ups could mean the difference between a slow and sluggish workout or an energetic and effective sweat sesh.
On the other hand, cooldowns help your body return to normal by slowing down your heart rate and breathing and preparing your muscles for recovery. This not only minimises the risk of injury but also improves your overall flexibility for improved athletic performance.
So next time you go to the gym, remember to spend some time doing your warm-ups and cooldowns and avoid these common mistakes.
Having a too-intense warm-up
The whole point of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the workout ahead by hitting all your muscles in a systemised way. Essentially, you’re giving your muscles a heads-up that they need to turn on and helping them to get ready.
Starting off with a warm-up that’s too intense basically jolts your muscles awake, which could lead to muscle strain or even a tear. That’s why it’s important to go slow and steady in your warm-ups. Think of it as a run-up to the workout you’re going to do and gradually build up to your actual pace and intensity.
Using static stretching as a warm-up
Stretching during your warm-up is great, but only if you’re doing the right kind of stretching. Research has shown that static stretching can reduce muscle strength by 5.5% or more, diminish muscle power by 2% and cut power by nearly 3%. So if you really have to stretch before your workouts, do dynamic stretches instead.
Dynamic stretches lengthen and shorten your muscles, putting your joints through a full range of motion that will greatly help in your workout. Some examples of dynamic stretching include lunges with a torso twist, arm circles and leg swings.
Doing the same warm-up for every workout
Unless you’re doing the same workout every day, you can’t be doing the same warm-ups for every gym sesh. Like every machine works out a specific muscle, each muscle needs a specific warm-up routine. Walking 10-minutes on the treadmill when you’re planning to work out your arms is as good as not warming up at all.
Think about the workout you’re planning for the day and the muscles you’ll be using. If you’re working your arms, do some overhead shoulder stretches with some elevated pushups. If it’s leg day, try some ankle pops with a bit of light cardio.
Stopping your workout abruptly
The main aim of cooldown is to bring your body back to a balanced state by slowly lowering your core temperature and heart rate. Stopping your workout suddenly forces your body into recovery mode, which can cause dizziness and, in serious cases, even blackouts.
Gradually lowering the intensity of your workouts helps your body adapt to the change of pace and promotes healthy blood and oxygen flow. The time you spend on your cooldowns is also a great way for you to relax and calm your mind. Not stretching properly
Stretching properly can make a difference in how well your muscles recover after exercise. Not holding your stretches (static stretches) increases the likelihood of muscle tightness and muscle aches, which will affect your next workout. Static stretches are a great way to help your muscles loosen up while increasing flexibility and range of motion. When combined with mindful breathing exercises, static stretching also reduces mental tension and anxiety. Some examples of static stretches include the overhead triceps stretch, cobra pose and head-to-knee forward bend.
Know other warm-up and cooldown mistakes? Share your stories and questions in the comments below!