Warm-up and cool-down exercises : Sports Injury Prevention

Before starting a sporting or stretching activity, warming up the body is very important to prepare the body parts from normal to being exercise ready. The activity of warm-up precedes muscles stretching to raise the body temperature and heart rate by a couple of degrees to improve fitness performance and to reduce the risk of sports injury.

Warm-ups include deep breath inhales through the nose with exhale by the mouth and low movement or passive stretches. A slow walk followed by gentle skipping or jogging helps to increase body temperature and heart rate. After warm-up, the body is ready for stretches to the legs, back, chest, arms, neck and shoulders. These exercises are aimed at reducing tension in the respective body parts and to loosen the muscles for flexibility and to reduce friction that can cause physical trauma.

Warm-up stretch sequences

A sequence of stretch exercises can be done using a fitness mat, stability ball, squats, lunges, step-ups or gym press machines. The main leg stretches are the glute, hamstring and hip flexor. The upper, lower and hyperextension of the back should be carefully stretched by exercises such as spine rotation and cat stretch of the lower lumbar region for better muscle flexibility and breathing. The arm pullover, triceps and chest stretch extends the range of motion and develops posture. The neck and shoulder stretches include neck, head forwards, shoulder, and anterior deltoid stretches that improve ability to raise and rotate the arms and upper part of the body.

Controlled and slow breathing is necessary when completing warm-up stretching sequences. Each stretch should last for about 10 minutes. For stretching the lower body, proceed from the neck, shoulder, triceps, chest, upper back, calf, hip flexor, standing hamstring, and adductor, to the spine, lower back, glute, and prone quadriceps. The standing stretch sequence is used to promote activity by stretching the shoulder, chest, upper back, calf, standing hamstring, and standing quadriceps. A sports training coach or physiotherapist can advise athletes on the best approach to warming-up and cooling-down for their unique physique and sporting activity.

Cool-down stretch sequences

Similarly, professional sports trainers can recommend cooling down techniques to help the body relax after strenuous activity by reducing body temperature and heart rate to normal at about 100 beats per minute. These cool down exercises reduce muscle fatigue and soreness by contributing to muscle elasticity. The stretches are in reverse to the warm-up routine and with a bit more vigor.

Cool-down stretch sequences involves active or ballistic stretching for rotations, arm swings, leg swings and lunges. By standing with arms by the side, each joint can be flexed, extended and rotated. Then follow with overhead arm and side arm stretches, leg swings, standing and diagonal lunges.

A physiotherapist or trained sports coach can help athletes identify sporting goals, choose the most appropriate warm-up and cool-down techniques, and identify supports for their body weight. Rather than follow subjective ideas about body warm-up and cool-down, get the objective view of professionals to help you prevent sports injury and physical discomfort.

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