Fit Thursdays: The one thing we should all be doing
By Elaine Delaney, Personal Trainer
Warming up, stretching and cooling down correctly are core fundamentals of a training program, yet often overlooked. These three elements consist of basic exercises, nonetheless they play a vital role in the physiological and psychological preparation for a competition or a workout.
Benefits of a warm up
Many people tend to rush or even skip the warm up phase of their training programs. There are many benefits of a warm up;
- Increases the temperature of the body including the muscles
- Aids in the prevention of injury, as the muscles are more elastic
- Increases blood flow
- Improves reaction time
- Improves viscosity of joints (very important for anyone who suffers with stiff joints)
- Gain muscle control
- Mental preparation for the training/competition ahead
How to warm up?
An ideal warm up prepares all the major muscle groups or focuses on the specific muscles that are recruited for the training session or competition ahead. It should be as active as possible and the intensity should gradually increase e.g. the pace or incline on the treadmill or the spilt time on the rower. A minimum of 5 minutes is a recommended time for a warm up.
Once you have warmed up, next phase is stretching.
How should you stretch?
There are many theories and myths regarding the best methods of stretching. It is recommended to start from the bottom of the body and work up to the top, as it helps to remember what muscle you have stretched.
There are 2 main types of stretching; statically and dynamically.
What is the difference between a static and dynamic stretch?
A static stretch occurs when a muscle is under tension for a period of 15-30 seconds. The body is stationary during the stretch. A standing quadriceps stretch is a perfect example of a static stretch.
A dynamic stretch involves the movement of the muscle/joint through its full range of motion but the stretch is not held in an end position. A dynamic stretch can mimic the activity you are about to commence for example leg swings before a football game. At no time during dynamic stretching should a body part be forced past the joint’s normal range of movement.
Recommended type of stretching?
Static stretching is widely used because it is easy and safe, however recent studies have proven that static stretching reduces strength and power production i.e. muscular performance of the stretched muscle group whilst dynamic stretching can improve power output by almost 5% in comparison.
In a Human Performance Laboratory in Hokkaido University, Japan, researchers tested how dynamic stretching, static stretching or no stretching differed in power output of leg muscles in leg extension exercises. Their findings showed that those participants who completed a series of dynamic stretching before conducting leg extension exercises showed significant increases in performance when compared to static stretching or no stretching.
Examples of dynamic stretches/exercise
There are many dynamic stretches you can include in your warm up for example: ankle rotations, high knees, alternate toe touches, skipping, leg swings (forward and back, side to side), hip circles, squat, lunge, walking lunge with a twist, bending side to side and arm swings.
A cool down assists the body in its transition from high intensity exercises to normal resting rates. It gradually returns heart rate and breathing levels to normal. A cool down also helps to reduce blood pressure which can prevent feeling fain or dizzy.
One of the most beneficial aspects of a cool down is it promotes the clearance of lactic acid build up from exercising. The faster your body can remove lactic acid, the lower the level of stiffness and soreness endured.
How to cool down?
Gradually reduce the pace or exertion of the exercise. Some another options include jogging, walking briskly or cycling for a few minutes after you have exercised, making sure that this activity is lower in intensity than the exercise have just performed. This should be followed by a dynamic stretch routine.
To make your work out more exciting change the exercise in your warm up, stretching and cool down on a regular basis.
So remember a sufficient warm up followed by dynamic stretching routine can improve power output, whilst an effective cool down can prevent muscles soreness tomorrow morning.
Hi all, my name is Elaine Delaney co-founder of Euphoria Fitness Sydney.
I hold qualifications in health promotion, physiology and fitness. Since a young age, sports and fitness have been my passion and now I want to utilise this knowledge and experience to help other achieve their health and fitness goals.
My philosophy is life is small changes in your lifestyle can have a massive impact on your health. The key to achieving optimal health is good nutrition and exercise. In modern day society your fitness regime requires flexibility and commitment.
Euphoria Fitness provides specialised one to one or group personal training, for more information on the service provided simply use the contact details below.
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