Warming Up and Cooling Down Your Muscles and Body from Exercise
Warming up in preparation of your workout routine can be just as important as actually doing the work out. Warming up your muscles raises your core and body temperature. This will prepare you to do vigorous training with a much lower risk of injuring yourself during the process and actually helps increase blood flow, which is an important component in giving your body essential nutrients for muscle growth.
The following is what you need to do as part of a proper warm up routine:
1) Jog: You should jog for approximately 5-7 minutes on the treadmill, increasing the speed each minute. Try to start with a slow walk for the first minute and gradually increase the speed all the way to a fast jog, which should correlate to a 7.5-8.0 mph range on the treadmill. Make sure you always end your jog back to a slow walk to get your heart rate back to normal. You should never let your heart rate jump too drastically.
Treadmills warm up your whole body, rather than a bike or step master, which may just target your lower body more. The elliptical is a good alternative but I believe that jogging on a treadmill will really give the most efficient warm up. Jogging will circulate all the blood through the muscles. It also helps wake your body up in preparation of your workout. Remember, jogging on a track or hard surface may be a better alternative than a treadmill because it puts less stress on the knees and gives you a natural running motion.
2) Weight lifting: Lets say you want to start your workout with a bench press of 135 pounds. It is recommended that you do 3 good warm up sets before you do the actual set. For a person who benches approximately 135 pounds, you should start with just the bar (45 pounds) and do enough reps to the point where you feel a good pump. There is no set number of reps that you should do but make sure you keep it in the high rep range. Next, you should do 95 pounds and finally end your warm up weight at 115 pounds. Then start your real set on 135 pounds. That should be the ideal number of warm up sets to put you on your way.
For lifters who usually start off with extremely heavy weight: Try to do even more warm up sets and gradually get up to your ideal starting weight. You will find that the more warmed your muscles are, the more you will be able to lift.
Remember, NEVER work out a cool muscle because you will have a high likelihood of injuring yourself, whether by a pulled muscle or other consequences.
Cool downs are also an essential part of your workout routine. After a hard workout, you should never just walk out of the gym right after a really hard set. You need to get your heart rate back to a resting state and to achieve a sufficient blood flow throughout the muscles and the whole body. Cool downs help your body in the repair process. It helps prevent post-exercise muscle soreness by keeping the blood circulating. When blood is circulated it helps prevent blood pooling and helps removes waste products from the muscles. It also provides the body with adequate nutrients through the oxygen that the blood produces.
The following is what you need to do as part of a proper cool down routine:
1) Light weight: You should end your workout with 3-4 sets of lighter weights for your cool down. Think of cool downs as the opposite of warm ups. Gradually decrease the weight and still do higher reps. Let your body adjust to lighter weight and to more reps to ensure proper blood flow. Never just abruptly stop a workout routine; make sure you get a nice pump in your muscles with a very lightweight.
2) Light Jog: Do a 5-7 minute light jog and gradually end with a walk. It will get your heart rate down and prepare your warmed muscles even more for stretching.
3) Stretching: You must stretch your already worked out muscles for many reasons: to keep the muscles flexible, to improve your range of motion, improve recovery time and prevent injuries. Although a 15-minute stretching period is ideal for most and may be the best means of stretching, many people do not have the patience to stretch for this long after a grueling and long-lasting workout. Therefore, you should shoot for a 5-7 minute quick stretch. You should do 2-3 sets per stretch exercise and hold it for a period of 30 seconds per set. It is known research that 30 seconds per stretch is the perfect amount of time to stretch your muscles.
Doing both proper warm ups and cool downs will prevent injury and guide you in proper muscle growth and recovery.
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