How to Warm Up And Cool Down

A proper warm-up and cool-down is crucial to an effective workout, and this article will teach you exactly which exercises and stretches to perform.

Ben Greenfield
5-minute read
Episode #17

Say you’re beginning a road-trip and you hop in your car, pull it out of the garage, and immediately floor the gas pedal, turn the air conditioning on high and turn the radio on full volume. You maintain this same intensity all the way to your final destination, where you abruptly stop, exit your car, slam the door and walk away. As your abused car sits there steaming, crackling, and smelling of exhaust, would the thought ever cross your mind that perhaps you should have slowly progressed into top speed, then given your car a bit of easy driving after intense highway speeds?

Do You Need to Warm Up Before Exercise?

Your body is no different than that car. Before you subject it to physical exertion, whether lifting weights, running, bicycling, or playing tennis or golf, you must prepare it for performance. And when you finish your exercise, you must give your body a gradual progression from movement back to sitting in your car, at your desk, or on your couch. In this article, you’ll learn why you should warm up and cool down before a workout, and the exact exercises and stretches—and the right intensity at which to perform them--necessary for a proper warm-up and cool-down.

Why Do You Need to Warm Up Before Exercise?

When you warm up, several positive adaptations take place within your body to prepare you for exercise, including:

Dilation of blood vessels. As your blood vessels dilate, or get bigger, your heart doesn’t have to work so hard to deliver blood, and you have less risk of high blood pressure during exercise.

Increased temperature. When you stretch a cold rubber band, it can snap. The same is true of muscle. By warming your muscle tissue, you increase muscle elasticity and range of motion, and you also allow your muscle to contract more efficiently while reducing risk of strains and pulls. In addition, oxygen in warm blood becomes more readily available to muscle tissue.

Better cooling. In the same way that the air conditioning in your car works more efficiently when your car is warmed up, when you break a sweat during your pre-workout warm-up, you’ve successfully activated your body’s built-in cooling mechanisms.

Hormone production. As you warm-up, your body begins producing hormones like epinephrine, endorphins, growth hormone and testosterone, all of which increase the energy available for your workout.

Mental focus. Clearing your head with a warm-up allows you to focus more on the difficult or technical exercise or movements that will occur in your physical activity, and it also gives you a chance to mentally review your workout, game, or match.

Why Do You Need to Cool Down After Exercise?

You can significantly reduce soreness and stiffness with a good cool-down.

As you progress to your cool-down after the workout, your body is given a chance to slowly allow the heart rate to return to normal. That is important, since one of the times you’re most susceptible to cardiovascular problems after a workout is when you plop onto the couch or into your car as blood pools in your heart and extremities. When you cool down, you give that blood a chance to re-circulate throughout your body, which also reduces your risk of fainting and dizziness. As I talk about in “How to Recover After A Workout”, you also significantly reduce soreness and stiffness with a good cool-down.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.