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

How to Warm Up Before A Workout

Here are your quick and dirty tips for warming up before a workout:

Gradually increase intensity. If you’re going to be going for a run, you can begin with a walk, then move to a fast walk, then to a jog, and finally to a run. If you’re going to lift weights, do a warm-up set with a very light weight prior to doing your other sets, and if you have time, perform the dynamic warm-up routine I give you at the end of this article.

Include range-of-motion exercises. Interestingly, simply holding a stretch (static stretching) can actually reduce force-production capabilities and make you weaker. Additionally, research suggests that static stretching won’t really reduce injury risk. Instead, after you’ve warmed the muscles with cardio movements, do dynamic stretching, which should include arm and legs swings, torso twists, jumping jacks, or fast running. Also include dynamic movement preparation, in which you perform cable or elastic band exercises that move your body through a full range-of-motion.

Activate your brain. Especially if you’re playing sports or doing more advanced exercises, your warm-up should include a balance component, such as standing one leg while driving the knee of the opposite leg up to your chest, or closing your eyes and standing on one leg while you do your arm swings.

Unless you’re a professional athlete, there’s no reason a warm-up should be its own separate workout. Five to ten minutes is enough time for a good warm-up, although the more inactive you are before the workout, the longer the warm-up will need to be.

How to Cool-Down After A Workout

Here are your quick and dirty tips for cooling down after a workout:

Gradually decrease intensity. Your run can progress back to a jog, then to a brisk walk, and then to a slow walk, and you can save a few of your easier exercises in the weight room for last.

Static stretching is OK. Holding stretches or doing a few yoga moves after a workout brings your body back into a relaxation phase, and the light movements can help with blood flow.

Maximize your time. If you park your car far away in the gym parking lot, catch up on a couple phone calls with a headset, or save your gym social time for your cool-down activities, you’re more likely to engage in a productive cool-down.

A good cool-down should also take about five to ten minutes, and once again I will refer you to my article “How to Recover After A Workout”, for even more cool-down tips.

Sample Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routine

Here is a sample warm-up and cool-down routine.

Warm-up: Arrive at the gym and do a brisk walk for 2 minutes, then progress to a light jog, and finally do a series of three 30 second sprints followed by 30 jumping jacks. Next, lean against a wall and swing the legs 10 times forward and back, then side to side. Step away from the wall and perform 10 arm circles, then 10 arm swings back and forth. Finish with 10 lateral steps to reverse flies in each direction and 10 single leg row-and-throws in each direction.

Cool-down: Finish your workout by briskly walking for 2 minutes, then performing a lunging hip flexor stretch with arms overhead, a seated hamstring stretch, and a series of shoulder stretches. Finally, if you have time, hit a foam roller for a few minutes.

So if you want your body to act like a used and abused car, then rev it up and floor the gas without preparing it. But if you want your body to last a long time, and be responsive, well-tuned, and always in good working order, use the warm-up and cool-down tips in this article!

Jogging image courtesy of Shutterstock


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.