If you’re playing sports, you want your body to perform at its peak. Gold’s Gym Fitness Expert Andy Coggan says two things can help you toward that goal: warming up and cooling down properly.
Warming up helps your body prepare for the high speeds, acceleration and deceleration and explosive movements of sports. It can increase your range of motion, decrease your chance of injury and create more permanent change in your muscles. Cooling down can ease your heart rate and blood pressure back to normal, help your muscles recover and improve flexibility.
The light movements and stretches involved in warming up and cooling down offer an added benefit, Coggan says. “In many cases, you’re going through the movements that you are going to do on the field, so it’s like practicing that skill.”
Typically, a proper warmup for sports lasts a little longer than a warmup for a general workout. Coggan recommends about 20 minutes. Here’s a sequence to try.
Loosen up with a foam roll
Target the muscles that will be used in your activity, but focus most of your attention on your tightest muscles. Foam roll these areas before stretching each one for 20–30 seconds. If you’re not sure which areas of your body are the tightest, then have a fitness professional assess your movement quality and tell you. Here’s a good checklist for general prep:
Start slow with your movements
Use movements that mimic the ranges of motion used in the sport, like starting, stopping and changing directions, but with less intensity than in a normal game. Then, try some of these dynamic movements. Remember to start with low-intensity movements before progressing to full-speed jumps, running or changes of direction.
- High-knee jog for 20 yards
- Butt kicks for 20 yards
- Backward run for 20 yards
- Lateral lunges for 20–30 seconds
- Spider-Man stretch for 20 yards
- Build-up runs over 20–30 yards, starting in a light jog and building up to 90 percent of full speed
- Broad jumps: five or six jumps as far as possible
- Box drills or cone drills with sprint finishes to work on change of direction, lateral movement and acceleration. Set up cones or markers, and move from cone to cone using forward runs, shuffles and backward runs to move from one spot to the next as fast as possible.
Finish your sport prep with skill work: for example, layups in basketball, route running in football and swinging and throwing in baseball.
Repeat this routine after the activity for a cool down, lowering the intensity of the movements as you go.