Sports Medicine: Warm-Up & Cool-Down

by Jsantos, December 19, 2014

Sports Medicine: Warm-Up & Cool-Down

Warming up before working out or competing is essential to improve performance and avoid injuries. The benefits of a proper warm-up include:

  • Increases in the rate at which muscles contract
  • Increases in electrical activity of a muscle
  • Increases in the limit strength of the muscle
  • Increases in the amount of time that a muscle is able to maintain a contraction or series of contractions
  • Improvement in connective tissue’s ability to accept force
  • Injury-potential reduction

Physiologists have studied warm-ups in order to understand its potential benefits. Some of their finding include:

  • Increased muscle temperature associated with enhanced dissociation of oxygen from red blood cells
  • Improved metabolic adjustment to heavy work
  • Increased velocity of nerve conduction
  • Greater numbers of capillaries opened in the muscles

There are several psychological factors created by warm-ups. Skilled performance improves with activity identical or directly related to the sport. Prior physical activity like war-ups cause an increased enthusiasm, eagerness and mental readiness. There is, however, one potentially negative effect of warm-up: fatigue. Basically, warm-ups can decrease your performance if overdone. Make sure that when you warm-up you do not tire your body to the point where it won’t be able to execute the activity at its top capacity.


At the end of each exercise session, it is highly recommended that you cool down for five to ten minutes. This is especially important after high-intensity exercise that contains an anaerobic component. Anaerobic exercise results in lactic acid accumulation in the bloodstream and muscles. A cool-down period comprised of light aerobic activity will help remove the lactic acid. Also, subsequent to a cool-down period, the muscle soreness that usually follows heavy exercise is minimized.

The least effective means to recovery is to simply lay on the ground. The rhythmic contractions of the large muscles of the body help return blood to the heart. This important function of the muscular system is most apparent following exercise, because many pints of blood are distributed to the extremities during the activity. During exercise, blood flow patterns change. Through the action of the sympathetic nervous system, blood is redirected to away from areas where it is not essential to those areas that are active during exercise. Only 15% to 20% of resting cardiac output goes to muscle, but during exhaustive exercise our muscles receive 80% to 85% of the cardiac output. This shift is accomplished by reducing the blood flow to the kidneys, liver, stomach and intestines. A cool-down helps our body return to resting rates. Give your heart some help with light aerobic cool-down activities. The cool-down should also include stretching exercises specific to the preceding exercise session.



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