Whether someone is a conditioned athlete or a stationary student, participating in any activity should start with a proper warm up and end with an effective cool down. How one performs during an activity depends on the warm up, and how one recovers depends on the cool down. These are both critical to improving performance. An analogy of the human body can be one of a car. Before driving the vehicle it must be warmed up to allow the oils to circulate and for the engine to warm up to create smoother driving. A warm up can have multiple purposes, however it’s main and most crucial is to prevent or decrease injury rate. A list of other benefits consist of faster muscle contraction and relaxation, improvement in the time for force to develop in terms of reaction time, increased blood flow to active muscles and enhanced metabolic reactions.
The warm up generally starts off light and begins to slowly increase in intensity. It can be considered as a pyramid warm up and can consist anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes. This can be a general warm up where the activity starts off slow such as a brisk walk into a jog or even skipping. A generic warm up should be considered for common and basic activities such as drop in soccer with acquaintances, or going to the gym to get a good sweat. Even though the activity can be considered basic, a thorough and full body warm up should be involved. This means that any specific movements that will be performed should be focused on towards the end of the warm up.
Specific warm up:
Once competing at high intense activities, one should consider a specific warm up. A specific warm up focuses more on the movements performed during the activity. The time is also increased from 5-10 minutes up to 8-12 minutes. It also incorporates a dynamic stretch where the movements are performed through full range of motion in a functional based stretch.
For example, If the sport so happens to be soccer, a general warm up should be performed for 2-3 minutes of a brisk walk or jog followed by dynamic stretching. Here is a list of dynamic stretches that can be performed prior to a soccer game. (These photos are attached in conjunction to the list)
1.) Butt kicks 2.) High knees 3.) Closed knees 4.) Open knees 5.) Side kicks 6.) Walking hip stretch
It would also be wise to add some circumduction of the arms.
Post to every activity there should always be a cool down. The purpose of a cool down is to prevent pooling of the blood, prevent fainting by increasing the return of blood to the heart, and enhance the recovery period. A cool down period should be similar to those of the warm up period and can extend depending on the subjects goals. It’s a total body cool down exercise and static stretching is appropriate. This cool down exercise should be performed to decrease the heart rate as the bodies temperature is high. Stopping too fast could lead to passing out or feeling sick. The cool down allows for a gradual decrease in heart rate and body temperature prior to static stretching. This can involve a steady walk for about 5 minutes, or until the heart rate reaches below 120 beats per minute.
A slower and constant stretch with the end position held for 10-30 seconds. If you feel you need more, stretch the other side and return for another set of stretching. The stretch should be strong, but not painful. Do not bounce. Breathe while stretching. Exhale through the stretch and inhale while holding the stretch.
Pay attention to the muscles groups used during the activity that may require extended time for static stretching. These stretches are provided in the attachments as types of stretches one would perform after a soccer game.