Warm-Up and Cool-Down
The warm-up and cool-down are very important parts of a physical training session, and stretching exercises should be a major part of both.
Before beginning any vigorous physical activity, one should prepare the body for exercise. The warm-up increases the flow of blood to the muscles and tendons, thus helping reduce the risk of injury. It also increases the joint’s range of motion and positively affects the speed of muscular contraction.
A recommended sequence of warmup activities follows. Soldiers should do these for five to seven minutes before vigorous exercise.
- Slow jogging-in-place or walking for one to two minutes. This causes a gradual increase in the heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, and increases the temperature of the active muscles.
- Slow joint rotation exercises (for example, arm circles, knee/ankle rotations) to gradually increase the joint’s range of motion. Work each major joint for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Slow, static stretching of the muscles to be used during the upcoming activity. This will “loosen up” muscles and tendons so they can achieve greater ranges of motion with less risk of injury. Hold each stretch position for 10 to 15 seconds, and do not bounce or bob.
- Calisthenic exercise, as described in Chapter 7, to increase the intensity level before the activity or conditioning period.
- Slowly mimic the activities to be performed. For example, lift a lighter weight to warm-up before lifting a heavier one. This helps prepare the neuromuscular pathways. Before beginning any vigorous physical activity, one should prepare the body for exercise. The warm-up increases the flow of blood to the muscles and tendons, thus helping reduce the risk of injury. It also increases the joint’s range of motion and positively affects the speed of muscular contraction.
The following information explains the importance of cooling down and how to do it correctly.
- Do not stop suddenly after vigorous exercise, as this can be very dangerous. Gradually bring the body back to its resting state by slowly decreasing the intensity of the activity. After running, for example, one should walk for one to two minutes. Stopping exercise suddenly can cause blood to pool in the muscles, thereby reducing blood flow to the heart and brain. This may cause fainting or abnormal rhythms in the heart which could lead to serious complications.
- Repeat the stretches done in the warm-up to help ease muscle tension and any immediate feeling of muscle soreness. Be careful not to overstretch. The muscles are warm from activity and can possibly be overstretched to the point of injury.
- Hold stretches 30 seconds or more during the cool-down to improve flexibility. Use partner-assisted or PNF techniques, if possible.
- The soldier should not limit flexibility training to just the warm-up and cool-down periods. He should sometimes use an entire PT session on a “recovery” or “easy”training day to work on flexibility improvement. He may also work on it at home. Stretching is one form of exercise that takes very little time relative to the benefits gained.
Rotation exercises are used to gently stretch the tendons, ligaments, and muscles associated with a joint and to stimulate lubrication of the joint with synovial fluid. This may provide better movement and less friction in the joint.
The following exercises should be performed slowly.