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Person stretching and touching their toes after exercise

7 Warmup and Cool-Down Essentials

You’ve probably read conflicting advice about stretching before and after exercise. According to some studies, overstretching can actually cause injury; others say lack of stretching can cause injury. The bottom line is that most athletic trainers and physicians are in favor of stretching — as long as it is done properly.

For stretching to be effective, you should do a proper warmup and cool-down. Not sure what that looks like? Keep reading!

Multiple people running on treadmills in a gym

How to Warm Up

1. Jog for three to five minutes.

This can be combined with skipping, side stepping, carioca, high knees and butt kicks. Moving in many directions before activity is key! Up, down, forward, backward, side to side.

2. Stretch major muscle groups first.

It is important to hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Stretching should never be painful! Perform each stretch two to three times.

3. Stretch sport-specific groups next.

For example: Tennis players should stretch their wrist and shoulders.

4. Start your activity or sport with basic skills.

For basketball, start with dribbling drills or shoot around. For soccer and hockey, start with ball and puck-handling skills. For volleyball, do passing skills. This helps the body know what is going to be expected of it.

Woman stretching her legs in a gym

How to Cool Down

1. Jog for three to five minutes.

You always want to end how you started!

2. Lightly stretch the major muscle groups.

This lets the muscles know you are done using them. Repeat the stretching regimen you used prior to the activity.

3. Hydrate!

Along with the rest of your body, your muscles need to cool down. Drinking water or a sport beverage low in sugar helps to flush out any lactic acid that accumulates in the muscles.

If you’re interested in exercise and fitness, check out our fitness centers at OhioHealth!


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