I feel the need to dedicate an entire Autopsy to the warm-up and cool-down, because there is an ostensible lack of documentation on them here. In addition to this, those of us designing and posting DCs sometimes take for granted that not everyone understands the warm-up and cool-down process, or even knows that it should be done by default for every DC. This Autopsy aims to educate you on not only the what and the how, but the why behind warm-up and cool-downs, and why it is extremely essential to include these in your Fatal Fitness workouts. We will also give you suggested warm-ups and cool-downs to perform.
About the Warm-up
A warm-up is the period before any exercise or activity. A warm-up consists of movements designed to raise your core body temperature and bring your mind into focus for the activities that follow. Warmups do not consist solely of static stretching; this Autopsy will hopefully clear up any misconception in that regard - there are several types of warm-ups, and we'll cover a few of them. The fact remains though, that you have to preheat your oven.
Warm-ups improve blood flow to your heart, increase muscle temperature, protect against injury through improved flexibility of muscles, and provide time for pre-competition or pre-training psychological preparation. An effective warm-up generally should consist of at least these components: gradual increase in exercise intensity for raising core temperature, some type of stretching (see below), and activity-specific movements. An example of this would be jogging at a low-intensity pace and increasing it to a moderate pace over time (not vigorous; the sole objective of this phase of the warm-up is to circulate your blood and warm your muscles in preparation for more strenuous activity), followed by stretching, followed by practice catching and throwing a baseball. It is a common misconception that acceptable warmups may consist exclusively of stretching, especially static stretching; the truth is that an effective warm up has a number of very important key components, which work together to minimize the likelihood of injury and prepare the individual for physical activity.
Identifying the elements of an effective and safe warm up, and executing them in the correct order is critical. Stretching is only one part of an effective warm up and should be used in conjunction with the other components, not exclusively. And believe it or not, warm-ups may last anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on the activity; longer warmups are generally only used by high-level athletes before competition, and may consist of several types of warmups of varying intensity.
Elements of an Effective Warm-up
There are several key elements of a safe, effective warmup which follow; we recommend you follow them in the order presented.
The General Warm Up
General warm ups increase your body temperature using non-specific body movements. Common practice includes 5-10 minutes of light (low intensity) physical activity such as walking, jogging on the spot or for real, jumping jacks, jump rope, low intensity pool laps, etc. You want to start with a general warm-up because...
Stretching is best performed after the muscles are warm. It is recommended that all stretching be done after a general warm-up. Stretching muscles when they are cold may lead to a tear. Static stretching (stretching a muscle and holding it in this position without discomfort for 10-30 seconds) is considered the safest method of stretching; one shouldn't spend so long doing stretches that the muscles cool down and heart rate returns to normal.
We believe that static stretching, if done, should be done separately from your workout. We recommend doing static stretching sessions as stand-alone sessions. Don't forget to warm-up the muscles beforehand. If you really feel you need something similar to static stretching, you should consider doing self-myofascial release instead (we recommend this for the cool-down as well). Otherwise, we recommend you perform dynamic stretching after the general warm-up (see below). According to the principle of specificity it would seem to be more advantageous to perform a dynamic warm-up which more resembles the activity of the sport.
Dynamic stretching consists of a series of exaggerated yet controlled motions similar in nature to the activity that follows. It is similar to the sport-specific warmup. It should be noted that while it increases the range of motion of the joints, it does not promote as much flexibility as static stretching or PNF. This is why it is advisable for athletes to perform static stretching or PNF early on in the training plan to build the flexibility firsthand (if it's needed for their particular sport), and utilize dynamic stretching prior to activity or competition. Typical dynamic stretches include hip, knee, arm, and ankle circles, lunges, high knees, etc. This is the type of stretching Fatal Fitness recommends you use during a warm-up, immediately following the general warm-up.
The Sport-specific Warm Up
Specific warm ups increase temperature using similar biomechanics that are to be used in subsequent, more strenuous activity. Some of the best ways to perform a specific warm up is to perform the upcoming exercise at a slow pace. Examples include brief sessions of easy catching practice for cricketers or baseball players, high knees or jogging for runners, shadow boxing for boxers, or side-stepping and slow-paced practice hits for tennis players. Sport-specific warm-ups are often designed by a qualified trainer in that sport. Since Fatal Fitness isn't necessarily a sport, there are no sport-specific movements per se, however, you should, after dynamic stretching, include a few sets of bodyweight exercises that resemble the DC into your warm-up. For example, if you're doing a DC that features squats and bench press, you should finish your warm-up with a few sets of bodyweight squats and pushups.
About the Cool-Down
A cool-down is the portion immediately following an exercise session, and it allows your body to gradually transition from an exertional state to a resting or near resting state. They should involve a gradual yet continuous decrease in exercise intensity (i.e. from a hard run to an easy jog to a brisk walk), a period of stretching, and rehydration. Don't just walk outside to your car and drive off. A cool-down doesn't have to take 20 minutes; you can get an effective cool-down in 5-10 minutes, and you'll feel a lot better afterwards. A typical cool-down my consist of a slow jog or walk, to get your heart rate back down following something like intervals, but if your heart rate is already down, you can go directly into self-myofascial release (like following a strength DC). For SMR, you will need a Foam Roller; it's probably the best $20 you'll ever spend (trust me on this!) You should have a sports drink or some form of carbohydrate following exercise sessions that last longer than one hour.
As far as stretching is concerned, we recommend you use static stretching or PNF separately from the cool-down or warm-up.
Cooling down helps remove lactic acid and allows the heart rate to return to its resting rate. Contrary to popular belief, cool down does not appear to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (lactic acid and DOMS are different animals). A cool down will also allow you to mentally transition to a non-exercise state, and they're pretty relaxing as well.
So now that you understand a little behind warm-ups and cool-downs, how do you apply it to Fatal Fitness? Well, for one, you DO THEM. Here's another thing we should clear up right here and now: some DCs actually say something like "warmup: 300 abs" or "warmup: 150 situps, 150 flutterkicks". You should consider that warm-up to be a post-warmup warmup. In other words, at the very least you should be doing a general warmup and dynamic stretching before DCs that "include" warmups already.
So...knowing what you now know you should be able to hook yourself up. But in case you don't want to, I will throw in a generic (not cheap) warm-up that you can use for ANY DC, now or the in the future. Don't say I never did anything for you. UPDATE: we have created an exclusive warmup and cooldown, which you will be seeing a lot more of in the future. These are:
The Warm-up: Anesthesia
The Cool-down: Demerol
Conclusion to All This Madness
In conclusion, you should do a warm-up and a cooldown before and after every DC. If you need more help than this Autopsy provides, post questions in the Morgue.