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Getting Ready to Move: The Big 3 Rocks

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Man stretching his leg

Warming up and cooling down is a must to get physically and mentally prepared for a workout. Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Clay Fredrickson, DPT, PT, says before an hour-long workout it’s necessary to warm up for 10 minutes to get the body primed. 

The key to your pre-exercise warm-up routine

“We need to heat up the body,” Fredrickson said. “You want to prime the cardiovascular system so all the nerve connections to your muscles are turned on.”

A dynamic warm-up should be performed to prepare for an aerobic/cardio workout or strength training. The purpose of a dynamic warm-up is to:

  • Raise the body temperature
  • Get blood flowing
  • Increase breathing and heart rate
  • Increase range of motion through the joints and ligaments
  • Recruit muscles that will be used for exercise

If you don’t, Fredrickson says without warming up properly, connective tissue will put more tension on the joints causing more stress on the body.  

“You’re asking your body to work harder versus the whole system being loose and ready to work,” Fredrickson said.

Exercise-specific warm-ups

But not all techniques are made equal, and some of the staple techniques might not be helping as much as you think.

“A lot of times people will hop on a treadmill or a bike for five minutes,” Fredrickson said. “That’s not really helping them.”

Fredrickson said that while doing cardio exercises heats up the body, it’s important to perform dynamic exercises for the specific muscles you’ll be focusing on that day.

Some will perform certain stretches and dynamic movements geared toward their sport or exercise routine. For example, runners focus on lower body, hip flexors, hamstrings, quads and core, with less of an emphasis on upper body, arms, etc. However, someone who is preparing for a strength workout should prepare for movement patterns and different ranges of motions they’ll perform during exercise, such as squats and push-ups. In addition, they should focus on getting large muscle groups warm, joints loose and stabilizing the core.

The most important part is getting the body moving. Especially “the big 3 rocks”–foot/ankle, back/hips and thoracic spine. Starting off with low-intensity exercises prepares the body for more intense activity and you’ll feel the difference.

“You’ll start feeling warm and ready to go,” Fredrickson said. “It’s important to feel loose.”

For examples of warm-up exercises, view our Exercise Move video library.

Pointers for your post-workout cool-down

After the exercise, it’s just as important to bring the body back down to the baseline. Fredrickson says heart rates during the workout can climb to more than 150 beats per minute.

“Going hard on the gym floor without a cool-down is extra stress,” Fredrickson said.

A proper cool down should take five to 10 minutes, depending on the workout you just completed. During your cool-down, gradually decrease resistance and intensity to bring your body back to a resting level. View sample cool-down routines in our Exercise Move video library.

When oxygen levels are low during a workout—generally when performing high-intensity exercise—the body turns glucose into energy and creates lactic acid. Cooling down helps release lactic acid, making the post-workout recovery easier, which Fredrickson says is essential to any exercise session. Without the recovery, your body will easily become fatigued long term, affecting your overall fitness and ability to exercise. 

Another negative side effect of not properly cooling down is you may feel dizzy. People with heart conditions can also have serious side effects such as heart arrhythmia without a proper cool-down.

“Blood will pool in the extremities,” Fredrickson said. “Your body has been stressed for an hour, so we need to bring the heart rate back down to baseline.”

Fredrickson says anyone with a medical condition should always seek a professional fitness trainer’s advice, because what might seem like a normal warm-up or cooling down process for others could be detrimental to another person’s body.

“If your car breaks down, more than likely you don’t go tinkering with it,” Fredrickson said. “You take your car to a mechanic. It’s the same with your body. Don’t tinker with it if something is wrong. What makes Cooper Fitness Center so special is we tailor an exercise routine to you.”

For more information on personal training or to schedule a session with a professional fitness trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.