Theory of Warmups, Stretching and Cooldowns

After watching the England v Peru football match this week I saw  all england players who were subbed sitting down with their teammates without doing a cooldown.

This happens all over at club level sport play. Kids get whisked off by their parents after training and matches. Grown ups might end up in the pub for a quick drink.

You all know how you feel when you then get up and start moving again........a bit stiff?!

 I thought I'd let you read up on the latest about  WARMUP, STRETCHING AND COOLDOWN!


A WARM UP is intended to raise the body temperature and prepare a player physiologically and psycologically for sport.

- the heating effect allows muscles and tendons to become more extensible

- there is an increase in bloodflow through the muscles, which means an increase in oxygen.

-there is an increase in the temperature of the blood, which changes the partial pressure of blood gasses. This means that more oxygen leaves and enters the blood and muscle tissue

-the increase in temperature causes a rise in enzyme and metabolic activity. This improves the efficiency of muscle contraction.

-the neural pathways will be activated, which speeds up reaction time of the muscle.


A warm up should be sport specific. Do the activity you will be doing at 50% effort for at least 10-15 minutes.

Many people stretch their muscles when cold. Clinical research shows this does not prevent injury. If injury prevention is the main objective you should increase warmup time and limit your stretching. Some research suggests that stretching before exercise actually weakens the muscle contraction by 5%.



The goal of stretching should be to develop and maintain appropriate range of movement around specific joints. If the muscle on one side of a joint is short and the muscle on the other side of the joint is long and flexible the joint will be 'unbalanced' and it is at greater risk of injury. It is therefore best to customize you stretching and strengthening regime to fit your body's need. If you are an athlete who regularly suffers from niggling aches and pains this is the most likely cause. You could easily have your body assessed so that you will know which muscles you need to stretch and which ones to strengthen in order to reduce muscle 'imbalances'



Hold the stretch until feeling a slight pulling in your muscle but no pain. Hold for 30 seconds. As you stretch the muscle will relax.

This is a static stretch and long term effects show that after 6 weeks of those who stretch for 30 seconds or more  a day will increase their range of movement.

Dynamic stretching is a great way of stretching to use during a warmup.


Apart from that stretching is extremely relaxing, and most improtantly; it just feels good!



In contrast to the warmup, the cool down aims at decreasing the heartrate and relaxing the muscle. An effective cooldown will restore the body to it's original state. Gentle jogging or walking is great together with some stretching after.

The cooldown helps the body dispose of waste products and toxins produced during exercise, the most well known is lactic acid. If this is allowed to build up in the muscle it will cause stiffness, muscle pain and cramp the day after (or as quickly as after that drink in te pub). If you do more exercise then it can restrict movement and be painfull. Blood that has been delivered to the muscle can also build up if a cool down is not completed. This is known as blood pooling.

It is also important to take on fluids and top up energy reserves with food (preferably not a chocolate bar!)

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