The Importance of Cooling Down
Cool downs after a workout are just as important as warm ups. Cooling down helps distribute blood flow throughout the body, returns the heart rate to normal levels, prevents muscle injury and helps rid the body of lactic acid build up. Typical cool downs last between three – five minutes but can be longer. Depending on your activity, cool downs can be as simple as walking then stretching or more involved like foam rolling. We’ll go over several types of stretching, flexibility and mobility training.
Static Stretches are usually held for fifteen – thirty seconds or more, this can be used in both passive stretching and isometric stretching.
Passive stretching is finding full range of motion and holding a stretch in a relaxed position. This is beneficial for anyone with severe tightness, or high activity levels.
Isometric stretching is finding your full range of motion and holding a stretch with tension in the muscles. This is the most effective way to gain flexibility and is commonly performed in gymnastics. The proper way to perform isometric stretching is by:
- Find your full range of motion in a passive stretch
- Tense the stretched muscle for up to 15 seconds resisting against something that won’t move
- Then relax the muscles for 20 seconds
Active stretching is when you move into a position and hold it there without any external assistance. This encourages the body to strengthen the weaker muscles and stretch the tighter muscles. This type of stretching is commonly performed in yoga.
PNF stretching is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and it is the fastest way to achieve passive flexibility in the body. This is a technique that is commonly used by chiropractors, physical therapist and athletic trainers that combine active stretching and isometric stretching. This was primarily used to rehabilitate injuries but is now becoming a more common practice outside of that.
Ballistic stretching uses momentum to forcefully move the body beyond its current range of motion and isn’t advised for general use. If this is done incorrectly there is a high risk of muscle pulls and tears.
Foam rollers are a tool used for self massage and myofascial release; releasing tension in muscles. It is essentially an affordable deep tissue massage that can help break up adhesions, scar tissue and help speed up the muscle recovery process. Remember to avoid directly rolling over joints, breath deeply during discomfort, and slowly roll across the muscles before digging deeper.
Mobility is the ability to move a joint freely and safely through full range of motion. Mobility is beginning to become more popular in fitness. It is essentially strength training for your joints. There are various exercises that focus on bringing strength to weaker muscle groups as a way to overall improve your physical abilities. Common mobility exercises will involve different types of controlled articular rotations, along with progressive and passive loading of the joints in all ranges with a heavy focus on gradual progressions for individual needs.
This blog post is a recap of key points from multiple sources listed below & personal experience:
- Some definitions were taken and adjusted from https://www.dictionary.com/