There are a few different factors to working out that people don’t always think about. They’re often just focused on getting their workout going while they’re motivated and ready. However, cardio and strength training require a couple of other components for you to get the most out of your workout.

Before you start pumping some serious iron or begin a HIIT workout, it’s important to gradually warm up your body and your muscles with gentle yet dynamic movements. These gentle movement are aptly called warm-ups. You want to do movements that use the muscle groups you plan on working during your exercise. These movement also shouldn’t include any static stretching yet because your muscles need to be able to contract during your workout, so stretching and relaxing them before cardio and strength training won’t be effective.

After your workout is when you should be stretching. Your muscles are worked and tired, making them more compliant to stretch, relax, and generally increase flexibility. Let’s take a closer look at the types of warm-ups and stretches you should be doing before and after your cardio and strength training.

Warm-Ups For The Win

If you’re crunched for time to do a workout, just know that warm-ups are a must while stretching is recommended, but optional. Make sure when you’re doing your warm-up you’re taking into consideration what the weather is like. If you’re working out in the cold, it will take your body longer to warm up, so you should perform your warm-up exercise about twice as long as you would if you were working out during the summer in the heat when your body is already warm.

When you do your warm-up exercise, incorporate movements that work the muscles you’ll be using during your workout. If you’re lifting weights, do a few reps using much lighter weights or just your body weight to get your muscles warmed and prepped to the exercises you’ll be performing. If you’re going to go for a run, do some light hopping from side to side and hopping on one leg and some body weight squats. If you are going to do an upper body workout do a side body stretch open up lats and/or make a fist at your low back to open your chest.

If you don’t have much time to complete a workout, you can incorporate your warm-up into your workout by doing your first set of reps more slowly or with a lower weight, or by starting with a light jog instead of an all-out run.

Stretch For Success

As mentioned, stretching after your workout isn’t required, but it is highly recommended. You just worked your muscles hard and they’re fatigued, which makes them easier to relax and stretch. This is the perfect time to improve your flexibility and create balance in your body. You can do this by performing some basic yoga poses such as a forward fold (think low back and hamstrings), half pigeon (think outer hips and hamstrings), a runner’s lunge (think hips again), chest expansion (think chest).The muscles you’ve worked during your cardio session or strength training will be the easiest ones to stretch and need it the most.

The Cool-Down

Cool-downs are necessary. They do help your muscles relax after an intense workout, even if your cool-down doesn’t involve stretching. This could be slowing to a light jog or walk, doing some yoga to focus and steady your breathing, or doing movements similar to your warm-ups. This will help prevent the buildup of lactic acid in your muscles that makes you sore.

If you’re interested in taking a strength training class, sign up at Duality in Sloan Lake. We have a team of dedicated instructors that want to help you get the most out of your workouts.