Stretching is not the same as a warm-up.
Many individuals stretch in a misguided attempt to warm-up; however, stretching
and warm-up should be considered distinctly different activities. A warm-up prepares the
body for the activity that is to follow. The two types of warm-up are general and activityspecific.
Physiologic changes that occur during warm-up include increases in muscle
temperature, blood flow, oxygen delivery to the muscles, and skeletal muscle metabolism.
Warm-up benefits include injury prevention and an improvement in performance.
A warm-up should always precede any
physical activity whether it be stretching, exercise, sports, or mission-related training.
Cold muscles don't stretch, and there is a high chance of injury when stretching isperformed without first warming up. Stretching (especially dynamic stretching) may bepart of (or follow) a warm-up, but should not exclusively comprise the warm-up.
Stretch only after an adequate
warm-up has been performed.
Activity-specific (or related) warm-up occurs with a low-intensity version of the
activity that is to follow. Examples of activity-specific warm-up include a slow jog prior to
a long run; slow cycling in preparation for a cycling event; or slow karate moves prior to
practice. A related warm-up starts out slowly and progresses to more intense activity.
Depending on the intensity of exercise to be performed, a warm-up of anywhere between
10 - 30 minutes may be required--the greater the intensity of the workout, the longer the
All warm-ups should be of sufficient intensity to elevate
body temperature; sweating is a good indication that you
are ready to move on to the next phase of your workout.
Both general and activity-specific warm-ups may incorporate some type of
stretching, especially if the activity to be performed is one of high intensity and imposes a
good chance of acute injury. After a short period of warming-up, some pre-exercise
stretching should be done. Figure 7-3 provides several examples of warming-up for various
activities. If time is limited, the pre-exercise stretch can be eliminated but a static stretching
program should follow every exercise session.
Exercise should not be ended abruptly, but gradually slowed, to avoid pooling of
blood in the skeletal muscles, and to facilitate the removal of metabolic end products.
Exercise should be followed by a cool-down and stretching session.
Since most of the benefits from stretching occur post-exercise, a 10-15 minute
stretching program should follow every exercise session, and should be incorporated as part
held for 15-30 seconds, and taken to the point of tightness, not pain. Static stretching
provides a good warm-down after a workout, reduces post-workout muscle fatigue and
soreness, and is useful for relieving muscle spasms that occur as a result of exercise. Once
muscles have been stretched, standing in cool/cold water, or running cool water over the
legs or muscles used during the exercise, can also reduce soreness, and seems to speed
recovery between exercise bouts. Figure 7-4 represents the ideal recommended exercise