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Exercise warm-ups and cool downs for dogs

Warming up and cooling down are essential elements of exercise/competition.

Effective warm-up ensures your dog is able to carry out the task at hand with a reduced risk of injury, better technique and is likely to perform much better. Appropriate cool-down allows gradual reduction in cardiovascular activity to optimise post exercise comfort and tissue conditioning.


Warming Up

A warm up is effective in the performance enhancement and injury prevention as it progressively increases neurological stimulus, raises the heart and respiratory rate and increases blood flow through body tissues for:

  • Energy reserves to efficiently bring about movement
  • Warming of tissues, making them more pliable for greater stretch and movement absorption
  • Heightened neurological control mechanisms which prevent overstrain of joints and body segments, for optimum movement control and injury prevention

Cooling Down

Suitable cool downs gradually reduce the respiratory and heart rates, and conditions body tissues:

  • Gradual reduction of cardiovascular activity optimises lactate clearance (a by-product of strenuous exercise) which causes post exercise soreness
  • Stretching whilst muscles and tendons are warm allows for more effective stretch and optimum flexibility

Stretching

Over time, stretching increases the length of the muscle. Muscles perform at their most efficient when strong, with adequate, but not excessive length and with this in mind it is important to know that the use of static stretching before exercise:

  • Reduces explosive strength
  • Reduces the neuromotor control that the muscle uses to prevent over-strain during exercise

Static stretches should therefore be used during cool down. Holding each static stretch for between 10 and 30 seconds and repeating 2-4 repetitions is the optimum for length increase.

During warm-up, dynamic stretches (sequences of movement to fluidly stretch muscle groups, without static hold) do not reduce muscle power or control and are better used during warming.

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