The Exercise Science Behind Fitbod’s Warm-ups and Cool-downs

June 22, 2022


Warm-ups and Cool-downs—a popular iOS feature, and one of the most requested features for Android—is now available on both platforms! 

When you toggle on Warm-ups and Cool-downs, Fitbod will recommend routines tailored to you and your specific workout to help you get ready for and recover from your session, drawing from with 80+ dynamic stretches, static stretches and soft-tissue moves. You can turn on and customize Warm-ups and Cool-downs in your gym profile.

Think you don’t need to warm up or cool down? Think again: We asked Fitbod’s Certified Personal Trainer JP Michelson to explain the exercise science behind warming up and cooling down so you can better understand Fitbod’s recommendations and decide whether you want to make any tweaks.

So, what is a warm-up?

A warm-up is a series of movements intended to get your body ready for the specific exercises in your workout.

Benefits of a warm-up

Warm-ups are essential for you to be able to lift more weight in a session, to build more muscle, and to reduce the risk of injury so you can keep making steady progress.

1. Improve performance

A warm-up is intended to increase your heart rate, respiratory rate, and circulation (blood flow). This brings more nutrients to your muscles, specifically oxygen and glucose. More nutrients means more fuel for lifting more weight, for a longer duration, and at a higher intensity.

Warming up also helps keep tight muscles from compromising your workout. When muscles are “tight” they are actually getting stuck in a semi-contracted position. By warming up, you can elongate these muscles and restore the optimum length, so you can get better force generation out of individual muscle fibers.

2. Reduce risk of injury

Injuries are no fun and can sideline you for days, weeks, or longer. “Cold” or tight muscles are less elastic and more prone to injuries such as pulls or tears to either the muscles, tendons, or ligaments.

Many warm-ups will also have a stability component, such as balancing on one leg, that activates smaller stabilizing muscles. By warming up these muscles, you can make more accurate adjustments to keep your balance during your workout.

3. Accelerated strength and muscle mass gains

Warmups have been shown to increase range of motion and mobility.  This means that you can perform exercise movements with proper form and place tension on the muscles in a larger range of motion. The result? More adaptation and muscle growth.

Warm-ups can also improve neuromuscular efficiency – the brain’s ability to accurately and efficiently recruit muscle fibers to perform a given task.

For example, if you’re doing a bicep curl, this means recruiting your biceps, all of your biceps, and only your biceps. This way, the targeted muscle is getting as much tension and force as possible to increase muscle size and strength, and not “cheating” by recruiting unintended muscles.

What is a cool-down?

A cool-down is a series of movements intended to gradually return your body to a resting state after a workout.

“Gradually” is the key–going back to rest too quickly runs the risk of lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea from a rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate.

Benefits of a cool-down

Cool-downs improve your rate of recovery, help prevent injury and improve future performance. 

1. Improve rate of recovery

A cool-down will return your heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature back to resting levels, slowly.

Slowing down after a workout helps keep blood flowing through your body, which helps remove byproducts of exercise and repair and build muscle mass by bringing nutrients such as oxygen, glucose, and proteins to the muscles.

2. Improve future performance

Exercise is all about applying tension. But post-exercise, you need to allow your muscles to relax so they can recover with less soreness or tightness. A cool-down can help with relieving some of this tension so you’re ready to perform in your next workout.

Different types of warm-up and cool-down exercises

Our library of 80+ warm-up and cool-down exercises includes dynamic stretches, static stretches, and soft-tissue work with a foam roller. Learn more about the benefits of each.

1. Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretches take the muscle through the full range of motion, allowing it to both stretch and contract. They usually involve some movement progression, as your range of motion will increase the more repetitions you do.

For example, when doing a walkout, you dynamically stretch your hamstrings and calves by progressing both muscles through their range of motion. 


Why warm up with dynamic stretching?

In a warm-up, dynamic stretching helps identify and alleviate tightness, soreness, and imbalances in target muscles. It also elevates your heart and respiratory rate from rest, which, as we know, brings more nutrients, specifically oxygen and glucose, to your muscles.

What about cooling down with dynamic stretching?

Dynamic stretches are not usually included in a cool-down routine. However, some could be used in place of cool-down cardio. 

For example, doing hip circles stretches and mobilizes your hips. This would be a low-intensity way to continue moving, keeping your muscles loose and allowing your body to return to a resting state. It also allows for some light stretching of the hips, which would be great after a leg workout.

2. Static stretching

Static stretches differ from dynamic stretches in that you hold them for a specified amount of time, usually 15-30 seconds, so the muscle will only stretch and not contract.

Most commonly used post-workout, static stretching is meant to release tension in muscle groups, specifically the ones which were targeted in your workout. 

For example, if you just crushed a leg-day workout, it’s a good idea to target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves during your cool-down. You can use stretches like the knee-to-chest stretch for glutes, standing forward bend for hamstrings, and lunge with ankle grab for quads.


Why cool down with static stretching?

Static stretching is an important part of a well-rounded fitness routine because it releases tension, improves flexibility and helps return semi-contracted muscles to their natural length and accelerating recovery.

The best time to perform static stretching is when your muscles are warm (post-workout), so you get the benefits of static stretching itself, plus the benefits of aiding muscle recovery.

Static stretching is also great for mental and physical relaxation post-workout. It gives you an opportunity to let the adrenaline rush of weight training or cardiovascular exercise pass so your cortisol levels go back down to normal and your body can start recovering—and as a bonus, it feels good!

What about static stretching in a warm-up?

Static stretches are not typically included in warm-ups, especially if your workout consists of max strength, near-max strength, or power-based exercises such as a clean, jerk, or snatch. This is because static stretching can overstretch muscles, which could then reduce the amount of force you are able to produce.

However, static stretching can be used in a warm-up if a specific area is unbalanced or extremely tight—but try to warm up the area with some other moves first, and be careful not to overstretch.

3. Soft tissue

Soft tissue warm-ups and cool-downs often use a foam roller to release tight muscles and increase blood flow.

What is the role of soft tissue work in a warm-up? 

Soft tissue work is great for addressing tightness in muscle groups before a workout, especially when the tightness isn’t symmetrical.

For example, if your left hamstring is tighter than your right hamstring, foam rolling on the hot spots in your tighter hamstring and in surrounding muscles can help relieve that tightness and help return that muscle to its optimal length. With symmetry restored which can allow for more effective recruitment of your hamstring muscles.

Soft tissue exercises can be a great alternative to static stretching before a workout in order to address any problem areas, without the potential negative effects static stretching can have in a warm-up. 


Soft tissue work is especially beneficial in a warm-up for a workout that consists of max strength, near-max strength, or power-based exercises such as a clean, jerk, or snatch.

What is the role of soft tissue work in a cool-down? 

In a cool-down, static stretching and soft tissue work will have the same benefits. However, with soft tissue work, you’re able to isolate a specific spot in a muscle, whereas static stretching can only target the muscle as a whole.

So, what are you waiting for? Add a warm-up and cool-down to your next session and experience the benefits for yourself. 

How to get started

Head to your gym profile and tap on “Warm-up & Cool-down”. From there, you’ll have the ability to toggle on each specific type of warm-up and cool-down exercise category (i.e. dynamic stretching, static stretching, and soft tissue) and specify whether you want each one in either your warm-up or cool-down. 

Then in your next workout, you’ll see routines tailored to those day’s exercises, as well as your available equipment. And as with all Fitbod exercises, you can replace and exclude warm-up and cool-down moves on the fly to get your routine dialed in.

For more on how to use this feature, visit our Help Center.