It’s important to do good warm-up and cool-down exercises for HIIT. The exact exercises you do is up to you as you can be flexible in terms of the exercises and how long you take.
What you should do will also depend on what you include in your HIIT routine and this depends, in part, on your level of ability and your goals.
With this in mind, here are suggested warm-up and cool-down routines for HIIT.
Warm-up for HIIT
Start with a series of dynamic stretches. If you are unfamiliar with the difference between static and dynamic stretching, download this free ‘Start Stretching’ video course. It also demonstrates most of the stretches you will need.
Stand upright and start with the shoulders relaxed. Move both shoulders forward and up towards your ears. At the top bring them back and then down to the starting position. Do it slowly and repeat 4 or 5 times. Then reverse the movement, that is, bring the shoulders back and then up.
Stand upright drop your head towards your chest keeping your shoulders in line with a straight back. Move your head in a clockwise direction towards your right shoulder, then back, towards your left shoulder and return to the starting position. Do three circles. Then repeat in a reverse direction.
Stand uptight, side on to a wall and balance with one hand against the wall. Swing the other arm in as complete a circle as possible. Do 5 circles. Then reverse and repeat. Put the other arm on the wall, adjust your position and repeat. If you prefer, you can sand away from a wall and swing both arms together.
Swinging Toe Touches
Stand with your feet wide apart and bend forward. Touch the ground with your hands keeping your legs straight. Touch your right foot with your left hand while twisting your torso and reaching your fully extended right arm above and behind your body. Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Quickly reverse the move and touch your left foot with you right hand while twisting and swinging your left arm above your body. Increase the speed and extent of the rotation. Touch each toe at least 10 times.
Stand upright side on to a wall. Put your left hand on a wall or similar to give you balance. Swing your right leg keeping it in line with your body. Keep the leg straight but relaxed. Bring it up high enough at both the front and back to feel a strain on your upper leg and hips but not enough o overbalance or injure you. Swing front and back for 10 times. Then put your right hand on the wall and swing your left leg in the same way.
Leg Lifts/High Knees (Frankenstein walks)
Stand upright, keep your left foot firmly planted on the ground and raise your right knee up close to your chest bending your leg at the knee. Straighten the leg out and take and return it to the ground taking an exaggerated step forward. Do the same for the left leg. Repeat about 10 times.
Moderate Aerobic Exercise
Follow these stretches with 3 to 5 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise. This could be a short jog or, if you have access, a moderately paced jog on a treadmill or a short cycle on a gym bike.
If you are indoors and don’t have this equipment simply do a jog on the spot. Don’t go too fast but try to raise your knees up much further than you normally would while jogging.
For the final 20 seconds or so try to increase the pace a bit, but don’t go anywhere near a sprint. Or if you have a skipping rope use this at a moderate pace.
Once finished the warm-up go straight into the HIIT routine only stopping for a few seconds to set yourself and get a quick drink.
Cool-down Routine After HIIT
There has been plenty of debate about the usefulness of cool-down stretching with some studies concluding that there are no benefits. However, many professionals continue to recommend a cool-down to assist recovery.
I am firmly of the opinion that it is a benefit, especially with a routine such as HIIT and especially if you are an occasional exerciser. In any case, it won’t add a lot in terms of the effort and time required and it will bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal before you leave the exercise environment.
Take a little longer over each exercise than you would do in a warm-up, taking a few moments between each stretch to slow your breathing and relax your body.
Also remember that you should use static stretches, that is, those that aim to lengthen and relax a muscle and involve holding a muscle in position rather than a movement.
Do the shoulder rolls similar to in the warmup but his time place the emphasis on your breathing. Breathe in as you move the shoulders up and breathe out as you move them down. You are aiming to get your breathing back to normal as soon as possible.
Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
Take your right arm across your chest keeping the arm straight and the fingers extended. Bring your left arm up under your right arm and bend you left elbow so that you are supporting and pinning the right arm to your body. Keep your head up and your shoulders down while pressing the arm to your body. Turn your head to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Then reverse the arms.
Stand arms-length from a wall facing the wall. Take a small step with your right leg towards the wall, leaning forward as you do so and place your right foot on the floor with the knee bent. Place both hands on the wall and move your left leg straight out behind you and place your foot on the floor. Push your weight against the wall and into the ground with your left foot. Hold for 20 seconds feeling the stretch on the back of the left leg. Then reverse and do the same for the right leg.
Standing Calf Stretch
Stand on the edge of a small step with your heels over the edge of the step. Move your right heel down below the level of the step keeping you toes firmly on the step. Place weight on this leg making sure not to over balance. Feel the stretch into your right calf and hold for 20 seconds. Then do the same for your left calf.
Stand upright and place your right hand on a wall for balance. Bend your left leg up behind you and catch it with your free hand. Pull the heel in against your bottom while pushing your hips forward and keeping your other leg straight with a slight softness at the knee. Hold for 20 seconds feeling the stretch on the front of the left leg. Then do the same for your right leg.
Stand up straight with your legs slightly apart and bend forward allowing you hands to fall towards the ground. Keep you legs straight and bring your hands as close as possible to your feet. Breathe out. Slowly straighten up stacking your spine and breathe in. Repeat twice more.
Stand upright with your feet close together. Breathe in and as you do so bring your hands above your together and keep close together. Extend as far as possible above your head and hold for a few seconds. Stand up on your toes as you do so to make your body as long as possible. Then relax back to the starting position and breathe out. Do this 3 times.
Shake out your arms and legs and walk slowly for a few seconds.
Make sure you have plenty to drink and a light protein rich snack within the next hour.