Learn from the professionals!
Proper warm-up and stretching protects not only against injuries but also increases performance and regeneration. It's common practice among professional athletes but is often forgotten in recreational sports.
It takes only a few minutes but seemingly costs quite an effort, although a bit of a warm-up before and a few stretches after are the ABC of every physical activity. The body should be brought to "operating temperature", so to speak, and not only during the cold time of the year although that's when it's especially important. At a core body temperature of approximately 39 °C, blood circulation in our musculature improves, metabolism and oxygen intake improve, and joint cartilage receives more nutrients. The cardiovascular system gets going and the body prepares itself psychologically for the exertion to come. This effectively protects not only against injuries but increases overall performance as well as the effect of the training.
This is essential for sports that are about fast and powerful movements, where our musculature is subject to high tension, as is the case for example while jumping, throwing, or sprinting, or during weight training at the gym. Five to ten minutes of relaxed jogging, a few circles with the arms, maybe even some coordination exercises – that's all that's needed for an active warm-up. A passive warm-up, for example through massages or heat gels, is not a replacement for this.
The stretching program receives even less attention, yet it is so important at the end of any physical activity. Muscle strain, regardless of whether while jogging or strength training, increases tension on ligaments and tendons, the individual muscles contract, and limits our flexibility. A muscle, however, works well for the long run only if it can consistently stretch back to its original length. Stretches increase active blood circulation in the muscles, ensure fast regeneration and general well-being. And this applies not only to sports. Stretching also helps improve our flexibility in everyday life, which, without active countermeasures, declines after the age of 15.
Correct stretching requires slight tension but no pain. The tension fades after a few minutes and one can repeat the stretch a bit more intensively. The movements should never be done fitfully so as to avoid injuries. Bouncing could also be dangerous in this regard. Instead, perform the exercises calmly and with focus. Two or three repetitions per set are plenty. Take professional athletes as an example – your muscles will be thankful.