Many weight lifters are lazy about warming up. Are you one of them? Ironically, warming up properly is one of the easiest things you can do to get better results in the gym. It doesn’t take long and doesn’t take much energy. All you need is a little guidance and a game plan on what to do…
Three Steps to Warming Up
Step 1: General warm up (5 minutes). The point here is to increase your body temperature and get fluids moving through your joints and muscles. A warm muscle is less likely to get injured, and your joints will function better with synovial fluid moving in them. Any cardio machine will do, or you may skip rope, do burpees, bear crawls, etc. Just pick one that’s convenient and you hate the least. This part of the warm up should only take about 5 minutes, starting at low intensity and building up to medium intensity. Aim to get your heart rate up to 60-70% of maximum for 2-3 minutes. If you’re in a cold environment and/or under dressed, it may take a few minutes longer to get warm. Ideally, you’ll start to break a sweat during the warm up, but it’s not absolutely necessary. If you end up gasping for air or your muscles feel fatigued and “pumped up” after the warm up, then you went too hard.
Step 2: Stretch any areas that may limit proper lifting form (0-10 minutes). For example, if you’re getting ready to squat and you have tight hips and hamstrings, this is a good time to stretch them so that you can hit proper depth with good form. If you’re getting ready to do presses behind the neck and you have tight shoulders, this is a good time to stretch them. Stretch whatever body parts you need to perform your planned lifts for the day with proper form and without pain. This could take anywhere from zero to ten minutes depending on what you’re training and how inflexible you are. There’s no need to do a long drawn out stretching session for your entire body at this time. Static or dynamic stretches are fine, just pick your favorite and do it.
Step 3: Specific warm up for the lift at hand. Yay, time to lift some weights! Your warm up approach with the weights should be different depending on whether you’re bodybuilding or training for maximum strength.
For strength training, the main goal of the warm up is to prepare body and mind for your heaviest lift of the day without tiring yourself out in the process. You do that by starting light and then performing several progressively heavier sets while keeping the reps low to minimize fatigue. For example, if your top work sets for the day will be 315 for 3 sets of 5 reps, a good warm up would be 135 x 5, 185 x 3, 225 x 2, 275 x 1, and then finally 315 x 5, 5, 5.
For bodybuilding, your main goal is to thoroughly work the muscles, so you should put more effort into your warm up sets and make them part of your actual work sets. For example, if you’re capable of lifting 315 x 5, a good heavy workout would be: 135 x 20, 185 x 15, 225 x 12, 275 x 8, 305 x 5. You sacrificed a little weight off your top set by doing the extra warm up reps, but you achieved a lot more volume and a better pump than the strength routine listed above. For a lighter session, a good sequence would be 135 x 20, 185 x 15, 225 x 12, 12, 12, 12. Follow the same approach for each exercise in your workout routine.
That’s the short story on warm ups. Keep in mind that everyone is different, and some may benefit from a longer warm up, such as the older population or those with injuries to work around. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the length of your warm up and see how you respond to it. If you have a serious injury, be careful and listen to you doctor or therapist before doing anything crazy on your own.
Any questions, feel free to comment below or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.