Lifters slide down a slippery uncontrollable slope when it comes to warming up.
Some do too much, some not enough. Your homie Jersey Mike is a prime example of not making smart increases in weight, and doing too many reps. This causes fatigue which decreases his ability to get stronger and put on muscle.
“Mike walks into the gym with an epic fresh cut. He swings his arms back and forth a few times, walks up to the bench press and throws a 45b plate on each side of the bar.
Headphones blasting Tiesto he rushes over and bangs out 15 shitty reps on the bench press.
He gets up, throws another 25b plate on each side and manages to squeeze out 8 struggling reps. Once again he pops up, takes the 25’s off and tosses on another 45lb.
He then walks around the gym for 5 minutes trying to find the perfect song, waiting for the beat to drop.
6 minutes later. Found it. Your home-boy manages to bang out a whoppin’ 2 reps with 225 and gets pinned with the third and his buddy has to row it off his chest.
Time to move onto cable crossovers and curls.”
We see this all the time in the gym and these are the guys who look the same year after year.
Warm Up the Right Way
The perfect warm up for a training session has one main goal. This goal is to ‘warm you up’ for the activity you will be doing so you can do it the best.
It ain’t rocket science son.
There are 4 key outcomes for a good warm up:
- Increase body temperature
- Prime the muscles and joints that will be working
- Fire up your nervous system
- Rehearse the main movement.
In this article, I am going to help you nail the final part which is rehearsing the main movement which is referred as ‘working up’.
If you want more information about the general warm-up, you can find it here.
Have a Goal for Each Training Session
You should be trying to improve on something every training session. Have a goal for your session so you can design a warm up that can actually improve your workout.
This doesn’t mean you have to break personal records every session, but it does mean you should have a reason for that session.
For example is the workout designed to?
Improve 10-yard sprint, increase leg size to improve your squat, improve overhead mobility to perform pain-free pull-ups, improve cardiovascular endurance for a faster 1-mile run, or to recover from a previous training session.
A warm up for a high school volleyball player is going to look different than a warm up for a collegiate sprinter. And both of those warm ups will look different than a superheavyweight powerlifter.
In fact, doing the same warm-up for all these will likely decrease performance.
If your goal is to increase performance in a specific movement your body requires stiffness in certain joints and muscles, especially is those requires high force and power production.
Our body adapts according to the demands and stress that we place on it. That is why excessive stretching for your warm-up may actually hurt your performance. You might relax and mobilize a joint or range of motion that should actually be stiff in order for your best performance.
Hang out with me for a few minutes and I will show you best way to warm up so you can be your strongest in the gym.
This should follow your 5-15 minute’s general warm up, such as my ‘Porn Star Hips’ (see below)
Keynotes for ‘working up’
You should have a light sweat going and an increased heart rate before you get under the bar.
The amount of actual work-up sets will vary for lifters. This will depend on how strong you are and your conditioning. Someone who squats 700lbs will have a lot more warm up sets than a 300b squatter.
On a similar note, your level of strength will dictate how large or small the increase in weights should be in your sets when warming up.
- Start with the bar
- 1-5 reps per set(higher reps when weight is lighter, lower reps when you get more towards your top sets)
- 5-8 work-up sets
- Rest 30-60 seconds between lighter sets and 1-2 minutes for heavier (last warmup sets might be 2-3 minutes depending on the sets and reps of your first movement
Here’s an example of what a warmup would look like for our imaginary lifter Jimmy Jimbo. On Jimbo’s meathead menu is a 5RM squat for the day. His projected goal weight is 315. Here’s what a good warm up would look like for Jimbo.
What a good warm up looks like
45 x 5 (Empty Bar)
95 x 5
135 x 5
185 x 5
225 x 5
275 x 5
295 x 5
315 x 5
Keep in mind these jumps are not set in stone. It is important to make jumps that YOU are comfortable with. This might mean taking smaller increases in weight than your training partner. That’s ok, ‘you do you’.
Make sure you are completing at least 5 work up sets before your actual lifting for the day. If you are a newer or smaller lifter and your main goal is to put on muscle and look like you actually lift, you need to do more. This might mean doing 2 sets with the barbell and taking 10-20lb jumps, instead of 50-90lb jumps.
You don’t want to be panting, drenched and dead tired by the time you get to your working sets. Remember our friend from the Jersey Shore? If your conditioning isn’t the greatest and you don’t have much training under your belt, you will need to build this up over time. You don’t want to feel fatigued by the time you reach your working sets for the day.
A smarter approach for a lifter like this would be descending repetitions during your warm up sets. With this approach, you work up the by making the same increases in weight but descending repetitions as the weight increases. You get the priming benefits of a proper warm up, but with much less fatigue.
Jimmy Jimbo’s ‘Not in the best shape’ Adjusted Warmup
45 x 5 (empty bar)
95 x 5
135 x 5
185 x 4
225 x 3
275 x 2
295 x 1
315 x 5
With this warm up Jimbo doesn’t accumulate as much fatigue but he still gets many chances to practice his technique, which is crucial for getting strong.
Warming Up with Bands or Chains (video here)
When you are using bands and chains for your first exercise you should add them early in your work-up sets when the weight is light.
Make sure to get tight and treat it like a heavy set even when the weight isn’t heavy. Don’t unrack the weight in a relaxed state and go through the exercise out of control. That’s how people get hurt.
Warming up with variable resistance
This was my actual warmup for a dynamic effort box squat session which my working weight was 275 lbs with 2 sets of chains for 8×3 reps.
45 x 5 (empty bar no box)
45 x 5 (empty bar with box)
135 x 5
135 + 80lbs in chain x 3
235 + 80lbs in chain x 3
255 + 80lbs in chain x 3
275 + 80lbs in chain x 3 **FIRST WORKING SET**
As you can see, my first working weight was my 7th set.
If I had a heavy squat session planned (not focused on submaximal weights and speed) the weight would be significantly heavier. This would mean more work-up sets and larger jumps for the first few sets. Then when the weights and I get closer to my max for the day the increases in weight would be small.
For example, if my working weight for the day was 405 x 5 for me would look something like this:
45 x 5-10 (empty bar)
135 x 5
225 x 5
275 x 4
315 x 3
355 x 2
380 x 1
405 x 5 **FIRST WORKING SET**
Here my working weight was my 8th set. If I was feeling good that day I may have kept the reps at 3-5 throughout the warm up instead of descending.
One Final Note Before You Go
When it comes down to it there is no perfect way to work-up and you don’t want to use a calculator to find your warm up weights. Not only is that annoying but it’s a warm-up bro.
Remember, you’re in the gym for a reason. What’s that reason? If it’s actual to get stronger or better at something, this article is for you.
If it’s just to show off OR make it seem like you are the baddest man on planet earth, this article, and website is not for you. Use the article as a guide so you can perform your best in the gym, get stronger, sexier and look like you lift.
PS. It’s one thing to be focused and train with intensity. Occasional grunting happens, but don’t be a jackass
ie. Loud grunting every rep, screaming, throwing your weights, ammonia caps for every heavy lift, the need to change the music before every set, a big beefcake smacking you on the back and calling you a pussy, waiting for the beat to drop before you continue a set.
High fives and fist bumps,
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