T Nation

The Art of Warming Up

Too Many People Don’t Do This…

If there is one thing that people really botch in the gym, the warm up is it! I commonly see a guy walk up to the squat rack and do his first set with 135 no less than a couple of minutes after he just walked in the door. Then he proceeds to hit a second set of 225 as a working set, which usually isn’t pretty. He’ll follow that up with whatever his day calls for and he’s done. ONE WARM UP SET…

The purpose of the warm up is to prime the body for your working sets. It is not to pre-exhaust the muscles to be used. I repeat, the purpose of the warm up is to prime the body for your working sets.

The first rule of warming up for a squat, deadlift, bench press, or any barbell movement is to start with the barbell…just the barbell. Grab an empty barbell and complete a set of 10 reps to alert your body about which movement it is about to perform. There is a reason why the second set of an exercise or movement is always easier to execute. The first set makes the body aware of the movement being done…or primes the body. Once the body knows what to expect for the second set, you’re better off and the set will feel smoother than the first.

Once the body is made aware of the task at hand, it is time to start adding weight to the movement. Now, adding weight to the bar is somewhat complicated. However, I believe that using a set of rough guidelines is appropriate.

I like to add 15-20% of your target weight to the bar with each new warm up set. Lets use a target weight of 315lbs for our example. This will give us a weight increase of roughly 50lbs per warm up set.

Your weight scheme will look like this:

WU Set 1: 45lbs by 10 reps

WU Set 2: 95lbs by 5 reps

WU Set 3: 145 by 3 reps

WU Set 4: 195 by 1-2 reps

WU Set 5: 245 by 1-2 reps

WU Set 6: 295 by 1 rep

Many of you are probably thinking that is a TON of warm up sets, especially anyone who doesn’t warm up at all! Well, do you want to do things right, or do you want to do things wrong? If you do it right you’ll be stronger and safer.

In reality, that warm up scheme should take 5-10 minutes. Each set should take 10-30 seconds due to the low rep numbers. Remember, you are simply priming the body with your warm up sets. High reps are not needed! It doesn’t take many reps for the body to realize that it needs to gear up and get ready. Low rep warm up sets will work.

I’m going to layout another example; a target weight of 225lbs. This will give us a weight increase of roughly 35lbs per warm up set.

Your weight scheme will look like this:

WU Set 1: 45lbs by 10 reps

WU Set 2: 80lbs by 5 reps

WU Set 3: 115 by 3 reps

WU Set 4: 150 by 1-2 reps

WU Set 5: 185 by 1-2 reps

WU Set 6: 220 by 1 rep

The total volume is kept low, while the body is primed well for the working sets. This is the key to a proper warm up. Prime the body with as little muscle fatigue as possible.

Here is another example; a target weight of 135lbs. This will give us a weight increase of roughly 20lbs per warm up set.

Your weight scheme will look like this:

WU Set 1: 45lbs by 10 reps

WU Set 2: 70lbs by 3 reps

WU Set 3: 95 by 1-2 reps

WU Set 4: 120 by 1 rep

You notice that the amount of warm up sets drops, which is just fine. 135lbs is not a weight that requires as much of a warm up as a set of 315 pounds. The higher the working set weight, the more warm up sets you’ll be performing.

Make sure to burn these points into your brain:

The purpose of the warm up is to prime the body for your working sets. It is not to pre-exhaust the muscles to be used. I repeat, the purpose of the warm up is to prime the body for your working sets.

The total volume is kept low, while the body is primed well for the working sets. This is the key to a proper warm up. Prime the body with as little muscle fatigue as possible.

I’ve seen strength shoot up in many clients after I adjusted their warm up rituals. Some warm up too much, some warm up too little. Either way, their strength improves once the warm up is improved.

Thanks for reading,

Ryan Miller

1 Like

lol @ everything

[quote]HolyMacaroni wrote:
lol @ everything[/quote]

Ditto.

Appreciate the enthusiasm for warming up, most people need to focus more on it. However, 6 warm up sets seems a little over kill for the average lifting day.

[quote]Achilles of war wrote:
Appreciate the enthusiasm for warming up, most people need to focus more on it. However, 6 warm up sets seems a little over kill for the average lifting day. [/quote]

I haven’t had an ‘average’ lifting day in years :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Thanks for the positive comment Achilles. If you notice, there are fewer recommended WU sets for lower weight training. Maybe that is what you consider an average day.

Not how I was taught.

That said, I WAS taught to do dynamic activation work before touching a weight.

But still, no.

I dont get it

[quote]austin_bicep wrote:
I dont get it[/quote]

who cares, hallowed is here

What is the right answer?

For low rep power lifts, I do:

A few minutes of stretching

5 slow reps at 50%
3 at 75%
2 at 85%
1 at 95%
1RM

Is this not safe?

[quote]335i wrote:
What is the right answer?
[/quote]

Cardio to get blood moving (3-5min)
Dynamic stretching (squats, shoulder dislocations, pushups, etc.)
Warmup to work sets
Static stretching

[quote]Hallowed wrote:
Not how I was taught.

That said, I WAS taught to do dynamic activation work before touching a weight.

But still, no.[/quote]

Will you teach me?

3 sets of 5 always worked for me.

This is similar to how i warm up when i bench. But i don’t feel like it really activates anything or gets me ready.

i have small baby joints
my joints just feel like hell if i pick up anything over 225 without gradually holding/working up to it.

[quote]Hallowed wrote:
Not how I was taught.

That said, I WAS taught to do dynamic activation work before touching a weight.

But still, no.[/quote]

Are you saying that one should go straight from bodyweight warmup sets to working weight sets? I’m not clear on what ‘dynamic activation’ actually entails. Care to fill me in?

[quote]paulieserafini wrote:
This is similar to how i warm up when i bench. But i don’t feel like it really activates anything or gets me ready.

i have small baby joints
my joints just feel like hell if i pick up anything over 225 without gradually holding/working up to it.[/quote]

So without the warm up you feel like hell, but with the warm up you feel better. It really sounds like the warm up actually does get you ready.

That’s a good post, and one that helps prove the point of warming up. Thanks,

Ryan

[quote]335i wrote:
What is the right answer?

For low rep power lifts, I do:

A few minutes of stretching

5 slow reps at 50%
3 at 75%
2 at 85%
1 at 95%
1RM

Is this not safe?[/quote]

Looks good to me!

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]paulieserafini wrote:
This is similar to how i warm up when i bench. But i don’t feel like it really activates anything or gets me ready.

i have small baby joints
my joints just feel like hell if i pick up anything over 225 without gradually holding/working up to it.[/quote]

So without the warm up you feel like hell, but with the warm up you feel better. It really sounds like the warm up actually does get you ready.

That’s a good post, and one that helps prove the point of warming up. Thanks,

Ryan[/quote]

haha lol i mean yes my wrists and other joints feel better if i dont just hop under 250lbs but what i meant was i hear a lot of people talking about ramping in a way that gets you to i guess activate muscles or prime yourself for a working set.

I don’t know how old the OP is, but when you reach my age, warming up is PARAMOUNT! You do what you have to do… especially if you have chronic injuries. On leg day, for example, I spend almost a half hour warming up for squats alone.

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:
I don’t know how old the OP is, but when you reach my age, warming up is PARAMOUNT! You do what you have to do… especially if you have chronic injuries. On leg day, for example, I spend almost a half hour warming up for squats alone. [/quote]

I turned 31 this past December, and I can’t imagine neglecting a good warm up sequence. I’ve felt this way for years though, and I hope everyone else that is younger does too.

[quote]2020Wellness wrote:

[quote]Iron Dwarf wrote:
I don’t know how old the OP is, but when you reach my age, warming up is PARAMOUNT! You do what you have to do… especially if you have chronic injuries. On leg day, for example, I spend almost a half hour warming up for squats alone. [/quote]

I turned 31 this past December, and I can’t imagine neglecting a good warm up sequence. I’ve felt this way for years though, and I hope everyone else that is younger does too.
[/quote]

If I followed good warm-ups as a teen and in my twenties, I may not be so jacked up with pain today.

It sounds like you’re doing okay. Keeping the ego in check! :slight_smile: