Importance of Warming Up
Not many people warm up before an intense weight session. It’s likely because they don’t know how to properly warm up. Sure, a few reps with light weight to get the blood flowing and a few quick stretches may be done, but not many people actually know how to properly perform a full warm up before lifting weights. The importance of warming up is often overlooked and that isn’t a good thing. Warming up serves many purposes such as improving blood circulation, increasing elasticity in your muscles, and mentally preparing you for the upcoming work load. This can lead to increased strength during your workout session and decreases the chance of injuries.
Before any type of workout, you should take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes to complete a warm up phase. It may not be the most enjoyable thing in the world, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been looking forward all day to hitting that workout and sparking that growth. But trust me, if you hop into a set of heavy squats before your legs are properly warmed up, you risk injury, and most importantly you won’t be able to lift the maximum weight you’re capable of.
So how do you properly warm up?
What you should do is begin with 5 minutes of light cardiovascular activity to get your heart rate up and proceed to warm up your muscles by doing 5 to 10 minutes of weights to prepare your body for the upcoming workload.
For more information on cardiovascular exercises, click here.
But before you begin with warming up with weights, you must understand that a warm up is exactly that: warming up. The most common way to warm up is using pyramid sets, but most perform it inefficiently: they take a weight, perform 15 reps with it, then immediately pick another weight that they can do 10 reps with, then 8, then 7, then 5, then 3, then 1. For all of you guys who do a similar warm up: this is not how you should do it. Sure your muscles are getting warm from all the blood flow, and you might have a sweet pump going on, but doing this will cause lactic acid buildup in the muscle, and often drains out your strength before the actual muscle building sets. This is NOT what you want if you want to be able to push your working sets with maximum strength and effort. Pyramiding is a great way to get your body used to increased workloads, there is a more effective way to do it without the risk of early muscle fatigue.
To properly perform a pyramiding type warm up, you will take your first major compound exercise of your workout and perform 5 low intensity sets, gradually building up to your maximum working weight for the exercise. For example, if you are training chest on a certain day, you will use the barbell bench press as your warm up exercise. Your warm up will consist of 5 sets with 1 to 2 minutes of rest in-between sets:
10 reps with 50% of your working set weight
6 reps with 60% of your working set weight
4 reps with 70% of your working set weight
3 reps with 80% of your working set weight
1 rep with 90% of your working set weight
Now it’s important to note that you should not feel fatigued at all during these sets. You don’t need to bring a calculator to the gym, just do your best to judge half of your working weight sets and just go from there. Being off by a few pounds will not be such a big deal.
What about stretching?
For years and years, it was thought that static stretching before exercise was needed to decrease chances of injury and keep you flexible and limber. Recent studies have shown that stretching before exercise can decrease strength levels and provides no benefit to warming up. Click here to read my article on stretching
So there you have it, a simple 10-15 minute warm up that you should incorporate into your gym session. Train smart, and I’ll see you in the next article.