Pain Free: How To Warm Up Properly For Maximum Strength

Warming up is an important part of your lifting routine. The main goal of the activity is to prepare you mentally and physically for heavy lifting. To tell you the truth, quite often the need for warm-up is much more emotional and CNS related rather than physical. So, how do you warm-up properly for maximum strength?


1. Don’t over warm-up

The main thing you need to keep in mind when you’re doing your warm-up is to not overdo it. You don’t want to be wasting all of your strength during your warm-up sets. After all, you didn’t come to the gym just to warm-up. There are many people who first do the bike or the treadmill for 30 minutes then do joint rotations for about 10-15 more minutes, and finish it all with 20 warm-up sets. Before you know it, it’s already time to close the gym.

The best way to warm-up for heavy lifting is to do a light bike ride for about 3-5 minutes, then perform joint rotations for a couple more minutes and finally began warm-up sets with just the bar.

The goal of the bike riding is to send a signal to your body to start pumping some blood and to alert your organs that some physical activity will finally follow after playing Starcraft 2 and BattleField 4 for the last 15 hours.

The joint rotations are there to lubricate the joints and ‘adjust’ them. If you have cracking joints, this is the time to crack them. You don’t want them cracking during your sets.

Finally, you start warming up with the bar in order to prepare the body for the exact movement you’ll be doing. You must treat the bar as a heavy weight and do everything as if it is your maximum effort set. The aim is, obviously, to make your mind and body accustomed to doing everything right. If your light sets are done perfectly, the big sets will follow.

Once you’ve done a couple of sets with the bar, it’s time to start adding weight. This is where it gets tricky and you need to pay attention to make it right.

Let’s say that you are going to squat with 225 lbs x 6-8 as your top sets. The way your warm would look is like this:

2-3 sets of 10 with the bar;
2 sets of 6-8 with 95 lbs;
1 set of 6 with 135 lbs;
1 set of 3 with 165 lbs;
1 set of 2-3 with 185 lbs;
1 set of 1-2 with 195 lbs
working sets;

The main purpose of the warm-up sets is to allow you to feel the weight and the level of strength you have on that particular day. You are sort performing a pre-surgery testing in order to elaborate the state of events.

You don’t want to tire yourself down. You just train the movement and feel the weight.

2. Keep the blood flowing in between sets

In between your sets walk around the gym in order to keep your heart rate elevated. After a heavy set is completed you can sit for a few minutes, but after that stand up and move a little bit. You could also mimic the movement with bodyweight. For example, in between squat sets you can do a couple of bodyweight squats, just to keep the system ‘lubricated’. You don’t want to get cold. Ever. It’s dangerous and you will lose strength.

3. The further you’re in your workout, the less warming-up you need

Obviously, the further you’re in your workout, the less warm-ups you need. For example, if you started your day with squats and the next exercise is the leg press, you don’t need to warm-up as much. Just do the exercise a couple of times to remind yourself what it was and then move up in weight in a couple of sets. No need to over warm-up what’s already hot.

4. Warming up for specific exercises

Different exercises require different approach. For example, if you’re about to do a hardcore pull-up session, you can add dead hang bar hangings to stretch the lats and prepare them for what’s about to follow. You will have to evaluate those type of strategies based on your exercise selection and personal characteristics.

5. Anomalies

Over the years, I’ve seen some crazy stuff. I’ve seen guys come to the gym and squat 200 kg cold without a warm-up. It may surprise some of you, but it’s not only possible, it’s also natural to be able to do this. Why?

There is no such thing as warming-up in nature. When was the last time you saw a zebra warm-up after being attacked by a lion? The body is capable of great things and I would say that up to a certain level of strength everything can be done without warming-up. However, the stronger you are, the more you’ll benefit from warming-up.

There is absolutely no point in proving that you can deadlift 500 lbs without warming-up, although it’s quite possible. You’re not in the jungle and taking a little bit of time to prepare yourself will not cost you anything.

Bottom line is, don’t be afraid to do some stuff without warming up {please DON’T ATTEMPT MAX ATTEMPTS COLD} but for the real heavy duty sets – it’s always best to take your time. The body is a machine, it needs to get ready.

6. Warming-up does not make you injury proof

Warming up is preparation. When you are prepared for something, you’re more likely to do it right and therefore avoid bad steps – in this case injuries. However, you can do the best warm-up known to man kind and still get injured during your working sets. It happens, unfortunately.

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