Many guys skip out on properly warming up, and tend to jump right into lifting heavy weights.
This is not a good idea!
Warming up is an absolutely essential part of weight lifting properly, and neglecting it can lead to unnecessary, painful setbacks.
Yup, I can pretty much guarantee that if you don’t make a habit of warming up, you are going to get yourself hurt.
You may coast by for a little while – but trust me, it will bite you in the ass eventually…
Unfortunately, many of the guys you see lifting weights at the gym don’t have very good warm-up routines.
Sure, they might quickly bang out a set or two with light weight, or do some stretches, but it isn’t exactly a methodical approach.
So, in this article, I’m going to teach you a simple way to warm up before lifting weights at the gym, so that you can be confident going into your heavy sets.
Why Warming Up Is Not Optional
Before we get into the actual warm up routine, let’s first quickly discuss why you should be warming up at all.
There are really 2 main reasons why warming up is essential if you’re going to build a lean, muscular body: injury prevention and weight acclimation.
Injury prevention should be a pretty obvious point. If you go into the gym cold, and immediately start trying to lift heavy weights, your body will be stiff and your form will likely not be on point, which will lead to more injuries over time.
And, of course, injuries mean more time out of the gym, less progress, and lots of needless frustration!
Warming up properly before every single one of your workouts will play an absolutely massive role in keeping you injury free when lifting heavy weights.
Now the second reason is something that you may not have considered…
Weight acclimation basically means getting used to the heaviness of the weight before actually doing your real sets.
If this sounds confusing, let’s look at an example to help clarify things.
Imagine that you are starting your workout with bench press, and 185 lbs is your ‘real’ working weight – the maximum amount of weight that you are able to lift within your given rep range.
However, your body is simply not prepared – both mentally and physically – to jump right into lifting something so heavy.
Weight acclimation warm-up sets help to prepare you for your real sets, without fatiguing your muscles and limiting how much they can lift.
In this way, they are preferable to the all-too-common ‘pyramid’ style of training, where by the time you get to your real sets – the heavy sets that actually matter – you’re too tired to give them your all.
Warming Up Vs Stretching
Now when I say warm-up, I don’t mean doing some stretching in the corner.
Static stretching is NOT a replacement for a proper warm-up before lifting weights; in fact, I don’t recommend doing any static stretches before your lifts.
It is simply a waste of time, and can even potentially limit your strength, as I discuss in more detail in this article.
Instead, you will warm-up dynamically by going through the motions of your first exercise for the day, using much lighter weights.
These sets will feel easy – and should not be exerting at all – but will prepare you to maximize your efforts safely on your real sets, so that you’ll make the most of each workout.
To start off, you should be doing 3-4 warm-up sets before your first exercise for each muscle group in that workout.
However, if you start your workouts with compound exercises, as I generally recommend doing, these warm ups will target multiple muscle groups at once, meaning that you likely won’t have to warm up again later in the workout.
You only need to rest for 1 minute between each warm-up set, so they shouldn’t take very long to complete.
Here is how you should do them:
1st warm-up set: 12 reps with 30% of the weight you use for your ‘real’ sets.
2nd warm-up set: 10 reps with 50% of the weight you use for your ‘real’ sets.
3rd warm-up set: 4 reps with 70% of the weight you use for your ‘real’ sets.
That’s it. Very simple really.
Optionally, you can even add a 4th warm-up set, for just 1 rep with 90% of your working weight, but I would recommend this mainly if you’re training in a lower rep range.
You will likely need a calculator, since your warm-up sets will gradually adjust as the amount of weight you are lifting for your ‘real’ sets increases.
For example, if you are benching 135 lbs for your ‘real’ sets, your 3rd warm-up set would have you doing 4 reps of 95 lbs (70% of 135).
However, when you eventually progress to benching 225 pounds for your ‘real’ sets, your 3rd warm-up set would have you doing 4 reps of 157 lbs (70% of 225).
In this way, your warm-up sets will dynamically adjust as you get stronger, so that they always remain appropriate for the amount of weight you’re lifting.
To finish off, the most important thing to take away from this is that you should NEVER skip out on your warm-up sets.
They are a vital part of your workouts, and should never be seen as optional – even if you’re in a hurry.
Make them as automatic as tying your shoes for the gym, and you’ll have significantly increased your chances of lifting weights injury-free for years to come.