I started lifting weights at 16. And, as a 16 year old, my ‘warm up’ consisted of waving my arms around, and loading the barbell up with as much weight as I could handle (sometimes more).
That was about it.
The only thing that saved me from too frequent of injuries, was that; A) I was 16, and my body was a little more… resilient that it is now. And B) the ‘as much weight as I could handle’ wasn’t all that much.
But injuries did happen.
More than one at that.
Some that put me out of training for a while, and some that were simply annoyances. You know, a creaky shoulder of knee…
I could try and recollect how many times a poor warm up resulted in me hurting myself, but I’m honestly not sure my ego could take such reflection.
Suffice to say, I didn’t catch on nearly as fast as I should have.
And I’m not the only one.
Having worked in the fitness industry for just shy of a decade, it’s very rare that, outside of those being well coached, I see a well formulated warm up routine.
No, most often it’s a similar format to my sixteen year old efforts. And, as such, comes with the same inherent risks.
There are two reasons you should be interested in optimising your warm ups, and continuing to read, and they are as follows:
- An effective warm up will reduce your risk of injury- this will mean more consistent training, and greater fat-loss and body composition changes.
- An effective warm up will INCREASE your performance within the training session- leading to (once again) greater fat-loss, and body composition changes.
So what, I hear you ask, constitutes a well formulated warm up routine?
As you’ll have probably guessed, that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in today’s blog post.
Because a great warm up needs to only take up 10-15 minutes of your time pre-lifting (And if you’re keen to learn more about time effective ways to improve results, check out this blog: 5 Time-Efficient Ways Busy People Can Improve Their Health)
… I only wish there was a way to send this back to the 16 year old version of me…
Warm Up Stage One
General Movement & Focus
So, stage one in our warm up sequence is a very simple one- get on a cardiovascular machine and start getting that heart rate up.
We want to get our synovial fluid moving to increase the effectiveness of the following dynamic movements (and working sets), and get that core temperature up.
We’re basically telling our body, after a day in the office “It’s time to get active”.
This process of slowly increasing your heart rate and getting your body moving also serves to get your mind in the right place for training.
Oftentimes we’ll head into the gym with our heads full of business meeting jargon, relationship stress, and general modern day fluff.
Training itself will help to calm down those internal mutterings, and the warm up at the start of a session can be seen as the separation of work/life stress, from your training routine.
Take 5 minutes and slowly increase the intensity, but not to a levels where you’d struggle with carrying out a conversation.
Warm Up Stage Two
Dynamic Stretching refer to non-challenging movement patterns that work your joints through a range of movement (that will be soon placed under load).
This process once again helps to mobilise synovial fluid, and lets your body know it’s about to do some work!
It’s a very important piece of the puzzle, especially if you’ve spent the day cramped behind a desk in an office.
These movements shouldn’t be painful or overly difficult, and your focus should be on slowly increasing the range of motion without sacrificing form.
Here’s the 5 minute routine that will get your body primed for the lifting component of your training (click the titles for video links for form).
Warm Up Stage Three
Warm Up Sets
So, we’ve got our core temperature up and mind in the right place with our 5 minutes of cardio.
We’ve got our joints moving and increased our active range of movement with our dynamic stretches.
Must be time to attempt a new personal best now, right?
Yes, you’re in a better spot than if you’ve just rocked up from your work and attempted a PB, but you still aren’t quite ready.
You need to ramp up to your working weight.
By doing so you’ll not only decrease your chance of injury, you’ll also increase your body’s potential power output- meaning you’ll actually be stronger within the exercise.
So, how does this look?
For the purpose of easy mathematics, let’s say you need to work up to 100 kilos on a leg press for 4 sets of 6-8.
We know the volume you need to prep your body for (6-8 reps), so now we need to prepare it for the load.
So, you’ll compete multiple, lower weight sets of 6-8 in order to ‘ramp up’ to your working weight:
Warm up set 1: 40 Kilos x 8
Warm up set 2: 60 Kilos x 8
Warm up set 3: 80 Kilos x 8
Workings sets: 100 Kilos – 4 x 8
By using this method you’ll be able to prepare your central nervous system and joints to deal with a heavier load.
(More, or fewer warm up sets can be completed depending on the amount of weight you’re lifting, and how deep into the session you are. For example if you’ve just completed Back Squats and are moving onto Goblet Squats, fewer warm up sets are required as the prime movers have already been activated).
Starting your training session right is key to getting optimal results (both short and long term). So, to recap:
Step One: Perform 5 minutes of Cardio and get in the ‘zone’
Step Two: Complete your dynamic stretches / drills
Step Three: Complete warm up sets before going into your working sets
Doing so will decrease your injury risk, get you in the right mental place for a great session, and help increase your strength.
Yes, it will mean and extra 10-15 minutes in the gym.
But that 10-15 minutes might be the most beneficial addition to training you could have.
P.S. The second most potentially beneficial addition to your training may be correctly training your core- Check out this blog for how to correctly improve your core strength for improved lifting and results: The Better Way to Train Your Core
We understand it can be difficult to know if you’re exercising correctly, safely, and using the best exercises for your unique body. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help with this, you are welcome to book in for your complimentary consultation here at the studio. You can do so by clicking the button below.