Warm up is an essential part of a workout. This little ritual does two very important things before you hit the weights. First, it prevents injury, by lubricating the joints, making the muscles and ligaments more elastic and pliable. Secondly, it increases your mental focus concentrating your attention on the task ahead. I mean, if your mind is not there, how hard can you push yourself really?
Your warm up should be a part of your workout, not an annoying little ritual that you have to do at the beginning of your workout. A proper warm up will gradually put you into the “beast mode”, instead of leaving it sleeping for the entire workout, if you will.
If you are serious about your lifting, you are probably already tracking down your reps and increases in weights. In other words, you are following a certain method. The warm up is no different and you have to be just as methodical with it as you are with the rest of your workout.
How to Warm Up Effectively
- Light Cardio: doing 5-10 minutes of a light cardio exercises (walking, cycling, jumping jacks) will get the blood flow going and will elevate your heart rate. Your objective here is to bring your heart rate to 100-110 bpm.
- Dynamic Stretching: dedicate about 5 minutes to such warm up drills as leg swings, arm circles and trunk twists. Every stretch like this will warm up the individual muscle and will prepare it for the activity. Avoid doing any sort of static stretching, as it will relax the muscles you are trying to work. Working out with relaxed muscles is perhaps the most dangerous thing you can do, during the resistance training. You are at the gym to lift, not do yoga and relax. You are most welcome to include static stretches in the cool down part of your workout. If some muscles feel tight before you start working out, simply use foam roller to stretch them.
- Exercises with Light Weight: Say, you are working your lower body today, and the first exercise is the squat. Perform the movement without the weight first to mentally prepare yourself for the exercise and warm up the muscles that are used in that particular movement. Do that before you start working a new muscle group.
- Warm Up Sets: Now that you are warmed up, you can start adding weight to the first exercise of your workout. Usually 3 sets, with progressively increasing resistance will suffice. Start with 20% of the weight you are planning to do for your first set. Continue to do 50% and 75% for the next warm up sets, with minimal rest. Sometimes, you will feel that you need a little longer to warm up, so feel free to perform up to 5 warm up sets. If, after 5 sets you still don’t feel that you are warmed up enough, you probably are just being lazy – put some weight on that barbell and let’s go!
Sample Warm Up
- 5 minutes walking on a treadmill
- 10 front leg swings and 10 side leg swings on each leg
- 10 trunk rotations on each side
- 10 front and 10 back circles with arms
- 20 body squats
Taking your warm up seriously, means that you take your workout seriously too. Most injuries happen due to lack of focus, or when the muscles are “cold”. Start your workouts right and stay warm!