The concept of warming up doesn’t have anything to do with the temperature. Even though you live and work in a warm place, chances are you aren’t using the same muscles day to day as you are strengthening in the gym.
So after a whole day, or even longer, of not really using those muscles much, they need a bit of activity to prepare them for serious exercise, especially weights.
A good warm-up also serves to wake up the nerves serving your muscles, and helps prevent injuries.
To warm up properly, you need to remind the body of the range of motion and that you are lifting, pushing or pulling a weight that is heavy. This means exercise-specific warm-ups – running or walking on the treadmill will not prepare you for squats. The best way to warm up for squats is to do…. squats! But it is possible to cheat a little by warming up more than one muscle at a time. These are known as compound exercises. Read on….
Compound exercises work more than one joint at a time. Choose the “biggest” compound exercise (the one you can do the most weight on) – for example, if you’re doing a chest workout with bench press, inclines and flys, then the bench press would be the warm up exercise. For a workout of dumbbell press and flys, then the dumbbell press would be the warm-up. For leg workouts, choose an exercise that works the quadriceps.
Do your warm-ups as you go – it’s more efficient – and follow the “ramping up” process below:
- Start with one set of 8 slow reps using just the bar.
- Do another set of 8 slow reps at 55-60% of your normal weight
- Move up to 70-75% for another set of 8 reps.
- For the next warm-up set, load up 80-85% for just 3 reps with a moderate tempo
- Now for the final warm-up set – just one rep at your workout weight (known as your one rep maximum – this calculator will help you figure it out).
If you are a bit older, you may need a little longer to warm-up your joints.
Start with a short 5-10min cardio exercise, enough to break a sweat. Begin the warm-up sets at a lower level – say 30% or 40% – and increase each warm-up set by 10-15%.
What to avoid
Don’t do static stretches before you workout – according to research, this type of stretching affects explosive (lifting) performance. Keep the stretching, whether it’s dynamic or static, for your post-workout cool down.