warm-up for heavy weights

How To Warm-Up For Heavy Weights

If you’re short on time, you may be tempted to skip your warm-up and jump right in with heavy weights. This is a mistake. Skipping a warm-up before heavy weights puts you at risk of injury and compromises performance.

What Not To Do

How you warm-up is also important. Many people like to start with a slow jog or other form of cardio. While this form of warm-up can help raise your body temperature, it does nothing to prepare your nervous system for peak performance. What you really want to focus on is movements that prime your body for what you are about to do.

Warming Up For Sports

For sprinting or sports, this should include movements to warm the muscles and activate them to produce high force and power. Dynamic coordination exercises, such as high knees and crossovers, are an option. Short acceleration sprints are also recommended. For example, one study found that a short 40-second cycle sprint warm-up resulted in greater maximal strength performance in the squat and bench press. Performance hormones were also higher after doing the sprint warm-up compared to a jogging warm-up.

How To Warm-Up For Heavy Weights

For heavy weights, best results will come from doing reps using the first pair of exercises in your workout. If you do this properly, you don’t need to warm-up for the remaining exercises in your workout.

Say the first circuit in your workout is Squat followed by Dips. Each is to be done for 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps. To warm-up for each of these exercises, use a 5, 3, 2, 1, 1, repetition scheme.

The warm-up would look like this if your working weight in the squat is 280 lbs and in the dips 80 lbs (in addition to body weight):

Squat: 5 reps with 135 lbs

Dips: 5 reps with bodyweight

Squat: 3 reps with 185 lbs

Dips: 3 reps with bodyweight plus 20 lbs

Squat: 2 reps with 215 lbs

Dips: 2 reps with bodyweight plus 40 lbs

Squat: 1 rep with 240 lbs

Dips: 1 rep with bodyweight plus 55 lbs

Squat: 1 rep with 265 lbs

Dips: 1 rep with bodyweight plus 70 lbs

Now you’re ready to start your working sets:

Squat: 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps at 280 lbs

Dips: 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps at 80 lbs

Using An Extended Warm-Up For Heavy Weights

You can take up to eight “steps” to get near your staring weight for a given exercise. In this case, use smaller increases in your warm-up weight and extend the warm-up scheme with singles, such that you do 5, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1.

While it’s acceptable to do many warm-up sets, it’s not acceptable to do many warm-up repetitions. The body needs to know only two things from warm-up: What the range of motion will be and roughly how heavy the weight will be. Any work beyond what is required for this is counterproductive. Most people do too many repetitions, resulting in lactate accumulation. This tires you out and compromises the workout.

Timing Rest Intervals When Warming Up for Heavy Weights

The rest interval between warm-up sets should be only the amount of time needed for changing the weight and moving between stations. After you have completed all warm-up sets, rest for three minutes. Then begin your workout. Rest should generally be active: Walking slowly around the gym, not sitting, playing on your phone.


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