As most athletes can attest, training injuries can be a real bitch and put you out of training for months, resulting in a slow, tedious recovery. To prevent training injuries injuries a proper warm up is paramount. After reading this blog you will understand the basics of a proper warm up, and the need to tailor your warm up to the specific type of exercise you will be doing. As I focus on weight training (because I think its the best) I want to show you how to warm up specifically for the type of lift you will be doing.
So what is the reason for warming up, and why is it so important? One of the most important reasons is to increase the temperature of the body. The muscles are less pliable and more susceptible to injury the colder they are. The warmer they are, the more pliable they become. They can take more punishment and will be less likely to tear under the stress of exercise.
Mark Rippetoe of Starting Strength gives a good definition of a warm up on his website:
“A good warm-up will ramp you up without wearing you down and the best way to do that is simulate the movement you’ll be doing as closely as possible by actually doing the movement, the only difference being the amount of weight used. This means that to warm-up for a squat, you should squat!”
So as Mark says the best way to warm up is to do the same movement as the exercise you are going to perform, with the only difference being that you will use less weight.
So let us run through a typical warm up for the bench press for example…
The first thing to do is to gently raise the temperature of the body. This can be achieved with light cardiovascular exercise; the treadmill or cross trainer would suffice. The cross trainer would be a slightly better option in this circumstance as we are doing an upper body exercise and the cross trainer warms up the shoulders nicely. This initial warm up should be for around five minutes or so until the body’s temperature is raised.
Next we wan’t to simulate the same movement as the actual exercise we are going to perform. Again in this case the bench press. So we should do a bench press, but do it light, using only the empty bar. Take this opportunity to go over the correct form in your mind and correct breathing. Then do the bench press with correct form and correct breathing, very slowly and controlled.
So how light do we go and how many warm up sets should we do? I would recommend five warm up sets, gently ramping the weight, starting with the empty bar. Think of your classic pyramid training style. The weight goes up each set. The only difference is that we don’t want to go too heavy, then the warm up will take away from our actual working set; the set that matters! Let the warm up assist you, not leave you drained of energy.
Here again is an example that Strength Coach Mark Rippetoe recommends for the squat for example…
The first two sets with the empty bar, then four sets ramping the weight until you are close to but not as heavy as the actual working set:
- EB (Empty Bar) x5
- Work set – 275x5x3
Do not neglect this essential part of training. Doing so will put you at risk of injury, and we all know how much of a pain they can be. The warm up will assist your training. Perform the warm up just like you would the actual working set, with just as much concentration and focus on form. This will serve to increase the neural pathways and further assist in skill of the movement.