“If you have no time to warm up, then you have no time to train”.
Think you just need to do a few reps with an empty bar before strength training? Warming up fully will help get your muscles loose, active, and warm, which will in turn improve circulation and muscle function. It’ll activate your Central Nervous System so you can give your very best effort for each lift and increase flexibility in your muscles and joints, ensuring your form stays proper and you are resilient to injury.
I’ve teamed up with The Sports Edit to bring you a guide to warming up fully before you strength train, so follow these steps to get warm, help stay injury-free and train to your maximum potential.
Hold up – isn’t this a guide to warming up for strength training? Why would we ever do cardio?!
A few minutes of moderate intensity cardio will increase the body’s temperature and increase blood flow around the body, meaning more oxygen-rich blood will reach the parts of you that will be working the hardest. Blood will also start moving away from the gut and into more active muscle tissues during this time.
This could be any cardio you like – whether that’s rowing, cycling, running, or you could even do a few minutes of burpees. Each to their own. Just make sure that you’re working at around 50-70% effort here.
Ensuring you’re as mobile as possible before your session will mean you reach maximum range of motion whilst training, helping to build strength even at the end ranges. The more mobile you are the more fluid can circulate through your body which will assist with recovery and also the better your form will be, meaning you can get stronger and produce more power.
Working through your whole body will ensure that no joint or muscle group overcompensates for a less mobile area. Generally pre-workout you’ll want to do dynamic mobility work – that is, moving through positions rather than holding them in place – as static stretching has been shown to reduce lifting performance.
Now it’s time to hit the specific movement patterns you’ll be using in your main training session – hinge, squat, pull, press – and the energy systems you’ll be using. This will metaphorically “grease” the neural pathway, cementing the movement patterns, so I’d keep the weights light for this so your form is absolutely perfect.
Let’s say I’m warming up to some heavy deadlifts, maybe even a 1RM attempt. I might do some barbell good mornings to warm up my hinge, deadbugs for lumbar stability, and then some high box jumps to really get my nervous system pumped up ready to lift.
You ever jumped straight under a heavy barbell (perhaps showing off – not that I’ve ever done that, ahem) and it feels like you’re lifting the absolute world? Your body just wasn’t fully ready to take that weight.
Finish your warm-up with a number of acclimation sets – that is, starting with an empty barbell, slowly build the weight until you’re at your working weight, progressively introducing overload to the muscle, joints, and supporting soft tissue in preparation for heavy sets.
Think that’s a lot of work to do before lifting? Think how much more work you’d have to do if you get injured from not warming up properly. Even if you never do get injured, it’s worth it for benefit you’ll get from having muscles, joints and nervous system. Give it a go and see how much better your training session feels.
Welcome to That Squat Bot, established 2013! I'm Sarah, a fitness professional based in Manchester, UK.
I love feeling strong and lifting heavy, but I also love trying different types of movement and using my fitness to adventure outside of the gym. I'm also a massive Marvel nerd!Find out more about me here.
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