It was back to school last week meaning a return to lessons, exams and the gym, with a new three day split I was ready to start with a push session (bench press, shoulder press and tricep accessories). Before each session I start with a little warm up- for me it always consists of a few stretches and some warm up sets on my first major movement (this is the same for every training day I have). There are improvements to be made to it, I have started adding more dynamic stretches to my routine, but I have noticed an even bigger problem… No one knows how to warm up properly. Some do not even attempt one. Today I will explain to you the importance of a good warm-up and how it can boost your lifting performance.
So number 1, stretching. Stretching is normally the thing people do right, most gym goers that I see do stretch and they spend a good five to ten minutes doing so. So the question is less of what people are doing wrong and more the different options available to you as a lifter.
Stretching is known as soft-tissue work and is something used to loosen up muscles and fascia (the connective tissue that holds things together). So you could go for an old fashioned static stretch. For example, this hamstring stretch that the image above me is showing. Or you could go for something more active such as a walking sumo squat and believe it or not foam rolling also counts as stretching. So those are your three options, which one to chose?
Traditional stretching is something that I would recommend for people with DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness) as it is very effective at unwinding the muscle and relaxing it after a hard session. However, if you are not sore then this will not be the correct choice as it will not help with coordination or getting blood to the muscle.
A more active version of the above is what I will refer as “active stretching”. This is often done continuously and will involve an eccentric and concentric motion. This is best for when you are not feeling as tight and want to prepare muscles for dynamic motion- this is especially popular among sports players and will take up a large chunk of their warm up. It is great for getting muscles firing and preventing injury. Not so great for when you are very sore after a workout.
The last option is foam rolling and this is ideal for stretching out fascia and muscle. This is the half-way house between the first two options. It can be very useful for both stretching out a muscle and pumping blood into the muscle, preventing injury. However, depending on your situation I would use foam rolling in conjunction with something else. So for example, if your sore and suffering from DOMS then I would use static stretching with foam rolling. This will be your best bet when it comes to warming up and performing well.
Number 2 is warming up with weight. I always do it, some do not do it at all and others do it the wrong way. Let me show you how. Normally I do not talk in absolutes but this one time I will… You have to warm up with weight. I do not care how experienced you are or how much you stretched you have to do warm up sets. There is an art to warm up sets though and one you will need to master if you wish to achieve your best. You must do enough to feel confident under your working weight but not too much that your too tired. If you were warming up for squats and your working weight is 120kgs, then I would go 60kg,100kg,110kg,115kg and then your working weight. But what rep scheme? Well for the lighter weight I would match the number you do to the rep scheme you have for your working weight. For the heavier weight I would drop a couple reps to save energy. Another tip is to do these reps as quick as possible.
This will make sure you use as many motor units as possible in the muscle and allow for more of the muscle to be used come your maximal effort lift. This, in my opinion, is the most important factor for maximal performance.
These are my most important tips for an effective and efficient warm up. If you want a article on stretching specifically then I have one right here.
I hope to be more active on the blog and to continue to pump out great content. Any questions then leave them below.