This is an area of people’s programmes that usually falling into two categories
– Massively over thought
– Not even thought about.
Warming up is a fairly important part of your training session it can sometimes make or break your session. The important thing is to get it right so you’re not wasting time flopping around on the floor doing remedial exercises you shouldn’t be bothering with or getting injured during a session because you didn’t do any warm up and threw on 170kg on the bench press and tore a pec.
Below is a traditional warm up you might get given by someone preparing for an exam on the subject.
5 minute pulse raising activity on a bike.
10 body weight squats
10 walking lunges
10 arm swings
10 press ups
10 angles in the snow
10 medicine ball chest passes
10 medicine ball slams
10 leg swings fwd + back
10 leg swings side to side.
Now there is nothing horribly wrong with this on he face of it but it’s all terribly drab, boring and generalised. I don’t know about you but the chances of me performing this warm up session in and session out are pretty much zero. How can we improve on this?
Well first of all let us categorise what we are going to be doing in our warm up and then set about making it a bit more useful.
A – General mobility or foam rolling 3-5 minuites.
We will use this part of our warm up to take some time out to address any specific tightness’s or mobility problems we have, we’re not going to do a full session of rolling around on the ground we are going to use this time to specifically address something that is hindering our lifting.
Tight hip flexors causing your pain in day to day life or causing you to pop out of line in squats? Spend the first 3-5 minutes of every workout addressing this area with foam rolling and stretching.
B – Pulse raising and non specific flexibility/mobility – 5 minutes
Now that we have addressed our problematic areas we can get on with just getting ready to lift. Rather than just sitting on an exercise bike we can use this time as an opportunity to learn some skills or to open up areas like your hips in more interesting ways. What you should do is set up a circuit that will provide some dynamic flexibility for our ankles, knees, hips and shoulders whilst raising our pulse at the same time.
General Dynamic Flexibility/Mobility and Pulse Raising Circuit
3 laps of circuit, no rest between exercises.
DB or KB Goblet squat – 10 reps
KB or DB Swing – 10 reps
Twisting Lunge into hip flexor stretch – 4 reps each side
Scorpions – 4 reps a side
Angels in the snow – 4 reps a side
Press up or medicine ball chest pass – 10 reps
fat man pull ups or medicine ball twisting throw – 4 reps a side
Broom stick or band shoulder dislocates – 6 reps (move hands closer ever 2 reps)
C – Lift Specific Flexibility
Now supple and ready to go we can start getting ready to lift, this will depend on what your session requires, if your doing snatch it’s going to take longer before you start throwing weight on the bar as we might want to perform some bar drills / pause overhead squats before we start getting into it for bench press you might just do some reps with the bar and move on with the session.
There is no one size fits all for any session but to get a general idea what I am on about here are three example lift specific warm ups.
Snatch Warm Up
Pause overhead squat 2×5 (pause 5-10 secs at the bottom trying to hit ideal position)
Drop Snatch 2×5 (paused 1-2s at the bottom)
High hang snatch 3×3
Hang Snatch 3×2
Hang snatch to mid shin 3×2
Snatch from floor into workout
Squat Warm up
Goblet squats 3×5
Pause squats – 3×3 (loaded or unloaded depending on strength and work out)
Slow eccentric followed by fast eccentric paced (“tempo”) squats 2×5
Warm up sets
Bench Warm Up
Band warm up circuit (dislocates, ext+int rotations, face pulls, band pull aparts)
Setting up a big arch and doing empty bar work
Bar not touching concentrating on keeping a good line 2×20
Pause Bench concentrating on coming down in a good line pulling your shoulder blades together etc – 2×10
Warm up sets
D – Warm up Sets
This is probably the most important part of the warm up as regarding how your going to perform in your actual working sets. The goal of your warm up sets are thus –
– Adequately prepare your body to handle the load your going to be doing.
– Practice the technique you are going to use in the actual lift, think of the phrase “lift an empty bar exactly in the same way you would a personal best”.
– To warm up without fatiguing yourself.
The weight jumps you take eventually are going to be completely down to your own personal routine and preference and that is to be encouraged (we will cover this next) but for the sake of illustration lets set out a warm up for two lifters.
Lifter 1 – 3×10 @ 200kg back squat
bar 2 sets 10
60 kg 2 sets 8
100kg x 5
140kg x 5
160kg x 2
180kg x 2
Lifter 2 – 3×3 @ 40 kg bench press
press ups on knees – 2×10
bar x 10
25kg x 5
30kg x 3
35kg x 2
You need to get your joints moving and warm in the first 1-3 sets while the weight is light enough to not have a fatiguing effect, and as the weight gets heavier the number of reps should decay away. All your doing is getting weight on your back/through your hands and getting used to moving through the movement loaded.
If we were to perform 200kg 3 sets of 10 performing sets of 10 at 140 and 160 is going to steal energy that would be better spent on our working sets.
The stronger you get the more jumps you’re going to need to prepare yourself for hard sets the knowledge of how to do this will come with experience.
E – Music / Getting in the correct mind set.
Getting a mental routine together is one of the least addressed and most important factors to having a good session it is important to have a routine that gets you ready to perform, the more standardised and personal you can make it the better it will que you to get in the right place.
The more robotic and exacting you are with this process the more control you will have over you own performance. If you don’t have a mental routine before training then things like work stress or a wee lack of sleep can completely ruin your session. However if you have a well developed psych up then the only thing that is likely to hamper your performance is your own physical ability on the day.
I can’t give you a routine it’s something you will have to develop yourself through experimentation what I can do is give you the common factors that good psych up routines have and maybe share with you one of mine so you can get an appreciation for what is involved.
Ritual – Your warm up should be the same every time, you should use the same music, use the same bar, get into the same platform all of these things build mental associations and cues that get you ready to perform. The more homogeneous it is session to session the more effective it is going to be at pulling you out of your day to day mind set and get your ready to train.
Mental Arousal – The things you do should have an effect on your state of mind things like playing out mental scenarios before you even get to the gym can help.
Stimulus – Music and pre workout stimulants come under this category they are just more cues you can use to get yourself ready to lift at your physical maximum on the day.
Build up of Aggression/Confidence – as you start lifting your should handle all of the weights like it is an empty bar, giving the weight more respect than it deserves can gurantee a failure to meet your working weights. Lifting heavy is as scary as you make it, if you handle the weights with contempt and walk around like you own the place your going to perform better.
This is a dangerous one and is easy to go over the top just try not to look or sound like an asshole and you should be fine. If you need to look and sound like an asshole to lift heavy then get yourself a gym that’s cool with it.
Crescendo – All of these things are building up to your first working set! All of these factor come together to one moment when you get under the bar for the first set or you take your first attempt on the platform, if it all goes well you should be feeling ready to give 100%.
My mental preparation for a heavy squat work out.
Coffee – 1-2 hours pre workout, start thinking about how easy the session is going to be and how happy I am going to be at the other end of it having smashed the weight.
Change and get ready (perform general warm up if I am going to) – usually don’t listen to music, chat to people who are there keep it pretty light hearted.
Start lifting light or empty bar – headphones on and stop talking till first working set, start getting aggressive.
Jump up in either jumps of 40 or 50kg depending on how heavy I am going, try and make eccentrics in good positions and smash through the lift as hard as I can.
Within 20 kg of working weight, one last set with a belt usually pretty anti social and aggressive by this stage.
First set, put on heavy song with a build up Slipknot – Sic is one of my current working set songs. Walk around do some self talk and get myself worked up.
Chalk up and get belt ready, tighten lever.
Get under bar, smash my back against the bar and start getting really worked up, take the bar out with as much contempt as possible. Two steps into squat stance, twist right foot. Lock arch and put my head back and sit into the lift aggressively.
I try and do this as religiously as possible, I also try to use the same bar, rack et al like I mentioned before.
Hopefully this article has proven useful. It is on a topic that usually attracts little or over zealous attention like most things in life though if you get the balance right it makes a huge difference.