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Warm Up The Right Way – All You Need To Know

The Three Principles for a great warm up for strength training

Some background info

If there is one area where advice in strength training is more  often than enough moronic , it is for warm-ups. You know the type that recommends this to warm up: cariocas to warm up for squats, having intercourse with foam rollers on end, twenty minutes on the cardio bike at 70% of max heart rate, cluster sets on the dance pole…

Here is a simple rule: If the recommended warm up takes as long as the actual workout, the article was written by fully certified twatwaffle with zero real life results.

Principle 1: Preparing the battlefield

Warm gyms in winter time in North America is never an issue. However in places like the U.K. and Belgium some gyms are way too cold. You can get a frost bite on your traps while squatting.

Research shows that for best results in optimal hormonal production, the gym temperature should be 20 Celsius or 70 Fahrenheit.

So if your gym is really cold, maybe you train in your garage, wear multiple layers, which you can take off as you warm up.

If the gym is real cold wearing a tuque/skullcap/wollen hat helps, since roughly of your 10% body heat is lost through the head.

Principle 2: Warm up is specific

In a successful warm-up you need  teach the body two things: the range of motion, and that the weight will be heavy. Hence, you do the lift you are going to do for multiple sets of low reps. The best to warm for squats is squats. The best warm up for deadlifts is deadlifts…pretty simple concept.

Hint: Dmitry Klokov did not warm up supersetting leg extensions and static stretching

Principle 3: Number of sets is a function of motor complexity, number of reps in work sets, and levels of maximal strength

The more complex the exercise, the more warm up sets. So power cleans need more sets that leg curls.

The lower the number of reps in the work sets, the higher the number of work sets.

Thus a strong person needs more sets.

So here it is in application:

Example 1: Rookie doing 20 reps of standing calf at 100 lbs

Warm up

3 reps @ 40 lbs, rest 10 seconds

3 reps @ 60 lbs, rest 10 seconds

2 reps @ 80 lbs, rest 1 minutes

Work sets: 3 sets of 20 @ 100 lbs

Example 2: Elite 105 kg lifter warming up for work sets at 180 kg in the power cleans

Warm up

3 reps @ 20 kg, rest 20 seconds

3 reps @ 50 kg, rest 20 seconds

2 reps @ 70 kg, rest 20 seconds

1 rep @ 90 kg, rest 30 seconds

1 rep @ 120 kg, rest 1 minute

1 rep @ 140 kg, rest 90 seconds

1 rep @ 160 kg, rest 3 minutes

Work sets: 6 sets of 2  @ 180 kg

Last year, I had the chance and honor to teach with Dmitry Klokov, and he would warm-up similarly.

What about stretching?

According to flexibility guru Ann Fredericks, author of “Stretch to Win“, PNF, not static stretching is the best type of stretching to perform before lifting weights, and I fully agree.  Fredericks believes that PNF stretching is superior to static stretching before a workout since it helps to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response). You should perform static stretching post-workout since it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This would therefore help to relax the body following an intense workout.

In case you are not familiar, PNF stretching, an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation has been used for years and is most used by physical therapists and athletic trainers. PNF stretching is performed by first performing a static stretch for the target muscle and then contracting the muscle to be stretched isometrically, followed by performing the same static stretch for the target muscle. This type of stretching will allow you to stretch through a greater range of motion than with a traditional static stretch. The other benefit, as mentioned earlier, PNF stretching helps to “prime” your nervous system, allowing for a more productive strength-training workout.

If you want example of PNF stretching,  simply click here to see Chris Frederick in action with pro football client Ni’al Diggs.

Stretching is recommended to be done after the first warm up set, if need be. That first set should tell you what needs to be worked on.

So for example, you are squatting, and you feel you ankle extensors and quadriceps are tight. Go do some PNF stretching.

Get Help

So, if flexibility issues are severe, it’s best to take care of that outside with a properly trained professional. Rolfing, A.R.T., or Kinetic Chain Enhancement are the best choices. Students of mine who have done Kinetic Chain Enhancement all report increased income from learning this technique as they can get the client in the right position in matter of minutes.

By the way, at a recent seminar in Vienna, Dmitry Klokov stressed out how important Kinetic Chain Enhancement was to reach high level of activation and range of motion in record time. You can watch the video here

That’s it! This article showed you the proper and time efficient way to warm up. Nothing more, nothing less. Plain effectiveness. 

Enjoy better workouts,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin