How To Properly Warm Up Before Strength Training
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How To Properly Warm Up Before Strength Training

Taking just a few minutes to warm up before lifting weights can help you get more out of your workout and reduce your risk of injury. It increases your range of motion, which means you will find it easier to perform movements with proper form and better utilise your muscles during your workout. Warming up also helps stimulate your Central Nervous System (CNS), preparing it for the load of heavy weights.

Should I stretch before a weights workout?

The goal of a warm up is to be mobile enough under load to perform a movement correctly, but to also have stability and prepare your nervous system to lift the weights. While stretching will help loosen your muscles temporarily and can be useful if you have mobility issues or are preparing for sport, there are better things you can do before strength training.

What is the best way to warm up for weights?

The best way to prepare for a strength training session is with a dynamic warm-up. A dynamic warm-up involves active movements, to increase blood flow and prepare the muscle group for more intense exercise.[1]

How you warm up will depend on the workout you have planned for the day. You will ideally get some blood flow into the muscle group with a similar, but less fatiguing exercise to what you will do that day, but at a lower load. For example, if you are doing squats or deadlift, you may start with some static lunges, glute bridges or hip hinges. Similarly, if you are working your upper body through dumbbell press or bench press that day, you may do some cable shoulder external rotations or side lateral raises.

Once you feel you have basic blood flow to the area, you can move on to the movement you have planned for that day, at a lighter weight. For example, you may practice your squat or deadlift, but as a bodyweight exercise or using the bar without any weight plates. Then, you will slowly increase the weight until you reach your working weight.

How heavy should your warm up be?

An easy way to figure out how heavy your warm up should be is by using percentages. For example, if you are lifting 100kg that day for 5 reps, you could do:

  1. 20kg for 5-6 reps (20% of your working weight)
  2. 60kg for 4-5 reps (60%)
  3. 75kg for 2-3 reps (75%)
  4. 90kg for 1-2 reps (90%)

You can use this formula for any weight, however just because you can do heavier, or more reps, doesn’t mean you should. The goal is to warm up your joints and muscles for your working weight, not fatigue yourself.

How long you warm up for will depend on how much you’re lifting that day and also how strong you are. If you are lifting lighter weights, you may need to do less sets than on a heavy day. You will also need to rest a couple of minutes between your sets. This means for most people, their warm-up sets may take between 5-10 minutes per exercise.

Warming up is a crucial part of your strength training session. Taking a just few minutes to go through the movement patterns you have planned for the day can make a big difference in your workout. It can help you to perform with proper form, maximizing the benefits from your workout and minimizing your risk of injury.