When you think warm up before the workout you probably think cardio. What you may not realize is warming up is important for strength training, too. As with cardio, warming up before strength training prepares the body to handle the higher workout load. Investing this time will improve your performance, so it is worth it. Add some warm up time to your next strength session. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Progressive fiber recruitment
When you warm up you are preparing muscle to handle the extra load of the weights you will lift. You can do this by recruiting the same muscles you will use during your training session at a reduced work load. In other words, go low before you go high. Do this by completing a set or two of low reps (say 8 to 10) using a light weight. For example, if you will work with 50 pound weights during training you might warm up with 15 pound weights.
As you prepare your muscle to lift your goal weight for the training session, add pounds. Continue your warm up with 25 pounds for one set of 8. Follow that by lifting 30 pounds for one set of 5 reps, 40 pounds for one set of 3 reps, and finish string with one set of 50 pounds for one set of 5 to 7 reps. Although there are fans of this type of progression, it is easy to see detractors’ argument. High reps use energy that you could potentially invest in your strength session.
Use low reps to achieve the same goal. Start with a lower weight and do sets of no more than 5 reps. Using the example of 50 pounds as the session target that might look like 15 pounds for 5 reps, 25 pounds for 3 reps, 30 pounds for 2 reps, 40 pounds for 1 rep and 50 for desired number of reps.
You can also use body weight exercise to prepare
Perform some squats, reverse lunges, hip circles and planks to warm up muscles. The bonus of body weight exercise before strength training is variety you get the benefit of warming up for a greater range of motion AND exercise activity.
Remember, warming up is about preparing your body to handle a heavy workload. Your warm up should engage the same muscles you intend to use for your workout. Warm them by gradually increasing demand as in the example given of lifting light weights before heavier weights. Investing this time will improve performance and reduce the likelihood of injury. This is also a good time to prepare yourself mentally for the challenges of heavy lifting ahead.
Warming up increases body temperature as well as improve flexibility and blood flow. Take the time and enjoy greater gains and fewer injuries.