Warming up properly will reduce injuries and will make your working sets more productive.
Before you go into the weight room do something to get your blood flowing. What you do is personal preference.
- Walk for 5-10 minutes on a treadmill.
- Row for 3-5 minutes if you have access to a rowing machine. (This is a great warm up for a day when you’re going to be working your back, by the way.)
Related: How to Start Lifting
“What about stretching, Tammy?”
The accepted best practices out there now is to do dynamic (movement) stretching and/or foam rolling before you lift and save the static stretching until the cool down.
Those first couple of warmup sets done how I describe them below could be considered dynamic stretching, but it’s up to you if you want to add more.
Personally, I use body weight squats and some other movements to open up my hips before I do leg work.
I will also use bent-over Y-raises and rear delt raises with 2.5 lb plates to warm up my shoulders before I do any upper body work.
There are also some great dynamic stretching movements done with bands out there, too. I suggest you customize this part of your warmup by researching on YouTube based on your cranky body parts. (Hip flexors, knees, and shoulders are my cranky bits lately.)
But a common mistake many people make is that they don’t do warmup sets. Let’s talk about those specifically.
Don’t start with your working set – warmup to it first!
For the first exercise with weights, your objective is to get the muscle you’re about to train ready to lift weight.
We want to push blood into that muscle and to practice the movement pattern. This won’t be a hard set.
You do not want to get tired from your warmup sets!
I use these warmup sets to “take inventory” – I make sure everything feels good and stable.
Sometimes, I feel a little joint stiffness that goes away once I get through the warmup sets.
Start your warmup with an idea of what your first working set will be – how much weight and how many reps.
Warmup Set 1: Very light weight. Do about 15 reps.
Warmup Set 2: A little more weight. Do about 8-10 reps.
NOTE: You shouldn’t need to rest too much between warm up sets. It’s not supposed to be hard.
Warmup Set 3: A little more weight. Should be getting close to your working set weight. Do 3-5 reps.
This 3rd warmup set is when I get my mind focused for heavier weight that’s about to happen – checking form, probably have knee or elbow sleeves on at this point, etc.
Now you should be ready for Working Set 1. Rest for a few minutes and get into it.
First Exercise: Leg Press
Let’s pretend the first working set is planned to be 230 lbs for 8 reps. This is how I would do the warmup sets…
Warmup Set 1: Sled only for 15 reps
Warmup Set 2: 90 lbs for 8-10 reps
Warmup Set 3: 180 lbs for 3 reps
Rest for a few minutes.
Working Set 1: 230 lbs for 8 reps
After that, I’ll complete the number of working sets I have planned.
Second and Third Exercises – Leg Extension, Leg Curl
Since my quads and hamstrings are already warmed up from the leg press, I’ll still do warm up sets, but not as many.
Third Exercise – Bicep Curl
This is a completely different muscle group, so I’ll run through the warmup set routine described above completely for my biceps.
If you’re just getting started with lifting, your working set weight might be too light to have 3 different weights for warmup sets. That’s ok.
Start with no weight and just do the movement. Or use the same light weight for all three warm up sets, but keep decreasing the reps.
Remember – you are not supposed tire out the muscle during warm up sets. The goal is to get ready to do your working sets.
- Always do warmup sets before working sets for each new muscle group you train.
- If your second movement is working the same muscle group, only do 1 or 2 warm up sets to practice the movement and check to make sure everything feels good.
- If you’re working a different muscle group, repeat the full warm up set protocol.
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Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.