1.5. Warming up
A specific traditional warm up (such as running, rowing, stretching, etc.) is not necessary. Neither are any specific “activation drills” unless there’s a specific individual need for them. Warming up for lifting is the specific lift itself. From beginners to world champions, it’s recommended to start with an empty barbell. Perform some repetitions, add some weight, perform some more repetitions, and so on until the lifter reach the work sets.
There is no hard rule on the amount of repetitions that should be done or how big the jumps between different weights should be. It’s highly individual. Some will require more warm up reps, which in most cases should take the form of more sets rather than more reps in a set due to being less fatiguing. Remember, the purpose of warm up sets is to prepare for work sets, not to add additional volume.
With that said, here are a few guidelines to experiment with:
- Doing a high amount of reps (above 6) for warm up should only be done with very light weights (and even in that case shouldn’t be considered a necessity) unless the program specifically calls for the extra volume it adds.
- Below 60% of 1RM jumps can be large.
- At roughly 60% weights up until roughly 90% weights, adding around 10% usually work well.
- At over 90%, jumps should be smaller.
- More often than not women need more warm up than men.
- If a weight doesn’t feel good in warm up, don’t immediately jump to the next one. Take the same warm up weight again with about half the amount of reps you just did the first set.
Additionally here are some guidelines specific to warming up and attempting maximal weights:
- When warming up for a maximal attempt, 6-8 jumps is usually about right.
- When attempting a maximal weight, only beginners should tie their personal best (PB). Intermediates and advanced should take a weight slightly below and then a weight slightly higher. It’s too tiring to tie your PB at that stage.
- Beginners rarely (if ever) need to try for an all-out 1RM. A new “sort of max” is good enough. The same approach can be used for more advanced lifters but for beginners especially it should be common practice.