Most aspiring lifters in the gym don't know how to perform a proper weightlifting warm up. A lot of them simply can't be bothered warming up, or they do a quick, non-effective warmup that doesn't really help them at all. That's all good, and I've done that in the past, but it's only in hindsight from many, many years in the gym that you realize that stretching isn't just some silly random hand movements that make you feel like you're just wasting time when doing them...they're legit worth the boring time and effort and invaluable in more ways than one. A common question I hear being asked is "how much weight should I do for warm up sets?". Or "how long should I spend on warming up?". These are all good questions, and by the end of reading this article you will know the answers.
Spending a little time on your weight training warm up will go a long way in your overall muscle building efforts. Firstly, the main advantage of a proper warmup is that you will greatly decrease your chance of injury.
Weight lifting injuries are your worst enemy. Even a relatively minor injury can keep you out of the gym for a significant amount of time, and during that time you won't be able to build any new muscle.
The other main advantage of a good weightlifting warm up is that you will be able to build more muscle during your workouts. By fully warming your muscles up, you give yourself more chance of being able to lift more weight in your main sets. And of course, if you lift heavier weights, then you will build more muscle mass.
Now you understand the importance of a proper warm up, let's take a look at how to actually do one. There are two main parts to the warmup. A short 5 minute cardio session, and 5 warm up sets of your first compound exercise.
For the first part of your overall warm up you should spend 5 minutes on cardiovascular activity. Any basic cardio machine such as a stationary bike or treadmill will do fine. You could even jog to the gym for roughly 5 minutes instead.
When I say 5 minutes, it doesn't have to be exact. You could do it for a few minutes longer and it won't matter. Just make sure not to wear yourself out at all, it's just a light warmup.
During this 5 minutes of light cardio, it would be wise to mentally prepare yourself for the intense weight training that is to come. A big part of the muscle building process is to do with the mind. You need to be committed and motivated to give every single ounce of energy you have at the weights to break down your muscles as much as you can.
After your 5 minute cardio session is the second part of the weightlifting warm up process. You will perform 5 light warm up sets for the first compound exercise in your training routine for this particular day.
For example, if you are training your legs on this day, then your first main compound exercise will most probably be Squats. So you will do 5 warmup sets of Squats. The way you will do the warm up sets is using light weights for a high number of reps, and gradually increasing the weight while lowering the number of reps.
The most important thing to remember whilst performing these 5 sets is DO NOT fatigue your muscles at all.
This is what your 5 warm up sets should look like:
Warmup Set 1 - 50% strength for 10 reps
Warmup Set 2 - 60% strength for 6 reps
Warmup Set 3 - 70% strength for 4 reps
Warmup Set 4 - 80% strength for 3 reps
Warmup Set 5 - 90% strength for 1 rep
This means that for each set you will use a percentage of the weight you would usually use for the exercise. For example, if you usually Squat 200 pounds, then for the first warmup set you will use 50% of that weight (which is 100 pounds) for 10 repetitions. And for the second set, 120 pounds for 6 reps, and so on.
Performing these 5 sets should take roughly 15 minutes. Remember to rest for a minute or two between each rest set. After finishing all 5 light sets you can start your main heavy-weight sets for Squats, and all your other exercises for the day.