When it comes to serious lifters’ training, he or she knows that they need to be prepared for the heavy lifts ahead of them. They must be:
- Physically prepared
- Mentally prepared
So when you see someone in the gym paying more attention to their abs in the mirror or how many Pokemon they’ve caught at the gym, you know they aren’t really prepared in any of the ways listed above.
The three points above, form the basis of why we warm-up. The warm-up I’m talking about isn’t your high school gym teacher’s calisthenic warm-up either. I’m talking about specific warm-ups to get you ready to slag some serious weight. If you aren’t interested in throwing around weights, move to another article, this one isn’t for you.
When we are preparing to do some difficult lifts in the gym we want our body to be ready to take the brunt of what we are asking of it without incurring any long-term or short-term injuries. When it comes to physically preparing for what we have ahead we want to make sure that we are as ready as possible to lift heavier weight and not let it “shock” us.
So for our physical preparation we want to:
- Lube our joints for movement
- Increase blood flow to our muscles that will be involved in the lifts ahead
- Gradually increase weight to make sure our body isn’t “shocked” by a heavy weight
- Improve form by working on technical problems
If I tell you to do 20 pushups as your warm up for a heavy set of deadlifts I’m not accomplishing any of the points above. We would be looking to warm up your hips, knees, ankles and filling your muscles of your posterior chain with blood.
What exercises (using the deadlift for example) will accomplish this in the shortest period of time?
Pretty simple right?
We can warm-up for our specific lift, using the lift itself. We simply use a lighter weight, the bar for instance to start off with. Then we gradually increase the load until we reach our working weight or heavy sets and we are ready to go.
So if you’re warming up for squatting, benching, overhead pressing, rows, pull-ups, single leg lifts, anything that allows you to change your loads, you can use the lift itself to help with warming up.
Point 3 might be a little confusing so let me tackle that right off the bat. When I say “shocked” I mean the feeling of walking up to a weight that you know you can lift, but it feel like you are trying to lift an immovable object off the floor. If you just start right off the bat with your heavy stuff and no warm-up this will be how it feels. If you take a few lighter sets leading up to this set, if will feel more smooth and lighter.
The other final part of the warm-up that shouldn’t be ignored, is the ability to work on technical flaws. This is your chance to use a lighter load, and try and hammer new technical cues into your lifts to make them a firm part of your lifting technique. You should always strive to improve your technique, and this is the perfect time to start the process.
The physical prep and mental prep really go hand in hand. In order to prepare mentally for a heavy set, sometimes we need to play the mental game of talking yourself into doing something you haven’t done before. If you know you’re going for a new max, this can be a bit of a scary thing.
Thoughts of past failures creep into your head. You wonder if you’ll end up getting pinned under the bar.
Getting mentally prepared can help you curb these thoughts and replace them with positive imagery of you conquering new victories! When we warm-up you want to be thinking about your form, how you are going to create leverages to help you hoist weights as economically and efficiently as possible.
This can envelop a whole lot of different technique cues. Only you or someone who watches you lift will know what these specific cues will be. But pretty much everyone has at least one per exercise. Even the best lifters in the world are constantly making changes to their lifts to give them a performance edge. You should be too.
When you begin adding weight to the bar you are preparing your mind to be ready for what’s ahead. Make sure you are in the zone as well as you can be and are actively thinking about what you will be working on when it comes to your heavy sets.
Focus ties in with physical and mental prep as well. These three points are pretty holistic in nature. Sometimes when we go into the gym we have other things on our mind. Life, relationships, families, work etc. all take up the majority of our life. These are thoughts that should be in our head.
However during lifting, I suggest you try and focus on the gym for the 60 minutes or so that you’re there, then get back to life. The gym can be a place where you get freedom. When you’re talking about lifting some heavy stuff, your focus should be on the task at hand. You don’t want to be focused on something else at the expense of a technical cue.
I’ve done this before and ended up injuring myself. So as you warm-up, put the distractions to the side and really dial into what it is you need to do at the gym.
There you have it. The warm-up isn’t something to be just glossed over and done haphazardly. Strong people do the above each and every set. This is why they progress. They can experiment with little changes to their form during warm-ups and hopefully improve the efficiency of their lifts. They are mentally prepared to lift heavy and perhaps lift something that scares them a little bit. And they are laser focussed on the task at hand.
If you’re looking for specific warm-up tips in terms of
- Weight to use as a percentage of your 1RM
- How many sets to take
- How to warm up with barbells vs dumbbells vs machines
- And much, much, much more
You can download my FREE training guide along with 8 programs that come with it by clicking here.