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4 key things you need to know for an effective warm-up for a workout

If you want to make sure you get the maximum benefit from your workouts, you need to warm up properly.

A structured warm-up is vital to ensure you decrease the risk of injury, improve your exercise technique, and boost mental and physical performance in your session.

However, many people don’t take the time to warm up properly before their workout because of time constraints or laziness.

Warm-ups don’t have to be long or complicated. They will help you prepare effectively to smash your working sets, and lessen the chance of injury which can seriously hamper your progress.

When you are planning your warm-up, the goal should be as follows:

  • Prepare the target muscle(s)
  • Prepare the joints and nervous system
  • Prepare you mentally
  • To do all the above, without creating unnecessary fatigue

Warming up will help you prepare properly to perform exercises safely and effectively.

Most of the time, the most effective warm-up you can do is to perform one to two sets of your first exercise or exercise pairing using a weight that is around 60-70% of your normal working weight.

This allows you to ‘groove in’ the movement and stimulate your nervous system. It also allows you to set the range of motion for that movement so that you have a benchmark to keep your reps consistent through your working sets.

The number of warm-up sets depends largely on the rep range and intensity of load. For instance, if you are doing a set of 8-10 reps with a moderate load, you may not need as many warm-up sets.

But if you are working up to a 3-5 rep set with heavy loads, you will likely require a more gradual ramp-up.

As a general rule, we can say:

In your first warm-up set, use 50% of your planned starting weight.

In your second warm-up set, use 75% of your planned starting weight.

If you need a third warm-up set, use 85-90% of your planned starting weight. Bear in mind that more may not always be better, as it will contribute to fatigue and potentially reduce the loads you can lift in your working sets.

If you want to learn the fundamentals of effective training that we teach all clients at Ultimate Performance, our Principles of Muscle Building Program Design is a great starting point.

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