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4 Strategies for Workout Warm-ups

Posted on March 26th, 2012 by Lucy

Warming up is an incredibly important part of your bodybuilding workout. It helps increase blood flow to a muscle and therefore improve your results, prepare your muscle for work, and most importantly, protect against injury. Warming up is a non-negotiable aspect of your workout – but there is not necessarily a ‘right’ way for everyone to warm up! You can choose a warm-up strategy that fits with your workout goals and overall exercise and fitness goals. We explore 5 different warm-up methods today.

Warm-Up Sets

Performing light weight, small sets of the same exercises that you’ll be doing ‘for real’ later on is the most common way to warm up for weight training. Here’s how to perform warm up sets:

  • Perform warm-up sets only if you’re training with high weight and low reps. There’s not much point warming up for an exercise that you can repeat 15 times.
  • Start with 50% of your actual weight, and perform 2-5 reps of the exercise.
  • Increase the weight by 10% and repeat.
  • Do your warm-up exercises slowly and with absolutely perfect form.
  • Perform your warm-up sets immediately before your exercise; or alternatively, perform all your upper body warm-ups sets before your upper body work, then repeat for your lower body.
  • If you choose to do your warm-up sets before each individual exercise, you only need to do one set between similar exercises. For example, if you do 3 warm-up sets for your bench press, you’ll only need one for your barbell row.

Cardio as a Warm-Up

You can also use cardio exercise as a warm-up to weight training. Use your cardio to focus on warming up the body segments you’ll be weight training with later. For example:

  • Warmup on the rowing machine for upper body workouts
  • Warmup on the bike or treadmill for lower body workouts
  • Warmup on the elliptical trainer for full-body workouts

The way you use it will depend on your aims in the gym. If you are cutting, do 3-5 minutes of cardio to warm-up, then stretch. Hit the weights, and then go for a bit more cardio at the end. This means your body will be using fat as fuel for the cardio exercise, after your resistance training has used up all the stored glycogen in your muscles.

If you are bulking, you can do a bit longer cardio at the beginning and skip the stretching if you prefer.

Stretching to Warm Up

There are two main techniques for stretching to warm up:

  • Dynamic range of motion stretching, where you stretch normally holding the stretch for 10 seconds
  • Contract-relax stretching, where you contract your muscle then stretch it to allow for increased range of motion.

You’ll need to stretch the muscles you’ll be focusing on, as well as surrounding muscles and regions. If you don’t do this, you’re risking injury in some very odd places.

Swimming as a Warm Up

Swimming is a total body workout, utilising both your muscles and your cardiovascular system. It is also no-impact, so is suitable for bodybuilder getting over injuries.

To use swimming as your warm-up for bodybuilding, try:

  • 10% of your maximum number of laps on freestyle. Easy pace
  • 10% your maximum on backstroke. Easy pace
  • 25% of your maximum on freestyle. Moderate pace.
  • 25% your maximum on backstroke. Moderate pace.

You’ll need relatively good cardio vascular fitness for this warm-up!


No Warm-Ups

Hmm! You can only avoid warming up for your workout if the entire thing is going to be very gentle. If your sets will be upwards of 10 reps, and if you’re not training any one region too hard, you may be able to get away without a warm-up. However, this is NOT a suitable long term solution!

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