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  • Writer's pictureDat Do

Warm-Up Sets

The overarching goal of a warm-up is to prepare your mind and body for your working sets to maximise performance whilst minimising fatigue and reducing injury risk.


Performing an adequate warm-up will sharpen your technique, firing up your nervous system and getting the muscles and joints warmed up ready for action.


What’s the best way to warm-up for squats and bench press?


The answer is actually performing squats and bench press.


I know, mind blowing.


There are caveats here, if your mobility is lacking, then performing some movements that allow more range of motion are possibly worth considering.


If there are certain injuries present then doing some mobility or activation movements that provide you relief are of course beneficial.


These are individual and different for everyone. I wrote a previous blog about this which can you read here.


This blog will cover guidelines past that stage.


For compound movements (involve two or more moving joints) I would recommend 1-5 warm-up sets.


If your working weight is fairly light you might only need 1 or 2 warm-up sets. If you’re only doing goblet squats for 10kg or split squats with a fair of 5kg dumbbells, just perform 1 warm-up set with bodyweight would be sufficient.


Depending on how light or heavy your working set is will dictate how many warm-up sets you perform.


For isolation movements I would recommend 0-2 warm-up sets. The weight on some is so light no warm-up sets are needed however most will benefit from at least 1 set to practice technique and building a mind-muscle connection.


With warm-ups, the lighter the load the more reps you do. The heavier the load the less reps you do.


Think about a light, medium and heavy warm-up set for something more substantial.


1.    Light Set – Pick a resistance that you can do 20+ reps or 50% of your working weight and perform around 10 reps.


2.    Medium Set - Pick a resistance that is halfway between your light set and your heavy set and perform anywhere between 3-8 reps.


3.    Heavy Set - This will be 90%-110% of your working weight and perform 1-2 reps


The light set is recommended for the first exercise of your session. Subsequent exercises can implement a light set if desired otherwise it can often be skipped.


The medium set can be made up of just one or multiple sets depending on how heavy your work set is.


The heavy set is more appropriate for when the working weight is more challenging physically and mentally. Just doing 1-2 reps around your working weight will provide you a taste of what’s to come to mitigate any surprises.


Sometimes if you skip the heavy warm-up set you might be somewhat thrown off by the sheer difficulty of the weight and the first few reps can be shaky. Heavy compound movements such as squats or deadlifts benefit a lot with a heavy warm-up set.


If the load is fairly light then a heavy set can often be skipped.


The time you rest between warm-up sets can be quite minimal. As soon as you feel ready to go, then just do it. However adequate time should be taken between your last warm-up set and your first working set to maximise performance.


You want to treat every warm-up set and every repetition as if you were doing your working weight. This allows you to practice your technique, breathing and generating adequate tension.


If your workout has two movements that work the same or similar muscle groups, the amount of warm-up sets can be reduced for the latter movement.


A common theme amongst the strongest people in the world is that if they’re doing a barbell exercise, they will always perform a set with an empty barbell.


Some movements cannot be scaled easily and might be too heavy to begin with. A prime example are dips and pull-ups. Unless you can do 20+ reps then any reps you do at bodyweight can be too much. In this case you might do push-ups and bodyweight rows respectively to warm-up the same muscles and joints.


At the end of the day these are guidelines to help you with how to prepare for your session. You don’t have to follow everything to the tee.


As long as your performance in your work sets is strong and you don’t feel it in the wrong spots keep doing what you’re doing!


Below are some examples of how I would structure my warm-up


A 30kg goblet squat warm-up might look like this:

Bodyweight x 10

12.5kg x 6

22.5kg x 3

Begin work sets.


A 70kg RDL work set warn-up might look like this:


20kg x 10

40kg x 6

60kg x 3

70kg x 1

Begin work sets.


A 100kg squat work set warm-up might look like this:


20kg x 10

40kg x 8

60kg x 6

80kg x 4

100kg x 2

Begin work sets.


A 150kg deadlift work set warm-up might look like this:


60kg x 10

80kg x 6

100kg x 5

120kg x 3

140kg x 2

150kg x 1

Begin work sets.


An 8-rep max pull-up warm-up might look like this:


Banded lat pulldowns

Bodyweight rows

Bodyweight x1-2 pull-ups

Begin work sets.


If there are any questions, let me know!

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