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How to warm up in the gym

A good warm up should serve two functions: get your body ready for the workout to come and get you mentally focused. There's no set rules for what you have to do before lifting weights, everyone will have their own unique warm up routines. This post will you help you make one if you don't know what to do. There are two types of warm up you need to consider: the general warm up and specific warm up.

General warm up

The general warm up is meant to get your body ready to move and to get you focused on the workout ahead. This warm up should elevate your body temperature a little bit and help you loosen up. This should only take you 5-10 minutes and you have tons of options to choose from. You could hop on a cardio machine at an easy pace if you just need your body temperature to go up. The best cardio machine for this purpose are the rowers and assault bikes because they will work your whole body.

If you are rehabbing an injury, the general warm up is a good place for you to do your rehab drills. If you have any movement limitations, go ahead and do your mobility drills during this time. You can also choose to do a movement flow instead of being on a cardio machine. Again, it all depends on what you feel like your body needs.

One of my typical warm ups looks like this:

You may also not need a general warm up if you don't feel the need for one. I personally only do a general warm up when I feel cold, mainly during the winter and autumn months. During the summer when I show up to the gym already feeling hot, I go straight the my specific warm ups.

Specific warm up

The specific warm up is for each exercises that you are about to do. The easiest way to perform a specific warm up is to do your lift with lighter loads, which is called warm up sets.

Say I have to deadlift. The best specific warm up for that task is to do lighter deadlifts. So if my working weight is supposed to be 200 pounds, I might do a first warm up set at 100 pounds, then another one at 150 pounds and then I finally put 200 pounds on the bar.

I recommend doing at least one warm up set before your working sets. The heavier your working sets are, the more warm up sets you may want to do. For example, if I have to bench press with my 10RM, I only do one warm up set because my 10RM weight isn't super heavy. On the other hand, if I have to work with my 3RM, then I'll usually do 2-3 warm sets depending on how I'm feeling that day.

When you track your workouts, don't include your warm up sets.

If you have movement limitations on certain exercises, you can do movement prep drills specific to that exercise as part of your specific warm up. Remember that if you can properly perform a movement with proper form and pain free, you most likely do not need movement prep. This, again, will entirely depend on your judgement on how your body is feeling that day.

Technique drills

Improving the quality of your form should be a constant endeavour in your workout routine. Technique drills are those that help you get better form during your lifts. These can and should be performed as specific warm ups. These drills will change over time because as you master one drill, you can find a way to make it even more specific, or you can find another thing to improve. For example, when you squat, you could work on bracing better, keeping your back tight, fixing a hip shift, feeling your feet push into the ground more...there are tons of things you can always be working on. Perfecting your technique does not mean your technique is bad, it's part of the process of becoming better at working out. The better you get at a certain exercise, the less technique drills you'll need.

Muscle activation drills

Are a waste of time in my opinion. I do believe that having a good mind body connection with your muscles is important but if you don't feel a certain muscle work, try addressing the root cause rather than doing activation drills. Potential reasons why you can't feel a certain muscle work could be:

- Not setting up the exercise properly, in which case address your set up. A common one here is people not feeling their lats on the lat pull down machine. Have you tried different grips? Have you tried leaning at different angles? Are your elbows pulling in the right direction?

- Lack of movement. Could be caused by a previous injury or by certain posture limitations. Can easily be corrected after an assessment and proper movement drills.

- Being new to an exercise. If you try a new exercise and don't feel the right muscles work, it's normal. Lifting weights is a skill and like all skills you probably need a few sessions to get it right

A typical warm up for a full body workout could look like this:

The workout

Deadlifts 5 sets of 5

Hamstring curl machine 3 sets of 15

Pull ups 3 sets of 8

Weighted dips 4 sets of 10

Incline bench press 4 sets of 10

General warm up