How To Warm Up For Maximum Strength & Muscle Building Potential

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You are killing your gains and it’s all because of what you do before you begin your first real set of the day

We all know how important it is to adequately warm up before we start lifting with high intensity. We know that if we jump right into a maximum effort lift, we’re setting ourselves up for a high probability of injury. And we know if we get injured, we can say goodbye to gaining muscle and strength altogether.

In fact, with injury, it becomes a question of trying not to lose the muscle and strength that we busted our chops for. So to avoid this, we make sure to get our body warm before any heavy lifting. We do a little jogging, perform some lightweight circuits and rep out the light weights to get our muscles warmed up for the heavy work.

But when it’s time to lift, our muscles are already fatigued to a certain degree. And consequently, we are not able to lift to our bodies true capabilities. So our ability to trigger improvements in strength and power are compromised.

If we’re not able to build as much strength then our muscle building potential will be hampered as well. And so that lengthy warm up that we thought was serving us is actually just getting us weaker for our workout.

What A Proper Warm Up Actually Is

How to warm up for lifting weights

If you’re warming up for lifting weights, then all you want to do is lift weights to get warmed up. This is known as a specific warm up and it’s the most sensible and most effective way to warm up.  Running is not going to get you warmed up to lift heavy weights, it’s just going to tire your muscles out.

Now warm up sets should be done with low reps, this is to avoid causing unnecessary fatigue. I often see people perform warm up sets in the 8-15 rep range, this is a mistake and will kill your power. You want to perform the minimum amount of work necessary while getting your body ready for the heavy sets to come.

This means that you should perform around 3 warm up sets, following a 5 – 3 – 1 protocol. Your first and lightest warm up set is done for 5 reps, your second is a little heavier and done for 3 reps and your final warm up set is even heavier and is for just a single rep.

This may sound like absolutely nothing and that’s the point! There should be absolutely no fatigue associated with these warm up sets. Essentially, what you’re doing, is turning your muscles on so to speak.

Now when it comes time to do your first work set, your muscles will be stronger and more explosive than ever before! You’ll set some pretty remarkable personal records. When you continue following this warm up protocol, you will make some pretty effortless strength gains.

What Are The Kinobody Warm Up Specifics?

Rule #1 – Only Warm Up For The First Exercise Of A Muscle Group

This often means that you’ll only have to perform warm up sets for 1-2 exercises of a specific workout. If your workout starts with bench press, followed with incline press and some arms.. Well you’d just do warm up sets for bench press and go straight into your first work set for incline press and arms.

Now if you were to do shoulder press and weighted chin ups – well then you’re hitting two different major muscle groups. In this case I’d suggest doing a few warm up sets for both movements.

Rule #2 – Use The 5/3/1 Warm Up

Your first warm up set should be done with 60% of your work set for 5 reps. Second should be done with 75-80% of your work set for 3 reps and final warm up set should be done with 90% for 1 rep.

For weighted chin ups or dips – I usually do bodyweight x 5 reps, then grab my weight belt and use 1/3 of work set weight x 3 and then 2/3 of work set weight x 1.

So if I’m doing 120 lbs chin ups, I’ll do bodyweight x 5, 40 lbs x 3, 80 lbs x 1. If you’re doing less than 90 lbs for your weighted chin ups or dips, then two warm up sets is best. Bodyweight x 5 and half of your work set for 3 reps. So if you’re doing 50 lbs chin ups then you’d do bodyweight x 5 and 25 lbs x 3 reps.

Ideally you want to rest 1-2 minutes between warm up sets to stave off any fatigue. After your final warm up set, I recommend taking a solid 2-3 minutes of rest before going into your first work set.

Rule #3 – Emphasize Explosive Power During Warm Up Sets

To turn on the central nervous system, the powerhouse that recruits muscle fibers to action, I perform my warm up sets with maximum explosive power. This is a technique I learned from strength coach Christian Thibaudeau and ever since implementing it, my lifts flew up.

Another advantage of training with explosive power is that it has a more direct carryover to sports and real world situations. In most athletic endeavours, the muscles have to be able to exert force extremely quickly. If you’re lifting with a slow rep cadence, that strength and muscle you build will be of little use when you have to explode quickly.

I’ve never been about building muscle just for the sake of building muscle – if I’m going to carry some well placed muscle then it better be able to do a little more than attract pretty girls and get positive attention from men.

This Is How it Looks

Warm up set #1 – 60% of work set weight x 5 explosive reps (1-2 minutes rest)

Warm up set #2 – 75-80% of work set weight x 3 explosive reps (1-2 minutes rest)

Warm up set #3 – 90% of work set weight x 1 explosive rep (2-3 minutes rest before going into first work set)

Notes

For this to work, you need to have an approximate idea of how much weight you are planning on lifting for your real, work sets. If you’ve been tracking your workouts like I advise then this is not a problem. If you’re unsure of how much weight you’re going to lift then you will have to take an educated guess.

You can also use these warm up sets to gauge the appropriate amount of weight for your work set. By seeing how the lighter weights feel, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your true 5-8 rep max for your work set.

Lastly, listen to your body. Everyone is different and if you are older and more prone to injury and feel that you need a longer warm up then go for it. That said, this has worked exceptionally well from my experience. Especially when combined with a well set up strength training program and regular use of tension stretches for injury proofing the body.

Your Kino Question For The Day: How can you use the 5/3/1 warm-up and the ideas in this article to improve your own warm-up in the weight room? Let me know in the comments below.

Greg O'Gallagher

Greg O'Gallagher is the founder of Kinobody, a site dedicated to helping men and women achieve the lean, muscular, and aesthetic "Hollywood" physique. His fitness programs have helped hundreds of thousands of people transform their bodies and change their lives in the process.

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