We recently shared why you should warmup in a prior blog post and clarified exactly what the objective should be. In this article, Glen Carroll will dive deeper into the warmup and explore how to warmup before training, plus what you as a coach / trainer should be focusing on with your clients. Start with Part 1: Why Warmup Before Lifting if you missed it!
First though, a quick refresher from part 1 which established that the warmup doesn’t purely revolve around “injury prevention” which can be the common belief. Rather, we showcased that the true goal of the warmup revolves around increasing physical preparedness to optimally perform within the training session.
Crucially though, a quality warmup which more optimally prepares you to train may also help to reduce the risk of injury, both within the upcoming training session, plus possibly sessions in the future too. Yet you could still do a perfect warmup and still get injured too!
So, what does an appropriate warmup involve and how should we perform it?
Do you just need to do some foam rolling and some booty band crab walks?
Or are there other things we should be doing too, which may actually be more important?
Well, when it comes to the warmup, it’s essential to remember the client and context. Different clients will have different needs and varying abilities. Likewise, different training sessions will typically require you to tailor your warmup to suit the context and demands.
For instance, let’s say you’ve hypothetically programmed the same legs session to two very different clients, with the primary lift of the workout being a 4 x 6 High Bar Back Squat.
– Client A is a novice, has no injury history and very low strength potential
Their 1st working set target load is 40kg
– Client B is advanced, has an extensive injury history and is navigating some physical irritations, plus has elite strength potential
Their 1st working set target load is 120kg
Do you think these two individuals would benefit from some differences in their respective warmups? Most likely!
Client B may require some additional “prehab” or movement prep work to help them perform, whilst they will have to build to a much higher 1st working set load. This may ensure additional warmup sets are required to optimally prepare them to perform and reach their ideal state of readiness. Yet client A may be able to ready much more swiftly, especially as they have far inferior neuromuscular efficiency.
Yet a commonality should still exist between both lifters – can you guess what it is?
They both should practice the key skills they are about to perform within the training session. Chiefly though, they both should practice squatting! Doing this ensures your warmup is specific to the task we are about to perform and will aid readiness, which is why warmup sets are so important!
However, what would these warmup squat sets actually consist of? Well, there are many approaches you can use and one simple approach I like is the ramping 5 / 3 / 1 method.
This involves you performing at least 3 warmup sets of your main exercise of the day at a progressively heavier intensity, to build you to your desired 1st working set load. If we pretend your protocol was 5 x 5 and your Back Squat target set 1 load was 100kg, your warmup sets could look like this:
– Warmup set 1 x 5 reps @ 50% of 1st working set load = 50kg
– Warmup set 2 x 3 reps @ 70% of 1st working set load = 70kg
– Warmup set 3 x 1 reps @ 90% of 1st working set load = 90kg
– Begin 1st working set of Squats x 5 reps @ 100kg
So, here we have progressively stimulated our client’s nervous system with a few ramping intensity warmup sets to swiftly unlock increasingly more of their athletic potential, yet not taxed them excessively either which could impact their training performance. The client will now be more ready to optimally perform their 1st working set of the day, and especially relative to if they just walked straight to the squat rack and attempted to perform 100kg immediately.
Yet we also don’t really need to do warmup sets for all our programmed exercises of the day either. Otherwise, the warmup will start to become very long and if sufficient effort is applied, potentially unnecessarily taxing too.
This is especially important as most people don’t have an unlimited amount of time to dedicate to the gym, with many having less than 60-minutes to work with. So, when it comes to warming up, we want our warmup to be efficient and effective!
Yet there are still other elements of a warmup we can include too which may have value. A common example could be any movement prep exercises, mobility drills, or corrective exercises. However, it is essential as always to personalise even our warmup protocols too to meet the needs of our clients. Yet we want to be careful to not devalue the training session itself and instead spend 50% of our available time flopping around on a foam roller.
Now, if you’re still not sure what to prescribe and you’re needing additional elements in your client’s warmup, there’s a nice acronym you can used to help guide your prescriptions. This acronym is “R.A.M.P” and it stands for raise, activate, mobilise and potentiate, which highlight the objectives of a solid warmup to increase physical preparedness.
– Raise: increase body temperature, blood flow, respiratory rate etc.
Example: low intensity general movement prep (sled, bike, crawl etc.)
– Activate: briefly stimulate key muscles involved in the upcoming session.
Example: can be global exercises or specific correctives (bands, planks etc.)
– Mobilise: increase range of motion of any key joints involved within training.
Example: ankle or hip mobility drills if a deficiency is a concern
– Potentiate: progressively prime the nervous system to optimally perform.
Example: your specific warmup sets.
Crucially though, your warmup sets if correctly deployed would essentially tick off all of these objectives too! This is why you should always prioritise your warmup sets and especially so if you’re limited by available time.
Thanks for reading,