So in this edition of breaking bro science I want to address something that really irks me when I am in the gym. It’s definitely an issue that is not addressed often enough; Not warming up. Every time, I go to the gym and I see dudes walk in throw 225 and start repping it out. Now, I have no issue with this if your bench max is 800 pounds, but the reality of the scenario is that the people doing this struggle to quarter rep 225 for 1.
There are several issues associated with this type of protocol. Primarily, a study conducted by Charilaos Tsolakis and Gregory C. Bogdanis at Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, University of Athens, Greece. Showed that with a 5min jogging warm up and some stretching athletes were able to increase their flexibility by around 7%. This is not to say that flexibility is an integral part of lifting heavy but it has some impact. It is especially negative if you are dealing with any niggling pains or injury.
That brings me on to the next point, strength training can easily make you prone to injury especially in the bench press. You are holding weight in a compromised position and then explosively forcing it upwards as often as possible. The issue with not warming up pertaining to injury is that you are not removing the buildup of scar tissue and Mio fascia in the muscle groups. Moreover, it is difficult to immediately acclimate to the weight regardless of your strength. I am going to try to explain this using another sport. So imagine you are a high jumper. The highest you have ever jumped is 2.00M. I don’t think you would show up at the training center and immediately rack the height to 2.00M. That would be ridiculous and you are very unlikely to make it. Translate this back to weightlifting and it seems stupid to throw on your max and try to rep it out.
The next issue is the most ironic one. Now my theory on why people do this is to save themselves for the heavy weight. I can see how that makes sense, you would think that doing barely any reps before your heavy work will help you to lift more! WRONG! It makes you so much weaker. You have to prime your CNS. Your motor units will not be able to perform effectively without becoming accustomed to the explosiveness and movement pattern of the lift. If you can move 135 with explosiveness and good technique, it will certainly make it much easier to move 185 with explosiveness thus making 225 easier and so on. I’m not saying you have to go and hammer out 100 reps before your max but it will 100% help you to build up to your max in increments.
I think the biggest issue that is created by not warming up is: a lack of consistency in the movements. People neglect the fact that strength sports, or in this case the big 3 movements of squat, bench and deadlifts are skill movements. They are all multi-joint and require the coordination to be executed safely and with maximal output. By skipping to the main portion of the session or just working in the top 20% of your strength you are not improving your skill in the movement.
On the whole, not warming up is plain stupid. If you don’t warm up you need to, you are limiting your strength gains while dramatically raising your risk of injury. So my suggestion: see below for the way I warm up to a max lift, and remember strength has no limit.
Squat warm up template:
Stretching/ Dynamic warm up 5-10 Mins
Set 1: Bar 5- 10 Reps
Set 2: 90 Lbs 5 Reps (20%)
Set 3: 135 Lbs 5 Reps (30%)
Set 4: 185 Lbs 5 Reps (40% ish)
Set 5: 225 Lbs 3 Reps (50 % ish)
Set 6: 275 Lbs 3 Reps (60% “)
Set 7: 315 Lbs 2-3 Reps (70% “)
Set 8: 365 Lbs 1-2 Reps (Add belt and sleeves) (80%”)
Set 9: 405 Lbs 1 Rep (90%”)
Set 10: 425 Lbs 1 Rep (95%”)
Set 11: 450 Lbs 1/ Max (100% +)
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