How Many Warm-up Sets Are Enough?

If you plan on lifting heavy weights, it is important to prepare for your warm-up. Usually you lift the barbell, then add some weight, and then add some more weight, and so on. But how many of those jumps do you need to do before you can consider yourself warmed up? What happens if you choose too much or too little?

Remember that the warm-up is the last phase of the warm-up before lifting. Anything before this is optional, but you’ll probably want to do enough cardio (or other movements) to physically warm up, and if you want to do a few stretches or technical exercises, you’ll do those too before moving on to your sets. ( We’ve got a complete guide to designing your weight lifting workout here .)

Start with the plank

Suppose we’re talking about lifting the bar, your first stop is an empty bar. Whether you’re planning to squat, bench press, snatch, or whatever, the empty bar set will help your body remember how to do the exercise and feel how tense muscles or old injuries are responding to movement today.

Barbend interviewed seven elite powerlifters and weightlifters asking how they warm up before squatting, and several of them mentioned that they like to pause at the bottom of their empty squats to relax a little, or even do multiple sets with an empty bar.

How many reps should you do with the barbell? Opinions are so different that it doesn’t matter. You just want to get used to the movement before putting on weight. Some lifters like to keep each set the same as their work set (i.e. five reps with a barbell if the goal of the day is to work up to five heavy sets), while others start with 10 or 12 reps for this lighter work.

Take three to five jumps.

In any conversation with experienced lifters, people will have different ideas about which weights to use in the next few sets.

If you are going to do small reps in your work sets (say one to three reps), you can do your warm-ups at 50%, 60%, and 70% before moving on to 80%, 85%. , etc. (More in a minute on why you want to make smaller jumps as you get closer to your goal.)

If you are doing sets with a lot of repetitions, such as 10th, you may want to start a little easier with this first warm-up and do the rest of the jumps accordingly.

Another consideration: someone working on a lower number, say 135 pounds, probably won’t need as many warm-up sets as a beast going to, say, 500 pounds. This lighter athlete may need more time to empty … Do barbell sets or even cardio beforehand just to make sure they are warm, while a stronger person can probably slap a couple of cymbals in each set (135, 225, 315, 405) as they go up.

A good rule of thumb is to do three to five jumps with approximately equal intervals between the empty bar and your working weight throughout the day. For example, a person squatting 135 can only do the bar (45), then 95, then 115, then 135.

Be careful with PR attempts

Sometimes you have to sneak up on your personal best as if you’re trying not to scare him. If you think you will be able to squat 200 pounds for the first time today, you would not jump right after a light warm-up to your desired weight. Instead, after you’ve dialed 155, you can decide to go to 185. Based on how you feel, you can decide if you want to try 195, and from there, are you ready for 200, or maybe a little more.

Basically, you don’t want to be a dummy jumping too much and skipping a try. How you feel at 135 doesn’t tell you if you’re ready for 200. These last few warm-ups are useful to think of as a water test, and the results of each attempt determine your choice for the next.

What happens if you choose the wrong workouts?

If you jump too big, you may end up skipping a PR attempt, or worse, skipping over what should have been a normal working set for the day. You can also start working out before you feel well warmed up. In this case, you may still feel a little constrained, or you may not have a proven track record. This is not the end of the world, but you are making your life difficult for no reason. If you took four warm-up sets instead of two, you might have a better day at the gym.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t take too many workouts. In the worst case scenario, you will wear yourself out by lifting a bunch of sets that you really don’t need, and you won’t be able to put as much effort into your work sets as you’d like. Even if you don’t tire yourself out, you may be spending more time in the gym than you would like. Better to take exactly as many warm-up sets as you need to get the job done, complete the work sets and move on with your life.


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