There are a variety of ways to warm up, ranging from an extended cardio session to almost none at all.
Each has its drawbacks and merits. Do whichever one you feel comfortable with or gives you the best results. Beginning trainers should stick with the first and second types of warm-ups while advanced trainers may wish to try the third type.
1. Full Warm-Up
- This usually involves doing some low-intensity cardio work for five to ten minutes until you break a sweat.
- It gets blood flowing and prepares the body for work to come.
- Some light stretching follows this then a few light sets of whatever exercises are going to be done.
If you feel you need this much warm-up, go ahead. Keep in mind, however, not to do too much or will affect your energy levels for the actual workout. This type of warm up is particularly appropriate for novice, injured, or older trainers, though anyone can use it.
2. Light Set Warm-Up
- This involves doing a number of progressively heavier sets (starting very light) on the exercise you are about to do. This prepares the specific muscle group for the work sets.
- Don't do too much here or your work sets will suffer.
- These light sets are often done before each new exercise, particularly if you are moving on to a different bodypart.
- If you are doing a different exercise for the same bodypart, a warm-up for that exercise is usually not necessary, though some trainers like to do a few quick, light reps to get a feel for the movement.
3. Limited Warm-Up
This type of warm-up is for advanced trainers only. Do a set of ten reps with 50% of the weight you're going to be using for that exercise. That's it. Your body can be trained to work fine with this type of limited warm-up.
- If you usually do an extended warm-up, work down to this level slowly.
- This method has the advantage of conserving energy for work sets.
- For exercises where you will be using low reps and very heavy weight (close to your max), you may want to do a low-rep progressive warm-up. For example, if you are doing deadlifts with 405 pounds, do 5 reps with one plate per side, 2 reps with two plates, 1 rep with three plates, and maybe 1 rep with three and a quarter if you feel you need it. This type of pyramid warm-up doesn't exhaust you but still prepares your body for heavy work. This type of warm-up is the best for when you're going for a one-rep maximum attempt.
The limited warm-up is especially appropriate for those whose jobs involve sudden physical labor without the time to warm up, e.g. firefighters (you will never see a firefighter walk around for ten minutes, stretch out, then do a few push-ups before running into a burning building to pull somebody out).
It conditions your body to be able to handle sudden physical activity without injury.
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