Warm up or Ramp up.
In most commercial gyms, when you hear the term ‘warm up’ the first thing that comes to mind is to spend 5 minutes on the treadmill – scrolling through your Facebook feed and maybe catching up on your latest YouTube videos.
From here you’ll hop off, grab a sip of your pre-workout and pop on over to the bench press. Take a seat and start with some arm circles and then start aimlessly pressing the weight.
And that’s the half decent gym goer. Most are – walk in, jump on piece of equipment and get straight into it.
What is warming up and why should we bother?
A warm up is simply a routine that should get you physically and mentally prepared for a workout. The warm up period can also be the first sign of how the workout in general will feel. If you identify sore spots or stiff joints, then you can address them here.
Here at Simple Strength I get all my clients to follow a relatively simple warm up routine.
- Foam roll
- Dynamic stretches
- Movement specific prep
Also known as Self-Myofascial Release, I get my clients to roll out major body parts that they may be working on in their workout. Typical sites include the upper back, hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal region and calves. Foam rolling is thought to release the fascia that surrounds skeletal muscle, thus improving tissue quality and range of motion. The effects of foam rolling seem to be only short term, thus why it is done prior to every workout. The main benefits of foam rolling seem to be more psychological than physiological, according to current research.
After foam rolling we then go thru a simple all body routine of dynamic stretching. Traditionally static stretching is often seen in gyms prior to workouts – you know, holding a stretch for 30 seconds then changing sides for example. If you’re strength training or looking to build muscle, then you may want to lesve the static stretches to the end of your workout. Current research suggests that static stretching prior to resistance training can negatively impact your power and strength output. Dynamic stretches place muscles under rapid stretch and flex cycles, allowing for a gradual improvement in range of motion whilst also exciting your nervous system. Preparing your nervous system will aid in resistance training as it will help you with recruiting more motor units aaaand thus more muscle fibers.
Movement specific prep.
Lastly what follows would include movement or exercise specific warm up drills. Seeing as lifting weights includes various skills and movements, warming up with the movement or similar patterns would be advantageous. If we’re performing a lower body workout that contains squats my movement prep may include; air/bodyweight squats, jumping squats, lunges, glute bridges. If it was an upper body workout it may look like; push-ups, shoulder taps, bodyweight inverted rows or ring rows. Overall the goal of this section is to prepare the muscles and joints to perform in similar movements that will be found within the workout.
Okay now what?
Now that we have warmed up, its time that we look at preparing you to hit your numbers or weight targets for your workout. If you’re working with a percentage of your 1RM (one rep max) then you will want to ramp up to your designated weight.
Your workout for the day is 4 sets of 5 with 75% of your 1RM Bench Press. Your 1RM is 120kg, so 75% is 90kg.
It wouldn’t be wise going from movement prep doing bodyweight push-ups to bench press with 90kg straight away. You risk injury and inducing early fatigue which could ruin your workout.
Instead ramp up to the 90kg. This may include 3-4 sets of bench press with lighter loads that progressively get you up to your working weight of 90kg. Louie Simmons from West Side Barbell and Mark Rippetoe, author of Starting Strength .. and pretty much every strength coach I’ve ever spoken to suggest starting with the bar first. The bar alone can tell you a lot on how the workout will pan out. If you get issues or pain during your set with the bar – you’re probably fucked if you put more weight on the bar. After this, increasing the load by 20-30% of your working weight for each set is a nice rough guide for your ramp up sets.
So for the 90kg Bench Press your ramp up may look like:
- 10 x bar only
- 8 x 50kg
- 8 x 65kg
- 6 x 75
- 5 x 85
- 5 x 90 (first set)
Overall, the aim of ramp up sets is to prepare you both physically and psychologically for your working weight. Combined with an appropriate warm up, may be the difference between hitting a personal best or failing.
It’s the dirty stuff, the some what tedious and at times down right boring work – but your time in the gym should have some strategy and planning behind it.