Gym rule #2 – Warm-up

The medical disclaimer is in the Terms of Service, and feel free to have a look at it if you have any doubt. Having said that, these are the four components of my warm-up routine when I train Upper Body:

● Rotator cuff warm-up without elastic
● Rotator cuff warm-up with elastic
● Dynamic movements
● Specific pre-sets warm-up

Let’s cover the first two points with two nice schematics:

Rotator cuff warm-up without elastic
Rotator cuff warm-up with elastic

For the “dynamic movements” I just rotate both arms forward (think of butterfly swimming stroke) ten times, then backwards other ten times, and then same again but this time one arm at the time.

And now for the juicy part, the “specific pre-sets warm-up”.

Let’s jump straight to a real-life example: here’s the “Upper Body A” day from my four-day “Upper/Lower Split” workout routine, part of the “Muscle Building Workout Routine” which I got from Jay’s “A Workout Routine” .com (Links).



W = warm-up
S = sets
M = movements (reps)
R = rest

Let’s look at column “W”:

** = full pre-sets warm-up
* = half pre-sets warm-up
– = no pre-sets warm-up

Let’s take the Bench Press (**), and defining the “target weight” as the weight I will be using during the sets, this is how I warm up for that exercise:

10x reps with empty bar (20kg)
8x reps with 50-55% of target weight
6x reps with 65-70% of target weight
3x reps with 75-80% of target weight
1x reps with 85-90% of target weight

These are “target” percentages, of course, and I just try to be as close as possible to them depending on the target weight and the weights available at the gym.

Let’s consider the Incline Dumbbell Press 30° (**), and considering that right now I use 18kg dumbbell for this exercise, this is how I warm up here:

10x reps with 2kg dumbbells
8x reps with 10kg dumbbells
6x reps with 12kg dumbbells
3x reps with 14kg dumbbells
1x reps with 16kg dumbbells
Sets with 18kg dumbbells

For the exercises with single asterisk (*), I do something like:

8x reps with 50-55% of target weight
4x reps with 70-75% of target weight
2x reps with 85-90% of target weight

The specific pre-sets warm-up is extremely important, since its primary objective is keeping you away from injuries. As a bonus, since you have warmed up the muscles properly, you will also be able to lift heavier weights during the sets themselves, the muscles will be stimulated more intensely, and they will grow bigger as a result: excellent.

The warm-up when I train Lower Body differs in the initial part only, and then for the specific pre-sets warm-up I follow the same principle explained just above.

● Bicycle (5 min)
● Static stretching
● Dynamic movements (good mornings, squat with wooden bar, sideways leg swings, frontal leg swings, etc)
● Specific pre-sets warm-up

This is not intended to be a comprehensive “guide” on gym warm-up, but rather a starting point. It’s food for thought and it’s aimed at everyone, but mainly at the guys who arrive at the gym and start working out directly with the target weight, without doing any prior warm-up, or maybe they rotate each arm twice forwards and twice backwards only, before starting the sets with the target weight: that’s not the way to go, and I’ve seen more than a few guys doing just that during my years at the gym. Those guys could do themselves a favour by implementing the recommendations provided here.

The Upper Body recommendations seem comprehensive to me, I’d say no point in doing more than that unless you have a specific situation (e.g. recovering from an injury, specific joint problem, etc). On the other hand, compared to industry’s standards, the Lower Body recommendations provided in here are a bit slim in the middle section (static stretching and dynamic movements). I personally don’t do any static stretching, and the dynamic movements I do are “only” those listed above. Still, the World Wide Web contains huge amount of information on this topic, there are entire guides dedicated on squat warm-up only, so feel free to do some more searching if you want to go the extra mile.


Related Posts:
• Gym rule #1 – Don’t injure yourself
• Gym rule #3 – Proper technique
• Gym rule #4 – Progressive overload

• The Daygamer’s gym outfit
• Maximising your Looks

The Essentials:
• Fundamentals