In my last article I talked about the importance and efficacy of Reverse Pyramid Training.
While most people intuitively understand that it makes sense to start each workout with the heaviest weight you can lift, this MUST be preceded by an adequate warm-up.
Why is it so important? You simply don’t have access to 100% of your strength ability without a proper warm-up. So we need to get this right.
What are the objectives of a warm up?
Raise your pulse
Raise your body temperature
Mobilise the joints/increase synovial fluid
Acclimate to lifting heavy loads (both physically and mentally)
There are many ways to warm up. Getting the warm-up right depends on the type of training you’re undertaking.
Just as you must select the correct type of training to suit your goals, you must also select the correct type of warm up to MAXIMALLY benefit your bodybuilding workout.
Typically, there are 3 components of a warm up:
However, as Muscle Hackers we can scratch ‘stretching’ off our list.
Stretching a muscle can cause it to temporarily weaken. This is sometimes referred to as “Stretching-Induced Force Deficit”.
While athletes with different goals can and SHOULD stretch, we shouldn’t and don’t need to.
If you are stretching before your workouts, you will experience increases in your lifts from your very NEXT training session by warming up in the manner I’m about to describe and omitting the stretching component.
Here’s the point: we can mobilize joints, get our pulse and body temperature up, and acclimate to heavy weights with just 1 method…
Doing a lighter version of our first working set.
Here’s how to warm up optimally for a THT workout:
(OPTIONAL) 2-3 minutes light-moderate aerobic activity e.g. cross trainer. This is your ‘pulse raiser’. I personally don’t bother with this component, but such a low intensity activity won’t do you any harm either.
10 reps at 50% of your first working set weight. For example, if you are about to bicep curl 50Kg on your first set, curl 25kg for 10 reps.
Rest a minute.
1 or 2 reps at 90% of your first working set.
Rest a minute.
Now perform your first working set
I would also add the option of a third warm-up set for heavy lifts like deadlifts, squats, and leg presses.
If your workout commences with one of these lifts, you may want to insert 4-5 reps at about 70-75% of your first working set between the 2 warm-up sets above. This is how I personally warm-up for these big lifts.
When you’re working more than one body part you’ll have to warm-up the second muscle group separately before you hit it. For the full-body HIT-THT workout, the initial warm-up set and working set of squats is sufficient to get the whole body warmed-up.
Now, when you’re done warming up you possess a short-term quality that you must use immediately – you are at your STRONGEST!
From the second set onwards you’ll get a little weaker. So this is the time to hit your heaviest weight!
Try this out with your very next workout and reap the benefits!
And always remember…
Train With Intensity!
Image credit: o0bsessed
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Great! Can’t wait to try it out. Thanks again!
So 3 warm-up sets for deadlifts, yes? 50%, 70%, then 90%? Thanks
@Raymond. Yes, that’s how I do it. Squats and/or Leg Presses too. Depending on how much you can weighted-dip, 3 warm-ups can play a beneficial role there too.
Should I follow the same for the TSPA, Mark?
Brilliant. Your articles keep getter better man, kind of knew I must of been on the right lines, but I definately will be with this advice, will be using it with immediate effect as I’m sure will many others, answers so many questions… Thanks again.
Great info, I was always doing warm up sets anyway but I didn’t know about this second set of a couple of reps additionally. Makes for a much longer gym session when you add up all the extra minutes spent but hey, if you are suggesting 1 warm up at 50% less for 10reps, rest and then another at 90% for 2reps and then start the required sets. I’m game. The only hard part will be, trying to dumb down the weight to about 90% load when your doing say, pec deck and the weights are not that adjustable. But i’m probably ripping it apart too much and just go with as close as I can get for the 2 reps. 🙂
Thanks for pushing this info about warm ups, I try to tell people this all the time and it falls on deaf ears.
@Jimmy @Zipper. Thanks! Much appreciated. 😀 @Zipper, just go as close as you can go if the weights aren’t adjustable to small increments.
No stretching? This has got to be the only thing you’ve ever advised that I just can’t get my head around. In the past, every time I’ve insufficiently stretched or rushed it, I’ve noticed I actually feel weaker, and most of the times I’ve injured myself have been days like that. I’ve also noticed I lose a huge amount of flexibility over time if I don’t stretch regularly. Am I to understand that you’re saying if I follow these instructions, then those things won’t happen? Does it really make that much of a difference that I should just bite the bullet and make the change? Yes, I know, probably a little over cautious on my part, but avoiding injury is generally pretty high on my priority list haha… 😉
So I would do 150 lbs for ten then 270 for 2 before my set with 300 ? I don’t think so!!!! I’ve been in the game for 26 years and tried it all so please be careful if you warm up this way. Although, it’s most likely sufficient for beginners.
Ive always stretched before a workout namely as my lower back keeps ‘popping’ if i dont stretch it regularly, im hobbling for weeks. but have never done warm up sets just fully stretched the target muscle group, so keen to try this.
@rob, might i ask what your warm up routine is? would like to try marks one week and say yours the next see what suits me better
Totally worked for me today. I read this just before doing shoulders, and I broke through a two week plateau by getting several reps more!
I’ve definitely read tons of articles suggesting the massive decrease in strength just after stretching, so I never do it and I’ve never injured myself. Apparently a warm-up set is all I need.
@Jo. A bodybuilding workout doesn’t require stretching. But it does require an adequate warm-up as recommended. If you want to stretch at any time between workouts, feel free.
@Rob. There are 3 warm up sets for heavy working sets as recommended in the article.
@Mark C. Definitely do the routine above and drop the pre-workout stretching.
@an00bis. Thanks, man. Glad you blasted that plateau!
Ok, makes some degree of sense. I think I’ll convince myself it’s an experiment and try it next week. Thx, Mark, much appreciated. 🙂
Thanks Mark! Been wondering if I was performing my warm-up sets correctly or not. Almost had it right, was doing the right number of sets but not reps.
Question: are these warm-ups good for both high weight – low reps, and low weight – high reps?
Like Jo, I’ve been stretching to much. Old school mentality i guess. Will definetly use your warm-up Mark. I know it will work Cause YOU NEVER LET US DOWN!!! Thanks A Bunch Mark!!
Hi Mark! I`m a bit confused… I`m doing THT 3.1. routine now… which doesn`t contain pre-sets (ligther sets)…
@Mike – OMFG agreed! What I’ve learned and used from Mark has worked better (and cost less) than everything else I’ve ever done, ever, in my whole course of existence on earth. The man is a God-send. Though, he did say stretching at other times is ok… thinking I’ll visit my good buddy the precor stretcher after the weights instead of before, and chuck my current pre-weights ritual for this one. 🙂
@Philip – None of the routines do. If I understand correctly, you’d tack this on at the beginning, before you do the workout itself, and in place of whatever warm-up routine you do currently.
I’m trying to consider the time it would take to do this before EVERY different exercise. It seems like it would add a good bit of time to my workouts, and I have little to no physical “warm-up”. I generally NEVER go for more than 90 minutes, and try to keep it under an hour. Also this does sound a bit like “Pyramid” training, but I think the point isn’t to work up to your “max” but to get your muscles ready for the actual work load. That sounding correct?
@Justin you dont warm up on every exercise mate do it every bodypart so some days might have 1 or 2 warmups. Example one warmup before bench press and then do full chest workout then warmup before triceps and do full tricep workout.
Well thats how i read it
Also on people saying it adds time etc not really i was doing 3 mins on trainer warm-up never stretched anyways but if warming up with lighters sets is just as good im seeing no real time differece maybe a minute or two more which aint the end of the world.
@Ben W. For low weight, high reps you don’t need such a warm-up. Even 1 set at anywhere from 50-70% of your first set for around 12 reps or so is fine. Why? The low intensity nature of such sets means that the first reps of those sets ARE your warm-up. If you were doing a set of 20 reps to failure, the first ten reps are ridiculously easy. As you progress in the set more and more fibers are recruited. So I would still recommend 1 warm-up set for such workouts, but that’s all your gonna need. Intermediate and low reps require 2-3 sets; 3 sets for heavier lifts.
@Mike Huber. Thanks!
@Philip. Yes I didn’t include an actual warm-up routine in previous versions of the THT book. But I did stress that you should warm up with at least one lighter set though. All bodybuilding workouts require a warm-up in such a fashion. To avoid any confusion I will include this in future editions of the book.
@Jo. Thank! Much appreciated.
@Justin. Scott has it right. You only warm up a body part once at the beginning. You definitely shouldn’t be doing this before every different exercise. THT workouts will take less than 60 minutes and are reverse-pyramid in design. Warm-up sets contribute nothing to growth stimulation. These light sets get you primed for your first working set at the HEAVIEST load you can lift in your given rep range.
@Scott. Correct. And I would only do 1 or 2 warm-up sets prior to the triceps if you had hit your chest previously. The triceps will be as warm as they’re gonna get after bench pressing. Warm-up sets here would just get your nervous system accustomed to the movement and load before your first working tricep set.
Thanks Mark, I figured it would be different based on the weight/reps.
I always warm up before i do weightlifting or any cardio. I have found that it loosens me up some so i am ready to take on the exercise at hand.
It does get my pulse up some and my joints become more flexible. I like your idea of actually starting off with your heaviest weight first.
Thank you for providing a good routine for how to get this started.
Well, I did a warmup this morning with 110 lbs for leg presses. Seems to have helped, surprised myself with amount I could lift after waiting 3 minutes. Dang, I hate spending more time at the gym. Oh well.
I had that sort of “popping” thing and it was totally solved by several core exercises the PT gave me.
Thanks Mark did this yesterday 🙂
@John A Davis, I put my back out a few years back, its been weak ever since and prone to going, my job doesnt help lots of heavy lifting and moving. Chiropractor is helping, but these workouts are definitely helping the most, its strengthening it so that it takes a lot more to make it ‘pop’ 🙂 Will definitely have to try doing more core training though cheers
Thanks again for the advice, something I never really knew how to do properly
Awesome I’ll start doing this today!
thanks mark, i agree and it’s all common sense. its amazing how some people just dont listen. i was giving this young guy advice today on THT training and i know he didnt listen because some guy bigger than me started telling him stuff that would make you laugh and the young dude even started making notes. soooooo frustrating!! but anyways, we all learn by trial and error.
ps.. he told the young skinny dude to do 20 sets to failure on squats..LOL!!