Best Warm Up Exercises to Do Before Lifting and Other Strength Exercises
November 04, 2020
We all know the feeling. You step into the gym; all psyched up, all pumped up, maybe even all juiced up (no judgment here, if that’s what you’re into). It’s go time, and you can’t wait to try and top your max deadlift. Then you hear a voice in the back of your head: “probably should do some warm-up exercises before lifting…”
I know: quite frankly, you couldn’t give a flying f*ck. Your life is busy and you want to use the limited time you have as effectively as possible by just jumping on the treadmill; literally. But you’re not stupid. Deep down you know you should warm up before lifting. Truth is, no matter how boring it might be, it’s an absolutely essential part of every workout, and every serious bodybuilder will tell you the same thing: a good workout starts with good warm-up exercises.
So, to help you out, we at team CrazyBulk put our bulky heads together to come up with the best warm up exercises to make sure you are all warmed up and ready for action. Get some serious insider tips on how to make sure you won’t die after doing your next deadlift.
What could happen if you don’t warm up before workouts
It’s that time again: gym day! Unfortunately, you finished work later than expected so you really had to hurry your way to the gym afterward, but you made it.
Workout gear? Check.
Took your protein? Check.
Ready for beast mode? CHECK!
You’re all ready to go at it again, full force! Now, unfortunately, you have only 40 minutes left before you have to rush out again to make it in time to meet your friend at the bar.
Should you still take the time to warm up, or can you better make the most of your time and just start exercising straight away?
Hate to break it to you, but the answer to this question is – and will ALWAYS be – to warm up before lifting (or whatever exercise you might be doing actually). Why? Because there is some serious danger to consider, some serious problem if you don’t warm your muscles.
In a nutshell: if you don’t warm up your muscles won’t be prepared for the force you’re going to throw at them, and you WILL enter a world of pain.
When you’re exercising you are constantly stretching and bending and lengthening and pressuring your muscles. Your muscles can handle all that movement, but they need some time to loosen up first.
Especially if you’ve been sitting still at a desk all day (or been a lazy couch potato; again, no judgment here), your muscles will be stiff as stone. They got all comfy and rigid in one place, not used to movement. If you now start doing crazy exercises you demand much more than your muscles can take, simply because they aren’t used to it anymore.
Because they’re so stiff they don’t instantly bend the way you want them to, but instead there is a much higher chance the pressure causes them to snap. The result: you tear and pull your muscles, leaving you injured for days if not weeks.
Five minutes of warm up exercises could have saved you weeks of injury. Still think you should skip the warm up and jump straight into exercising?
Benefits of warming up
The benefits of warming up? Ehm… how about not getting injured?!
That’s, of course, the most important one, but it’s more than that. Doing a proper warm up before exercising has multiple benefits worth considering.
- Increases body temperature – yeah, that’s like, why they call it a WARM-UP! This helps muscles and other soft tissues to become less stiff and more mobile
- Improves blood circulation – a proper warm-up promotes increased blood flow through your body and to your muscles, increasing flexibility
- Increases oxygen and nutrients delivery to muscles – more oxygen means you won’t be out of breath as quickly
- Stretches your muscles – as I said before, you want your muscles to be stretched (and ready for more stretching) before you start going at it
- Gets your bodily functions in sync – this one sounds a bit vague maybe, but what I mean is that warming up (which generally means doing a basic, dumbed-down version of what is to come) will activate the pathways and connections your body will need during the actual workout. Think about nerve-to-muscle pathways or your coordination and reaction time
- Prepares you mentally – when we think of warm-up exercises we think of the physical aspects, but you also benefit from the mental aspects of warming up. It allows you time to mentally prepare for the physical activity you are about to undertake: it will get you in the zone!
Different kinds of good warm-up exercises
Surely by now you’re convinced about the benefits of a warm-up (as you should be bro). Awesome!
But wait… How do I actually know which warm-up exercises to do? How do I know the right exercise for my type of workout? How long should a warm up last? Not to worry bro. Team CrazyBulk is here to help you out!
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of warming up, we need to discuss stretching. Probably you’ve heard of stretching, but we need to make sure you don’t confuse stretching with warming up.
Now stretching itself comes in different forms. Let’s quickly go through them:
- Static stretches – this is when you stretch a muscle in a certain way, after which you hold it in that position for about 30 seconds
- Ballistic stretches – this involves bouncing or jerking, which is supposed to help you extend your limbs during exercises and literally stretch the muscles and increase the range of motion
- Dynamic stretches – as the name suggests, these stretches have a bit more movement than the others. Arm swings are a common example of dynamic stretches
Now the problem with stretching is that scientists aren’t sure about how effective they really are. For example, one study analyzed multiple articles and their research on the effectiveness of stretching. Conclusion: there is no real evidence that stretching reduces the risk of injury. And this is not the only study that comes to this conclusion…
If you really dig deeper – and trust me I did – you will come to the same answer again and again: nobody really knows…
Best advice I can give you: a bit of stretching won’t hurt you, but don’t do stretches for too long (stick to about 15 seconds per stretch) and do more than just some static stretching; it’s not enough to warm you up!
Now lets move on to the real deal. Warm ups aren’t always the same, and – ideally – they should be catered to the workout you’re planning to do. Whether you’re running, lifting, or swimming can change the ideal warm up for you.
Look at it this way. Even singers have their own warm up exercises to warm up their vocal cords, but dropping some verses before hitting the gym won’t help you much now will it? You see my point?
Generally speaking, the best way to go at it is to try and do simple, lighter versions of the exercise you are actually planning on doing.
Planning on running a marathon?
→ How about slowly jogging for 15 minutes first.
Planning on playing baseball?
→ How about doing a few relaxed swings with the bat first.
You get it.
Nevertheless, it can be a good idea to start with some general exercises, just to get the blood flowing. This part of the warm up is aimed at increasing your temperature (warming up) and getting a bit more mobility and flexibility due to the movements you’re doing. However, they don’t necessarily prepare you for the specific workout you are about to do.
- Walking lunges
- Jumping jacks
These are just really non-specific, basic movements that will benefit anybody planning to workout. Don’t focus on these too long though, but give it about 5 to 10 minutes (ideally), just to get some blood flowing.
After this, you can move over to a bit more specific warm up exercises. The options are seemingly endless: from head rolls to crunches to planking to whatever exercise you can imagine.
I found a few nice overviews for you for inspiration, but there are literally thousands of possible warm up exercises like this you can do.
My advce: try them all and just see what works best for you. Important is that you don’t overdo it and that you try to focus on different muscle areas to get a full body warm up.
I really want to stress though: don’t overdo it with the general warm up and if you are short on time, then this is the part of the warming-up fase you might need to skip. But if you have the time, and you want to do do a full warm up, you will want to add some of these.
Best warm-up exercises for weight lifters and bodybuilders
Ok, so we covered the basics, but how about the specifics. All fun and interesting, but you’re serious about lifting weights and bodybuilding, so what are the best warm up exercises for you, you ask? I’ve gathered some examples for you, let’s have a look!
The best thing you can do is to gradually increase intensity. You will benefit the most if you use the same muscles – if not doing the exact same exercises – as you will during your workout. Start your activity at a low intensity and gradually work your way up to eventually do them at full force.
The idea is that you give your body time to get used to the specific exercise and the specific muscle usage, making sure it’s 100% ready for action once you start giving it 100%.
So to give you an example, you could do the following as a warm up routine:
- General warm-up: 5 minutes of jogging (treadmill) and 5 minutes of extra exercises a bit more focussed on the specific muscles you will be using
Specific warm-up: Say, you are planning to do 4 sets of 6 reps at 225lbs, then your specific workout can look like this:
Warm up 1 – 50% → 6 reps of 110lbs
Warm up 2 – 70% → 4 reps of 160lbs
Warm up 3 – 90% → 2 reps of 205lbs
And that’s how you do it. Like this, you first have your general warming up to get your blood flowing and your muscles flexible, ready for action! Then, you slowly start working those muscles the way you are planning on working them. Like that, you can create the best warm up exercises for weight lifting and bodybuilding!
Don’t be too eager!
And there you have it folks, the way to warm up properly before whatever workout you’re planning to undertake. Remember though, you don’t want to push it too hard straight away. Give your body – and especially your muscles – the time they need to adapt to the movement and the force you’re about to unleash.
I know you want to face those weights head on, and I know life can be that busy it feels like you don’t have time for such weak sizzy shit, but trust me, you’ll appreciate it in the long run.
Your choice bro.