In my lengthy training career spanning over almost 15 years now the one thing that I most often overlooked is the importance of warming up before I trained heavy.
Warm-ups were always a simple matter of throwing around some light poundage's before I began the heavy stuff. I had never considered their importance as part of my mass gain programs until very recently, about the past three years or so.
In these later years I've discovered that a proper warm-up can actually mean the difference between a progressive workout and a waste of my training energy.
Since I've spent quite enough of my training time using useless strategies and seeing others do the same I'm now going to let everyone in on a real "secret" to training success: the proper warm-up procedure.
The Benefits Of Warming Up
Warming up serves several very important purposes. In the beginning stages of a workout your body needs some "priming" before it is ready to perform the heavy work ahead.
Without this priming procedure your body will be functioning at less than it's most efficient and your workout will suffer.
The warm-up serves to, among other things, prime the nervous system for heavy work, increase mental alertness and awareness, rehearse proper technique of the exercise being done, and subtly stretches and loosens the muscles, joints and connective tissues making them less susceptible to injury.
The first stage of the warm-up is a general whole body movement of some sort, preferably an aerobic machine or motion. Jumping rope, light jogging, jumping jacks, stationary cycling, etc. are all great movements to get some blood flowing and allow you time to reflect on the tough stuff ahead.
If you're doing stationary bike you can even review your workout logs while you warm-up so you can already have in mind what you are doing for the day.
This part of the warm-up should last only about 5-10 minutes, just long enough to raise your body temperature a little. Don't worry I'm not writing an entire article just to tell you to jump on a stationary bike for 5-10 minutes. There's more, trust me.
Now with the more mundane part of the warm-up out of the way we can get to the meaty stuff. Here's where the warm-up procedure becomes more of an art form.
You begin by loading the bar with about 50-60 percent of the day's heaviest weight for your starting exercise and do the number of reps that you are going to be doing during that day's heavy sets. The idea here is simply to rehearse the exercise and to get some blood flowing directly to the area being worked.
In your next set you will raise the weight to 80% and repeat the procedure. OK, nothing too drastic there. At this point again we are reviewing the exercise and getting acclimatized to the weights.
This is important since your nervous system can take a little time before it's ready to fire in full force. Your next step is to increase the weight to 90% of the days working poundage's and do only 2-3 reps.
Take a brief rest, say 30 seconds or so and repeat this procedure. You're now ready to start into your heavy set for the day. The whole reason for going up to 90 percent of your working poundage's is acclimation.
When the nervous system is primed in this way the working poundage's seem far less daunting and your workout seems a little less strenuous both physically and mentally.
You have already lifted a weight very close to your working weight and did several reps. It's now simply a matter of adding a few pounds to get to the 100% level and give it your all to make the set a record breaker from your personal best.
Why It Is So Important
For those of you who do this every day you're probably saying that this is so simple why would anybody bother to write an article on it? Think again.
Look around your gym and see how many people actually perform a decent, productive warm-up. The warm-up procedure is just not as simple as throwing a few light weights around. It's an art form that must be explained in detail and used every time.
This type of warming up is not necessary on every exercise in a workout. Do it only on your primary mass building exercises, i.e. the first exercise for each muscle group. Once the muscles are primed any further "warm up procedure" is just wasting energy that could better be focused on work sets.