However most of us don’t have time to do long winded warm ups. We want speed and efficiency.
A warm up has several functions:
It makes the muscle fibres more elastic and less likely to tear or pull. Think about stretching a rubber band that you just took out the freezer. The warmer the muscles are, the more elastic they will be.
Increases the amount of synovial fluid in your joints. This is like WD-40 for your body and prevents friction and wear by way of lubrication.
It increases blood flow and oxygenation of the blood which improves performance.
If you’re over 50 and creak like a haunted ship when you move, long warm ups are important. Similarly, anyone carrying an old injury should spend a lot of time making sure the injured muscle or joint is warm to avoid further stress.
Do Intelligent Busy Dad Style Warm Ups to Save Time While Still Preventing Injury
If you are weight training, you will be completing set movements through a pre-determined plane of motion. In other ways, there are only so many ways and variables you can bench press, squat etc.
If you’re focusing on a specific movement, it makes sense to warm up that movement in isolation. For example, if I’m working up to a few deadlift work sets of 130kgs, I’ll warm up with…you guessed it…the deadlift.
I’ll start with a set of 60 x 8, 80 x 5, 100 x 3, 110 x 3. Then I’ll go into my work sets.
By the time I’m hitting my working sets, I’ve already warmed up the muscles I need to do the lift. And no stationary bike in sight. My heart rate is elevated and my blood pumping.
Focus on slow and controlled movement in your warm up sets. The weight should be light enough to allow you to complete a higher number of reps easily. Concentrate on contracting the muscles.
In the video below, notice the little movement at the top of the rep. I’m focusing on contracting my deltoid (shoulder) muscles. This pumps blood into the muscle, warming it up faster.
The same goes for other lifts e.g. the seated shoulder press. For this I would do a warm up set of 10-12 reps with a lighter weight before going into a heavier work set.
Here I started with about 70% of my working weight but I was already warmed up. If this was your first exercise, you’d start with 50 or 60% of your work weight. Don’t go too light or you’ll just be waving your arms or legs around like a bozo.
For example, you’re benching 40kgs for 12 reps, so you do a set with the empty bar (about 20kgs), then a set of 30kgs before moving up to the big Four-Oh.
Something I learned watching Dorian Yates (multiple time Mr. Olympia and general bodybuilding legend) was that he didn’t do many warm up sets for exercises later into his workout. His body was already warmed up. He’d just pick a weight and get to work.
You can also use body weight exercises to warm up. A couple of sets of push ups before bench or body weight squats before a leg/quad exercise works well.
Listening to Your Body is an Injury Prevention Tool
A common mistake is what I would call ‘Ego-Lifting’. New or lapsed lifters as well as students are particularly bad for this. Lifting too much weight with poor form is a recipe for disaster. For muscle growth, you should always be lifting under control with the minimum of momentum.
Listen to what your body is saying. Is your shoulder tight?
Does your leg muscle feel funny? That’s a good sign that you should warm that muscle up and take it easy on the weights.
You’re less likely to get injured which will benefit your fitness in the long term.
If you’re smart with your training and warm ups. Learn to warm up by feel. Before you bench, think ‘How do my muscles feel right now’. If you feel great, hit it hard. If your right shoulder feels tight, be sensible.
There’s nothing macho about a tearing a rotator cuff when you decided to bench heavy without a spot (trust me). You won’t get any sympathy from your wife or kids nor do you deserve any.
Keep Your Body Warm Before and During your Workouts
If your muscles are cold, you’re more likely to get injured. So keep your body warm. Notice in the video how I’m wearing my hoodie in the warm up set but it’s off in the work set? That’s because I was warmed up. It’s all part of the plan.
Some workouts, I don’t even take it off.
A zip hoodie is great as you can take it off and on quickly and easily. If I’m deadlifting, I’ll take it off for my sets and put it back on while I rest, especially if I’m wearing a tank. I also wear thick thermal tracksuit bottoms throughout the winter. Don’t wear lifting gloves. They’re pretty naff.
If you train outdoors or in a garage, you might want to layer up. I’m thinking base layers, thermal tights. Even a ski or down jacket while you get warm. A woolly hat completes the package.
So next time you train, be smart with your warm up. Dads need to save time and these tips are going to give you the most efficient warm up while helping protect you from injury.
Be safe. Train smart. Become an expert.
P.S. Want to know more about how I train? Check out my other articles: