How to Effectively Warm Up Before a Weight Session – The Ultimate Guide

How to Effectively Warm Up Before a Weight Session – The Ultimate Guide

This excellent guide is a guest post from Ben of Gram Fitness.

This guide is designed for lifters short on time, who want to know how they should be warming up before a lifting session.

This guide busts some common myths, provides a simple routine you can follow and links you to examples so you can do it exactly right.

If you want to hear more from Ben, follow him on Twitter!

The Issue

Instead of a proper warm up, many people immediately opt for either a quick 10 minutes on the spin bike or do only static stretching before a weight session.

Or even worse, not warm up at all.

This is a mistake. A big one.

The problem is that we were all raised to think that static stretching was more than sufficient to get us ready for literally every single form of exercise.

We’d do our obligatory lean against the wall to stretch out our quads, do a little jog and think we were ready to take on the world.

But why should we think that is wrong? After all, people rarely will interject part way through your warm up to tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

We talk about warming up but that means something different to everyone. And you won’t get fitness gurus trying to sell you their “secret formula to a perfect warm up” either.

Why? Well it’s not sexy is it. I can’t promise that you’ll have Biceps like Arnold after smashing your warm up.

Many (myself for a long time) don’t appreciate how beneficial a good warm up can be and what it can’t do for both your training and recovery.

But first I want to challenge some of the old school thinking:

Myth 1 – Static Stretching

Static stretching actually causes our muscles to become like over stretched elastic bands.

They lose their elasticity and force, basically becoming flaccid, reducing maximal strength output. Not ideal for lifting heavy weights.

We want to retain the force and power within the tissue, this is going to ensure we remain strong.

Myth 2 – Stationary Cardio

cardio warmup

A brisk 10 minute treadmill walk is NOT preparing your body for a weights session despite what people will tell you.

The only reason it could be seen as partially beneficial is that it raises your body temperature and gets blood pumping into the muscles and around the body.

However, there is no simulation of the movements you are about to do, so the muscles, joints and ligaments that you are about to use remain stiff and unprepared.

It’s like preparing to cook a chicken in the oven, by turning the hob on.

Dynamic stretching will play the role of increasing your body temperature, flexing and elasticating the relevant areas of the body.

Myth 3 – Foam Rolling


Foam rollers have proven to be useful to improve stretch tolerance and temporary flexibility. If you’ve ever tried them you know how sickening but enjoyable the pain is.

But not to be solely relied upon to induce muscular and mental preparedness before a workout.

They certainly have a role to play but not on their own.

Myths over, let’s go into how you should approach it:

Warm Up Routine:

The following routine is what is prescribed to our clients to ensure they are ready for a heavy weights session

It will take 20 to 30 minutes. This is necessary despite what you’re thinking.

In an ideal world, your warm-up should take at least 20 to 25% of your total time in the gym.

Stage 1: Dynamic Stretching

The aim? To partially stretch the muscle whilst retaining the force within the tissue

It will push blood around the body, lubricate our joints & ligaments and highlight any areas that are in pain

We want these to replicate similar movement patterns to our upcoming exercises

Stage 1:Lower Exercises

Bodyweight Squat
Glute Thrust & Squeeze
Jumping Lunges
Lying Leg Raises
Roll Over into V Sit

Do these for 1 minutes per exercise.

If you are short on time just pick two.

Stage 2: Back Exercises

Bird Dog
Cat Camel
Dead Hang
Side to Sides

Do these for 1 minutes per exercise.

If you are short on time just pick two.

Stage 3: Upper Exercises

Bodyweight Press Ups
Banded Shoulder Stretch
Rotator Cuff Flicks

Do these for 1 minutes per exercise.

If you are short on time just pick two.


Stage 4: Foam Rolling

If you experience any tightness in any particular area (my hips usually) then now is a good time to spend 5 minutes rolling out these areas.

Common areas of tightness are;

Hip Flexors

Flattening out these areas of tightness will enhance your range of motion.

Stage 4: Examples

Glute Foam Roll
Hip Flexor

It will hurt but you will need to persist. Our aim here is to increase blood flow and provide temporary relief.

Stage 5: Movement Practice

Finally, this is when we begin to mentally rehearse the act of lifting heavy.

Pick your exercise and equipment

We want to start using very light weight (just the bar) as this will provide the Kinaesthetic feedback we need to know whether or not our form is correct.

This is also a good opportunity to practice the mind to muscle connection.

Once we’re comfortable with our form, we can begin loading the bar.

Stage 5: Protocol

Just the Barbell (no weight) – 10 reps
55% of your working weight – 6 reps
70% of your working weight – 4 reps
90% of your working weight – 1 rep

Ensure that your form remains as strict and tight as possible in all rep ranges.

Now you are fully primed and ready to begin lifting heavy.

“I don’t have time to warm up”

Yes you do, even if just a refined version of the above.

The ironic point, of which we are all to some level guilty, is that most people will spend the 20-30 minutes usually required for a warm up doing pointless accessory work.

This accessory work usually takes the form of extra arm work, abdominal work or junk sets of exercises on an already fatigued muscle part.

The real trick with achieving and maintaining a good physique is injury prevention.

Being able to stay supple and pain free means that you can consistently train for extended periods of time at a reasonable intensity.

What’s the point in training really hard for 3 weeks only to be injured again for another month, you won’t make any serious progress that way.


Invest time preventing injuries instead of spending time dealing with them.

It might seem that the time you allocate to your training session is being eaten into but this will enable you to continue training longer, which is ultimately what it’s about.

A session that only has 4 key exercises, performed with intensity and with time allocated to an effective warm up will be better for the long term than a session that leaves no time for a warm up and accumulates damaging junk volume.

Sometimes less is more.

You can hear more from Ben and Rob of GramFitness over on their website, Instagram and by following Ben on twitter.

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