If there’s one thing fitness bros love to do, it’s going into granular detail about shit that doesn’t matter.
Case in point: I’ve read articles about warming up that took me 10 times longer to read than my actual warm up. Warming up is important, but we’ve made it far too complicated.
In this post, I’m going to show you why I warm up just enough to perform my first work set. Despite what Men’s Health might tell you, anything more than that is a waste of time.
Let’s jump into this discussion with the surprising science behind warming up.
We Don’t Actually Know if Warm Ups Prevent Injury
The first reason I don’t waste time with warms ups is that research hasn’t definitively proven that warming up your muscles reduces the risk of injury.
You can find studies to support both arguments, but consider these quotes:
- “There is insufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine warm-up prior to physical activity to prevent injury among sports participants.”
- “The value of warming-up is a worthy research problem because it is not known whether warming-up benefits, harms, or has no effect on individuals.”
Those snippets were taken from studies that supported the value of warming up.
The body of research into this subject mainly supports the notion that warm ups prevent injury, but there’s enough contrasting evidence that we shouldn’t take it as a given.
If warming up does prevent injury, it’s only when those warm ups are done properly.
You’re Most Likely Warming Up Wrong
If you’re going to warm up, don’t do any of the following: running on the treadmill, stretching, foam rolling, bending, skipping rope, or doing a quick elliptical workout.
Your warm up should be the exercise you’re about to do, not something random. With Hack Your Fitness, that exercise will either be the squat, deadlift, or overhead press.
Getting sweaty before you squat doesn’t improve your ability to perform that lift—squatting does.
Squatting as your warm up not only gets you ready to lift, it adds additional reps to your muscle memory bank and improves your squatting technique.
The best way to prevent injury when lifting is having great technique on your lifts. You also shouldn’t warm up too hard. Save your strength for the actual lifts.
Your muscles will thank you when you’re nearing the point of failure on your first two sets.
Find What Works for You and Stick with It
Like all things in fitness, consistency is the key to your warm ups.
Find the minimum amount of warming up your body needs to get “warm” and stick with it.
If you have no idea where to begin, try this approach:
- Start with 20% of your work set and do just two reps.
- Move up to 40, 60, and 80% of your work set, doing two reps each time.
- Rest for 90 seconds between each warmup set.
- Once you’re up to your working weight, you can begin the work set.
I’ve used this 5-minute warm up for years and haven’t injured myself in a long time (knock on wood). Give it a try and iterate as you go to see what works best for you.
Keep this mantra in mind: Less time warming up. More time lifting.