Warming up thoroughly before each workout is not optional. It’s mandatory.
Many people don’t warm up properly and some don’t even warm up at all. This is a mistake. Your warm up should be a consistent and serious part of your workout routine.
It allows your body to perform at maximum capacity while at the same time substantially reducing the chance of injury.
The older you are, the more important a thorough warm up becomes.
It prepares your muscles, joints, heart and nervous system for the serious work ahead.
And it’s a good opportunity to get “in the zone” and mentally prepare yourself for the workout ahead.
Switch off from the real world and focus your mind on what you are going to do in the gym today. Leave any troubles and distractions behind. Visualize what it is that you want to achieve today.
There are two types of warm up: general and exercise-specific.
General Warm Up
Start with 5-10 minutes of light, easy cardio on a rowing machine, stationary cycle or elliptical trainer.
A rowing machine is perfect because it works your entire body throughout a long range of motion.
If you have no cardio equipment available do some rope jumping or simple calisthenics like jumping jacks, mountain climbers and freehand squats. If you train outside, you can jog a few laps.
Once you have broken into a sweat, proceed with some mild stretching to loosen up any tight muscles, especially in your lower body.
Move your joints, circle your arms and hips.
Finish your warm up with some mobility drills and calisthenics like mountain climbers, freehand squats, floor pushups.
A general warm up shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to complete. However, you can experiment with taking more time or increasing the intensity a bit.
You may find that a longer or a more intense warm up may result in better performance during your workout.
Exercise-Specific Warm Up
Start every exercise by doing a series of light but progressively heavier sets. Depending on the exercise and the weight used, the exercise-specific warm-up phase might take between 2-5 sets. The higher the weight you use, the more warm-up sets you will need.
Increase the weight on the bar (or machine) with each set until you reach your working weight for the day. Then do your target number of work sets.
It’s a good idea to do 15 reps with a light weight on your first warm-up set. This will “oil” your joints and it’s a good opportunity to rehearse and practice perfect exercise form.
The next few warm-up sets should not involve too many reps. It’s okay to stay at or below 5 reps in most warm-up sets.
Don’t waste energy on warm-up sets by making them too demanding, although your last warm-up set should be very close to your target work weight of the day.