Best Way to Warm Up Before Lifting Weights

Warming up is often something lifters and athletes are familiar with, yet there seem to still be some questions and misguided information out there about what truly are the BEST way(s). While there is seldom a “best” way to do something, most of us coaches and athletes can agree that the best warm ups end in us feeling ready and mentally prepared to hit the weights.

In this article we will discuss the most common methods of a proper warm up to assist coaches and athletes in determining what is the best way to warm up for lifting sessions.

Benefits of a Proper Warm Up

In recent articles we have discussed a wide array of dynamic warm up options (general fitness, running, etc.). A proper warm up can help to increase performance and minimize injury risks, many of which may be preventable if coaches and athletes take their warm ups more seriously. Below is a brief recap of the benefits of a proper warm up to help coaches and athletes see the true value in a well-thought out pre training/competition warm up.

Increase Body Temperature

Increasing core body temperature can help to increase readiness for exercise, improve muscle function and circulation, and aid in flexibility/mobility of an athlete.

Increase Blood Flow and Oxygen Delivery

A proper dynamic warm up will increase muscle blood flow and total body blood circulation, which is key for delivery oxygen rich blood to the muscle tissue and clearing out metabolic byproducts from previous training sessions.

Additionally, a proper dynamic warm up will begin to shunt blood flow to the gut and promote higher distributions of total body blood flow to active muscle tissues, further enhancing exercise output and performance.

Mental Preparation

A dynamic warm up offers athletes an opportunity to mentally prepare themselves for a training session or competitive event. Often, a coach can use a dynamic warm up as a way to ritualizing the training process which can help to increase focus and ease the athlete into more strenuous situations (high stress competition, hard training sessions, etc).

Injury Resilience

The above benefits of a dynamic warm up can all enhance a lifters/athletes injury resilience. Decreasing injury risks of muscle strains and pulls and other connective tissue injuries can help an athlete trainer harder and train on a more consistent basis.

Sample Warm Up Before Lifting Weights

Below you will find a general warm up for lifters who are planning to lift weights. While the later aspects of the warm up may differ session to session, coaches can use the below format and change as they see fit.

  • Light Total-Body Cardiovascular Exercise (Bike, Row, Jog, etc): 3-5 minutes
  • Gentle Static Stretching (optional) and/or Foam Roll: 3-5 minutes
  • Dynamic Warm Up: 5 minutes
  • Activation Exercises (session specific): 3-5 minutes

[Looks good to you? Then check out our guide to the best foam rollers for your needs!]

Common Warm Up Strategies

Below are six (6) common warm up strategies that are used by coaches and athletes prior to training sessions and competitive event. Note, that not all components are used by all coaches/athletes.

Static Stretching

In a previous article we discussed the pros and cons of performing static stretching prior to strength/resistance training. In short, static stretching can be used as a gentle introduction to the training session and allow an athletes to make a mental inventory of any tightness or musclesualr stiffness headed into the session.

Foam Rolling/Myofascial Release

Light foam rolling and other active release manual therapies my find their way into an athletes routine, and can be used early on in the warm up process. Methods like foam rolling, soft tissue massage, and lacrosse ball myofascial release are all options for coaches and athletes to use.

Light Cardiovascular Exercise

Light physical activity such as; rowing, biking, skipping rope, and jogging, are all ways to increase core body temperature and circulation throughout the body. This often is done before a dynamic warm up to allow an athlete to go into a dynamic warm up already warm and prepared for the fast paced movement series ahead.

Dynamic Warm Up

The dynamic warm up is a pivotal aspect of a training program, as it allows an athlete to move, sweat, and mentally prepare themselves for the high demands of strength, power, and fitness sports.

Activation Exercises

Flowing a brief dynamic warm up (5-8 minutes) a coach/athlete can perform activation exercises to increase muscle activation and movement coordination of the muscles groups and patterning necessary for increased performance and injury resilience within the training session.

Light-Load Skill/Technique Movements

Before jumping into the work sets, a lifter can use empty barbell and light loaded movements to prepare themselves for the training session. For example, the below video demonstrates an empty barbell snatch warm up for Olympic weightlifters.

The Best Way to Warm Up Before Lifting Weights Is…

As you can see, there are a wide array of warm up methods one can use to prepare an athlete for training sessions. Coaches and athletes can use all (which is recommended) of the above methods within a sound 10-15 minute warm up segment to maximize performance and potentially decrease injury risks. If you liked this article, be sure to check out the below dynamic warm up workout building guides.

Featured Image: @gymclassphotography on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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