How to Properly Warm Up for Barbell Lifts

It is important to always warm up your muscles before you begin lifting. The purpose of a warm-up is to prepare your body for the work that it will do during the workout.

There are two ways to perform general warm-up exercises before you lift weights. The first way is to simply select a range of motion and perform the set and rep count for that motion. For example, if you wanted to work on your shoulders, you would start with a shoulder stretch and then move into the overhead press.

The second way is to perform a specific number of repetitions and sets at each joint range of motion and then increase those numbers as you gain strength in those joints. For example, if you were performing an overhead press, you would start with 2 sets of 10 reps at shoulder height, and as your strength increased you would increase the reps and sets as well as the range of motion as necessary.

To find your working weight

For most exercises, we recommend using a weight that feels challenging but not impossible. If you don’t feel like you’re pushing yourself hard enough, add weight or move up or down in rep or set numbers until you feel like you’re pushing yourself hard enough (but not failing). (Note: Lifters should avoid performing too many sets for this method; doing so may make them fatigued which can negatively affect their form.)

Guidelines for applying weight to your barbell lifts

1. Select a weight that you can lift comfortably for 8 to 10 repetitions with good form. If you don’t have proper form on your first few sets, simply do fewer repetitions or reduce the weight until you get it right.

2. Once you feel comfortable with this weight, add 5 to 10 percent of it until you are able to complete 12 to 15 repetitions with proper form.

3. If your form breaks down at any point during your workout, reduce the weight by 5 percent and work through the exercise again until you get it right, then add 5 percent back onto the barbell weight.

4. Once you’re able to complete all sets of an exercise at this weight without failure or low reps (less than 6), increase the weight by 10 percent two or three days later and work up in 5-rep increments from there until you are able to complete all sets with proper form at this increased poundage.