Do You Rush Through the Warm Up Sets?
I did this for years. Every warm up set felt light and I would rush through it. I moved the bar fast because it felt light and I could make it look easy. What I didn’t realize was I wasn’t preparing to move heavy weight. I was rushing through my setup and I’d get the reps done quickly. My intent was to move fast so it would get my muscles firing and primed to move the heavy weight. But heavy weight isn’t just moved with explosive power and its rarely moved quickly. The heavy weights need to be lifted with control, coordination, and tension. If I’m moving too quickly through the warm up sets then I’m missing an opportunity to work on these principles.
Greasing the Groove
The concept of priming the body for a heavy lift can be described as greasing the groove. This involves practicing what is going to happen when you lift heavy. What happens when your about to do a heavy back squat? You unrack the bar, step back with control, take a massive breathe in, brace your core, squat down with control while holding tension in the entire body, and finally stand up with some struggle. This scenario needs to practiced in the warm up sets. Even when the bar is light. Play out each part of the lift as if its a max effort lift. Control the bar down, hold tension in the back, core, hips and legs, then fire up. Hitting a quick set of 10-12 reps will get my legs warm but will it set me up for a big lift later? Probably not. That’s why the first set at a heavy weight feels “heavier than it should.” I’ve said that many times and I know many of you have too.
A few things to practice during the warm up sets…
Visualize the Lift
As you lift the light warm up set picture yourself lifting the heavy weight you will later have on the bar. How will it feel in your hands or on your back? How will it feel as you start the lift and how will it feel when you’ve accomplished the entire lift? Playout the entire set in your head as your moving the lighter warm up set.
Tempo, Rhythm, and Routine
Do you have a little pre-lift routine you usually do before a heavy lift? Most of us do. Whether it’s a little shoulder shimmy, a stomp with both legs, or shaking the bar it’s important to throw that in the warm up sets if that’s what gets you ready to lift heavy.
Is there a certain tempo and rhythm you have when you lift heavy? Everyone is slightly different but take notice of how you set up for a heavy lift. You’ll begin to recognize a tempo and rhythm you have when your about to lift heavy. It could be the number of steps you take back on a back squat, the first foot your put underneath a deadlift, or what hand grabs the bar first.
How fast or slow do you perform the lift when its heavy? Practice controlling the bar at that same tempo. Replicate these patterns in the warm up sets so your ready to go when the weight gets heavy.
Stability, Control, and Tension
When you start bouncing at the bottom and losing tension in certain positions then you could be losing power when the weight increases. Practice moving the bar with control. You want to feel your muscles contracting during each phase of the lift. Losing tension will decrease stability and your form will have to compensate. Keeping the entire body tight and stable in the warm up sets reinforces proper technique.
The goal of the warm up sets is not to just warm the muscles up but to also give you an opportunity to practice what will come. Respect each weight and set because they each have a purpose. Grease the groove until you know your body is ready for the heavy sets.