Warming up, cooling down and stretching
If you are at least a little experienced with any sport, chances are you recognize the need for warming up before the exercise and cooling down after the exercise.
In this article we summarize the current state of knowledge in this area. We concentrate on bodybuilding and weight lifting.
First, let’s list some common mistakes and misconceptions:
- Any aerobic activity before the workout is good for warming up. Wrong. Aerobic activity before the resistance workout makes the workout useless as shown by a study from 2009.
- Warm up doesn’t need to be muscle-specific. Wrong. You need to warm up the muscles you are going to train.
- Warm up is only done to prevent injury. Wrong. Proper warm up has direct and profound effects on the muscle growth.
- Stretching is necessary before the exercise. Questionable. While some experts consider stretching before the resistance exercise necessary, others claim stretching must be done as part of cooling down after the bodybuilding workout.
So how should the ideal warm up for bodybuilders look like? First, it should be a warm up. Nothing more and nothing less. Warm up must not exhaust you. It must not be a part of muscle-building “heavy” training.
The warm up is a very important phase of our training: we prepare our muscles, joints and central nervous system for the heavy exercises. Yes, the nervous system. Most people do not realize the very important role of CNS in the muscle-building process. Repeating the movement of the exercise, first with very light weight (like the bar only), then with progressively higher weights will prime our nervous system for best results.
Most repetitions should be made with the bar only – consider this your “general warm up” and do it instead of the cycling or jogging as some may advice you.
This part of warm up should be long enough to increase the blood flow to the affected muscle and open the capillaries but not as long that it would exhaust your glycogen reserves which you are going to need for the heavy sets.
There is a legitimate opinion that stretching – although a very important part of every training session – should not be part of the preparatory (warm up) phase but instead of the final (cooling) phase. This school of thought says that since stretching is temporarily weakening the muscle fibers it has no place in the preparation of muscles for peak output levels.
Since the opposite opinion is also credible we choose to stay neutral on this point.
-warm up before training of every new muscle group but not before another exercise for the same muscle group
-the ideal tempo for warm-up sets is 3-0-3-0 (3 seconds up, 0 seconds break, 3 seconds down, 0 seconds break), with short breaks between the sets (not more than 1 minute)
-strength training requires about 5 warm-up sets, bodybuilding training will usually require 4 warm-up sets. With very heavy weights you may need one more set of only 1 rep for muscle conditioning.
Typical bodybuilding warm-up:
First set: 15 reps with the bar
Second set: 6 reps with 50% of your planned workout weight
Third set: 4 reps with 70% of your planned workout weight
Fourth set: 2 reps with 90% of your planned workout weight