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How To Warm Up For Bench Press, Squats And Deadlifts

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The following warm up protocol will help you prepare properly for your first working set on squats, bench press, deadlifts and other similar heavy compound exercises.

Keep in mind that some of these steps are optional. Some individuals dislike stretching, and many trainees do not warmup using mild cardio prior to lifting. If you decide to skip the mild cardio and stretching, do NOT short cut the warm up set protocol. Warm up sets not only prep your muscles and joints for the heavy work to follow, but also prepare your CNS (central nervous system), which is extremely important. We will talk more about that in a bit.

The 3 Steps of a Typical Warm Up

In general, a good warm up will involve 3 steps:

  1. Stretching. Mild stretching, to loosen up the entire body, and/or to target the muscle groups you are about to train.
  2. Mild Cardio. 5 to 10 minutes of mild, low-impact cardio will help bring up your overall body temperature, literally “warming” you up, and helping to loosen stiff or sore muscles.
  3. Warm Up Sets. A proper warm up set protocol will involve ramped, non-taxing sets that prepare your muscles and CNS for the heavy working sets to come.

Foam rolling, pre-hab and mobility work could also be included in with stretching, depending on your goals, injury history and specific needs.

Warm Up Sets

Once you have warmed up with stretching and mild cardio, it’s time to hit the iron. Believe it or not, there is more to warm up sets than just preparing your muscles. The CNS, or central nervous system must also be warmed up as well.

Simply put, if your central nervous system has not been properly stimulated, your brain will have little reason to call into play as many muscle fibers as possible. A smartly devised warmup set protocol maximizes CNS stimulation and muscle fiber recruitment without fatiguing your muscles, leaving you ready to lift.

Think of it like this…if your bench press max is 300 pounds, and you do only a single warmup set of 135 pounds before trying a new max attempt, does your brain have any indication that a much heavier lift is about to occur? Of course not. This is a good way to get injured.

If the CNS has not been properly stimulated, you will be lifting with a less than optimal number of muscle fibers. This makes the lift more difficult, and increases the risk of injury.

The follow warm up set examples are meant to assist beginning to intermediate lifters on how to properly ramp sets prior to their first heavy, taxing set. Keep in mind that these are only examples. Always listen to your body and make necessary adjustments. There are some days where I feel extra stiff when I get under the bar, and end up performing an extra warm up set or two.

Bench Press Warm Up Set Examples

135 pound bench press example. The following example provides a typical warm up set approach for a novice, or beginning lifter who’s first working set on bench press will be with 135 pounds:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 95 pounds x 5-10 reps
  • 115 pounds x 3-5 reps

Here is another possible warmup variation for the same lifter:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 95 pounds x 3-5 reps
  • 115 pounds x 1-3 reps
  • 135 pounds x 1 rep

Some individuals will find they prefer performing a single rep using the same weight they are about to work with, to get the feel for that weight. This is also a quality method of warming up the CNS, especially when the first working set is a relatively low-rep, heavy set (say using 5 reps, for example).

225 pound bench press example. The following example provides a typical warm up set approach for a lifter who’s first working set on bench press will be with 225 pounds:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 135 pounds x 5-8 reps
  • 185 pounds x 3 reps
  • 225 pounds x 1 rep (optional)

315 pound squat or deadlift example. The following example provides a typical warm up set approach for a lifter who’s first working set on squats or deadlifts will be with 315 pounds:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 135 pounds x 8-10 reps
  • 225 pounds x 3-5 reps
  • 275 pounds x 1-3 reps

405 pound squat or deadlift example. The following example provides a typical warm up set approach for a lifter who’s first working set on squats or deadlifts will be with 315 pounds:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 135 pounds x 10 reps
  • 225 pounds x 5-8 reps
  • 315 pounds x 3 reps
  • 365 pounds x 1 rep
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One comment

  1. I’m maxing out today going for315 how should I properly warm up to that weight. Thank you if you reply

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