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What's the most effective warm-up before doing my weight lifting circuit?

Is it better to warm up by doing 10 minutes on the elliptical cross-trainer or by doing a set using a light weight before working with your training weight?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Actually, I do both. I run 5 minutes on the treadmill to get my heart active from a long day at the office, get the blood pumping through my body, fresh oxygen in the muscles.

Then, before I work on a certain group of muscles, my first set of the exercise consists of doing 10 - 15 quick reps with a light weight, just to make sure the muscles I will be using have blood pumping through them, and are "warmed up", so I can't injure a muscle.

For instance if I were to workout chest and do flys, I do them with a light weight first. The last 4 - 5 reps, I really stretch out the dumbells as far down as possible ( be careful not to injure your shoulder ). This way I feel my chest muscle is stretched nicely and less stiff before I do the exercise.

Next, I take the weight of my exercise and do the workout. Sometimes I do a dropset ( use the heaviest weight first ) or the opposite ( build up the weight - sometimes combined with less repititions )

I don't know if this is the most effective way. I found this to be perfect for my body and muscles.

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I tried what you suggested at the gym last night, 10 mins cardio warm up then doing a 10 rep set will light weights before the main reps. My muscles feel less achy this morning so looks like it helped Thanks :) – Alastair May 19 '11 at 7:40

The best warm-up for lifting weights is neither 10 minutes on an elliptical nor going straight to the first exercise using low weights.

Per weightlifting coach Greg Everett:

When it comes to warming up, what are we trying to accomplish? The name itself is a bit of a hint, but increasing body temperature is just one element. It might be easier if we rename the warm-up to training preparation. Now if we ask what we’re trying to accomplish, it should be obvious: we’re preparing our bodies for the training to follow.

Similarly, my warm-up consists of ticking the following boxes:

  • raise my body temperature
  • run a self-diagnostic on my body ("Is everything working properly? Do any joints or muscles report an issue?")
  • achieve sufficient mobility and flexibility for the exercises making up the main part of the workout
  • work gradually up to the first exercise of the workout

This process can take many forms. Sometimes I run or use a rowing machine, sometimes I don't. I usually do some form of arm and leg swings. I'll usually do a few air lunges, air squats, or use a lightweight stick to do snatches or overhead presses, depending on what I plan to lift later. I'll do a few movements that tell me if I'm limbered up or not, like pistol squats, Cossack squats, or overhead squats with something light. Then I'll progress from very light versions of my first lift to the heavy sets, for instance, air squats to squats with just the bar to loading the bar in increments of 20kg or so until my heavy sets. This works quite well for me and, to my knowledge, is well supported by exercise science as a near-optimal approach.

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