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From the StrongLifts book:

Never jump straight into your work weight, warm-up first. As an example, let's say your work weight for the Squat is 135lbs. Then here's how your training would look like...

  • 2×5 45lbs => 2 sets of 5 reps with the empty Olympic bar
  • 3 x 90lbs => 1 set of 3 reps with the 45lbs bar + 22.5lbs/side
  • 5 x 135lbs => first set of 5 reps with your work weight
  • 5 x 135lbs => 2nd set of 5 reps with your work weight
  • 5 x 135lbs => 3rd set of 5 reps with your work weight
  • 5 x 135lbs => 4th set of 5 reps with your work weight
  • 5 x 135lbs => 5th and final set of 5 reps with your work weight

I'm a complete newb, so wondering if anyone could give me a more general way to warm up. Like, you start with empty bar, then add how much, how many times, until you reach the target? And also, do you do this for just the first squat exercise, or do you warm up similarly for the 2 exercises coming after that as well? And if so, should you start with the empty bar each time? Or?

Just looking for easier, more general rules I can follow as I'm a total beginner and the examples in the book was a bit too specific for me to be able to pull something general from them.

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3 Answers 3

I just do one set of 5 at between 1/3 to 1/2 my work set for warmup*. I used to do 3 warmup sets of gradually escalating weight, but I haven't found that's any better than just doing one. If you want to play it safe, do a couple more sets, and when you feel comfortable with it you can start scaling back.

*I also take a hot Epsom-salt bath before heading to the gym, that may help with warmups, but I find the benefit is actually in my lifts, as I'm able to lift significantly heavier weights after doing it.

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The only extra warm-up would be a few minutes on a bike to get a general body warm-up before starting with the empty bar on the squat. (This is what Starting Strength suggests.)

As for a general plan: always start with the empty bar (except for deadlifts, because they need height). Then, break up the gap between the empty bar weight and your workset weight into a few intervals. Do sets at each of those weights with progressively fewer reps and more rest as you approach your work weight. Don't do a warm-up set too close to your work weight.

Some examples...

For squats, I do this: 2x5 @ 45, 1x5 @ 95, 1x3 @ 135, 1x2 @ 185, 1x1 @ 205, 3x5 @ 240

For my overhead press, I do this: 2x5 @ 45, 1x5 @ 65, 1x3 @ 75, 3x5 @ 100 (Note, fewer warm-up sets because the weight is lower, and I don't let them come close to interfering with my workset.)

For my deadlifts, I do this: 1x5 @ 90, 1x5 @ 135, 1x3 @ 155, 1x2 @ 200, 1x5 @ 235 (Note, the single workset. This is prescribed by Starting Strength, not sure about Stronglifts.)

You can find spreadsheets to program your warm-up sets for you (for example: http://startingstrength.wikia.com/wiki/Tools_and_Downloads... Stronglifts probably has something similar). I tend to choose warm-up weights that are convenient based on what the bigger plates add up to, but you can get more exact if you want. They shouldn't be interfering with your workset either way.

What you should be getting from your warm-up sets is:

  • movement practice and reminders about form errors that you need to focus on
  • preparation of the muscles for heavy weight
  • preparation of the mind for the heavy weight
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I run or jump rope for five minutes, rotate all my joints, do some lunges, and then start lifting.

Don't over-think it. Just add weight in chunks between fifty and ninety pounds. Do one set of five reps at each jump. If you want, leave a few reps off the heavier warm-up sets, or add a second set with just the bar. See this related question for other examples.

Do this progression from light to heavy with every barbell exercise. More detailed instructions and reasons behind this warm-up can be found in Starting Strength's second or third editions.

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