Warm Up Sets: Warming Up For Weight Training Exercises

One of the most overlooked aspects of a workout routine is the warm up.

In terms of weight training, there’s primarily 2 different forms of warming up that people tend to neglect or just screw up altogether:

  1. The General Pre-Workout Warm Up
    This refers to the overall warm up that takes place before the workout actually begins. For example, this may include cardio/aerobic activity, stretching (statically and/or dynamically), foam rolling and/or various forms of mobility work.
  2. The Specific Pre-Exercise Warm up
    This refers to the warm up sets being done before the weight training exercises themselves. For example, if you were going to bench press 200lbs, you’d typically do warm up sets using progressively heavier weight as you work your way up to 200lbs.

While both are definitely important for different reasons, today I want to focus specifically on the second item on that list: warm up sets.

Let’s figure out their purpose and goals, how many sets to do, how much weight to use, and which weight training exercises do and do not actually need warm up sets in the first place.

Why Do I Need To Do Warm Up Sets?

In order to properly understand the purpose of warm up sets, there’s a recommendation you need to hear first.

And that is, for the majority of the population, the first real work set of every exercise you do should always be with your heaviest weight.

What that means is, I recommend that most people either use straight sets (where you use the same weight for all of your sets of an exercise), or a reverse pyramid/descending ramp (where you start with your heaviest weight and then reduce the weight from set to set).

In either scenario, your first set still ends up being as heavy as you will be going on that specific exercise.

What I don’t recommend however is a traditional pyramid set structure (where you start with something like 100lbs, then go to 110lbs, then 120lbs, etc.), where you essentially use your real work sets as warm up sets.

There are exceptions of course, but for most people, this is a completely idiotic and counterproductive way to train. More about that here: Pyramid Sets vs Reverse Pyramid Training vs Straight Sets

Now back to my point…

Since most of us will always be starting off each exercise with our heaviest working weight, there won’t be any lighter work sets leading up to our heavier/heaviest work sets… we will just be jumping right in from the very first set.

For this reason, a proper warm up set sequence is absolutely crucial.

The Goals Of Warm Up Sets

Now, here is where people start to screw things up. They understand the reason for warming up, they just don’t understand the goals… and that leads to all sorts of dumb stuff being done.

Specifically, the goals of warm up sets are as follows:

  • To allow us to prepare the target muscle(s).
  • To allow us to prepare the joints being used.
  • To allow us to prepare our central nervous system.
  • To allow us to prepare mentally.
  • To accomplish all of the above WITHOUT creating unnecessary fatigue.

With all of that in mind, the most common recommendation for optimally accomplishing everything on that list is to:

Perform a series of progressively heavier sets that will get pretty close to our actual working weight, while using fewer and fewer reps as we go to avoid fatiguing ourselves before we even begin.

Most people grasp the “progressively heavier sets” part of that, but they miss the second part about avoiding fatigue.

That’s why one of the most common stupid things people do when warming up is perform a bunch of sets of anywhere from 10-20 reps per set.

What they are primarily doing here is just tiring themselves out with warm up sets and creating a ton of unnecessary fatigue (which is why traditional pyramid sets suck for most people) while at the same time doing little to actually accomplish what we are hoping to accomplish by warming up.

I’ve personally been there and done that myself back in the day, where I basically turned my warm up sequence into a full on workout by doing a bunch of sets of 10-12.

By the time I got to my first actual work set, I was (unknowingly) significantly fatigued and my performance (unknowingly) suffered for it.

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The Proper Warm Up Sequence

What eventually happened in my case is that I instinctively started experimenting with my warm up sets to try to find something better, and I ended up coming upon a sequence that I later realized was extremely close to what a lot of experts recommend.

What is that warm up sequence, you ask?

Well, for most of the people, most of the time, it should go something along the lines of this:

  1. Start off with 1 VERY light set of 10-15 reps. For this set you’d usually use just the bar (with no weight on it) or some VERY light dumbbells if it was a dumbbell exercise. If it’s a machine exercise, you’d put on some equally light and easy/insignificant amount of weight.
  2. The next set, do 8 reps using 55-60% of the actual weight you will be using during your actual work sets for this exercise. So, if your first work set was going to be with 200lbs, you’d use 110-120lbs for this set.
  3. The next set, do 5 reps using 70-75% of the actual weight you will be using during your actual work sets for this exercise. So again, if your first work set was going to be with 200lbs, you’d use 140-150lbs for this set.
  4. The set after that, do 3 reps using 80-85% of the actual weight you will be using during your actual work sets for this exercise. So once again, if your first work set was going to be with 200lbs, you’d use 160-170lbs for this set.
  5. And for your final warm up set, do just 1 rep using 90-95% of the actual weight you will be using during your actual work sets for this exercise. So, using the same example, if your first work set was going to be with 200lbs, you’d use 180-190lbs for this set.
  6. You’d then rest for whatever the prescribed amount of rest time is for that exercise, and then begin your first work set.

To make that even clearer, here’s a pretty chart…

The Proper Weight Training Warm Up Sequence

#1Just the bar/very light dumbbells.10-1545-60 seconds
#255-60% of the weight you will be using for this exercise.845-60 seconds
#370-75% of the weight you will be using for this exercise.545-60 seconds
#480-85% of the weight you will be using for this exercise.345-60 seconds
#590-95% of the weight you will be using for this exercise.1Full Amount

As you can see, you’d typically take about 45-60 seconds between each warm up set. There’s really no special set amount of time, but usually the time it takes to casually change the weight, catch your breath (if it needs to be caught) and get into position will last about 45-60 seconds anyway, so something similar to that would be perfectly sufficient.

Really, as long as you’re not rushing or taking forever you’ll be fine.

And then, after your final warm up set, you should rest for whatever that exercise’s regularly prescribed rest time is, and then begin your first work set.

Why Is This Warm Up Sequence So Ideal?

Because it allows us to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished. Simple as that.

We get to warm up the muscles and joints being used, and we get to prepare the nervous system for the stress it’s about to be under (which basically prevents the first work set from feeling surprisingly heavy).

We also do enough to get a really good feel and groove (both physically and mentally) for the exercise we are about to perform, and we do it all with low reps so we never come close to causing unnecessary fatigue.

Sounds pretty ideal to me.

Is This The EXACT Way EVERYONE Should ALWAYS Warm Up?

While the overall structuring of this warm up sequence is pretty close to ideal in most cases, there are some notes and exceptions.

Here are the main ones that come to mind:

  • Strength Levels. The heavier the weight being lifted for a given exercise, the more warm up sets you’ll typically need. The opposite is true as well (the lighter the weight, the less warming up you’ll need). Meaning, someone bench pressing 275lbs would need more warm up sets than someone bench pressing 135lbs. Or, if you want to look at it from the other point of view, the person bench pressing 135lbs just doesn’t need as many warm up sets to work up to their lesser weight.
  • Experience Levels. This goes hand-in-hand with the first item on this list, but it’s worth giving a separate mention. Beginners are typically weaker than intermediate and advanced trainees. Therefore, beginners wouldn’t need as many of the heavier warm up sets as someone more advanced would. (So for example, sets #4 and/or #5 in the warm up sequence outlined above might not be as necessary for a beginner.)
  • Rep Range and Training Intensity. Warm up sets may also need to be adjusted based on the rep range and level of weight training intensity being used. Meaning, if you’re bench pressing for 4 sets of 6 reps, you’ll be using a heavier weight than you would if you were bench pressing for 3 sets of 12 reps, and more or less warming up may be needed or preferred in comparison.
  • Specific Exercises. The type of exercise being done might also warrant changes to how you warm up. For example, a harder/more technical exercise like barbell squats might require a more thorough warm up sequence than something like leg presses.

Really, warm up sets are not an exact science where one method is universally perfect for everyone on all weight training exercises and at every level of strength and experience.

Some people benefit from more sets, some from less. Some from heavier weight, some from lighter. Feel free to experiment (if needed) to find exactly what feels best for you.

For the majority of the population however, something similar to what I described above is what’s most ideal and most often recommend.

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Should I Be Warming Up Like This For EVERY Exercise?

Nope, you should NOT warm up like this for every single exercise. It wouldn’t be bad… it just wouldn’t be needed.

A full warm up sequence like this is only needed when doing the first direct or indirect exercise for a given muscle group or movement pattern during that workout. After that, you are already warmed up for various other exercises that target the same muscle(s) and movement patterns.

So, for example, if you are doing more than 1 chest exercise in a workout, you’d only need to warm up like this on the first chest exercise being done that day. Any chest exercises done after that would require little to no warm up sequence of any kind.

The same applies to the other bigger muscle groups too (back, shoulders, quads, hamstrings).

The exception here is biceps and triceps, which rarely ever need any sort of warm up (unless you’re doing an arm-only workout, which is pretty dumb in the first place).

Biceps and/or triceps will almost always (and SHOULD always) be done after more important stuff like chest, back and/or shoulders. And, since chest and shoulder exercises train the triceps secondarily and back exercises train the biceps secondarily, your biceps and triceps are already warmed up sufficiently by the time you get to them.

What’s that you say? You’re still a little confused about which exercises need warm ups and which don’t?

Alright then, here’s a complete real world example…

An Example Of Which Weight Training Exercises To Warm Up For

Have you seen The Muscle Building Workout Routine? It’s the workout program that I recommend to intermediate/advanced trainees looking to build muscle or improve the way their body looks in any capacity.

Well, here’s a full break down of exactly which exercises in this program do and do not need a full warm up sequence:

  • In the Upper Body A workout, you’d only need to warm up like this for bench press and rows. Incline dumbbell presses (warmed up from benching), lat pull-downs (warmed up from rowing), lateral raises (warmed up from both bench pressing and incline pressing), and the biceps and triceps stuff (warmed up from all of the chest and back work thus far) would not require a warm up sequence anywhere near as thorough as this (or really, none at all).
  • In the Lower Body A workout, you’d do this warm up sequence for Romanian deadlifts and leg presses, and maybe calves too (or more likely just half of this warm up sequence).
  • In the Upper Body B workout, you’d only use this warm up sequence for pull-ups and shoulder presses, and maybe dumbbell presses as well (or again just half of this warm up sequence). Nothing else.
  • In the Lower Body B workout, you’d really only need to do this warm up sequence with squats, and maybe just half of this sequence for leg curls and calves.
  • However, for all of the exercises that DON’T need a full warm up sequence, you can still throw in 1 VERY light set of 5-8 reps just to prepare yourself for the actual movement and get into a good groove. I personally like doing this for certain exercises (usually only compound exercises), but don’t seem to need it at all for others (such as most isolation exercises). Just a personal preference. Nothing more than that, though. And make sure it’s VERY light and easy if you decide to do it.

Now Go Try It Out

So, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about how your warm up set sequence should look for various exercises and why it’s so important and beneficial in the first place. In fact, this is the protocol I recommend for the majority of the workouts I’ve included in Superior Muscle Growth.

If you’ve been warming up in some other (dumber) way or just barely warming up at all, give this method (or something similar) a try and notice how much better your work sets feel.

For me, it was a big improvement over the silly stuff I was previously doing. It will probably be an equally big improvement for you too.

Try it and see for yourself.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

97 thoughts on “Warm Up Sets: Warming Up For Weight Training Exercises”


  1. brilliant. ive been waiting for this one. thanks. as you say its a massively overlooked area that not many people seem to have a clue about. to be fair its hard to get good info like this article on warm sets elsewhere. you basically have to go to some bodybuilding forum and we know how useful they are. thanks again. i’ll be adjusting my warm-ups accordingly.

  2. thought i’d give you some feedback on how the new warm up is going. have only been through half my weekly routine on it (i.e. lower b and upper a) but so far is working very well. my problem was not overdoing the warm up and fatigiung myself; rather it was underdoing it, mainly because of time contraints but also because i didnt know what to do. for me warming up is even more important because i go to the gym before work when it opens at 545am so i’m pretty much dead cold and still waking up. i always do 3 mins on the rower which gets me going tho. anyway, i previously found that on my second set i would feel much stronger and solid than the first, particularly on squats and the intial few reps. now that i have properly warmed up using your guidance, i’m strong from the first rep of first set. the warm up sequence doesn’t take too long at all either. i’m not a huge unit throwing around massive weights so in most cases i think i’ll be able to do #1 – #3 of the warm up sequence.

    • @Steve: When the second set feels better than the first set, it’s an extremely common sign that your CNS is not warmed up. The first set ends up feeling surprisingly heavy and basically serves as an awkward warm up for the second set, which is why the second set feels a whole lot better.

      A sequence like this is designed specifically to prevent that, as you’ve noticed. Awesome to hear it worked!

    • Necessary… maybe. Optimal for most people… definitely.

      It depends on goals, what kind of weights you’re lifting, and how hard you’re training. For most people training fairly hard and pushing for progress, warming up like this definitely helps.

      For those that don’t fit this description, warming up this thoroughly becomes less necessary.

  3. I’m curious if I have to do this for each exercise in the beginner workout routine you put together because each exercise is different from each other and targeted different part of the body. For example, in the workout A, there’s squat, bench press and barbell bent over row (that’s legs, chest, and back). Warm-up sequence for each one?

    • Yup, each of the 3 big compound lifts in the beginner routine’s A/B workouts warrant their own warm-up sequence. Although, since beginners are generally not very strong yet and are therefore usually not lifting too heavy, they won’t need as many warm-ups sets as someone stronger and more advanced would.

      For example, someone benching 135lbs needs less warm-up sets than someone benching 250lbs.

      • Do beginners really need warm-up sets at all? Is there any exact science behind this? As a beginner myself, all I do is a minute of stretching right after entering the gym and then I jump straight away into all the prescribed exercises and start counting the reps/sets. I feel at this stage, the weights I lift are just too low to warrant any kind of warm up. Perhaps as I become more of an intermediate, I will start requiring a warm-up routine. What do you think?

        • Even when a beginner is weak and lifting light weights, the warm-up sets still serve as even lighter “practice” sets that will, at the very least, help with getting form down for the work sets.

  4. Hi

    Excellent blog, like the tone and the no BS. Probably the best I’ve read that covers diet and exercise to build lean muscle. One question though, other blogs mention that your main 3 sets you should aim to fail and they normally talk about 4-6 reps and not 10 to 12??



  5. This is a very effective method of warming up, the acclimation sets make a HUGE difference to your lifts. I recently started utilising a method very very similar to what is outlined here and increased my deadlift from 150kg to 165kg in one session just due to the superior neurological warmup.

  6. Love it, been searching so long for a guide like this and now finally i found it and it helps a lot! Thanks a lot!!!!

    Only one question to this guide, at which point does warm up set 4 and 5 should be done? Is there any point, like “when you can benchpress your bodyweight” or something like that?

    Other question is, is there an article to the general pre workout warm up? Or for the rotator cuff?

  7. I’m a little confused by this because I like to do straight sets. For example, on the bench, 5 sets of 6 at 175lbs. I’m thinking of adding in a warmup of 135lbs before doing my main sets as I increase my weight, but your method here will reduce the overall volume I’m doing.

    What you’re recommending here is a full warm-up routine UP TO your intended weight (in my case 175lbs), however, I wish to use my intended weight for each set. Am I correct in thinking that I should do just 1 warm-up set and then continue with my straight set routine?

      • So that would be a total of 10 sets correct? 5 sets of warm-up and then 5 sets of my actual work out. Seems a bit much…

        • The heavier the weight you’re using in your work sets, the more warm up sets you’ll need to properly work up to it. The lighter the weight, the fewer warm up sets you’ll need.

          But, assuming you’ll need a few (let’s say 5 like in my example), and you’ll be doing 5 work sets, then yes… 10 sets total if you want to add them all together for whatever reason.

          On paper that might seem like a lot, but when one of them is just a quick light set with just the bar, and another is just 3 reps, and another is just 1 rep… it’s really not that much at all.

  8. are the the calves considered to be warmed up by squats and Deadlifts or do they need a warmup of their own?

    ive read the how to “warm up” article and it makes complete sense to do what you have said and because of YOU, I now got a whole new plan on how to warm up before i perform straight sets and so thank you so much for posting this. i do have a question though, is it necessary to do a dynamic warmup before doing warmup sets?

  10. I was always confused as to where warm ups came in all of the workout routines. This is basic but really good information man. Thanks. Maybe you should include this one in The Ultimate Guide? To save confused souls like my self.

    • Yeah, one of these days I need to go back through that guide and add some links to stuff (like this article) that was written some time after the guide was put together.

  11. Could you say anything about ‘the General Pre-Workout Warm Up’, as you call it? Various gym-trainers just say “do the treadmill or Elliptical trainer for 10-12 minutes”. Does it matter what machine you use and for how long?

    • A few minutes of light cardio is fine as part of your overall warm-up, and the exact type of cardio you do (treadmill, bike, jump rope… whatever) doesn’t really matter all that much. Pick your favorite.

  12. Thank you very much for this article, definitely I shall put it into practice.
    A question: Does these warm up sets manipulate in terms such as volume or total Reps ,…?

  13. Hi Jay, I was wondering if i needed to do a different type of warm up or use the one here if i were to try to do a 1RM (1 rep max) of an exercise such as a regular bench press.

    On the other side i’d also like to know your thoughts about doing 1RM once in a while, do you think its useful method to test your strength gains or is it unnecesary?


    PS: this post was extremelly useful, thanks a lot!

    • Yeah, there would definitely be some differences in how to warm up for normal sets vs a 1 rep max. It’s not something I do much, so I don’t really have specific recommendations. But, there should typically be progressively heavier sets of 1 leading up to the top attempt.

      As for the importance of testing your 1RM, it depends on goals. If it’s strength or competition or improving your !RM or something like that, it’s definitely important. If you’re just a typical person trying to build muscle/lose fat/look great naked, it’s not really needed at all.

  14. At the start of the article you mentioned the general Pre-workout warm up which includes light cardio and stretching etc. I was wondering what your recommendation course of action for this is. At the moment I just do 5 minutes of light cardio and some stretching. Would this suffice?

  15. Hey, another awesome article again man. Could you roll off a few dynamic exercise names you do for upper body an a few for lower body? Is the general warm up a subject you plan on covering in the next while or is it further down the list? Thanks a lot

  16. Great article.But I never do warm up sets. I prefer dynamic stretching. It also improves my joints mobility. What do you think?

  17. This website is brilliant. I can’t believe that I haven’t discovered this before .Thanks for putting all these together!

  18. I love this website. You make very clear and to the point guides.
    I’ve recently restarted my workouts after a lengthy break from having to move apartments and train for a new job, but I’m as determined as ever to regain what I’ve lost and add a lot more to it. This website was a great find amongst the tons and tons of unclear, contradicting pile of chaos out there. I’ll assume you know what you are talking about and am following your advice.

  19. Hey!
    1) In the push day I have the following: Bench Press, Dumbbell Flyes, Shoulder Press. How much warm up would you recommend for shoulders here?
    2) How about post workout stretching? I am a dead man walking the day after doing legs so would like to ease the pain if possible.

    Thank you!

    • 1. Depends on the person. With something like this I’d personally do 1 easy warm-up set of about 8 reps for shoulder presses. In this case it would be less about actually warming up (chest stuff already took care of that) and more about just getting in one practice set to drill the movement itself.

      2. Needs a full article. But if you feel like you need it and find it helps, go nuts.

  20. Amazing site man! Quick question regarding a warm-up routine for pull-ups. How exactly would these warm-ups be done? I’m assuming it’s not the normal 5 sets; 10-15, 8, 5, 3, 1?


    • If you’re doing weighted pull-ups with enough weight, it can work out that body weight pull-ups and weighted sets with less weight can serve as perfect warm-ups sets. But if the added weight is too little or more commonly you’re only doing body weight pull-ups, that’s when some type of assisted pull-up can become an ideal warm-up.

  21. Hi, just came across your website and read a few amazing articles, you the real king. Thanks a ton specially for this one as i was always confused on the warm ups. Anyways i was hoping if you could elaborate more on the weight percentage breakdown if a person who is doing just 3 sets.
    like i am a beginner and i would just bench press 80-100 lbs for my main sets, hence if i have to do 3 warm up sets then whats the percentage breakdown?
    I assume the first warm up set to be just the barbell but then for my second warm up set should i go 50% or directly 70%?

  22. Found a lot of sensible stuff here and looks like a solid plan. After been training for years in low gear and on HST program for last two year ( where I gained quite a bit on muscle and motivation ) I am gonna give this plan a try, it surely looks like a well structured method. Thanks a lot

  23. Hey,

    Looking at your routine I like and do something close to it. I would like to switch back to this program since my goals and focus have changed. I really like to dead lift. Could I substitute conventional dead lifts with RDL’s? I don’t want to screw up an already great program, but would love to dead lift.

  24. How does warming up apply to beginners since i don’t know what my max is. I’m literally going in there starting with a bar (bench press for example) and adding just 5 lbs(the smallest increment) because i’m working on form and finding my ‘correct’ weight. So would warming up be for a beginner be using the bar and lifting it 10-15 reps over 3-4 sets and doing some light walking. I’m starting your beginner’s program.

    • During those first few workouts, it’s not really anything you need to worry about since you’re basically (and purposely) using warm-up weight to learn the exercises.

      Once you start progressing a little and there is now some actual lighter weight that exists for you to warm-up with, that’s when you can start adding in some warm-up sets.

    • No universal answer to that. 3×5 with 185lbs might not need this many warm-up sets. 3×5 with 400lbs might need more. Something in the middle would need something in the middle.

      Basically, experiment and see what suits you best.

  25. For the upperbody lowerbody split, would it be ok if instead of taking a rest on wednesday we did an upperbody workout instead but a lower volume then the monday upperbody and then friday do the same higher volume as monday?

  26. I’ve been doing the beginner routine for a couple of months now (so far, so good btw) and I’ve started warming up as follows: 8 reps at around 50% weight, 5 reps at 75 – 80% and then, if I achieved full reps last time, one or two reps at that weight before adding another 5lbs. And after reading this again, I’ll add a set with just the bar first as well.

    Does this sound OK? I’m a beginner and so far only squats and deadlifts are into triple figures weight wise.

    • There really is no universal perfect warm-up protocol. This is more of a general outline that tends to suit a lot of people, so you’re welcome to experiment with it a little and figure out what feels most right for you.

  27. Thanks man, I seriously only trust your website for not bring misleading. I kinda hate going through your articles though, because they always show me how idiotic I’ve been in a lot of my workouts. Thanks again and keep it up.

    • Haha, sorry about that. If you makes you feel any better, that’s how I feel while writing them. It’s basically just me reminding myself of every stupid thing I used to do.

  28. Would you be kind enough to direct me to information about stretching including when, how and not when and not how? (skip the rest if your are in a rush) I stumbled onto your site while looking for workout solution. Reads awesomely! Plan to begin your Beginner Workout next week and am looking forward to seeing those newbie results. I’m 55 and I’ve lost 54 lbs in about 10 weeks without exercise – just diet – on local plan with advisers. Now I’m ready to get some muscle. Forgive me if I just haven’t looked hard enough, but I can’t find where you discuss stretching or flexibility. Now that I can tie my shoes without holding my breath, I want to become more flexible overall.

  29. Hi Jay

    In the introduction you said traditional pyramid is the worst way to warm up. Though your recommended warm up routine appears to be exactly ?

    What am I missing ?


  30. I guess I am misunderstanding something. You state that you don’t reccommend doing the traditional pyramid for your warmup. Where you start light then get heavier. But then in your chart you do exactly that…

    • I recommend something similar to a traditional pyramid as a method of structuring warm-ups sets. I do not however recommend a traditional pyramid as a method of structuring the actual work sets.

  31. Jay-
    I feel kinda dumb for how long I’ve not known about this- and I’ve been lifting a long time. My thinking has always been that doing all these warm up sets prior to the work sets wastes energy. So I’d just warm up benches with 135 x6 135 x 8 then go straight to my work sets of 205 x 8-10 reps two or three sets. I must say the 205 always felt so heavy but i did it with good form. But it was such a struggle to get stronger, though I weighed 150 so 205 was pretty good. I finally weigh more now, at 172.

    But last week on squat day I was really tired, so instead of jumping from 135 to 225 I figured Id do 185 X 8 reps and and maybe just stop there. The 185 felt heavy, but I thought well I’ll just add one more set of 205 5 times to get a little heavier work in. That felt real heavy too. Then instead of stopping there I figured Id just do a few reps with 225 to feel it. To my surprise – and even tho I started out tired – the 225 felt light as anything!! In fact it felt lighter than the days when I wasn’t tired at all. That experience led me to realize I need to try this for other exercises like benches too.

    So for benches if my work set is 205 8-10 reps, then it’s ok to warm up say for example 100 x 8, 135 x 5, 155 x3, 185 x 2, then a few
    work sets of 205 x 8?

    Do you think I will actually be able to lift more weight with the warm up routine you suggest? It goes counter to every dumb thought I’ve lived with for years!!

    • I think if you replace an insufficient warmup protocol with a sufficient one, you will definitely feel/be stronger during your work sets. My suggested protocol is in this article. Feel free to use that exactly as is or just use it as a starting point and experiment on each exercise until you find what suits you best.

  32. Hi Jay,

    Excellent post, as usual.

    A quick question about stretching:

    I’ve read that stretching of muscles before lifting could be detrimental to performance during the workout and might even increase injury risk. Might wall slides and other shoulder mobility exercises which involve (pseudo-static) stretching of shoulder and RC muscles therefore not be advisable before an upper body workout?

    On the other hand, I understand that these exercises might be beneficial insofar as they increase range of motion to allow the lifts to be performed properly.

    So, I’m confused as to whether these stretching exercises should be done, and if so, when, e.g., exclusively post-lifting or on rest days?

    Thanks for your advice.

    • This will need a full article to properly cover (it’s on my to-do list), but the short answer is that only excessive amounts of stretching pre-workout has been shown to have a negative impact on performance, and that only applied to typical static stretching… not the type of mobility work you mentioned (which, by the way, I would definitely recommend doing).

  33. Hi. I’ve read many of your articles stemming from “Ectomorph Workout and Diet” and found them much more resourceful than any others i’ve found on the internet. I haven’t started my diet or workout routine yet being a freshmen college student with little time and more concerning, little access to food and sleep. I plan to move home for the summer during which time I will strive to follow the beginner workout routine, eat appropriately and sleep an average of 8 hours each night. What concerns me is being unable to continue these procedures (which will hopefully have become habits by the end of the summer) when I return to my on campus apartment. Do you have any advice regarding sticking to a routine in college or have you been in a similar situation which you were able to solve? I am currently 18 years old weighing 110 lbs and want nothing more than to gain weight and muscle mass as consistently as possible. P.S. my campus has a gym and my apartment (upgrade from standard freshmen dorm) should have a stove, fridge, microwave, etc.

    In addition, since I was unable to post a question in your “beginner workout routine” article. I was curious as to whether or not I should increase the reps/sets of pull-ups once I am able to easily complete the 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

    Thank you 🙂

    • 1. As someone who did not go to college, I don’t really have any personal experience there, so I’m probably not the best person to ask.

      2. When you can do 3×8-10 with your own body weight, get a pull-up belt and add additional weight.

  34. Hi,
    One little detail, and I hope it’s not a stupid question, you are saying that on the last warm-up set you should do just one rep with… 90% of the weight you are supposed to do work sets with…. so this means it doesn’t matter whether your working sets have a 5-8 rep range, or 1-3 rep range or even 10-15 rep range?
    I’m guessing that if you do sets of 12 reps that the last warm-up set should be around 6 reps or so?
    So what I’m trying to say is, is working rep range affecting warm-up rep range? I might like to do sets of 12 on the bench press for example….I don’t see how just one rep with (say I’m doing 3 x 12 with 60 kilos), 55 kilos is gonna prepare me for the working sets…THANX

  35. Thanks for this helpful post Jay.

    Out of curiosity, why do you recommend against ‘Arm Only’ days? What if one has lagging biceps/triceps despite all the pressing and rowing on upper body days?

    • It’s just unnecessary for most people and is typically a sign that their overall programming is crap.

      Someone who wants to improve their arms would do best with an intelligent arm specialization program.

  36. Hey Jay,

    I’m late to the warm-up party, but finding this article has really helped my progression in the upper/lower split as described above. I have one (probably dumb) question though; when you say use half the routine, which half do you mean…? :-/

  37. I was wondering, wouldn’t warm up sets give your workouts high volume, opposing the low volume requirement for beginners?

    • Nope. At least, not the way I recommend them.

      Warm-ups sets serve a very important purpose and are not counted towards the total “working” volume in the workout. The way I prescribe them, the reps get progressively lower as the weight gets heavier, thus allowing the benefits of warm-up sets to be in place with minimal volume-induced fatigued generated.

      The way other people incorrectly approach warming up? Where they do a bunch of sets of 8-15 reps and fatigue the crap out of themselves before ever doing their first real working set? That’s the detrimental way.

  38. Jay,
    Thanks for all your work on this site, and for sharing so readily.
    I was wondering, how do you warm up using the above guide when using ‘alternating sets’?

    Thanks so much, RJ

  39. Hello Jay,

    First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to explain this very complex topic. I’ve been lifting weights for 21 years and after reading the content on your website, I think I am finally beginning to understand weightlifting.
    With regards to warm-up reps: do the reps in the warm-up sets contribute to the total reps for the bodypart? An example: I’m training chest, and I consider myself to be an intermediate trainee with the primary goal of building muscle, so I’m going to stick to the high end of the volume range (60 reps total for the chest for this session, as I’ll be training chest again on Friday). If I use the ‘pretty chart’ above and do 5 warmup sets for the first exercise of the session (set 1: 10 reps, set 2: 8, set 3: 5, set 4: 3, set 5: 1), I’ve done 27 reps. Does that 27 reps count toward the total rep range of 60, or does the 60 represent total reps in terms of work weight?

    Thank you for your time.

  40. I used full body workout plan, how I warming up? Should I warm up in every single exercise? Because FBW only use 1 compound exercise for 1 big muscle

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