When working out, you want to get the most out of your strength training as possible. But what is the best method to do that? Many argue that a warm-up for strength should include static stretching, but that may not always be best, as was discussed in, Static Stretching Before a Workout: The Debate Continues. Other suggestions include a general warm-up or a lift-specific warm-up.1
A general warm-up normally has the purpose of warming up the entire body. Individuals can accomplish this through light intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as on a spin bike or elliptical, or through a routine of general dynamic exercise movements. Some dynamic exercises might include A) walking knee hugs, B) walking straight leg raises or C) lateral shuffles. A lift-specific warm-up might include light weight repetitions of the exercise being performed or other similar light intensity exercises that utilize the muscles being focused on during the workout.
But is this really the best method?
In a recent article published in the National Strength & Conditioning Research Journal the effect of a general warm-up on strength testing was explored.2 The main question revolved around the purpose of a general warm-up and research that has shown that muscle temperature does not increase within the first few minutes of exercise. As a result, the study had individuals prepare for a maximal bench press lift by doing 20 minutes on a spin bike and a lift-specific warm-up. This was compared to another group who only did a lift-specific warm-up. The lift-specific warm-up for both groups consisted of bench press at lighter intensities.
In this study they found that maximal effort bench press results were significantly higher in the group that did both the general warm-up and lift-specific warm-up than in the group who only did the lift-specific warm-up. As a result, this study supports the idea that individuals should do a lift-specific warm-up after first warming up the entire body through a general warm-up.
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1Baechle, T.R., Earle, W. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics, 2008.
2Abad, C.C.C., Prado, M.L., Ugrinowitsch, C., Tricoli, V., Barroso, R. (2011). Combination of General and Specific Warm-ups Improves Leg-Press One Repetition Maximum Compared with Specific Warm-up in Trained Individuals. J of Strength Cond Res; 25(8), 2242-2243.