Many gym-goers choose to forego any warm up before they lift. The belief here is that the focus of lifting is on the contraction of the muscle, so there is no need to warm-up or stretch the muscles being worked ahead of time because they’ll just be contracted anyway. If your logical mind doesn’t see through this fallacy, your body should surely be telling you something isn’t right.
A lift is not only about the contraction of the muscle.
When performing a lift, the muscle(s) being worked are worked over a range of motion that typically begins with the muscle in a neutral position, is then activated and contracted to perform the full range of motion of the lift. However, in many lifts to maximize on each rep, you want the activated muscle(s) to be stretched before engagement. This stretch forces the muscle to perform at every angle of a longer rep. Not all lifts require this stretch, and some a longer rep is not helpful, for instance unpacking the shoulder while performing a dumbbell row, but the point being that lifting isn’t always about the contraction. The stretch of the muscle plays a role as well.
There are dangerous levels of muscle tightness and contraction.
War,ming up your muscles and being sure to stretch the muscles you intend to target is important for bringing those muscles into safe levels of contraction. If your muscles are already tight, contracting the muscle further could cause injury. Stretching and warming up the muscles before performing a lift, loosen the muscled and make contraction of the muscle safer.
Preparation is not as fun as the lift but ensures you can keep lifting.
We often neglect the preparation of our bodies before a lift because it isn’t fun. Most of us won’t brag about flexibility or our pre-workout prep. It’s not glamorous and it’s not as directly tied to our egos as the big numbers. 315. 405. etc. You have to think though, the work before our workout ensure we get to keep working out. It ensures we can spend the kind of time in the gym we need to get to those big numbers.
So what should I do to warm up?
This depends on the muscles you intend to target. Before anything though, get your body warm. I jump rope for at least 5 minutes before every workout. It gets the heart rate up. It warms the body. It gets the blood flowing. It doesn’t cut into any gains. Getting a little sweat on before your lifts isn’t a bad thing. Even walking for 5-10 minutes is better than nothing.
Once you’re body is warm, do some simply body weight exercises to activate the muscles you’re working that day. If it’s chest a few sets of push-ups should do. If it’s legs, maybe some walking lunges. This will start to pump some blood into the muscles you want to work.
Okay, so we’re warm and have the blood flowing. Stretch those muscles. If you’re going to squat, hip openers. If you’re benching, open those shoulders. There are resources all across the internet to find proper stretching techniques for every muscle group you want to target.