Should I Be Warming Up Before a Weight Lifting Workout?


question-icon-newMy friend told me that he doesn’t do any type of warm-up exercises before weight training and he only stretches his muscles. He said that he gets tired after warming up and does not have enough energy to lift weights with a high level of intensity. But for me, I do both stretching and also a warm-up for about 20 minutes before weight training and I still have enough energy to complete my workout. Am I able to warm-up like I do without getting tired because I have more muscle mass than my friend? I’m a little concerned now that maybe I should stop warming up since it might give me even more energy to lift heavier weights. Can you let me know if this is a good way to go about it? Also, if you do recommend warming up before weight training, can you provide the proper amount of time and which exercises to use to get warm but avoid losing too much energy for my weight training workout?

answer-icon-newIt’s always important to warm-up for at least 10 minutes before starting any intense workout or exercise program. Your main goal with warming up is to safely prepare your body for the increased demands of exercise and reduce the risk of injury. It’s important to get your circulatory and respiratory system ready for your workout by slowly increasing your heart rate and getting oxygenated blood fully circulated to the entire body. One of the ways you can tell if you are warmed up is by checking to see if you’re breaking a light sweat during your warm-up exercise, which usually occurs around the 10 minute mark depending on which exercise you choose to warm-up with (jumping rope, riding the stationary bike, walking on the treadmill).

It’s very important that you fully warm-up to get the blood flowing and your muscles warm before stretching or doing any resistance training like lifting weights. You want to avoid stretching cold muscles. Muscle fibers that have not warmed up do not stretch as easily and doing this could result in injury. The reason why it’s difficult to stretch a cold muscle is because of a lack of oxygen in the muscle. By warming up for 10 minutes, you will increase your heart rate which delivers enough blood and oxygen to your muscles to get them warmed up and ready.

Importance of Warming Up

  • Increases blood flow to your muscles (a warm muscle is more flexible).
  • Raises total body temperature and muscle temperature.
  • Increases oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
  • Prepares your heart for an increase in activity and exercise.
  • Prepares your muscles for stretching and resistance exercise.

Along with a general warm-up before starting your weight training workout, you also need to warm-up the specific muscle group you will be training. So, make sure to do about 10 minutes of light cardio before your workout in order to break a light sweat and then when you begin your actual weight training workout, do a few warm-up sets of 15-20 reps with a light weight to get the muscle group warmed up and ready before moving onto heavier weight.

For your friend who seems to lose energy when he warms up before working out, it might be the specific type of warm-up exercise he is doing. If he is performing intense exercise like running for 20 minutes before lifting weights then this can cause issues with keeping his energy levels high during a weight lifting session. The reason why you want to avoid doing too much high intensity cardio is because it depletes your glycogen stores (carbohydrates) and this is what provides the main energy source for pushing you through a hardcore weight lifting workout. You do not want to waste your fuel and energy reserves on the warm-up before your workout! So, do some very light cardio like walking on the treadmill or riding the stationary bike for 10 minutes before starting your weight training workout. If you want to do additional cardio, always perform it after your weight workout to ensure you will be tapping into and burning your fat stores primarily after you have burned off all the carbs (glycogen) when lifting weights.

For your concerns about strength levels, every person’s body is different which will cause some to be much stronger than others. Some people have stronger tendons and ligaments and can simply lift much heavier weights than people of the same height and weight. It really comes down to genetics and this is the foundation of body types, metabolism differences and levels of overall strength. Try your best to work with your natural genetics and optimize your results with proper nutrition, resistance exercise and adequate rest.

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  1. I’m skinny so what can I do for a warm-up since I cant do cardio because I’m trying to gain weight and add some size. How many sets should I do, 3 sets or 4 sets? My goal is to add some size and mass.

    • Abdi – You can still do 5-10 minutes on a stationary bike before your workouts and this will not interfere with building muscle. You want to warm-up a little to get your muscles ready for a hard workout. Total sets depends on which muscle group you’re training. Keep your overall weight training workouts to under 1 hour. If you have any more questions, please use our fitness forum and post them there.

      • okay i will start doing that . does that 1 hour only when i’m lifting or do i add the 10 minute of warm too.. how many sets and reps should i do for upper body and lower body . using split routine. thanks

  2. Anwar Qureshi on

    Some people have stronger tendons and ligaments and can simply lift much heavier weights than people of the same height and weight. This is a very important sentence in your article which especially caught my attention. I go to the gym in the evening. After following your ShapeFit guidance and instruction, I now feel much better and never had any injury. My problem is that with my left hand, the tendon on the lower side and my elbow joints feel tired and tense after exercise. Any help and guidance to prevent these and make them stronger would be great.

    • Hi Anwar – It sounds like you may have an injury so getting it checked out by your doctor is probably the best option for you just to be on the safe side.

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