How To Improve Your Workout Performance (Part 2)
In the first installment of how to improve your workout performance, I covered and made the distinction between working out versus training.
In the second installment of this series, I want to discuss warming up: both the general and exercise specific warm up.
Just like you wouldn’t start up your car on a subzero morning and slam on the gas, you don’t want to go into your work out without your body primed. While you don’t need to make your warm-up extravagant or time consuming, you do need to do something to prime your body for the work ahead.
Taking 10 minutes before your workout to activate and mobilize (and this is preferred to static stretching) the muscles being trained goes a long way to ensuring better performance and reduced risk of injury.
There are literally thousands of mobility and activation drills you can do to prep your body. I like to keep it extremely simple and efficient.
Here are my go to drills:
The Yoga Plex
The Lazy Ass Upper Body Warm-Up
This takes about five minutes to complete and basically addresses everything.
Exercise Specific Warm-Ups
This is where most people butcher things. They either do no warm-ups at all, or they do way too many and accumulate a lot of junk volume, which takes away from their performance on the result-producing work sets.
Let’s say you intend to use 200 pounds on the leg press on your work sets for 10 repetitions. This is how you would want to warm up:
Set 1: 100 pounds for eight repetitions
Set 2: 150 pounds for five repetitions
Set 3: 180 pounds for three repetitions
Set 4 (optional): 1 rep at 200 lbs.
Now, your body is primed for the true working set: this is how to improve your workout performance and set the stage to get progressively stronger. You have primed the muscles, got familiar with the movement pattern, but have not overly fatigued the muscles so you can provide the best stimulus possible on your work set(s).
After the final warm-up set, rest 1-2 minutes, then load up 200 pounds and do as many reps as possible, shooting for 10 or more.
If you were doing additional sets, you could decrease the weight by 10 to 20% and shoot for the same number of reps after a specific rest period.
This is in stark contrast to how most people warm up for their exercises. You see this in the gym all the time. Guys will, for example, bench press, put 135 pounds on the bar and do 12 reps. Then they’ll increase the weight to 185 pounds and do eight reps. Then 205 pounds for five reps. They will then put 225 on the bar and get three reps.
Had they just warmed up how I outlined above, they probably could’ve gotten 5-8 reps with 225 pounds versus three.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some people will just go in and put on their top weight immediately and go at it. This is stupid and a recipe for injury. Not to mention the fact you are going to perform very poorly.
Generally speaking, 3-5 low rep, progressive warm-up sets, starting at about 50% of your target work set weight, will get the job done. I should note, this type of warm-up probably only needs to be done on the first exercise in your workouts or for a specific body part or area of the body.
For example, let's say you were training your chest only in a workout. If you are starting with, say, a barbell bench press, you would want to implement the sensible progressive warm-up outlined above for this exercise. Then you’d go into your work sets.
Once you have completed your work sets on the bench press, you might move on to an incline dumbbell press. Now that your chest, shoulders, and triceps are warm from the prior exercise, you probably do not need to do many or any warm-ups for this exercise. You can go right into your work sets. If your third exercise for your chest is, for example, a cable fly, the same would apply-you probably don't need any warm-up sets at this point.
So that wraps up installment two of this series on how to improve your workout performance. Next week, in the final installment, I am going to discuss recovery between workouts and how that plays such a critical role in your workout performance.
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