It Sounds Crazy, But It’s Not -Here’s Why (And How to Do It Properly)

So it’s Monday, International Chest Day, and you’re at the gym stretched out and ready to bench. After a few higher rep, low weight warm up sets you feel ready to attack your regular working sets. This way of warming up is the go-to for most gym goers and fitness enthusiasts, but you will actually be shortchanging yourself in intensity and available muscle fibers, and ultimately in muscle growth. The solution? Warm up with your max (well, between 90-95% of it). Sound crazy? Well it’s not, and here’s the how and why:

Let’s say your max bench is 295lbs. For working sets of 240lbs, your warm up sets would normally be a few sets of ten of 135, 185, etc. until you’re ready to go. There is nothing wrong with this way of warming up, but it is not the most efficient. Instead, pyramid up so your last warm up set is actually a single rep of between 90-95% of your one rep max. It would look something like this:

Warm Up

Set 1: 135lb 10-12 reps, rest 2 minutes

Set 2: 225lb 5-6 reps, rest 2 minutes

Set 3: 270lb 1 rep, rest 2 minutes

Working Sets: 240lb 8-10 for 4 sets

Warming up this way creates a neuromuscular phenomenon called “Post-Activation Potentiation”, a mechanism in which strength and power output is immediately enhanced after heavy resistance exercise. Basically, by lifting a heavy load first, you’re recruiting more muscle fibers that will be available for use during your normal working sets afterward. A good example of this is a baseball player swinging a weighted bat before he is ready to hit. After lifting the heavier weight, the working sets will feel lighter, hopefully allowing you to bust out those extra few reps - which are so important to the overall stimulation and growth of the muscle.

So, if you’re game to try a different approach on Chest Day, give this method a try.

- Jordan P.