The warm-up.


Lets be honest: most of you reading either skip it altogether or discreetly brush it to the side as something you know you should be doing, but, you know, don’t.


I’m not here to judge. I do it too.


I don’t feel I need to sit here like an overbearing parent and type out all the reasons why you should be doing a thorough warm-up prior to training. But I will anyways.


A warm-up:

  • Improves alignment and posture.
  • Allows for additional and opportune times to address and tackle “problematic areas” such as the thoracic spine (lack of rotation and/or extension), hips (it takes a crowbar to squat past 90 degrees), glutes (you don’t have any), and ankles (the cement blocks we wear for shoes – not to mention high-heels – place us in a constant state of plantar-flexion, thus compromising our ability to dorsiflex).
  • Helps to increase core temperature and promotes blood flow…which helps improve flexibility/extensibility of muscles.
  • Get the nervous system primed and ready to go.
  • Gets you jacked. Just kidding.1


All that said – and despite many, many, MANY – smart people telling us how important it is…people still tend to skimp on their warm-up.


NOTE: HERE is an article I wrote a few years ago on “The Perfect Warm-Up?” As well as THIS one I wrote for STACK.

This video was part of the article linked to above. I only post it NOW for Eric Cressey’s EPIC video-bomb. Wait for it…..



Long story short: including a warm-up prior to training is a smart use of training time, will help to offset many of the poor sitting (and standing) positions we tend to be stuck in on a daily basis, and it only takes maybe 10 minutes.


DO IT! – The Over-Warm-Up
So now that we’ve established that you’re not going to warm-up, lets discuss the concept of the over warm-up, a term popularized by strength coach and powerlifter Paul Carter.


You’re TOTALLY going to be down for this…so keep reading!


For any uppity strength and conditioning snobs reading this can also, technically, be referred to as Post-Activation Potentiation.


Rather than attempt to define what Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) is, I’ll defer to Bret Contreras:


“PAP is a phenomena by which muscular performance characteristics are acutely enhanced as a result of their contractile history. The underlying principle surrounding PAP is that heavy loading prior to explosive activity induces a high degree of CNS stimulation which results in greater motor unit recruitment lasting anywhere from five to thirty minutes.”


Traditionally, PAP is performed by utilizing a close to max-effort lift (think: bench press, squat, deadlift, arm wrestling a Terminator) followed suit with an explosive activity with the same “pattern” (think: medicine ball throw, vertical jump, 10-40 yd sprint, high-tailing it to local florist when you forget it’s your anniversary).


To take advantage of the phenomena most strength coaches agree that PAP is best utilized using the “lift something heavy then perform a similar explosive movement after” approach.


NOTE: I’d encourage you to read Bret Contreras’s full article HERE on PAP if you really want to dive into the nitty-gritty stuff.


However, for strength purposes I’ve found using a similar approach useful. Essentially you’ll take your “main” movement of the day – squat, bench press, deadlift – and extend your warm-up/build-up sets so that you work above your intended, scheduled work load.


So, for example, lets say you’re performing squats today and your program calls for 4×4 @ 75% of your 1RM. For the sake of argument lets say your 1RM is 350 lbs.


1) 75% of 350 = 262 lbs (rounded up to 265).

2) A traditional warm-up may look like this:

1×8 @ 40% (140 lb)

1×6 @ 50% (175 lb)

1×5 @ 60% (210 lb)

1×2 @ 70% (245 lb)

4×4@ 75% (265 lb)




3) The OVER warm-up will look like this:

1×8 @ 40% (140 lb)

1×6 @ 50% (175 lb)

1×5 @ 60% (210 lb)

1×2 @ 70% (245 lb)

1-3×1 @ 80-85% (280-300 lb)

4×4@ 75% (265 lb)


So in this case the objective is to hit a weight above or past the intended work sets to “potentiate” the nervous system, and thus (hopefully) making them feel easier/lighter.


The idea is to ENSURE your “over warm-up weight” is one you KNOW you can crush. Meaning, it’s not close to a 1RM and bar speed should still be, well, speedy.


Something else to consider is that this should only be utilized when you’re using sub-maximal weight with your work sets (60-80% of 1RM). DO NOT attempt this when you know you’re working at percentages higher than that.


I mean, you could…it just (probably) won’t end well.


Also, this isn’t something you’re going to want to perform long-term. Maybe use it for a block (3-6 weeks) and then revert to something else.


Give it a try and let me know what you think.


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