Adding more warmup sets as work set gets heavier? Adding more warmup sets as work set gets heavier?

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Thread: Adding more warmup sets as work set gets heavier?

  1. #1
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    Default Adding more warmup sets as work set gets heavier?

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    Hi everyone,

    As we all know, the SS NLP template calls for 4 warmup sets. However, as we finish up the NLP and start moving through the Intermediate phase, our work sets will have gotten quite a bit heavier. Does it make sense to start adding more warmup sets at some point, to help "space out" the weight increases more reasonably? For example, if you're squatting 350 lbs for your work set, the "default" 4-warmup set might look something like:

    45
    135
    215
    285
    350 (work)

    However, if we decided to add a 5th warmup set, the set might look more like:

    45
    110
    175
    235
    295
    350 (work)

    Obviously the weight jumps are smaller in the 5-warmup set than in the 4-warmup set, which could give your body more time to warm up properly for the heavy work set (although the extra warmup set requires a bit of extra time/effort, too). What are your thoughts on this? At which point does it make sense (if at all??) to start adding warmup sets to your workouts?

    Thanks!

    -skypig

  2. #2
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    Where does it say that the “template” says four warm-up sets?

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    Quote Originally Posted by skypig View Post

    Obviously the weight jumps are smaller in the 5-warmup set than in the 4-warmup set, which could give your body more time to warm up properly for the heavy work set (although the extra warmup set requires a bit of extra time/effort, too). What are your thoughts on this? At which point does it make sense (if at all??) to start adding warmup sets to your workouts?
    Re-read the Warm-Up section of SSBBT, pp 297-300. It's pretty clear there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by skypig View Post
    . . . as we finish up the NLP and start moving through the Intermediate phase, our work sets will have gotten quite a bit heavier. Does it make sense to start adding more warmup sets at some point, to help "space out" the weight increases more reasonably?
    The short answer is yes.

    Mr. Anders has pointed out the relevant pages in Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training (SSBBT).

    The principle is that the "last warm-up set should never be so heavy that it interferes with the work sets, but it must be heavy enough to feel some actual weight before you do the work sets" (SSBBT, p. 299).

    Note that, after the empty bar warm-ups, there might be "as many as five sets between those and the work sets" (SSBBT, p. 298). Other than for early-stage novices, "warm-up reps can be tapered down to two or even to a single rep for the last warm-up set, saving gas for the work sets" (Practical Programming, p. 74).

    Looking at your 350 squat workout, I would personally prefer your option of 5th warm-up set. Your weight choices look pretty good. For reps, as long as you don't do so much as to interfere with the work sets, you can do what feels like a good warm-up. Sticking with your weights, reps could look like this:

    45x5x2
    110x5
    175x5
    235x2
    295x1
    350x5x3

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Anders View Post
    Re-read the Warm-Up section of SSBBT, pp 297-300. It's pretty clear there.
    Thanks - I'm already familiar with that part of the book. I guess I should've worded my request better. The examples in SSBBT show 4 warmup weights (including the empty bar, 45 lbs) for all the lifts. These are shown in Table 8-1 on pg. 299. However, Rip comments on pg. 300 that "people will need to select three to five warm-up sets, depending on the work-set weight; extremely heavy weights may require more increments for the trainee to get warm so that the jumps are not too big." Niki Sims also mentioned something similar in one of her SS articles (Our warm-up is...a warm-up | Niki Sims): "The more advanced you are and the heavier the weight gets, the more sets (with more taper) you’ll take to get up to your work set. But in few cases are more than 5 sets after the empty bar necessary or productive."

    Mark's and Niki's comments, taken together, suggest that up to 6 warmup weights (including the empty bar, 45 lbs) could be reasonably used, depending on the strength/advancement of the lifter. 6 warmup weights is obviously greater than the 4 warmup weights that are shown in the example tables on SSBBT pg. 299. My question is therefore: at which work set weight and/or level of training does it become reasonable to start adding additional warmup sets/weights? Or perhaps this is something that is so individualized/circumstance-dependent that it needs to be determined by each lifter depending on his/her needs?

    Thanks!

    -skypig

  6. #6
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    When my first work set is harder than the second set, I know I need to add or change my warm-up. I think in your example, my last warm-up for 350 would be closer to 315. If the jump from 225 to 315 is daunting, add a set. Experimentation is the only way you'll know- everyone is different.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by skypig View Post
    Thanks - I'm already familiar with that part of the book. I guess I should've worded my request better. The examples in SSBBT show 4 warmup weights (including the empty bar, 45 lbs) for all the lifts. These are shown in Table 8-1 on pg. 299. However, Rip comments on pg. 300 that "people will need to select three to five warm-up sets, depending on the work-set weight; extremely heavy weights may require more increments for the trainee to get warm so that the jumps are not too big." Niki Sims also mentioned something similar in one of her SS articles (Our warm-up is...a warm-up | Niki Sims): "The more advanced you are and the heavier the weight gets, the more sets (with more taper) you’ll take to get up to your work set. But in few cases are more than 5 sets after the empty bar necessary or productive."

    Mark's and Niki's comments, taken together, suggest that up to 6 warmup weights (including the empty bar, 45 lbs) could be reasonably used, depending on the strength/advancement of the lifter. 6 warmup weights is obviously greater than the 4 warmup weights that are shown in the example tables on SSBBT pg. 299. My question is therefore: at which work set weight and/or level of training does it become reasonable to start adding additional warmup sets/weights? Or perhaps this is something that is so individualized/circumstance-dependent that it needs to be determined by each lifter depending on his/her needs?

    Thanks!

    -skypig
    Skypig -

    Good to see. You highlighted the two things that stuck out to me as I re-read that section (thanks for the question, BTW). I took the 4-line examples as a formatting issue, having more to do with conserving column inches than creating a hard and fast training program rule. The part that you bolded from Rip on pg 300 points to the answer to both your initial and your follow-up question.

    It depends.

    J.Killmond pulled out PPST, which helps support that. In the paragraph prior that one, Rip & Andy state “Do the complete range of motion for that exercise with an empty bar, for as many as necessary…(this may be as many as five sets for an injured athlete, or a creaky old masters guy [that’s me]). Then increase the weight in even increments for 3 to 5 sets until you are ready to handle the work set weight.”

    So that could be 4-6 total sets (including empty bar) for a healthy lifter, more for that injured or old creaky guy.

    Since I’m that old creaky guy, I look to Sully and Baker’s Barbell Prescription, which, by working backwards, ties all of this together on pp 174-6. To summarize, the last warmup set should be ~90% of the work set. Then 80% of that warmup, then 80% of that warmup, etc., down to your empty bar. But that creates too many small steps, so you’ll need to adjust on the lighter sets. They then state that the first warmup set with weight added is for 5 reps, the next warmup set is 3 reps (perhaps one more set here if needed), then singles up to your last warmup weight (90% of your work set weight). They provide an example that they call the “Correct Approach” on pg 175 that has 45x5x2 to start the warmup, then 5 additional warmup sets to get to a 305x5x3 work set. The key is to add singles so that the gap isn't too big between your last warmup set and your work set.

    So let’s use that to create a different look at your personal example, reading the parenthetical parts from the bottom up:

    45x5
    135x5 (not 80% of 200, that would be 160, but you don’t need that)
    200x3 (80% of 250)
    250x1 (80% of 315)
    315x1 (90% of 350)
    350x5x3

    Since your example has 45 – 135 – 215 – 285 why add warmup sets on the lower end (unless you need them to get the blood flowing)? The singles closer to your work set weight might be more beneficial, prepping your system for the stress of that set without taxing you.

    Tying back to the answer of “it depends” – as an old creaky guy training in my unheated garage (typically 38F [+03C] right now) without a rower or other warmup device, my squats warmups start like this:

    45x10x2
    95x5x2 (because while empty bars are great for getting the blood flowing, adding the weight really makes me focus on the technique while getting the blood to flow even more, which I find more beneficial in the cold garage than doing a 160x3 that the above calculations would provide)
    135x5
    200x3
    250x1
    280x5x3

    If I were doing the same workset during the warm months when the garage is 80F (27C), my warmup might look more like this:

    45x5
    135x5
    160x3
    200x1
    250x1
    280x5x3

    So, it does depend.

    Hope that helps.

  8. #8
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    Skypig -

    Just in case you haven't run across Grant's video on warmups and percentages, it's here.

    If you stick to straight percentages, each of warmup sets will climb as your work set climbs. No need to put too much thought into it.

  9. #9
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    starting strength coach development program
    Thanks Bill, Killmond, and JJ23 for the helpful and detailed answers! I will save this forum discussion as a useful reference for my future warmup planning .

    -skypig

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