How does one properly begin a warm up before benching 300 or more pounds? Not by doing a few sets of 10 with 135 pounds – but by doing what is known as “ramping up.” Ramp-ups are specifically designed to keep your body healthy, maintain muscle strength and enhance neural output. Ramping up involves doing a specific number of sets of an exercise, with each set decreasing in reps but increasing in weight load, before hitting your work sets.
Before the average person does any heavy lifting, they tend to jump on the elliptical for 10-15 minutes, then do several light sets of their strength exercise before piling on all of those heavy plates. In their mind that qualifies as a “warm up.” But in order to “warm up” in an intelligent and effective way, one will have to get very comfortable with the art of ramping up. The way you choose to ramp-up an exercise can ultimately be the difference between packing on muscle or completely fizzling out.
Why You Should Ramp Up Verses Warm Up For Weight Training
Now ramp-up sets aren’t programmed solely for performance purposes either. As you move specific tissues and joints in your body, they will become lubricated in synovial fluid. If you don’t already know, the primary function of synovial fluid is to reduce friction in the joint space, which results in movements being much smoother and more efficient. The more you move, the more synovial fluid will bathe the joints and articular cartilage, which is good. The more efficiently your joints are lubricated, the less chances there are of cartilage injuries.
Ramp Up to Avoid Injury
This is a very important aspect of ramping-up that should not be ignored. It can save you from a debilitating injury later on down the road. The more active a specific muscle or soft tissue, the more you will siphon blood to these tissues to maintain metabolic balance. This tends to be the main reason why programming specific movement-based warm-ups works well when mixed with a more generalized warm-up for physical preparation.
The more compound the specific movement, the more ramp-up sets you’ll need to prep that movement and the muscles involved. Again, stay at the top end of the ramp-up range, which means about 5-8 sets.
Ramp Up For Better Cardio
The idea that runners aren’t lifters and lifters aren’t runners is a myth that’s been dished out for years. In fact, ramping up is one of the best ways to increase your cardio power. The simple move of performing a dead lift teaches a lifter to activate their hamstrings. This movement is mimicked while running. You must PULL through your hamstrings to run faster, harder, and longer.
“Pull through the hamstrings.” That cue can apply to both movements: running or deadlifting. And that is why runners should be powerful deadlifters, and deadlifters should be powerful runners (source).”
As for more isolated movements (meaning single joint work), keep the ramp-up sets to a minimum in order to avoid pre-fatiguing your muscles. Doing 1-3 ramp-up sets should work just fine.
As prescribed reps exceed the 12-15 ranges, you need fewer ramp-up sets to prime the movement for working sets. Go for 2-5 ramp-up sets and be sure to adjust and make changes accordingly. When focusing on strategic metabolic damage of a muscle tissue, go ahead and go all in on the ramp-ups. It’s all about the accumulation of density and volume.
Here’s a quick example of a Ramp Up!
Sample Ramp-Up Set
- 50% x5
- 60% x3
- 65% x2
- 70% x1