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Warming up for strength training [EN]

  • 07 juin 2018 dans Articles d'expert

This article is written to give you a better understanding about the importance of a decent warmup for strength training. This will boost your performance!


In gyms most of the warmup routines look like this: talking, checking instagram, making sure that your selfie filter is ready, pumping out 10 fast reps with the bar… Ready, set, go...! This is not what a good warmup should look like. A warmup can make a huge difference in how your training is going to be. Riding a bicycle for 5 minutes and than start squatting with your workset weight is not a good idea. Not only will it decrease your performance, the risk of injury is also a lot higher. Oh and by the way, you didn’t warmup your legs because you cycled for a few minutes. The muscles may be "warm" because you generated some bloodflow into the muscle, but there are more important things that need to be done before you start your workset.

Everybody has had the feeling that your first set is not feeling good and you already have to grind to get the weight up. The second set feels a bit better and the third set is feeling a lot better. How is this possible...? It was your warmup routine that wasn’t good, you didn’t warmup your nervous system properly. In this article we wil look at how we can improve your warmup to get the most out of your training and feeling awesome from your first set!

Let’s see what a good warmup should look like!

A warmup consists of different parts. The name we use for covering them all is the “movement prep”. We are prepping our body to move well. What are the most important parts of the movement prep?

1. Mobility
2. Motor control
3. Nervous system activation (NSA)



Before we do anything else, mobility is our biggest concern. We need mobility to get in a safe full range of motion in our movements. Without decent mobility we put our body into much risk for injury.

Be aware, mobility is not the same as flexibility. In flexibility we only look at active structures of the body (muscle, tendon, fascia). In mobility we look at the active AND passive structures (muscle, tendon, fascia, joints, ligaments, joint capsule). This is important because in some joints we will increase more range of movement not by stretching but by mobilising the joint itself.

My favorite mobility methods:



- Mobilisation with movement:
Creating more movement in a joint by using movement and traction of the joint.



- FAT tool:
Fascia abrasion therapy is a technique were you assist in mobilizing tight fascia and help improve motor function. By rubbing the tool up and down the skin we make sure that all the layers of the skin don’t have restrictions.

- Foamrol:
We can use the foamrol to release triggerpoints and as a massage tool. Rolling improves circulation, which gets the body ready for a workout and helps it recover afterwards. We use it because it’s easy to use by clients and you can give some exercises as homework to get faster results.


- PNF stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation):
A form of flexibility training that involves both the stretching and contraction of the muscle group being targeted. This stretching method is really efficient and gives you fast results to improve your training quality.

To know what method is the best for you, you need a movement screening to see wich area is tight and if their is a mobility problem in the fascia, muscle or joint. If you don’t know any professional you can just mobilise the most important muscles you’re going to train in that session.

“ Be aware, mobility is not the same as flexibility. “


Motor control

Definition: “Motor control is the process by which we use our brain/cognition to activate and coordinate the muscles and limbs involved in the performance of a motor skill. Fundamentally, it is the integration of sensory information, both about the world and the current state of the body, to determine the appropriate set of muscle forces and joint activations to generate some desired movement or action.”

Motor control means we need to get the right muscles activated at the right time. Sometimes we call this phase stability, but it is more than just being stable. It is also muscle timing, as this is on spinal level we don’t have much of an influence on this. The only thing we can do is pick exercises where a good timing needs to occur.

Be picking such exercises we will retrain the signalling and timing of the right muscles in our body. This will result in better and safer movement and will let us generate more force.

Some of my favorite exercises are:
- Single leg romanian deadlift
- Core activation squat
- KB shoulder stability
- Superman


Nervous System Activation (NSA)

As we finally move to the weights, it’s time to warmup our nervous system. Our nervous system is our software and we need to activate it.

This is not the same approach as warming up the muscles. For our nervous system activation the goal is to let the body experience the amount of muscle fibers it needs to contract for our working set. By activating these muscle fibers, the body will be ready for the heavy weight.

The more reps you are going to do, the less time you have to spend in your nervous system activation (NSA). On the other hand, if you have a training where you have less reps but higher weight, NSA becomes very important.
So the heavier you train the more the nervous system will be challenged. As an example we take the comparison of heavy weights and a sprint session. If you are going to do a sprint session you also want to warmup just by jogging a couple of rounds but also build in some progressive sprints or sprints of shorter distance to warmup. With heavy weight training this is exactly the same. Only warming up with the bar and then jump right into your workset is not going to work, it’s not efficient and you increase your rate of injury.

What is a good weight warmup look like. Let’s give you two examples of different training types.

Exercise: SQUAT

Φ Volume training:

Let’s see what a good warmup should look like!

10 reps - Workset: 100kg

- Set 1: 10 reps only with the bar, stay 2-5 sec in the bottom position.
- Set 2: 6 reps 60kg
- Set 3: 4 reps 80kg
- Set 4: 2 reps 100kg
- Set 5: WORKSET


Φ Intensity training:

4 reps - Workset: 140kg

- Set 1: 8 reps only with the bar, stay 2-5 sec in the bottom position.
- Set 2: 4 reps 60kg
- Set 3: 4 reps 80kg
- Set 4: 2 reps 100kg
- Set 5: 2 reps 120kg
- Set 6: 1 reps 140kg
- Set 7: WORKSET

As you can see in the last warmup set we us the same weight as our workset, but the reps are really low. This is because we don’t want to fatigue our muscles, just activate out NSA. The body feels the weight and fires the muscle fibers, now it is ready and prepared to take this weight and start the training.



If you want to get the maximum out of your training, every detail counts. Follow my 3 part warmup routine and you will feel a lot better in your training. You will be focussed, the movement will feel better and your perfomance will go up.

Make sure to get a movement assessment by a qualified trainer, this way you can implement specific exercises in your warmup based on your movement assessment. I recommend trainers who followed the advanced module “assess and correct” from Physical Coaching Academy.


A propos de l'auteur

Ken Van den Eeden

Personal Trainer certifié NASM et formateur à la Physical Coaching Academy (NASM, Advanced Modules, Workshops, ...)