A Perfect Workout Starts With a Perfect Warm-up
Every aspect of Max-OT training works synergistically, making it the most effective training approach for building maximum muscle. To get the greatest results, it is important that you understand and execute all the principles from the warm-ups to the last rep of each set.
Warming up correctly and efficiently is vital to the success of your workout. If you have an inefficient approach to your warm-up sets, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot before the real workout even starts.
A better understanding and execution of the Max-OT warm-up protocol will lead to more effective muscle-building workouts so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to take a closer look at this important aspect of Max-OT training.
Here is a review of some important points to help you understand the warm-up process better.
There are Three Types of Sets
The Max-OT course explains there are three types of sets: warm-up sets, weight acclimation sets and muscle-building sets as seen in the example below.
Warm-up sets are done with a weight you can handle easily in a 6 to 12 rep range. Warm-up sets make up the first 2 or 3 sets of your warm-up sequence. Their job is to get blood into the muscles and connective tissues, which increases the flexibility and elasticity of the muscles.
Weight acclimation sets are done with a weight you can handle for 1 to 3 reps. Weight acclimation sets make up the last 2 sets of your warm-up sequence and are designed to prepare your mind and body for overload.
Muscle-building sets are done with maximum overload in a 4-6 rep range. You should use a weight you can complete 4 times on your own but no more than 6. These are the sets where muscle-building occurs.
Warm-up on the First Exercise for a Body Part Only
The full Max-OT warm-up protocol that is illustrated in the sample warm-up below should be performed on the first exercise for a body part only. For example, after your warm-up for flat bench presses and perform your muscle-building sets there is no need to warm-up for your second chest exercise.
Progressively Introduce a Heavier Weight
One of the goals for your series of warm-up sets is to progressively introduce a heavier weight to the muscle or muscle group you are training. Physically it allows your muscles, joints, and connective tissues to get adjusted to heavier weights and guards against injury when you attack your muscle-building sets with maximum overload. It also enables you to get comfortable with the mechanics and execution of any particular exercise. This will lead to more coordination and power on your first muscle-building set.
Mentally, the introduction of heavier weights allows you to gain confidence and lock into the mind-muscle connection with the exercise. Greater confidence and greater mind to muscle connection mean a more productive and powerful set.
Do Not Approach the Point of Fatigue
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are warming up for their first exercise is they fatigue their muscles by doing too many reps. We’ve all seen people doing warm-up sets and pounding out rep after rep until they are actually working hard to complete the last few. I can recall doing that in the past and maybe you can too.
Pre-fatiguing is bad news because it limits the amount of overload you can achieve during your first working. Don’t waste valuable energy that could be directed towards muscle-building by doing an inefficient number of warm-up sets and reps.
You’ll notice as you increase the weights during your Max-OT warm-up sets, you will also decrease your reps. This is how you introduce heavier weights without approaching the point of fatigue.
Your Last Weight Acclimation Set Should be Close to Your Muscle-Building Set Weight
The last weight acclimation set should be done for 1 rep with a weight that is close to your muscle-building set weight.
The idea is to avoid a dramatic jump in weight from your last weight acclimation set and your first muscle-building set. The last weight acclimation set may be 20 to 30 pounds less than your starting weight on a squat or a bench press and 10 to 15 pounds shy of your first set of barbell curls or lying triceps extensions.
Weight Acclimation Transition Set
I made a point saying you only need to do the full Max-OT warm-up on the first exercise for a body part. You may, however, want to include a weight acclimation set when you transition into some exercises. Deadlifts are one good example.
Let’s say you perform deadlifts as your second back movement. It’s true you have already warmed-up and performed one back exercise, but I would still advise one or two weight acclimation sets before you attempt maximum overload. The reason being, deadlifts are unlike any other back exercise and recruit nearly every muscle in your body to some degree, and there is heavy lower body involvement. I think it is very wise from a safety and a performance standpoint to include a couple of weight acclimation sets to introduce the mechanics of deadlifts and introduce the muscles to a heavier load.
This is one example where a weight acclimation is advised in the middle of a workout. Another example will be if you are training triceps after chest. Triceps get a lot of work during compound pressing exercises and, therefore, are already warmed-up. However, I would advise a couple of weight acclimation sets on the first triceps exercise before they are subjected to direct overload. Triceps wouldn’t necessarily need the entire Max-OT warm-up sequence in this scenario, a couple of weight acclimation sets should do the trick. The same would be true for biceps if you trained them after back or triceps if you trained them after shoulders.
When transitioning into other body parts you need to go by feel to determine the number of warm-ups or acclimation sets you do. For example, when I move to triceps after chest, I usually feel ready to go after a couple of acclimation sets on the first triceps exercise, but if there is a day I feel I need an extra warm-up set, I take it. There is some flexibility here, just make sure you acclimate yourself to the mechanics of the exercise and the weights to the point you feel you are ready to exert a maximal effort on your first muscle-building set.
Below is a sample warm-up sequence taken from the Max-OT online course. This example uses the bench press with a starting weight of 285 lbs to illustrate the pattern of progressively introducing a heavier weight while reducing the reps and not approaching the point of fatigue.
First Set: 135 x 12 reps (warm-up)
These should be good smooth reps. Not too slow and too fast. Your main goal is to increase blood flow and get the feel of the movement and the weight. After this first set you should rest about 2 minutes.
Second Set: 135 x 10 reps (warm-up)
Same weight as before. Rhythm should be a little faster this time. Not much faster. Rest about 2 minutes.
Third Set: 185 x 6 reps (warm-up)
This should be a deliberate set done at a moderate pace. This is the next step in weight acclimation. It should feel light and 4 reps should be very easy. Rest about 2 minutes before the next set.
Fourth Set: 225 x 3 reps (weight acclimation)
You should follow the same rhythm as in the last set. 3 strong reps. Rest 2 minutes before next set.
Fifth Set: 255 x 1 rep (weight acclimation)
That’s right, just 1 rep. The purpose here is weight acclimation. This should be a strong, powerful and deliberate rep.
Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Set: 285 x 4 to 6 reps (muscle-building)
You will use this same pattern when warming up for any exercise, just adjust the weight to suit you. There is no perfect amount of weight to use or a magic percentage of your maximum. Simply follow a similar pattern and progressively increase the weight with each warm-up set while decreasing the reps.
You don’t have to be too scientific about your warm-up weight selection as long as you accomplish the task of progressively introducing a heavier weight without approaching the point of fatigue and without leaving a dramatic jump from your last weight acclimation set and your first muscle-building set.
If you have never warmed up this way it may take a little getting used to but the more times you perform the Max-OT warm-up protocol, the more instinctive it will become. And most importantly, the stronger you’ll be on your heavy sets while eliminating any possibility of injury.
Remember, a great workout starts with an efficient warm-up. Don’t make the process too difficult and understand that the primary objective of a warm-up is to progressively introduce a heavier weight without approaching the point of fatigue.