There are 3 steps I use when I'm preparing to workout and you may be surprised to know that not one of them is stretching. From the experts I have studied that are prominent and well-respected in the weightlifting space, including Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, Greg Nuckols and more, static stretching does not seem to be beneficial to have in your warm up routine. You may argue that it is better than nothing, and maybe that is true, but there seem to be better ways to prepare for a workout. By no means are all 3 of these steps necessary but, for me personally, I find they help. I will go in consecutive order of what I do when I am preparing for a workout. Let's go through it...
Step 1: Use Pre-workout
If you are skeptical on if caffeine is good to supplement with for a workout or are just interested in the details, I suggest you check out a previous post - All About the Caffeine. Essentially, most of the experts I've researched suggest that caffeine benefits your workout and to not worry about getting too much caffeine unless you are consuming more than 400mg per day. It is also a good idea to take a break from caffeine now and then if you supplement with it often and to refrain from using it later on in the day so that it does not interrupt your sleep.
Bottom line, I find pre-workout helps me a ton and gives me the burst of energy I need to execute a workout, even if I'm working out at 4:00AM before work. Whether you are running or lifting, caffeine appears to be beneficial for performance and will give you the wake-me-up when you need it.
Step 2: Plan & Write Down Your Workout
The main reason logging your workout is so critical is so you can track your progress. It obviously helps you when you are working out so that your time between sets is consistent and you accomplish the amount of work you planned on going into the workout. Both Mike Matthews and Greg Nuckols strongly recommend doing this and, as coaches, say it increases results and adherence to a program.
Setting up your logbook for should only take a few minutes. Below, I will share an example of what my logbook looks like when I am preparing for a workout (laying out the exercises I plan on doing, number of sets, and the weight I plan to start with for each). Personally, I find writing things down on paper to be better than using any app on my phone. I'm just partial to pen and paper rather than using my phone.
Step 3: Warm Up
Forget what you think of first when you hear the term "warm up." Rather than static stretching, consider warming up with movements closely related with the major movements you plan on using in your workout, if not the same movement. The warm up I currently use is directly taken by Mike Matthews' Bigger Leaner Stronger. When my major lift for the day is a bench press, I also warm up with the bench press, just with lower weights. Mike suggests doing 3 warm up sets: 2 sets of 10 reps at 50% the weight you plan on lifting and 1 set of 3-4 reps at 70% the weight you plan on lifting.Keep in mind that the "weight you plan on lifting" is in the 4-6 rep range with 1-2 reps left in the tank, per BLS. In the image below, you can see a clear example of this.
Greg Nuckols, world record-breaking powerlifter and weightlifting coach, suggests using a similar method of slowly working your way up to the %one-rep-max you plan on lifting that day for major lifts. Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, and Greg Nuckols do not suggest static stretching when it comes to a warm up and have even written about a number of scientific articles that have tested if stretching helps performance or injury prevention and have reflected that stretching is either negative or neither helpful or hurtful for both categories when done before a workout. The same experts, with Kelly Starrett included as well, suggest that stretching after a workout or before going to bed can be beneficial for doing your own physical therapy and/or improving your movement capabilities. So, if you plan to stretch, it may be better to save it for later.
In the end, whatever keeps you going to the gym and executing the work is what matters. Step 2, I believe is the most crucial step, but all 3 of these steps help me personally, and maybe they can help you too. None of these things are taught in gym class, possibly because weight training is not focused on much at all. Most of this applies if you are a runner as well - I would still take pre-workout (maybe a little less, though), log the work I'm doing, and use movements like squats and butt-kicks rather than swinging my arms around before going for a run.
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