How To: Warm Up Sets For Lifting

I help dozens of athletes each and every week. Whether these athletes are online or in-person at House Of Strength, most – if not all – share this common “mistake”. But it’s not really a “mistake” – because it can’t be their (or YOUR) fault if this has never been taught. This post will finally teach you how to properly perform your warm up sets to help you lift more weight, reduce the risk of injury, and maximize your workouts!

England backs take part in training. England Rugby training session on November 2, 2010 at Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, England. [Mandatory Credit: Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images]
Why You Need Warm Up Sets

Warm up sets simply are not taught or coached. They aren’t sexy. They don’t sell products. But they make all the difference in the world. Get the warm up sets wrong and you burn valuable energy, increase injury risk, and ingrain bad habits with technique.

Done correctly, a proper sequence of warm up sets will first and foremost prevent injury. Second, it will help you lift more weight, helping you maximize your training session. third, you”ll get practice reps with perfect form, which increase mind-muscle connection and “greases the groove”. Sort of like Tiger hitting golf balls on the driving range or a baseball player taking batting practice.

How To Do It

Remember the purpose of our warm up sets – to prepare your body for the work ahead. Get used to handling progressively heavier loads, without wasting energy.

It’s crucial that your warm up sets are completed using the exact the form and set up that you would use for the heaviest sets. No matter how light or heavy the weight, you should always use the same set up and technique. As we stated above, view you warm up sets as a chance to practice your set up and technique so that it becomes second nature and doesn’t require thought when it’s go-time for heavier/work sets.

The size of your weight jumps on these warm up sets will depend on the lift being trained and how much weight you plan to use. The number of reps for your warm up sets will also depend on the number of reps in your work sets.


Let’s say your training session calls for 4 sets of 8 reps, and all 4 of those sets are supposed to be done at a working weight. Let’s say you know you’ll use 185 for those work sets. Here’s how you would work up to that weight.

  1. Bar or bodyweight x 5-10
  2. 95 x 8
  3. 135 x 8
  4. 185 x 8 x 4 sets

Now let’s say your training session calls for 3-5 sets of 1 rep at a weight close to your max (93%-97%). Here’s what your warm up sets would look like if your working weight was 315.

  1. 95 x 10
  2. 135 x 5
  3. 185 x 3
  4. 225 x 2
  5. 275 x 1
  6. 315 x work sets