Something I get asked all the time is how to structure warmup sets for the major lifts. This may include but is not limited to: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Press, Barbell Rows, or any variation of these lifts.
Structuring the warmup set is an important consideration, a properly structured warmup set allows for a greater performance in the lift. For instance if you were to just go in cold and try to hit your maximal bench press, the number achieved would not be as high as if you had taken the time to properly and progressively warm up to a maximal attempt. In fact the stronger you are the larger the discrepancy would be between these two numbers.
How to Strength Warmup
After you have gone through a general warmup such as the RAMP WARMUP I have written about previously, you will want to start on a more specific warmup for the specific lift you are going to be completing. This lift will be performed by progressively completing sets at lighter to heavier weights for the lift you are warming up for.
After reading, and watching lectures by Carolina Panthers Strength and Conditioning coach JOE KENN, I have adapted his warmup progression from his Strength Coach Playbook. Essentially this is a way to progressively structure your warmup sets so that no matter the weight you will be lifting you are always prepared to do so.
The warmup sets should be structured as follows:
Prep # 1
50% of WS 1
6 to 8
Prep # 2
65% of WS 1
3 to 5
Prep # 3
80% of WS 1
2 to 3
Prep # 4
90% of WS 1
1 to 3
Work Set # 1
You will take a minimum of 4 sets to warm-up for any lift. The percentages of each warmup set will be based on the weight you intend to hit in your FIRST working set. Each warmup set will get progressively heavier. Warmup Set 1 will be at 60% of Work Set 1, Warmup Set 2 will be at 65% of Work Set 1, and so on and so forth. The Warmup reps will get progressively smaller as the prescribed weights get heavier and heavier.
I challenge you to try this simple progression the next time you are warming up for a big lift. Let me know in the comments how it works for you.