The Reps Before the Reps
You see that you have a 7 x 3 front squat starting at 75% of 1RM building to a heavy final two sets on the training session plan. You’re thinking, that’s 21 reps of some solid squat work. That’s total working reps. That does not include your warm-up to that first set. We often find that coaches and athletes are unclear on how to properly prep for a strength sesh. Experienced athletes may knock out 20-30+ reps of warm-up work before starting their work.
There are no penalties for warming up more than you think you need. Injury, poor performance and inability to hit your numbers may be the result of not warming up enough. Before you start warming up for your front squat (or any strength block for that matter), prep the tissue through mobility, accessory movements (i.e. 3-5 minutes of stationary cycling before squatting or 10-15 incline push-ups before pressing). Once you’re ready to move to the barbell to warm-up, here are some helpful tips to ensure you achieve the intent of the session and hit your numbers:
Always start with just the bar. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, just the bar. This will help to pattern the movement and get your central nervous system to recognize the movement. I often do more than one set with the bar if I’m not feeling sharp.
A general strategy on sets and reps is to keep it to 5-7 sets of 3-4 reps as you build 5-30# each set. Much of this will depend on your ability and strength. For newer athletes, keep load jumps to no more than 10#. Some of you who need to get into the high 200’s or 300’s may need to jump 20-30# per set. When in doubt, go with a few extra warm-up sets in smaller jumps. Be smart.
Rest based on how you feel during the warm-up sets. You may have some angry tissue that needs attention or need to mix in another set or two of the accessory movement you started with to get your system ready. Don’t rush it.
Set the mood. What puts you in that mind space to move some load? Get that organized too! Don’t underestimate this part of the warm-up. It might be checking to see that the right playlist is locked in. Or maybe you need to get your toys (water bottle, phone, belt, chalk, towel, pet) arranged just the way you like them before you hit go time. Limit distractions or things that will cause you to lose rhythm when you lift.