Your Warm-Up Is Killing Your Workout… and Gains

Many well-known coaches have their own specific warm-up routine: The Wenning warm-up, DeFranco warm-up, etc. What’s the Thibaudeau warm-up?

There’s no such thing. Only do what’s absolutely needed. My philosophy is to do the least amount of “stuff” possible to perform properly and safely during your session.

And that depends on what you’ll be training and your current physical state. You won’t need the same thing if you wake up stiff and achy and have a snatch workout ahead versus if you’re feeling good and loose before your arm session.

Any “stuff” that doesn’t directly contribute to making the upcoming workout better is a waste of time, energy, recovery capacity, and neural drive. In fact, an overly extensive warm-up can greatly diminish how much “effective work” you can do by causing some central fatigue.

Central fatigue has nothing to do with how you’re feeling. It simply refers to a weakening of the central excitatory drive sent to the muscles. When you accumulate central fatigue, the excitatory drive becomes weaker and you become less effective at recruiting and firing the high-threshold motor units and, therefore, the fast-twitch fibers. This leads to less growth stimulation and less strength, power, and speed potential.

Any physical activity can (and does) cause central fatigue. This is especially true of activities of duration, those that cause discomfort, and those with a high level of sensory signals – which is the case for most self-myofascial work, mobility work, and peripheral activation work. Even central activation work like jumps and throws can cause central fatigue due to their explosive nature.

I’m not saying that warming up will completely destroy your session. But EXCESSIVE warm-up volume absolutely will have a negative impact.

I was “brought up” to do 5 minutes of light work (treadmill, stationary bike, etc.) and then start light on the first exercise and gradually ramp the weight up toward my first work set. Sometimes I’d do as many as 5-7 of those warm-up sets; other times, it would be 2-3, depending on how the movement felt. And that’s pretty much how most lifters did it.

If I felt tight in areas that would negatively impact my main lift, I’d do a small amount of mobility work for that region. If I didn’t feel restricted, I wouldn’t do it.

If I had some achy muscles, I might do a small amount of self-myofascial release. But I would more likely alter my training plan: myofascial release simply has an antalgic effect. It decreases the pain signal, but it doesn’t fix the issue. So, you might end up training a muscle that should really be left alone for a few days. Smashing an injured body part can make things worse.

If I felt lethargic and lazy, I’d do a few jumps or medicine ball throws to amp myself up. But if I was motivated from the get-go, I wouldn’t.

See where I’m going with this? Always try to do the least amount of work possible to prepare yourself for your workout.

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