Warming up for a heavy set

When we do the strength portion during an hour class, we usually have somewhere between 20-30 minutes depending on the lift. I've witnessed people wandering around during this time and also been asked "how should I warm up?". In general, the first 10 minutes or so should be light, fast and all about moving/changing weights. The next 10-15 minutes should start the real working sets. The heavier you get, the more rest between sets you need.

There are plenty of articles on the internet about this (here is a good one about warming up for a 1 rep max), so I'll just give you and example of how I warmed up recently. There are two primary methods:

  1. Strength by feel - When you don't know your 1 RM, you move up in weight by how heavy the weight feels: light (2 sets) - medium (3-5 sets) - heavy (3-5 sets)
  2. Strength by the numbers - When you know your 1 RM and use math to determine how much weight to add for each set.

A lot of folks new to CrossFit will be using "strength by feel" until you've established some baseline numbers. We recently worked up to a heavy 3 (or 3 RM) dead lift. I was aiming for 355. I went by feel vs. doing the math and here is how it worked out:

Set

Weight

Reps

Percentage (of 1RM)

Rest

1

Barbell

10

Change weight

2

135

8

35%

Change weight

3

185

5

50%

Change weight

4

225

5

60%

Change weight

5

275

3

70%

2-3 minutes

6

315

3

80%

3-4 minutes

7

335

2

85%

3-4 minutes

8

355

3

90%

Notice, I don't spend a lot of time dilly dallying during the first 4-5 sets. I'm just changing weights and warming up. Also, since I knew my target and thought I could reach it, I only did 2 reps in the set prior to going for the 3 rep max. The goal is to give your body sufficient work to warmup/prime your CNS, but leave enough in the tank for your final attempt. If you have any questions, ask your coach early - don't wait until the last minute to realize you don't have enough time. 

Note: I used 390# as a target 1 RM, even though I've never lifted it. My previous 1 RM was 375, more than a year and a half ago.