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Unless you go to a small, private gym where there are never any queues for equipment, chances are you sit around waiting for a bench to open up on Chest Day. We can’t help but moan about the influx of people that are occupying them, made even worse by groups of people who take longer than usual. Often, we forget that they are also just trying to get their reps in, so use that extra wait constructively. Warming up is not only the best way to prevent injury, but it can also give you an explosive chest session.
The muscle is a stretchy thing, so liken it to a rubber band. If you stretch a rubber band that is cold, it really doesn’t stretch that well and has a higher chance of snapping. Warm it up though and becomes super stretchy without risking snapping. Same goes for the muscle. It also increases blood flow to the muscle, gets lubrication going in the connective tissue, and gives the entire area more stability, particularly in the shoulders and rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is a group of smaller, intricate muscles around the actual socket joint where the ball of the arm connects to. The shoulder is always overlooked when it comes to chest movements, but it plays a significant role in almost every upper body movement we make so it is vital that you keep your shoulders healthy. Rotator cuffs are also no joke when it comes to injury, as even something as a small tear will never heal 100% back to normal, and can lead to shoulder surgery in more severe cases. In other words, one injury to your rotator cuff could cause a lifetime of complications.
Speaking of shoulders, your anterior and side deltoids are pretty active during the bench press. The posterior delts are often left in the waders because they are mainly supportive so they are not as active as the rest. This does, however, cause an imbalance in strength between the two which can cause your bench figures to be lower than they could be, resulting in a decreased amount of chest growth and strength. Warming up can give your posterior delts that much needed attention to give your bench more power.
The pectorals. Pecs are the main muscle being worked during the bench press so it is only logical that they too need to be all warm and stretchy. The warm ups to follow will push blood into the chest through activation and increase the elasticity.
Depending on the amount of time that you are waiting, you can perform all of these warm ups but just make sure that you are feeling warm and have a light sweat going before you start going heavy.
Warm up 1: Start off with a middle back stretch, simply rotating your torso from left to right for 5 reps each side. From there, move onto doing shoulder circles for 5 reps forward and 5 reps backwards with each arm. Remember to do this slowly otherwise you could hurt yourself. Lastly, shoulder rotations for 10 reps with each arm. This is one round of stretching, and you will need to complete three rounds in total.
Warm up 2: Start off with pulling a resistance band apart with both hands for 15 reps. From there, move into a push-up position where you will hold yourself up with one hand while the other taps your opposite shoulder. For example; if you are using your right hand, tap your left shoulder and so on. Do this for 10 reps each arm. Finally, move onto cable facepulls with either a rope or a handle attachment, for 10 reps each arm.
Warm up 3: This is a different approach to warming up. Here you will do three warm up sets on the bench press. The first set will be 60% of your working weight for 8-12 reps, the second set will be 70% of your working weight for 8-12 reps, and the third set will be 80% of your working weight for the same rep range. Keep in mind that this is your working weight and not your one rep max. Working weight refers to the amount of weight you would usually use while training, whereas one rep max refers to the amount of weight you can lift for one rep.
If you are going to use warm up option 3, then it is recommended to do at least one of the other warm up methods before and between sets. This will just add extra protection for your shoulders. Next time you are sitting around waiting for a bench, use that time to warm up and explode during your session.