November 30

On Walk Outs and Warm Ups

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If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ll probably know I’m the Technical Director for the Irish Powerlifting Federation, and one of their competition judging team.

Every time I come back from a competition I see some things that I feel obligated to share because it hurts so much seeing lifters spend weeks and months getting ready for a comp only to make a balls of it on some small technical aspect.

After last weekends IPF All Ireland’s I was reminded AGAIN about how much energy people waste setting up their squats.

In competition, you won’t get a “squat” command until;

– you’ve walked the bar out
– your knees and hips are locked
– your feet are MOTIONLESS

…rocking back and forth toe to heel, twisting your toes / heels and moving here and there will consistently delay your start command.


It adds nothing to the lift, and pisses me off having to watch it because I get frustrated for you. Stop doing it.

You might be thinking “but James, I don’t compete in powerlifting, so what does it matter”.

Well it matters a hell of a lot broski.

Mostly because if you waste energy fiddling about with your feet, or taking 50 breaths while the bar is on your back before doing your first squat, you’re depleting energy reserves that could be going into gainzz.

It’s fine when you’re weak. 30kg ain’t that tiring. But put 130kg, 230kg and more on your back and try to stand there tap dancing. I dare you to tell me it’s not a terrible idea.

The best time to eliminate that habit was the day you started lifting. The next best time is your next squat session. It’s not something you wait to work on until you’re “strong” (whatever the hell that is). You have to walk out every set of squats from warm ups to working weight, so…

In summary;
Walk out, take 2 steps, set your feet, stop being a jackass.

Speaking of warm ups… they’re probably the next biggest waste of energy I see people over indulging with in the gym.

Seriously, folks go to one seminar and hear about mobility / warm ups / flexibility and spend the next 64 months stretching muscles and taking 11 billionty warm up sets. They end up so busy warming up that they don’t have the time to actually train.

While warm ups are important, if you already move VERY well, say – can do an overhead squat, then your functional mobility for lifting weights is right where it needs to be.

So, assuming that’s locked down (if it’s not, get stuck into ROMWOD daily) the next step is how many warm ups you take ‘under the bar’.

Boris Sheiko, powerlifting coach extraordinaire, posted a great guideline recently, and this next bit is pretty much ripped off word for word from him. Your warm ups should be;

if working to 80%;
50% x5
60% x4
70% x3
80% x whatever is on the cards

if working to 85% or above;
50% x5
60% x4
70% x3
80% x3
85% x whatever is on the cards

…but if you need to take an extra warm ups set of two to get to 50%, that’s fine.

Even Andrey Malanchiev, one of the best powerlifters in the world, and a 480kg squatter, starts warm ups with just the bar and doesn’t jump to 240kg.

That last sentence is of supreme importance by the way – start your warm ups with just the bar.

It’s a great way to get in touch with your body and see how you’re feeling on a given day. As a practical example – here’s how my last squat session played out. The goal was 195kg 5×3 (that’s about 80%).

The warm ups went;
Bar x10
60kg x5 (because jumping straight to 40-50% would be too much)
100kg x5 (42%)
140kg x4 (58%)
170kg x3 (70%)
195kg 5×3 (81%)

As you can see – the percentages aren’t EXACTLY the same as Sheiko’s guidelines, but for plate loading simplicity they were close enough.

Remember – warm ups are done in the gym to get you ready to train. No more. No less.

Mobility / flexibility work is done OUTSIDE the gym, or after sessions, in order to improve functional movement quality and positions.

Trying to combine both into one session takes too long, and both things suffer.

Now go train.



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