How to Warmup on StrongLifts 5×5

James had a question about how to warm-up on StrongLifts 5×5

Hi Mehdi,

I’m eager to give StrongLifts 5×5 a try. I did it for quite a while last year, but stoped when I hit 160lb squat since I didn’t have a rack, and I felt unsafe. I now have a rack, so I should be able to keep going.

One thing that I thought was missing was more info on warm up weights. You only give 2 examples, and don’t say how to calc them. Obviously start with just the bar, but when do you raise them?

I’m 33, 5’10 weigh 170lb. So almost got to 1x body weight.


You should indeed always start your Squats, Bench and Overhead Press with 2 sets of 5 reps with the empty bar. Jumping straight into your work weight of 160lb would not only be asking for injuries (because your muscles and joints wouldn’t be warmed up yet), it’s also a guaranteed way to miss reps on one or several work sets since you didn’t even have the chance to practice your technique first.

Other warm-up mistakes you must avoid are using too big/small increments and too many/little warm-up sets. Any of this can make you fail reps on your work sets because you got tired/didn’t practice enough, and it can get you injured.

Example: it’s common for people to start their Squat or Bench Press with a big plate of 20kg/45lb on each side. They would warmup by doing something like 12x60kg, 8x80kg then 5×5 100kg. This is a terrible way to warmup. You Squatted 1360kg and 20 reps. You’re tired before you even got started.

Better is to warmup by doing 5x20kg, 5x20kg, 5x40kg, 3x60kg, 2x80kg, 1x90kg and then 5×5 100kg. This is only 830kg, but 21 reps total. You’re less tired because you warmed up by lifting 40% less weight. But you did one rep more to practice proper form.

Respect these warmup sets by lifting them like your heavy sets. You must use these warmup sets to practice proper form and warmup your muscles. This reduces mistakes during your heavy sets, and it drop the risk of injury. Put the same focus and effort into your warmup sets.

On the Squat, Bench Press and Overhead Press you should always start with the empty bar. Add 10-20kg/25-45lb per set until you reach your work set. Never do more than 5 reps per set. Decrease the reps as the weight increases. This prevents getting tired while giving warming up your body and giving you form practice.

2×5 empty bar on Deadlifts and Rows doesn’t work because you can’t do these exercises correctly without bar weight. But since you’ve done Squats before these, your legs and back are already warmed up so you’re safe starting heavier. Frankly, I always start with 5x135lb on Deadlifts/Rows

If you’d like to know the optimal sets, reps and weight to warmup with for any weight, on any exercise, use the warmup calculator in my StrongLifts 5×5 apps for iPhone/Android. Follow the warmup and you’ll lift more weight without getting hurt.

Forget about cardio pre-workout as warm-up, it’s not specific enough and a waste of time unless it’s freezing. It only makes sense if it’s cold and you want to quickly raise your overall body temperature. If fat loss is your goal, keep the cardio for after your training so your legs don’t get tired.

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