How to Warm Up For One-Rep Max Bench? (Explained!)

So, you want to know how to warm up for a one-rep max bench press.

You know you’re about to bench the maximum weight you can handle.

You want to make sure you do this without getting injured, hence the need for a decent warm-up routine.

That being said, the last thing you want to do is to tire yourself with an excessive warm-up prior to the main event.

So, allow me to explain exactly how you should warm-up for a one-rep max on bench press.

How to Warm Up For One-Rep Max Bench?

The best way to warm up for one-rep max bench is to actually perform two warm-ups. Initially, you’ll want a brief 10-minute session which involves getting your heart rate up and the blood flowing around your body. This should also include some dynamic stretching for mobility and flexibility. Your second warm-up is bench press specific. Start with 50% of your one-rep max and increase the weight by 10% with each subsequent set. You should then be performing your one-rep max bench on your 5th or 6th set.

1. The First of Two Warm Ups For One-Rep Max Bench

A Barbell Set Up in the Rack For Bench Press

When it comes to warming up in general for lifting weights, you should actually perform two separate warm-ups.

The first warm up is very general and aimed at preparing your body for your upcoming training session.

This is all about increasing your heart rate and improving blood flow.

So, in reality your general warm up should be a maximum of about 10 minutes.

Plus, it’s important that your warm up doesn’t impact on your main training, so don’t overdo it and leave yourself feeling fatigued.

Therefore, a general warm up would typically involve a brisk walk, the stationary bike or rowing machine, etc.

I would also suggest doing some dynamic stretches, which will help with mobility and flexibility.

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So, as an example, your dynamic stretching may involve walking lunges, leg swings, arm circles, trunk twists, knees-to-elbows, toe touches, etc.

Once you complete this short session, and your body is warm, as well as your heart rate being up, you’re ready for warm up number two.

2. The Second of Two Warm Ups For One-Rep Max Bench

Your second warm up should prepare you specifically for bench pressing.

In other words, your warm up involves submaximal bench pressing.

In other words, you’re going to build your way up to your one-rep max.

Now, as strange as this may sound, you should already have an idea of what your one-rep max bench is.

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Okay, I admit that it can be difficult to determine an exact number, as you won’t really know how much you’re going to be able to press until you actually do it.

That being said, we all have a general idea of our abilities, so you work towards a ballpark figure.

There is no need for exact numbers here.

Personally, I would want my one-rep max working set to be around my 5th or 6th set.

This may sound fairly excessive, but generally this is a great way to go.

Yes, I understand that there are people who simply walk into the gym, perform one set at submaximal weight and then immediately hit a new PR.

Fair play to them I say, if this is what works for them, then they should continue doing it.

However, for the vast majority of us, this is nowhere near enough, and could even lead to an injury.

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So, stick with me, and get those 4 or 5 warm up sets in.

Something else to consider is that you don’t want massive jumps in weight while increasing your warm up weights.

I prefer to increase the weight by equal or slightly fewer increments.

3. What Your Warm Up Sets Should Look Like

A great way to achieve this is to start off at 50% of your max weight and then increase by 10% per set.

  • Warm Up Set 1 – 50% of One-Rep Max
  • Warm Up Set 2 – 60% of One-Rep Max
  • Warm Up Set 3 – 70% of One-Rep Max
  • Warm Up Set 4 – 80% of One-Rep Max
  • Warm Up Set 5 – 90% of One-Rep Max

You are now ready for your one-rep max set.

I would also reduce the number of reps you’re performing, while increasing your rest periods, with each subsequent warm up set.

Personally, once I’m using 80% of my one-rep max, each set consists of one single rep.

Furthermore, my rest periods will be between 2-3 minutes up until I’ve hit the 80% set.

I will then rest for 5 minutes until I hit my 90% of one-rep max bench set.

And of course, another 5 minutes rest before I actually hit that one-rep max.

I would also want to do at least one further set, two at maximum, after I’ve benched my one-rep max.

If I feel I can add some weight, even if it’s just 2.5 lbs, then I will.

However, if I feel I need to drop the weight slightly after my one-rep max set, then once more I will.

It’s all about training in sync with what your body tells you.

Testing My Bench Press 1RM

4. Won’t This Warm Up Tire Me Out For a One-Rep Max Bench?

I know this is exactly what you’re thinking.

The guy who strolls through the gym, performs one warm-up set, before smashing out his one-rep max bench seems to have it sorted.

Clearly, he has enough energy to be maxing out all day long.

Well, this isn’t true in any shape or form.

While 5-6 warm-up sets may seem excessive, it will actually have you lifting more weight, and doing so with great efficiency.

This is all about controlling the number of reps you perform during your warm-ups, rather than the actual sets you’re doing.

Basically, it is the reps that will tire you out and fatigue you.

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So, as I’ve mentioned, it’s a good idea to decrease the number of reps you’re performing, and to only be doing one rep by the time you’re bench pressing 80% and above of your one-rep max.

  • 50% of One-Rep Max – 8 Reps
  • 60% of One-Rep Max – 5 Reps
  • 70% of One-Rep Max – 3 Reps
  • 80% of One-Rep Max – 1 Reps
  • 90% of One-Rep Max – 1 Reps

So, as you can see, by the time you’re going for your absolutely maximum weight, you will only have performed 18 reps beforehand.

Plus, remember that you’re resting 2-3 minutes in-between your first four sets, and then 5 minutes between sets from there on in.

If you stick to this formula, not only will you be perfectly warmed up, it’s also likely that you’ll see regular increases in your one-rep max bench.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, the best way to warm up for a one-rep max bench is to actually perform two warm-ups.

Firstly, you’ll want to perform a general warm-up to get your heart rate up and blood flowing around your body.

However, this warm up shouldn’t tire you out, it should also include some dynamic stretching, as well as being limited to a maximum of 10 minutes.

Your second warm up involves actually bench pressing, although you’re going to build up in weight and rest periods, while reducing your reps.

Furthermore, you don’t want massive jumps in weight for your warm-up sets, so keep the increases fairly equal.

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