Performance Preparation
Ditch Warm-up Sets and Triple Your Results
by James Bullock

Performance Preparation...Not Warm-Up

The current concept of “warm up” sets is completely wrong. Most people in any gym start with a lighter load on a given exercise and slowly lift the weight to “warm up” the muscles. The problem with lifting slowly is that not all of the muscle fibers available will be recruited, and the nervous system will not be utilized to its capacity.

You should “perform” each and EVERY REP as fast and as safely as possible REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT! That means if you can bench 315 pounds and you start with the 45 pound bar, then you lift the bar as fast as possible. Every rep should be performance based. This makes every set important in the training session and can literally triple your results no matter the goal.

There are three distinct parts to every strength training session I do.

  1. Training Preparation
  2. Performance Preparation
  3. Performance Lifts

The focus of this post is on Performance Preparation.

Here is an example of performance preparation and performance lifts that I used one day for seated military press.

Performance Preparation (The first number in each line is the weight, then after each forward slash is the reps. So the first line means “45 pound bar 3 sets of 8 reps”).

  • 45/8/8/8
  • 95/5/5/5
  • 135/3/3/3
  • 185/3
  • 205/3

Performance Lifts (for ease of understanding what follows is only my lifts of the day as the strength difference was large on this movement requiring different jumps in weight)

  • 225/3
  • 255/3
  • 285/3
  • 300/3
  • 315/3
  • 325/3
  • 335/3
  • 345/1

So the total reps on the performance preparation sets is 54 while the performance lift sets is 19 with the total reps of the session being 73.

Had I done the performance prep sets and reps slow and methodical I would have done nothing but pre-fatigue the muscles and the end result of the session would have been far less weight and a very poor overall performance. As I stated at the beginning of this article, “You should “perform” each and EVERY REP as fast and as safely as possible REGARDLESS OF WEIGHT!”

That means in this one single vertical press session I had 73 quality performance reps. Now why did I do 54 performance prep reps? To ensure that my central nervous system is properly primed or activated for the performance lifts. Do too little performance prep reps and you run the risk of being buried by a weight later in the session due to improper CNS activation.

I have been having the Irondom crew as well as myself test out various performance prep rep and set protocols and what I have found is that we typically get the absolute best performance out of a minimum of 40 total prep reps.

On days that I feel somewhat tired for whatever reason I will do even more prep reps; however many it takes to activate my CNS so that I can get the best overall performance of the session.

Notice that the weight of the performance prep sets is 60% and below of my 1 rep max for the day. Once I get to 65% of the weight it is counted a performance lift.

Now keep in mind I don’t figure out the percentages before-hand as I don’t know what my final weight of the day will be and if it will be a personal record or not. I do, however, know at what point I will notice a significant difference in load which for me is typically the 225 range on this movement. That is why it is considered a performance lift, and just because I separate the two into performance preparation and performance lifts does not mean I do any of the reps and sets differently. Every single rep is as fast as I can physically move it safely and with correct form.

Strength & Honor

James Bullock


Remember to Share this Page if You Liked It!


About the Author

James Bullock is the head coach for Irondom Performance Systems and Combative Sciences. He's written programs for athletes and non-athletes alike, including numerous world record holders in various sports. Combative Sciences was found in 1999 and is the culmination of decades of martial arts training. 

Return from Performance Preparation to Athletic Performance

Return to Warrior Sciences (homepage)