How to Make Proper Weight Jumps When Lifting

“Okay class, start warming up and building to your working weight today.  The goal is to be around 80% of your max.”

-Said Coach…but now what should you do?!

Luckily at CrossFitOP, we often have smaller classes where the coach can help you with your specific weight jumps to get to your working weight, however, sometimes the group is bigger and it’s tough to manage the class and focus on those tiny details for every single person!

So, I’m going to teach you a good game plan to help you be as successful as possible when it comes to your strength training.

This method has some roots in science, physiology and experience.

First, no matter what the lift is or what percentage you’re building up to…



We see people grab 45’s as their first warm up weight much too often!  Your first warm-up weight should be close to but less than 50% of your 1-rep max of that lift.  So unless you’re about to lift 270lbs, starting your warm up at 135# is definitely too heavy!  The only exception would be on deadlift day where it is likely that a handful of people can lift heavier than 270lbs so it may be acceptable on that day, but still, not necessarily ideal!

Personally, my first weight on majority of lifts (squats, snatches, cleans, deadlifts) is 65#.  I put 15’s on my bar first for almost every lift…the only one I don’t is if I’m strict pressing which I’ll use 5’s or 10’s first since my 1-rep is much less compared to those other lifts.

It’s important to start light because;

  • your muscles are still warming up, going too heavy can cause them to tense up too much and limit what you can lift throughout the session.
  • your nervous system needs to get engaged, moving lighter weights slowly and intentionally will help your nerves fire properly and help you lift more in the long run.
  • you need something you can lift 100% perfectly in order to set yourself up for continued success.  If your warm-up bar looks like *insert poop emoji* your heavier lifts are only going to get worse and worse and put you at greater risk for injury.

What comes next?

Once you’ve hit warm-up reps with 40-50% of your 1-rep max, you can start building to reach the goal weight for the session.  You want to make the right size weight-jumps so that you’re not going too big too soon or, inversely, going way too small and wasting lifts.

The proper increases should track around 10% increase each set.  50% to 60% to 70% ect.  In this example we’re talking about building to working sets at 80%, so once you get to 70% you could do one more set at 75% before loading up to your final working weight.

General rule of thumb; start light, moderate sized jumps for the next 1-2 sets and smaller jumps for 1-2 sets before your working weight.  In total, when building to an 80% working weight, you should have around 5 total lifts to build up to that weight.  If you get to your working weight in 2 jumps your muscles and nervous system are definitely not warmed up enough or prepared to perform their best during your strength work.  If you take 10 weight jumps to get to your working weight (usually not the issue but we’ll touch on it), you’ve probably already fatigued your muscles so your working sets won’t be as strong or effective during your strength work!

Our coaches are always happy to help if you have specific questions on how you should properly build up to your working weight, so always feel free to ask! We’d rather help you step-by-step than see you be unsuccessful or, even worse, get injured.