What do we define as a warm up?
At the start of any training session, no matter the type of activity or it’s duration we always recommend performing a warm up. Although warming up may look different from athlete to athlete and depends strongly on the context in which it’s done it’s goal remains constant: make your body feel “good and ready to go”.
Just as you can’t expect a car to go from 0 to 100 km/h you can’t expect your body to be prepared to jump into a training session without allowing it to, metaphorically speaking, pick up speed.
And that is the purpose of a proper warm-up.
When done with purpose warming up will allow you to perform better, feel better during your session and significantly lower injury risks.
The risks of not warming up properly
If you’re a rookie to the world of Crossfit or simply a very busy athlete with limited time it can be tempting to skip the warm up.
Although jumping right into the workout will save you some time in the immediate moment it can be very detrimental and a huge setback down the line.
This is due to two series of reason: reduced performance and increased injury risk.
On a performance standpoint priming your system through warming up can help increasing reaction time (speed) and will avoid huge heart rate spikes that will make any conditioning work feel twice as hard.
Why spend so much time working on improving fitness if then we lose a big chunk of “gains” right at the start of our session.
What are the injuries caused by not warming up?
Reduced range of motion: If you have a hard time getting into certain positions (bottom of an overhead squat or a pistol, arch position during kipping movements, ec.) your body will attempt to compensate through incorrect movement patterns. Bad movement = higher injury risk.
Lack of awareness: warming up allows to identify tight areas and trigger point. These lead both to reduced range of motion (see bullet point above) and reduced awareness of possible weaknesses. This can cause muscle spasms further on in the session due to your body attempting to protect an area that it identifies as weaker = at risk. Even if you’re able to avoid spasms you could still unintentionally modify your movement patterns. And as we said previously: Bad movement = higher injury risk.
Types of warm ups and structure of the general warm up
But how do you know if you’re warming up properly? Let us help.
In order to make the best of your warm up you need to first understand what factors have an impact in determining it’s efficiency.
Type of session
Different activities put more or less strain on the various energy systems of your body as well as your joints and muscles.
Therefore you need make sure you’re preparing accordingly.
Unfortunately most of us have a limited time we can spend in the gym and must learn to use it wisely.
By utilizing time efficient warm up movements and focusing on your weaknesses you’ll be making the most out of your session from the minute you walk into the box.
Every athlete needs to focus on their own weaknesses and tackle them head on. It’s important you start doing so from the start of your session.
Identifying the movement patterns and joint you struggle the most with will allow you to tailor your warm up to your own needs.
What do we recommend?
As a general rule of thumb when we work with our athletes we have them go through 3 main phases of warming up:
Identifying trigger points and tight areas
This is done by using a lacrosse ball and/or a foam roller to locate these restricted areas and help ease them off.
Although the evidence for foam rolling is limited, anecdotally we have found it to work very well. Additionally this step helps increase awareness of the body and bring attention to areas who may need extra care.
Estimated time: 5 – 10 minutes
Easy conditioning to increase blood flow
This step doesn’t require much explanation. Keep an easy pace. Utilize your preferred form of movement, ideally start with something with a lower impact on the joints such as biking or rowing.
You can even add bodyweight movements that you need to work on/practice. (If your workout involves very intense intervals, then some short (5-10s) machine sprints will be very good preparation.)
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Additional movement work
This step is where things get more personal. The movement selection and focus will vary based on the athlete’s time to train, weaknesses and past with previous injuries.
Additionally you will have to take in account the movements you will be performing within your session.
As examples if movements such as snatching or overhead squats are involved more focus will have to go into preparing your shoulders for the workout.
On the other hand if you’ve always struggled with ankle mobility it would be wise to work on them consistently each session.
Lastly if you are able to spend a lot of time in the gym it is recommendable to work on each joint and/or movement pattern to make sure you’re moving as smoothly as possible.
Estimated time: very variable, from 10 to 30 minutes
Joint specific warm ups
Once you’ve reached step 3 of the general warm up you’ll likely start wondering what exactly you’re expected to do.
If this is the case worry not. We have collected video links and tips for you to learn more about each major joint (for CrossFit) and how to properly take care of it and warm it up. We highly recommend you spend some time going through each of these movements to understand what weaknesses you need to tackle. As a general rule of thumb if you don’t struggle particularly doing the “testers” for a certain joint/movement those won’t require as much prep work.
Within Crossfit training there are two main rotational movements the shoulders go through: internal and external rotation. For example the shoulders will internally rotate in the catch of a snatch, in the bottom of an overhead squat and ring dips.
Good external rotation positioning is needed for gymnastics such as pull ups and handstand work. Also when using a narrower grip the external rotation is put to the test, especially in movements such as the double KB overhead squats.
A good tester for the internal rotation is the full windmill. If you can do this easily and smoothly your internal rotation is probably sufficient enough. The gold standard for girls is 8 reps with a 24kg KB and for guys 8 reps with 32kg (Dont jump straight into these numbers)
The L-sit against a wall is a good tester for the external rotation and flexion.
The goal is to be able to sit with your lower back, shoulders, elbows and wrist touching the wall for 60 sec. If you can do this you don’t typically have to focus on improving your external rotation/flexion:
Shoulder warm-up exercises and videos:
If your shoulders are moving well you could still benefit from adding some of these exercises into your daily routine as quite a few strengthen the shoulder as well. When you, for example, transition in a ring muscle up or catch a heavy snatch a lot of force will be put on your shoulders when internally rotated and it is therefore important not only to be flexible in this position, but also strong so your body can withstand the stress put on it.
Internal rotation warm up:
External rotation warm up:
HIPS + ANKLES > THE SQUAT
The squat is arguably the most important movement in CrossFit, therefore being strong in it is extremely crucial for us. The style used for squatting is also important, below we have linked two common styles of squatting:
Weightlifting v.s. Powerlifting Squat
Our goal in training is to get as close as possible to the weightlifting squat as the transfer is much higher for CrossFit. As you will see from the squat video, the initiation of the squat involves the chest staying upright and knees driving forward.
To perform this style of squatting you’ll need good ankle and hip mobility. The carryover will be impressive not just in the quality of your squatting movement but also how much your risk of injury will decrease. Additionally we recommend you incorporate the specific squat warm up before your weight lifting sessions:
Recommended squat warm up:
Wrists can be often overlooked when warming up. Although they don’t get the same attention as the bigger joint they often play a key role in training. Overhead lifting and handstand variations are the first that come to mind when approaching of prepping the wrists for high levels of strain. They also influence your front rack positioning.
This video gives you a couple of good exercises to warm-up the lower back. If you struggle a lot with your lower back we recommend you add some of these (or all depending on the time you have) exercises in your daily warm-up routine.
If you find you don’t have issues overall within your lower back a specific warm up will just be needed before pulling from the floor etc. Make sure you always warm up your back in all directions. The wall ball play is a good go-to for those of you that don’t need to put any extra focus on warming up the lower body, but just want something quick and efficient before pulling from the floor.
Lower back warm-up:
Fun CrossFit Warm ups
1.- Rowing Game
ONLY ROWERS ARE NEEDED FOR THISWARM UP.
The goal is to row and stop exactly at 100 meters.
Each meter above or below will result in burpees
(1m = 1 burpee)
You can actually change the movement penalty as needed to fit better with the session, but burpees are always a good option.
Make members go for 4 or 5 sets with increasing pace each round to make it a bit more challenging to stop at 100m.
NO CHEATING – the athletes have to take a full stroke on the rower.
2.- Stick Drop Game
FOR THIS EACH ATHLETE WILL NEED A PVC PIPE ONLY.
Ask members to grab one pipe and make a circle.
You can play with the circle size to make it harder or easier.
Once the members have created a circle, they will then follow your commands. If you say left, members will go to catch the stick from the left side etc.
Instead of always saying left or right you can also change for other words to make it more fun.
If one of the sticks touches the floor then all members, or just the one who drops the stick, will perform a 3 rep penalty.
You can choose which exercise they need to perform.
3.- Musical Wall Balls
ASK THE MEMBERS TO GRAB ONE WALL BALL, THEN REMOVE ONE OF THE WALL BALLS (10 ATHLETES / 9 WALLBALLS).
This workout can be helpful to prepare many workouts as it’s only your imagination that stops you when deciding what they have to do
whilst going around the balls (running forward, backwards, lateral, jumping, crawling etc).
Rules are simple; at the time you say “GO” members will need to grab or sit on the wall ball (you choose).
The member without a wall ball will need to perform a movement penalty. Once you have done 3 or 4 rounds you can start to eliminate
members and make a little competition to see who fights for the last wall ball.
4.- Running warm up
OBVIOUSLY THIS WARM UP WORKS PERFECTLY IF THE SESSION INCLUDES RUNNING.
We recommend to perform this warm up in shuttles of 10 – 20m. We also find it really helpful to introduce some different movements such as Bear Crawls or Inch Worm to warm up the upper body too.
Start with some easier movements, then move on to the running drills.
The first exercises will help to bring the heart rate up and the second ones will help to analyse the run of the members and improve their running technique.
One important aspect of this kind of warm up is to keep quality, as we do with weightlifting, improving running drills can be hard and that’s why moving slowly and keeping quality will help members to develop mechanics.
5.- The foot touch game
ONE OF THE WARM UPS THAT THE MEMBERS WILL LOVE FOR SURE AND NO EQUIPMENT IS NEEDED.
Just explain the rules to the members and the space they have to play and let the fun begin.
The game is really simple.
Members should try and touch other members feet. If their foot gets touched the member have to perform 3 Burpees as a penalty (or another penalty you find fit). After the penalty he/she can go back to the game and look for his/her rematch.
You can add multiple variations to the game. For example: just one arm allowed, members play hopping, or even perform the game in duck walk position (walking in squat position). Different variations throughout might make it more fun.
We recommend to go for 3 sets of 1 min before the specific movement preparation.
How to warm up during competition?
The good news is the principles stay the same as warming up for training. The major differences become that a training warm up is more relaxed as you are not about to walk out onto a competition floor…
However we wanted to spend some words on the specific case of warming up for a competition.
Warming up before an event is tricky and can be even more personal than your average everyday warm up routine. In competition how you perform mentally plays a huge role in how you will do out on the floor, this factor needs to be taken in account from the moment you step into the warm-up area.
When warming up you need to make sure you’re both physically ready to attack the workout and mentally focused on the event.
Different athletes will prefer spending different amounts of time warming up. Some find they want to feel as fresh and focused as possible when stepping onto the floor while others feel they need to get their blood flowing properly and just think of the movements at hand for a moment.
It all comes down to personal preference, the more competitive experience you collect the more you will start understanding what works for you.
The good news is that the principles are exactly the same as warming up for training, just remember the warm up should not be tiring in anyway so you can stay fresh for the actual event.
Now you have the knowledge of how to warm up, make sure you use it and look after your body.