In this article we will cover the steps to effectively warming up for the CrossFit total in the same chronological order we recommend following when actively doing the warm up.
What is CrossFit Total?
The CrossFit total is a benchmark workout of the sport that has been used again and again throughout the years by coaches around the world to evaluate the progress of athletes and class goers alike.
It consists of three main lifts: the squat, the deadlift and the strict shoulder press. The goal is to establish a 1RM for each of the lifts in a predetermined time window. Usually athletes will move from one lift to the other in the order previously stated.
This is the same order we recommend using to warm up.
The reason is most importantly due to the fact that the squat is the lift that requires the most time to warm up and prepare the joints for the stress of the workout. If you were to keep it for last by the time you were finished you wouldn’t be fully ready to attack the other lifts anymore.
The press instead is the quickest to warm up therefore we recommend keeping it for last leaving the deadlift in the middle position.
General warm up
Regarding this initial part of the warm up we have 2 main areas of focus.
- First we’ll have you spend 5 to 10 minutes working through different areas of your body on a foam roller and/or a lacrosse.
The goal is to get the body “loosened” up while looking for and identifying any trouble areas where you might feel more sore and stiff.
Once you find one of the spots, actively spend a couple more minutes working on it to ensure it is ready to go.
- Once you’ve completed this first part then we recommend moving on to 5 to 10 minutes of light conditioning. Just hop on a concept2 machine or your cardio machine of choice and get the heart pumping and blood flowing.
Although the CrossFit Total isn’t a high intensity type of workout, elevating your heart rate will help you feel more awake and self aware and can help your system be ready to fire more efficiently.
When preparing to squat we start from the bottom up: first ankles then knees and hips.
Ankle mobility is easily overlooked in weightlifting but can actually be crucial for good motion patterns and therefore better and stronger lifts.
The drill we recommend most often:
- Will have the athlete supporting most of their weight on one leg.
- Position the other foot so to have the toes and part of the front of the foot touching a wall or other support that is perpendicular to the floor.
- The heel stays on the floor while the athlete starts progressively shifting more and more weight from the supporting leg to the other one.
- Unlike a calf stretch you are looking to put pressure on the front of your ankle.
- We recommend spending somewhere around 20 seconds per side (twice) in this position.
Moving upward we start working on hips and knees with one of our most commonly programmed warm up drills: the hip flow.
The hip flow
- The hip flow starts with the athlete sitting on the floor, knees bent at a 90 degree angle and feet also touching the floor.
- The athlete will then bring both knees towards one side of his body until they both touch the floor ultimately working on internal rotation of one leg and external of the other.
- Then he will return to the starting position and move onto the other side.
To make the movement slightly easier you can use your arms to support your body by simply placing your hands slightly behind you on the floor.
This will allow for a slight backward lean meaning you won’t need to create such a deep angle in the hips. As you feel like you are loosening up try to bring yourself to keep your torso upright without recruiting support from the arms. 8 to 12 reps per side of the hip flow are good general rep range to shoot for.
Lastly to warm up the knees and hips while also getting the nervous system more prepared to fire we recommend going through the 3 stance KB squat.
Stance Kettlebell squat
- The KB is held in the front rack in order to help bring more focus towards keeping an upright torso.
- We encourage athletes to strive to stay upright compared to having a more “powerlifting style” squat as the transfer to other lifts typically found in CrossFit is much higher.
Once you have the KB in the front rack we recommend going for 10 reps of squats in each stance.
- First being wide or sumo stance: aim to have your feet more than twice you hip width.
- In this stance you’ll be working a lot on mobility of the hips especially in external rotation.
- Ideally you should be able to comfortably hit parallel or just below it.
- After 10 reps feel free to place down the KB rest up as needed and then move into the regular stance squats.
- In this case aim to keep your feet at shoulder width or just slightly more apart.
- This should be the stance you usually use when back squatting.
- Lastly you’ll perform 10 reps of narrow stance squats: feet should be closer than shoulder width if not even touching.
- This is the hardest variation and will require both knee, hip and ankle mobility to be completed with full ROM.
- We recommend you focus particularly on staying as upright as possible while going through the sets of squats, in particularly this last one.
With the deadlift we usually prescribe two main warm up exercises: The jefferson curl and the good morning.
- The Jefferson curl starts with the athlete holding an empty barbell at hip height (lockout position of the deadlift), the athlete will then descend until the barbell barely touches the floor and he then will initiate a rotation.
- He does so by rotating his torso towards one side of his legs while maintaining control over the barbell and how quickly it also rotares.
- When he reaches the maximal ROM he’s comfortable with, while maintaining control he will start rotating in the opposite direction until he again reaches the end of his ROM.
- Finally he returns to having his torso in line with his legs and stand back upright. That is one rep.
- We recommend shooting for 3 to 6 slow and controlled reps.
- Good morning should also be performed with an empty or lightly loaded barbell in a rep range of 10 to 15 reps.
- They start with the barbell in the back rack and the athlete bends down until his torso is close to being parallel to the floor.
- In this position it’s important to pay attention that the back doesn’t round as we want to ensure the spine erectors are strong and engaged in the same way they should be in a good deadlift.
- Return back to the starting position to complete the rep making sure there is always a slight bend at the knees.
Paired with some quick shoulder mobility we recommend a single drill for warming up the press: the floor facing press.
Floor facing press
- The drill requires a PVC and a KB.
- The athlete will start laying face down on the floor and with a PVC in his hands.
- He’ll bring the PVC in a back rack position in order to perform a behind the neck press.
- He’ll have a KB placed 30 to 40 cm in front of him in order to give him a point of reference of where the PVC needs to be at the top of the press.
- The PVC should ideally hover just above the handle of the KB or barely touching.
- This requirement forces the athlete to truly activate his scapular muscles which will hugely benefit him once he moves onto the actual strict press.
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