Your warm-up is crucial if you want to train hard and increase your performance in CrossFit. An athlete performs any combination of lifting, jumping, running, and gymnastics movements.
That’s a lot for one day of training!
Your warm-up is an opportunity to maximize your body’s potential to perform those movements. It is also an effective way of decreasing your risk of injury.
Whether you’re competitive or use CrossFit to stay healthy, warming up helps you reach your fitness goals.
The following guide consists of 3 major sections:
- The benefits of warming up
- What makes up a good warm-up
- How to get started, and a simple tool for always writing a good warm-up
Benefits of a Warm Up
Warming up is a hard sell for some people.
Showing up to the gym is hard enough for me. Now you’re saying I’m supposed to exercise before I exercise?
The answer, no matter who you are, is yes. Even if your warm-up feels like a second workout, it’s worth it. The research is almost unanimous on the performance benefits of a good warm up.
So what makes warming up worth it?
How can a coach get their athletes to buy into always warming up?
What will it take to convince you that it’s important?
Benefits Of A Good Warm-up Include
- Physiological benefits– your muscle tissue can move better when blood flows through it. A good warm-up also increases body temperature and puts your body’s pH at a level optimal for exercise.
- Decreased risk of injury– a proper warm-up puts your muscles through the range of motion (ROM) of the workout. This means better performance during the workout and a lower chance of injury!
- The extra practice of movements– a component of a great warm-up is making it specific to that day’s workout. Your warm-up is also a good opportunity to practice difficult movements and improve.
What Makes A Good Warm-up
A great CrossFit warm-up prepares your muscular and nervous system for exercise. It improves your ability to move well. And, it takes into account the specific movements you will be performing that day.
By the end of your warm up, your body should be able to meet the demands of the specific CrossFit workout.
The good news? A great warm-up doesn’t take a long time.
This means we’ll use about 10-15 minutes as our estimated time frame for a good warm up.
But what needs to happen during that 15-minute window to classify your warm up as “good” or “great”? Here’s a skeleton that any good warm-up
In general, a great CrossFit workout can be broken into 4 components:
Length: 2-5 minutes
The goal is simple. Spend the first few minutes of your warm up increasing your heart rate and body temperature.
While this may not be the most fun, it’s essential if you want to perform better. Running, rowing, biking, and jumping rope are popular options.
A good guideline that anyone can follow is making sure you can pass the “talk test”.
If the cardio you’re doing is so intense that you can’t hold a conversation with the person next to you, it’s too much.
2. Movement Prep
Length: 3-5 minutes
Take a look at the movements you will be performing in your workout.
If you have both a strength and conditioning component to your workout, be sure to include movements from each.
For example, pretend your workout has push presses and wall balls shots in it.
You’ll want to pick movements where you’ll press overhead, squat, and hold weight in a front rack position.
You might choose movements like PVC pipe thrusters or 1-arm kettlebell presses. Both incorporate the squat and/or press.
Both will lay the foundation to move at speed or under load 15-20 minutes from now.
Complete 1-3 sets of 12-15 lightweight repetitions with these movements. Depending on how complex your workout is, you may have up to 5 different exercises for movement prep.
You may also choose to work on weaknesses during movement prep. Even if it’s only 2-3 small sets, you’ll get much better at double unders if you do them each day.
In some ways, movement prep and mobility go hand in hand. The difference is that mobility focuses on increasing range of motion (ROM) in your body’s joints.
While movement prep will increase ROM, the primary goal is different.
Mobility should take into account the demands of the movements you will perform.
What joints will need to move through a full range of motion without pain or tightness?
Let’s use the squat as an example. If you’ve squatted before, you know that hip mobility is important.
Consider 1-2 minutes of mobility that will open your hips before your squat session.
Don’t forget to include smaller joints like ankles and wrists. Heavy loads on small joints can add up over time.
If you’ve ever injured your wrist or ankle, you know how much even a minor tweak can nag or decrease performance.
4. Muscle Activation/Plyometrics
Length: 1-2 minutes
The final part of your warm-up should focus on muscle activation. You can achieve this through plyometric training.
Think of it as the “bridge” between your warm-up ending and the work out starting.
Muscle activation is what prepares your body for intensity. This can mean intensity in generating force or power during a workout.
It forces your nervous system to wake up before the clock actually starts.
Think about it this way. A band pull-apart increases blood flow and range of motion. But light bands won’t prepare your upper body to move a heavy barbell or medicine ball at full speed once you hear 3-2-1.
1 set of 8-10 repetitions of plyometrics for the upper and lower body will make a huge difference.
How To Get Started
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve bought into the importance of warming up. Now, it’s time to give you actionable advice to help you get started.
My goal for the rest of this article is to keep things simple. To do this, I’ve created a warm-up template that gives you infinite combinations.
It’s a repeatable skeleton of a warm-up you can do every time you go to the gym, and still not repeat warm-ups.
I call it The “Word Bank” Warm Up.
The “Word Bank” Warm Up
Take a blank piece of paper and make 4 boxes on it. You may also consider typing this up and laminating it for your gym bag. At the top of each box, write the 4 components of a good warm up.
Again, they are:
- Cardio (2-5 minutes)
- Movement Prep (3-5 minutes)
- Mobility (3-5 minutes)
- Muscle Activation (1-2 minutes)
Below each box, list as many movements as you can think of for each section. In the movement prep section, list light movements specific to the 7 human movements. In the mobility section, categorize it by the common movements you find in CrossFit.
Here are some basic examples to get your lists started.
- jumping rope
- Run- run, other light cardio
- Squat- PVC pipe overhead squats, air squats
- Push- band presses, push-ups
- Pull- pull-ups, band pull apart
- Hinge- kettlebell deadlifts, kettlebell swings
- Lunge- lunges, rear foot elevated squats
- Squat- hips, ankles, glutes, hamstrings
- Deadlift- glutes, hamstrings, hips, ankles
- Oly Lifting- hips, shoulders, ankles, glutes
- Overhead Press/Bench Press- shoulders, pectorals, triceps, biceps
- medicine ball slams
- medicine ball throws (chest pass)
- box jumps
- jumping alternating lunges
- broad jumps
- double unders
- 400m Run
- 21 Kettlebell swings (24kg)
- 12 Pull-Ups
- Cardio: Light 400m Run
- Movement Prep: 3×12 air squats, 12kg kettlebell swings, band pull-aparts
- Activation: 1×8 medicine ball slams, box jumps
Pick and choose from each list until you’ve created a warm-up that meets the specific demands of that day’s workout.
Stick to the time frames, and get to work!
The “Word Bank” Warm Up In Action
Pretend that today’s workout is as follows:
5×3 back squat
My “Word Bank” warm-up would need to account for 4 movement patterns. They are squat, running, hinging and pulling.
Warm Up Routine
Here’s how I would craft my 15-minute warm up, incorporating all 4 components of a great CrossFit Warm Up:
Again, the combinations are endless. As you continue training and using this warm-up template, add new movements to the list that fit.
That way, you’ll never get bored!
Fun CrossFit Warm Up
Warming up is critical if you want to reach your fitness goals. Whether you are a competitive athlete or working out for the first time in years, it doesn’t matter.
You will perform better and decrease your risk of injury by warming up before you work out.
An effective warm-up consist of 4 components: cardio, movement prep, mobility, and muscle activation.
This may seem like a lot at first, but a great warm-up can happen in 15 minutes or less.
Consider using the “Word Bank” Warm Up template in this article. It’s a foolproof way of preparing your body for exercise while not getting bored by the same movements!
In closing, don’t think of your warm up as a second work out. Think of it as an opportunity to maximize the work out you were already going to do.