One of the most important parts of your workout is also one of the most neglected: the warm up. When you exercise, especially at the high intensities that are required when taking on the WOD (Workout of the day), your body goes through a number of changes to try to keep up.
First, your cardiovascular, neuromuscular and metabolic systems all get a boost of energy. All of this is done to support the increased needs of your muscles, which are contracting with more force and frequency than normal. In the meantime, your core temperature rises so that more energy is released and your connective tissue becomes more flexible.
By warming up, you accomplish all of this before your actual workout begins. Since all of those changes are already made, you’ll be able to perform at greater intensities with a greatly reduced risk of injury. The best part is a proper warm up should only take an extra five to ten minutes before your workout.
So, what sort of warm up should you do before you start CrossFit workout?
The “Official” Warm Up
CrossFit did suggest a sort of “official” warm up in the April 2003 CrossFit Journal but, ideally, you should adjust your warm up based on the workout you plan on tackling afterward. As a template, this warm up should look something like this:
- Samson Stretch (once, for 30 seconds)
- Overhead Squat with Broomstick
- Back Extension
Perform 15 reps of each (except the Samson Stretch) for three rounds. This will fulfill all of the requirements of a good warm up and get your body ready for the workout. However, as we’ve mentioned, a perfect warm up will have something to do with your workout. You want to get the needed muscles ready to go without exhausting them.
Watch the video below to learn how you can do the Samson Stretch.
So, looking at the “official” warm up, you may want to change it if your workout includes pull-ups or dips. Since the Samson Stretch and Overhead Squat will activate your arms and lats, there is no need to add any extra moves that might limit your ability to keep up with the actual workout. If you do want to replace them with something, use push ups. This classic move will activate your chest, triceps and shoulders without wearing you out.
Personalize Your CrossFit Warmup
Remember the key to a successful warm up is to get the needed muscles acclimated to exercise without leaving you exhausted. To that end, consider what you’ll be doing before settling on a workout. For example, if you’ll be doing a leg-heavy day, your warm up could look like this:
Do 10-15 reps, for three rounds
- High Kicks (one each leg)
- Jump Squats
- Split Squats
- Arm Circles
- Pull Ups
Even though this warm up works your legs, it will do so at a much lower intensity than any workout will. Incorporating your upper-body is just good practice since it’ll help to boost your metabolism and jump-start your cardiovascular system. Ultimately, this boost will result in more oxygen and nutrients reaching your legs so that they can keep up.
The Thing About Stretching
A traditional warm up generally involves static stretched. Even if that title doesn’t mean anything to you, you’re probably all-too familiar with this style of warm up that involves striking a stretching pose and holding it for at least 30 seconds. Think high school gym class.
An ever-growing body of research suggests that these stretches are not only useless but could be harmful. The thinking used to be that static stretching would prevent injury and improve your performance, everything a good warm up is supposed to do. The problem is that static stretches only activate the target muscle and do little to actually “warm up” your body; your temperature will change very little and your cardiovascular system won’t be stimulate.
In addition to that, trying to perform this type of stretch when your muscles aren’t warmed up could actually increase your risk of injury and decrease your performance when it’s time to workout. Specifically, researchers have found that static stretching cold could leave you less stable and weaker. This could be a big problem when trying to make it through a CrossFit workout.
A much more effective approach is the dynamic stretch, such as the above-mentioned Samson Stretch and high kicks. These moves increase and challenge your flexibility while raising your body temperature and encouraging blood flow. If you absolutely cannot shake the old habit of static stretching, do them only after you’ve done some other more active form of warm up.
Watch the video below for some examples of dynamic stretching.
While it might be tempting to jump right in to your workout and skip the same old boring warm up, don’t do it. Those extra few months can result in a more productive workout and a greatly reduced risk of injury. Plus, your workout doesn’t have to be the same thing every time. Think about what you’re going to be doing for your workout and adjust your warm up accordingly.
Make sure to check out our review of the best shoes for CrossFit and learn which shoes are best for you and your workouts.