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CrossFit Warm-Ups: Their Importance and Overall Purpose

By: Alexander Rodriguez

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“Why do we CrossFit?” It’s a common question for coaches, and in class I always jokingly respond with, “to look great naked.” For many this is actually the case, while others may have loftier goals of trying to make it all the way to the CrossFit games. Whatever category you fall under, we are all striving for the exact same thing: to become healthier and more efficient in our movement.

As a coach it is my responsibility to train and develop athletes without bias in order for them to reach their desired results. The overall success of an athlete is measured by the amount of time a coach invests in all facets of programming. And it all begins with the right warm-up.

Warm-ups are used to gradually elevate the athlete’s body temperature by increasing blood flow. A good warm-up prepares the individual by making sure they properly take every joint through their full range of motion. This process is vital in preventing injuries, and it enables both the coach and athlete to determine any deficiencies or limitations in movement before exercise.

CrossFit athletes are expected to perform a wide variety of movements. The most commonly implemented in a workout involve some type of gymnastics movement, Olympic lift, and a mono-structural element. The task of the coach is to correctly apply these three components, and utilize specific fundamentals pertaining to each group to guarantee an efficient warm-up.  For example, any basic body movement should be used to prep the athlete for the gymnastics portion of the WOD. These may include, but not limited to, air squats, burpees, pull-ups, push-ups, and any other functional movement that will help the athlete maximize full body control and awareness.

Olympic lifting requires specific attention to dynamic and explosive movements carrying heavy load, so the warm-up should contain movements that are specific to this. The kettlebell is a very useful tool that helps the athlete prepare for lifts such as the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk. That’s because it enables the athlete to work on coordination and focus on form at a lighter weight. Athletes may also use an empty barbell for the warm-up. Proper form and technique is required to ensure the safety of the athlete. Therefore, if you are able to adequately prepare the athlete for efficiency throughout their lifts, it will maximize their performance.

Mono-structural movements (i.e. “traditional” cardio) are simply used to help the athlete loosen up and raise their heart rate to manageable levels. Here, we aim not to kill the athletes, but rather to help them increase their work capacity. Running, rowing, and jumping rope are the most commonly used.

Personally, I feel the warm-up is the most important part of any class. Not only are you able to adequately prepare the athlete for the WOD and assess their deficiencies, but it’s also the ideal time to establish close working relationships. This interaction is crucial in developing the athlete and yourself as a coach, but especially the CrossFit community and family. Don’t just aim to “get through” your warm-up; make it fun while adhering to form and function, and it’ll benefit you tons in the long term.

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