Is the warm-up in class a barrier to entry or your first chance to improve your fitness throughout the day?
Do you walk into class and just get through the warm-up so that you can hit those heavy cleans? Or, do you use the warm-up as that last practice session before you get to test yourself for the day?
Both schools of thought are totally fine. But, if you can tell by how I’ve worded everything, there is definitely a way warm-ups should be thought of when we get moving at the start of class.
While it is totally normal to phone in warm-ups, heck somedays I do it just because I’m tired of working on my tight hamstrings, there are some small things you can do in each warm-up that will actually supercharge your workouts more than ya realize!
Warm-Up Pro Tip #1 – It’s The Destinations Not The Journey
Let’s give an example of the easiest warm-up to phone-in:
10 Air Squats
10 BB Shoulder Press
Now it’s really easy just to go and do each of these moves and grind trough the rust.
By that 3rd round you’ll feel your lungs open up a bit, legs get blood flow, and your front rack mobility slowly return in your front rack for shoulder press.
But, what if you’re someone that can’t touch a barbell to your shoulder? In-fact you routinely have a coach telling you “elbows up” and your wrists always hurt in front rack?
Instead of having to grit through pain and accept that stretching when we have time is the only way, what if we used the warm-up to our advantage and use the barbell as a tool to stretch?
In all movements that we do in CrossFit, from squats to presses, the end ranges of motion tend to be the places where we are tightest.
When we warm-up with these movements we can use this to our advantage and stretch ourself out!
With our example of the shoulder press, if you are having trouble with having the barbell touch your shoulders to start the rep or you have wrist pain, you can hold the barbell in a tight grip (barbell is fully clutched in your grip). As you set up in the front rack, that barbell will float above your shoulders. To combat this tightness, at the bottom of each press you try and relax that barbell closer to your shoulders without loosening your grip. This will require you to think about relaxing your lats and rear deltoids. With each rep you become more comfortable and the barbell gets closer to touching your shoulders.
To accelerate this you can also push your head through at the top to further open up the traps at the top of the rep!
As you intentionally push each end of the movement you’re doing, you are not only getting more blood flow to the areas you’re gonna use for the workout. You are actually rewiring how your brain about to approach contracting each muscle as you go through the lifts that day!
Just make sure you slow down and push yourself to really lockout those end ranges of motion and you’ll start to see a difference in your mobility as you lift!
Warm-Up Pro Tip #2 – Sweat Before You Sweat
If we go back to the previously mentioned Warm-Up, the next thing we can work on in our warm-ups is gonna be that Bike.
Usually when cardio machines are present in a warm-up, it can be incredibly easy to zone out and just move on your implement (especially the bike)!
Now that works for a long distance workout like our 30 minute AMRAPs and Murph where we are going to be keeping a consistent and medium intensity throughout the day. But, what about Fran? What about workouts where the time caps are 15 minutes or less?
Well, then the bike can serve the role of making sure your lungs are prepared to push the pace!
Crazy thing is that not only your diaphragm moves are in your lungs, the Intercostal Muscles also aid in breathing. These are the muscles that fill the gaps between your ribs that help open and close the chest cavity for breathing.
When you push a workout hard, like you would Fran (21-15-9 Thrusters & Pull-Ups), you tend to take deeper breaths and move air much more rapidly. Which means your diaphragm and intercostal muscles are working overtime!
To help them out and give your lungs the best chance to assist you with your MetCon, you’ve got to put those muscles through their paces as well.
The way we can do this is in the first set, view the bike as a chance just to move, about 70% effort.
Then on the second set, we push the pace and go at the speed we would if we were on the bike for 2-3 minutes. Your breathing cadence should be forced to pick up.
On the final set, give if your best 1 minute max cal pace. Don’t worry about getting tired, it’s the warm-up! You can just slow down and breathe after!
When you get off the bike on that final set, you’ll feel yourself breathing heavy BUT like you could still do something else (as it should be a 90% effort, not 100%).
While you might just feel like you did a mini-MetCon, you’ve don’t something awesome for yourself! You’ve now primed your lungs to move more oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. Not only that, but by doing that sprint, you also put more blood flow into those arms and legs to help you out even more with your workout for the day!
More Tips In The Future!
While I could go on for a while about how we can improve warming-up to feel better during workouts, I think these 2 tips are the most valuable.
After all, these are the 2 ways that have supercharged my warm-ups the most over the past couple years!
So, go give these mindset shifts a try in your next warm-up and see if it affects how you lift! It’s really a quite small shift to do both, it’s just cranking up intensity on the cardio machines and exaggerating our compound movements. But, the changes it has had on my mobility and ease of movement has been tremendous (just ask Katelyn about my squat position)!
To talk with a coach today, click the link found HERE to schedule your No Sweat Intro