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In 2003, coach Greg Glassman wrote the article titled: “A Better Warm up” in the CrossFit Journal. This article drew conclusions on the potential benefits of practicing functional movement patterns as an alternative to traditional cardio warm ups in a steady state. The increased benefits of this warm up includes the following:

  • Raising the core temperature of the body and increasing the heart rate
  • Added stretching of the major joints
  • Developing functionality and capacity in some of the basic movements
  • Working the entire body
  • Preparing the systems of the body for the rigors of the workout

The Original CrossFit Warm up Includes:

  • The Sampson strength (opening the hip flexor in a lunge)
  • The Overhead Squat (done with a PVC or empty barbell)
  • Sit-ups (on an ab-mat)
  • Back extensions (On a GHD)
  • Pull ups (strict/kipping or banded)
  • Dips (on a dip bar or rings)

You may re-call some old CrossFit tee shirts that say “our warm up is your workout” and to many people who are new to functional training the statement might be true, but this is not meant to be the case. This warm up is instructed to be done “Challenging, but not unduly taxing” By picking appropriate scales for the movements that fit this criteria, both in assisting the movements or lowering the reps, anyone should be able to do this without an issue. Originally this warm up was prescribed for 3 sets through of 10 reps each movement with parameters that it should take no longer than 15 minutes under low-moderate intensity, the same heart rate you might jog on a treadmill with.

The beauty in this warm up is its simplicity and effectiveness. It works hip with leg functions, trunk with hip functions, as well as flexion and extension of the joints. By practicing the very basics daily athletes can expect to improve positions and efficiency of the foundations. One of the more impressive benefits is the neurological “greasing of the groove” in the motor pathways. This is also a great way to silently build capacity with intensity or muscular damage you might encounter from the workout, an added bonus.

As athletes build capacity it may be appropriate to add some volume or increase the difficulty of some of the movements. Below is a graded progression for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level athletes:

Beginner: 

Done for 3 rounds (as capacity increases, raise all reps to 10, no scales)

  • Samson stretch 1 minute
  • 10 PVC overhead squat
  • 10 ab-mat sit-ups
  • 10 back extensions
  • 5 pull ups (with or without bands)
  • 5 Dips (with or without bands)

Intermediate 

(Done for 3 rounds)

  • Sampson stretch
  • 15 pvc overhead squat
  • 15 sit ups
  • 15 back extensions
  • 15 pull ups
  • 15 ring dips

Advanced 

(Done for 3 rounds)

  • Sampson Stretch
  • 15 PVC overhead squat
  • 15 GHD sit ups
  • 15 Barbell good morinings
  • 3 rope climbs
  • 10 handstand push ups
  • 5 muscle ups

All of this is very individual and ply-able. Balance the capacity of the athlete with a somewhat challenging volume and movement difficulty that allows them to get something out of the warm up without going nuts. From a macro perspective, if athletes are moving better, progressing in skill, and slowly adding capacity to the warm ups, you are headed in the right direction. This is a garnish to your program, an added value in an unlikely place that can accelerate athletes’ progress to their goals, and beyond.  

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Virtually any method of strength training will get results for the novice, detrained or untrained lifter. A program with any significant level of intensity and functional movements; whether it be lifting soup cans, P-90-X, INSANITY, CrossFit, or Westside Barbell’s conjugate method, will enhance the strength of an individual in just a few weeks.

For this reason it can be very deceiving or misleading to interpret the results shown by the exposure to training programs on novice athletes as a qualification of a programs effectiveness. We see this all the time with the latest fitness fads on TV in the form of the Shaker Weight, Tony Little’s Gazelle training, The Perfect Pushup and Zumba, etc…. Something is always better than nothing, but what does this usually breed?…Relatively inexperienced athletes moving with less than desirable technique, who achieve initial success and then plateau or recede due to injury, poor movement patterns, or lack of appropriate progression. So how do you set a foundation for continued success? What should you be looking for as an athlete that is new to strength training?


Take the Time to Set a Good Foundation of the Basics

New athletes should take the time to restore the range and correct pattern of basic movements. Anyone can slap weight on a barbell. It takes skill and dedication to move with virtuosity. Setting this foundation will raise your ceiling in the long run…increasing athletic potential, decreasing the risk of injury and ensuring a more fruitful and productive athletic life. Here are some basic concepts of movement….

1) Develop Proper Core Strength

Core strength is the ability to support and maintain a neutral position of the spine as you move about the hips, knees, and shoulders. This position evenly loads the discs of the spine…reducing shear and creating a safe and effective transmission of forces. Practice holding the spine long and still whenever lifting weight.

2) Work on Tapping into your power center

Athletes need to access the biggest most powerful muscle groups in the body…the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors on the back side of the body. This area is from the knees to the upper back. The “Power Center” is where massive force can be produced and translated through the hips. You can recruit into this musculature by initiating movement with the hips first, balancing weight in the heels, and arching to back to load the backside up while maintaining a strong position for the lower back.

3) Practice Moving in Proximal to Distal Patterns

High levels of power are generated from the center out. This happens in a wave of contractions the start at the core and end at the extremities. You want to let the force of your hips carry over to your arms by not violating this natural chain of movement. Error can be seem in movements such as prematurely bending the arms in the Olympic lifts or pressing early in movements such as the push press.

4) Restore Your Body’s Full Range of Motion

Athletes should be moving through their anatomical full range of motion. Partial range of motion results in partial strength and partial flexibility. To ensure good muscular balance and enhance muscular recruitment require full range exercises. This should be the first plan of attack…DO NOT WAIT!! You won’t learn to go full range once you develop a 400lb quarter squat.

Anyone can use intensity to get in shape. It is the knowledge of your movement and mastering an appropriate prescription that preserves good technique that will ensure the continued athletic development. Use these principals to differentiate yourself and your training from others.

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