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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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90% of people that come in the gym don’t need a specialized program. They need fitness. There is no magic formula or complex algorithm that is the key is success, in fact it is quite simple: practice full body high powered functional movements, push yourself to your mental and physical limits, and change up the duration, loading, and tasks your perform. This will give you big results in many different areas, setting a strong base of general physical preparedness. And it is likely that for most these results will continue to improve for a very long time, before they plateau as long as the consistency and intensity are there. But lets say that you reach that plateau and find that while many areas of your fitness are strong, you have identified some weak spots that are not congruent to your other capacities. It is possible to work on those weaknesses while maintaining your overall fitness within your program. Here are some ways to fix that chink in your armor.

Method #1

Add extra work in this area in the warm-up or cool down of your workout. For example if you struggle with pull-ups you could warm up with some kipping pull-up skill, or you could cash out of your workout with a finisher of 2 sets of max strict pull-ups 3 times a week. If you struggle with the Olympic lift you could work on positions and skill with a barbell in the warm up or add some short extra lifting work after the workouts 3 times a week.

Method #2

You could program the capacity you lack more frequently in your workouts. 3 days a week could be a workout focusing on this area. For instance if you need your strength, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays could be just dedicated strength days with your other two training days focusing on overall fitness, not just strength.

Whatever it is you choose to specialize in remember, the goal isn’t to be a specialist. Specialists are not fit. It is easy to fall in love with one area and loose site of the overall picture. After a period of time evaluate whether what your have chosen to focus on is better, and when it is time to become a generalist again…because generalists are freaking FIT!

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Squatting heavy can be one of the most taxing activities on the body. There are few other movements that can load and demand as much coordinative ability as a heavy squat. They are hard and they work! Preparing the body for such a stress is very important for performance and longevity. Getting muscles hot, taking the joints through a range of motion, and activating muscles and the central nervous system   can get you squatting well and fast. Here is a 15 minute warm-up complex to get you to peak performance under the bar.

General Warm-up, Part 1

(Heating up the muscles)

Before you ever start squatting, it is important to get the muscle and tendons hot and malleable. You can do this by elevating the heart rate will any general movement.

  1. Start on a bike for 3 minutes. Slowly ramp up the speed so that your heart rate is getting high by the time you finish. You want to pump some blood in your legs and heat up the tissues. You could also do 3 minutes of jumping jacks, or a 500 meter row.

General Warmup, Part 2

(Take the joints through a range of motion)

Taking the joints through a range of motion prepares the muscle for the movement demands of stretching and shortening. Here the focus is on the hips and hamstrings. Try to stretch beyond the range of motion required in a squat.

  1. Lie on the ground with a stretch band around your foot. Stretch and relax the hamstrings by pulling your leg up. Use the band to assist you with some extra range of motion at the top. Perform 15 each leg, 1 second up. 1 second at the top, 1 second down.
  2. Open up the hips by performing 20 mountain climbers with the feet reaching outside the hands. Do 5 at a time fast, then take a second to push the hips towards the floor.
  3. Perform 20 jumping squats developing a full range of the squat as well as getting the muscle to work with elasticity.

Specific Warmup, Part 1:

(Muscle activation)

There are specific muscles you want to stimulate to get the correct pattern of movement happening. Here we focus on the core and hips that will initiate the squat.

  1. Lie on the ground face up and perform 20 hip bridges. With your feet flat on the floor drive your hips up into a bridge and squeeze your glutes for one second at the top. This will activate your back side and the erectors of the lower back.
  2. Perform 20 slow air squats with a light band around the knees. Concentrate on driving the knees out against the band to activate the muscle around the hips and the hamstrings. Focus on strong technique.

Specific warm-up Part 2

(Central Nervous System Activation)

Getting the central nervous system ramped up and firing hard allows for peak performance. This maximizes the ability for the brain to communicate with the body. The greater the weight, and the faster the movement, the higher the demand on the CNS. Ramp up in a few sets and allow enough time once you get to your working sets (2-3 minutes) for the central nervous system to recover.

  1. Begin with an empty barbell and perform 3 squats. Go down slow and tight, drive up fast
  2. Take 5 sets to work up to a starting weight. Only perform 3-5 reps. Make big jumps in weight (50-90lbs) each set. Remember to brace your belly tight and drive up fast, moving the bar with speed.

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