The Importance of Warming Up

For the past month or so I have been experimenting with just how much warm up time my body actually needs to get ready to lift. This was spurred by noticing that my workouts were taking a really long time, but I never felt good until my third or fourth set of my initial work. After going through a variety of different warm up strategies, I have finally found something that works for me, and I believe is a good general principle approach to getting warm.

  • Begin with light cardio: As you would presume from the name “warm up,” the main goal of this is to raise your body temperature up to a point where your muscles are ready to be stressed and stretched past the point of their usual comfort. I have found that 5-10 minutes of steady state cardio (which usually I find has very little purpose) to be effective in achieving this task. Make it light, have a conversation while you do it, and just breathe and get ready to go.
  • Move into dynamic stretching: When you stretch out in a traditional, static manner before working out you actually signal to your body that it is shutting down, not gearing up for a workout. This is the reason that many people suggest static stretching post workout, instead of prior to a session. A much better option is to run through a quick routine of dynamic stretches which take you through a full range of motion. These do not have to be anything fancy. High knees, butt kicks (or high ankles), open and close the gate, front and lateral shuffling, and lunges are all great options. I try to do all of these before I start working out.
  • Specific Mobility: This is the shortest section of the warm up. I choose to do specific mobility for whatever my main lift is going to be. For example, if I am getting ready to snatch, I will grab a PVC pipe and do some pass throughs and static overhead squat holds. If it is a squat session, I like to do some specific hip exercises such as windshield wipers. This should take almost no time at all.

That is it. This entire routine usually takes me between 10 and 15 minutes, depending upon how much cardio I started with. If I am feeling good when I come in to train, it tends to be closer to 10 minutes. If I feel pretty beat up, closer to 15. It is not an exact science and shouldn’t be treated as such. Listen to your body, get a little sweat on, and get ready to train.

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