Many people overlook the importance of a good warm-up. Often we see athletes spending warm-up time taping their hands, putting on knee sleeves or generally approaching the warm-up with a lackadaisical attitude.
Undoubtedly we all want to achieve two things when we train: (1) Perform at our best, (2) Avoid injury.
The warm-up is just as important as the strength or conditioning workout we are about to do and without a good warm-up your workouts will suffer and your performance will be less than optimal.
A warm up should…
- Increase core temperature and blood flow
- Increase active range of motion
- Move through all planes of motion
- Introduce movement patterns relevant to the upcoming training session
- Introduce skills / drills relevant to the upcoming training session
A great way to achieve this is through a two-part process: A General Warm-up and a Specific Warm-up.
There are endless ways to design warm-ups, but the example below is simple to remember and easy to implement when you are trying to warm-up before an Open Gym session, a competition, or a 10K race.
Whilst this is 'general', it can actually encompass all five points listed above. But in general, you want to think about increasing core temperature, blood flow and active range of motion all while moving through different planes of motion (points 1-3).
Lets break those three components down…
Increase core temperate and blood flow: This is easy, just get moving! Simple mono-structural movements like running, rowing, cycling and skipping are great.
Increase active range of motion: By this we mean moving in and out of positions under control. To improve range of motion you need to perform your chosen movements as perfectly as possible and with the full range of motion available to you at that time. As you progress through the warm-up try to move deeper into movements. You can even add brief holds of 3-10 seconds at end range positions.
Move through different planes of motion: Let's first look at the planes of motion...
Sagittal: Everything involving forward and backward motion (flexion and extension). As CrossFitters we live in the sagittal plane. Clean and jerk, snatch, thrusters, squats, kettlebell swing, wall balls, box jumps, burpees, toes to bar, pull ups, running, rowing, airdyne are all in the sagittal plane.
Frontal/coronal: Side to side movement (lateral, abduction and adduction). Lateral lunge (cossack squats), lateral box step-ups, crossover lunges. Any single leg or single arm work whilst looking like a sagittal plane movement actually challenges stabilisation in the frontal and transverse plane.
Transverse: Twisting and turning motions (rotation and horizontal flexion). Anything that involves elements of rotation such as rotational lunge, rotational med ball throws, pallof presses and any single arm or single leg work.
If you only ever train in one plane of motion, you’re more likely to wind up injured (which is why we do so much frontal/coronal and transverse movement in class warm-ups). Working only in the sagittal plane can result in overuse in certain muscles that control these movements, as well as the risk of weaknesses in the muscles not being used. As well as increased risk of injury, it can also negatively impact on overall performance.
With that in mind here is a simple structure for a general warm-up, perform 3-5 rounds of:
Mono-structural movement (run, row, bike, skip)
Sagittal plane movement
Frontal plane movement
Transverse plane movement
Try not to get to caught up in the nitty gritty. The general warm-up is just that, general! Pick some movements and move through them for 5-10 minutes.
Whilst this can (and probably will) also develop points 1-3, its main focus is on skill development and the movement patterns relevant to the training session or competition.
Take a look at your main movements for the day and try to identify some key components you need to work on.
Do you have pull-ups in your session? Why not put in some arch to hollow drills?
Are you going to snatch? The Burgener warm-up is a great chance to dial in your skills
Lots of deadlifts coming up? Get working on some hinge patterns, like kettlebell swings.
Train with intent
Do not be fooled into thinking 'it's just a warm-up'. A thoughtful warm-up is a key component of a successful training session.
Pay attention to what you are doing, focus on moving as well as you can and pay attention to elements that you need to work harder on. The warm-up is a chance to touch base with how your body is feeling and responding, as well as dialling in your mind-set and focus for the session ahead.
You warm-up is your preparation, and failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Some helpful videos
Warm-up with Matt Chan
Chris Hinshaw Running Warm-up
Burgener Warm-Up Explained
3D Lunge Matrix