Programming 101: ‘Workout Warm-up’ Dilemma


Programming 101: ‘Workout Warm-up’ Dilemma

Walk into any gym, athletic club, or CrossFit and you will see people of all fitness backgrounds and abilities gearing up to ‘crush’ their intended workouts of the day. How these various demographics warm-up is the subject matter of this short blog post. Go onto Google images and you can search neat little sayings like “Our workout is your warm-up”. Of course we all get a good laugh as we picture the masses of people dress-right-dress in organized treadmill columns watching CNN at their nearest $10 judgement free zone. Dare I say, it isn’t so funny. The fact is with the plethora of fitness knowledge and accessibility via the internet many fitness circles are still unsure how to properly warm up. Regardless, even the ‘elite’ among us can get this process harmfully wrong. Now if we flip this saying and make it “our warm up is a workout” then you see my previous reference to how things can go harmfully wrong.

As we have become more educated about fitness and movement we have distorted the line between warming up and my new term a ‘workout-warm up’. Dynamic warm ups (DWU) and Static Stretching (SS) were once performed to increase muscle and tendon suppleness, to stimulate blood flow to the periphery, to increase body temperature, and to enhance free, coordinated movement (meaning the muscles working in coordinated effort)

Across the fitness landscape DWU’s have morphed into short intense mini-WODs. Unfortunately, following this method negates the true training focus of the DWU.  Everything that we do as coaches and as trainees should adhere to an intelligent design and serve a purpose.  As a coaching staff at CrossFit Pneuma we utilize DWU’s as a training tool and we program this to elicit a desired response. For instance jumping rope or low intensity rowing serves to increase core temperature as just one example. Toy soldiers serve to increase mobility of the hamstrings, hip flexors and stabilizers like the quadriceps, glutes, calves and shin. Not to mention all of the secondary muscles recruited during these warm up movements like the arms, core, shoulders etc. All of this is performed with the training goal of increased mobility to allow trainees to get into better positions for programmed movements.

To understand the DWU in more depth here are a few standard DWU rules of engagement:

  1. What movements are scheduled for the day?
  2. What is the purpose of the warm up exercise?
  3. Is it applicable to the programmed movements for the day?
  4. What is the training effect I am seeking?

Following this brief and simple checklist should keep the majority of us from falling into the trap of the ‘Workout-Warm up’. Having this checklist will also allow us to prepare more effectively for the WOD and hopefully perform injury free. Remember, if you need a warm up for the warm up, then you are falling into the trap of poor programming, and the warm up is NOT serving the original training purpose!

Above all else, our role as coaches is to adhere to safety first. Our objective is simple, don’t hurt anyone!