For a warm-up to be effective, especially in the context of a CrossFit group class, it needs to meet the follow five key criteria, which we've listed below:
1. Effectively Warms Athletes Up
The most straight forward criteria is that the warm-up does exactly what it's supposed to: raise core temperature and prepare the soft tissue and joints for more intense training. By the time the warm-up is over, you should have a light sweat going and have moved through enough range-of-motion that their entire body feels limber and active. People often miss the mark on warm-ups by either making them too intense or under-programmed. The warm-up should not feel like a WOD, but it also shouldn’t be so easy that by the end of it you still feel stiff.
2. Reinforces and Develops Basic Calisthenics (i.e., pull-ups, push-ups and lunges)
As we mentioned above, a good warm-up also doubles as valuable training time. Programming strict pull-ups consistently into your warm-ups allows people repeated exposure to the movement at a rep range designed to either get them closer to their first unassisted rep, or increase capacity for those who already have the ability to perform them. For example, a beginner might be doing sets of five push-ups per round while a more advanced member might be doing 12 or so per round. Each person works at their own level and can adjust to make the exposures right for them. This is also a time to emphasize that practice makes permanent and athletes should strive to execute every rep with virtuosity. No matter how difficult or easy it may be, perfecting basic callisthenic movements will positively bleed into how you perform in metcons.
3. Balance of Joint Actions
The standard warm-ups that we offer are programmed with the intent of balancing basic joint actions. We want to make sure that we're generally doing both horizontal and vertical pulls and pushes as well as mixing up what kind of lower body action is being performed. This general balance helps ensure we're not overtraining a particular pattern, or ignoring another.
We also sometimes program in global flexion movements like hollow rocks, hip extension movements like kettlebell swings and static holds. This doesn't need to be an exact science, but taking some time to think about how the warm-ups compliment each other goes a long way in creating balanced programming.
4. Does Not Interfere With the Day's Training
Along with not executing warm-ups with excessive intensity, athletes generally should not be doing 30 push-ups in a warm-up before doing "Cindy" 10 minutes later. If we're going to be performing the same exercise after the warm-up, we will either tell people to do the version without the overlapping movement or we offer a substitute. We like to say that the warm-up is the "appetizer" and shouldn't get you full before the main course ahead.
5. Efficient to Run
Class time is valuable and we don't want to either have to explain the warm-up every single time we run it or deal with lots of questions about how to perform specific movements. By using simple exercises like ring rows or push-ups and offering consistent warm-up templates for fixed periods of time, people can get acclimated to them quickly and thus require minimal help setting up and executing. We want to be able to say "Okay guys, hit warm-up one or two, you've got eight minutes," and have almost everyone in class know exactly what to do and get to work within a few seconds.
Hopefully, that makes a little more sense now and that you will understand the method instead of complaining "why are we doing strict pull-ups again?"