Strength & Fitness

The Importance of Warm Up Sets

Have you ever tried racing someone without warming up beforehand? How’d that go? If I had to guess, probably not well...Maybe you won the race! But how did it feel afterward? 

Warming up prior to activity is vital, no matter what you are doing. From something as simple as a run, to what we do in Crossfit. Warming our bodies up is essential to help raise our core body temp, prevent injury, and bulletproof our body.

This is why we always do a dynamic warm-up right at the beginning of each class. This is where we do a few general movements to start to prime the body for the work we will be doing over the course of the class. It’s important during this time to move with purpose and not just move to move. Slacking off during the warmup can have an effect on how well your workout goes.

This is why nobody runs their best 100m dash from a cold start, with no warm-up. The goal is to prime your nervous system so it can be optimized for performance. It does not work on demand. It needs some foreplay. Like other things ;)

The other type of warm-up I’d like to talk about is the one that occurs before strength and before the metcon or conditioning piece. 

You may notice we usually give you some time before each of these parts of the workout to get “warmed up”. Some examples of this would be warming up for 8,8,6,6 front squats or telling you to warm up to a moderate weight for power cleans during the metcon.

While it might not be implied, what we are really asking you to do is to do anywhere from 2-4 warm-up or “ramp up” sets prior to starting your “working sets”. What is the difference between ramp-up sets and working sets? 

  • Ramp-up sets: The purpose of these sets is to prepare for the working sets. In the front squat example above, these would be the sets you do prior to that first set of 8. These sets are at lighter weights and would probably be 3-6 reps. The idea is to progressively build to the weight you want to start your working sets at. 
  • Working sets: These are where we are focused on improving our strength and muscle. In the front squat example, these would be the 8,8,6,6. 

The purpose of the ramp-up sets is to help keep your body healthy, improve neural output, and help you achieve muscularity and strength levels you never imagined possible. Not performing a proper ramp-up will leave your muscles and nervous system less stimulated, which could lead to sub-par performance. 

The same goes for ramping up for the workout as for the strength. If the metcon calls for power cleans at 135/95 and that is 75% of your max, you wouldn’t want to go from an empty barbell immediately to 135/95…(we see this a lot). Instead, you should perform 1-2 sets at a lighter weight to reinforce your technique and work through any tightness you might have. You may even find out during this process that your body isn’t feeling it today and you should scale the weight back to meet the stimulus of the workout. 

It is good to warm up each of the movements in the metcon so that you know what to expect (yes, even burpees…). This would mean doing 5-8 wall balls, DB snatches, box jumps, etc. These warm-up/ramp-up reps are not going to fatigue much, if at all. The goal is to prepare yourself for the workout and these sets will get your mind and body in the groove. The more acclimated your body is, the better you will do!

You all are unique and will have different reactions to this, but following the guidelines for proper ramp-up below should help you achieve better strength numbers:

  • The first weight is all about technique and range of motion. This could be with an empty barbell or a lightweight. Focus on perfect form and working through any tightness. 4-8 reps are enough
  • In the next couple of sets, build-up to the goal weight you have for your first working set. It is okay during this process to do fewer reps with each set as the weight goes up so you don’t fatigue yourself. Make sure that you are focused on your technique and hitting full range of motion with each of these reps. You won’t need much rest as you build the weight.

Hopefully, all of this jargon makes sense. We want what’s best for each of you; to be the strongest and best versions of yourselves! Having a little more intention during warm-ups and ramp-ups will benefit you in the long run. After all, we are playing the long game when it comes to our health and fitness. If you have any questions about this topic, please let us know!