Complete Crossfit Warm Up

by StackHealthy | Last Updated: April 5, 2015

What’s in a Crossfit Warm Up?

Crossfit Warm UpThe process of warming up generally involves some type of light cardiovascular activity (like jogging) as well as stretching exercises which combined, increase circulation and blood flow to gradually ‘warm’ the muscle in preparation for strenuous activity.

‘Warming up brings the body to a condition at which it safely responds to nerve signals for quick and efficient action.’

Light exercise stimulates the neuromuscular and respiratory systems to kick start the metabolic process.  Muscles require oxygen to break down glucose to produce energy.  As muscles require more oxygen to create energy, the body’s heart rate, blood flow and rate of breathing all increase to meet this demand.  As the cardiorespiratory system begins firing on all cylinders, blood is pumped faster through the veins and arteries where it delivers oxygen to the working muscle(s).

Warming up not only increases respiratory circulation for proper muscle function, it also creates conditions for improved mental focus by inducing beneficial neuroplasticity responses.  A proper Crossfit warm up therefore provides both physiological benefits to injury prevention as well as neurological benefits to mental focus and preparation.

Dynamic Stretching

Stretching(t3) is remarkable when considering the neuromuscular and cardiovascular benefits it provides.  Stretching produces flexibility by increasing muscle elasticity and lubricating joints and tendons (helps prevent arthritis); leading to improved range of motion and injury prevention.

Stretching also improves blood flow which we said carries more oxygen to the working muscles to break down glucose into energy.  Improved blood flow also keeps arteries from hardening and improves overall circulation for cardiovascular health with synergistic benefits to the neurological system as well (see: mental focus above).

Crossfit Warm Up Stretching

Most athletes don’t realize they employ the wrong stretching techniques in their Crossfit warm up.  “What’s the harm” you ask, “aren’t all forms of stretching the same”?  The short is answer to this is “No,” not all forms of stretching are equal, certain forms and techniques can actually increase the risk of injury in certain people.  Static Stretching is probably the most recognized form of stretching; its techniques are employed while the body is at rest, gradually lengthening the muscle to an elongated position that is held for some period of time, often 20-30 seconds.

Numerous studies have called into question the benefits of static stretching.  They argue these techniques reduce explosive responses in muscles and increase the risk of injury by expanding joints which creates instability in the joint and can lead to injury.

Dynamic Stretching differs from static stretching in that these forms utilize momentum from various movements to gradually mobilize muscles towards their maximum range of motion.  It is the gradual nature of these stretching techniques that provide real benefits to our Crossfit warm up routine as they prepare our muscles for explosive movements while s via the of the Various studies(stretchT3) have shown statistically significant rates of reduced knee and ankle injuries in professional athletes who utilize dynamic stretching exercises in their warm up.

PNF Stretching(T3stretch) (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation of Myofascial Release) is a popular form of stretching technique frequently used in clinical settings like physical therapy offices where the objective is to stimulate both active and passive ranges of motion for rehabilitation purposes.  Many athletes find this form of stretching beneficial outside the training room and utilize it in their pre-competition warm ups.Crossfit Warm Up IT Band

These exercises utilize isometric properties to increase muscle strength without elongating the muscle and causing further damage.  IT Band(T3 stretch) stretches are a perfect example; although not a muscle by its strict definition, the IT Band is a major set of fibrous connective tissue reinforcing the thigh muscle and it’s connection at the knee and gluteal.  Many people suffering from knee, hip and IT Band pain find relief and/or preventative care by utilizing trigger point/body rollers to induce PNF release of the various abductor muscles that are often the source of pain and discomfort.

Adding dynamic stretching exercises to your Crossfit warm up along with increasing your awareness of PNF techniques for reducing muscle pain, will go a long way in improving your WOD performance.  In addition to dynamic forms of stretching, a Crossfit warm up is not complete without properly hydrating yourself.


Water is everywhere in the body, the average adult male body is made up of 65% of water; in fact, our muscle tissues are comprised of 75% water. Adults can sweat up to 4 litres per hour during maximum physical exertion.  Think about that for a second, if it takes an hour to get through a high intensity WOD your body is losing over one gallon of water in perspiration.  It is paramount then to not only hydrate properly before your Crossfit warm up, but to also take measures to hydrate yourself during the WOD as well.

Crossfit Warm UpOur bodies metabolize stored glucose at the cellular level and converts this sugar into energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  Water found in the body’s cell membranes lubricates this metabolic process like oil in a car engine, creating an environment for anabolic chemical reactions to create energy for muscle and tissue growth.  Water’s other main function is to regulate body temperature to prevent dehydration which can cause fatigue, dizziness, and in severe cases, heat stroke and hyperthermia.

As part of achieving the optimal WOD warm up routine, The American Council on Exercise suggests drinking 17 to 20 ounces of water 3 hours before your workout (about half a litre).   They also suggest drinking 8 ounces of water half an hour before your WOD and another 8 ounces within half an hour of completing the WOD.  It has also suggested to drink 7 to 10 ounces of water during your WOD to retain proper hydration, especially if you’re one of those gallon-a-WOD sweater’s.  This number is of course an average and should be scaled accordingly to your body’s personal perspiration.

5 Minute Crossfit Warm Up Routine

Here is a simple to follow dynamic Crossfit warm up routine.  Each exercise should be completed in 20 reps (10 on each leg) for 2 sets.  This routine is more for beginner Crossfit workouts and can be scaled to meet whatever physical demands your WOD calls for that day.  For more advanced Crossfit warm up ideas see the section below and our accompanying full page of dynamic warm up exercises(t3).

Knee Hugs

Knee hugs are a quick and easy Crossfit warm up technique. Facing forward, walk in a slow deliberate pace pulling the knee of the forward leg up to your chest with both hands, firmly hugging the knee as close to the chest as possible.  The force, and consequently the height of the knee hug, should increase gradually so as to not stretch the muscles past a safe resistance point as you break up lactic acid and gradually increase the range of motion.

Leg Swings

Performed both in linear and lateral fashion, stand to the side of a wall (or other support prop) and face perpendicular to the wall.  Swing your leg forward up to your chest, then back down through the center of your body and back towards your butt.  After completing the linear swing with both legs move to lateral swings.  Face up to and place both hands out in front to brace yourself against the wall.  Now swing your leg out, up and away from your body towards the sky.  As momentum pulls your leg back down, swing it back through so it crosses in front of your body like a pendulum.  Begin these swing movements at lower heights and gradually work the legs higher and higher, increasing the range of motion on the leg swing. Leg swings are a great crossfit warm up before a day of endurance and/or leg workouts.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are a more technical Crossfit warm up. Slowly walking straight, drop down with the forward moving leg into a ‘lunge’ position, lowering your hips parallel to the ground using the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes of the lunging leg to power the movement.  Technique is absolutely paramount to this warm up exercise as improper form can lead to ligament injuries in the knee.  The rule of thumb to here is to make sure the knee of the lunging leg is at a perfect 90 degree angle, maintaining perfect posture with the torso completely vertical and perpendicular to the ground.  Your kneecap should never extend out past your foot, the lunge is performed at a perfect 90 angle and the knee should always end directly over your lunging foot.  The athlete in the instructional video make the exercise even more dynamic by adding the abdominal twist.  We recommend mastering the simple lunge walk before adding any further dynmaic wrinkles to the warm up.

High Knee Skips

From the world of Track & Field, this dynamic exercise is ideal for any Crossfit warm up routine – if it’s good enough for Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt, it’s good enough for us.  Very simply, skip forward in a straight line concentrating on bringing the knee up to your chest.  Form and technique are paramount for best results and increases in range of motion.  This warm up exercises is great for activating the psoas muscles(t3 stretching), aka your hip flexor muscles which play an major role in all the of the explosive movements found in Olympic lifts.  The instructional video treats the movement as a high velocity training exercise.  Follow the same principles but at reduced intensity, gradually working up speed and vertical leap.


This is a great full body, linear/lateral hybrid exercise.  There are several iterations of the karaoke that can be performed based on the desired muscle group you want to target.  Karaoke exercises work all the lower body muscles but the movements are especially focused on loosening the groins, obliques, quads, glutes and hip flexors.  Again, technique is paramount to getting the most out of this warm up exercise.  See video for specific instructions and iterations.

Clapping Push Ups

Especially useful if your WOD involves heavy lifting.  The goal isn’t to max out AMRAP(glossary), remember this is a Crossfit WARM UP, we don’t want to fatigue ourselves; therefore low reps (scaled to the athlete’s comfort level) performed at a 2-set max is suggested.  Also known as ‘plyometric push ups,’ these guys are cousins of the Aztec Push Up (video) and might as well be called Crossfit push ups for the explosive, fast twitch strength they build.  Performed like a normal push up, when your chest touches the ground explode back up on the push, propelling the front half of your body off the ground while your feet remain planted behind.  During this brief moment of suspension, CLAP your hands together and quickly throw your arms back to brace for landing back into the same starting push up position.

Complete List of Dynamic Crossfit Warm Up Ideas

Linear Movements

Lateral/Hybrid & Upper Body Movements