Warm ups and cool downs are exercises that are done at a slower pace and lower intensity. These pre and post workout activities help improve an athlete’s performance, prevent exercise related injuries and most importantly, speeds up post workout recovery. As such, they are essential components of every type of workout, and pro athlete or not, you shouldn’t skip doing them.
Importance of warm ups and cool downs
Typically involving exercises such as cycling and jogging, warming up before a workout prepares your body (specifically your cardiovascular system) for action. Warm up exercises increase blood flow to all your muscles and raise your body temperature.
When muscles are properly warmed up, you lower the risk of workout related injuries. Also, muscle soreness is minimized because the strain you put your body through while exercising becomes less severe.
Cooling down after working out works by bringing down your blood pressure and heart rate to normal levels. Workouts increase your heart rate and you need to bring it back down through lower intensity exercises instead of abruptly stopping.
Cooling down regulates blood flow too, which is crucial particularly for athletes that do intense workouts like CrossFitters. Essentially, you need to prepare your body for the next workout session and this is exactly what a cool down does.
Warming up and cooling down - how CrossFit athletes do it.
Now that we are clear as to why warming up before a workout and cooling down afterwards is important, the next question is how exactly do athletes - and we’ll start with CrossFit athletes - do these exercises? How does a crossfitter prepare for WODs and what do they do afterwards to prevent severe muscle soreness?
The warm up
It can be a bit tempting to just do WODs without warming up properly. But, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, warming up properly improves muscle performance and flexibility so you prevent injuries while training.
A good crossfit warm up takes about 15 - 20 minutes, and depending on your skill level, can be made up of a combination of cardio (to increase heart rate) and stretch (for mobility) exercises. Try doing the same warm up routine for about 30 days so you can check for improvements in your workout performance.
Wake up those muscles
Using a massage gun before doing any type of exercise “wakes up” your muscles, which is crucial in any warm up routine. This helps ensure that you won’t do any activity on cold muscles and get you hyped for your workout.
30 seconds to 1 minute for every muscle group
What to do
“Float” the massage gun over muscles you are going to train for the day. Start with lower settings and adjust intensity as needed. Remember to not exceed use to more than a minute per muscle group.
Get your heart rate going with a 5-minute run through the agility ladder. You can alternate the standard forward run with lateral running, so you run sideways from end to end. Or, you can change it up with other moves.
What to do
Hop on one leg for the whole length of the ladder, making sure that you land inside one box as you go. Complete another length from the other end of the ladder by hopping on your other leg.
Put your left foot in the first box, followed by your right foot. Then, put your left foot out of the next box and then do the same with your right foot. Continue putting your feet inside and then outside the boxes (left foot first, then right) until you reach the full length of the ladder.
Jumping ropes improve coordination which is very important when doing CrossFit exercises. Amp up the challenge by changing up the routine with more advanced moves.
What to do
Jump rope and hop on one leg only for 30 seconds, then switch to your other leg. Continue doing this until the 5 minute timer goes off.
Do some double unders. Pass the jump rope under your feet, twice between jumps. Do a couple of single jumps, then one double under then another two single jumps. Continue with this routine until the 5 minute timer ends.
Squats, Lunges and Planks
You can actually choose specific exercises to warm up the areas you will work on for the day. Mobility warm ups are important as it strengthens your body, which protects it from injury.
5 minutes for all the exercises
What to do
Do air squats, leg circles and lunges for your lower body. Do ten of each for three sets.
Planks and push ups for posture and upper body strength. Do ten push ups for three sets, and do planks a minimum of 60 seconds, or hold for as long as you can.
This stretch exercise improves your shoulders’ stability, which is crucial in completing crossfit training routines.
What to do
Extend your arms and hold the position. Then, slowly rotate your arms, making sure you are keeping a tight circle. Do 3 sets of ten stretches.
You can also increase the challenge by holding a kettlebell or a dumbbell in each hand. Bend your body forward at the hip then circle your arms at 10 reps each, 3 sets.
Hip rotations stretch the muscles on your hips and lower back. This stretch exercise helps prepare your body for intense WODs.
What to do
Lay down on your back and bend your knees. Slowly push your knee forward by crossing your left ankle over your right knee. This will then stretch your hip muscles so try to hold that position for at least 30 seconds (up to a minute, if you can manage it). Then, slowly go back to the starting position and do the same stretch on your other side.
You can further improve mobility by positioning your knees at varying angles when you do each stretch exercise.
The cool down
Again, cool downs are done to slowly bring your heart rate back to normal. These post workout exercises are about 5 minutes long at an average. However, it is important to note that the length of your cool down all depends on how long your WOD was.
The rule is: longer WODs (20 minutes or longer), shorter cool downs. But if you did a Fran WOD for example (which is shorter but waaay more intense), you would need a longer time to cool down.
After the workout, using a percussive therapy tool like HYDRAGUN is recommended, paying attention to the muscle groups used most during the workout. You also need to do deep breaths to regulate your body temperature as this boosts post workout recovery. And self massages help in your focused breathing process.
2 minutes per muscle group
What to do
Again, “float'' the massage gun along muscles that you used most during the workout. You can also use it in areas where you feel most sore to minimize - if not completely prevent - DOMS.
Pass through the following areas for 2 minutes each
- Rear Shoulder
- Upper Back
Stretch it out
Static stretches are great for cooling down from WODs. This also helps tone down overactive muscles caused by bad positioning during the workout.
30 seconds per muscle group
What to do
Stretch every muscle group and hold the position for 30 seconds, or 10 seconds for 3 rounds.
Remember to stretch both sides of your body equally. No static stretches should be painful. If you experience sudden pain, then you have pushed/stretched too far.
Stretch to the point where you can feel the muscles lightly stretching and that you can hold for up to 30 seconds (or at least 10 seconds, 3 rounds)
Most importantly - BREATHE. Do not hold your breath as breathing keeps a healthy supply of oxygen to your muscles which helps it relax. Holding your breath while doing static stretches will tense up the muscles, making the cool down ineffective.
There you have it. The things that a crossfit athlete does to warm up for an intense WOD and how they cool down afterwards. What do you think? Do you do your post workout cool downs differently? What are your go-to warm up routines? Let us know by sounding off in the comments!