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The Right Way to Warm-Up Before You Work Out

Posted by Aaron Seminoff on


CrossFit coach Mike McElroy sees a lot of bad warm-ups at the gym. If your warm-up consists of a few stretches and a bunch of socializing, it’s time to get serious about your warm-up routine. Mike recommends a full 20-30 minute warm-up before every training session he leads. What are the fundamentals of a good warm-up routine? Here’s a breakdown:


5-10 minutes of aerobics to literally warm-up your muscles, 5-10 minutes of mobility and stability work, 5-10 minutes of rehab or preventive exercises for weaknesses, 2-10 minutes of greasing the groove, and 2-5 minutes of easy reps with an empty barbell.


According to Mike, an ideal aerobic warm-up before weight lifting will stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response). To elevate heart rate, increase blood flow, and break a sweat, you can row, bike, run, jump rope, or swing a kettlebell.


For mobility and stability, exercise your spine with thoracic extensions and your shoulders with distraction exercises, kettlebell windmills and arm bars. Do some handstands too. Next, be sure to address any injuries or weaknesses with isolation work, such as shoulder exercises using dumbbells or bands.


What’s greasing the groove? Mike describes it as choosing a particular motor pathway efficiency to train and improve, working with around 50% effort but 100% focus. Moves for this portion of the warm up could include burpees, overhead squats, or box jumps.


Putting it all together, a sample warm-up might look something like this: 2 sets of rowing and biking (2 minutes each at an easy pace), 2 minutes each of t-spine mobility on a foam roller and banded hip rotation stretches, 2 sets of 3 kettlebell arm bars, and then 3 rounds of 3-5 muscle-ups, 8-12 toes to bar, and 40 double-unders.


For more on Mike’s warm-up advice, check out his article on




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