January 11, 2012
January 16, 2012

Before I talk about what class did on Thursday, I want to spend a little bit of time discussing an aspect of class that concerns our interaction as coaches with you as athletes.

As coaches, we have a lot of responsibilities, but the big two that are eminently present each and every class are these:

  1. Giving you a good workout, including everything that statement implies, such as teaching you the movements, making sure you execute the movements properly, and creating and running a workout that has true benefit for your body beyond being merely “tough”; and,
  2. Keeping you safe.

 Funny thing about that second one – of the two, it’s the one that coaches can’t do alone. It’s the one responsibility where we actually need your help. And you do help us. When we correct your form, you make a concerted effort to incorporate the correction. When we ask you to scale, you do so accordingly and then attack the workout as if it were the CrossFit Games. When we ask you to try something new or different, each and everyone one of you give it an honest shot. But when we ask you guys to warm-up…well, that’s a bit of a different story. Not by much, and not all the time by all of you, but it’s enough that it warrants addressing. Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve addressed the warm-up. We’ve written before about why we need to warm-up:

Warm-ups are arguably the most important part of our class work. Yes, warm muscles = more elastic muscles – we all know (or should know) that by now – but the warm-up goes a bit beyond that. It involves muscles, tendons, ligaments, respiration, blood flow, and, probably most important, your central nervous system (CNS). Without warming-up – without waking-up your CNS – you’re going to lack focus, which will lead to lack of form, which will lead to either wasted effort due to a lack of power (i.e., you won’t get stronger or fitter) or, at worst, injury. Yes, sometimes the warm-ups are hard, and sometimes they’re long, but they’re calculated to perform a task specifically geared towards the workout of the day.

We’ve also written about why we’re going to require all of you to do all of the warm-up, regardless of when you can get to the gym:

The above paragraph suggests all the things that warm-ups do for us. No where does it say that warm-ups are punishment. We don’t do tardiness punishment; hey, being late happens! In a city like DC, where nothing is predictable except the unpredictable nature of your daily commute, punishing people for being tardy would border on absurdity. That’s not to say, however, that we aren’t going to require that the warm-up be done – in its entirety! – before any member begins the workout. Early, on time, or late, it makes no difference as far as the warm-up is concerned.

So, to recap:

  • warm-ups are important; and,
  • all of you have to do all of the warm-up. 

End of story, right? Apparently not.

You see, it’s become pretty obvious recently that a lot of you are rushing through the warm-ups, cutting corners or otherwise performing sloppy, partial range of motion, and/or un-controlled movements. Rushing the warm-up is just as bad as not performing the entire warm-up. Warm-ups are time for us to practice form in a controlled, un-timed environment. Often times, that form or skill is one that will be a critical piece of the up-coming workout. In fact, there’s a reason we don’t do the same warm-up everyday.

We construct each warm-up to prepare you specifically for the day’s workout. We do this, so that (A) you’re body will be primed and ready to execute the movements and exercises programmed for the workout that day, and (B) you won’t be bored doing the same thing over and over again (which, ironically, is often the cause of sloppy or rushed warm-ups). When you shortcut your warm-up you negate the intended benefits we discussed above. If you rush the warm-up with sloppy mechanics, you fail to reinforce critical aspects of the skill to be touched on in the workout, aspects and skills that you won’t be able to correct under load. Focus more on form and less on speed.

We had lot’s of good stuff planned for Thursday night, but in order to drive home the point about warm-ups, we had to change the program slightly, cutting short some of the workout in order to concentrate on the form. And so it was that each class found itself getting judged on the simplest of exercises which, funnily enough, seems to show up in each and every warm-up we do: the air squat.

 The Squat Check 

Simple? Possibly, but go through the following check list and ask yourself, are you hitting on each one of these points with every air squat you do in the warm-up?

  • Feet shoulder width apart;
  • toes slightly pointed out;
  • hips and knees fully extended;
  • chest up and head neutral (looking straight ahead) 
  •  Butt travels back first, then down, in a controlled and steady manner (don’t simply drop);
  • weight on the heels;
  • chest up and head still neutral (not looking down at the floor or craned up looking at the ceiling);
  • lumbar arch maintained in the lower back, rather than rounded; 
  • if need be, arms raised and/or elevated out in front in order to keep the chest up and back arched;
  • hip crease of the hips below the kneecap (i.e., below parallel) at the bottom of the squat;
  • knees pushed out and tracking (pointing in the same direction as) the feet;
  • coming all the way to standing, with the hips completely open. 

If you can’t check all these points off, ask yourself why – is it because you haven’t gained the mobility and flexibility necessary, or is it because you’re simply rushing through the movement? There’s a reason we all sought out CrossFit, and it’s buried in the knowledge that we all wanted more of a challenge, that deviation from the mental and physical comfort that allows us to become better, more functional athletes and people. Each and every class provides us with countless opportunities to challenge and better ourselves, from the warm-up, to the skill work, to the strength work, to the conditioning, and even to the pre- and post-workout stretching and mobility. We all chose to challenge ourselves, to forsake the mental and physical comfort that comes with bland, unhelpful routines. So why would we now knowingly try to avoid that challenge? Focus and apply that choice to everything from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave. You’ll be better for it.

 End of Rant.

Keg Drill and Resistance Band Bully Shoulder Work 

 Post squat check and skill specific warm-up, we programmed some skill specific mobility work in order to get people’s shoulder ready for the pressing snatch balance and overhead squats to come. You can check out both movements via this video from KStarr’s Mobility WOD site, Episode 71 – Overhead Squat/Snatch Prep:

 The keg drill is discussed around the 3:00 min. mark, and the resistance band bully shoulder drill around the 4:30 mark.

Pressing Snatch Balance Review; 
3 x 3 Pressing Snatch Balance

Of the 3 types of snatch balance, Thursday’s classes concentrated on just the pressing-version. Part of this was due to time constraints, but in large part it’s because, of the 3 versions, the pressing snatch balance is the one which really drives home the need to continuously [exert] force upwards on the bar as you descend under it. In other words, instead of pressing the bar upwards, you are pushing against the bar in order to drive yourself under the weight. Done properly, the bar should remain in the same place through-out movement, with only the body moving downwards in a controlled, even manner. To help with this, we began with the PVC, with everyone first performing a few reps on their own, and then performing a few reps assisted by a partner, who simply placed their hands on the PVC on order to stop it being pushed upwards. Following the drills, class moved to the bars to perform at least 3 sets of 3 reps of pressing snatch balance, adding weight as necessary.

Although the snatch balance is clearly meant as an assistance exercise for the snatch, the pressing version also has great carry over into bettering your overhead squat, which is convenient considering there were quite a few OHS programmed into Thursday met-con.

15-12-9-6-3 OHS & Bastards

Weights for the OHS were RX’d at 95/65, but scaling was roundly encouraged in order to find an appropriate weight which would allow you to maintain control while executing full ROM, but also push yourself through the workout with as few breaks as possible. The bastards (side-jumping burpees) were done over each person’s respective bar.


 Reminder/Announcement #1: Registration for inner-gym Smackdown on February 4th is in full swing (as is the smack-talking, it seems). If you would like to participate and are not on a team, or your team needs another participant or two, feel free to post your request in the comments. More information can be found on the CrossFit Balance Smackdown page.

 Reminder/Announcement #2: This Sunday’s Element’s class will focus on the Push Press & Push Jerk, the Kettlebell Swing, and, if time, some of the theory and execution of the Kip (as used in kipping pull-ups, K2E, etc.) For a more information on the new Elements class, including determining whether it’s right for you, please check out last Sunday’s blog post.



  1. Katie says:

    Good explanation on warm-ups and a good reminder.

    I think I got down the form fairly well on the pressing snatch balance, though I stayed light at 20#. I used a 15# bar for the metcon, and did the 12-9-6-3 version. I’m still not totally comfortable with OHS, but I think it’s getting better. (I definitely need to go to that Elements class when it repeats!) I’m still scaling my burpees, too, by going to my knees and stepping, but I think I just need to push through with regular burpees because I feel like I’m actually exerting more energy by breaking it down somehow. (it’s more separate movements as opposed to one jump up.) I’ll give it a shot next time and see how it goes.

    I really enjoyed watching the second group do the metcon…it’s amazing to see the speed at which people can do burpees! I was also really impressed with the awesome form and depth on the OHS the whole time….I tend to not get the depth I need as I’m getting tired. It’s good to be surrounded by such elite athletes — something to strive for!

  2. Erica says:

    I really appreciate the focus on today’s blog-post about the warm-up. I’ve been an athlete almost my whole life and I have to say that I often (guilty as charged) dont’ warm up. Particularly when running, I often jump right into it, which is horrible. Ironically, when teaching spin, I give ample time to the warm-up (and cool-down), but notice that a lot of my spinners aren’t really warming up, but looking to get their heart rates up right away to “maximize” their performance. Crossfit warm-ups often feel like work-outs of their own, which should make me focus more on doing them well. Point well made and will be something I think about going forward.

    Mobility exercises killed me, literally, they hurt so badly, but I’m sure they helped me on the later movements. The snatch balance felt awkward for me and my focus needs to be placement of the bar so that I’m not falling forward or backward. The cue to shrug my shoulders into my ears helped a lot.

    OH squat bastards were tough. I think I PRed at 55 lbs (inching slowly to prescribed on a lot of the movements lately, woohoo) and had to break up the longer sets into two in order to avoid hurting myself, but (barely) made the 10 minute cutoff at 9:40.

    Will miss you guys on Sunday, but plan to check out crossfit Delray Beach on Saturday morning.

  3. Andraea says:

    I agree as well, great write-up on the importance of warm-ups. I definitely don’t always give warm-ups my undivided attention as I should especially when I workout by myself. I’m trying to get better at stretching after a workout as well.

    The shoulder stretches kill me but that just means I need them that much more. The shoulder stretch with the band was rough and I couldn’t even get into position without it being painful.

    I wasn’t at 100% last night due to a lingering cold but hopefully next week I can get back to pushing myself on the workouts again.

  4. edgy reggie says:

    Coach Salty, thanks for the great blog post.

    I’ve learned through experience how important warm-ups are as part of the total workout. I feel that if I don’t warm-up properly, I cheat myself out of any potential gains the workout may present. In addition – by not warming-up properly, I increase my risk of injury.

    I really liked the mobility work.

    Snatch balance: This is an exercise that I have learned to like and to appreciate as it has helped me tremendously with my overhead squats and snatches. When I train by myself, I tend to perform heaving snatch balances. However, pressing snatch balances have their place too. I worked up to 75# for three reps.

    Met-con: In the 7:00 class, there were two heats: The first heat performed 12-9-6-3 of the met-con; the second heat did the full met-con. I was in the first heat. I used the prescribed weight (95#) for the overhead squats. All but the third (six-rep) set were performed unbroken. For some reason, I lost my balance after the second rep on the third set, and I had to bail. After a few breaths, I picked up the barbell and continued on.

    Burpees on the platform were another story: The barbell rolled in almost every direction, and I had to perform one-half of the burpees off the platform in order to not knock myself in the head with the rack. I finished the met-con in 6:03.

    Fun times. Great class.

    Intragym smackdown: As Tom “Hammer” A. has mentioned in a previous post, he and I wish to form a team; but, we need two ladies as part of our team. Any takers?

  5. SBV says:

    This was a well-programmed metcon — very competition-like. I knew things would be ratcheted up a notch once I saw Mark walk through the door. He usually sets the tempo on workouts such as this one. My energy level was on empty Thursday night, but I tried to keep up with him. I think he dusted everyone, and dusted me by about 3 minutes! Tom was yelling at me to ignore the pain in my legs and simply continue to drop to the ground on the burpees. That’s easy said than done, and I allowed the pain in my legs to win that internal struggle.

    Sometimes it’s good to keep things in context at CFDC. Ben was struggling a little bit with overhead squats on Thursday night due to some shoulder mobility issues. While talking to him about it, I remembered that, just over a year ago, I couldn’t even do an overhead squat. So, sure, Mark kicked my butt on Thursday. But, it’s good to keep things in context and remember the slow-and-steady progress. I’m confident that Ben will look back on this workout in a few months once his overhead squat improves and laugh.

  6. Dan Samarov says:

    Great workout Thursday! Was a little sore going in, but couldn’t resist giving it a try. Did almost the exact same workout (same number of reps, but 21-15-9) 2 years ago at the BWI Hopper in like 9 minutes, did this in 5:00(?) on Thursday. Legs and lower back were pretty toasty, but kept a good pace and Salty kept me honest on my reps calling no rep on a handful of the overhead squats (much appreciated btw dude!!!)… wasn’t getting my hips extended all the way at the top.

    Saw everyone pushing really hard on this one, it’s definitely a real lung burner! Great job!

  7. Kenna says:

    Good post and good workout. I’m often guilty of not doing the full warmup when I’m late…

    Those burpies were killer on the metcon. I did the scaled reps with a whopping 15# bar in 6:03.

    See you guys Tuesday!