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The “Why” Behind Warm Ups

By: Clint Russell, DPT

A lot of people ask about warm ups and why we do things the way we do.  I thought I’d take the time to explain the purpose behind our warmups. Mobility is used as a catch all term, but there is much more than that that needs to be addressed during the warmup. Also, mobility is not usually the problem with most peoples movement, or its just one piece of something very complex. We are going to start a monthly mobility class that will help people develop an individual plan for specific mobility to hit pre/post WOD that is catered to their individual needs/weaknesses/issues.

As I mentioned above, we are trying to fix a lot more than just mobility. Lets first define some terms.

Mobility-generally refers the joint. This is know as accessory motion and it refers to there being adequate space within the joint for motion to occur properly. For my shoulder to flex, the humeral head must glide posterior and inferior (back and down). In order for motion to occur, there must be adequate room in the joint capsule to allow for the humeral had to move back and down for normal shoulder flexion to take place.

Flexibility is muscle length. Does the tissue have adequate length to get into proper position. Increasing mobility and flexibility increases range of motion (ROM). This is great, but we lack control with this new ROM. After we gain the range, we need to train the range. This is where stability and neuromuscular control come in.

Stability- this can be passive or active. Active stability is the ability of the musculature to control motion throughout range. It is possible for a joint to be hypermobile but stable. Passive stability refers to the inert structures such as bones and ligaments. Everyone has seen or heard the coach talk about active shoulders, breaking bar overhead, make your neck disappear, etc on overhead squats or presses. This places the shoulder in closed packed position, where there is maximum congruency between the joint surfaces, allowing for the greatest amount of passive and active stability overhead.

Neuromuscular control-is the muscles actively firing when they are supposed to do so. Can a person fire from their glutes when they squat, can they maintain a good externally rotated position overhead etc. We address this with drills/cues to encourage activation. Such as holding positions, practicing the movement patterns with a pvc or empty bar, or using a mini band to force the hip abductors(glutes) to fire.

With most people, it is stability and neuromuscular control that are most limiting. A perfect example is when someone’s back is rounding below parallel during a squat. How do we address this in a group setting? Well, that banded warmup we do that makes everyone’s butt explode, lat lunge, holding positions, say every:15/4min with a plate… All of these things address each of the above areas.

A huge problem in general is that we sit entirely too much (outside the gym). Stretching tight muscles is not enough, in that it only addresses one of the above areas. If we focus more on activation, we get whats called reciprocal inhibition. By contracting the antagonist to a tight muscle (the opposite muscle group to what’s tight – example squeeze your butt during the couch stretch), the muscle spindle shuts down the stretch reflex, causing it to lengthen. Holding positions in the PT world is know as muscle energy. This is the use of isometrics to affect joint accessory motion.

Active movements also improve coordination, or control. By drilling the positions with an empty bar you get a feel for what right is and develop body awareness for that specific movement pattern. A great example of this would be the snatch press into the overhead squat.  It’s a difficult movement.  By forcing you to move slow you develop body awareness throughout the entire movement, activating proper musculature and preparing to system to lift heavier loads.

During a regular class we often do a windmill with a pvc pipe, and follow it up with single arm OHS. This forces a person to hold proper position, and contract throughout their ROM. The windmill, if done properly, addresses all of the above areas in some amount. The single arm OHS challenges the new range of motion gained. This has tremendous carryover to proper movement in overhead lifting.

If you have any questions about the warm ups, ask me! Take advantage of open gym times to seek out coaches for help with mobility/stability and how to get the most bang for your buck.  Look for some group mobility seminars coming to CFC soon!

1. Chase, Lisa. PHT 5 234 C 002- General Therapeutic Exercise I. 2015. University of St. Augustine 1 University Boulevard St. Augustine, FL 32086.

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Krysia Angle

Physical Therapist

Krysia grew up in the Northern Virginia area. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dance at Towson University, and her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree at Old Dominion University. In addition to physical therapy, she has certifications to teach yoga, and the Pilates method. Her husband’s Navy career brought her to San Diego. She has worked with many athletes and artists throughout her career. She enjoys helping people use movement as a way to heal, and get back to doing the activities they love.


Alyssa Tieber, DPT

Alyssa grew up in Missouri and received her undergraduate degree in Athletic Training at Missouri State University and then got her Doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her husband’s career in the Navy brought their family to the San Diego area. Her career focuses on helping kids and adults recover from orthopedic injuries to accomplish their individualized goals. She has worked with athletes from many different sports and levels from little leaguers to Division 1 athletes to weekend warriors. Her passion is to share her love for movement and help others reach their potential to live a healthy, active life.


CrossFit Level 1 Certification

Melissa Rollenhagen, DPT

Melissa has always had a love of sports that led to her career as a Physical Therapist. She was born and raised in Michigan and attended Central Michigan University to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Her husband’s career in the Navy recently brought her to San Diego. She has been practicing for 13 years with an emphasis on sports related injuries and rehabilitation. She has a passion for helping people achieve their goals and live their best lives.


Founder & CEO

Bryan “Clint” Russell, DPT: Clint decided to go to PT school after years of running a gym and researching how to help himself and others stay strong and prevent and rehab injuries. A native Texan, he played football and rant rack in high school. He attended Texas A&M before relocating to San Diego with the Navy. Prior to attending PT school through University of St. Augustine, he worked as an instructor at SERE school. He is the owner of CrossFit Coronado and runs the PT practice alongside the gym.


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