A Guide to CrossFit Warm Ups: Ideas for Cardio, Stretching and WODs

Learning these CrossFit warm-up ideas will prepare your body for the rigors of your next WOD (Workout of the Day).

Not only can they increase your heart rate, loosen joints, and help prevent injury, but you really only need 10 minutes for an effective warm up routine that won’t fatigue your muscles too much before the WOD.

But make sure the movements involve the upper and lower body, as well as vertical and horizontal pushes and pulls.

Below, we’ve included a bunch of warm up options, including cardio, stretching, and WOD prep ideas, along with some examples from top CrossFit gyms and athletes.

Only your imagination limits how you combine these movements into a complete warm-up.

First: Why Warm-Up?

Put simply, if you’re like most adults in the US, you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

  • You commute to and from work in a car or public transportation and spend most of your day behind a desk or standing.
  • Anything you lift most often weighs less than 10 lbs, such as a briefcase, purse, office supplies, or bags of groceries.
  • When you return home, you spend much of your time relaxing, watching TV, or supervising the kids. You may sometimes participate in weekend sports, such as hiking, playing pickup basketball, or doing a round of golf.

Going from this relative ease of your daily life to the rigors of a Crossfit workout only a few times a week can seriously stress your body.

As muscles and joints that you don’t normally use are called to action, you increase the chances of hurting yourself. Plus, you may need to take more time than usual to recover as your body heals from the rigors of the WOD.


Warming up gradually introduces your body to more physical activity. It relies on athletic movements at a reduced intensity, a slower pace, and with lighter weight.

  • This lessens your risk of injury and helps reduce muscle soreness.
  • It also elevates your heart rate to increase the flow of blood to your muscles, loosens the joints, and increases your body temperature.


The Harvard Medical School recommends that warm-ups should last from five to 10 minutes. This short period allows you more time to complete the actual WOD.

  • You can start slowly and then gradually pick up the pace.
  • Warm-ups should involve all the major muscle groups starting with the larger muscles in the lower body before bringing in the smaller muscles of the upper body.
  • Mix both upper and vertical pushing and pulling.
  • Among the activities you can perform during the warm-up are cardio, such as running or rowing, stretching, such as quad stretches and neck circles, and WOD preparation, such as doing air squats to prep for back squats.


Let’s start with some cardio CrossFit warm-ups, as these are effective in getting the muscles moving and increasing the heart rate to circulate blood.

Keep these tips in mind, though:

  • If you want to know how much effort you should be putting in for a warm-up, try the conversation test.
  • If you can’t talk with someone next to you as you do cardio, you’re working too hard.

The recommendations for time, reps, or distance in the following movements assume that you’re pairing them with other types of warm-ups (see below for examples).

Otherwise, if these are you’re sole warm-ups, you can double the numbers.


Running does not require any equipment. Because it primarily affects the lower body, it’s best paired with an upper-body warm-up. It can stress the joints of the lower body, such as the knees and ankles. Run for 250 or 400 meters at an easy pace.


Because you’re sitting down, rowing on a machine is a low-impact movement that warms up the entire body. You can row for a specified amount of time, such as two minutes, distance, such as 200 meters, or calories, such as 25. Try a damper setting of 1 to 5 for a warm-up.


Pedaling on an exercise bike is another low-impact movement. The following are two of the most common bikes that you’ll find in a box:

  • Upright bikes most commonly duplicate typical bicycles by putting the pedals under the seat and a fixed handlebar in front. You can either sit on the seat for comfort or stand for power as you pedal. Warm-ups of this type are best paired with an upper-body warm-up.
  • Dual-Action bikes, like the Assault, target your upper body as you move the handlebars back and forth as well as the legs with regular pedaling.

If the intensity hasn’t been fixed by the coach, try a setting that is from 1 to 3 out of 10, or one that allows you to pedal at 60 to 80 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute), assuming you’re seated.

If you stand when you pedal, reduce the RPM accordingly.

Bike for 1.5 to 2 minutes for a warm-up.

Jumping Rope

Jump Rope CrossFit Warm Up

Jumping rope requires skill, focus, and coordination, and is something you might have done as a child. It’s so good at bringing your heart rate up that it is often found in a WOD. The jumps also help with explosiveness. But it does stress the joints of the lower body.

All you need is a properly sized jump rope to do the following:

  • Singles, which bring one pass of the rope under your feet with every jump are sufficient enough for a warm-up. You can do them for time, such as one or two minutes, or for repetitions, such as 20 to 200.
  • Double-unders put the rope twice under your feet with every jump, and demand practice to master. Because they are more strenuous, you can do half of the single-under time or reps.

If you find single-unders challenging, scale the movement as follows:

  1. Hold the rope to your side by putting both handles in one hand.
  2. Jump in place while turning the rope at your side with one hand.
  3. For variety, switch sides at every break or before starting a set.

Related: Review our picks for the best jump ropes for doing CrossFit workouts


Stretching gradually makes muscles more pliable, mobilizes the joints, and decreases the risk of strains, sprains, and injuries. It’s particularly important as you age to counter a more limited range of motion.

You want to focus on stretching those parts of the body that you’ll be using for a WOD. For example, you want to stretch your shoulders if you’re doing shoulder presses.

The following are some common stretches you can do during a warm-up. You can also do them after the workout as part of your cooldown.

Glute Stretch

Exercises that use the glutes, such as box jumps or squats, can benefit from this glute stretch.

  1. Sit tall on a bench with one foot flat on the ground in front of you.
  2. Bring the other foot up and rest it behind the knee of the flat foot.
  3. Lean forward slightly to feel the stretch in your glutes. Hold for one to two minutes.
  4. Repeat for the other side.

Keep your back straight and avoid hunching over.


Pass-throughs stretch the shoulders, making them excellent for gymnastic movements such as pull-ups and muscle-ups as well as overhead lifting such as push-presses or overhead squats.

  1. Hold a PVC pipe or wooden stick horizontally at your waist with both hands at opposite ends.
  2. While keeping your arms stretched out and tense, lift the pipe of your head and behind you until it touches your lower back.
  3. Swing the pipe over your head and bring it to the starting position at your waist.

Repeat this movement 10 times. If you’re not feeling enough of a stretch on your shoulders, bring your hands closer toward the center of the pipe.

Scorpion Stretch

The scorpion stretch affects the hip, lower back, and glutes.

  1. Lay with your abs flat on the ground with your feet together. Extend your arms out at a 45-degree angle to your body with your palms on the ground.
  2. Raise your right leg and bend at the knee as you twist your hips and move your foot backward over your glutes and toward your left hand.
  3. Move the toes of your right foot to as close to your left hand as possible. The goal is to touch the floor by your left hand.
  4. Return your right leg to its starting position.
  5. Repeat the movement with the left leg.

Do each leg five times.

World’s Greatest Stretch

The World’s Greatest Stretch takes care of the entire body and can be the one you do if you only have time for a single stretch.

  1. Get into a lunge position by kneeling on your right knee. Then move your left foot to the ground in front of you until your leg is at a 90-degree angle to your body.
  2. Put your right palm on the ground in front of you with your right hand in line with your left foot.
  3. Extend your right leg behind you and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Drop your left arm inside your left leg as you twist your head and upper body to the left. Push your left hand between your right arm and side and reach as far as you can go. You’ll feel your back stretch as you hold for three seconds.
  5. Rotate your head and upper body to the left as you pull your left arm out. You should be looking toward the ceiling as you extend your left arm behind you toward the ceiling. Hold for three seconds.
  6. Repeat the movement five times.
  7. Switch sides and do the movement another five times.

Previewing the WOD

Warm-ups can duplicate the WOD movements but with fewer reps, lighter weights, and less intensity. They gradually introduce the muscles and joints to the workout movements. The following are examples of typical WODs and some related warm-ups.

  • For box jumps, warm up with step-ups to a box with fewer reps.
  • For muscle-ups, try kipping pull-ups or ring rows.
  • For front or back squats, start with air squats and then progress to the movement with the bar only.

Combining the Warm-Ups

How you combine stretching, cardio, and previews to warm up is limited only by your imagination. Feel free to change the following warm-up to match your WOD.

Gymnastic Movements

This warm-up relies only on simple gymnastic movements, making it ideal for beginners.

Do 1-3 rounds.

  • 5 ring rows
  • 5 push-ups
  • 10 AbMat sit-ups
  • 10 air squats

Emphasizing the Lower Body

This warm-up works for WODs that focus on the lower body, such as with squats, box jumps, or running.

Do 3 rounds.

  • 15 air squats
  • 5 burpees
  • 10 box jumps
  • 10-calorie row

Emphasizing the Upper Body

Royal Docks Crossfit in London, UK, recommends this workout for WODs that focus on the upper body, such as push presses or pull-ups.

Do two rounds of a Tabata: 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off for each movement.

  • Kettlebell swings at a light weight.
  • Single-arm kettlebell rows.
  • Push ups.
  • Upright kettlebell rows.

Paradiso Crossfit Classic Warm-Up

At Paradiso Crossfit in Venice, CA, this classic warm-up works the entire body and should be done in 15 minutes or less. However, focus on form rather than finishing on time.

Do 2-3 rounds of 10-15 reps of the following

  • Sampson stretches.
  • Overhead squats with a PVC pipe or empty bar.
  • GHD sit-ups. If you don’t have a GHD machine, do regular sit-ups.
  • Hip extensions.
  • Pull-ups.
  • Ring dips.

Crossfit Open 21.2 Warm-Up

Misfit Athletics in Portland, ME, created this warm-up for Crossfit Open 21.2.

Do 3 rounds.

  • 10- or 7-calorie dual-action bike with pyramid pacing. Go hard on the first round. Peak with the hardest on the second round. Go back to hard on the third round.
  • 12 kettlebell swings with a light weight.

The WOD for Crossfit Open 21.2 was for time with 20-minute cap. It used a 50-lb. dumbbell and 24-inch box, scaled accordingly.

  • 10 dumbbell snatches.
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs.
  • 20 dumbbell snatches.
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs.
  • 30 dumbbell snatches.
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs.
  • 40 dumbbell snatches.
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs.
  • 50 dumbbell snatches.
  • 15 burpee box jump-overs.

Warm-Ups of Champions

The Crossfit Games represent the pinnacle of all WODs. Their winners stand out as a testament to where Crossfit can take you. To achieve their goals, they must be experts at preparing their bodies. To inspire your efforts, here are some of the warm-ups that they use.

Tia-Clair Toomey

Tia-Clair Toomey was the Fittest Woman on Earth from 2017 to 2021 and also competed for Australia in 58-kg women’s weightlifting at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

For a snatch WOD, her warm-ups for a snatch WOD consist of 5 reps of each of the following movements:

  • Inch worms.
  • Behind-the-neck presses with a snatch grip.
  • Behind-the-neck presses with a snatch grip in a quarter squat.
  • Behind-the-neck Sots presses with a snatch grip.
  • Continuous jumping squats with a barbell on the back.
  • Ninja squats from side to side either with or without a barbell on your shoulders.
  • Muscle snatches from the hang.
  • Duplicate the snatches for the WOD.

Jason Khalifa

Jason Khalifa won the Individual Men’s Division of the 2008 Crossfit Games and placed first in regionals from 2011 to 2015.

His warm-up for a full-body workout takes five minutes.

  • 1 minute of your choice of cardio, such as rowing, biking, or jumping rope.
  • EMOM for 4 minutes of
    8 goblet lunges plus
    8 single dumbbell strict press. Use both hands to grab one heavy dumbbell or use a light dumbbell in each hand.

Katrín Tanja Davídsdottir

Katrín Tanja Davídsdottir won the Individual Women’s Division of the 2015 and 2016 Crossfit Games.

Her warm-up begins with 10 minutes of breathing and meditation, followed by 10 minutes of dynamic stretching and foam roller work. These 20 minutes may be too long for most people.

You can then do 5 rounds of the following:

  • 200-meter row
  • 15-calorie dual-action bike
  • 10 burpees

Mat Fraser

Mat Fraser was the Fittest Man on Earth from 2016 to 2020.

Do 3 rounds and take your time activating the right muscles.

  • 15-calorie ski
  • 10 per side half-kneeling single-arm dumbbell press.
  • 10 dumbbell Romanian deadlift.
  • 4 inch worms.

The warm-up preps you for the following intense WOD, which you should scale as needed.

  • 10 reps of push press at 57 percent of your 1 RM (rep max).
  • 10 reps of push press at 60 percent 1 RM.
  • 2 sets of 8 reps of push press at 63 percent 1 RM.
  • 4 sets of 10 reps of strict press at 90 percent 10 RM.
  • 9 rounds of 20 seconds on/10 seconds off bike.
  • 5 rounds of 8 sandbag cleans and 10 burpees over sandbag.
  • 20- or 16-calories dual-action bike.
  • 4 sets of 20 assisted strict pullups.
  • 5 sets of 15 overhead dumbbell triceps extension.
  • 3 sets of 15 GHD back extensions. If you don’t have a GHD machine, do back extensions on the floor.

Crossfit Mayhem

Except for 2017, Crossfit Mayhem won the Team Division of the Crossfit Games from 2015 to 2019. The box was founded in 2009 by four-time Crossfit Games winner, Rich Froning Jr.

Do 2 rounds of the following:

  • 10 forward and backward arm circles
  • 5 inch-worms
  • 20 total Cossack squats
  • 30-second active squat hold

The warm-up precedes this 30-AMRAP, which you can do with or without a weighted vest or backpack.

  • 10 push-ups
  • 20 step-ups to a 24- or 20-inch box
  • 30 air squats

Find the Right CrossFit Warm Up Routine

The key is to find a routine that you’ll actually do – one that meets the basic needs of preparing your body for the upcoming workout, while keeping it balanced, fun, and creative.

Use the options in this article to pair different exercises, or switch things up from time to time.

By completing a simple 10 minute routine, you’ll perform better during the workout and feel better afterwards. On that note, stay tuned for our next guide to cool downs for CrossFit athletes.

Tim Rollins, Editor

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