When we think of CrossFit, we generally picture muscle-bound men and women with the ability to hoist heavy barbells into strangely-named movements like “clean & jerk” and “thruster.” But excelling at CrossFit—and building overall fitness in general—goes beyond brute strength alone. Agility, power, speed, and quickness are all key factors in a CrossFit athlete’s progress.
The best opportunity to improve those other elements comes during the CrossFit warmup when coaches will incorporate dynamic movements that help get the athlete ready for the upcoming WOD. The following series of agility-focused movements should follow a quick run, row, or bike. Choose one or two warmups from the list and perform them in succession. That should take you about 10 minutes.
The more difficult or technical movements in this series include a progression from beginner to advanced, so start at the most basic level if you are new to this kind of training.
Warmup #1: Agility Ladder
The agility ladder is the king of agility equipment (it's right there in the name!). Don’t have one at your disposal? Creating lines with tape or chalk on the floor is a great alternative.
Try these ladder moves in succession:
- Forward Run: Make sure both feet touch the center of each box. Stay light on the balls of the feet and move quickly
- Lateral Run: Both feet touch the inside of each box as you move sideways from end to end. Return facing the same direction to alternate the lead foot
- Hops: Land lightly on both feet inside each box
- In-and-Out: This one requires a little more coordination. Start with left foot in the first box, followed by the right foot. Left foot then steps to the outside of the second box, followed by right. Repeat until you’ve reached the end of the ladder.
- Single-Leg Hops: Hop the entire length of the ladder on your left foot only, ensuring your left foot hits each box. Return using only the right foot
- Burpee Hops: Take things up a notch by finishing with this burner. Perform a burpee with hands inside the first box. Finish by hopping feet into the first box, then walk forward into the second box. Perform the next burpee by replacing feet in the second box with your hands, hopping back to the bottom of the burpee, and continuing until the end of the ladder. Repeat facing the same direction.
Warmup #2: Jump Rope
CrossFit is famous for the tough-to-master double-under move in which a jump rope goes under the athlete’s feet twice before the feet touch the ground. Don’t have the double-under mastered just yet? Here’s how to start picking up speed to build up to mastering the move.
First things first, make sure your rope is the right length for your height. A quick way to check is by hooking the center of the rope under the arch of one foot. The ends of the rope (before the handles start) should reach your armpits.
Stand with the center of the rope behind you, upper arms close to your side and elbows bent, holding the rope handles away from your body.
- Single-Unders: Still doing the double-hop? Learning to move the rope and your feet quickly is the first step towards nailing the double-under. Do this for one minute, then rest for one minute.
- Single-Leg Jumps: Practice hopping over the rope on one leg for 30 seconds, then the opposite leg. Rest for one minute.
- Double-Unders: Linking these is tough so as you learn the movement, work on completing two single-unders, followed by one double-under. Do this for one minute.
Warmup #3: Carioca (or Karaoke)
Try not to trip over your feet as you master this move that focuses on rapid foot movement and leg crossover.
Start with feet about hip-width distance apart. Push off with your left foot, cross it behind right foot. Then move right foot to the side, hip-width distance from the left. Repeat, moving quickly, until you have crossed the length of the room. Repeat, leading with the right foot. Rest as needed. Do this for five minutes total.
Warmup #4: Shuttle Runs
Also known as “suicide runs”, these have long been the go-to exercise for elementary school gym teachers. Race against yourself or relive gym class by grabbing a friend.
- Place a series of cones or blocks across a room, equidistant from one another. From the start line, sprint to the first block, tap the block and pivot to turn around and sprint back to the start line. Tap the start line, pivot, and run to the next block. Pivot and return all the way to the start line. Pivot from the start and sprint to the final block, tap it, pivot and return to the start.
- On round two, challenge yourself to pivot on the opposite foot and turn in the opposite direction. Do as many rounds as you can in five minutes.
Warmup #5: Stair Runs
Improve your agility and speed with quick stair runs, alternating the number of steps you take at one time and the direction you move. The return trip down the stairs should be used as recovery and not a chance to increase speed - your legs will be gassed and safety is paramount here. Move through these variations as many times as possible in five minutes.
- Quick feet: Move as fast as you can, landing on the balls of your feet and hitting each stair on the way up.
- Skipping Steps: Experiment with skipping one, two, or even three steps and moving with quick, bounding steps.
- Lateral Runs: Step up sideways, hitting each stair with both feet before moving up to the next one. Repeat with the opposite foot leading.
Warmup #6: Tuck Jumps
The tuck jump is a basic movement that can be made more complex as you progress. Stick with the basic version or alternate all three versions, doing as many reps as you can in five minutes, resting only as needed.
- Basic Tuck Jump: Begin with feet hip-width distance apart. Arms are bent at your sides, palms face down. Squat down, press through your heels and onto the balls of your feet, and jump vertically, bringing your knees as high up as possible, trying to touch your hands.
- Burpee Tuck Jump: Perform a burpee, finishing with a tuck jump.
- Rollback Tuck Jump: Begin in a standing position. Squat down towards the floor and when your butt touches the ground, roll onto your back, with knees remaining bent. Using your core to build momentum, roll forward and up to a standing position without using your hands. Once you’re standing, perform a tuck jump, then repeat. (If you can’t get up to a standing position without using your hands, a good trick is to hold a small weight at your chest, or cross your ankles as you roll up to standing.)
Warmup #7: Lateral Jumps
If you have never tried lateral jumps before, start with just a spot on the floor, progressing to a PVC or barbell, to a low box, and eventually to a regular box.
Begin standing parallel to the line or obstacle you’re jumping over or onto. Feet should be hip-width distance apart. Squat down and, pressing through your heels and onto the balls of your feet, jump up and sideways to clear the line or land on the box. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating sides for five minutes, resting as needed. As you progress, increase the height of the obstacle or box.
Warmup #8: One-legged Jumps
Just as you did with the lateral jump, begin with just a spot on the floor and progress up to a box.
Standing to the right of the line on the floor or the box, balance on your left leg and bound off that leg to clear the line or obstacle, or to land on the box. Make sure you land on the left foot only. Repeat with your right leg and continue alternating for five minutes, resting only as needed.