“How does that feel?”  

This is the first question I ask clients when they are working out. 

It is usually followed by, “Where do you feel that?”  

I can offer feedback about technique, but if a client feels pain or is unsure which muscles should be working, injury and/or poor performance can result.

As a yoga teacher and a CrossFit coach, I want to make sure that my students are able to fully embody their movement practices. This isn’t just about them getting a great workout; it’s about pain and injury prevention.

Exercises for Smart Strength

In strength training class settings, teachers are usually performing triage–addressing the students most likely to hurt themselves (due to technique or misalignments), and working down from there.  

The problem with this system is that sometimes lifts can look okay from the outside, but students aren’t always aware of how/what to engage to stay safe or get the most from their efforts. That’s where the “where do you feel this?” becomes important.  

I use several Tune Up Fitness® techniques in my teaching to help those in the gym turn on the muscles that might be sleepy. These injury prevention exercises also refine neuromuscular control to better execute challenging movements that show up both in practice, and daily life. Try out the below practices to warm up for deadlifts, pull-ups, and squats. 

See if you “feel” a difference.

Wise Up Your Deadlifts

Even a flat back and engaged core don’t mean that the muscles of the lower back won’t take over this movement.  

I use Warrior III Squats at the Wall to teach how to hip hinge as well as fire up the whole backside of the lower body to get ready to lift something heavy.

  1. With hands on the wall at hip height, walk the feet back until the torso is parallel to the floor. 
  2. Make sure the hips are right over the feet, and the ribs are pulled up and together.
  3. Standing on the right leg, lift the left leg away from the floor, foot even with hips. 
  4. Lift up through the right hip to create evenness in the pelvis. (For my yoga peeps, its Warrior III at the wall)
  5. Bend the right leg, reaching the hips back. Be sure to keep the shoulders in line with the hips, keeping the back flat.  
  6. For added challenge, place a block (or an Ab Mat) on the back of the pelvis to make sure you’re not “squatting” v “hinging”.

More Precise Pull-Ups

Many people come to CrossFit with the goal to “do a pull-up.”  This is a great goal. It creates grip strength, hanging shoulder health, and awesome strong back muscles.  

Problem is, if you’ve been sitting all day with a rounded spine, chances are your lats are overstretched and turned off.  

I have my clients warm up those pulling actions by doing Lat Lengthener to help the shoulders get ready to go in an overhead position as well as wake up those big back muscles.

  1. Stand facing the wall. 
  2. Place hands at the wall and walk the feet out until the hands, shoulders, and hips are in line. 
  3. Turn your feet and lower body 45 degrees to the left, keeping your chest facing the floor as you do. 
  4. Push through the left hand into the wall to lengthen through the left side.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Smarten Your Squat

As a squat warmup, we perform Marching! This helps warm up hip flexion without the added stress of weight (body or bar).  

Plus, as a coach, I can assess a new student’s body awareness if I add in instructions such as, “stabilize your pelvis”, or “don’t let the standing leg bend.”

This can tell me a lot about what sort of limitations a client might be working with. If you really want your students to fire up those glutes, do this with an elastic band around the ankles!

  1. Standing on the right leg, pull the left knee towards the chest using the hip flexor muscles. 
  2. Make sure the heel is in front of the body, especially if you’re using a band for this exercise. 
  3. Brace the core to resist the temptation to “tuck” or curl the pelvis – keep it as neutral as possible. 
  4. Place the left leg down and repeat on the other side.
  5. For extra burn, speed it up!
  6. See if you can control the side to side lurch and keep your center of gravity over the midline of the body. 
  7. Enjoy those squat gainz!


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