“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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For 30+ years, Modern Dance was Katie Rutterer's main source of movement. After discovering yoga, she realized that there was a spiritual component to her movement that had previously been missing and became an RYT-200 in 2011. Katie discovered Yoga Tune Up ® through her work as a CrossFitting yoga teacher. After becoming a CrossFit coach in 2016, she looked for ways to incorporate more yoga and body awareness into her athletes. She became a Yoga Tune Up ® certified teacher in 2017. Katie's classes are a little bit goofy, a little bit show, and a lot of alignment.

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Poirsha

I love the warm up for the deadlift. I’ve been having a tough time getting my Mom to differentiate squatting vs hinging, but she does take my yoga classes, so I will try the warrior 3 at the wall technique. Added glute work with the resistance band was awesome also!

Toni Dee

I like that you use Yoga Tune Up exercises in relation to strength training. So often people are closed minded and don’t make the connection…. it’s all movement regardless of the modality. I also think it’s awesome that you teach both CrossFit and Yoga. You go girl!

Kristin Harris

Wow! I could have used these exercises as preps to build into my bigger movement and heavier lifts in my weightlifting training. I appreciate the pull up prep the most, probably because it is the most challenging for me to activate muscles stabilizing the shoulder girdle while directionally activating the shoulder into external rotation without actually moving the body. Referring to “exercises with smart strength” really directs the attention into which muscles should be working to support a heavy lift, such as when performing the weighted squat. If the posterior chain isn’t firing properly, something has gone awry. Activating these… Read more »

Sigrún Haraldsdóttir

This is so important to feel you shape before you put on any load. So many times I see this at the gym. Awaken proprioception in your body should be mandatory for everyone before any workout. Something that many of the athletes I train say has opened a whole new way of training for them, painfree.

Ashley Shears

Great article! I’m excited to learn & incorporate these into my practice!

Rose Moro

Helpful tips for squats and lifting. Made better because we did Squats in class today — thanks for sharing.

Virginia

Great piece! As both a CF Athlete and yoga teacher, I too notice that the trouble these days in both the box and the studio is that so much emphasis is on how a movement or pose looks (Aesthetics), versus how it feels- so I just love your coaching check ins! ??

Kara Stafford

What great tools! Thank you for sharing these, they are fantastic! This creates and intelligent and fast burn in the muscles (in a good awareness kind of burn)!

Paula

Most definitely will be trying these for self and clients. Wow!

missy Tillman

In YTU training this week. i have been a modern dancer for years and teach modern dance-id love take your class.

Priscilla Daniel

Thank you for this article! It causes us teachers to look at our students in a different mindset. Not only teaching people an exercise but teaching them to get into there bodies. Thank you for showing simpler ways to do an exercise correctly.

Barbara Resendiz

Thanks for sharing , so many times we just focus on the final pose and we forget about how important preparation YTU poses are in order to prevent injury. Can´t wait to try this poses 🙂

Marnie Werner

Super helpful post! I’m excited to try the Lat Lengthener before working on Pull ups. Using marching for my students as a warm-up for squatting also makes a lot of sense. I like the idea of using different verbage in directing the movement as a tool to assess a student’s body awareness. Smart and resourceful use of time, with a new or even a seasoned client!

Maria Kiekari

Thanks for sharing this article! I love how YTU can be directed to anything we do in life and in gym settings i think is essential to bring these type of exercises to work on proprioception and better perform the movements.

Matty Espino

This article is super helpful. Thanks! I love the insight into the totality of the body working in all of these shapes and strength exercises and the reminder that sometimes there may be an unperceived reliance on what we view externally as always “correct”. I agree and am humbly reminded of the need ask for feedback in order to assess and keep things safe and sustainable. I recently tried your “marching” warm up with a resistance band for my students and I think they really understood what it means to fire up their glutes.

Michelle Mucci

great modification of warrior III with glute engagement in lieu of a dead lift also wall dog with oblique reach through.

Randy

As a personal trainer who puts a lot of thought and education into how to optimally warmup the body before exercise… these 3 drills are awesome! And add even more flare to my warmups/activations. Thank you!

Hester

I thought this article was interesting. It makes me wonder if intense HIIT classes are good for you since the structure of the class doesn’t allow for you to correct your alignment. You’re moving so fast and holding heavy weights, I can see that over time it could lead to injury if you do not have proper technique and are not engaging the proper muscles. There isn’t a lot of time incorporated to warm up the muscles as well. I never realized how daily habits could create an imbalance in your body. I am now more conscious about my posture… Read more »

Hester

I thought this article was interesting. It makes me wonder if intense HIIT classes are good for you since the structure of the class doesn’t allow for you to correct your alignment. You’re moving so fast and holding heavy weights, I can see that over time it could lead to injury if you do not have proper technique and are not engaging the proper muscles. There isn’t a lot of time incorporated to warm up the muscles as well. I never realized how daily habits could create an imbalance in your body. I am now more conscious about my posture… Read more »

Charlotte

Looking to incorporate deadlifts into my training and training big muscle groups in general. I will definitely try the Warrior 3 at the wall. I shy away from one leg exercises because of an unstable knee but I actually probably need them the most…

Yang

Great article, lots of helpful tips on proper weight/strength training!

Jessica

This is a very helpful article! I’m going to start incorporating this into my weekly routine!