After a warm-up, the squat will be performed first. Some squatting with the empty bar should have been included in the general warm-up so that the knees, hips, back, and shoulders are not too terribly surprised. Anyone in a position to attempt a legitimate CrossFit Total should be familiar enough with their capabilities on the lifts to have a fairly good idea of just what might be possible for a one-rep max (1RM). This number is what you warm up intending to do. A meet situation will involve three attempts, and this is a good way to determine a true 1RM. The first attempt would be a weight you know you can do for a heavy set of three. The second attempt would be a weight you know without any doubt that you could do for a single, having just done the first attempt. And the third attempt is the weight you want to do, based on your performance on the previous two attempts. If you have made a mistake setting your first attempt, the next two will need to be adjusted, but you should know what you can triple, and this will always be a safe first attempt. And since you know this weight, you know what weights to use to warm up for it: you’ll use the lightest weight that you normally start with for your first warm-up when you train, and 90% of the first attempt for the last warm-up, with either three or four relatively even increments in between these two. For instance, warm-ups for a 405-pound first attempt on the squat would be:
135 x 5
185 x 3
225 x 2
275 x 1
325 x 1
365 x 1
If you don’t have a damn good idea of what you can do for a heavy triple, you don’t need to be doing a CrossFit Total yet.
After the squat, rest a while (long enough to rest, not long enough to get cold) and follow the same procedure with the press. Since press numbers will be much lighter, the warm-ups will be closer together, and you might choose to use fewer intermediate warm-ups.This is fine, since the squat has provided quite a bit of systemic warmup, if not actual fatigue. After a rest and a drink following the press, the deadlift warm-up might be abbreviated even further, with a heavier first warmup and only two or three intermediate sets before the first attempt.
Done correctly, the CrossFit Total is perhaps our best tool for telling us the things we need to know about a very important aspect of our training. It is my sincerest hope that it also makes a contribution to the training of athletes currently outside our community and functions as a way to introduce them to our methods, and to the good people of CrossFit.