Eat Your (Movement) Vegetables
Written by Kirsten Ahrendt

We all love to do ‘THE THING” (insert your chosen sport or exercise activity of choice) – and if you’ve done YOUR THING for any considerable amount of time, you recognize that increasing intensity, duration, volume, skill or distance not only requires a considerable foundation to prevent injury, but also requires a good amount of self-care, proprioception and boring work as it relates to soft tissue, joint health, stability and mobility to KEEP YOU doing YOUR THING.

Enter stage right: Movement Veggies!

What’s a movement veggie?
Movement vegetables are the fitness equivalent to real vegetables. Instead of eating them for health, you perform them daily or frequently throughout the week as a way to maintain or develop healthy joints, muscles, and range of motion (ROM). 

How do you eat your movement veggies?
Movement vegetables or “veggies” as I like to write them out on program sheets, help us to address imbalances and keep our joints durable and happy. Just like real life vegetables, they’re not the sexiest thing on the menu. But they can be a little more palatable if you “dress them up” with butter or salt. We can do that by incorporating them into warm-ups in fun ways, or pairing them with other exercises that allow you to build on a skill or strength while using the proper ROM or joint position that you just primed.

How many movement veggies do you need?
Just like the actual food group, you should eat your “movement veggies” before moving onto dessert. If you notice there’s a large discrepancy between the amount of real life veggies and dessert you consume (hopefully), it’s only a matter of time until your body let’s you know that your ratio hasn’t been optimal. In real life you might get overweight, or diabetic. In gym life, you get injured or broken.

Veggies vs Dessert
– Snatching, muscle-ups, kipping pull-ups, heavy back squat – all examples of DESSERT
– Increasing ankle mobility, single-leg strength, internal hip rotation, overhead stability, shoulder extension, scapular mechanics, contralateral coordination and stability, end-range strength and stability – all examples of VEGGIES

Simply put…if you can’t crawl…why should you snatch? I joke around in warm-ups about this all the time, but I’m serious. Crawling might look like some tortuous warm-up drill that coach makes you do because it’s hard or silly or makes you sweat and you look foolish doing it. But in reality – we program it to prime your body to move as one coordinate unit, as it was intended to. It shows us if you have the coordination to move in basic primal patterns, if you can maintain a neutral spine and stabilize the core while moving the hip and shoulder joint. These skills also carry over to your ability to safely and optimally perform a snatch, one of, if not the most complex explosive movement in CrossFit.

Examples of Movement Veggies

– Crawling (forward, backward, lateral)

– Oblique openers

– Contralateral core priming (deadbugs, bird dogs, transverse plank drags, and variations)

-Cat/cows (and other spinal movement and segmentations, jefferson curl, etc)

– Isometric holds (chin up, bar dead hang, OH holds, HS hold, squat holds, dip & ring support, sorrenson)

– Rotational or anti-rotational movements (kettlebell windmills, B-Boys, single-arm ring row, Pallof press)

– Drills that take joints through full ROM or isolate ROM at a specific joint (tall box step-ups, shoulder pass thrus, scapula push-ups, scap arch hangs, snow angels, 

– Movement in lateral plane (lateral step-ups, lateral lunges, etc.)

– Turkish Get-Ups

– Carries (Overhead, Front Rack, bear hug, suitcase, Pec stick, etc.)

How to Implement Movement Veggies

If you’re familiar with movement patterns as well as your own imbalances or areas of deficiency, you can easily integrate movement veggies into your warm-up routine to make them more targeted and customized towards your needs of the day. They can also be placed at the tail-end of sessions or viewed as “accessory” work, but I hesitate to default to that, because they are not “accessory”, they are absolutely necessary and should not only be performed in a state of fatigue after workouts. They will help to prime your joints and neurological system before training.

Here’s some examples of how I like to program them for clients in warm-ups. The intent here should always be on quality movement and creating mind-body/kinesthetic awareness.

  • What muscle is doing the work?
  • Where do you feel it?
  • Where do you feel compensation happening?

Movement Veggie Warm-Ups

Upper Body/Shoulder Focus Movement Veggies

2-3 rounds of:
“Crawl in a Box” (Fwd/R/Bk/L) x 10 steps each
Top of Ring Dip Support x :30
1/2 Kneeling Thoracic Rotation with Band x 6-8 each
Single-Arm Ring Row x 10 or Scap-Arch Pull-Ups x 6 @3311

Squat Focus Movement Veggies

1x: 90-90 Isometric Lunge “Hover” Hold x :60 each leg with coordinate breathing
3x: (increase bike pace/decrease distance each round)
Bike x :90 – :60 – :30 (slow, med, fast)
Quadruped Dumbbell Cross-Body Drag x 12
Prisoner Tall Box Lateral Step-Ups x 10 each (foot on/off box each step)
Squat Thoracic Reaches x 10 ea
Sorenson Hold x :60

Total Body Movement Veggies

Cat/Cow x 5-10
Dead Bugs x 5 ea
Top of Chin-Up Hold x :20-:30
Prisoner Lunges x 50-75ft
Turkish Get-Ups 3 each arm or Kettlebell Windmill x 6 each side (heavier each round)

Squat & Pull Prep Movement Veggies

3:00 Bike (nasal breathing) + Cat/Cow x 10
200 meter carry (mix up: front rack, waiter carry, bear hug)
1:00 Hang (pronated, supinated, single-arm play)
Cossack Lunges x 10 each side (slow)

Remember, do like your momma told ya: “eat your (movement) veggies!” and we promise you’ll feel more stable and strong in the explosive and compound movements you love to do and increase your likelihood of staying injury-free. 


Notify me of
1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
May 20, 2020 9:22 am

Love this! Great article and perfect timing as we are at home and can definitely do this daily, even in between work bouts!

Scroll to Top