Crossfit is equal parts exposing and fixing your weaknesses. A movement like an overhead squat does just as much to allow a coach to observe and assess an area of weakness as it does to fix it. This can be from a strength, mobility, stamina, or any other perspective.
Fixing the worst part of my Crossfit game is done in the exact same way. Consistently doing overhead squats allows everyone to look at me and see what I am doing wrong and cue me to fix myself.
Consistently doing the movement that shall not be spoken of forces my body to adapt both in strength and mobility. All aspects of your fitness will reacts to and only imposed stress demand.
By doing overhead squats, I am strengthening the stabilizers in my shoulders, while forcing them to that end range of motion that I am lacking.
There are other things that I lack that I can work on.
Overhead strength: pressing, push pressing, and jerks
Thoracic Mobility: double lacrosse ball stretch, foam rolling, any olympic lift derivative, kipping pull ups, and kettlebell swings
I look more like the fella on the right
Shoulder stability: Turkish get ups and a variety of overhead movements
Shoulder mobility: Lacrosse ball work both in the lats and pecs, any number of shoulder band stretching
Like the old GI Joe public service announcements used to say, and now I know and knowing is half the battle.
Thank you to Kyri for being a rockstar coach.
For everyone who is interested, I am going to do my best to live tweet the action from the Crossfit Games Dirty South Regionals.
I’ll be cheering for Crossfit Inception’s own Erich Roberts and a few of my other buddies from the Crossfit North Atlanta extended family: Team Cock Diesel, Steve Mullen, Matt Baird, and Brian Del Greco.
Follow @Paleonow to hear my very biased interpretation of the action.
Note: I’m short, so hopefully I’ll find someone’s shoulders to sit on
I felt worse than my hands looked
While I was home on leave I go to the same box that I started Crossfitting at. Crossfit North Atlanta has been my home away from home ever since they let me do my first real WOD two years ago when I was on R&R from Iraq. Since than, the folks at team Cock Diesel have been like a second family to me. So much so that my actual family now goes there.
One of the best things about working out at consistently at another box is having someone give you new coaching cues to help you with your weaknesses.
Its a well known fact that I am terrible at anything that goes overhead. The overhead squat is literally the bane of my existence. Its so bad that I hate overhead squats more than almost all things work and life related.
I visited a few different gyms while I was on leave and had a lot of my weaknesses seen by several sets of eyes and in each case it was very beneficial. Its also good to get some new tricks added to your coaching kit bag.
Everyone learns differently, which is even more true when its something that they have to learn and than do. There really is not much time during a workout to fully comprehend a discussion of your end range of motion or why its more important to keep your weight on your heels.
Since I’ve been going to CFNA for a while, they as much as anyone in Columbus, knows of my hate-hate relationship with overhead squats.
This week, in preparation for the Crossfit Games Regional competition, all of the WODs at CFNA were the ones from Regionals.
Since these are designed to flatten the best athletes in the world, the athletes had the option of doing the scaled or the prescribed version. I saw one hundred overhead squats at ninety-five pounds at the end of a horrible chipper and nearly crapped myself.
I spent the better part of the night and the morning justifying to myself why it was a bad workout, or that I should focus on strength, or that I needed to hit my neglected running, or that I would do the scaled version so that I could preserve the intensity.
Frankly, my logic was probably smarter than I was and I decided to go for it.
On the other hand, there is no way to be a Crossfitter and look your weakness in the eye and run away from it. I definitely buy the message that the biggest adaptation in Crossfit happens between your ears.
The workout was:
100 Chest to Bar Pull-ups
100 Kettlebell swings (53lb)
100 Overhead squats (95lb)
I thought it was regular pull ups all the way until the WOD started and I did my first set just like they were because…hmm no reason.
I did the first thirty-five unbroken, a few sets of ten, and the rest in sets of five. Around pull up sixty I saw blood. Not like a metaphorical motivation Rockey-esque thing, but literally from my hand.
The kettlebell swings were not bad, I broke them up more than I should have and tore the callous on my other hand. Even with that, something I am pretty competent at, there is room for improvement. I was not optimizing the back swing, letting the bell drop too vertically and making the movement less efficient. I do not think I do this at early reps, but like everything form goes to hell once fatigue sets in. This exposes your worst tendencies and form flaws.
I love double unders. All the time. Always.
Than came the overhead squats. If I ever take over the world I would forbid them, issuing a decree against them. Although this would probably lead to my overthrow by people who are much fitter than me.
Why am I so bad at overhead squats?
Poor shoulder range of motion, weak shoulders, not breathing efficiently during them, avoiding them like a dimly lit truck stop for my first two years of Crossfitting, poor thoracic mobility, and a mental block bigger than my mouth.
Everyone knows it and I willingly and openly have been taking tweaks and advice for months with a lot of success. In October I could not finish Nancy, a few weeks ago I did it in a decent time RX’d. I’ve been playing with hand position, keeping my shoulders tight, and showing armpits.
Well my friends at North Atlanta had 100 reps over fifteen horrible minutes to cue and dissect the worst overhead squats in the business.
The things to work on: I spend too much energy fighting against my posture aka I try to squat too upright.
image from: http://karmacrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/ohead-squat.jpg
Looking at the diagram… I look nothing like this when I overhead squat.
When I overhead squat my hip angle (angle A) is too open. Conversely, my knee angle is more closed than it should be. I do this (subconsciously) to make up for the poor thoracic mobility that I have.
Plainly put, I keep my back too upright and I’ll try to squat the bar in the same position it would be if I were pressing it.
This is not efficient and the result is that my overhead squats suck.
It dawned on me, that maybe the reason that we have so many issues with people picking up and putting down the Kettlebell correctly is because we never showed them the right way. It could be as simple of a reason as its common sense to us, but not to people brand new to Crossfit.
Please watch this video: http://library.crossfit.com/premium/video/CFJ_Martone_KBSwing_ipod.mov?e=1304898633&h=ab74f357193845a314dc4c21d11bbe1b
I assume that most people do not have a subscription to the Crossfit Journal, so I’ll keep writing. Unless you really enjoy my ramblings, I encourage you to stop reading and watch the video.
First stand with the bell directly between the crooks of your feet.
Than stand it up just like a deadlift.
And you are ready to swing, clean, snatch, or whatever.
Sounds pretty simple and it is, but here are the faults that we commonly see.
1. People starting with the kettlebell too far in front of their feet.
Like lifting any object, the further away it is from your body, the greater the moment arm that acts upon both you and that object. This moment arm is simply the force of gravity acting a direction opposite to the one you want to go.
This means that the weight will be heavier because the force of gravity is heavier against it.
It also means that the sheer forces against your spine are greater because of the fact that there is a heavier load AND because you are in a mechanically disadvantageous body position where you are worse equipped to use your muscles to keep your body tight.
This means its not only harder to move and start the swing (which means you are going to be slower for those of you who are leader board obsessed), but that you will fatigue faster, and you will waste more energy moving the kettlebell. This is what I mean when I yell to make life easier on yourself during the WOD.
2. People start with the kettlebell too far behind them.
I’ve yet to see someone hit themselves in their own pair of kettlebells doing this, but I would have no problems laughing at them if they did.
The fix for this is actually pretty easy. You cannot lift in this position, you will wind up dragging it into the right or a closer to right position in order to get it started.
So once again, which is easier dragging a steel cannonball to you or taking a half step back.
3. From the side
These are the people who I understand the least. They will position themselves offset from a heavy object, heave, lunge, swing, and move around off balance while they either half rep or barely complete a simple movement.
I’m not even going to mention time and inefficiency, because all of my old points apply. I just find it odd that someone would do that. It has to be the worst and hardest way to do something. Crossfit is hard enough as is, if you want to up the intensity, come talk to me and I’ll add some burpees to any work out you want. At least than I know you wouldn’t be attempting to destroy your lower back.