Everyone has a weakness and I seem to uncover one in just about every WOD I have a crack at… It's fricken ridiculous; Box-jumps, burpees, pull-ups – oh hang on a second, I suck at everything! Well actually these are just a few of the many CrossFit movements that I don't really enjoy… (well I wasn't going to say 'hate' now was I?)
There is however, a difference between movements that I hate (there, i said it), movements that I struggle with and movements I can't actually do, due to any number of reasons which may include:
- I have not yet learned the movement;
- I haven't practiced it enough to be confident at it;
- I lack the physical strength to perform/complete the movement(unscaled); or
- I have an preexisting injury or condition that prevents me from performing/completing the movement.
Let's go through these reasons one at a time and try to rectify some things…
Problem: You have not yet learned the movement / Solution: Learn it.
It can generally be the case that you may not have ever needed to know a particular movement because it's never been called on in any of the workouts you've done. Sean and I do try to mix it up a fair bit but to be honest I'd probably say that our training has been biased to the less complex movements in the CrossFit arsenal. We spend a fair bit of time on simple body weight based movements and stay away from the bar… Well that was until very recently (eg. after Sean got his Oly lifting cert.) and now that we've started to amp up the amount of barbell training people are really starting to get more comfortable with the movements. We'll continue to teach you guys what we do know and find out more when we don't. In life if you don't know – you learn off someone who does – then you progress. If you don't progress – you get left behind. The same can be said in workouts… CrossFit Oahu recently held the Hawaii sectionals and ran a number of spirit crushing WODs that included one in particular:
WOD 2 (Saturday) “Skill Session A”
- Unbroken Kipping Pull Ups (30/20)
- 10 Unbroken Overhead Squats (135/95lbs)
- Unbroken One-legged Squats – each leg (10/6)
- 45 20-inch Box Jumps completed in one minute
- Unbroken Hand Stand Push-ups (2/4)
There was a fair bit of feedback posted in the comments section on the games site about how unfair this workout was but I thought it was good to see some skill based tests where you either 'passed' or 'failed'. Remember, to get to the games you're going to have to pick the fittest and most skilled athlete – so why not throw in a skills based WOD to sort the meat out from the veggies… Personally I've looked at this list heaps of times and have started to practice the movements until I can start to tick off some boxes… While I'm on track for the one-legged squats and just nailed 5 unbroken HSPUs, I think 10 unbroken OH squats with 60kg is a fair way off…
Problem: You haven't practiced the movement enough to be confident at it / Solution: Practice, practice, practice.
It's a well known fact that the key to the mastery of something is constant application or practice. This is also true of learning the different movements in CrossFit. You didn't just hop into the car one day and miraculously know how to drive – you would have spent hours, days, weeks (and sometimes months) practicing with someone who already knew how to do it. This whole process may have been a pretty scary experience (especially if you learnt with my mum) but I'm sure you got through it now look at you – with a license and all 🙂 (NOTE: If you don't have a license and you're older then 21 – you really need to get one…)
To get better at something you need to do it over and over and over (and then some more). Take me for example: I've been doing CrossFit since last May. Went to a level 1 cert in July and are still learning new stuff, tips and techniques on a near daily basis. I want to keep learning new stuff all the time and movements are no different. One day I'd like to be able to nail a decent freestanding handstand so in an effort to eventually get there I was down at an oval near work practicing. It certainly wasn't pretty but it was practice and one day I'll have it in the bag (but only as long as I keep practicing…) If you suck at something practice it and you'll get better. If you fall over: pick yourself up and go again. When you were a toddler learning to walk and you fell over you didn't lose it and say that's it – this walking stuff is too hard – I'm not doing this any more :(??? did you – no! you got back up and tried again. Where along the line as adults did we become so mentally weak that we quit something if it's too hard? In the words of a wise young 21 yr old “sack-up!”
The old Pantene saying “It won't happen overnight… but it will happen…” is so true. You've just gotta take the time to get off your arse and go practice, practice, practice….
Problem: You lack the physical strength to perform/complete the movement / Solution: Get stronger.
I've seen guys with great technique be let down by lack of strength. Kipping pull-ups based on technique alone, absolutely destroy your shoulders so it'd probably make sense to develop some sort of strength through dead hang pull-ups so your shoulders are supported my enough musculature to maintain decent form. If you've only got 5 dead hand pull-ups – aim for 15. If you've got 30 kipping pull-ups sorted aim for 20 weighted L pull-ups… Now on pull-ups: another way to increase strength is to practice the movement under load. Body weight is good but practicing weighted pull-ups will increase your strength phenomenally, Practice slow and controlled concentric and eccentric movements. Practice fast and explosive concentric movements (clapping chin-ups, etc.) Practice isometric holds. Try mixed grips (overhand, underhand, mixed: 1 over, 1 under) – Remember getting stronger takes time so don't expect to look and feel like the incredible hulk by next Saturday but make the effort to get on a bar every time you see one.
Obviously I've covered getting stronger for pull-ups but you'll find that the same principles apply to just about any movement or exercise… They are:
- Get the body weight movement sorted first (use bands until you do…)
- Add load (slowly).
- Work slow.
- Work fast.
- Practice holds.
- Add variations of the movement.
- & most importantly: practice every day – your body will adapt to the work you do.
I've been applying this method to hand stand push ups (HSPU) over the last couple of weeks and I've gone from being able just to hand stand holds to 5 HSPUs in a row. I've got this thing going on a work where every time I go to the loo at work – I'll kick up to a handstand and bang out as many as I can (and that's to the wall guys — not the toilet bowl…) and I haven't been busted yet but I'm sure there'll be some explaining to do when I finally get caught… WT?
Problem: A pre-existing injury or condition that prevents you from performing/completing the movement / Solution: Diagnose. Rehab & Prehab.
If a preexisting injury is holding you back but you're not actively doing anything to fix it (e. getting physio, icing, rolling, stretching and strengthening) you really can't complain can you. Everyone generally has some niggling condition that they've 'always had' but I find it quite interesting that these people haven't taken the time to actually go and see a physio to find out exactly what's wrong and spend some time and resources addressing the issue.
I've been unlucky enough to have 2 reconstructions on my left shoulder and I'd have to say it's the best it's been ever. better than before I dislocated it for the first time. Better than after months of rehab in the Army. I'd have to say that while I'm the fittest I've ever been all my joints are feeling good. But that has come with work. I know my shoulders suck so I make sure I spend time each week doing exercises and stretches that strengthen and increase range of movement. A while back I saw an excellent video of Jason (one of the instructors) from CrossFit Perth doing an awesome kettlebell complex. It was:
- 10 slasher to halos
- 10 swings (to shoulder or OH)
- 5 deck squats
- 10 snatches (5 each arm)
- 10 clean & press (5 each arm)
I usually work through the complex for 3 rounds and then hit a couple of sets of Turkish get-ups at various weights – [email protected],[email protected],[email protected](on each arm). I never do this workout timed (though I'm sure you could) but I can assure you that by the time I'm finished it's been a solid 1/2hr workout and I'm covered in sweat. Turkish get-ups with kettlebells are an absolutely fantastic of sureing up rotator-cuff injuries (although you must start with a light weight and build up slowly) and they're a lot more exciting than medial and lateral rotations with thera-bands…
Hopefully that's given you some worthwhile points to consider in addressing any weaknesses you may have. And remember: if there's anything you'd like to spend some time working on as part of the warm-up we do at each workout but your unsure – Feel free to grab Sean and I so we can coach you through the movement you may be struggling with. It may be the case that you only require a couple of quick points to really take it to the next level