Gettin’ Down

Monday, May 21, 2012

Registration for the WOD Gear Team Series at the Rose Bowl opens tonight at 9pm!  Get your team together!

Jog 400 meters
Keg Drill, 2 minutes
Ankle Mobility, 1 minute each

Take 20 minutes to work up to a 1 rep max Overhead Squat.

Be sure to review the video below and the grip positioning video.  For those that have problems getting full depth in their overhead squat, either spend time working on positioning with a light load and multiple reps or work up to your 1RM Front Squat.

Workout of the Day:

12 minute AMRAP of:

3 Wall Walks
Run 200m
15 Push Press, 95lbs

Cool Down:
2 rounds of:
10 Wall Extensions
German Hang, accumulate 30 seconds
Sampson Stretch, 20 seconds each


I previously wrote a post about shoulder and torso positioning in the overhead squat and the snatch.  This was the beginning of us focusing on a better and safer way of teaching the overhead squat.  The problem is that so many people struggle to get into this position!  Does that mean we don’t do overhead squats or squat snatching?  Of course not!  In our constant effort to get people to focus on their their health and fitness in the long term, working to find proper positioning and addressing mobility issues first is a natural part of the process.  Once we can get into a good position, then we start to add weight to the scenario.  I know this can be frustrating and it may feel like you aren’t really doing anything, but with patience and persistence, you can change!  The following is the story of my relationship with the overhead squat and squat snatch:

I have been CrossFitting for 7 years, and for the first 4 of those years, I could not perform the overhead squat!  Let alone a squat snatch.  I could do it with a PVC pipe, but with any type of weight, the pain was excruciating!  I could do everything else in the CrossFit arsenal that involved shoulders, pullups, pushups, handstand pushups, dips, presses, you name it.  I was training out of my apartment and the park and I was getting in better shape, so I never made a big deal out of not being able to do these two movements.  I took the stance that it just wasn’t meant to be.

That all changed when I opened the gym.

A few months into being open, we had a bunch of members that all began to experience shoulder pain at the same time.  We realized that the movements were not the problem, but the posture and positioning of the athletes.  In an attempt to fix this problem, we put together the now infamous “Shoulder Prep” warmup series.  When introducing the series, I was performing and demonstrating this literally 4-5 times almost every day for two weeks.  Then something funny happened.  Every morning, when I would wake up and put my hoody on, I would put my right arm in the sleeve and then reach back and put my left arm in the other sleeve and I would get that “overhead squat pain” in my shoulder.  This would happen every morning.  Then, after the two weeks of shoulder prepping, I reached back to put my left arm in the sleeve and there was no pain.  I actually reached back again looking for the pain, but it wasn’t there!  Hmmm.  On my scooter ride to the gym I thought, maybe the shoulder prep actually helped me!  That was something I had never intended, but it would make sense, right?!  Later that day I grabbed a barbell and gave the overhead squat a try.  There was some pain, but it was nothing compared to before!  I couldn’t believe it.  This pain, the avoidance of these movements, my presumption that I was built wrong and not meant to overhead squat, was all wrong.  And it only took me four and a half years to figure that out!

I was lucky that I was doing the shoulder prep series regularly for my job, but would I have had the diligence to do it regularly on my own?  That is the tough part, to make improvements we need to perform daily work on these issues!  We are trying to reverse years of poor posture and lack of movement.  The story does not end there…

Now that I could perform these movements, they were officially my weakest movements.  I had no experience performing them, let alone in a high intensity environment.  The pain was gone, but I did not enjoy the movements still.  I would work on them when they appeared in a workout, but that was about it.  I never felt comfortable performing the snatch and receiving the bar in a dynamic fashion in this position.  I slowly got more weight on the overhead squat, but still, two years later, both of these movements were my least favorite to see in a workout.  Then I wrote that article above about positioning and I realized that my work was not done!  Of course, it took me about two months to actually start working on it again, which just happened to coincide with the 12.2 Sectional Snatch Wod.  After that disappointing experience, I was dedicated to mastering the snatch and the overhead squat position!

I started with a broomstick at home.  I would work on getting as deep as possible without losing my torso angle.  I could only make it about half way down, and I would hold that position for about 30 seconds at a time.  Then I would repeat about 4-5 more times, just holding this position.  I already knew that the keg drill helped my overhead squat and I knew that to get my hips further forward at the bottom of the squat, I would have to work on my ankles; my hips were not an issue.  I spent the next two weeks working these three things daily:  the broomstick depth as best as I could, keg drill for at least 2 minutes a day, ankles for at least two minutes a day.  (An additional position that I added in was my computer paleo chair as often and as long as possible.)  After two weeks, I was able to hit a super low position with my torso upright.  It wasn’t easy, but my position was there!  I started to play with the 15lb bar and worked up to the 45lb over the next week.  I began to perform some snatch work with the barbell and receive the bar in that new position dynamically.  It felt amazing.  It felt right.

After about one month of work, I was not only in a much stronger and safer position, but I was actually enjoying these movements!  Now that I had the positioning, I was working on the movements much more and my positioning was maintaining.  I did not need to do the keg drill and ankle mobility every day.  My max efforts for both the overhead squat and the snatch decreased in the short term, but once I got used to it, I eventually passed these numbers with ease.  I am looking forward to how much further I can take these movements.  They serve as a reminder to what is possible if we take the time to maintain and improve our body and positioning.

Christine working her positioning!

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