Monday, April 7, 2014

Open Post-Mortem: I suck as CrossFitter, but I have something most of them don't...

A posterior chain. A strong one.

After 14.3 I had some iteration of this conversation with at least three different athletes in one day:

Athlete: "Man, that sucked."
Me: "Wasn't so bad."
Athlete: "How....?"
Me: "Most CrossFit training I've observed pays very little attention to the posterior chain, with the exception of deadlifts that show up once and a while."
Athlete: *blank stare*
Me: "Think about it, I bet your front squat and back squat aren't that far off from each other."
Athlete: "Right."
Me: "And I bet your back squat and deadlift are pretty close."
Athlete: "Yeah..."
Me: "I see it all the time, athlete's whose front squat is only 30 lbs lighter than their deadlift."
Athlete: *thinks* "OMG. That's exactly where my numbers are..."
*Note: The above conversation was with a fairly fit male member.

Going forward, these are some moves I hope too see more people incorporate into their training, and I'll be sure to have my own classes and athletes do them, to make sure I see less fear of #herniationnation next year.

1) Deadlift more

If you want to get better as something, do it. It's as easy as that. Now I get that there are a plethora of moves that one needs to do to become a well rounded CrossFit athlete, but this is one of those simple moves that everyone should be doing more because it spans more life-like situations than, say, snatching.

I only deadlift every other week. It takes a lot out of me, takes a long time to recover, so I put it in my program when I know I won't have a leg workout the next day, no technical movements the next day, or a full on rest day.

2) Good Mornings

These tax the spinal erectors in a special way. I want special attention focused on how the lady in the image still maintains a neutral curve in her low back, an tight thoracic, the elbows are pointing back and not down in this position, and her shin have a negative angle, while the knees are unlocked. Isolating the hip hinge apart from the full squat and deadlift motions are very helpful for general body awareness, as well. Next time you're doing high rep deadlifts, being able to choose among various hip heights to hinge from can give your body options.

Alternative styles to work in:

  • Zercher good mornings - holding the bar in the crook of the elbows in front of you. 
  • Safety squat bar - holds the weight in front of your shoulders, challenging you to bend over in the thoracic
  • Banded good mornings - stand on a large power band, pull it over your neck. best used for volume
  • Camber bar - The bend in the bar will make it want to swing if your movement is at all jerky

3) Reverse Hyper

Not every gym has this piece of equipment, but you can be sure if yours does, someone in that gym gives a shit about posterior chain strength, and therefore, the overall strength of their athletes.

I've seen this one used in a variety of ways. I teach my athletes to use it as follows:

  1. Set up on the machine where your legs can hang straight down like in the first picture. 
  2. Swing your legs slightly forward to start some momentum. 
  3. Pull back and away with the heels as high as you can without arching your back. 
  4. Let the weights swing back down until you can see the plates under your head, then pull back with the heels again until you reach height. 
  5. All the while, minimizing the about of flexion and extension happening in your spine. 

4) Back & Hip Extensions

Much like the reverse hyper, this works the back and hamstrings, only this time the lever is the body and the feet are locked into place. 

But, OMG, her back is rounded! 
Many of my weightlifter friends do the bottom set, hip extensions, while holding a plate or dumbbell to their chest or a barbell across the back. Hows that for some evil? The idea with the top set, back extensions, is to focus on extending your back slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, strengthening the spinal erectors through movement as opposed to through isometrics, which most of these others enforce. 

5) Heavy Ass Kettlebell Swings

These are NOT your CrossFit, over the head variety. These are so heavy that you have to seriously plant yourself or the bell will pull you over. These are heavy enough that you can't fathom swinging the thing higher than your chest. Double up on the bells if you have to. 

I don't know why more people don't swing this way.  Oh yeah, CrossFit.
Notice how the image above has the athlete start the swing on the ground with a hike rather than pick it up and then do some weird humping motion. As much as I like humping, we all like humping, let's leave it off the gym floor in general (see also: push ups).  

Alternate this double hand/ single bell with double bell and one handed swings as well. With these you're getting some volume, conditioning, AND strengthening your back all in one sweet, hip swinging move. 

6) Heavy Carries

Doing heavy carries with emphasis on not arching back against the weight or letting your shoulders get pulled forward are also great for overall core stability, with the emphasis on the posterior chain. 

Notice in the above image how even though his gaze is down (you want to see where you're stepping with that much weight), his shoulders are back, arms are straight, and his back is ramrod neutral. 

Variations include:
  • Farmer's walks - like you see above
  • Suitcase carries - weight in only one hand and trying to avoid waddling
  • Rack carries - putting one or two kettlebells in the front rack 
  • Zercher carries - carrying any type of bar in the crook of your elbows


Get your back strong, rotating these movements for volume into your training and accessory work. You don't always have to deadlift, but if you have no back, no have no chance. 

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