Trusting in the Process: Our Great Adventure

Today is the end of week three in our training for the hybrid Crossfit / USA Weightlifting competition October 1-3. I'm working with 4 individuals and we train 8+ hours a week, over 4 days. Two athletes only train 2x a week with my, while the others train 4 days. I told my 4x/week people that I would work with them only under the following conditions:

1. No Crossfit class workouts for duration of our training (2 months). If you have withdrawal or a panic attack, text me and I'll talk you down and give you something appropriate.

2. The following exercises are off limits: deadlifts, kipping pull ups, KTE, CF-style KB swings, ring dips, muscle ups, Prowler pushing, thrusters, push presses.

3. The following exercises are ok: double-unders, rowing, sprints, bodyweight squats, lunges, front squats (strict form), snatches, cleans, power and split jerks, incline DB presses, HSPU.

Just 8 weeks. I know you can do it. Let your bodies recover from your training for and participation in the Crossfit Games. Trust me.

At first it was pretty hard for them, but they are starting to get it. They are seeing progress in their technique and feeling changes in posture and mobility. They are able to sense movement errors and make corrections themselves. They are learning the sweet sensation of the legs moving the bar. They are learning patience--that improvement comes in spurts and some days we learn the most from failed attempts.

In my mind, it has been essential for them to develop a completely different mindset--to break away from the constant nervous system overload and physical exhaustion of individual daily workouts. The weightlifting mind, or any technically demanding individual sport for that matter, has to be calm and able to focus intensely on the task at hand. It's not overhead anyhow; it is lift the weight with precise, efficient technique. Maximal effort, executed with precise control. Some parts of the body must stay relaxed, while others work all out. The nervous system cannot go haywire or function under a state of alarm.

It has also been essential to eliminate movement patterns and postural adaptations that are counter-productive to weightlifting. It is my experience and observation that an excessive amount of kipping pullups, high-rep, sloppy push presses and hard style KB swings contribute to chronic tightness in the shoulder rotators and scapulohumeral musculature, along with an athletic-induced thoracic kyphosis. This combination of this type of inflexibility in the upper quarter makes keeping the bar close and developing a smooth turnover very challenging. It makes an optimal receiving position in the clean and snatch almost impossible.

The kyphotic upper body posture is then reinforced and combined with lower-body movement patterns if the athlete is allowed to do thrusters with a barbell, sloppy heavy front squats or deadlifts. Combine this with a little tightness in the hammies and you will struggle to have an effective lift off position or bottom position in either lifts.

From an efficiency and movement pattern standpoint, we have focused on:
  • Learning to use the hip, knee and ankle to push the weight off the ground, vs use a high-hip, back-dominant deadlift type start.
  • Keeping the feet on the ground as long as possible in order to connect the leg drive to the barbell. No donkey kicking.
  • Keeping the bar close and getting the hips back into bar.
  • Meeting the barbell, not just diving into the bottom position.
  • Greasy-fast, efficient turnover of the shoulder / elbow / wrist. No extra torso, arm or torso gesticulations.
I'm excited to see what today's training brings. It is very rewarding and refreshing to work with adults who are so enthusiastic and talented. And they have been just tough as nails in this stifling heat and humidity. I too, am learning to trust in the process and not over-correct. Trying to learn how to modify things here and there to let their athleticism figure it out whenever possible. It's been a great adventure thus far!


David Leitner said…
Do you believe dead-hang pull-ups are OK for shoulder mobility?
Tracy Fober said…
Yes, I think they are a great upper quarter strength and infrastructure exercise. Full ROM is key, so it control. I don't care if you can do more than 20. I care how you do them, with or without assist.
mike d said…
great blog with a plethora of great insight- where do you train out of?
Tracy Fober said…
Thanks. Crossfit Valley Park.
Ben said…
How do kipping pull-ups create tightness? I thought the whole kip thing was a dynamic stretch for the shoulder girdle.
Tracy Fober said…
Kipping pull ups don't help anyone get the ROM they need to put a barbell overhead properly. They are ballistic shortening of the scapulohumeral muscles--at the bottom of the pull up, the shoulder girdle is under a load probably > bodyweight, so the musculature doesn't ever get to lengthen and relax. The majority of the concentric work is a horizontal pull, not a vertical pull, so the musculature gets very strong--and very tight--in a very short range of motion. Most CF people do an absurd number of kipping pull ups compared to the number of times they do quality overhead movement with a barbell, that requires lengthening and relaxation of the scapulohumeral muscles. Thus, many people actually get an imbalance around the shoulder that is not conductive to putting the barbell above the head with good shoulder flexion and external rotation.
Ben said…
Wow, thanks for the insight. Mind if I forward this along?
Max said…
Donkey kicking?

In a lot of the how to vids at the crossfit site on snatches I've seen people really slap their feet down. Is this what you're talking about? I think it was Burgener coaching most of these. Looked a bit odd to me but I was willing to defer to someone w. experience.

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