The 7 Most Overrated CrossFit Exercises

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The 7 Most Overrated CrossFit Exercises

Crowder’s not alone in his opinion; Kane Greene of CrossFit Fairbanks has 3 of these 7 exercises on his own overrated list: American KB swings, high-rep box jumps, and kipping pull-ups.
Ken Crowder of CrossFit 77 in North Carolina has pulled together a good list of the seven most overrated CrossFit exercises. (Read our follow up article, The 7 Most Underrated CrossFit Exercises) While seven is of course an arbitrary number, and he is fully aware that “[s]ome of these will probably get me excommunicated from the CrossFit community,” the list provides a thoughtful jumping-off point as you consider these exercises in your own quest to train smart and build a solid foundation in the basics.

1. The Overhead Kettlebell Swing

The overhead kettlebell swing

Crowder starts with one of the most common exercises: the overhead kettlebell swing:

The problem arises when people suffering from some sort of shoulder dysfunction/over-extension issue are coached to get the kettlebell overhead and push their head through because that is what the CrossFit “standard” is. You can generally see this is happening when the bell is pitched forward instead of vertical or when the athlete flys their rib cage. This indicates that the athlete is pulling the bell overhead with their shoulders and upper back instead of driving the bell up with a sharp contraction of their hips and glutes.

Where’s your virtuosity? Too many athletes with shoulder issues “typically compensate for their insufficient mobility by over-extending at the thoracic-lumbar junction.”
The general purpose of a kettlebell swing is to work the posterior. Russian swings (when performed correctly) do this just fine for the average person. Once an athlete can perform a swing (not overhead) and is cleared of any shoulder dysfunction, going overhead can be beneficial because it allows the athlete to move through a greater range of motion.

CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus delves into more detail on the problems of American (overhead) vs. Russian swings:

My chief concern when training an athlete is to determine whether they can perform the assigned movements with perfect, virtuous mechanics… Many athletes lack the mobility to achieve the range of motion required by the American swing. Restrictions in their thoracic spine and shoulder girdle often prevent them from raising their arms straight overhead with a completely fixed and neutral spine. These athletes typically compensate for their insufficient mobility by over-extending at the thoracic-lumbar junction.

Compensating for lack of mobility

He provides a quick and simple test to determine whether you have the requisite mobility to perform American swings, and he also provides a straightforward prescription as to which to use in your training:

For athletes out there looking to compete in the sport of CrossFit, I suggest swinging to the height that makes the most sense for you and your possible mobility restrictions until just a few weeks prior to the competition season.
You all might have a slightly different swing height for TRAINING. I am ok with that. If you’re training for health and fitness, determine which swing better fits your training goals for the given day, with the understanding that whichever method you choose must be performed with perfect mechanics.

For athletes out there looking to compete in the sport of CrossFit, I suggest swinging to the height that makes the most sense for you and your possible mobility restrictions until just a few weeks prior to the competition season. It will not take long to make the adjustment to American swings, and you will have enjoyed many months of training good mechanics. You will also buy yourself many months to work on your mobility so that when the competition season comes around you can repeat our little test and hit the full range on an American swing with perfect mechanics.

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