by Joel Toledano | December 17, 2012 12:01 am
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.
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.
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.
Crowder doesn’t mince words – better to work your core using knees to elbows or toes to bar instead of flopping around on the floor with the ab mat:
How many of you can smash Abmat Sit Ups but cannot do 1 strict toes-to-bar? How many of you get giant burns on your butt every time you do abmat sit ups? Most people when performing this movement don’t actually use their abs to bring themselves to the upright position.Most of us swing the crap out of our arms and pop our hips up and down to pop ourselves to the finish position. This movement is inferior for building core strength because the athlete is able to deactivate their core and whip themselves through the range of motion through these means.
There is an excessive risk of injury with this exercise given the movement involved and the breakdown in form with fatigue. Read the excellent discussion of the movement’s similarity to the test for shoulder impingement by the folks at Whole9 entitled “I (Heart) My Supraspinatus”.
We covered this in-depth already. Save your Achilles, step down from the box (jumps).
Echoing his earlier concern for athletes’ shoulder girdle and potential problems that can result from excessive volume without sufficient strength and flexibility, Crowder emphasizes that coaches need to take their time in teaching kipping:
Kipping is super beneficial to increase power output but kipping pull ups SHOULD NEVER be the stepping stone to strict pull ups and/or weighted pull ups.Kipping is a skill. And as a skill there needs to be a foundation in which it is built off of. That foundation is a stable and strong shoulder complex. A good indications of a strong stable shoulder complex is being able to do multiple strict pull ups or dare I suggest weighted pull ups.
As Coaches, we get crazy pumped to teach sexy movements like kipping toes to bar and kipping pull ups. But we need to take a step back and realize that 10,000 kipping pull ups on an already weak (or inflexible) shoulder joint might not be the best long term fitness plan.
Kipping is super beneficial to increase power output but kipping pull ups SHOULD NEVER be the stepping stone to strict pull ups and/or weighted pull ups. Do the right thing and require strict pull ups (or weighted if you want seriously strong and healthy athletes) before you allow your athletes or yourself to start repping out kipping pull ups.
Crowder’s advice is similar to that laid out in our Top Tips for Your First Two Years of CrossFit.
In the same vein as his concern over kipping pullups, Crowder flatly states that coaches should “[r]equire your athletes, and yourself, to be able to do strict muscle ups on command before teaching them to kip and before allowing them to input them in workouts.”
Coaches and athletes, what do you think of this list – are these exercises truly overrated, and are there other exercises that belong on this list?
Ken Crowder originally posted “The 7 Most Overrated Exercises” on the CrossFit 77 affiliate blog on October 22, 2012. Read the full article here.
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