LISTEN UP AND PR
As we have quite a bit of newer CrossFitters in the box currently, I’d like to talk about a few pretty important concepts that’s easily overlooked in the day to day chaos of doing 50 thrusters as fast as you can. It’s stuff you hear us bark out every day, but I think without fully understanding what’s behind it, it’s not quite as easy to understand WHY we nag you about these things.
Big, fancy words for keeping your core nice and tight during movement.
What you’ll hear us shouting: “Get your core tight”, “Flex down on that core”, etc.
Why we nag: There’s a couple of reasons on this one. First and foremost – having a weak core will immediately lead to bad spinal positioning during movements. Bad spinal positioning will lead to lower back pain and open you up to potential for injury.
Second, functional movements have a core-to-extremity translation of energy. That means we’re continually delivering energy toward our hands and feet via our core. If you don’t have a solid core, you’re losing energy at the source. Which is easier to move – a barbell or a sandbag? The solid, intact item is easier to translate energy through.
Lastly, having a compromised core often leads to sheering forces in your spine (which is what will cause pain/injury). As a self-defense mechanism, your brain will limit your range of movement and strength/power in your extremities when you have sheering in your spine.
How To Fix It: Learn how to breathe correctly (see below). Train yourself to have your core engaged and your spinal column in a safe neutral position during ANY movement. (and by ANY I mean from walking, to getting up off the ground, to taking a hard corner while driving to doing a thruster). Pay attention to your body as you move, trying to ensure proper translation of core-to-extremity energy via a strong core.
Don’t Be Dirty
Carl Paoli left this gem with us over the summer. Being “dirty” does not refer to strip clubs or the Penn State football program in this case. It means don’t break your head position from neutral. We see this all the time in deadlifts, squats, presses, and pull-ups.
What you’ll hear us shouting: “That’s Dirty!”, “Keep Your Head Neutral”, “You’re Being Dirty!”, etc.
Why we nag: Our nervous system consists of a bunch of “wires” which connect our brain to our muscular skelatal system. These wires are “tunneled” throughout our body within our muscle. As they all connect back to the brain, the 405 freeway of our wiring is the neck. While muscles have the ability to stretch and flex with movement, these tubes of wires DO NOT. Looking up or down during a movement is essentially putting a kink in your nervous system – as it’s elongating a tube that cannot stretch.
This puts a strain on your nervous system, and as a self-defense mechanism, your range of motion and power output will be reduced.
Secondly – our head position is the precursor to our shoulder and thoracic spine position. The thoracic spine position is the precursor to your lumbar position. The second you look down, you surrender your shoulder and thoracic spine into a forward bias, which will tend to knock your lumbar curve out. One slight head movement can alter your entire spinal curvature, and eliminate all your mechanical advantages in a movement.
How To Fix It: Before you start your movement, cue yourself to have a neutral head position. To find a neutral head position, just imagine your head is at the exact same angle as the top of your spine. Once you’ve found your neutral position, fix your eyes on something in your natural line of sight, and try to keep your gaze moving in direct relation to your body movement.
Of course you have to breathe. Duh. But how you breathe plays a huge role in your movement, and will vary from movement to movement.
What you’ll hear us shouting: “Watch your breathing!”, “Deep breath in”, “Breath in and pull your diaphragm down”, etc.
Why we nag: One of the biggest core-softening actions everyone does without thinking about it is breathing. If you don’t practice breathing and maintaining a compressed and actively engaged core, the second you take a breathe, you will relax your core. Take a breathe like that mid 1RM Front Squat and you’re up shit creek with 300 pounds on you.
As I said above, you need an actively engaged core protecting your spinal cord ANY time you move (shit… even when you’re just sitting in a chair, ideally). Since you need to breathe to live and move, you need to figure out how to do so WHILE keeping your core intact.
How to fix it: If you haven’t actively paid attention to your breathing while moving, do so immediately. Especially on strength days, but as you get more in tune with it, even during met-cons. During warm ups, try to do a few movements while actively engaging your core and breathing in a manner that protects that engagement – and see how it feels. Does it make the movement easier? It might feel awkward, but it’ll get easier.
But let’s not overdo it. Whether you’re new or experienced, try to focus on these three things every day you’re at the box. Soon it’ll become part of your natural movement – and if you’re all of a sudden hitting new PR’s out of nowhere, you can buy me lunch. Or just give me a high five.
Workout of the Day 11/15/2011
4 Burpee Deadlift (155#/105#)
3 Burpee Power Clean
2 Burpee Squat Clean
1 Burpee Squat Clean + Jerk
The bottom of the burpee is your chest hitting the bar while holding on to it, and the top is the movement with the bar (no need to jump and clap). Your hands should not release the bar until you have completed the rep.
Watch KStar, the master of mobility, show you in 15 minutes or less how something as stupid as looking up can completely destroy your body’s ability to output power.