Thanks to Kelly Starrett for sharing much of this great info with us at his Movement &; Mobility Seminar!
CrossFit can be a spotlight for your weaknesses. The programming can exploit your tight hips, lack of shoulder mobility, and all your other muscle/joint/connective tissues/motor control imbalances. That's the bad news. The good news is, you can fix 80% of it on your own with a few simple tools!
Why should you fix it?
- You will increase your work capacity. This means you'll be faster and stronger! Your "Fran" time will improve. You'll PR on all your lifts. You'll start kicking butt even more than you already are.
- You can express great technique. If your shoulders are tight, you're overhead squat technique suffers. If your hamstrings are tight, it's hard for you to get in a solid position for your deadlift.
- You will go a long way towards preventing injury and resolving current injuries. Anyone that is, or has been, injured knows how frustrating it is to not be able to do the workouts as prescribed. It's no fun, and you want to get back to where you were as quickly as possible.
- You will be well above the line of suck. The "line of suck" is horizontal line that you definitely want to be above. Above the line is good. Below the line sucks. And the further above the line you are, the better your life is, the better your workouts are, and the more buffer you have to coming anywhere near the line.
- Flexibility/Mobility has the greatest potential to limit all other physical capacities. We focus on 10 General Physical Skills in CrossFit. If flexibility is your weak link, all of the 9 other skills will be hampered.
- If you want to be at your best for every workout, it's essential that you constantly and consistently maintain your flexibility and mobility.
How to easily get 10% more performance
The very first thing you can do to improve muscle, joint, and connective tissue health is drink more water! Without enough water in your body, it just doesn't work right. Check out this video from CrossFit Endurance explaining how hydration impacts performance. As they say, a 1% state of dehydration can negatively affect your performance by 10-12%. That is a lot of performance to leave on the table for something as easy as drinking water! From their research, they have determined that your baseline water consumption should be half our your body weight in ounces each day. So, if you weight 150 pounds, that's 75 ounces (over 9 cups). If you exercise, you need to add at least 16oz/hour to that! The good news? Coffee counts!
Kelly Starrett has a simple test to see if you are in fact dehydrated (hint: you probably are, but you can do the test anyhow). Cross one leg over your knee. Find the flat part of your shin bone. Take the tip of your thumb and press down as hard as you can for 5-10 seconds. Let go. Is there an indentation where your thumb was? If so, you better go get a glass of water!
How to maximize your genetic potential
The Best-Fit Concept: For every movement we do, there is an ideal bio-mechanical position from which maximum force can be produced. Have you ever seen Andy Bolton's world record 1008 pound deadlift? This is a great example of best fit. If you study his technique, it's exactly the same as we teach you (which we learned from Mark Rippetoe) - any deviation from that position would result in less weight lifted (and no world record!). Our goal should be to mimic the best-fit position as best we can for each movement. If you are unable to get in a best-fit position for a movement, that is something you need to work on, or you will never be able to maximize your potential. However, there are also times where best-fit may need to be adjusted for the situation and environment. In real life, we may not always have to lift barbells. It may be boxes, rocks, or other awkward objects. This may make the best-fit position of the deadlift for those situations slightly different than the best-fit position for a barbell. Any deviation from the best-fit position compromises force production and may cause musculoskeletal problems if we don't have a buffer above the line of suck.
Mid-Line Stabilization: This is what most people would call "core strength". Core strength isn't well-defined and is grossly overused and misunderstood, so we prefer the term mid-line stabilization. Mid-line stabilization is the ability to maintain a neutral spine position under load, in any position, from a shoulder press to a deadlift. Keep in mind, your mid-line extends from your neck down to your hips, so head position can affect your mid-line! We teach you the proper position for all the lifts in our Elements course, but the challenge is maintaining mid-line stabilization with increased load.
Using the best-fit position for every situation and keeping your mid-line stable are incredibly important to prevent injury, stay safe, and maximize your genetic potential!
How to search and destroy your limitations
So, you know your deadlift isn't perfect. And you want to fix it. The first thing to do is look up-stream and down-stream. Are your hamstrings tight (down-stream)? Is your head too high on the set-up (up-stream)? Checking and fixing these problems could improve your deadlift. Or maybe you have knee pain? Check up-stream (do your quads need some time on the foam roller) and down-stream (do you need to stretch your calves) before having a surgeon slice open your knee. Remember, everything is connected, so always check up-stream and down-stream!
If your up-stream and down-stream search didn't solve your problem, the next step is to mobilize at the point of restriction. We're not talking about mobilizing muscles. We're talking about mobilizing movements. Do you have trouble keeping your knees out at the bottom of the squat? Spend some time working on your external hip rotation. This means stretching, foam rolling, and digging in with a lacrosse ball. Do you struggle getting into a good overhead position? Time to work on your shoulders and upper back. Again, foam rolling, lacrosse ball work, and finding some stretching to mobilize that position is your next step.
We'll get more into specific mobilization work in our next article. But, in the mean time, re-read Get Your Roll On to get a start on foam rolling and lacrosse ball work!Photos courtesy Mark Rippetoe and San Francisco CrossFit