CrossFit workouts are largely composed of Olympic lifts, plyometrics and metabolic conditioning. The intensity and variety can be welcome challenges, but if you don't proceed with caution, you risk injury. If you want to get the most out of CrossFit, it's best to avoid these three exercises:
Sumo Deadlift High Pull
The Sumo Deadlift High Pull is a combination of two incompatible movements.
Powerlifters use it to shorten the distance the bar has to travel, allowing them to pull more weight. Performed alone, it is a viable movement for those who suffer from chronic lower back issues and whose lever arms may not permit them to get into a proper position to pull conventionally. Essentially, the lifter's center of gravity is in close alignment with the bar's center of mass, thus facilitating a bar path which "hugs" the body.
Similarily, the High Pull, on its own, is a great exercise to promote explosive triple extension of the hips, knees and ankles. It usually serves as the second pull in a Clean performed from the floor or the hang position, occurring before the scoop and dip, which conclude the Clean in the rack position. It allows athletes and lifters who may have structural or functional limitations of the musculoskeletal system to train triple extension.
But taken together, these movements are as compatible as peanut butter and buffalo chicken dip. Since your feet are placed outside of hip-width during the setup, your hands must fall within shoulder-width. And since the two exercises are coached as one continuous movement rather than an initial pull from the floor followed by a hip-driven second pull to shoulder height, the bar path arches away from the body, resulting in a glorified wide-stance Upright Row performed from the floor. This combination can also cause shoulder impingement.
Suggested Substitutions: Sumo Deadlift, Barbell Clean Pull, Barbell High Pull, Face Pull
The American Swing is a traditional Kettlebell Swing with an added range of motion—taking the kettlebell overhead. The Kettlebell Swing is a fantastic posterior chain builder, as it develops the gluteals and hamstrings, two muscle groups deeply involved in hip extension. To keep force off the lower back, keep the kettlebell as close to your body as possible—which is the opposite of what occurs during an American Swing.
In the American Swing, the kettlebell is taken overhead after you achieve maximal hip extension. If you have insufficient core strength and shoulder mobility, this can cause your low back to hyperextend in an attempt to slow down the kettlebell as it travels overhead. Your head juts forward and your ribs flare. High reps can hurt your lower back even more.
Suggested Substitutions: Kettlebell Swing, Overhead Press
One of the flashiest CrossFit exercises is the Kipping Pull-Up. Although the technique allows CrossFitters to complete more repetitions, creating additional metabolic stress, there's really no reason why anyone should perform them.
Kipping Pull-Ups encourage freely moving shoulders while the torso shifts from a hollowed to an arched position. This chews away at the muscles and joints in your shoulder, causing problems.
Properly performed Pull-Ups require a packed shoulder and rigid core. If you aren't strong enough to perform them, consider Assisted Pull-Ups, Static Arm Hangs and Inverted Rows instead.
Suggested Substitutions: Pull-Ups, Chin-Ups, Inverted Rows
McGill, S.M. & Marshall, L.W. (2012). "Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up carry: back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26, 16-27.
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