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Entries in movement (9)

Coach's Corner: Shoulders in the Floor Press

Without knowing anything about mobility, anatomy, or physiology, anyone could identify that shoulders shouched forwards is back and shoulders pulled back is good. Not only is shoulders back a stronger position, but also safer. Sometimes this gets tricky to identify when doing movements in CrossFit because there is so much going on, so many moving parts, and we are often changing our orientation in space.

While doing floor presses, we are lying on our back and this gives us a better view of what our shoulders might be doing in push-ups (the same movement, just flipped on our belly). Pay attention to the shoulder position of Shakes and Jacqueline in the video below.

Notice how Shakes's shoulders slowly roll forward on the descent, while Jackie's do a pretty good job of staying further back against the ground. As with most things we see in the gym, this can be broken down to both a movement and mobility issue.

Movement. The set-up of the lift gets more important as the weight increases. In the floor press, we need to have the same set-up as our push-up: butt and belly tight with external rotation in the shoulder. But because we have an added point of support (the floor), we need to actively pinch the shoulder blades back together bebefore we start to make sure they don't ram into the floor while the movement is being completed, causing the shoulder to roll forward.

Mobility. The more mobility we have, the more room for error we are granted. In Shakes's case, she is missing shoulder extension, which is coupled with internal rotation. If this is the main problem, it would be a long-term fix and something that needs daily mobility work, but it can definitely be improved.

The floor press is a weird lift, and is something we wouldn't see as much if we had more benches. But in a video call with the Martins from Brand X a few months ago, they actually told me they believe it's better to practice floor press for most athletes anyway, especially if they aren't competing in powerlifting. Either way, I'll be paying attention to what the shoulders are looking like whenever these happen to come up.

C&J Purpose feat. Mrs. Kroll

Our reason behind doing a push-up one day might be different than the reason we do it another day. One time could be to emphasize midline stability, another could be to reinforce the correct movement pattern of upper body pushing. But the reason we do a push-up is rarely because we want you to get better at hitting your chest on the ground then locking your arms out all the way.

For more coordinated movements, like the clean and jerk today, there are a ton of things we can emphasize. But it usually comes down to strength (position) or skill (timing) or both. It can be different from day-to-day or from athlete-to-athlete. So if you are ever confused with how you are being taught the same movement differently on a certain day, this is why.

Today's clean and jerks were mostly done to practice the skill. We have been working on this with rope climbs and kettlebell swings in the warmups recently, and it was time to see how it looked with a weightlifting movement we haven't done since Summer. Here's how Mrs. Kroll looked at the 8:30 am session on her last set before the 20 minutes was up.

Her position was not great; knees buckling on the unweight and soft post 2 on split jerk. Her range of motion was not either seeing as she never stood up all the way after the split jerk. But in my eyes, these were perfect for today's workout because she met this day's movement standard of core-to-extremity on both the clean and the split jerk. The click of the bar you hear and the bouncing of her arms is a sure sign of that. Her form was probably the best we saw today.

Next time, we might focus on the position - where she would definitely have her work cut out for her. Or not. Who knows? Just remember that we don't look at a movement as a concrete thing. The effect we want to get from that movement is different from day-to-day.

Analysis of the Reverse Grip Push-Up 

The reverse grip push-up. The bane of the warm-up for some, and a piece of cake for...well, I think only Ricky. Reverse push-ups have a very specific role when they're around, so let's break them down into Position, Movement, and Purpose.


How do we teach good shoulder position? When an athlete is standing, we cue them to roll their shoulders back by saying "Palms up." If we were to maintain that positioning and move the athlete in space so that they were horizontal to the ground, they would have to extend their arms to support themselves but their fingers would be pointing backwards towards their toes. This is the opposite of what is normally done for a push-up. However, it keeps the shoulders in a very stable and safe position.

Maria's so mobile sometimes she has a hard time getting in a stable shoulder position, which we yell at her a lot for. By flipping the hands we don't have to worry about shoulder position, although from this picture she still needs to worry about stabilizing the midline a little more.


One of the reasons the reverse grip push-up is so helpful is because it blocks movement. We block movement in the gym all the time, but this is one of those great times when your own body can do the blocking. Instead of using other objects like a foam between the feet or a coach's arm holding your forearm vertical, your own arms don't let you move. It's impossible to initiate a reverse grip push-up by bending the elbows. The only way to go is forward with the shoulders- which is the movement pattern we preach.


So since this version of the push-up is so great, why don't we do it all the time? The reason is fairly simply. To begin with, that's not where we press from. This movement is the greatest skill transfer for a dip or a bench press. The reason we don't press from this position is because most of us simply aren't mobile enough to press from there. We're stronger with our hands in a more neutral position- and unfortunately a lot of us get too comfortable there. For athletes (especially like Mr. Z and Mrs. Pip) their wrists and forearms are so tight front squatting can be not the most fun thing in the world. This exercise is a great way to loosen them up while still maintaining good mechanics!

We threw reverse push-ups in the warm-up before the rope climb/thruster workout.

Active Recovery

It's been the worst week of programming most of you have ever experienced. Elizabeth and Murph all within a hellish 48 hours. Thankfully, it's almost over. Especially for a workout like Murph, your body isn't going to bounce back immediately. Or even the next day. Or even the day after that. That's where this fancy thing called active recovery comes in. 


And then this? Ouch.

Instead of going home and passing out on the couch so that your sweat hardens and you'd eventually have to be pried off the ground with the golden spatula, it's better to put a little more effort into helping your body recover. After all, when your car needs an oil change, you don't just let it sit in the driveway. You take it to the mechanic where it can get a tune-up. Here's some things that will help you get back to 100% as soon as you can.

  • WATER. Water water water. Even if you did Murph inside a lovely air conditioned unit your body would still loose about 5 pounds of water. Start restocking.
  • Sleep. If you aren't getting 7-8 hours in the summer when you're out of school, you have a problem anyway. Parents, do what you can with work. 
  • Keep moving around! Low intensity stuff is really good for keeping your blood flowing to your screaming muscles. Slow walks or bike rides later in the evening are ideal, but if you have a pool get in that thing! Other low-key sport specific activity can help as well. Casual shooting around or just going outside with a buddy to toss a football around can reduce next day soreness.
  • Mobility. These next couple days it would be more helpful than usual to mobilize outside of your session. Grab a parent or a sibling and have them walk around on you or borrow a lacrosse ball from the box. 

All in all, it's been an awful week. Congrats for making it through alive. Let's start preparing for the next one.

Movement First, Movement Second, Mobility Third (Homer and the Hammer)

A hammer standing alone is a pretty useless tool. You need the right materials in place, other tools to compliment it, and most importantly, something resembling skill and coordination required to strike what is intended.

Same can be said about mobility drills. They can be a great tool but you need to know how, and when, to use them. Here's three separate scenarios to consider. Would you move or mobilize?

  1. The lady in this picture experiences knee pain when she squats.
  2. My ankle has been bothering me as of late - more than usual.
  3. Mrs. Pip can't get her elbows up for front squats - which causes a shearing wrist pain.

The first example is obvious. The knees are tracking in. Head is looking up. Back is parallel to the ground. This girl needs to be coached how to squat first. No surprise there.

The second example is the one where I see the most error. The correct answer at this level would be movement - specifically, pain-free movement. Think about what happens if you are watching a young athlete twist their ankle during a football game. The first thing they do isn't lay down, reach for a bag of ice, or mash their foot with a lacrosse ball.

They move.

After a twist, the athlete will always hobble around until they can begin to walk normal again (or until Aaron Sabal runs down onto the field waving his purse in the air and yelling at the coaches for allowing his baby boy to get a boo boo). The time it takes to walk it off depends on how severe the tweak, but it seems to work for every single person. I don't know whether or not there is science behind it, but I do know that in time pain goes away and the mobility comes back. And if it doesn't, then it's a surefire way to know that you need medical attention.

In my case, I would need to squat, lunge, and deadlift at will and increase the difficulty as far as I can without pain. The mobility work might come in either beforehand to help me achieve a better position as I am prepared to move, or afterwards if I think I may have overdone it during the workout. But I don't move around as much as I should. And when I do, it's dynamic things like running, basketball, and Z Ball that I shouldn't be doing because I haven't build up the strength doing squats, lunges, and deadlifts. And that is why it has been lingering for two years and why I can't complain about it.

The example with Mrs. Pip is the one case where I would probably go right to some mobility drills. I know she has two tree trunks for arms that need to be mobilized. But even doing that, we would move afterward to practice the new range of motion.

Mrs. Pip on a good day

When you are sore, you need to move. The twitch machine (what Collin calls the Marc Pro) is not a mobility; it makes your muscles do what they would do when you move without the hassle of actually having to move. The twitch machine is the laziest form of movement, and for that reason you can do it for hours and hours, and for that reason it works every time. So if the Marc Pro is not available to you, then you need to take it upon yourself to move. It might take 20-30 minutes for it to feel better, but the healing is more permanent than a two minute mobility.

Mobility drills are tools. Use them as such.

Movement First Mobility Second

One of the main points I've been trying to get across lately with people outside the gym is the relationship between mobility and movement. It is important to understand that there can never be one without the other - like jumping and landing, or Katie Bromm and Connor.  We spend a ton of time doing mobility - both during a session and before/after. It's pretty obvious that we are becoming more knowledgable about how to fix some of our minor problems. The next step as an athlete is to begin to understand what that means for our movement.

Do any of you do hip capsule, partner ankle, or IT band mashing so you can squat like this?

Just keep in mind that we spend all of this time doing mobility drills to help us perform movement correctly. After mobility is gained, we need to continue with the movement for three main reasons:

1. New range of motion is weak range of motion. Practice movement with that new ROM to get stronger in that position.

2. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. After mobilizing, you need to do movements that will encourage that new range of motion or else it will just go right back to how it was before.

3. All the mobility in the world can't fix poor movement patterns.

Think of it this way, you can change your oil, rotate your tires, put in Diesel fuel, and vaccum the interior all you want. But if you drive your car like an idiot, you're still gonna crash.

Move to Learn, pt. 3: On Physical Education

If students move to learn, they must also learn to move using the basic principles we live by in the gym. Kids should be taught or shown how to move safely in stable positions from a young age so they can practice these mechanics in the classroom and in sports. In the move to learn model I proposed, these mechanics would be taught in physical education.

Unfortunately most schools disregard P.E. because it is seen as non-instructional time. Schools with this idea might be trying to cope with the increased stresses on statewide standardized testing or they might just feel that P.E. really isn’t a valuable subject to teach. Part of the problem might be society: “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym…” Part of the problem might be that the education for physical education teachers is not as rigorous as other academic disciplines.

A huge part of the problem I see is the lack of progression and movement practice in gym classes. Their curriculum typically covers a wide array of sports, and the teacher’s role is to teach the rules of competition. That’s what sports teams are for, in my opinion, not physical education. We should have the view that P.E. teachers are vital in our child’s education because they are the ones giving students the tools to move purposefully.


P.E. teachers should have a strong knowledge foundation of biomechanics and movement hierarchy. The curriculum should provide an in-depth knowledge of safe and powerful movement mechanics, starting slowly without load. Younger kids especially should have time to practice safe movement patterns repetitively and should be assessed based on their ability to naturally perform those movement patterns with increased speed. This is where the CrossFit Kids program has all the bases covered and I think running a CrossFit Kids program in every school would be the best way to learn how to move at a young age. Physical education would be the time to become generally fit and achieve a high level of body awareness so that students can play sports without risking movement-error-related injury.

Like in our fundamentals sessions, the first thing all children should learn is how to brace their spine. This simple concept is not usually emphasized in young children because they are usually not dealing with weights, but they will be adding an external load eventually. Movement is a language, and children are naturally capable of learning new languages more quickly than teens or adults. Since children (should) spend a lot of time running and jumping in play, they should also practice jumping with their feet together to reinforce stable positions for the hips, knees, and ankles. The tools to learn stable positions aren’t anything new, but for some reason students don't currently learn them in P.E. (with few exceptions, including our friends at Mott).

Physical education in general needs a curriculum revamp. Teachers should be learning and teaching how to move rather than teaching the rules of sports. Maybe there was an initial purpose for learning sports in school, but now that the rules are widely known and practiced outside of school, the exposure to sports inside school is not necessary. Physical education would become more relevant and then people might actually remember that it’s important.


Considering that P.E. and sports are currently overlapping, a shift in P.E. curriculum might also mean there are things to consider in the role of sports as well. More on that in part 4!