As a coach, I am often asked questions about how to get better at the CrossFit skills: kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, wall balls, etc. My answer is almost always for these athletes to get better at weightlifting. Strength and performance. While the connection between weightlifting and many other CrossFit movements may seem distant at first, the two are very closely related.
Strength and Performance Will Help Me Do What?
I have been working with a particular athlete for quite some time and, while he had the technique and strength to string together muscle-ups, he was limited in performing large sets for reasons that were unknown to him. I watched this athlete go from being able to string fewer than 10 muscle-ups in a row to getting over 15. What could have caused this change? He increased his snatch from 185 to 225 while changing little in his gymnastics training routine. Take a second to think about the similarities between a snatch and a muscle-up: a tight core to transfer energy, an aggressive hip drive, a rapid pull with the shoulders after the hips are open, and an aggressive finish in which we “stick the landing” (to use a gymnastics term).
The muscle-up is one of many skills to directly benefit from increased weightlifting prowess. Consider the kipping handstand push-up and the order at which everything must fire with proper body position. There is a common assistance exercise in weightlifting that exactly mimics this body position and chain of events: the push press. Getting more proficient at the barbell push press will ultimately make one more proficient at kipping their HSPU’s. There is often a direct correlation between athletes who are technically sound in their push press and athletes who can achieve large sets of unbroken HSPU.
Long story short, the key components of weightlifting all make us better at the sport of CrossFit. Increased hip drive, increased aggression with the legs, increased core tension, and increased shoulder stability are all benefits of weightlifting training which will allow an athlete to better excel at almost any CrossFit movement. Aside from the performance benefits, athletes with stronger overhead positions from weightlifting will always see fewer instances of injury from common movements like kipping pull-ups and KB swings due to increased stability in the shoulder girdle.
Better Squats Make You Better at Everything Else
Another benefit of increased strength and technical skill in Olympic lifting is that most weightlifters have large back and front squats compared to other athletes. Think about how many times we squat in CrossFit (aside from the obvious). Movements like thrusters and wall balls become infinitely easier when an athlete can maintain perfect position in the bottom of their squat. Learning how to utilize the stretch-shortening cycle, a rapid contraction and energy release resulting in a “bounce” out of the squat, is a staple in weightlifting that carries over directly to CrossFit. I regularly see short athletes with strong legs beat out taller athletes in thrusters and wall balls because they can effectively achieve this “bounce” (if you are interested in this subject, I have written a separate blog post on efficiency tips for wall balls which can be found on my website).
At the end of the day, taking the time to become technically proficient and strong in weightlifting will make an athlete better at the sport of CrossFit 100 percent of the time. Training CrossFit athletes with an effective weightlifting program will improve their CrossFit-specific skills at a rapid rate. If you are looking for tips on where to begin or would like to pursue further education on the subject, please visit my website at www.trainedwright.com.
Justin Wright | Wright Performance