Your Body, The Racecar Pt 2 – Beginner’s Intro To Why CrossFit Works
I was dispensing some advice for making it through a heavy set of squats, when I realized that this “Race Car” idea was an incomplete thought.
When we supe up cars for performance driving, obviously the highest proportion of the upgrade comes from the engine. That is what we talked about in the first post, Your Body: The Racecar – Beginner’s Intro to Why CrossFit Works.
However, there are minor tweaks that can add a few horses here and there – possibly increasing the speed/efficiency of your race car by another 10% or more.
Here is a list of things you can do that are beyond the strength component of lifting. Some might be obvious, others maybe not so much. These are some drills you can incorporate into your working sets to help eek out every “horsepower” you have.
Try to incorporate two-second descent timing. The two hardest parts of the squat (in no particular order) are:
a) having the courage to find the BOTTOM of your squat as it gets heavier
b) driving past the “death zone” (i.e. quads just below parallel with the ground on the ascent) where all lifts lose momentum.
During your warm-up sets, descend at a rate of 2 FULL seconds and then ascend at a rate as if you were going to jump, but obviously refrain from jumping. DRIVE up from the base and lock out your butt and knees like a kettle bell swing. Pinch that quarter in your buttcheeks and finish the lift. You’ll notice I say “tension” a lot in this post. Well, I mean it. Guys, think Super-Saiyan. Summon all of your rage into a single lift.
Girls, think Serena Williams and her famed victory pump. I find that ladies can have a more difficult time with this concept of tension. Check out her arm when she wins a set – show us your lady muscles!
When we do heavy sets, we have an overwhelming tendency to shoot down into the base, crash down at the bottom, lose our back and knees, and then struggle to get out. If we are lucky enough to bounce back high enough to hit parallel, we sit there fighting for 3 seconds to get past it on the ascent. Unless you name is Milko Tokola, I would advise against the crash down strategy.
Keep your form PERFECT on the way down as well – knees driving waaaayyyyy out, back perfectly upright, sinking the hips and so on, on a two count. Once you hit the base, explode back up all the way through the finish leading with the chest ensuring that the hips do not rise first.
When you hit the heavier weights, you will find you get stuck less in the bottom (you will at least make it back to parallel) and you will have better control to continue when you are fatigued. If you have good control of your squat, then 3 or 4 reps at 90% of your max should be very obtainable (if you are fresh).
Your back is not a producer of force, it is a transistor of force. This is a subtle but important distinction.
Pull with your ass and hammies. Keep your back straight and it will be the lever that moves the world. Your hips are going through the largest range of motion in that they are starting almost fully closed, with your thighs very close to your stomach, and then ending fully extended.
Your back, on the other hand, (should) go through a very small range of motion starting at about 45 degrees or less (in relation to the floor) and ending upright. Check out this diagram, it’s stick figures but it’s the real deal.
The first stage and overall proportions are a little wacky (as in, check out those SUPER long fibias!), but the second position is key – Chest up, back straight, bar glued to the hips, driving forward with the glutes. The mistake people make is to load up the back, extend the hammies and then drive with the lower back. In many cases, your back may go from 45 degrees, DOWN to 60 degrees and then struggle through to get upright.
Try this drill: With about 50% of your max, set up your lift. Lift just 1 inch. ONLY 1 inch…not THAT far! Back it down, further…further. Yes, there you go, one actual inch. Seriously – just 1 inch.
Your hips, back and shoulders should all rise 1 inch in unison. Have a friend video record you. If your knees drive back prematurely, without any corresponding flexion in the glutes, your torso will invariably change angle and you will no longer have that “big chest” that is so important for deads and you might look like this.
Drill this until you keep your hips, back and shoulders in a constant rate of motion. Then move up to the knees, the hang, and finish pausing at each step. The priority is making sure that your knees drive back at a constant rate to accommodate your back remaining in a safe position.
External Rotation is a key component – here is how to set it up.
Press an unweighted bar overhead. When it is overhead, lock out your elbows and try to bend the ends of the bar away from you and the center of the bar inwards towards you by rotating your biceps up to the ceiling and your armpits forward.
Now, holding that state of tension, bring the bar back to your press rack position at your collar bone. This should line your forearms nicely vertical and initiate all of the muscles surrounding your shoulder girdle to support the press.
Try to initiate lifts like this. It will put you in a better finishing position BEFORE you finish, encourage you to find total tension before starting the lift and prepare you for stability in quicker overhead movements like the jerk.
If you have trouble finishing your press in a fully external rotated position, with elbows locked out and armpits flared forward – try this for mobility (fast forward to 3:03 for the upper body portion). It will light you up.
Also, Greg Everett has a book (along with illustrations) showing you how to properly press and goes into the other Olympic lifts used in CrossFit workouts.
There you have it, the spoiler, tricked out exhaust and racing stripes for your new racecar!
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