Having good overhead strength and stability is important in CrossFit. Whether it is a long metcon or a max effort lift being able to support weight overhead is vital to longevity and progress. You won’t see any Games athletes doing overhead squats with bent elbows and someone who trains everyday needs to keep their shoulders healthy. Add these three movements to your weekly routine and your overhead strength and stability will improve!
Single Arm Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press
This is a great movement for overhead stability and shoulder strength. The focus here is going to be to keep the bottom of the kettlebell pointed up. This forces you to keep your core tight and create tension in your arm. The tension in your arm is what creates the stability that keeps the kettlebell from falling on your head. Pressing it overhead requires a straight path, teaching you proper movement, any deviation from this path will most likely result in failed attempt. Keeping the kettlebell overhead also requires you to hold it in the most optimal position teaching you where you need to hold something overhead and how to stack your shoulders. I recommend starting with 2-3 sets on each arm for a 8-10 reps. Each week either add a few reps to your sets or increase in weight. Chose a starting weight that you can complete all reps in a row and make each rep look perfect.
Dumbbell Z Press Hold
This movement is designed to create stability overhead without your feet and legs stabilizing your body. Because you are sitting on the ground in an upright position (not slouching) you force your midsection into activation to keep your lumbar in the correct position. It will test the limits of your hip flexor and hamstring flexibility but most of all while holding the dumbbells overhead it will teach you to put the weight in the optimal position needed for pressing or shoulder intensive metcons. Once you press the dumbbells overhead shrug your shoulders to your ears and press those elbows to a locked out position and hold it there. I recommend 2-3 sets of a max effort hold (holding for as long as possible). Chose a weight that you can hold with perfect technique for 30 seconds or more and each week try to increase that time. When you are holding your weight for over a minute increase your weight.
Banded Tricep Pulldown
These are our take on a classic body building movement to strengthen the triceps. The triceps are the main muscle responsible for extending or straightening your arm. So it is very important that these are very strong. Using a band for resistance allows you to build strength but also stabilization through the supporting muscles as well. When performing these it is not about how fast you can do them but how much control you have over them. Taking your time through the eccentric and concentric phases of the movement will create not only strength gains but will force your arms, abs and lats to stabilize your body in the proper position. I recommend starting with 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps. On every rep try to extend your elbows quickly and bend them back at a slow pace. Each week try to add a few reps until you reach that 25-30 rep range. When that happens increase the band size or slow the reps down even more.
If you add these three movements to your weekly routine you will gain the strength and stability in your arms that will allow you to keep your shoulders healthy as well as put you higher on the leaderboard on your metcons. Remember to make every rep look perfect and not to rush any movement. This won’t happen overnight so enjoy the process.