CrossFit is full of pressing movements. Push-ups, Dips, HeSPU (headstand), Handstand Press-ups, Bench Press, Strict Press, Push-press, Push-Jerk, Split Jerk, Wall Balls, Thrusters, Burpees, etc… Over the coming weeks in the CrossFit skills classes we are going to be looking at pressing strength. Understanding the movements and finding out the weak links that effect individual upper body strength. So lets start with the basics. The Push-ups The push-up is not limited to just one style. There are many different ways to perform push-ups and the following steps are simply recommendations for understanding healthy pushing mechanics. Understanding the push-up and performing it in this manner will create a strong foundation for other CrossFit pressing movements like the HeSPU.
- 1. Hands in cubit width position
- 2. Feet together and squeeze your but (this + point 3 equal a hollow position)
- 3. Brace your midline
- 4. Screw your hands into the floor (external rotation)
- 5. Keep your elbows in tight
- 6. Send your body down and forward, up and back
The push-up is a solid exercise for the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. It’s a great tool for coaches and athletes as it can be used to locate weaknesses and build an awareness of the areas that need work. Scaling a push-up Its pointless performing push-ups on you knees, as this will never improve your push-up strength. At Momentum Training we often get members performing an incline push-up on a box. This way they are training the correct muscles and we have the ability to progress the exercise by slowly lowering the incline until they can do repetition on the floor. Another way to scale the push-up is to use a band wrapped around your upper arms to assist the press-up and to teach good pressing mechanics (point 5 & 6). A third way to improve your push-ups would be to widen your feet placement (ignore point 2). With a wider foot placement you are shortening the length of your body and hence making a mechanical advantage for pressing. Try it. A reverse hand placement is a great “blocking” exercise that will force correct press-up mechanics. It’s a great way to teach the movement mechanics (point 6). The same mechanics apply when we take the push-up to the bench press. Have you ever attempted a reverse grip bench press (much like the reverse hand placement push-up)?
A-1 Reverse Grip Bench Press 1 x 10-12
A-2 Flat Bench Press 1 x 10-12
The most fundamental movement for developing pushing mechanics is at shoulder level. It’s not uncommon for athletes to have weak internal and external rotator cuff muscles. High repetitions of poorly performed pressing can quickly cause shoulder injuries. Therefore it’s important to understand and practice healthy shoulder mechanics and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, tres minor, subscapularis) that act to stabalise the shoulder. Flat Bench Press structural balance test In the skill class we tested a 1RM Bench. This gave members an understanding of how strong there “primary mover” muscles are (Chest, Shoulder, & Triceps). Internal and External Rotators The next step was to test the rotator cuff muscles. From the 1RM bench press we can use percentages to calculate how strong the rotator cuff should be. These “secondary movers” are the shoulder stabilisers that help to protect the shoulder. More often than not, our primary mover muscles are stronger then the stabalisation muscles. This is a structural balance issue that can lead to shoulder damage sure to poor stabalisation under load. Fibre Type Test: The muscle fibre type dictates the number of repetitions that can be performed at 85% of the 1RM load. Muscle fiber type influence the number of reps required to achieve a certain training effect. This is partly why a particular training program,e that works for one athlete may not be as successful for another.
In part 2 we will take the 1RM bench press and apply it to your overhead pressing strength.