If you’ve been doing CrossFit for at least 3 months, you’ve probably got a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. You’ve learned what you’re good at, and discovered that you’re quite sucky at a lot of other things too.
In my case, the squat has always been a challenge. And it bothered me a lot.
Why? Because it’s the cornerstone of most CrossFit movements, including all the Olympic lifts. If you struggle with the squat, you will struggle with full cleans and snatches. For me, my weak lower back and stiff upper back and ankles made landing in a full squat very uncomfortable and imbalanced. Not to mention my rounded, stiff shoulders contributing further to my poor overhead form.
As a result, for many months I only ever did power cleans and snatches (for non-CrossFitters, this means landing in a half-squat).
Since leaving my 9-5 desk job however, I’ve become a lot less stiff. Even though I do less mobilising than before, I move around a lot instead of being chained to my desk. Plus I’ve been practicing proper posture, which has strengthened my lower back.
Slowly but surely, my squat started to improve. I still can’t squat very heavy (my back squat 1 rep max is 60kg/133lb), but I feel good when I do it – whereas before my form was terrible and I felt like my hips would give out.
Then in May this year, I finally did my first full snatch. Sure, it was only 30kg, but I landed solidly in a full squat without falling on my ass or dropping the bar on my head. I was so excited!
You know how long that took me? 15 months.
Yep, over a year of training consistently at least 3 times a week.
So if you’re struggling with a movement, just know that there is hope. Quit telling yourself that you “suck at _____ “, and instead focus on doing things that will help you improve.
And this doesn’t just apply to CrossFit. It applies to ANYTHING in life that you want to accomplish but find difficult.
What can you take away from my experience?
- Don’t underestimate how much good mobility can help with your lifts. Ask your coaches which area you need to work on the most.
- DESK JOCKEYS: your shoulders are probably stiffer than a freeze dried banana. Try this: jump on to a pull-up bar. Get a friend to put their hands on your shoulder blades and gently push you up until your arms are nearly parallel to the ground. Relax your body and hang there for 30 seconds. (Thanks to Brian from CrossFit NYC for teaching me this awesome stretch.)
- Good posture makes a huge difference. I’ve learned to ‘tuck’ my tailbone under and draw my ribs down when standing, walking and running. My lower back is much stronger now, which gives me a stable base when I’m lifting weights. (CFU peeps, ask your friendly physio Jacinda if you suspect you have the same problem as me.)
- Practice the most difficult part of the movement. For example, to get my full snatch, I practiced starting in a back squat position and dropping into a full squat with the bar overhead. I did this over and over again until the movement felt comfortable, which helped a LOT once I put the full sequence together.
- Never never never give up!
If you know someone who is struggling with a CrossFit movement and really wants to improve, please share this post with them!