5 Tips to Improve Your Shoulder-to-Overhead Lifts in the CrossFit Open

push-press-annieShoulder-to-Overhead is a neat way of saying "Strict Press", "Push Press", "Push Jerk" or "Split Jerk" is allowed...which brings us to point 1.

1. Your speed will depend on the type of lift you choose

The fastest way to complete your reps are the lifts in this order

  1. Strict Press (SP)
  2. Push Press (PP)
  3. Push Jerk (PJ)
  4. Split Jerk (SJ)

Here are some technique pointers from Jason Khalipa...

Obviously the fastest competitors will be those that can handle the weight and they will probably choose a strict press/push press type lift to do the reps quickly...and try hang on to that technique for as long as possible. Just be sure to know and understand the other movements you will be doing because the speed of the reps is inversely proportional to the amount of weight you can lift with each style...

Focus-On-Your-Strengths-ThePerfectDesign-300x3002. Your strength will determine the style of lift you choose.

Your strength is the key to which lift you use because whilst the speed is fastest from 1-4 (SP to SJ), the amount of weight that can be lifted goes from 4-1 (SJ to SP) with strict press being the least amount of weight that most people can do. Therefore, you need a bit of point 3...


Strategy3. Develop a good strategy...for you!

Understanding what else is coupled with your Shoulder-To-Overhead is the key to doing well. If you are a Regionals or Games level competitor, some of these workouts should be flat out sprints like Open WOD 13.2 (AMRAP 10mins 5xShoulder-to-overhead, 10 Deadlifts and 15 box jumps).

For the rest of us mere mortals, sometimes we need a more even pace or to take a break even.

For example, I did 13.2 at CrossFit Milton (I happened to be in Brisbane at the time). My goal was to keep moving and not let the bar go during the workouts if possible. I was going to do a step up/step down strategy for the Box Jumps. If I needed a rest, it would be after each round. That was my strategy, which suited to me. In the end, I was able to stick to it in the main and I think in the last round I dropped the bar a few times in the deadlifts (my back was fried!). My consistent pace meant that I wasn't too fried, my immediate goal was to get past 150reps and in the end I got 196reps (if I had held onto that bar, I would have gotten past 200reps for sure!).

Others in my home gym (Reebok CrossFit GCS) went flat out. My friend Linda Thomas from CrossFit Newcastle came 1st in Australia and 7th in the world with 380reps - she wouldn't have rested at all...and nor did she need to!

So develop your strategy based on what you know about your strengths and weaknesses. Be smart about planning your rests and the speed at which you attack the workout. Some coaches say you should go flat out the whole time - that works if you are fit enough but for someone like me, I end up resting more than working. I am so much more a grinder than a sprinter. You need to know what type of athlete you are so you can plan accordingly

It's OK!! Don't worry!! You won't need a rack ;)

It's OK!! Don't worry!! You won't need a rack ūüėČ

4. Like the Clean and Jerk, Learn To Transition Quickly

Be sure you start practicing your technique now. Practice re-racking the bar and doing another rep straight away. What weight can you do 10 strict press on for 3-5 sets? At what weight do you feel you have to start push pressing? etc etc.

Knowing how many reps you can do will let you practice now to do more. When the workout with shoulder-to-overhead comes out, you should be able to look at the weight and know what style of lift will let you do the work unbroken.

You also should know at what point you may need to take a break so you can break your work up as required. For some people, 115lbs in the shoulder to overhead were single reps. That is fine. But could you rest in the front rack or did you end up doing 5 clean and jerk instead of 5 shoulder-to-overhead? Because that is a helluva lot more work if you have to clean the bar each time...but as we always say, just get the work done!

Keep that shoulder socket pointing up and "strong"!

Keep that shoulder socket pointing up and "strong"!

5. Keep Your Scapulae (Shoulder Blades) Set with the Socket Pointing Upwards

You have to move the load from your shoulders to overhead. The bar and weights are the load so the whole time the weight is above the shoulder joint. Therefore, the shoulder socket is above your shoulder blade - keep it there by keeping the scapula pointing upwards as in the photo of Terry's shoulder.

As a cue, try to keep your elbows up as that will help keep the shoulder blades in a strong position.


6 Tips Common to All Movements 

Basically similar to my blog on preparing for the Open...

1. Practice your technique NOW

  • Feel comfortable in practice with competition technique and Range of Motion (ROM) and it will feel comfortable in competition.
  • Good technique is the most efficient way to complete the reps. For most movements, keep your back straight for crying out aloud!!
  • Motor patterns are strengthened with perfect practice - the more reps you do perfectly, the more likely you will do them

2. Continue your strengthening program (or start NOW!)

  • There are still 7 weeks before the Open starts and 11 weeks until it ends - there is time to make gains!
  • If you just get one more rep out because you are just a little bit stronger or you get a PB because you improved enough to achieve it, there is no better feeling in the Open. Last year, I got a 135lbs snatch 4 times - I got my first the day before I did 13.1. I also got my first CTB pullup during the Open. Strength helps!
  • If you are a Regionals athlete, the Open should just be a speed bump in your training program.
  • I have never heard anyone say "If I was only a bit weaker for that workout, I would have done better"!

3. Get your Coach to help identify and rectify your weaknesses

  • Most coaches are happy to tell you what to work on and will give you accessory (additional) exercises to do after your workouts.
  • Most coaches will have some form of one-on-one coaching sessions they can do with you - these are worth it for beginners and experienced athletes alike
  • If you do ask your coach for help and you DO NOT do what they say, then please DO NOT ask them for more help until you have done what they told you to do already!! Nothing is more frustrating to a coach than someone who asks for help but then doesn't do it.
  • If you have done everything you are told to do and your coach doesn't want to help you, ask yourself if you are in the right box or asking the right person...this should be extremely rare...in general and basically every box I have been to (over 20) and coaches I know (well over 50) have had coaches that are willing to help the athletes and care about their safety.

4. Sort your niggles out

  • One of the most common comments I hear is "If I had known how much better I would feel, I would have come sooner"
  • 'Nuff said!

5. Don't push to failure

  • Rich Froning rarely fails a rep. Don't waste your energy on failed reps. Rest and just concentrate on making good reps. Pushing to failure is a waste of time and energy and significantly increases your risk of injury...

6. Lose the "sins of Christmas" - get that body fat% down!

  • This one is for my friend John Z - all the bodyweight movements in the Open will get better if you are carrying less fat.

I am always keen to hear tips from other athletes, coaches and health professionals. Leave your comments below!

3 Responses

  1. Pingback : 5 Tips on Preparing for the 2014 CrossFit Open | The Physio Detective

  2. Using your rear deltoid and upper back strength, raise the cable to the back and upwards in a semicircular arc as far as you can. Hold this position for a second to maximize the peak contraction in the rear deltoids. Lower the cable back to the starting position. Repeat.

    UFC GYM San Carlos

  3. Pingback : Super Duper Training | Obsessed to Move

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