This month was our second time testing personal bests at CrossFit SSP. We had done this 3 months into training, at the very end of May and the first week of June, and we did so again this September in order to gauge how the programming has been working. The results, overall, were truly outstanding. Everyone hit a new personal best on back squat and deadlift, which given the programming we have been following is not a huge shock. Everyday is leg day. Never forget that! However, when we tested overhead press, the results were not as encouraging. It was very obvious that as a team, the overhead strength needed work and was a glaring weakness. The great thing about testing is that now we have identified this weakness, and we can work to make it better. This week has seen a variety of techniques to start developing greater overhead strength.
First, the programming has included traditional strength exercises programmed at specific percentages in order to induce strength development in our athletes. CrossFit may talk about constantly varying the exercises, but science says that things like progressive overload still apply, and this is one of the best ways to build strength over time. It is pretty certain that increasing percentages of weight over time while holding repetitions steady will increase strength in the athlete. Address the weakness, and it will eventually become a strength.
Second, gymnastics have become a focus every day at our CrossFit class. Not only does it get people really outside of their comfort zone (get comfortable with being uncomfortable!) but I have found that gymnastics are a great way to increase strength endurance. While an exercise like an overhead press is great for working overhead strength, forcing an athlete to maintain a handstand for a set period of time is going to do great things for their shoulder’s strength endurance. It is one thing to be able to press something once, it is quite another to do it repeatedly, and in the sport of CrossFit the ability to repeat a movement over and over and over again is extremely important.
Given these changes, I’m already excited to see what happens when we retest for the third time. There is no better feeling than watching an athlete hit a personal best, and I’d put a lot of money down on there being some great PR’s next time around on overhead exercises.