Thursday, August 4, 2011

11-08-04: Back squats, front squats, and overhead squats, oh my!

Elm City CrossFit WoD for August 4th, 2011 is Mark Rippetoe's (aka The Iron Samurai) site dedicated to barbell training. I'm not sure if he's parted ways with CrossFit (though I've seen rumors on the interwebz), but his teachings are still true, and just as important as always.
Karianne Dickson (one of my trainers at my Level 1 certification) works the band squat with power-lifting sensei Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell. Bands put more pull on the bar at full extension, making the lockout at the top that much harder than at the bottom. (
Front squats. Yes, they suck. Do 'em anyways! Capice?! (

The overhead squat. She may make it look easy. It ain't. By far the most difficult of the squats, based solely on how many muscle groups have to work together to stabilize the weight overhead. (

Strength: 5x 5-3-1
  • 5 Back Squats
  • 3 Front Squats
  • 1 Overhead Squat
*weight is set @ 90% of OHS max for all lifts. The bar is placed in the rack only to switch grips.  For OHS the bar is Jerked from the behind the neck position.

As expected, my craptastic overhead squat technique was a problem. 90% of what I can overhead squat is barely cracking into warm-up weights for the other squats, which would have made today not much of a strength day. Along with a few other athletes, the scaling was to go fairly heavy, work to jerk the bar into the overhead position, try to stabilize it for several seconds, then work into the overhead squat.  Even if I failed, I had still done as much work as possible, at a pretty heavy weight, to improve strength in the overhead position for next time.

After warming up with sets at 45#, 65#, 95# and 135#, I settled in at 155# for my work sets. I could probably have gone a bit heavier in terms of the back and front squats, but at 155#, I could barely get the push jerk to work. I think I was just definitely intimidated by the thought of that much weight overhead, combined with all of my weaknesses (flexibility, experience) getting that much weight up there in the first place. Of the 5 rounds, I failed to get the bar overhead on three of them. The two successes had some pretty ugly technique on them, to the point where on one, I made the mistake of not just dropping under the bar (its coming up from my shoulders behind the head, so straight down is the ideal motion), but actually lunging forward. Sadly, this mistake was actually compensated for by my ultra-inflexible shoulders, and I ended up catching the weight overhead and feeling pretty good about it. Then Coach Vin pointed out how impressed he was that I managed to control it at all, what with all the forward motion.

I considered dropping the weight, but then that would have made the back and front squats kind of pointless. In the end, I did a few sets of reduced weight front squats (65#), just working on keeping the weight settled over and slightly behind my head, and trying to keep all the moving parts doing so correctly. One of the goals is to figure out where my issues are really stemming from. Is it really tight calves, reducing mobility all the way up the chain? Tight shoulders? Both? More than that? (My money is on "more than that.")  Well, you have to start somewhere. Here I am.

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