Overhead squats, kipping pull ups, handstands, snatches. It’s fair to say that CrossFit has a lot of shoulder intensive movements. Not only that, but the movements are often performed…
- At high velocity
- At end of range positions e.g. overhead
- For lots and lots of reps
To be able to adequately handle all of the above your shoulders stability will require some sublime stability, able to keep the ball centered in the socket. Impingement, labral tears, biceps and rotator cuff tendon problems, how can we help make sure that if you got 99 problems, your shoulder isn’t one? Well, aside from ensuring your rotator cuff has really good endurance, it can endure the fatigue of multiple reps and keep doing its job of keeping your shoulder stable, we want it to be able to react and stabilise when you find yourself in those challenging positions. Enter bottom’s up kettlebell exercises!
So why use a kettlebell?
As opposed to a dumbbell, the kettlebell’s centre of mass is several inches away from the handle. What does this mean? It means that when you grab the handle of your trusty kettlebell in the “bottoms up position” the weight’s centre of mass sits a fair distance above your grip point. Now the weight wants to drift any which way in an unpredictable manner in a 360 degree circle. Suddenly this becomes a superb reactive shoulder stability exercise where you have to both quickly detect which way the kettlebell is falling and respond by preventing it. So basically the kettlebell provides a unique and awesome stability challenge for your shoulder that other weights don’t.
Antony & Keir (2010) among others have shown that there is a correlation between hand gripping and the rotator cuff muscle activity. This is for the most part down to a neurological connection. You squeeze the body takes this as sensing you’re about to move and creates this anticipatory stabilisation at your shoulder. You’ll find instantly doing this exercise that your forearms go crazy as your grip strength gets a run for its money. This is especially true of kettlebells with a larger handle.
When should I do this?
- After a session if it’s upper body intensive so you don’t fatigue out your shoulder stabilisers*
- *You can perform pre-session at a lighter load and lower end of the rep scheme to fire up those shoulder stabilisers without the risk of pre-fatiguing
- Before a session if it’s lower body focus
Try 4 x 5-8 reps at a tempo of:
2 sec lower down
1 sec pause
2 sec press up
2 sec hold at the top
The rep scheme here is a bit on the lower end because you’ll be doing the reps pretty slowly with some pauses thrown in there. You shouldn’t be going to failure on this exercise.
- Start light and build up
- Remember this is about stability (preventing unwanted movement) not strength
- The weight selected should allow you to perform 5 reps minimum but if you can do more than 8 at the specified tempo then up it
If you’re struggling with this due to overhead shoulder mobility try this variation lying on the floor while you work on improving your shoulder range of motion.
Give it a shot and let us know how you get on 🙂
Antony, N. T., & Keir, P. J. (2010). Effects of posture, movement and hand load on shoulder muscle activity. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 20(2), 191-198.