Jodi does, and she’s actually gettin pretty good?!
Jodi, my wife, has been doing CrossFit for a little over a year and a half now. About 6 months in, she reluctantly decided to complete again in weightlifting at the National Weightlifting Championships, which she ended up WINNING, with lifts that were surprisingly still up at about 95% of her best of all time. Further significance to this, is that those lifts had climbed from where they were at the time she started CrossFit. Fast forward about a year, which was just a couple weeks ago, and we witness Jodi, while training, go above and beyond her best training snatch ever with 73kg(161lbs) and her best competition clean and jerk ever with 91kg(201lbs); not to mention a huge 96kg(212lbs,) PR clean to follow! All this without being at all specific with the lifts and on a strength biased, competitive CrossFit program. So, how was Jodi able to maintain so well within the first 6 months, and then come out better than ever in weightlifting with this CrossFit focus, as an athlete that had been “stuck” within those specific movements for MANY years, AND at a less than ideal training age?
With Jodi’s Oly background, most of the skills within CrossFit came pretty easily and quickly but it was apparent to see the major upper body strength and core deficit. She couldn’t even do 1 strict pull-up, struggled to do 5 descent looking push-ups in a row, and any type of a hold was questionable; remember she was/is an ELITE athlete!? These had improved EXPONENTIALLY within those first 6 months and have continued to get stronger every since. As someone who has seen so many of her lifts, the extra stability and solid look to her lifts at Nationals were obvious. For her, these were two pretty big gaps that were beginning to fill which to me, has evidently increased her overall potential as an athlete!
As a weightlifter, I have always assumed, as many others have I’m sure, that weightlifters get plenty of upper body and core work just in a general weightlifting program; even simply with the snatch and c&j alone. I mean it is built in, we are creating difficult positions and holding weights on our shoulders and overhead all the time within those lifts which of course requires a certain amount of core and upper body strength. Also, we no doubt do plenty of assistant/strength exercises like presses with both clean and snatch grip, to name a few, and overhead squats in particular are some of the best core work you can do. But still, MOST of our overhead reps are put there with leg power and the hold overhead is usually very brief.
So, from what I see as I look back, the typical Oly program is probably lacking overall and in the variety of upper body strength/core work. This means that the lifter is in danger of being limited to the development of ONLY what is necessary for them to hold the weight long enough to get the down signal, and then maintenance from there. With no extra/insurance in their back pocket, they are less likely to have room to improve beyond a certain point, less likely to save a lift here and there, less to hold off injury, etc.
This is particularly important, in my opinion, for the typical, even elite, American female weightlifter of which Jodi is the prime example. For most of them, you can easily see the lack of upper body development and the overhead catches are usually shaky and questionable. Also, it’s very common to see missed or forward jerks from them as the heavy weights that they are able to clean, now have to be supported with the core to stay straight and solid in the dip/drive and held overhead with the arms. It’s almost as if their disproportionately strong legs allow them to lift more than what the rest of their body is not ready for? Think about the background that most of them missed out on? Not only are guys naturally upper body stronger, but most of us have at least a high school football background where we all did lots of ab and upper body work. Now, there are some guys I know that ARE lacking in this area as lifters also, and it just so happens that they don’t have that football background either, or were Oly lifters specifically as they were playing football. I definitely think that LOTS of Olympic weightlifting is important and missing from many high school programs, ALL Oly lifting alone is better than the alternative, and I don’t necessarily at all like bench presses BUT there is something to be said for this; as long as the athlete hasn’t done SO many curls and benches that their flexibility won’t allow them to get the bar locked out back over the top of their head.
I feel like I have always been better at this than most. Long before CrossFit was even in existence and before I even had a clue what I was doing, I understood the importance of these areas and the concept of “insurance.” I was and always have regularly done extra, overload partial movements and holds particularly with overhead and front quarter squats with 10-20 second holds on the last rep of each set, as a few examples. This overload principle is one of the things I feel I did really right through my career, so much so that I truly believe, and have since I started doing them, that it was one of THE biggest separators and advantages for me in achieving the things that I did! Along with this though, my programming moving forward, especially for young female athletes, will continue to look a little different, or at least have a few extra exercises within.
Definitely much, much more to come on these topics in upcoming blogs but in conclusion, I have witnessed “magic” in the CrossFit program through Jodi! Though I want people to understand that this whole CrossFit thing for me is mostly about the “experiment” and the journey, it does give me hope for my desire, that will likely never go away, to lift more weight than I ever have in the snatch and c&j!
Until next time,