Kettle Bell Snatch at Integral.
Notice the “ball” rotates in the hand.

If you’re a CrossFit Coaching Geek you’re watching the CrossFit Regionals like a hawk to gain insight into the movements that are used in the selection of the fittest on earth. No where else are you going to get to spend the weekend—ouch—watching the best athletes in their respective regions “compete”—there’s no contact between the athletes so the competition is against the movement, the clock and their own mind/body.

The benefit of watching this rather than the games, is that while these athletes are the best in their region there are still many who are not world class. You’ll see a variety of movement mistakes that you won’t see at the pinnacle of the Sport of Fitness, the Games.

Last year we bought a number of Dumb Bells to play with at Integral CrossFit. I think it really had to do with our desire to add to the program mix along with free shipping from our friends at Again Faster—when equipment cost $1-$3 per pound you buy it—of course we didn’t buy enough of the lighter weights so only the stronger among us could make use of this new toy—we’ve since fixed that problem.

One of the first things you notice about the dumb bell is that it is easy to get off balance with it if you don’t hold it in the center. The other thing about the Dumb Bell is that it becomes a part of your hand, more so than the Kettle Bell—more on this later—and therefore a part of your arm, unless your arm. Because of this joining of the Dumb Bell, hand, arm it’s effects on the shoulder is magnified. This is great for an exercise. It can be a disaster for the shoulder.

The second event of this year’s Regional competition is a simple task priority (for time) couplet, of Dumb Bell snatches and Ring dips in a three rounds (sets) of 21-15-9 repetitions. This is a very common CrossFit rep scheme of 45 movements—90 total—that for some reason provokes us to go like a bat out hell to complete it. If it’s 21-15-9 the times are going to be fast and in this case the workout had a time cap of 6 mins. In fact our friend Christian Lucero did the workout in 3:09. This event has claimed a number of regional athletes to injury of the pectoral muscle, including Christian.

The pundits and CrossFit haters, immediately jumped on this as:

  1. the problem with the programming.
  2. lack of preparation for the large volume of ring dips
  3. the use of PEDs.

Throw out reason 1, because the games is a selection process not an exercise class. Weeding out the “weak” is what it’s all about so there is no such thing as bad programming, unless the viewing audience is upset. Stopping MACK truck on the highway is appropriate programming of the Games Selection process—unfortunately some CrossFit boxes think this is appropriate for their group classes as well.

Number 2, does stand up to the test either. The argument is that the spacing of the rings was changed to make them wider than most people train with—they don’t train at Integral where we use this ring spacing, like we were taught in our Level 1 Coaching Certification—and that 45 reps of a body weight movement was “too much volume”? Huh, what about hand stand pushups in Dianne—21-15-9 Deadlifts and HSPU—not a good enough reason. To explain why the injured are all men, one pundit suggested they weigh more than women! No, really? Therefore when they do a body weight movement they train harder, so wouldn’t they be able to handle their own body weight, unless they were eating Twinkies in the warmup area this is a non starter.

Number 3, could hold some water—they should immediately test every injured athlete for banned substances as a matter of course—steroids are a known soft tissue killer. The more interaction I have with top athletes through my OPEXFIT training the more I hear hints about this. Don’t send me hate mail, I don’t know much about steroid use other than what we studied in BioChemistry in College. Steroids damage soft tissue, and can prevent it’s repair, actually it makes soft tissue weaker and disorganize in it’s “weave”. Steroids reduce inflammation a constant state of affairs for high level athletes.

There is a 4th. possibility, which I’m going to present now—keep in mind the steroid problems—which is based on our commitment to proper movement, and that is that these athletes were doing Muscle Snatches instead of instead of a Snatch. Pretty simple. Here’s a video of a proper Dumb Bell Snatch Dumb Bell Snatch . Notice the path of the Bell, it’s fairly vertical, except for the accommodation for the fact that the Dumb Bell handle does not spin inside the weight like an Olympic Bar does, so the wrist flexibility, or lack of, predicates the size of the accommodating arc.

The men were using an 80# Dumb Bell this isn’t heavy for the top dogs like Christian, so they can get away with a muscle snatch, it’s faster but less efficient. They muscle snatch all the time with a bar bell, as we all do, as an accessory exercise. The problem here is that the Dumb Bell isn’t a bar or a Kettle Bell and becomes a part of the hand, arm… at the top of the arc of a muscle snatch of an 80# Dumb Bell the shoulder complex is required to stop and absorb 240 foot pounds of torque (80# x 3’ of arm). The muscles of the anterior chest are going to do this action the pec major and the pec minor. (Under the pec minor is the brachial plexus a major nerve “garden” that the brain protects with vigor.)

Try this simple exercise; Stand up straight and throw your hand up over your head as fast as you can. Now put your beer down and try it again. A little humor for those who made it this far.

Why didn’t the women get injured? We’ll this is where the body weight argument comes in to play, actually I’ll argue that the females that are strong enough—just like the males—to muscle snatch 50#s are fewer than their male counterparts at Regionals. That this lack of strength, ballistic strength, didn’t allow for the same angular momentum the males could create. So the force the muscle snatching female had to absorb was less, and yes they used 25#s less, but that’s not the issue.That the females had to use better technique, closer to a true snatch. I’ll leave the PEDs argument alone.

What do you think?