To mix grip or not to mix grip, that is the question.
The mighty deadlift is a foundational CrossFit movement and a staple in our program. However a common discussion point is which grip to use and when?
The alternate or mixed grip is everyone's favourite; in this grip one hand is in a supinated/underhand position with your palm facing out whilst the other is in a pronated/overhand position with your palm facing in. This grip prevents the bar from rolling in your hands and therefore you can lift more weight, more frequently.
Surely that's a good thing?
Well, maybe not. Like most fitness questions, the frustrating answer is 'It depends’.
With a mixed grip because your shoulders are loaded asymmetrically with your prone arm in internal rotation and the other in external rotation this is less than ideal from a stabilisation standpoint. During the lift, the side of the supinated hand will tend to rotate forward while the side of the pronated hand will rotate backwards resulting in a tendency to twist slightly as you rise up.
Prolonged use of the mixed grip can also develop muscular imbalances as most people never mix up their alternate grip; the same hand is always pronated and the same hand is always supinated. This can also lead to a compensating movement pattern such as twisting off the floor to favour your dominant side.
Needless to say, we all want our spines to remain neutral when we perform a deadlift.
While this won't be a problem if you only use the mixed grip occasionally eg competition maxes, unfortunately if this is your default style then sooner or later it is going to take its toll, it's only a matter of when.
Plus once you get into a mixed grip habit, it's hard to shake, I've even seen people deadlift a PVC pipe with a mixed grip in warm ups!
My recommendation is to use the clean, double overhand grip as much as possible and adopt a hook grip if your grip becomes too much of limiting factor.
But ultimately the decision is yours. It really comes down to why you are training.
Is to win a Powerlifting competition or are you training for longevity, well-being, health and performance?
A regular staple in our online program are designated Heavy Days. Yes, you may see optional accessory work programmed but the session won't include a second conditioning focused workout.
Unfortunately when we program both Strength & Metcon in the same session we either have one eye on the 'Wod' and are subconsciously saving ourselves or are watching the timer and rushing our rest periods in order to get our sets & reps in.
It's completely natural behaviour but sadly limits the benefit of your Heavy Day, which is a combination of developing top-end strength & power and the honing of our technique.
As one of the most misunderstood aspects of CrossFit, below are 3 common misunderstandings about Heavy Days and why you don't want to skip or rush them.
PS: Speaking of heavy, how do you know how heavy a chili pepper is?
Give it a weigh, give it a weigh, give it a weigh now....
Number 1: "I don't want to get stronger, I just want to lose weight"
Increasing your strength can increase your capacity for greater power output in other elements of your training eg You will be able to perform more reps & more work in longer workouts thus a higher calorie consumption which can support calorie deficit targets.
Number 2: "I'm happy with my current strength and would rather improve my endurance"
Directly training stamina and endurance is certainly beneficial to improving these specific physical skills but strength and power are also foundational to both. For example, if a 30kg barbell is approximately 35% of your 1 Rep Max, it will be much easier to move the bar for higher reps and perform more work in less time than when that same 30kg barbell is 50% of your 1 Rep Max.
Number 3: "I don’t think I get a good enough workout when we only lift heavy"
This depends on your definition of a “good enough workout”. High intensity comes in multiple forms. In a MetCon it could be 15 minutes of continuous movement, lots of reps, lots of sweat and lots of heavy breathing.
On Heavy Days however, we instead pack the same high-intensity into very low volume efforts where you should be challenging yourself with each lift and working at the very edge of your capacity.
If you find yourself feeling short changed on Heavy days, chances are that you’re not applying the intensity necessary to get the best results from the session.
If done properly, a Heavy day will leave your system just as taxed from both a physical and mental perspective as a high-rep, high-intensity conditioning Wod, although you may not realise it at the time.
And remember, the harder you train, the more recovery you need.
‘I believe that when the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts’
~ Henry Rollins
Henry Rollins is famous for many things but for me it’s as the former vocalist of the punk rock band Black Flag and author of the essay ’The Iron and the Soul’ from which the above quote is taken.
The essay is definitely worth a read, the music may not be everyone’s cup of tea though so be warned….
Rollins has cited many other notable quotes throughout his wide and varied career including:
"97% caffeine free is 97% not my kind of thing".
So hopefully you get the gist of Henry’s perspective on life.
Like Henry we believe that the benefits of exercise are much more than just the physical.
Your workout should be that hour of your day where you stick your phone on silent, forget about the outside world and enjoy exercising with like-minded people who genuinely want to see you succeed.
We also know that the more you attend, the fitter & healthier you will become, the more you will enjoy it, the more you time you will spend in class and the fitter & healthier you will become.
And so spins our virtuous circle.
So let's close out with yet another profound Henry Rollins quote:
''What goes best with a cup of coffee? Another cup."
- the state or quality of being perfect.
- the action or process of improving something until it is faultless.
Variations of the Snatch make an appearance quite regularly in our program. A very basic description of the Snatch would be a movement where the bar is pulled from the floor to a locked arms position in one continuous move.
However, for anyone who has Snatched, this barely snatches, sorry, I mean scratches the surface of its execution.
The Snatch requires a combination of strength, explosiveness, coordination, mobility and stability that is rarely seen in any other exercises.
The word ‘Snatch’ means “to quickly seize something” yet paradoxically it can take significant time to become accomplished.
It also requires courage - propelling anything above your head can be quite daunting.
So why do we perform it?
The Snatch is the most explosive movement in all of sport and the aforementioned combination of strength, speed and coordination make it one of the best exercises available for improving athletic performance.
Plus, let’s be honest, being able to perform a Snatch looks cool and practicing it is fun. And if you need a new instagram or facebook profile pic, then a picture of you Snatching is sure to draw attention!
On a more serious note, when a Snatch is performed properly it provides a real sense of achievement, is beautiful to behold and athletically becomes unparalleled in its ability to build explosive power.
In saying all of the above, don’t worry about not yet being able to perform it 'perfectly', true perfection in the Snatch or CrossFit for that matter is never attainable and anyway, where would the fun be in perfection?