Improve Overhead Strength

Project: Improve Overhead Strength

This project is about how I’m trying to improve overhead strength in my training. It was started on August 25, 2016.

Updated 10/18/16

Goal: Improve Overhead Strength in 8 weeks

Specifically I want to improve my overhead squat, squat snatch and be able to do a strict hand stand push up.

Overhead Squat: 1 Rep Max (1RM) = 155 lbs. on April 27, 2016 (form was awful) and 5RM = 125 lbs. from August 19, 2016

Snatch: 1RM = 155 lbs. on June 15, 2016 (bad form, I think I was actually asked to stop!) and a 3RM = 135 lbs. on January 2, 2016

Squat Snatch: I don’t have a lot of information on squat snatch from previous workouts. However, the technique is incredible and  if I can do a squat snatch properly with strength, a regular snatch will follow.

Strict Hand Stand Push Up: At the start of this project I could not do a full HSPU. I could do about 3-5 HSPU with 2 abmats under my head, leaving me about 4 inches short of the ground. I want to be able to complete at least 1 strict HSPU when the project has finished.

To be clear, I’m not just trying to improve the 1RM or 3RM of these lifts. As a result of this program, I want to be able to string multiple strength exercises together in short sprints or longer workouts. At the end of this 8 week program, I’d like to test some maxes and some short and long work outs. In addition to strength, proper form is important to me. Not only do I want to be more efficient when I’m exercising but I also want to avoid injury due to improper form.

[Pre-project form:  overhead press and squat snatch prior to my attempt to improve overhead strength]

Here are a few workouts with these movements that I’ve done recently and would like to test again.

7 minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible): 1 Snatch @ 135 lbs then 3 Clean & Jerks @ 135 lbs. When I did this workout on August 9, 2016 I was able to get in exactly 11 full rounds. This will be a good test because it is a sprint at a decent weight.

Nancy – 5 RFT (rounds for time): run 400 meters then do 15 overhead squats @ 95 lbs. When I did this workout on August 26, 2016 it took me 14:40. Though the weight is low, the volume is high and its a nice low/medium time frame.

Max Set Strict HSPU: do as many strict HSPU in one set as possible. Since I’ve never actually done a HSPU my max set is currently 0.

Background

I’ve been going to a CrossFit gym since May 2015 (CrossFit Refinery in Boise, Idaho). I love it. And while I still do other workouts and train for other things (such as an occasional half marathon) CrossFit has been my main form of training for the last 16 months.

Like a lot of people new to CrossFit, I was instantly humbled by several movements.

I didn’t have the mobility and flexibility to do a proper overhead squat, never going above a 45 pound bar for months.

The snatch was completely new to me. I had never tried it and had barely seen it done.

I didn’t have the strength to do a hand stand push up.

This stuff bothers me. I started watching videos and pestering the coaches at the gym. I was watching others and asking the other athletes question after question. And while I’ve gotten better, I haven’t seen the results that I wanted.

Beyond the White Board

In December of 2015 I was shown an awesome resource for people that do CrossFit and love analytics. It’s an easy way to track your progress and compare what you are doing against people all over the world. It has over 1,000,000 workouts logged.

The service, which is $5 per month (though the affiliate gym I’m at pays for its members, thank you Refinery), also breaks down all the movements in to categories, shows you your strengths & weaknesses and gives you a confidence level. It is definitely worth a look. Check it out at www.beyondthewhiteboard.com.

According to BTWB, the ability to do overhead exercise is one of my several weaknesses, so the goal to improve overhead strength seemed like a good one to attack.

According to the data I've used in Beyond the Whiteboard, the Snatch and Overhead Press are lifts I need to improve overhead strength.
According to the data I’ve used in Beyond the Whiteboard, the Snatch and Overhead Press are lifts I need to improve overhead strength.

Programming: Concepts and Development

My time is very limited. I’m already doing 5 WOD’s per week so I decided I could add a single 35-45 minute session each week dedicated to trying to improve overhead strength as well as technique and mobility.

Each week the programming will include mobility work (specifically in the hips and thoracic spine area), technique work on the snatch, overhead strength building and secondary strength building.

Additionally, I’ve added the tad pole / hip opener exercises to my everyday workouts.

Week 1 (August 25, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener stretch [mobility]

Snatch progression [technique]

Snatch practice with bands on knees: [technique]

  • Weighted Snatch Balance, 3×5 – 65#, 85#, 95# – do not move on until you can catch in a squat
  • Squat snatch technique, 3×5 – 65#, 65#, 85#

3 rounds of 5 – 65 lbs, 75lbs, 85 lbs [strength]

  • Strict Press
  • Tempo front squat – 3, 3, 3, 1

2 rounds of 10 [secondary strength]

  • Hanging scapula pull
  • Hand stand scapula push
  • Right plank scapula lift
  • Left plank scapula lift

Week 2 (August 31, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch

5 rounds of 8 – 85#, 95#, 105#, 105# (OHS), 125# [strength]

  • Overhead squat
  • Push Press

1,000m row at 2:00m pace [cool down with pull to contrast push]

3 rounds of 1 minute each [secondary strength and stretch]

  • Squat bottom hold
  • Plank

Unfortunately, ran short on time this week so was unable to do the cool down and secondary exercises.

Week 3 (September 8, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Leg stretch [warm up]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch
  • Footwork on the catch

5 rounds of 3

  • Squat snatch @ 85 lbs, 95 lbs, 105 lbs, 115 lbs, 125 95 lbs (failed attempt 3 @ 115 lbs)
  • Hand stand push ups with 2 or less abmats (was able to get 1 full strict HSPU, went to negatives in last two rounds)

1,000m row at 2:00m pace [cool down with pull to contrast push]

3 2 rounds of 1 minute each [secondary strength and stretch]

  • Squat bottom hold
  • Plank

Week 4 (September 15, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Leg stretch [warm up]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch then
  • Footwork on the catch then
  • Weighted Snatch Balance, 3×3 – 75 lbs, 85 lbs, 95 lbs – do not move on until you can catch in a squat

3 rounds of 3 [strength]

  • Front pause squats @ 135 lbs, 155 lbs, 175 lbs
  • Strict Press @ 95 lbs, 115 lbs, 135 lbs

2 rounds of 10 [secondary strength]

  • Hanging scapula pull
  • Hand stand scapula push
  • Right plank scapula lift
  • Left plank scapula lift

Week 5 (September 22, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Leg stretch [warm up]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch

Snatch Complex [technique and strength] – move through each progression 2 times at set weight, increase weight for 5 sets total

  • 65 lbs, 75 lbs, 85 lbs, 95 lbs, 105 lbs
  • hanging snatch
  • overhead squat
  • push press (snatch grip)
  • snatch balance
  • overhead squat

Band work on ankles and hamstrings [mobility]

Week 6 (September 29, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Leg stretch [warm up]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch
  • Review video


5 rounds of 3 [strength]

  • Squat snatch @ 85 lbs, 95 lbs, 105 lbs, 115 lbs, 125 lbs
  • Hand stand push ups with 2 or less abmats

Band work on ankles and hamstrings [mobility]

Week 7 (September 6, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Leg stretch [warm up]

Band work on ankles and hamstrings [mobility]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch
  • Weighted Snatch Balance, 3×3 – 75 lbs, 85 lbs, 95 lbs – do not move on until you can catch in a squat
  • 3 rounds of 3 [strength]
    • Front pause squats @ 155 lbs, 175 lbs, 195 lbs (3-3-1-1)
    • Push Press @ 125 lbs, 145 lbs, 165 lbs

    2 rounds of 10 [secondary strength]

    • Hanging scapula pull
    • Hand stand scapula push
    • Right plank scapula lift
    • Left plank scapula lift

Week 8 (September 13, 2016)

Thoracic mobility – foam rolling (up and back, extend and flex, 1 hour rotation) [mobility]

Tad pole stretch / hip opener [mobility]

Snatch progression [technique]

  • Shrug, elbows, muscle snatch, snatch balance, hanging squat snatch
  • Weighted Snatch Balance, 3×3 – 75 lbs, 85 lbs, 95 lbs – do not move on until you can catch in a squat

10 minute EMOM – snatch: start at 95 lbs, add 10 lbs each minute, end at 185 lbs or last failure (I’m guessing this will need to be a full squat snatch by the end) [strength]

Strict Press: 3 sets of 3  @ 105 lbs, 125 lbs, 145 lbs [strength] – band work on ankles and hamstrings in between sets [mobility]

Test Week (October 18-19, 2016)

Tuesday:

  • Max Set Strict HSPU
  • 7 minute AMRAP: 1 Snatch @ 135 lbs then 3 Clean & Jerks @ 135 lbs

Wednesday:

  • Nancy – 5 RFT: run 400 meters then do 15 overhead squats @ 95 lbs

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