Author: Maysa Hannawi
What is one of the most common complaints heard in a CrossFit gym? I tweaked my shoulder” “My shoulders feel tight” “I can’t go overhead today” “It hurts when I kip”
CrossFit is a sport known for its ability to make people push their limits and constantly challenge their perceptions of their own capabilities. In a sport where intensity is the name of the game, it is easy to forget that our bodies need to be taught how to handle the extreme stress we are constantly putting them under. From pull-ups to muscle ups, pushups to handstand push-ups and all the Olympics weightlifting in between, crossfitters are putting their shoulders under stress in various ways, at various angles, with varying loads…. and this is most likely occurring on a daily basis.
The truth is, that is impossible to determine – and it does not matter. Whether it was practicing kipping, heavy snatches, high volume dips or all of the above, the cause of your shoulder pain does not matter as much as the symptoms do – and those are what can be fixed. One of the number one ways to reduce shoulder pain, and develop healthy and stable shoulders is TEMPO WORK. All four of the categories listed above are what you as athletes need to work on, and tempo work can address all 4 of these in one simple type of exercise.
Let me introduce to you the concept of time under tension. As you already know, CrossFit often demands athletes to work at a high velocity for a high number of repetitions. Our joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and all the parts of our body that allow us to move have to be able to withstand the stress we put them under on a regular basis. We need to condition our bodies with time under tension in order to make them more resistant to injury. This means we need to put them under these high demand stresses in a controlled manner, so that they can adapt and strengthen for when we need to move fast and efficiently.
Basically: spending time in the positions that put stress on our shoulders will allow them to adapt to these conditions, and withstand the stress better when we need to perform. This will lead to increased strength, mobility, stability at end range, and body awareness for improved positioning.
Now, this doesn’t mean that we need to sit in the bottom of a heavy snatch for long periods of time, or that we need to push our shoulders into painful positions and hold them there. We do need to work on slow and controlled strengthening in sport-specific positions. Below is a video walking you through a shoulder accessory work routine that works through a series of exercises, forcing you to spend TIME UNDER TENSION.