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The CrossFit stimulus—constantly varied high-intensity functional movement coupled with meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar—prepares you for the demands of a healthy, functional, independent life and provides a hedge against chronic disease and incapacity. This stimulus is elegant in the mathematical sense of being marked by simplicity and efficacy. The proven elements of this broad, general, and inclusive fitness, in terms of both movement and nutrition, are what we term our CrossFit Essentials.

The dumbbell front squat builds on the mechanics of the barbell front squat. The dumbbells may not be supported entirely on the torso as they are with the barbell, but the goal remains the same: to support the load primarily on the shoulders with the elbows pointed forward. Controlling both dumbbells demands and improves midline stability, control, and accurate positioning of the body.

Watch The Dumbbell Front Squat

The strict toes-to-bar is a staple in the conditioning programs of many gymnasts. Although a relatively non-technical movement, performing it well demands trunk strength, flexibility, and control. Pushing into the bar with straight arms allows you to use the strength of the upper body to assist with elevating the legs. Make sure to keep the legs together and as straight as flexibility will allow.

Watch The Strict Toes-To-Bar

There are many variations of the Olympic lifts. The qualifier "hang" describes the starting position of the bar. The hang clean emphasizes the second and third pulls of the clean, from the hang position with the bar at the hip, to the full squat receiving position, and finally to the end of the lift with the bar in the front rack. The timing, powerful hip extension, and coordination remain similar to the clean. However, the technical demands of arriving at the correct position are reduced compared to pulling the bar from the floor.

Watch The Hang Clean

For any jerk variation, the skill consists of using the hips and legs to create upward momentum, then dipping a second time to receive the load in a partial squat. The need to control two dumbbells heightens the demand for coordination and accuracy. Athletes that master the dumbbell push-jerk will develop a solid “lockout” of the arms and intuitive understanding of the overhead position.

Watch The Dumbbell Push Jerk

The dip is an excellent movement for developing basic upper-body strength and control. Along with other calisthenics, such as the pull-up, the dip should be used as a foundational movement for developing gymnastics strength. The bar dip requires less coordination than the ring dip, making it a great choice when moving toward more advanced upper-body movements. Once an athlete has mastered the push-up, mastering the dip is the next logical step.

Watch The Dip

Performing the deadlift with two dumbbells requires a deeper setup position than the traditional barbell deadlift. Ensuring the dumbbells do not swing away from the body requires tension and control from the musculature of the upper back. As with many of the major lifts, learning to execute this movement well, regardless of the equipment used, will aid in developing well-rounded capacity. 

Watch The Dumbbell Deadlift

In parts 1-4 of the “Power of Progression” series, we covered standard progressions used in CrossFit certificate courses to teach complex movements like the push press and push jerk, sumo deadlift high pull, med-ball clean, and snatch. These are a few examples of progressions, and while we have found these particular examples effective, they are not the only possible progressions for these movements. There are also many other movements for which a progression may be an appropriate teaching tool. Thinking about and attempting to create your own progressions is a great way to develop a better understanding of a given movement while also providing your athletes with new learning tools.

Read MoreThe Power Of Progression, Part 5: Building Progressions

The snatch, in any form, develops an athlete’s power and speed. Receiving the barbell in the split stance demands additional accuracy and coordination. However, the split stance also allows the athlete’s torso to remain upright during the lift and therefore requires less upper body flexibility than a full-depth overhead squat.

Watch The Split Snatch

The pull-over is a basic gymnastics movement that quickly and efficiently brings the athlete to the top of the bar. Beyond the practicality of getting the athlete on top of the bar, the pull-over also builds coordination and positional awareness.

Watch The Pull-Over

The sumo deadlift shares many similarities with the conventional deadlift; both stress midline stabilization, posterior-chain engagement, and balance about the frontal plane. However, the wider stance and grip inside the knees facilitate a more upright pulling position and greater reliance on the quadriceps than the conventional deadlift.

Watch The Sumo Deadlift

The kettlebell swing offers a simple introduction to core-to-extremity movement patterns. The hips and legs generate the force of the movement, which is then transferred through the arms and into the kettlebell. The midline must remain stable throughout the movement. These movement concepts and basic positions are shared with many other barbell lifts.

WatchThe Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell snatch teaches the basics of powerful hip and leg extension, which is then transferred into the upper extremities. The position of the hips and spine, as well as the concept of midline stabilization under load, is shared with many other powerful lifts, such as the barbell deadlift, clean, and snatch. The kettlebell snatch offers a less technical gateway to other dynamic weightlifting techniques and serves as a valuable conditioning tool.

Watch The Kettlebell Snatch

CrossFit defines core strength as midline stabilization. Capacity with midline stabilization translates to improved efficiency and performance as well as greater power output. We use the GHD for four exercises that heighten awareness and develop this capacity: the hip extension, back extension, hip-and-back extension, and the GHD sit-up.

Read MoreTraining the GHD Sit-Up

The wall walk is an excellent tool for introducing the basics of inversion. Coordination and upper-body strength are both challenged as the athlete experiences and strives to maintain fundamental elements of the handstand position. Despite the challenges inherent in being inverted, the athlete remains supported by three points of contact on the floor, wall, or a combination of the two throughout the entire movement. The wall walk can be the first step in a journey toward handstand mastery or a tool for skill development in athletes of any level.

WatchThe Wall Walk

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