Functional Bodybuilding at the CrossFit Games, Part 3

Time for Part Three of our series on functional bodybuilding movements that support events seen in the CrossFit Games!

Part 3 of 3: Kettlebell Overhead Walking Lunge

Event: Fibonacci Final

To finish the Fibonacci Final the athletes had to lunge 89ft to the finish mat with two kettlebells overhead. The men were loaded with 53lbs/hand and the women were loaded with 35lbs/hand. Twenty-seven of the female competitors were able to finish this workout and complete the full length lunge, while only one male athlete was able to finish. In either case the ability to stabilize these kettlebells overhead for the full 89 feet proved to be much harder than athletes anticipated when they approached this portion with fatigued shoulders. Functional Bodybuilding places a large emphasis on loading overhead with dumbbells and kettlebells. This is essential practice to learn how to stabilize each shoulder individually overhead, a demand that cannot be replicated with a barbell. Try these movements to improve your overhead capacity.

KB Cross Body Walking Lunge

Kettlebell Cross Body Walking Lunge

Why: This drill is difficult in its own right. However, by only loading one arm overhead at a time, the mobility demand of this is a bit more approachable than the double KB overhead lunge, making it a great progression. Furthermore, there is an anti-rotational strength element that gets trained with the KB Cross Body Walking Lunge that is unique and will build the athlete’s body control and positional awareness as you execute the lunge.

How to: Perform 8-10 steps with each arm orientation per set. This will be a total of 16-20 steps once both arm orientations are done. Repeat for 4 total sets and in between perform an upper body vertical pull like the Single Arm Rope Pull Up as a superset.

Movement Notes: While it is OK to load each hand with different weights, build your confidence and stability first by loading each arm with the same load. Keep your eyesight forward to aid in your balance.

Single Arm DB OH Split Squat

Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Split Squat

Why: Balanced and controlled split squats with your feet both planted on the floor are a pre-requisite to walking lunges in any Revival Strength program. The benefit of a split squat is that you don’t have to manage the forward and backward displacement of bodyweight that you do in a lunge. Here you can focus on really developing a great motor pattern of firing your glutes and hamstrings on the working leg. Being too quad dominant in single leg drills will have you miss some of the core and hip strengthening benefits. The single arm overhead loaded position, as stated above, is more manageable than the double overhead position. Using a dumbbell will provide a slightly different stimulus than a kettlebell and therefore makes this yet another way to add diversity to your prep for the double KB overhead walking lunge.

How to: Control is key, so perform these repetitions at a slow tempo on the way down. We recommend a 3 count down and a slight pause at the top between reps. 6-10reps/side @ 30X1 tempo; for 3-4 sets each. Pair with a side bridge for 45-60sec/side.

Movement Notes: Maintain a straight line from your hand all the way through your hip. That line should be the only direction your body travels, straight up and down.

Single Arm Bottom Up KB OH carry

Single Arm Bottom Up Kettlebell Overhead Carry

Why: Single arm overhead carries are a terrific way to build stability in the shoulder and help as a strength transfer drill to jerks and inverted movements like handstand push-ups. The bottom up kettlebell carry is particularly challenging because it is going to coordinate your grip strength and arm flexors with overhead shoulder stability. Increasing your grip strength in overhead supported positions is a very translatable skill to the Kettlebell Overhead Walking Lunge. Ideal position overhead for a holding kettlebells when perform your walking lunges would be with a slightly flexed wrist. This means your forearm flexors must remain engaged. This can fatigue if not trained, and this strength transfer drill with the bottom up carry will help build that grip and stability.

How to: Performed as part of a warm up on overhead lifting days, practice carrying the kettlebell 20m/arm x 3-4 sets mixed in with your favorite banded hip activation drills like a Single Leg Band Resisted Glute Bridge.

Movement Notes – Chalk up on this. Your grip will likely be a limiter. Start light. You don’t need heavy loads here to get the benefit.

Overhead Barbell Carry with Dynamic Load

Barbell Overhead Carry with Dynamic Load

Why: This drill provides an unpredictable loading method that can be a very effective tool for building your overhead stability. By using bands to secure the load to the barbell you are creating a very dynamic weight set up. With each move your shoulders will be forced to compensate for the changing force and this will really wake up small stabilizer muscles in the shoulders. After training with this implement, when you reach for the kettlebells to go overhead they will feel much more stable and you will be able to focus more solely on the lunge element.

How to: Start by loading light-weight plates or kettlebells to the bar by securing them with bands to the ends of a bar. The video shows an axel bar being used. This is not required, but is recommended if you have one as it will simulate the kettlebell grip more than a traditional barbell. Perform in 10-20m segments, paired with a moderate intensity cyclical aerobic element. Example: Row 200m moderate pace, then while breathing carry the dynamic load overhead for 20m. Rest walk 2mins x 4-5 sets.

Movement Notes: Be cautious when carrying these dynamic loads overhead as they can get unstable and fall rather quickly. Be sure you have practiced getting the load overhead and back down with the help of a training partner or on your own before attempting this under any sort of fatigue.