Coach Brian Chambers is a talented young Weightlifting and CrossFit coach based in Tallahassee, Fl, specializing in finding an athlete's weaknesses and fixing them to improve overall performance. He is a CrossFit L1, USAW Sport Performance Coach.
Every now and then, it is good to mix things up in your training. Sometimes your training sessions grow stagnant, and maybe you can’t seem to get rid of a nagging shoulder pain no matter how much you molest lacrosse balls and foam rollers. If you can relate to this bizarre metaphor then perhaps you ought to try these movements out. If you want to take your weightlifting seriously, then it is worth mentioning that these exercises should in no way replace the classic lifts - the snatch and the clean and jerk. If however you have shoulder pain, trunk and shoulder stability or even mobility problems, then these may well be the ideal supplementary exercises for you.
1)The Overhead Yoke Carry
2)Hand Over Hand Sled Pull
3)Single Arm Overhead Kettlebell Carry
You may have seen some of these lifts posted around on social media by the lifters at Mash Elite or by the utterly fantastic Julien Pineau. Travis Mash is famous for his saying that lifters ought to have ‘No Weaknesses’, and he has found these strongman exercises to be the easiest way to align and strengthen the body. It isn’t uncommon to see his athletes carrying axles on their back, holding bars overhead with kettlebells connected by bands… it isn’t by fluke that his team is the fastest rising in the USA. When you target weaknesses, you strengthen your strengths even more. Julien Pineau of StrongFit is a huge proponent of these exercises creating a new form of strength for the body. And here’s why…
The overhead yoke carry is a great way to improve stability in the shoulders and trunk (all the muscles stabilizing the spine), and is great at engaging the chest, lats, and the small muscles in the upper back without becoming entirely dependent on the traps. Look to be able to carry at least your 1RM snatch weight for 50 ft. and even better would be your max Jerk (or more) for 50 ft.
The hand over hand sled pull is a great way of engaging the lats to support weight overhead. If my shoulders are achy, this almost always does the trick. One of the positives with this movement is that, much like the snatch and clean and jerk, this movement is concentrically loaded with no eccentric portion. Because of this, strength adaptations can occur without any real muscle soreness, as muscle breakdown occurs during the eccentric portion. Furthermore, the concentric portion of a pull loads the lats much more than the biceps, unlike the eccentric portion which loads the biceps significantly more. Try pulling as much weight as possible for 25 ft. Remember to stay bent over as much as possible and reach as far forward as you can to get the best results. I usually do this after lifting or on a Sunday when I am not really doing that much. This exercise also promotes balance in the body, counteracting the imbalances that a split jerk can inflict.
Single arm overhead carries - Whilst not strictly a strongman exercise, single arm overhead carries are a great way to force the obliques to stabilize the trunk. The obliques are a severely neglected body part, but they tie our posterior in to our anterior, and as such act as very important stabilisers, allowing us to transfer power through our kinetic chain proficiently. Any major weakness will lead to injury down the road. I love these as a warm up for snatching as they also improve shoulder mobility. The reason they improve shoulder mobility so well is because in order to carry a weight efficiently over-head everything needs to be stacked and locked out. A bent arm loads the triceps and deltoids too much and is much more fatiguing to the body. Try doing 45lb/25lb for 100m without letting the elbow bend.
Give these 3 exercises a try and let me know what you think! If you like this article and want to hear more from, me message me and follow me @coachbchambers on Instagram. More of my articles coming soon to Weightlifting House. Don’t forget to follow Weightlifting House on Instagram and Facebook to receive updates on new articles, interviews, and podcasts.