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Athlete Perspective: Muscle Awareness

When I began thinking about this article, I realized that I was about to write again about the importance of honing awareness in CrossFit.

Unconsciously relying on incorrect muscles or sets of muscles during a lift is an injury waiting to happen. That’s something I’ve learned from living with pain and unfulfilled potential for months while I waited to heal.

Before I fully developed adequate upper body strength and awareness to do pull ups, I was engaging the wrong muscles to help me get up over the bar. I was incorrectly engaging the levator scapulae, forearms and elbows. Straining the levator scapulae caused migraine headaches. Not fun.

With the help of coaching and a developed sense of muscular awareness, I learned to focus on my rhomboids while bracing my shoulder blades together and down, resetting before each pull up. At first I, could only focus on my rhomboids by imagining there was a band connected across my upper back attached at each end by a shoulder blade. By concentrating on that area, I trained my brain to engage the rhomboids and soon was able to create the tension required for pull ups. Easier pull ups, no straining, no more migraines.

Another great way of focusing awareness on specific muscle groups is to create midline stabilization during a plank and comes courtesy of Dan. Start from the top and proceed down your body as you hold the plank. Turn on each of the following one after the other: shoulders, rhomboids, abs, quads, glutes and transverse abdominis (TA).

Start focusing on these two controlled, strict movements the next time they show up on the white board and you’ll find extra reserves of power that will get you through the WOD safely and more efficiently.

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