5/27/15 WOD: Skinning Cats

Today’s ParaWOD was a 100% departure from the Crossfit class, with the exception of getting heavy for one particular movement. In the class, it was back squat. For me, it was strict shoulder press.

Phase 1

Strict shoulder press

  • 6 rep max
  • 5 rep max
  • 4 rep max
  • 3 rep max
  • 2 rep max

I started my progression at 85lbs strict press and worked my way up (er, down) until I hit my 2 rep max at 125lbs, which is a present day personal record. (When in college, I used to warm up my shoulder press at 135lbs, so…almost back to where I was many years ago!)

Phase 2

2 sets of 2 movements, super-set together, for 3 rounds:

A. Wall balls + skin the cats

What is a skin the cat? This is another great ring workout movement that offers a number of benefits for the para-athlete, including increased range of motion, grip strength, shoulder mobility, and body control. This is what it looks like:

If you think this movement would be difficult for a para-athlete that has sustained injury to the thoracic vertebrae, you would be correct! It is not easy, not at all, because we cannot simply contract our lower abdomens or tuck in our knees to get into an inverted hang position. How in the world can we generate enough torque with the muscles we CAN control in order to make the muscles we CAN’T control do what we want?

This challenge is not without difficulty, but it is possible and well worth it. You will likely need to move through a progression of the movements, taking it piece by piece. First, you will want to have a coach who understands your physical capabilities, because he/she will guide you through the movements. Next, it might be worth while to band your legs together with a strap of some sort in order to keep them in alignment. Lastly, make sure you have a soft cushion or crash mat underneath to land on in case you have to bail on the movement.

skin the cat position 1
Get a good grip. You’re going for a ride.

Starting from a seated position on the mat, the torque is going to come primarily from your shoulders pushing in a downward motion. If you place your arms on a table and then push down with them at the same time, this force is what is going to instead pivot your hips and legs toward the ceiling. If you have trouble getting your knees up in the air, you can use a strap or band and, in a sitting position, band your knees to your shoulders so that everything moves at the same time.

Skin the cat position 2
Drive your shoulders down, closing them, which torques your lower body upward.

Once you and your coach have brought you into an inverted position called an inverted hang, you may need to spend some time in this position to re-acclimate your brain to the sensation of being upside down. As children, rolling around and being upside down is a normal sensation. However, the older we get and the farther away we move from that period of our lives, the stranger it may seem, and so it is important to get used to this position before you begin to exert yourself.

skin the cat position 3
Stay in this inverted hang position for a few seconds. Re-orient your brain, make sure your grip is good.

When you’re finally comfortable in the inverted hang position, start lowering yourself further and further as your feet get closer to your original position. Use short, controlled movements so that you don’t strain anything, and feel the sensation of making your lower extremities move in the way you want them to as they are in suspension.

skin the cat position 4
Start to lower your feet past your hips, down toward the floor. Squeeze the shoulder blades together.

Congratulations, you are now at the point of no return. If you let go, you’re doing  a face-plant.

Touchdown! Try to look forward again at the wall in front of you.
Touchdown! Try to look forward again at the wall in front of you.

Getting back to the seated position will be much easier, so make sure to use a controlled motion so that you don’t whip your legs and feet forward and have them crash on the floor.

Here is a short clip of the movement you want to do once you are in the inverted position, dropping your toes down to the floor, and then back to the hang.

B. Medicine ball crunch + chair get-ups

Do you practice getting in and out of your chair from the floor? Not only is this a good strength drill, but a functional one as well, both in real life as well as in doing WOD’s where you have to change stations quickly and you don’t want to lose a lot of time in transition.

Find a good stationary object like a chair or a box, and practice getting in and out of the chair. Focus on keeping your shoulders and elbows tight into your body so you don’t strain your shoulders. The movement should be as close to a dip motion as possible where you can use your strength in your triceps and lats to press down, getting yourself into the chair.

Many thanks to Joe Villegas for his coaching and photography.

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