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7 Moves to Get Better At CrossFit

CrossFit as a training methodology is different than CrossFit as a sport. And seeing what the Games athletes do on the big stage vs. day to day in the gym has led to a big misconception. The way to get better at CrossFit is NOT to simply do more CrossFit. But you absolutely can get better Chest to Bar pullups and all the skills you seek. Give these 7 moves a try and be sure to sign up for the free pdf that will show you how to put them all together.

At a certain point, you might find that the randomness or intensity of CrossFit is not helping you progress in fitness. The Persist program builds progressively week by week to develop skill and strength. But if you want ideas to get better that you can mix in to your current training, these 7 moves will help.

DB or KB Prone Rows

Better Chest to Bar pull-ups will be yours when you master the position. Retracting your shoulders and scaps back enough to reach your chest to the bar is the secret. Building strength with KB prone rows in the horizontal pull direction can aid in your chest to bar efficiency and strength. I would advise using a slight incline bench as this will mimic the line of force of a C2B pull up when you perform them. Additionally, it is important that you don’t overload this exercise. Prioritize that full scapular retraction and pulling your elbows as far behind you as possible.

Cyclist Front Squats

To get better at CrossFit you certainly need strong Olympic lifts. So strengthen an upright squat position to translate to these lifts. In the vertical squat position, the knees go over the toes. One way to exaggerate this position is with the Cyclist Front Squat. We take the athlete to an extreme range and vertical position to strengthen this for the sport.

Keep your torso upright and elbows high and above your knees. Let your knees drift out over your toes, and know that your loading will be significantly less than your maximal Front Squat.

Filly Press

Handstand Push Ups, Push Press, Push Jerk, Front Rack positions….These are all integral parts to get better at CrossFit. They all need great scapular endurance. The rotator cuff needs a lot of muscle endurance so the muscles don’t get tired too quickly. Additionally, you need great range of motion and positions for these movements.

Of course they require adequate strength, but it often comes down to how long you can endure. The quality of your positions as a result of your shoulder range of motion will impact your efficiency.

The Filly Press is a variation that I started using in 2017. It combines an isometric KB rack hold with a single arm DB Arnold Press. The Single Arnold press effectively builds range of motion and anterior shoulder strength. The KB Rack is an isometric that builds the scapular endurance or posterior shoulder endurance required. Combined, it is a potent exercise that can be performed in a variety of positions.

Focus on getting the full rotation of the dumbbell from supinated at the bottom to pronated at the top. Keep your elbow down and pressed against your body in the KB rack positions. Avoid letting that elbow flare out to the side.

Rower/Slide Board Pike Up

Toes to bar, handstand push ups, handstand walks, and burpees all have crossover with this pattern. We’re looking at core flexion, flexibility, and closed chain handstand stability and strength.

The ability to bring the legs towards the torso with strength and great flexibility is essential. Several of the core flexion movements in CrossFit use it like Toes to Bar, GHD Sit Ups, and even Burpees. This move focuses specifically on that strength component. And it also develops flexibility to get the thighs closer to the chest. 

Additionally, I also like that the shoulders have to support the body weight in a variety of different angles with the arms. You will develop better closed chain shoulder position and strength with this exercise all at the same time as getting stronger in your core flexion.

Bring your head as close to the rower as you can at the top of the rep to mimic proper overhead position for handstands. Try to stare at the rower through your arms as opposed to the floor when you are in the pike position.

Banded Deficit Romanian Deadlift

better at crossfitDeadlifts, Power Cleans, and Kettlebell Swings are common in any CrossFit competition. One of the unique applications of these hinging exercises in CrossFit is the way they show up in higher repetitions. You don’t see this much in other training approaches. This has long been scrutinized as unsafe and often been the target of criticism. But it is the reality of the sport. And if we want to make our bodies more resilient to high repetition hinging, then this move might just be your solution.

  • Extended range of motion means strengthening you at end range where people are often vulnerable. It also means that the mid range strength that is so often the movement standard in CrossFit competitions will be even more robust.
  • The Stiff Leg component of the RDL ensures that you don’t cheat this exercise and overuse your quads. We need strong glutes and hamstrings to bulletproof us when we are performing fatigued Deadlifts and Power Cleans in a metcon.
  • Lastly, the banded loading makes sure that you overload the shortened range of the targeted muscles. When you are in lengthened and more vulnerable positions, the loading is lighter. This allows you to get great training volume in without requiring long recovery periods between sessions.

Pause Parallette Push Ups

One of the challenges of making your strength training more and more competitive is that you look for every way possible inside the rules to gain an edge. One edge comes when you shorten the range of motion to the bare minimum to pass. Why squat all the way to the bottom when a GOOD rep is just getting your hips below your knees? 

One area we have seen problems in is the ring dip. When athletes in CrossFit take their shoulders into deep extension at high speed we have seen a lot of injuries occur. In 2017, there was an unprecedented number of pec tears that occurred at a Regional competition. It was when athletes had to perform 45 ring dips as fast as they could paired with DB snatches. 

I think one of the underlying reasons is that there isn’t enough shoulder extension training. Burpees, Push Ups, mid range Dips, Muscle Ups, and the occasional Bench Press are the extent in CrossFit.

An exercise like the Parallette Push Up with a pause at the bottom in the lengthened position of the pec and shoulder is a great way to build strength and resilience in this vulnerable area of the upper body.

The goal with each rep should be to let the chest drop as far through the parallettes as possible. Let the elbows get as far behind the body as you can. We are using this to build end range strength and stability. When Ring Dips and Muscle Ups show up later on, you can be more resilient and confident in your ability to push speeds and avoid injury or setback.

Side Plank Powell Raise

Last, but not least is an isometric core move combined with another rotator cuff specific exercise. I wanted to bring in an exercise that trains the frontal plane. So much of CrossFit is sagittal plan focused. Performing side planks has long been a method I have used to bulletproof my low back against injury.

CrossFit athletes have their fair share of back injuries. I suspect a lot of it comes from lateral stability imbalances. The Side Plank alone is a simple but very worthwhile drill to incorporate into training for CrossFitters.

Add to that exercise the Powell Raise and you have a 2 for 1 bang for your buck drill. Which is not only going to give you lateral core strength, but also make your rhomboid muscles stronger to support better chest to bar pull ups and upper body gymnastics in CrossFit all together. 

This is definitely not a movement you want to load heavy. Get into proper positions and make sure your body isn’t rotating all over the place trying to overcome a weight that is too heavy.


I may have pointed out a few areas that I believe CrossFit leaves athletes and enthusiasts vulnerable to injury. But I’m not suggesting you stop. With proper training and methods that support you staying strong, CrossFit can be a beautiful expression of physicality and mental fortitude. If you love it then I’m here to support you to do it longer.

If you’re wondering how to incorporate these moves, sign up below for a free PDF that will give you two strength supersets and two finishers to mix into your training any time. I want to help you get better at CrossFit – with the power of Functional Bodybuilding!


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