Full shoulder range of motion is probably the most underrated necessity with regard to exercise. This is especially the case in CrossFit. Now that workouts are being “judged”, there is this general range of motion rule that a lot of CrossFit gyms are living by: Head Through the Window.
I am a CrossFit Coach and I have just about had enough of this cue. If an athlete is pressing a barbell overhead, in order to be a successful rep, the athlete is cued to put the head passed the shoulders. More often than not, athletes will poke the head forward without moving the shoulders at all. This creates a forward head carriage along with cervical flexion.
With a load overhead and the head and neck forward and down, out spinal chain has significantly been weakened.
The first main issue with this is the tension built around the base of the neck. This repetitive positioning can lead to thoracic outlet syndrome and before you know it, you are having odd sensations into the shoulder and even the hands.
Our common theme in training (to date) is that the spine must remain neutral and braced in order to generate AND TRANSFER force. When there is a kink in the chain (and this position is a major kink), the body is weakened as a system, and the potential for injury is greatly increased.
Sometimes the athlete is being lazy with pressing overhead, but other times what you see is what you get. If the athlete can only bring his or her arm up to a line in front of the ear, then that is where the range of motion should end. Otherwise, the athlete will be poking the head through the window or hyperextending the thoracic spine to achieve a “completed rep”.
USE THESE CUES INSTEAD: “Extend the elbows”, “look straight ahead”, “arms all the way up”
This may seem like semantics, but it is important to know that your athlete understands what you are asking. They may think that from now on, a shoulder press has a finished position with the head forward and down. Communication is key. Look straight.