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Guide to Foundational CrossFit Moves: Part 1

CrossFit WODs (Workout of the Day) have limitless configurations with a hoard of possible exercises, but there are nine foundational moves you should master as a cross-training beginner. Perfecting your form on the (1) air squat, (2) front squat, (3) overhead squat, (4) shoulder press, (5) push press, (6) push jerk, (7) deadlift, (8) sumo deadlift high pull, and the (9) medicine ball clean prepares you to perform many WODs safely and hones skills needed for more advanced CrossFit exercises. In Part 1 of this series, we will look at the first three exercises on the foundations list, which are all squat variations.

The Air Squat

Air squats – and squats in general – recruit muscles throughout the body, making them a smart move to maximize the gains from your efforts. They also increase your hip, ankle, and torso mobility. This contributes to your ability to do functional movements both in and out of the gym with a far greater risk of injury. Here are some hallmarks of the air squat’s form:

  • Shoulder-width stance
  • Hips descend back then down
  • Hips descend lower than knees
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Heels down
  • Knees in line with toes
  • Complete at full hip and knee extension

Front Squat

Most weightlifters have the barbell back squat in their exercise repertoire, but there are some benefits unique to the front squat. With the bar positioned on the shoulder girdle, it provides a counterbalance when the hips go back to make it feel more stable. This allows most people to achieve greater depth in their squat. By holding the bar, the lats are also engaged, which provides more core stability and prevents back injury. Also, note these aspects to the exercise:

  • Shoulder-width stance
  • Hands just outside of shoulders
  • Loose, fingertip grip on the bar
  • Elbows high
  • Hips descend back and down
  • Hips descend lower than knees
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Heels down
  • Knees in line with toes
  • Complete at full hip and knee extension

Overhead Squat

This squat variation requires a good deal of shoulder mobility and stability, so beginners may want to start without a bar or a light PVC pipe or similar instrument until form is perfected. Strive to keep the torso as vertical as possible and keep the bar moving in a straight up-and-down line; this will make it feel like the bar moves slightly backward as you squat down. Other form cues for this move include:

  • Shoulder-width stance
  • Wide grip on the bar
  • Shoulders push up into the bar
  • Armpits face forward
  • Hips descend back and down
  • Hips descend lower than knees
  • Lumbar curve maintained
  • Heels down
  • Bar moves over the middle of the foot
  • Knees in line with toes
  • Complete at full hip and knee extension

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