June 24, 2016

The Left Shoulder Problem in CrossFit

I've been doing CrossFit regularly now for five years, and usually CrossFit helps my riding, not the other way around.  I can't remember a time that riding has ever helped in CrossFit, until now.

The two biggest ways in which riding has helped my CrossFit up til now have been funny: everyone laughs at me when we warm up with partner carries/piggyback rides, because I sit up straight with good balance to absorb the motion of the person I'm on instead of hunching over their shoulders like everyone else.  And Nicole tells me I have surprisingly large back stabilizer muscles for someone as otherwise wimpy as me, thanks to holding myself up in the saddle.

Thanks for the back muscles!

But once I discovered my left shoulder problem - and Connor REALLY has continued to tell me, "Yeah, that's your problem" - I started wondering if and how that was affecting me in CrossFit.  And the very next time I got under a barbell - for a workout that was 100 bench press for time with 25 double unders every time you put the bar down - it was obvious.

I've basically been lifting with one arm all these years.  Which is why my right shoulder has been injured off and on (overuse), and why I've gotten random feedback from Nicole and from my own body such as:
- Left shoulder way forward in overhead squat
- Right leg always sore after double unders, but never left
- Left leg always forward/bearing less weight in the catch positions and the squat
- Right arm always more sore than the left after high-volume pullups or toes-to-bar

I guarantee if you were next to me in this warmup picture from the 2014 Open you'd see how crooked this actually is and how little my left shoulder is doing.

And so on.  It seems like that would be an obvious fix in CrossFit, but I never would have figured out it was my left shoulder causing all of that, especially the shoulder injury, if it wasn't for riding.  During the bench press workout, when I was using my shoulder properly, my left arm and shoulder actually hit complete fatigue about 75 reps in - even after dropping down from 65# to 35# - while the right was good to go.  It's that weak.

I mentioned this in passing to my trainer last night, and it apparently led to a lightbulb moment for her, which led to a light bulb moment for me, which I'll have to put in another post.

Any of my fellow fitness friends and riders ever had something like this happen?


  1. Your posts are an inspiration to do more work on me-as-a-rider and fix all my little issues. I really miss having a reliable pony that I could hop on periodically! Fetti's going to have to step up to the plate on that more often.

    1. I'm glad! It's amazing how it can feel like "My horse doesn't want to turn left, what a jerk!" in the saddle, and then you figure out it's because your body has been telling him not to turn left. Hopefully you and everyone else don't have as dramatically one sided problems as I do.

  2. Yesterday I tried to do Rear Deltoid Raise and realized how fucking weak I am :(

  3. IT's so crazy how one thing being out of places causes so many other issues. I've definitely noticed this kind of issue when it's time to get my pelvis readjusted. Everything compensates in really weird ways.

  4. I had a few things like that happen in CrossFit too! Like coming up from a squat if I let them, my hips would twist in the same way they twist undersaddle. And in both CF and riding, my mid and lower back get too arched and bad things happen during sitting trot and overhead work.

  5. It's not entirely the same, but I notice very similar things with yoga. Where am I strong vs where am I more flexible and where do I lose my balance. There are HUGE differences from one side to another, which makes me more aware when I'm under saddle.

  6. This is why I need to workout more, to get in control of my body better!

  7. I'm not nearly a good enough rider to be that aware of where independent parts of my body is while I'm riding, but anytime we do anything with dumbbells like dumbbell thrusters or alternating snatches it becomes super obvious that my left arm is weaker than my right one.