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Building Crossfit-Loving Deltoids: A Guide for CrossFitters

July 8, 2024

As a physical therapist with a passion for CrossFit, I’ve seen firsthand the importance of shoulder strength and stability in achieving peak performance. The deltoid muscle, responsible for a range of movements in the shoulder, plays a crucial role in many CrossFit exercises, from overhead presses to handstand push-ups. Strong, resilient deltoids not only enhance performance but also help prevent injuries and help you bounce back faster from any that pop-up. Here’s a quick rundown:

Understanding the Deltoid Muscle
The deltoid muscle is comprised of three distinct heads:

1. Anterior (Front) Deltoid: Assists with shoulder flexion and internal rotation.

2. **Lateral (Middle) Deltoid: Facilitates shoulder abduction.

3. Posterior (Rear) Deltoid: Supports shoulder extension and external rotation.

A well-rounded accessory program should target all three heads to ensure a balanced strength and optimal shoulder function.

The Importance of Shoulder Strength in CrossFit

CrossFit demands a high level of shoulder mobility and stability. Whether you’re lifting heavy weights, performing dynamic movements, or maintaining static holds, your deltoids are constantly engaged. Weakness in the deltoids can lead to poor performance and increase the risk of injuries such as rotator cuff strains.

Essential Exercises for Deltoid Strength

1. Overhead Press
The deltoid king for compound lifts (in my biased opinion). It’s not the most appealing lift in the gym due to the limited weight, but there’s no better way to really load the deltoids up. Pro tip: Focus on keeping the elbows a bit more in front as opposed to flaring out directly to the sides, which biases the triceps.

2. Lu Raises
I love using Lu raises at the end of a workout for a full range of motion, exhaustive shoulder pump. It hits the deltoids and rotator cuff and isn’t too taxing due to the limited load.
Lu Raises

3. Snatch-Grip Upright Rows
Another fantastic exercise to load the delts while simultaneously expose you to a more awkward shoulder position, so that come time for snatches and other movements you’ve had plenty of progressive exposure and feel more confident loading up.

4. Handstand Push-Ups
● My biggest focus on progressing handstand pushups for my Crossfitters is focusing on selecting the right scaling variation which allows you to perform a full pressing motion, head to the floor. For most, this means scaling down to a piked pushup with feet on the box, as opposed to the never-ending trap of 2-4 Ab-mats cutting your range of motion short.

Box Pike Pushup

Conclusion
Building strong, resilient deltoids is essential for CrossFitters aiming to enhance their performance over time and minimize the risk and duration of injuries. By incorporating a variety of exercises that target all three heads of the deltoid and following safe training practices, you can prepare your shoulders for a variety of challenges. Remember, consistency is key!

Stay strong, stay safe, and keep crushing your CrossFit goals!

Seeing some changes but still want a more individualized approach to your rehab? If you want to learn how to take control with some expert guidance and treatments to optimize your performance and longevity, then that’s exactly what we provide at Zenith Performance Physical Therapy. Call or text us at 562-502-1767 to schedule a free phone consultation and come in for an evaluation!

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