What should the shoulder's contribution to overhead lifting be? Should the shoulder remain fixed or should it elevate, moving toward the ear, during an overhead lift? These questions were recently raised on the CrossFit message board and found their way over to other pop fitness sites where our answers and practices are contrary to local orthodoxy.
As interesting as the questions are-- and they are potentially vital in terms of both safety and efficacy--they also offer a ripe opportunity to delineate how we at CrossFit typically evaluate all training methods and resolve issues and concerns of technique. That is very much the purpose of this article--to reveal our thinking on what guides and substantiates our beliefs and practices.
To answer the question regarding the shoulder's role in overhead lifting, we want to look to the methods and techniques of athletes who lift or support substantial loads overhead in the normal course of their sport; evaluate those methods against any observed, trusted, and acknowledged principles of human performance; and conduct local experimentation, where it is ethical and sensible to do so. We evaluate methods experientially, theoretically, and clinically, but each step has an empirical nature. Even our theories have utility only insofar as they are consistent with observation.