CrossFitters' skills and abilities translate well with other high-intensity exercises, activities, or sports--whether that includes running, biking, swimming, weightlifting, and gymnastics. This is because of the constantly varied, functional movements they perform on every program.
Normally, CrossFit programs are well-developed in the sense that they cover a lot of ground. However, according to strength and conditioning coach Justin Grinnell, there are a few exercises that have great benefits but are rarely done or even left out in most programs.
Even though a drill is not included in a typical CrossFit event, it doesn't mean that it's not worthwhile. Case in point: Kelly Starrett's mobility WOD. This mobility drill does wonders in improving the body's kinetic chain thus leading to a better kipping pull up or clean and jerk.
"Your goal as a CrossFitter is to try to improve across many areas of fitness, in any way, shape, or form... You will do whatever it takes to improve your Fran time, become a fire-breather, and lift heavy ass weight above your head."
How These Five Exercises Were Chosen
The common thread among these exercises is they are unilateral strength-based exercises. Many of the weightlifting exercises in CrossFit are bilateral. You can run the risk of compensation patterns since no one has a totally symmetrical body. Over time this can lead to more muscle imbalances and compensation patterns, possibly resulting in pain or injury.
Although nothing can replace the barbell for developing true strength, unilateral strength-training exercises can help improve the big lifts by reducing muscular imbalances, asymmetries, and the risk of injury.
Exercise #1: One-arm Dumbbell Row
Horizontal pulling is the most underused movement pattern in CrossFit. Pull-ups are a great back builder, but horizontal pulling balances out all the overhead movements that CrossFit usually entails. The one-arm dumbbell row helps build tons of upper back strength and helps reduce the risk of injury of the shoulders.
Exercise #2: Front Rack One-leg Bulgarian Split Squat
You can build tons of strength and even flexibility in the hip flexors and quads without stressing the low back too much. Because we sit a lot, the hip flexors and quads shorten. By placing the back foot on a bench, the hip flexors and quads are stretched, one leg at a time. You can also load up this exercises quite a bit to improve overall lower-body strength and muscle growth. Coach Justin added this exercise in many of his CrossFit athletes' programs, in place of back squats, and watched them demolish their front squat and power clean records.
Exercise #3: One-arm Overhead Press & Push Press
Vertical pressing movements like push presses teach your chest and shoulders to work in unison with your hips and core. Now, do this with only one kettlebell and dumbbell and see how much your core and shoulders have to work even harder to press the weight above your head. By adding in some one-arm overhead presses, you challenge each side of your core, shoulders, and chest to work harder to press the weight. Get both sides of your body equally strong and watch your overhead press personal records increase.
Exercise #4: Barbell One-leg Deadlifts
To perform heavy Olympic lifts, you need to have some strong hamstrings, lower back, and glutes. By adding in one-leg deadlifts you balance out your posterior chain muscles in order to help increase your Olympic lifting, conventional deadlifts, and even box jumps. By cycling in one-leg deadlifts, you also place less stress on the lower back and hips, which can help increase your training volume of the posterior chain, without overtraining.
Exercise #5: Barbell One-leg Bench Hip Thrust
"One-leg hip thrusts have been a mainstay in my training for the past few months. You can do all of the squats and deadlifts you want, but sometimes that may not be enough to activate the glutes properly."
The hip thrusters is a back-friendly, knee-friendly exercise to work the posterior chain. It's one of the best ways to strengthen the glutes. If you're nursing some injuries, add these in to keep your posterior chains strong and balanced. The one-leg bench hip thrust is the perfect exercise to strengthen the posterior chain while giving your body a break from the heavy squat grind.