day 70. - save your neck

thursday march 13,2014

4 rounds
400 m run
15 hang cleans 95/65
12 push press 95/65
9 knees to elbow


14.3 for 5,6 pm

this article is a good read and has some great suggestions. Think and consider.



Posted by Ryan DeBell in neckspineUncategorized tagged as discnecknervepain


The content of this article will strike a nerve for some people, so let me preface it by saying this: I was a crossfitter before I was a chiropractor. I am a crossfitter first and I only want to see CrossFit improve. I am not one of those people who just sits around and uselessly criticizes it. 

So here are my top 7 reasons that you should get stronger instead of doing kipping HSPU:

#1: Your first cervical vertebra (C1)
#2: Your second cervical vertebra (C2)
#3: Your third cervical vertebra (C3)
#4: Your fourth cervical vertebra (C4)
#5: Your fifth cervical vertebra (C5)
#6: Your sixth cervical vertebra (C6)
#7: Your seventh cervical vertebra (C7)

...and all the connective tissue, discs, ligaments, and nerves associated with those vertebrae.

Let’s talk a little anatomy so we understand the importance of this. Check out the picture below.


See those blue things? Those are nerves that come off the spinal cord, go through the hole that is circled in green with an arrow pointing at it, and then go into the arms. That hole can change size depending on the forces that are put through the neck. The hole gets bigger if someone were to pull up on your head and the hole gets smaller if someone were to push down on your head.

Guess what happens during kipping HSPU when people crash their heads into the mat or rest on their heads? They crush down on those 7 vertebrae, which makes those holes smaller. When those holes get smaller, those little nerves get crushed. Nothing will happen from just a few reps of that most likely, but prolonged pressure or lots of reps can do some damage to those nerves.

In the picture to the left, I highlighted the disc between two vertebrae. Guess what can happen to that disc if you put enough pressure on the head? It can bust open/tear. We call that a disc herniation. When that thing breaks open, stuff from inside of it will go into that hole we talked about earlier where the nerve comes out and it will irritate that thing and cause lots of pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness down into the arm or along the shoulder blade.

Guess how I test for cervical spine nerve irritation and disc herniations in patients? I have them sit down and I press down on the top of their head. Why are we doing exercises that mimic clinical tests that are designed to irritate these sensitive structures? That is like blowing in a dog’s ear and expecting not to get bit.

Disc herniations and nerve damage don’t make us fit. Our goal is to be fit, right? Good luck competing with a cervical disc herniation. 

We have to stop doing this to ourselves and to our athletes.


There is a big difference between training and competing in my opinion. In training, you are doing things that you need to do to become stronger and improve your weaknesses. If you can’t do a lot of strict HSPUs, is kipping them really training or are you competing to see how fast you can go in your class WOD? Who got through the HSPUs the fastest at regionals this year? I think it was Dan Bailey and he did most, if not all, of them strict. hmmmm….When you workout at your box, are you training or competing?

How long are you going to limp along doing kipping HSPUs instead of getting strong enough to do them strict and protect your neck? You will be a better athlete by training the strength of your upper body through alternatives to throwing your legs up, crashing down on your head, and destroying your neck. Spend time developing strength and then do kipping HSPU in a competition if you have to. Getting that rx by your name in a WOD is NOT as good as developing the strength necessary to do strict HSPUs and avoiding a serious neck injury. 

And to the coaches, maybe we shouldn’t allow kipping HSPU to be an option during training unless that person is going to do a competition and HAS to be decent at them (in which case the minimum number necessary to have the kipping pattern down is the number that should be trained and zero more). People will do anything to get that rx by their name, so why make something rx that, for most people, isn’t going to benefit their strength AND has a high risk of injury? Oh and don’t try to tell me this shit doesn’t happen. If you aren’t seeing it, you are missing it. I guarantee you.



  • Have them do strict!


  • Single arm (or double arm) kettlebell press
  • Single arm (or double arm) kettlebell press in a lunge position with knee on ground (half-kneeling position)
  • Single arm (or double arm) kettlebell press with both knees on the ground (tall kneeling position)
  • Decline push ups with knees on box


Don’t let kipping HSPU count as rx or be an allowed sub. Make the sub one of the above recommendations and watch your athletes improve and not complain about their necks hurting.

Let’s save people’s necks. If you have met an athlete who has injured their neck from this, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I hope you don’t. It changes peoples lives, for the worse. For what cause? 5 seconds on a wod? Not worth it. TRAIN during TRAINING and compete to win.