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Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Crossfit, Lifting and Crossfit, Master, Mobility, Music and Rants, Olympic Lifts, Product Reviews, Rant, Recovery, Strength Training

Product Review: The Crossover Symmetry H.I.I.T System

Product Review: The Crossover Symmetry H.I.I.T System

As promised – here is my final review of the Crossover Symmetry.

What Is It?

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In the box, and on paper, the Crossover Symmetry is really a very simple device. It’s 4 hooks to attach to a rig or squat rack, as many differently weighted bands as you purchase, and a board with simple routines for warmup, training, and cooldown.

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So on it’s surface – it really doesn’t appear all that different than just resistance bands. Which is a pretty common question about this product, so I’ll address that specifically in a bit.

You are not going to reduce the pain in your shoulders by simply continuing to compete in your sport; without addressing the underlying issue. To permanently fix your shoulders you need to address the problem, not mask the symptoms with pain killers and tape. While these are great modalities, the pain will return unless you fix the dysfunction and restore the balance to your shoulder. This can only be done by activating and strengthening the dynamic stabilizers of the shoulder complex, which is exactly what the Crossover Symmetry H.I.I.T system is designed to do.
-https://crossoversymmetry.com/functional-fitness/learn/hiit-system/

To really understand the Crossover Symmetry and how it works, first we have to tackle some specifics about the shoulder.

Shoulder Mechanics

ROTATOR CUFF WEAKNESS/FATIGUE

The primary function of the rotator cuff is to keep the ball of the humerus in the shoulder socket throughout a full range of motion. If the rotator cuff is weak or fatigued, the humeral head tends to move upwards excessively and closes off the subacromial space. The WOD listed above would undoubtedly fatigue the rotator cuff and reduce its ability to perform the primary function of keeping the ball centered in the socket. Crossover Symmetry will improve the muscular endurance of these stabilizing muscles to help athletes withstand demanding workouts with repetitive overhead movements.

FORWARD SHOULDER POSTURE

Poor shoulder posture from a lifestyle with the shoulders rounded forward (e.g. driving, sitting at a desk, texting, ect.) results in a combination of tight chest muscles, weak upper back muscles, and poor thoracic spine mobility. This creates a dysfunctional position which alters the proper movement of the scapula and has been shown to cause a reduction in the subacromial space during overhead motions, resulting in shoulder impingement.

DELTOID DOMINANCE VS. ROTATOR CUFF

The deltoid is the primary muscle involved when elevating the arm overhead. The deltoid moves the ball upward in the socket during arm elevation, which must be balanced by the opposing pull of the rotator cuff muscles (See image below). If the pull of the deltoid vs. rotator cuff are not balanced, the ball will move upward in the socket, further narrowing the subacromial space. CrossFit™ training places a huge emphasis on deltoid strength through an abundance of dynamic overhead movements such as the push press, hand stand push-ups and Olympic lifting. The nature of this training develops the deltoid to a greater degree than the rotator cuff resulting in a muscular imbalance that may lead to shoulder impingement issues.

SCAPULAR MUSCLE IMBALANCE

Scapular Dyskinesis describes poor movement of the scapula often due to muscular imbalances of the upper back. The upper trapezius, lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles work together to rotate the scapula upwards allowing the arm to move overhead (See image below). Much like a tripod, the three legs work together to form a stable platform; however, when one of the legs is off balance, the stability of the base is compromised. CrossFit™ athletes often have strong upper traps compared to their lower traps, resulting in limitations in the ability to upwardly rotate the scapula when going overhead. Recent research has shown an increased risk for shoulder injury when the upper trap is significantly stronger than the lower trap.

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These are all taken directly from Crossover Symmetry but they’re not wrong, so there’s not really a need to correct it. If you don’t believe me, go reach for your copy of “Becoming a Supple Leopard” which I know you own – and check it out for yourself. Long story short, understanding how the shoulder works is crucial to understanding how to get the most of the Crossover Symmetry.

Unlike traditional MWOD style mobility, the Crossover Symmetry isn’t about soft tissue or clearing joint capsules. It’s about letting the muscles do what they’re designed to do in a way that allows them to become stronger. This transition let’s the joint move in a way it’s meant to, rather than the way you force it to, and thereby clears impingements and adhesions naturally. There are similar methods for the hips that involve repositioning the femurs in relation to the pelvis (PRI).

How Does It Work

The Crossover Symmetry has 4 main uses; activation, recovery, plyometrics, and iron scap. I’ve only ever completed the activation segment and recovery segments. The activation phase is meant to be done pre-workout basically to connect the nervous system to the musculature, get blood into tissues, and make sure you can fire in ways you’ll need to for a workout. The recovery phase is similar, but focuses on eccentric loading, to move extra blood to muscles and tendons. The plyometric phase is similar to activation, but where activation would apply best to a 1RM Snatch, the plyometric would apply best to 30 squat snatches for time. Finally the Iron Scap phase is it’s own workout, designed to truly strengthen the muscles of the shoulder, but so long as you’re not building on dysfunction, Crossfit will build these muscles for you.

The principle’s of the Crossover Symmetry are very simple. Get the shoulders to move the way they’re intended. This is the greatest part, but also the most dangerous part. If you’re already fighting dysfunction, you’re probably not used to moving correctly, and moving correctly is the cornerstone of the system. It’s helpful to start light, and more helpful if you can have a movement specialist watch your first couple sessions. If you can’t, then your first sessions should focus on proper bracing, and rib cage position, butt tight, belly tight, ribs down. You should feel your shoulder blades moving across the back of your ribs. If you can’t, then you’re not using the Symmetry right.

I will be honest, this part took me a couple of weeks to really master. It was humbling as well, I’m a big strong guy, and one of my lightest bands gives me the most trouble. These are small muscles we’re targeting, but they’re responsible for so much. Don’t be ashamed if you have to use a light band, take a step closer to the rig and remove some tension. It takes time to activate and build the proper muscles here. The results are pretty stunning though.

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Pro’s

  • Simple, easy to assemble and use
  • Light, portable, easy to carry to and from the gym
  • Works! With little to no traditional mobility work
  • Quick, one session typically takes 10-15 minutes
  • Comes with solid documentation and videos

Con’s

  • Won’t replace traditional mobility work
  • Expensive
  • Depends on user to operate properly for maximum results
  • Some learning curve/observation required

Conclusions

Overall I’ve been very satisfied with my Crossover Symmetry. As I’ve said previously, it won’t replace all your mobility work, but it has drastically improved my shoulder mechanics to the point where even my physical therapist has made mention of the improved range, specifically in my less mobile left shoulder. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in writing these reviews, its that nothing will solve everything 100%, but given the right tools, the time, and the effort; you will most certainly find some measure of success over time. The results from the Crossover Symmetry have been dramatic, easily sustained, and allow me to move better, so that I know I’m not building strength on top of dysfunction, and that my friends is the golden ticket.

Overall Rating: 95/100 A
TL:DR – Great product, simple to use and effective, tad on the expensive side, takes some practice to master.

3 Comments

  1. Just found your blog and this article (well written BTW). I came at Crossover Symmetry (CS) very gradually. One of our local DPT’s is a follower and friend of K*Star. He started WOD’ing with us a bit after MobilityWOD was in our box in March 2013. Kelly talked him into starting his own practice and I was one of his early clients early this year. He worked with me for about 2 months clearing some of the same issues that CS fixes. My FSA ran out of money and my shoulders got somewhat better so I went back to my normal 5 days/week WOD routine at CrossFit Conjugate in Blue Ash, OH. But I still had pain depending on how much shoulder punishment was dished out in our programming.

    During my daily pre-WOD mobilization work (I’m 50 and take an extra 30-45 minutes warming up before the class warmup starts), I noticed some of our baseball players and competitors working out with a strange set of blue and yellow bands. There was no workout chart, the exercises they were doing had never been explained to us, and the bands normally lived in a cardboard box along with bits of chalk, extra J-hooks and mysterious lengths of Velcro.

    One day I asked a Coach about the bands and it turns out that they WERE CS bands and used to belong to Sam Briggs who forgot them during one of her many visits. I guess she has multiple sets so told the Coach to keep them. That’s when I started investigating CS seriously and decided that I really needed a system of my own.

    Until I saw the cost! I went back to see if the bands we had were in any way special. I looked at the hardware. I evaluated the construction. I measured their resistance with a luggage scale (25# and 10# pairs), but I could not understand why they were so expensive. I decided to improvise.

    A little searching turned up a system by a company called Bodylastics (their MMA kit) which had six pairs of bands and a bunch of anchoring hardware that put it on par with the CS Armory H.I.I.T. package for about 20% of the cost. I found posters for both CS and Iron Scap, printed them out and dry mounted them to some foam board. I was in business!

    After a couple of weeks of religious use of CS and Iron Scap, my shoulders feel worlds better. I do the activation every day before the WOD and the recovery afterward. I work on Iron Scap at home as I usually don’t have time at the box. I’m convinced that CS should be a required part of our mobility work and am trying to get several sets officially purchased for Conjugate.

  2. Hi Hambone,

    Where did you get the posters from for Iron scap and CS? Im looking at doing a similar thing as the CS is not available in the uk (unless I want to pay hefty shipping bills)

    • They come with the CS – I don’t know that you can get them separately.

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