Posts Tagged ‘crossfit’

By Dr. Quinn Henoch (web)

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to present and coach at a weekend training camp for competitive exercisers. Doug Chapman, coach and owner of HyperFit USA in Ann Arbor, Michigan, hosted the camp. I was asked to present on self-assessments for movement and mobility improvement and to also lead the athletes through some warm-ups on both days.

This was a training camp in every sense of the word. The talent level ranged from open and regional athletes to Games athletes such as Julie Foucher, Neal Maddox, Chyna Cho, and Heather Welsh. I watched (no I did not participate, although I did accumulate one and a half wall balls, two pistols, and three consecutive strict muscles-ups over the course of the weekend) as these athletes practiced countless skills and were taken through workouts that tested all energy systems and aspects of their fitness game. It was truly an amazing thing to behold.

As I watched, coached, and consulted with the athletes, there were some common themes that I noticed regarding the movement and mobility game. These things were consistent with my experience working with CrossFitters in the clinic as well. Below are some tips for you crazy mo-fos (although these are appropriate for any athlete).

1. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE THORACIC SPINE FOR SHOULDER MAINTENANCE

As is the case at weekend events such as these, I spoke with many of the attendees about individual issues they were having. At events where the athletes are mostly of the powerlifter or weightlifter population, most of the issues are from the low back and below. However, at this camp, there were many issues related to the shoulder. This is not surprising, considering the insane amount of shoulder intensive volume that CrossFitters undertake.

As I was taking the campers through self-assessments, it was clear that many had restricted movement through the ribcage and thoracic spine. I have spoken at length about the importance of this for shoulder health in a previous article.

We used a couple of tests to grossly screen and assess scapula-thoracic function:

1. THE APLEY SCRATCH TEST, in which we are looking for no more than one and a half hand lengths between your fists, or symmetry when comparing side to side.image1

 2. THE LUMBAR-LOCKED ROTATION TEST, in which we are looking for about 45 degrees of rotation, or symmetry when comparing both sides.

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3. SEATED. We are again looking for at about 45 degrees of rotation or symmetry when comparing side to side.

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Restrictions in thoracic rotation were usually to the same side as the problematic shoulder when consulting with the individual athletes.

There are not many rotational components to competitive CrossFit – probably because rotational movements are more difficult to objectify and score. So inherently, most of the training is within the sagittal (front to back) plane, and the lack of rotational capacity through the upper back reflected this. Although the shoulder intensive movements may not technically require a large amount of rotation, if you are having issues in your shoulders, then it can be beneficial to restore all planes of movement within your ribcage and thoracic spine. After all, that is the foundation with which your shoulder sits, so restrictions there can lead to compensatory shoulder function. Here are a few drills to first undo all of the extension that training locks us in and then to restore rotation. Perform 2-3 sets of 5, or as needed.

Obviously, there are many other aspects to shoulder health and maintenance, but this is a good start.

2. NOT EVERYONE IS MEANT TO SQUAT TOES FORWARD

I know what you’re thinking – and no I’m not going to open up the knees-out debate again – but I think some athletes may have an unnecessary obsession with trying to obtain a toes forward squat. Of course, there are plenty of people who can squat beautifully with their feet perfectly straight, and that absolutely works for them. However, due to numerous anatomical variables, there are far more athletes who benefit from positioning their feet with some degree of toe out when squatting. Trying to jam into positions that are unnatural for their anatomy may even cause orthopedic problems. The rules are (1) that your feet must start and finish in the same place, (2) you must maintain three points of contact (big toe, little toe, and heel), and (3) the knee should track over the second toe. When you squat, you should feel like your ankles, knees, and hips are hinging naturally and comfortably. A great way to explore your bottom position and figure out where your natural hinges are is to use a kettlebell as a counterbalance.

I am pretty strict about the movement in this video; however, you can sit in the bottom and really explore different positions. The bell will keep you from falling on your ass. Move your knees and toes out, in, forward, backward, whatever. Figure out what is most comfortable. This helped a couple of people at the camp figure out a more comfortable bottom position.

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“Hey Ilya, you’d lift more weight if you straightened your feet.” – No one ever

3. IT IS OK TO SAY GOODBYE TO THE BARBELL WHILE YOU FIX YOUR SH*T

Many of the conversations with the athletes went something like this:

Athlete: “It only hurts when I do __insert barbell lift here__.”

Me: “Well you may have to take that out of your training until you can clear  up what you have going on.”

Athlete: “But…. Huh…? No… No……. NOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!”

OK, it wasn’t that dramatic, but I did get some very sad looks. Listen: If anybody wants you to keep lifting weights, it’s me. However, if something hurts and you continue to do the things that flare it up, it is very difficult to (1) figure out what exactly is going on in the first place, and (2) help it go away. This is especially the case when adding the fatigue factor of CrossFit. Stop shaking up the muddy water. Turn off the engine so the mechanic can work.

Barbell training is fantastic for strength gain because we can load it heavier than most implements. However, a symmetrical barbell can wreak havoc on someone who has asymmetrical ranges of motion or movement patterns. If you are far out from a competition, it is a perfect time to let things calm down. If overhead barbell work hurts something, use kettlebells or dumbbells in one or both arms. Many will find that these implements are much more comfortable than trying to manipulate a barbell while dealing with an issue. No, you cannot load those as heavy as a barbell, but if we are only talking about a WOD, then you really have no excuse. Kettlebells and dumbbells will still give you an overhead stimulus and can be plenty heavy enough to make a high volume WOD as awful as you want it to be.

If full snatches and cleans are causing issues but the power variations do not, guess what? Do power. Then figure out why your squat sucks. Remember, it’s called TRAINING. If you think blowing through hundreds of painful reps is going to do you any good, it will not. All it will do is make your brain associate pain with that pattern, further deepening your hole. Modify the movement to something that will give you the closest stimulus to what you are looking for and find someone to help you figure out what’s causing your issues.

*IMPORTANT POINT: I am not referring to the normal aches and pains of hard training, or the things that last a few days or a week. I am referring to athletes that are having the same issues for weeks to months or longer.

4. IT’S NOT ALWAYS THE ANKLES

During my lecture portion of the camp, I had a young lady demonstrate an overhead squat. She could not attain a below parallel squat without rounding her lower back. I then asked her to place her heels on plates, and I had her squat again. Her squat improved. I asked the group why the plates helped. The consensus was that she must have had restricted ankle dorsiflexion. This was definitely a possibility, but we had not tested her ankles; so that was an assumption. One of the major points of my presentation was taking the guesswork out of your mobility program.

We screened the young lady’s ankle range of motion with the test in the picture below. Keeping the foot flat and not collapsing the arch, we are looking for it to be at least 4” inches away from the wall when the knee touches. This gives you around 20 degrees of closed chain ankle dorsiflexion, and is plenty for most to attain a full squat.

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The athlete cleared the test on both sides and had no history of ankle or foot injuries. If it wasn’t the ankles, why couldn’t she squat without the plates? Putting the heels on plates also provides you with a forward weight shift. Meaning, you can sit down and back much easier without falling on your butt. It’s a counterbalance – just like the kettlebell is a counterbalance in the drill I described above. Ideally, our abs should provide the counterbalance. After one last quadruped test, in which the athlete demonstrated that she could attain very deep hip flexion position with a neutral spine, it was evident what the problem was: We had a trunk and pelvic stability issue.

Don’t assume your ankles are tight. Test them. If you find a limitation, here’s a good drill. There are many others out there.

If your ankles are fine, but you need weightlifting shoes or plates under your feet to squat, then perhaps stability is the problem. Try this drill.

5. CORRECTIVE WORK AIN’T A WOD

This tip is inspired by a very memorable moment during the camp. On the morning of Day 2, I led the entire group through a 45-minute movement/warm-up progression. One of the movements I had them perform was a bottom-up kettlebell screwdriver. My instructions were the following: “Grab a LIGHT kettlebell. The strongest guy in the room should be using no more than 20lb.” I watched as several athletes, who I knew were not the strongest people in the room, and even a couple that had come to me with shoulder problems grab a 20lb kettlebell. I let them struggle for a few seconds and then instructed them to go lighter. I looked over to see what the actual strongest man in the room, Neal Maddox, had grabbed. He was holding a 5lb kettlebell. I watched as he performed his bottom-up screwdrivers with focus and precision. Neal also happened to have the most experience in athletics in the room. He understood.

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Neal’s words to me regarding the situation – “I ain’t trying to be a hero.”

The moral of the story is that if you are going to perform corrective work, make the quality of the movement the priority. Remember, there are no gold medals for corrective exercise.

I want to thank Doug Chapman of HyperFit USA for allowing me to be a part of his camp. It was one of the most well-run events I have ever attended. The itinerary was followed to a T, and the organization was phenomenal.

What I was most impressed with was the training that the athletes were put through. One of the common criticisms of CrossFit is that the randomness of the programming does not allow for proper adaptation. Doug’s programming was far from random. Skills, energy systems, time domains, modes – it was all planned to maximize desired adaptations and minimize failure. It was training. Anything but random. If you are a competitive CrossFitter and take your training seriously, I recommend you attend one of these.

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by Christian Thibaudeau web

July, 2013 CrossFit Marathon

You want to hear something crazier than Christian Thibaudeau doing CrossFit? How about Christian Thibaudeau doing a 24-hour CrossFit marathon?

By now you might realize that I have an “all-out” attitude. Moderation isn’t in my nature. So after less than two months of this type of training my wife and I decided to sign up for a 24-hour CrossFit marathon organized to raise funds for a city that got hit by a huge train explosion that devastated half the downtown area. The event lasted 24 straight hours, one workout being performed every hour. We were divided into teams of four, so we all had to do six workouts, one every four hours or so. My wife and I stayed at the gym the whole time, except for two brief periods when we went back home to feed the dogs. It would be a lie to tell you that we slept, as sleeping was a physical impossibility.

When I got to the gym, I quickly noticed that a ton of people knew me; some knew me because I had coached them in Olympic lifting and many others knew me by reputation. All were surprised to see me there as they didn’t know anything about my “shift in training.”

So when the first workout came up I felt an amazing amount of pressure. In fact, my heart rate was close to a fatal level before the workout even started. Plus, the workouts were picked at random so we couldn’t really assign specific workouts to the team members because we didn’t know the order of the workouts in advance. That made things even worse.

It turns out that I had to do the workout named “Fran,” which is 21 thrusters (95 pounds), 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, 9 thrusters, 9 pull-ups for time. It looks quite innocent, but the thing is that you basically can’t breathe during that workout. The thrusters are the absolute worst exercise when it comes to breathing, and then you have to do pull-ups where deep breathing is almost impossible because you can’t elevate your chest.

I made the mistake of really blasting through the first 21 thrusters. While I was the first one done, I gassed out bad when I walked toward the pull-up rack. This was due to lack of breathing plus the elevated heart rate at the start. I was able to pull through but I promised never to do that workout again.

My second workout was even worse:

18 toes-to-bar
16 hand release push-ups (a push-up where, after your chest touches the floor, you momentarily pull your hands off the floor)
14 pull-ups, chest to bar
12 ring dips
10 chin-ups
8 handstand push-ups
6 pull-ups, chest to bar
4 clean & jerk with 155 pounds
60m walking lunges while carrying 45 pounds overhead

It actually went fairly well, except for falling down three times while doing the handstand push-ups (it’s not something I’d practiced), but I was really disappointed when I saw that the next workout (the one a teammate got to do instead of me) was testing your deadlift 1RM. I would have cleaned up on that one!

I did fairly well in my third workout, which consisted of five rounds of the following:

200m farmer’s walk while holding one 45-pound bumper plate in each hand (held by the hole)
20m bear crawl (running on all fours)
10 high box jumps (36″)

Again, the next workout consisted of 5-4-3-2-1 in the power clean and kettlebell snatch. I would’ve done very well at that one, too, but my wife got to do it and I’m proud to say that her cleans looked very solid. Finally, in the next round, I drew one that was designed for me: “Isabelle,” which is 30 snatches with 135 pounds. All eyes were on me and I was expecting a very solid performance.

Sadly, when luck is not on your side, it’s really not on your side. After the first 10 reps, where it felt like I was snatching an empty bar, my left quad started to cramp bad. In fact I was unable to put any weight on my leg at all without experiencing severe cramps. So I stopped, took two servings of Plazma and 3000ml of water, waited 10 minutes and did it again. Sadly, most people were finished and getting some rest by then.

The rest of the experience is a haze. I’m someone who normally wakes up at 4:30 AM and goes to sleep at 8 PM. That day I still woke up at 4:30 AM but I finished my fourth workout at roughly 3 AM. I do not respond well to sleep deprivation. I finished with a workout that was tailored to me, but at that point I was fighting to stay alive and awake so I can’t say that I killed it.

The main thing I learned during these four weeks was the value of loaded carries. I was reminded about them when I had to do a workout at CrossFit Levis that included 5 rounds of a 400m farmer’s walk while carrying 24kg kettlebells. Then, two days later, I did the farmer’s walk at the CrossFit marathon. My forearms and traps might have doubled in size. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but the farmer’s walk did have a profound impact. And I also found that they can teach you to breathe properly during intense effort. When doing conditioning/strength-capacity type work, breathing is something that’s highly underrated, yet is of supreme importance for optimal performance. I’ll make sure to include more farmer’s walks in my training for their effects on body composition, muscle mass, and breathing skills.

It Was Going So Well..

Back to the present… My CrossFit experience ended soon after my third month passed. That’s when my health issues started. I don’t want to cover them all over again since they were detailed in theMicro-PA forum, but suffice it to say they stopped my momentum.

What Now?

I spent some time rebuilding some of the muscle mass I lost when I was hospitalized. To do that, I went back to regular heavy lifting. Now that my base is coming back, I’m focusing on the Olympic lifts again. I’m doing plenty of strength work, too. I have the two Olympic lifts every day and I do pulling strength-movements on day 1, pushing on day 2, and legs (squats) on day 3. I then take a day off and repeat.

I’m using the tried and true 5 x 5 for my strength lifts. My goal is to get 5 sets of 5 reps with the same weight, and when I can do that I increase the load. I never decrease the weight. On some sets I might only make it to 3 or 4 reps, but that’s fine and it means I won’t increase the weight for the next workout.

Will I do CrossFit again? Probably. Not to the same extent as I did last summer but when my strength levels are back up where I want them to be, I’ll start hitting CrossFit Levis with my wife once or twice a week. I’ll have to be ready to have my ass kicked, though, since, unlike me, she didn’t stop!

by Christian Thibaudeau web

June, 2013 Second Month Observations

Shredded-Physique1. A hard month of training is now behind me. I can say that this form of training is addictive and I certainly see why CrossFit is popular. I mean, it really sucks when you’re doing it, but the amount of pride you feel and the sense of accomplishment is hard to beat. As for my own training and results, I love what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling.

2. During my second month of training I observed and learned a few more things that I want to share with you. I always felt that I am the average T Nation reader. I want what they want and like what they like. I like to be strong and muscular, but I love to be lean and feel athletic. I said that my ideal physique is that of Georges St. Pierre with 10-15 pounds more of muscle, but considering what’s happening to my body I might as well change that to 20 pounds more muscle!

3. While I expected to get leaner with this type of training, I was afraid of losing some muscle mass.After all, my lowered volume of overall strength work and increase in metabolic conditioning work would surely lead to some loss in size. I was actually willing to live with this, but so far I’m shocked by the results. I certainly haven’t lost any size, and quite possibly gained some size, as evidenced by the fact that I’m a lot leaner while my bodyweight remains fairly stable. This tells me two things: 1) the amount of strength/heavy lifting necessary to build strength and size is much lower than I thought and 2) lighter resistance work can actually become a muscle growth stimulus if you push it hard enough.

4. After some deep introspection I realized that I value being super lean more than being super big.Don’t get me wrong, I want big muscles and you really can’t get the look I want without a good amount of muscle tissue, but being a walking anatomy chart has always been my main goal. The problem is that every time I tried to get that lean in the past, I felt like crap throughout the process. I had no energy and lost a lot of strength. Why? Because with the type of training I was doing, I achieved fat loss by food/carbs reduction (sometimes quite drastic) and I’m now doing it while eating just as much food, if not more, than during a muscle gain phase.

5. My back, shoulders, and legs are definitely improving the most. What freaks me out (in a good way) is seeing my back get lean! As I mentioned, it would normally take extreme dieting to get back definition, but I’m now seeing tons of separation. The shoulders are much rounder, which is cool because in the past when I was “dieting down,” shoulder roundness was the first thing I’d lose. My legs are bigger, but of course that’s not surprising since I’m doing four squatting workouts per week, plus the Olympic lifts and complexes.

6. I decided to add daily ring dips and chins to improve my relative strength. I find that with the daily ring dips I’m able to maintain chest mass despite dropping bench pressing almost completely. This led me to the conclusion that dips can be a superior chest builder to the bench press.

7. This is the first time in my life that I really like the way I look. I think that most of us who get serious about training do so because we’re not satisfied with the way we look. I’m no different. Even when I did bodybuilding I never liked the way I looked. This could’ve been because when I finally reached the degree of leanness and muscularity I felt so bad that I had a negative outlook on everything. I can safely say that this is the first time I ever looked and felt great at the same time.

8. The more I experience it, the more I believe that submaximal lifting that focuses more on speed and density of work is a great way to build muscle. This is especially true of the Olympic lifts, so I decided to go a bit lighter on my Olympic lift days (I’m building overall strength with the strength days anyway) and focus more on complexes and EMOM loading (every minute on the minute). I feel that this will give me more overall muscle gains while also solidifying my technique while preserving the nervous system.

9. You really need to up the carbs! Not only will you not get fat on this program, the carbs (the right ones) will actually help you get leaner because you’ll be able to train harder. I ran out of Finibars at one point and it hit me really hard. I didn’t realize how much they helped me recover from these workouts.

by Christian Thibaudeau web

May, 2013 Stuff I Learned From My First Month of CrossFit

1. I’d become lazy with my own training. I’d stayed in my comfort zone way too much, turning up the heat only when I really had to improve fast (e.g., before a T Nation video session).

2. My cardiovascular system is both better and worse than I thought it was. Better because I found I was able to keep going way past the point where I thought that I’d actually die, and worse because I think that dying would have felt better!

3. Some of the workouts used are very conducive to my own physique goals (my ideal physique is Georges St. Pierre with 10-15 pounds of added muscle mass). However, some are also very counterproductive and will make reaching my goals harder.

4. Training to be good at CrossFit will do more to build the body I want than just doing CrossFit. I think that’s one of the reasons why the top-level guys and girls have such great bodies – they do CrossFit sessions but they also do plenty of strength work.

5. I know that my strength-building methods are more effective than those used by even the top CrossFit athletes. I also know that the type of work done in the productive (for my goals) CrossFit workouts will do a lot to help me build quality muscle and get me leaner. A combination will give me everything I want from my training.

6. It’s fun to finally learn hard skills like handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, and the like, but you don’t need them to build the ultimate physique. If there’s one thing I don’t really like about CrossFit is the complexity of some of the skills. I understand that “being prepared for everything” is their driving concept, but if your goal is just to be more muscular, leaner, and stronger, the advanced skills aren’t necessary.

7. There’s something magical about being able to perform an explosive lift when you’re metabolically fatigued and your heart rate is running at 200 bpm. Being in that kind of distressed physical state activates a powerful survival mechanism. When you do strength and power work in that state you create a very powerful growth stimulus that cannot be achieved any other way.

8. My lats got sore for the first time ever and grew significantly. I always hated pull-ups and because of that I avoided them. I found that practicing them every day by doing strict pull-ups, kipping, butterfly, and rings at a non-maximal level worked like nothing else to build my lats. The weird thing is that I didn’t feel my lats that much while doing them, but I sure felt them the next day! This made me reconsider several things that I believed were immutable truths.

9. CrossFit indeed has a fairly high injury risk potential. Even as somebody who’s a student of lifting technique, I tended to cut the corners during a WOD. As such, it’s important to train the big basic lifts used in CrossFit during regular strength sessions to make proper technique as automatic as possible.

10. During a CrossFit workout, you get in a state of deep focus that allows you to do things you wouldn’t expect. For example, at one point I was having a hard time breathing and was very close to passing out, but I ended up doing one of my most technically solid snatches ever, with about 10 pounds less than my current max at the time. Experiencing that type of tunnel vision-like focus is something that you can learn to transfer to strength workouts and make them a lot more productive. I can also use my wife as an example. During regular strength workouts you couldn’t force her to deadlift 135 (because of the “big plate” on each side), yet during a WOD she went up to 225 pounds.

11. My capacity to do a high workload even in a state of metabolic distress has improved dramatically and much faster than expected. Along with my own training, I’m doing two workouts at the Levis CrossFit box/gym along with my wife. I’ll be honest, the first week I really thought that there was no way I’d be able to finish, or even survive. I felt a deep sense of panic about two-thirds of the way into each workout. By the second week I was actually able to finish strong instead of just surviving, and by the third week I felt so much better that after one workout I questioned whether I did the workout right because I actually felt good at the end!

12. I got lean fast! I’m the leanest I’ve been in the past five years and that’s with zero emphasis on nutrition. In fact I’m eating a lot more carbs now. After the first week I even jacked up my carb intake a lot to make sure I was recovering. Here’s what my daily food intake looks like. Keep in mind that this is not a dietary recommendation. I really didn’t plan anything and I’m certainly not among the gluten haters!

• 6 sirloin hamburgers (150g of carbs)
• 3-4 scoops of Plazma™ (roughly 114-152g of carbs)
• 6 scoops of Mag-10® (30g of carbs)
• 14 rice cakes (112g of carbs)
• 2 Finibars (80g of carbs)
• Some berries (roughly 20-30g of carbs)

That’s between 520 and 540g of carbs per day, and sometimes I even get to 600. Not bad for someone who used to fear ever going above 50 grams per day.

13. Despite my biggest fear, not only did I not lose any strength, I actually got stronger on many movements including pull-ups, dips, overhead presses, and deadlifts. My power snatch also improved. My power clean stayed the same, though, mostly because I couldn’t train it hard due to an elbow injury dating back two years ago when I went overboard on ring work.

14. I’m almost unbreakable with weights in the 60-75% range. Before that I could do tons of sets of 1-2 reps with 90% and not break. But I couldn’t handle higher reps or workloads. To give you an idea, after three weeks I tested myself on the deadlift and was able to perform 60 deadlift reps in less than 8 minutes with loads ranging from 70 to 75%. That might not seem humongous, but that’s one rep every 8 seconds. And honestly, I could have kept on going. I also did 60 behind-the-neck push presses, all over 225 pounds, in a tad under 9 minutes.

15. My lats and shoulders have improved the most. I used to have very good rounded delts, but for some reason I lost some size, roundness, and strength in those muscles over the past two years or so. My guess is that it was caused by a significant decrease in overhead pressing work (in favor of the bench press) and some chronic shoulder inflammation. To be good at CrossFit, you need to be super efficient and strong overhead, so I really had to shift my focus more on overhead pressing strength than the bench press. It paid off. I also did a lot of high-rep overhead work, which seems to be more effective than maximal loads to build the delts. Growing the lats was a given since I had to become good at pull-ups since they were basically present in all the workouts I did at the CrossFit box.

16. I lost fat in the upper and lower back, areas normally super stubborn for me.

17. I feel much better. I used to have energy crashes and even “borderline depressive” episodes. I attributed that to a messed up brain chemistry. Turns out that I was just out of shape! I find myself more energetic, happy to do chores. I’m not yet at the point of enjoying visiting my in-laws, but it will come I’m sure.

18. I feel athletic. I walk differently. I look more fluid and am more confident. I look like a different person when you see me approaching and it’s not even from the physical changes!

19. My bodyweight hasn’t changed much despite being a lot leaner. I started out at 215 pounds, which is pretty much my normal weight, and after four weeks I’m 213 pounds, but I’ve lost a lot more fat than just two pounds. So much for the fear of whittling away to 180 pounds in weeks!

20. The sport that will benefit the most from Plazma™ is training for CrossFit, no contest. Not only was I able to easily recover from some brutal metcon sessions and still lift big during my strength sessions, but I never felt physically out of it. I actually only got really sore once and that was after a workout where I did 64 power cleans with 185 pounds at the CrossFit gym and then push-pressed 295 pounds an hour later during a regular strength workout. My traps got sore, but that’s about it.

Crossfit-lift

Here’s what you need to know…

•  While the thinking used to be that CrossFit made guys weak, the average competitor in the CrossFit Games is very impressive.

•  Quite a few CrossFit girls have better physiques than some figure competitors, even without dieting.

•  There’s something magical about being able to perform an explosive lift when you’re metabolically fatigued and your heart rate is skyrocketing.

•  Doing submaximal lifting that focuses more on speed and density of work, like you do in CrossFit, is a great way to build muscle.

•  CrossFit can also get you lean fast, even with zero emphasis on nutrition.

I have a secret. I did CrossFit almost exclusively last summer. I’ve competed in Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder… and now I can say I’ve been a CrossFitter too. I went to CrossFit Levis three times a week and then trained on my own to work on strength and my Olympic lifts. I actually kept a kind of CrossFit journal back then. So, one year later, here it is: my CrossFit diary, along with some current-day observations.

Why I Decided to Try CrossFit

1. I’ve worked with a lot of CrossFit athletes this year, helping several prepare for the Canada East regionals. I helped some with their Olympic lifting and others with their entire training. I’ll tell you this: I’ve trained figure competitors who go to extreme lengths in their dieting, cardio, and training, and quite a few of the CrossFit girls I’m working with have better physiques than the figure girls… and that’s without dieting. Similarly, a former Canadian national bodybuilding champion I know started training for CrossFit and she looks better – not just better, but also more muscular and stronger – than when she was bodybuilding!

2. I always believed that CrossFit made girls look great and guys look small, in addition to making them lose strength. I don’t believe the latter anymore because some of the competitive CrossFit athletes are quite strong. The average competitor in the CrossFit games can do a 245-pound snatch, 335-pound clean & jerk, 550-pound deadlift, and a 450-pound back squat. And several overhead squat in the 300s and front squat in the 400s. Four of the guys I’m coaching can snatch over 225 pounds, which is pretty darn strong!

And just take a look at the top CrossFit competitors: Dan Bailey, Neil Maddox, Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa. These guys look badass – big muscles, athletic look, and lean. The average height/weight ratio of the top guys is 5’10”, 195 pounds at 8% body fat or under. I know that on the internets if you’re under 200 pounds you’re considered a weakling, but in reality a very lean 200 on an average-height body is very muscular. Heck, when I last competed in bodybuilding I weighed 188 pounds!

3. CrossFit has done more for Olympic lifting than Olympic lifting itself has ever done! Any sport/training model that’s based heavily on the snatch, clean, jerk, and push press can’t be all that bad.

4. I’m doing some workouts with my wife and there’s something very sexy about a girl doing deadlifts, clean & jerks, and snatches that really help re-ignite the passion in a marriage!

5. I hate not being good at something, especially when it’s training-related!

6. I always believed in the maxim, “Leaders lead from the front, not from the back.” And I always lived by the credo of never asking a client to do something that I can’t do myself. You might not be at the same level, but you should be physically capable of doing what you ask of them. Since I’m working with a lot of CrossFit athletes, I felt bad not being able to “lead from the front.”

7. Five years ago, I suffered from a viral myocardiopathy that led to heart failure. For two years my heart was functioning at 20-30% efficacy. This was hard to accept for someone who used to be athletic. It really affected my training and quality of life. Because of that I realized the importance of a strong cardiovascular system. I also believe that my CV health (or lack thereof) greatly diminished my capacity to gain muscle. Every time I went above 220 pounds I felt really bad and had to come down in weight.

8. I always believed that training density is one of the most important factors to stimulate a maximal response from your sessions. In CrossFit, density is the most important element. Every workout is either based on doing a certain amount of work as fast as possible or doing as much work as possible in a certain time frame. The sense of urgency this gives you can be as powerful as a shot of adrenalin.

That’s why I decided to give it a try.

In Defense of CrossFit

Posted: 22/04/2014 in English
Tags: ,

by Chris Shugart (web)

Crossfit

Here’s what you need to know…

•  Even with its questionable programming, often under-trained coaches and loudmouthed leader, CrossFit has greatly improved the field of fitness.

•  CrossFit has helped grow every aspect of the fitness industry, from training equipment and gym ownership to workout apparel and book sales. That’s good for all of us who love training.

•  Women, once turned off by images of steroidal female bodybuilders, are now embracing free-weight training in droves, largely thanks to CrossFit.

•  The CrossFit Games is fun to watch, and because of that, CrossFit, despite its flaws, is here to stay.

I Invented CrossFit

Around the year 1995, I came up with the idea of CrossFit. I just forgot to name it and build a brand around it. Every Sunday I’d meet my training partners at Chuck’s house. Chuck had a big garage and all sorts of dangerous toys for us to play with. We had farmer’s walk implements made out of old railroad tracks, tires to drag, sandbags, med balls, kettlebells before kettlebells were really a “thing”, and a slew of old Olympic lifting gear.

The idea was this: we’d randomly come up with a workout of the day with the main focus being on conditioning, plus we’d do all those uncommon lifts we couldn’t do in our weekday commercial gyms. We’d do some type of Olympic lift, immediately go for a farmer’s walk, then do bodyweight squats and take a run around Chuck’s back field. Sometimes we’d compete and do this against the clock for time. I even published some articles about this stuff in the late 90s.

CrossFit wasn’t founded until the year 2000. So, Mr. Glassman, where’s my Reebok money? Where’s my 50% cut of all that cash you make printing reams of certifications? Can I at least hang out with Rich Froning? Because he seems like a standup guy.

No, I’m kidding. Greg Glassman deserves all the credit. He took a bunch of training ideas that had been around for decades, combined them into one modality, established the defining principles, hurled a few lawsuits and threats when needed, and worked hard until CrossFit blew up. Good for him. He tapped into his gymnastics background, renamed circuit training, and made it his own. That takes a lot of smarts, a little luck, and a single-minded sense of purpose that only the very determined and/or the bug-shit crazy possess.

Glassman

But as a “co-inventor” of CrossFit (along with Dan John, Herschel Walker, my 7th grade football coach, the Muscle Beach crowd in the 1930’s, and dozens of others), I’ve been able to follow its development closer than most people. I wrote the first article about it for T Nation in 2008. I’ve actually traded a phone call or two with Glassman, and I work with several coaches who’ve been on the inside of CrossFit, at least before they removed themselves from its inner workings (often fleeing in disgust if truth be told.) So what’s the verdict on CrossFit? Well, as painful as it is to say, CrossFit is pretty awesome.

Thank God for CrossFit

It’s easy to bash CrossFit. The dubious programming and exercise order of the WODs, the butterfly kipping pull-up abortion, the sometimes under-trained “coaches”, the sloppy form, the fact that Glassman has very, very strong opinions about how to perform certain lifts even though he’s not able to do them himself and (some have surmised) has never actually done them… Yeah, all that is low hanging fruit. And past T Nation articles have covered these drawbacks in depth. But the truth is that CrossFit has done us all a world of good. And thank God for it.

Newbies Keep the Market Alive

Back in college I worked at a knife store. Being an aficionado of high quality edged weaponry, I complained to my boss about the “knife newbies” who’d come into the store only interested in the cheap movie-knife replicas, like knockoff Rambo bowies. Ray took me aside and explained to me that those crappy knives were the best thing that ever happened to the knife business. They attracted new people and brought them into the store for the first time. “Sell them what they want,” he told me. “Later, we’ll introduce them to the really good stuff. Let those junky replica knives bring them through the door and we’ll teach them about quality blades when they’re ready.”

Do you see the analogy here? CrossFit has pulled people into fitness and hardcore lifting that would’ve otherwise never walked through that door. Some people were never turned on by bodybuilding and, since they weren’t competitive athletes, they weren’t drawn to performance training either. CrossFit filled a void: lose fat, build some muscle, and look and feel more athletic… no shaving your ass and standing on stage required. No spending hours and hours a week preparing for marathons, one of the few challenging sports widely available to weekend warriors.

When one area of fitness does well, other segments of the industry do well too. CrossFit created new consumers of gym apparel, sports supplements, and workout equipment. Jobs were created, not because the government passed some backhanded bill, but because the demand occurred organically.

Jason-Jump

Coaches from narrower fields, like pure barbell strength training, Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and mobility, were suddenly filling up their seminar schedules and selling more books. Physical therapists, chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, and soft tissue specialists saw a rise in business. That’s partly due to the fact that thousands of new people were exercising hard. And yes, it’s also partly due to the fact that more people were hurting themselves with questionable WODS and competitions.

Savvy equipment makers created new products to sell to the 9,000-plus new “boxes” cropping up all over the world. T-shirt makers threw the words “WOD” and “snatch” onto their shirts and sold out. The Olympic lifting shoe market, once less profitable than the hacky-sack shoe market, was suddenly having to ramp up production. Barbell makers profited. Kinesiology tape makers prospered. Owners of commercial warehouse spaces were filling their leases. The gymnastics market boomed as practically overnight everyday fitness enthusiasts wanted a set of rings in their garage. Thousands of people began to push their bodies to the limit and realized they needed a better diet and better supplements to fuel their performance and recovery.

Just as those Crocodile Dundee knife replicas grew the knife business, CrossFit was growing every part of the fitness industry. And if you like to train, this is good, even if you don’t do CrossFit. You have more choices now, better products competing for your dollar, and maybe even your standard commercial gym – feeling the hurt of losing members to CrossFit boxes – added lifting platforms, heavier kettlebells, pull-up bars, good rowing machines, and better med balls. Gyms got better because they had to get better. Competition, customer service, and capitalism… for the win.

Hardcore Mass Appeal

CrossFit boxes weren’t “gym gyms” either. These weren’t ridiculous group fitness classes full of bad Columbian dancing and faux martial arts. Compared to that pablum, CrossFit was hardcore-looking stuff. It pulled the housewives out of Zumba and Combat Yoga because of the simple fact that it didn’t look so house-wifey. It put barbells into the soft hands of people who hadn’t touched one since high school. It was brutally hard, but still looked fun, and it still incorporated the best elements of group fitness by creating a sense of community and compliance.

Also, CrossFit brought many retired high school and college athletes back into fitness. CrossFit is competitive, and though timing every workout or shooting for more reps or load for time has its drawbacks, it also has a very wide appeal, especially to former athletes. It gave them a new “sport” where they could compare themselves to others and set PRs. Humans will, after all, compete in anything (see competitive cheerleading and lawnmower racing), and CrossFit tapped into this natural instinct in a way that reached out to athletes, couch potatoes, and weekend warriors. North America is less fat because of it.

CrossFit Works

Let’s rephrase that. Weight training works. Metabolic conditioning works. Olympic lifting works. Training hard works. Cleaning up your shitty diet works. These things have always worked and CrossFit uses them all and provides an atmosphere that pushes you to push yourself. And a lot of people need that.

In the early days of CrossFit, the joke was that CrossFit makes women hot and men small. The first part of that statement is definitely true, not because CrossFit is magically effective for female physiology, but because it gave women “permission” to lift hard and heavy, something that bodybuilding largely failed to do.

Sure, bodybuilding for women has always been around, but steroid usage and images of man-faced females did a lot of damage. This is where all the myths originated, like “lifting makes women big and manly.” It didn’t matter how hard we on the hypertrophy side of fitness tried to dispel these myths. One image of Kim Chizevsky from the 1990s dissuaded more women from hitting the iron than we could have ever hoped to convince otherwise, though we sure tried. Where bodybuilding, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting failed to recruit women, CrossFit succeeded. In fact, it kicked our asses.

The imagery and social media presence of CrossFit did what traditional resistance training could not. At the very least, it helped shift the tide. (Figure and bikini divisions of physique contests played a role here too.) CrossFit girls – women who lift weights, do metcon, and train aggressively, largely without using steroids and other drugs – are sexy. They aren’t posing and flexing, they’re performing, and generally looking damn good doing it, at least at the higher levels. Women who would never call themselves bodybuilders, or even Figure athletes, wanted to look like the prototypically memed CrossFit girl: lean, tough, super fit, athletic and with enough muscle to look very “toned” in the words of the general public, without looking “manly.” It wasn’t okay to be a bodybuilder in many women’s mind, but it was more than okay to be an athlete. Annie Thorisdottir, two-time CrossFit Games winner, was featured in Vogue magazine. A strong woman in an anorexic fashion mag? Game, set, and match.

Anne

Again, God bless CrossFit. Women in droves are lifting weights, squatting, deadlifting, climbing ropes, sweating, and building beautiful bodies. In an increasingly unfit world of sloppy cows and praying-mantis legs, CrossFit helped redefine sexy and gave women the green light to do what they should have been doing all along to look their best. Your wife or girlfriend, once content with lifting pink dumbbells and running on a treadmill, took one look at Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet and magically became interested in setting PRs, building thick, muscular legs, and learning to clean and jerk. Maybe she even bought a pair of bootie shorts. Thank you, CrossFit.

crossfit-girls

The Sport of Fitness

We know the jokes and we’ve heard the criticisms. Who competes to be the world’s best exerciser? And why does one paunchy old fart get to decide what parameters define “fittest on earth”? Fair enough, but I love how the CrossFit Games has evolved. And you secretly do too.

Here’s a bunch of very good athletes competing in all the things most of us probably do: lifting, sprinting, climbing, running, even biking and swimming. It’s exciting to watch. It’s easy to get drawn into a competition that contains all the elements most of us do on a daily basis. As the other old joke goes, CrossFit would be pretty cool if it wasn’t for all the CrossFitters.

At the very least, watching the women compete is inspiring and yes, titillating. And the top men are slowly erasing previous criticisms of CrossFit: they’re big, strong, and powerful, and many top CrossFit athletes could easily step onto a bodybuilding stage and do very well. Make fun of CrossFit all you want, but you’d be lying if you said you didn’t admire the physique of Jason Khalipa.

Jason

Do the guys in the CrossFit Games truly reflect the results of standard CrossFit programming? Not really, but do they inspire people to lift hard and diversify their training? Are they incredible athletes you want to see compete? You bet. As a bonus, the Open, Regionals, and CrossFit Games take place during baseball season, which means you can watch people compete on ESPN without dying of catatonic boredom.

CrossFit Is Here to Stay

After 14 official years, CrossFit is still rising. Its champions are becoming stars in their own rights, getting big-name endorsement contracts, book deals, and gracing the covers of magazines. Will it level off? Sure. Will CrossFit survive the eminent heart attack of Greg Glassman or its first public performance enhancing drug scandal? Probably. It survived Glassman’s ex-wife’s lawyers, after all. It may not always be the attention-getter it is today, but like World’s Strongest Man, Ironman triathlons, and the Olympia, it’ll always be around. For the greater good of fitness, I’m glad.

In 2014, nearly 210,000 people signed up for the CrossFit Games Open – an event that only began in 2011 – almost six times as many that signed up for the Boston Marathon. On March 26th, people paid $20 a pop for one of the 4,000 seats at Kezar Pavillion in San Francisco to watch other people exercise. It was workout 14.5 of the Open and featured five CrossFit Games champs going head to head. Now, really think about that a moment. That is a powerful testament to the newly minted sport of fitness, and if I have to start the slow clap I gladly will.

CrossFit has its faults. Many of these problems will, I believe, be ironed out over time, just as the UFC had to do before becoming a multi-billion dollar business and powerful influence on fitness and sport. Do I want to join a CrossFit box and enter the next Open? No. But do I respect what CrossFit has done for a field I’m very passionate about? You bet your bootie shorts. Overall, it’s great to see the rise CrossFit. After all, I invented it.

by Jacob Tsypkin

CROSSFIT IS AN ENDURANCE SPORT.

I know you don’t want it to be. Hell, I don’t want it to be. Strength is cool. Cardio is…well, exercise.

But you’re the one who wants to exercise competitively, so let’s talk about cardio.

Competing at the Regionals level and beyond in CrossFit requires that an athlete be well rounded – strength, power, athleticism, muscular stamina , and aerobic capacity are all key. But the fact is, more events will require some type of endurance than won’t. Even the solitary test of maximal strength/power at the 2013 CrossFit Games – the clean & jerk ladder – required a degree of endurance, since athletes were required to perform on a 90 second clock.

It would be well beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the possible means and methods for effectively improving conditioning in CrossFit athletes. What I aim to do here is present three types of conditioning work I have found valuable with my athletes. The first is often overlooked. The second is commonly used, but rarely to it’s fullest potential. The third is often sadly ignored.

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING

For developing athletes, strength should be independently developed year round. There is no need to combine strength training with gymnastics or aerobic conditioning, except for a bit of fun once in a while.

For the athlete looking to be competitive at the Regionals level and beyond, effective combination of heavy lifting with various types of aerobic conditioning is a valuable training tool as well as crucial event practice, preparing the athlete for game type scenarios wherein they will have to handle near max loads at high heart rates.

I do not wish to suggest that all of a high level CrossFit athlete’s strength work should take these forms – even during the competition season, pure strength work is an important part of what we do. These methods are simply a way to help build strength in a way that is immediately adaptable to competitive CrossFit, as well as help accumulate total training volume and build durability.

I generally recommend pairing movements which primarily stress differing muscle groups. This serves to keep the effect aerobic and to allow the athlete to apply full intensity to both exercises.

Below are several examples of this methodology in practice. These are by no means the only way to go about this type of training.

5 sets: Back Squat 2-3 reps @ 85% 1RM, followed immediately by 20-25 chest-to-bar pullups. Rest 2 minutes between sets.

5 sets: Front Squat 4-5 reps @ 70% 1RM, rest 60 seconds, then 4-6 muscle-ups, rest 60 seconds.

5 sets: 4-5 push press @ 70% 1RM, followed immediately by 25 unbroken Kettlebell swings (Russian,) with the heaviest weight the athlete can handle. Rest 2 minutes between sets.

A combination of strength and aerobic capacity like TeamJTS' Reid Worthington is needed to excel in the sport of fitness.

EMOM

Let’s get one thing straight right now: EMOM stands for “every minute on the minute,” not “electronic mom.”

Now that that common mistake has been dealt with, let’s discuss the value of this type of training.

Using every-minute-on-the-minute protocols (and the same idea with other time domains) presents three particular benefits.

Firstly, they help the athlete learn how to pace. When confined to predetermined time period, the athlete will gain an understanding, both conscious and subconscious, of how much work they can do with the given movement in that time period.

Secondly, it allows the athlete to spend time working on trouble movements in a format which keeps the focus exclusively on that exercise, while still providing a challenging stimulus.

Finally, it allows the coach to precisely control volume, intensity, and progression. This makes it easy to create an effective stressor without causing undue fatigue or soreness, as well as giving the athlete quantifiable progress when the workout is repeated with slight increases to load or volume over a training cycle.

This type of training can be monomodal or multimodal. Here are a few examples.

Every Minute for 10 Minutes: 6 dumbbell snatches, 80#/60#, alternating hands each rep

Every Minute for 12 Minutes, alternating exercises each round: a) 10 shoulder-to-overhead, 155#/105#, b) 15 kettlebell swings, 32kg/24kg

Every Minute for 10 Minutes: 3 muscle-ups/12 wall ball

TeamJTS' Jamie Hagiya is currently 25th in the World in the CrossFit Open.  EMOM work is a great tool to use in developing your conditioning and skills for maximum performance in CrossFit.

MORE AEROBIC

I know you don’t want to run a 5k. I know you don’t want to row a 6k. I know you don’t want to sit on the damn Airdyne for 20 minutes.

But I’m not here to make you happy – I’m here to make you better. And I’m here to tell you that aerobic training makes you better at CrossFit.

Unfortunately, there’s often a sort of taboo around the subject in CrossFitLand. Many coaches and athletes avoid aerobic work, whether out of pure dislike, a genuine belief that it lacks benefit, or a desire to avoid being too much like joggers (with a soft J.)

This has led to a lacking understanding among CrossFit coaches and athletes of how to effectively program aerobic training. Below I have presented a simple and intuitive template.

There are three primary means I use for pure aerobic work: running, rowing, and the Airdyne. Swimming is also a great option for those with regular access to a pool.

For a given training cycle, I will typically use 2-3 tests each for running and rowing, and 1 on the Airdyne – running and rowing seem to respond better to frequent exposure, and are more likely to come up in competition. Some of the tests this season included:

COOPER TEST (MAX DISTANCE RUN IN 12 MINUTES)

5k run

1600m run

2k row

5k row

10 minutes max calories on Airdyne

These means are chiefly expressed in two methods: steady state aerobic work, and aerobic intervals. In all cases, I use the testing parameters to determine the training plan.

What follows is a 6 week training cycle used in TZ Strength in early 2014.

Week 1

Run: 6x400m @ 2-4 seconds faster than 1600m pace; rest 60 seconds between efforts

Row: 3000m @ 90% of 2k pace

Airdyne: 20 minutes @ 80% of 10 minutes max cals

Week 2

Run: 20 minutes @ 80% (5k, recovery piece)

Row: 6x500m @ 2-4 seconds faster than 2k pace; rest 60 seconds between efforts

Airdyne: 12 minutes @ 95% of 10 minutes max cals

Week 3

Run: 10 minutes @ 105% of Cooper Test pace

Row: Row 6k @ 92% of 5k pace

Airdyne: 6 x 2:00 on, :60 off @ 120% of 10 minutes max cals

Week 4

Run: 4x800m @ 3-6 seconds faster than 1600m pace; rest 120 seconds between efforts

Row: 3000m @ 92% of 2k pace

Airdyne: 20 minutes @ 65% of 10 minutes max cals (recovery piece)

Week 5

Run: 24 minutes @ 90% of Cooper Test pace

Row: 4x1000m @ 3-6 seconds faster than 2k pace; rest 120 seconds between efforts

Airdyne: 11 minutes @ 100% of 10 minutes max cals

Week 6

Run: 11 minutes @ 105% of Cooper Test

Row: 20 minutes @ 80% of 5k (recovery piece)

Airdyne: 4×4:00 on, :120 off @ 110% of 10 minutes max cals

For athletes who specifically lack aerobic capacity, you can add further steady state work on the days they aren’t already doing aerobic training. Below is an example of 6 weeks of additional steady state aerobic work one of my athletes did during the training cycle above. During that training cycle, the template above was employed Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Thus the workouts below were performed on Tuesday and Saturday as warm-ups to the rest of their training:

Week 1

Run 12 minutes @ 5k pace

Row 12 minutes @ 5k pace

Week 2

Airdyne 15 minutes @ 80% of 10 minutes max cals pace

Run 12 minutes @ 5k pace

Week 3

Row 12 minutes @ 5k pace

Airdyne 15 minutes @ 80% of 10 minutes max cals pace

Week 4

Run 14 minutes @ 5k pace

Row 14 minutes @ 5k pace

Week 5

Airdyne 17 minutes @ 80% of 10 minutes max cals pace

Run 14 minutes @ 5k pace

Week 6

Row 14 minutes @ 5k pace

Airdyne 17 minutes @ 80% of 10 minutes max cals pace

This template allowed the athlete to establish comfort, practice pace, and build durabilty with our three primary modes of pure aerobic training.

Hopefully this piece will lead you to, at the very least, be sure to include substantial amounts of conditioning year round in your training for competitive CrossFit. The last six weeks before the Open just aren’t gonna cut it.

In the next installment of this series, we will discuss adapting and adding lifting practices to suit training for the CrossFit Games.