Perfection. Shoulders back and down, chest up, legs back, chest to bar. Can you do this?
The pull up is one of those exercises that is both gratifying and impressive. The ability to move your entire body through space with nothing but your own strength is a pretty impressive feat and something that I think all people in the gym either want to do or get better at. It shows impressive (re: ideal) upper body strength along with control of using all the muscles in the upper body in the right sequence (this means using main movers to move, and stabilizers to stabilize).
I generally like to have a goal in my gym be that all men can get between 5-10, and all women can get between 3-6 (for anyone who might be confused, I am talking about STRICT pull ups here). Those numbers show a generally good balance of strength for the average person (I have goals for lower body strength and other upper body exercises as well to show complete balance). As my clients and athletes approach the pull up we always assess their ability to move safely and properly, recruit muscles in the proper sequence, and build up accessory exercises if there are excess imbalances. Here are five good, solid things to focus on when training for your first pull up, or building on the number you already have:
1. Strengthen Your Grip
This is probably the most under-trained aspect of most pulling exercises, but the entire base of the pull starts in being able to hold onto the bar (or whatever you're pulling up on) comfortably. It is common amongst good coaches to know that building grip strength increases a persons ability to properly utilize all the muscles in the arms, shoulders and torso for a stronger pull. I have had many clients who have the strength in their upper body to get a few pull ups, but their grip is so weak they can not even hold onto the bar. Go get yourself some grippers (check THESE
out for some serious grip building) or incorporate farmers walks on the regular (hold onto progressively heavier dumbbells and walk).
2. Understand Scapular Control
Most people pull with their biceps; this is a weaker action as you end up neglecting the larger, stronger muscles in your back that are designed for pulling. Setting your shoulders and even incorporating a slight scapular retraction (bringing your shoulder blades together) allows for more activation of all those big ol' muscles back there and consequently, a stronger pull. Grow these by using bands to pull, then assisted pulling, inverted rows, TRX and such. All of these modifications allow you to take less weight into the pull so you can focus on the proper function of those bigger muscles.
3. Learn How To Stabilize Your Shoulders
One of the most common things I see the second someone hangs on a bar is their shoulders slide right up to their ears. In line with point number 2, this one is about allowing the stabilizers in your shoulder do their job so that the big muscles on your shoulders and back can focus only on the pulling. If your shoulders are not stabilized, the big muscles have to focus on stabilizing your shoulders and can not focus on doing the pull up. Light cable and DB exercises are great for this, as well as performing a plank on your hands, or other isometric holds where your shoulders are unitized. The main focus should always be keeping your shoulders in the correct position while performing the lighter and isometric exercises.
4. Modify The Pull Up
Unlike utilizing other styles of pulling exercises to get your muscles stronger, this one is all about performing "replica pull ups". You do this by using bands or a low bar (with your feet on the ground or box) to decrease the amount of weight you are pulling. And as you progress, utilizing negatives and other modified time and rep schemes of the pull up to get your muscles properly trained. The idea, as always, is to modify as little as possible while making sure your shoulders do not come out of their stabilized position, and that your muscles are all able to function properly. Using a too thin band and doing pull ups with your shoulders in your ears will not help you all that much.
5. Don't Kip
Unless you are a competitive CrossFitter, kipping pull ups serve absolutely no purpose in strength training. I know way too many people who can perform kipping pull ups but can not perform a single strict one. This is just depressing! If you want to utilize hip drive to produce power into your extremities, learn to throw a med ball, learn to Olympic lift, learn to jump, etc. The kip forces your shoulders out of their stabilized position, then relies on the hips to move you, rather than your upper body. While it is one of the most efficient ways to do pull ups really fast, it is one of the least efficient ways to build pulling strength.
So, if your goal is to be able to perform a real pull up, learn to build strength and stability properly and I bet you'll be surprised at how quickly you can get that chin over the bar in complete control!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Me Coaching Mike Through the bear Complex Ladder
This past weekend I headed out to sunny Lodi, CA with most of Team Courage for a competition. While I was excited to get a throwdown in, I was mostly going there to get a good look at the Team and also be able to go over details with Mike Morales as he prepares for Regionals in a few weeks. I was coaching Mike, Justin, Andras, and Ryan, and helping/supporting Melissa, Dallas and Britney; it was an awesome group to be around! I have a lot to say about the day, so let's start with the basics and move along.
This was one of the most well-organized events I've ever been to. Everything was perfectly timed, the judges and volunteers were on point and energetic all day, the sponsors were filled to the brim and supplied a ton of support. There was great space for all competitors and spectators and there was a really good energy throughout the entire day. And that is saying a lot seeing how it was incredibly hot and there were easily around 200 people there in total. The workouts were pretty cool individually and supplied a good enough challenge all around, they were less of a test of general fitness, and more of a "who can survive the longest" type challenge. While I don't mind this sort of programming in the grand scheme of things, I really wish CrossFit gyms would take a little more time and effort focusing on TESTING athletes rather than coming up with "cool" workouts and kicking everyone's ass as much as possible. I don't mind getting incredibly sore after a tough competition, in fact, I think that should happen. What I do mind is overloading one aspect of the body (like 80+% front loaded, leg-dominated movements like this event and most that I've been to). In my opinion, if you overload one aspect of the body, you are clearly not testing the athletes and their general fitness, you are just beating up on them.
A point that should be made here is that we all received a comment from the organizers claiming that there was no prescribed/scaled devisions. So because of this we should expect to see NO high-skill movements in the first 3 workouts (examples given were muscles ups, pistols, and handstand push ups). Well, the third workout had both pistols AND handstand push ups. For the purposes of the event, seems kind of strange they would program movements after specifically saying they would not. Anyway...
400 m run w/ 15# plate
45 KB swings 53#
400 m run w/ 25$ plate
35 wall balls
400 m run w/ 35# plate
25 pull ups
400 m run w/ 45# plate
15 box jumps 30"
This was, well, brutal! Especially for an opening workout. My goal was to pace the runs easy and go for broke on the exercises. I thought I paced it really well, decidedly winning my heat. Unfortunately I must of been moving VERY slowly on my running because in the end I finished up in 23rd place overall with a time of 15:59. This crushed me, emotionally, physically, psychologically, everything. I felt like I was done after this and all I wanted to do was stop competing and just coach my athletes. But, I couldn't do that of course. Just had to fuel up, rest up, and get prepped for workout 2.
Bear Complex ladder (scored as: deadlift/clean/front squat/press/back squat/press - one point per movement for the first two bars, two points per for bar 4 and 5, I think four points per for bars6 and 7, five points (maybe?) for the 7th and 8th bars, and seven points per for the final bar. 9 bars in total starting at 95# and finishing at 245#)
The strategy was to accumulate reps/points through the bars leading up to the one that will be the biggest challenge for you. Don't waste reps as accumulating points was the goal. But pacing it so that you didn't burn yourself out. Dallas paced slow and was able to get 3 full complexes at 245, enough for the most at that bar. But he paced too much and accumulated too few points to finish 1st. I picked a good pace and never got over-tired. I got 2 full complexes at 245, plus a dealdift and with all the reps accumulated was able to pull off a 2nd place finish on that one. 23rd to 2nd. Dropped me to 10th overall.
4 min AMRAP of
10 overhead squats 115#
30 double unders
no rest to: 4 min AMRAP of:
4 pistol squats
8 front squats
4 handstand push ups
You're seeing the pattern of movements here, no? Anyway, the strategy here was to go balls to the wall for the first AMRAP as 1 round of the second one was only half the reps of 1 round of the first. The event was scored as total reps performed, so it was clear that getting as many double unders in there was the best way to score high. With whatever energy I had left I went ALL OUT. I just shut the brain off and kept moving as fast as my body would let me. This strategy seemed to do the trick as I was able to win this workout by something like 12 reps over the 2nd place finisher. All I needed was a good enough placement to get me into the top 8 to move to the final workout, and that performance got me to 5th place. Both good and bad I figured. Good because I was giving myself a shot at the podium. Bad because I was so beyond tired that I was very, very seriously considering dropping out for the purposes of staying somewhat healthy (something happened to my throat after that one and I couldn't swallow and was having trouble breathing).
Now this is where things got messy.
100 m stone carry 145#
25 m stone carry
20 axil bar hang clean and press 95#
20 m stone carry
10 x fill a wheelbarrow with 3 5# sandbags and dump it out
25 m stone carry
2 lengths sledge hammer "banger"
25 m stone carry
Somewhere in my brain I was excited for this, but my fatigue wasn't allowing it to come out in my normal energy towards workouts. I love stones, hammers, sandbags, all that, so I knew if I could actuality survive, maybe I'd have a shot at this one. We went in 3 heats of 3. The first heat went with Mike in it, and he was on a roll. He got through one length of the "banger" and was heading back when the 2nd place dude got to it. This guy proceeded to hit the banger once, then push it the entire rest of the way down its track. He then repeats this on the second length and ends up beating Mike by about 8 or so seconds. While there was no real standard set to this specific exercise, the entire female group went through it HITTING the thing like we all assumed you should. The guy who decided to push it, turns out he works for the company that MADE the damn things. Instead of being a stand-up guy and letting the event organizers know about this, he keeps it quiet and "cheats" his way to a good score. Controversy ensues. Now the event coordinator and judges gather around to figure out what to do for the remaining heats. They approach us in the second heat and lay out the standards: you are allowed to follow through on your strikes but NOT allowed to deliberately PUSH the banger down the track at all. They go over this multiple times with my heat, and the final heat.
I hit the workout with whatever I had left, and hit the banger exactly like they all very clearly and specifically TOLD us how to. The standard was set, I chose to follow that standard (maybe I'm the idiot here?). After I crumbled to the floor across the finish line, I was able to watch as the guy behind me CLEARLY and deliberately walked the banger down the track enough to finish both lengths in half the hits I took. Not cool. Not cool enough to make me go talk to the event coordinator (something I am generally not inclined to do as I know how mistakes can happen at events and generally just let things slide). There was a cordial back and forth between us and it ended with him sort of laying blame on HICFIT (the company that made the equipment). He acknowledged the mistake but seemed to miss the fact that even after they set a specific standard, people neglected to follow it and they did nothing about that. But it gets worse.
The final heat saw two athletes, from CrossFit Lodi (local affiliate to the event) literally WALK the banger down the track. To put this in perspective: I got each length in about 10 hits (that's about 20 hits total), and I would say I'm pretty good at that exercise with the baseball background and tons of sledge work over the years. These guys in the final heat got both lengths in 4-6 hits TOTAL! I was not a very happy camper. I ran to the event coordinator who was standing directly in from of these guys, literally cheering them on as they blatantly disregarded the rules and standards for the workout. I argued to no avail that this was completely ridiculous that this was happening. He agreed with me (?) yet did nothing. I suggested the obvious: make them return to the banger and do it correctly (like, exactly what any event does when someone performs something incorrectly). He said there was nothing he could do, and then in the same sentence said he'd take care of it and work it out (again, ?).
In the end, those two guys got 1st and 2nd in the event AND the competition. The guy who helped to make the equipment came in 4th behind me in the event. To be completely honest, I don't really care about my overall placement, I was happy that I got out of the damn day alive, and was even more happy to be able to see all my athletes and friends work their butts off. What I am not cool with is the obvious disregard for standards and following through. I don't care about missed reps here and there, people should expect that sort of thing nowadays in local throwdowns. But this is clearly a different situation. Literally doing workouts/movements WRONG is something I won't put up with. I know my protest doesn't really mean anything in the grand scheme of things, but if these guys have any integrity at all, they will VERY STRONGLY reconsider how they approach this sort of thing in the future.
What it does for me is continue to enforce how I run events, how I compete and train, and how I coach my athletes to compete and train. I won't put up with anyone who knows something has been missed and doesn't speak up. I won't put up with people, coaches, and event staff who have no integrity, and either don't put forth a solid standard, or even worse, don't follow through and hold to the standards they put forth.
I hope that athletes, coaches and people looking to put on events in the future read this and take the time and effort to take their own training and such a little more seriously. I hope that other athletes don't get screwed because of this sort of thing. I hope that everyone involved at "Vindication In the Valley" can read this and take the criticism in stride and actually make a change so this sort of thing never happens again. It's unfortunate they didn't take it upon themselves to do ANYTHING about it at the time. And I hope the athletes who chose to throw integrity in the dump and take advantage of that situation either make some personal changes and/or never compete again for the sake of all us who take pride in doing things right.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I've always been the type of person that respects those that make well thought-out choices. This sometimes mean not making the "smartest" choice. Let me explain:
If you choose to go out to eat with your work friends most nights after work, have a drink or 5, eat some restaurant food and probably a wonderfully prepared dessert, you can NOT realistically expect to have the body and health that you might hope to have if everything was perfect. I don't respect at all those people who bitch and moan about how they can't lose weight while refusing to change their lifestyles. I CAN respect however, those who understand that they are not making the healthiest of choices and fully accept the health risks and the responsibilities of what could happen if they continue living that sort of life. Similarly, a climber who choses to climb some insanely dangerous cliff without support falls and breaks her leg; if she complains about how sucky it is that this had to happen to HER, well, no simpathy from me! If she accepts the responsibility for making those unsafe choices, knowing that hurting herself is a clear risk, well, I can respect that.
You can take this point and use it for pretty much anything in life. All I feel I want to say with this post is that there is really no point in taking the hard way your entire life. And there is REALLY no point in playing dumb and being blind to all the risks of the choices you make. If you choose to drink, eat like crap, commit to a high-stress life, don't exercise regularly or intelligently, then don't get all depressed when your life ends up sucking later on. You may be a lucky person and somehow don't experience the negative effects for a really long time, like years and years. But the second you convince yourself that you are invincible and that bad stuff can't happen to you because it's not happening now, well, you're kind of being an idiot.
I'm not saying you can't cut loose a little, or "have fun" as people call being unhealthily for some god-awful reason. I'm just saying make your choices intelligently and take responsibility for what COULD happen given each and every choice you make. "Playing Chicken" with life in my mind means that you just do whatever the hell you want. And you do so with ignorance and arrogance. And when life reacts, you just keep on charging forward with your head down, not caring what the outcome is because you KNOW you'll win! But let me tell you something, and I say this with 100% confidence and will argue with anyone this point: at some point life will absolutely kick your ass and you will lose. The harder you charge against it without knowing what you're doing, the harder it will beat you up. So do yourself and favor and put a little thought into your life. Make your decisions with the knowledge and acceptance of everything that could happen. Then charge forward with all the passion you have.
Don't charge forward AGAINST life, charge forward WITH it.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Yesterday was my 31st Birthday, and with the celebratory day came a lot of reflection for me, as most "big days" do. It was so interesting to me to see and hear how people reacted to knowing a birthday was coming up. Pretty much everyone would smile in some form of excitement, and the questions that followed either were asking what I was planning on doing, or how did it feel to be older. Well, as my girlfriends aunt said, I am the only 8 year old with a beard she knows. I have never felt like I was old, or getting older, it just sort of seems that I become more and more knowledgable about some things as time goes on, and less and less knowledgable about others. The main thing I feel like I keep getting better at is knowing myself and how I interact with others. I wake up sore, I get bumps and bruises, but no more than I can remember having when I was a kid. Perhaps someday I'll just wake up and and all of a sudden care about all the bumps, bruises, and soreness. For now, and for as long as I possibly can, I'll see them all as a sign that I'm enjoying life.
Every now and then I realize that I am not a kid. This happens when I see younger people listening to music like Justin Beiber and stuff like that. I realize that I have a maturity in my taste of music. It also happens when I see myself in the mirror. I'm just a big dude with a beard. I like the way I look. I also see it in the fact that as time passes, I have more and more responsibilities. I must cook for myself and sometimes others, I must take care of my belongings, I must make money and save money. It seems pretty regular that I find out something new that I must take care of because I don't have someone in place to take care of it for me. That's cool, it's kind of exciting finding out all these things. And if this is what feeling older is like, cool. I think getting older is more of a mindset. Sure things happen physically to you through time, and so many other things happen to you as well. But it's always up to you to let those things take control of your life. I choose to stay young. No matter what my body does, no matter what my responsibilities are and become, my mindset will to be young.
"If growing up means it would be, beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I'll never grow up!"
- The Lost Boys, Peter Pan
My body will change, my world will change around me, even my mind will change so much. But I will always climb trees.
So for this birthday what did I do? My awesome girlfriend found a treehouse not too far from my home. We spent the night in a tree! Nestled in the hills of Hillsborough there's a family who owns a pretty rustic house surrounded by massive oaks. In one of the oaks they built a treehouse and you can rent it out for an evening, or a night, just like a bed and breakfast. It's not elaborate, just a wooden collection of ladders to get to the little porch where they have a couple chairs looking through the trees out to the San Francisco Bay. Then inside the tiny little space is a small table and chairs, a little bed space and a larger bed loft area. It's small, cozy, and perfect. Branches run through the house, and through the deck so that when you lie there in bed, you can even rest your feet against the tree itself. And there is always something about always being in contact with the things that have always been part of nature. It's overwhelmingly peaceful and calming.
The family sets it up with a TV and DVD player so if that's something you want, you have it available, and you can even order a pizza if you have a chill evening planned there with you kids. They also made out a little side room in their house that you can get to and cook food, use a bathroom and shower, and eat a light breakfast that they set out for you in the morning. Lindsey and I hit a Trader Joes and bought some cheese, crackers and salami for our evening. We sat on the porch talking and eating our snacks. We read. We went to bed not to long after the sun went down and slept like we hadn't in years. We woke up, made some coffee and sat on the porch talking and looking out over the forrest to the Bay. And then before we left, Lindsey sat on the little swing they put out there, and I of course climbed out on the edge of the porch to hang there and goof off as only I know how. It was a wonderful experience all around. Our brains were running wild with all our plans to build our own treehouse, and after that night, I know I will be finding places to do this wherever I can. And if any of my San Mateo area peoples want a peaceful night in the trees, or if you want to send your kids to enjoy and awesome night in the trees (this place would be such a perfect getaway for a couple kids, it's safe, still right there in town, and you get to be in a TREE!) just let me know!
I think as I get "older" all I'll really be doing is finding more and more, and better and better ways to be "young" and have fun.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
"It is great that you are so passionate about these competitions but don't let it get to your head, man! Use it to be surrounded by others who are passionate as well and to continue to push yourself and test yourself, but all the time, no matter how it all turns out, know AT HEART you are a winner when you feel like a winner."
My sister wrote that to me at the end of an email in response to my pity-party post the other day. Pretty insightful if I do say so myself. And well timed as well. I had spent most of the day and night yesterday thinking about failure and goals and on and on. And this email from my sister was a little extra tug in the right direction. I challenge myself so much (as do most people) that if we ultimately decide to measure our self worth by the amount of times we "stand on the podium", we will be pretty miserable people. I have always preached that you can not rely on outside sources for happiness, positivity, and confirmation. You must choose to BE happy, positive, and feel confirmed. Winners FEEL like winners, they don't need the best score to tell them they are.
The large failure that took place for me this past weekend had me thinking about so much. I came out of it thinking that my God, I AM a winner. Screw the awards, the podiums, the medals, the pats on the backs, and so on. Nobody out there knows the struggles I go through, the challenges that I am faced with day in and day out, and how hard I push. The fact that I wake up every day and push as hard as I do is what makes me a true winner. Physically winning at something is a here-and-there reward of good, hard work, but is not the end all be all. I say this because no matter how many times I've been the actual winner, it never actually satisfies or fulfills me like I expect it to. I step down, go home, eat some food, and I'm back to training the next day. If I lost the event, I would step away, go home, eat some food, and get back to training the next day. Those events help to steer what I'm doing in every day life, but they do not define me. And what I am doing in every day life is what matters the most. The second I use my placement as the ONLY dictator for who I am as a person, I lose myself. I am not saying that being competitive is a bad thing at all, I am saying that it is dangerous to rely solely on those competitions to define yourself.
In all honesty, I think it's the time between events that truly define winners and losers. In my mind, a person who is incredibly talented but spends their days eating like crap and playing video games is a loser. I don't care if they can all of a sudden walk out to a baseball field and go 4 for 4 or throw 95, that just makes them damn lucky. It's the people who put in the hours, who take it seriously, who focus their lives to always want to be better day in and day out who are the winners. The ones who learn every day while also working their tails off. The ones who understand why they are working and learning, and do it because they love it and are so passionate about the process. Yeah, those people are freaking winners.
We are all allowed to wallow in self-pity now and again. But if you have made a point to let your life define who you are, not the awards and achievements, you will probably spend most of your life pretty happy, satisfied and fulfilled. I am still pretty bothered and disappointed in myself about The Open. But you know what I'll be doing today? I'll be in the gym, back on my program, laughing and sweating with my training partners. This week I'll be out in the woods a few times, running up hills so hard my head swims. I'll climb some trees, I'll coach my clients, I'll cook my food, I'll read my hundreds of articles, and I'll watch my TV shows. I love my life because I have found the things I am passionate about and made a point to surround myself with as much as I possibly can. I'll push my limits every day because it makes me feel good, because I learn from it. I'll fail, all the time; and I'll succeed, all the time.
I think all that makes me a winner.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Those three stupid numbers are the score I got for my three attempts for the final workout of the CrossFit Games Open. The goal was 90 in 4 minutes, so that I would have another 4 minutes to accumulate reps and move myself into a "guaranteed" spot at the Regionals event. As of the time of me writing this, there is still a incredibly thin chance I get a sort of “invite” to this event in May, but I’m not even thinking about that. What I’m thinking about is the intense pain I feel after failing by 1 rep.
It reminds me of last year when I missed the individual Regionals event by 1 point. Granted, I was signed up to go with a team, but it still stung.
I could write a pretty lengthy book filled with all my failures, from small to big. From little “meaningless” ones like burning a meal I’m cooking for myself, to large ones like failing two classes my first semester Freshman year and needing to take summer courses to keep eligible for baseball.
But I don’t want to list all those, it’s too depressing to think about right now as I feel like a pretty big failure this exact moment. Right now I’m thinking about how tough it is to be so good at so many things, without ever being excellent at any of them. My best friend shot me a text after asking how this workout went and he reminded me that I was born a remarkable athlete. One who could play professional baseball, run 12 marathons, perform at a high level in triathlon and jiu-jitsu, and one who has clearly proven himself at the Sport Of Fitness. I’m “better” than 99% of the people out there he says.
But what hurts for guys like me is that I’m just one step, no, a half step or less away from being one of the best. Being that .01% out there that is just flat out amazing at shit, there are not that many people who have that, but they are there, and we all know them. It may sound pretentious of me, or arrogant or something, but the pain of being good enough to perform with the best, but always finish behind them is almost too great sometimes. There are so many times, times like today, when I just wish I wasn’t good at stuff. There wouldn’t be that hope in me at all times that I have a chance. There wouldn’t be that drive to be the best, because there would be flat out no chance of me being there. But instead I am faced every single day with so much evidence that I can perform with the best of the best (well, maybe not WITH them, but a half step behind them) and my brain and body goes into focus mode. I work so hard. I train, I study, I analyze every bit of my life to figure out what I could do to gain that ½ step. I work, and then work some more. And when it comes down to it, I’m still a half step behind. Is it that I don’t work hard enough? Is it that I’m not doing the right things? I really doubt it.
As a coach I would tell my athletes to focus on all the little achievements. Celebrate the fact that you are determined to get better and that the fact that you would work so hard is the real success. And writing that now, I realize that that is exactly what I have to do. I gave that workout everything I possibly could and my celebration should be in the fact that I worked so hard for the reps I got. It should not be that I failed in achieving my goals. Every single person has limits: physical, emotional psychological, and so on. I am obviously the type of person that tries to test those limits on myself on a pretty regular basis.
Interestingly enough, I have been ignorant in stating I’ve never found my limits (I’ve written that many times). I’ve always thought that there’d be some sort of explosion of awareness in my mind or something when that breaking point actually hit, but that’s not how it works. How it works is, I fail. When I can’t go any further, I fail. I have found my limits over and over, and over again, my entire life. And yet I choose to keep pushing them. I guess my little “catch phrase” I write after every post actually does mean a lot to me. Maybe it’s just a constant reminder to myself as to what my life is all about.
Never Stop. GET FIT.
This little dude will out-pull up you any day!
Talking with a couple people late last night I realized something damn cool about this final workout: it literally defines what I love so much about CrossFit. It is not necessarily the most in-shape person who will score well on this one. Very fit people will also need to know themselves and how they function on these specific movements perfectly. It includes a portion of experience. My training partner is an absolute beast and will be going to Regionals along with me. But I fear he will struggle more with this workout than any of the others because he has never done Fran and has no clue what to expect from doing something like that. Fran is the go-to workout for CrossFit because of its simplicity coupled by its absolute degree of difficulty. Not only is it brutal for those who know how to do it, but it's always tough because you think it should be easy, and it's not. And then to top it off, this Open Workout is slightly harder than Fran, and throws that mind-f**k of added time into the mix. I am shocked that Jason Khalipa got nowhere near that third time addition, AND I have never seen Rich Froning look that beat up while exercising. This one is BRUTAL!
So with the fact that I have no clue how everyone reading this is, I will explain how I plan to approach this workout, and I'll touch on a couple different things you should be thinking about going into it. First off, for those athletes gunning for the 3rd time installment, figuring out timing of thrusters and pull ups probably won;t help you all that much. Pacing this on based off of time will work for such a small collection of people, and I'm sure those people know their times. If you try to pace out 90 perfect reps in 4 minutes you'll hit a wall no matter what and end up screwing yourself up through the 8 minutes. I honestly think the best way to go about this workout is getting your 90 reps (again, for people gunning for the 12 minutes workout) while performing just under your red-line. Then go about doing everything in your power to get another 90 resp in before the 8 minute mark hits. If you are gifted/lucky enough to make it into the 3rd round, it honestly doesn't matter at that point. Take a minute rest and just accumulate some reps. You'll be in such a small percentile of athletes, you'll be pretty set. My point is, any score above 180 is going to be an incredibly high score.
That is obviously pretty vague, but I think it's a good base of approach. Get your first 90 in without blacking out, then go for broke at a pace YOU can handle and hope to the dear Lord above that you get another 90 in before time expires.
I will be going about it like so: If my butterfly C2B's are working, I'll plan to hit two rounds unbroken. I'll then plan to hit the 3rd round of 15's with unbroken thrusters and then break the C2Bs up either 8/7 or 6/5/4. While I feel good with the C2Bs, I know that they take SO much out of you. It's worth breaking them up earlier with the knowledge that it's always better to do slightly larger chucks of them rather than going to singles and doubles when you get really crushed. After getting the initial 90, it'll be about putting the BB down before hitting a wall so that I can conserve enough energy to get my larger chunks of C2Bs. At that point, all that matters is getting to 180, so it'll be a conservative sprint from there on out. Knowing myself, I can always get 4-6 of each of these movements as long as I'm still standing, so I will plan on making sure I stay at a pace where I can do that. I will probably do 8/8 or 5/5/5 on the thrusters, and 6/5/4 or 5/5/5 on the C2Bs for as long as I can. When I hit a wall with that, I'll just get freaking reps however humanly possible until I am either done (read: dead), or I get the "joy" of getting to go for another 4 minutes. And again, for anyone lucky enough to get to that 3rd round, good work, just get a whatever you can. It's going to be a VERY small collection of people.
For those of you who hope to get into the second round. Get to it with just enough energy to spare, then just get reps in. You know your workout will be over no matter what at 8 minutes so view it as an 8 minute AMRAP. But don;t go too slow at the start. Hit that sub-red-line pace to make sure you get the initial 90, then accumulate reps until you're done.
For those of you who know you won't make it past 4. Sweet, this is a pretty "easy" workout for you. Get as many reps as you possibly can in 4 minutes. Go!
I recognize that this post is the least insightful of all my "notes" posts, but that is because the strategy here is going to be ever so slightly different for each and every person. Go to GymnasticsWOD and get your efficiency notes form Carl Paoli/ The get your mobility prep from MobilityWod and Kelly Starett. After that, break down your Fran, and then your ability to handle a slightly tougher Fran, and be honest and realistic. I know for me, getting 180 reps is possible, but will take some serious star-aligning for it to happen. So I need to set a pace (that i know how to do through experience CrossFitting, and having done Fran 5 times) to give myself the best opportunity to get 180 resp in 8 minutes. If I plan to have any energy after that, I didn't approach this workout correctly.
I recommend weightlifting shoes. They obviously help on the thrusters, and for me, they actually assist my butterfly kip because of the weight distribution to my feet.
Put something on your hands. Wear gloves, or those hand protector things, or tape, something. And shave down those callouses ASAP. If there was a workout out there that would rip your hands up, this is it. And I really have no interest in seeing all the pictures on Facebook with people showing off how "cool" and "bad ass" (read: stupid, and really freaking stupid) they are because they were stupid and ripped their hands.
Warm up by mobilizing your hips and shoulders, AND stabilizing your shoulders. This workout is the equivalent of throwing a 12 inning game with weighted baseballs with both hands (that would be a bad thing by the way, for all you non-baseball minds out there. The point is, this workout is going to destroy your shoulders. make sure they are mobile AND the muscles are active and prepared for hundreds of floppy, gross, dynamic, tendon-ripping reps.
Leave it all on the floor. This is the last workout of The Open! You've come this far, you may as well go all out. For people like me and my training partner, it;s all about gaining a few more extra spots up the leaderboard to assure our spot at Regioanls. For others, it's the a chance to see what you're made of on a diabolical workout. But remember, if you have no chance competing in Regionals, be sure to pay attention to your hands and shoulders throughout. There is no point hurting yourself, or causing a week or more of no training just to get a few more reps.
No matter what happens, we can all rejoice in the fact that the open is over after this!!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
My running example of what a crappy coach is has always been a baseball coach who would yell at his players to "hit each other in the chest" with each of their throws. The players were young, like 12-14 years old, and while all of them understood the concept of what he was talking about, none of them could figure out how to do it. They would throw, and maybe one of every 6 would hit the chest. The rest would be high, off the ground, wide right, and so on. And the coach would just continue to yell: hit him in the chest!". Finally, in frustration, one of the kids said "I understand, coach, I'm trying, I just don't know how!" The coaches response: " you need to aim for the chest and throw it there". Ugh...
I've experienced and seen this form of under-coaching for years. In fact, I would say it's one of the most common things you'll find in a coach. Unfortunately, it's not good coaching. Constantly telling people WHAT to do without explaining HOW doesn't do anything for about 98%+ of the population. And that small population who it does work for either had really good coaching before, or they just "get it".
I'm so sick and tired of listening to coaches in the gym tell people to "flatten your back", "don't pull early", "just drop under the bar more", "get deeper" and on and on. If you literally JUST explained the mechanics of getting deep on a squat, and allowed the person adequate time to show they have an understanding for how to actually perform the squat properly, then your cue of "get deeper" works fine. But of you just tell people to do it, one of two things will happen the vast majority of the time: they might get deeper, but put themselves at a risk because they are pushing themselves in to something they don't know how to do. Or, they simply won't get deeper. That does not make them bad athletes. It makes the coach a bad coach.
For all coaches out there, I think a huge thing to remember is that most of the people that come into most gyms are not as "into" fitness as you are. This means that when they leave the gym, they don't spend the next 24 hours obsessing over movements and researching clean and jerk videos. So, when they come in a few days later and you tell them to grab the bar and get onto a front rack position, event if they've done it 100 times before, you may have to give them a little more detail than that.
And the best way to have your athletes become more knowledgeable in the movements you are trying to teach them? Explain WHY and HOW every, single, time. If each and every athlete is constantly hearing why they need to PULL under the bar on a clean and/or snatch, and they also have a deep understand as to HOW to go about doing that, they will feel a closer connection to the lift and remember it more and more going forward. If you went into some detail once or twice, then just give general cues, I'm pretty sure you're going to have a gym full of people who don't really know what the hell they are doing. Honestly, this goes for teaching just about anything physical. If I just stood on a basketball court yelling at a group of athletes to "make shots", I'm not doing much to help them. It's more complex than that; and all athletes/clients need those extra details so they can find consistency in their practice. You will always progress in a forward trajectory if you truly understand the whys and hows of training. And as a coach, I have found the best response come from athletes when you take the time and effort to explain these details to them in a way they can understand.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
There’s been a lot of talk going around the CrossFit community lately about standards. This isn’t a new topic mind you. Ever since CrossFit became something on the world’s radar, the people within the community have been subject to a LOT of scrutiny given their “new” rules of exercise. At first, I was a huge supporter of some of these new concepts as I thought it was a great way just to get more and more people involved in fitness, working out, and trying new things. But now, I am having a harder and harder time understanding why the hell CrossFit HQ seems so adamant on throwing years of rules and standards in the toilette.
CrossFit took the commonly understood definition of Fitness and changed it to something that made more sense. Fitness according to Websters Dictionary just doesn’t seem to cut it. Glassman created the idea of CrossFit, and I think he was dead on. He also was at the right place at the right time, and just like so many other creations/inventions was the lucky dude who got all the credit for this incredible new concept. I respect him for that.
Next, CrossFit became very controversial because they not only shoved their idea of fitness in your face and claimed that you are clearly NOT fit if you don’t do CrossFit (this is what I believe led to a majority view that CrossFit is a cult), they also started to slowly mess around with other common standards and concepts as well. Throwing away years of standards held true by Olympic lifting and other forms of exercises, CrossFit chose to ignore those standards in the name of their mantra: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Still OK in my eyes; except for one thing.
If you decide to modify a snatch (a clearly defined movement with strict standards), you should pay respect to the lift and the sport by simply changing the name. If I decided to steal a combination of movements from football and baseball because I feel like it’d work better for me, yes, I can be a pretentious jerk and steal the name they spent years building their sport around and change the standards for it, or, I could respect the sport and come up with my own name. In fact, many respected people in the CrossFit community do this, like Kelly Starret who calls press-outs and dropping to the knee on Olympic lift attempts “snatch-like movements” or “clean-like movements”.
Many, many different things inspired this post, but recently there was a video posted on the Facebook of a CrossFit Games athlete PR-ing his “snatch-like movement”, falling to both knees. He himself comments that while he was happy with getting it, he knows he needs to get it on his feet. CrossFit HQ posted the video with praise and lo and behold came the flood of comments pleading for CrossFit to just cut it out already. As of 80 comments in, the only added comment from HQ was a snide “well he’s a CrossFit Games athlete and none of you guys are”, really, guys? So, I will start hitting foul ball “home runs” and posting all over Facebook how awesome I am. And if anyone comments that I’m wrong and that I did not actually hit a home run, my defense will be that I played a higher level of baseball than all of them so they should just shut up?!?! Come on, have a little respect! Same thing happened when my friend and old training partner Neal Maddox lifted an impressive 294# over his head on a snatch attempt. He immediately dropped the bar and prepared to actually get the lift (because he knew it did not count, the event had honest standards). HQ posted that Maddox hit a sick PR, then argued and insulted people who questioned the lift.
All this is SO unfortunate as CrossFit grew into something that I personally hoped would be a great thing for the world. A community that supported a higher standard of health and fitness, and one that anyone and everyone could be a part of. I turned a blind eye to the elitism that came from the top for as long as I could with the hope that the good community growing would overpower it, but I’m just not sure now. Many gyms that started off as “CrossFit so and so”, are either changing their name to drop the CrossFit, or de-affiliating all together. The social media is overwhelmingly filled with VERY unsupportive comments on what CrossFit is becoming. CrossFit began as an “open source system” (as defined by Greg Glassman himself) and now it seems that the openness of the system is crying out at the ridiculousness of the leadership. Will they listen to their community? Will they respect other communities, or will they keep causing conflict because “they can”? As one HQ staffer said on Facebook when questioned about their abrasive actions: “f**k PR”. Classy.
I know it sounds like I’m bashing CrossFit a little here, but I’m doing so because I personally would love to see a change. I compete as a CrossFitter, train a lot of CrossFitters, and am still very supportive of the community, and I hate that it SEEMS like HQ thinks they are just better than everything else. I remember watching a video that HQ posted of a really popular CrossFit Games athlete at an official Olympic Weightlifting competition. They titled it as the athlete achieving a big lift. At the meet, the judges scored the lift a failed attempt as the athlete pressed out the bar (not meeting the commonly understood standards for the lift). Interestingly enough, the athlete actually got annoyed at the judges and you can see the athlete “yelling” at them asking what was wrong with the lift (while trying to hide behind some nervous laughter). I was so disgusted that not only HQ would post this with praise, but, that such a popular icon in the CrossFit community would treat an official Olympic lifting meet with such misunderstanding and disrespect.
Obviously CrossFit has no reason to listen to me (I know there’s at least a few people at HQ who read my blog, and after this post I’ll probably move higher up on their “watch-list”) but I feel like I should be vocal about my thoughts. As with anything in this world, the more people who actually stand up for what they believe in, the more change occurs. I don’t want to sit around and just flat out rip on CrossFit, I’ll leave that to this guy, and this guy, and this guy, and this guy. What I’ll do here is offer my thoughts with the hope that either the community will overcome and drown out the elitism at the top. Or, that leadership will realize that with growth inevitably comes change, and they need to stop being so abrasive if they want the world to take them seriously. If you’re a jerk, it’s hard for people to view you as good.
Here’s hoping for positive change!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
I’ve dealt with this sort of situation so many times in my life I can’t keep track. Most common in my life when dealing with failure has been when I played baseball. Now it’s CrossFit. For the life of me there are times I seriously question why I keep on doing something that I just don’t seem to progress at the same pace as the people around me. I work hard; lose sleep over programming and understanding the best ways to approach things. I constantly critique myself and analyze different things that I should or should not be focusing on. And yet I somehow surround myself with people who rapidly progress like they just found some magic pill and I do not. In fact, given what I understand to be “my potential” I have could probably make an argument that I have regressed on many points.
I have taken steps back, talked with others, taken all sorts of styles of rest days and weekends, and weeks. I have changed my food around and been patient with the changes to see the effects. I have changed up the programming based on hours of research and focused in on each rep and minor movement. I have broken down my body’s ability to move and where it struggles. I have made realizations about what I need to focus on in terms of mobilizing and strengthening and tweaked my program accordingly.
I have seen my “comfortable” lifts (meaning a weight I can just go ahead and get at any moment) go up by about 20+ pounds. I have gotten better at the mechanics of running, and I have trained my body to be able to handle a higher pace of intensity under heavier and heavier loads. I DO recognize that there are aspects of my training and “fitness life: that have gotten better. But my annoyance comes on days like today when I go to snatch 215# and canNOT do it. I know my potential, and I factor in my right hip that has the tendency to disengage under extreme flexion and heavier loads. 215# should be a weight I can touch and go for reps. I can power snatch it. I have snatched it before. I’ve snatched it without Olympic shoes and wrist support or belt. I’ve studied the central nervous system and have done everything in my power to design a program around building and priming BOTH the muscular and central nervous systems.
I know of many, many people who have hit, or are being hit now by big roadblocks, and it becomes so clear, SO quickly what is wrong and how it could be fixed. So either I am blind to the problem because I am the one taking the lead in trying to figure out what’s going on. Or, there is something very mysterious about me that I have completely missed. I mean it took me a couple years to figure out why my metabolism was so naturally low. I hit moments where I just figured I have some sort of major immune issue, or was a new case of hypoglycemic where literally NONE of the systems would show. Perhaps I should just shut the hell up and lift!
My brain works in a manner where all I want to do is figure this stuff out. Just to paint picture, I was snatching with my training partner today. He’s on my program. He came in feeling rusty, having done the crazy 150 wall ball workout yesterday, having never really snatched until maybe 5 months ago, and PR’d with a 235# snatch. I fail at 215 about 6 times before putting on 220, failing 3 times and then getting it (all my misses were last second misses on the final portion of the catch). 225 and 230 were about the same. My discouragement was overwhelming. Besides breaking everything in the gym all I could think to do was sit down at the computer and write this. I am in my Olympic shoes, knee bands on, venting away. You can’t excel at a sport without getting progressively better. I hit this same wall playing baseball too. I worked SO hard; hours and hours on end to be the best I could be. Then I hit a wall, and no matter how hard and/or intelligently I worked, I could not seem to get past that final plateau. I made it to pro ball but could not advance past that lowest level of the highly competitive. Similarly, I can be a highly competitive CrossFitter, but not at the highest level.
I won’t give up, I’ll just feel down for a little. I’ve gone through this way too many times to ever give up at anything. I feel like I’ve failed more than most people (I’ve been told by a surprisingly large amount of people that I am the “unluckiest” person they know), yet I keep going. I generally know why, but today I don’t; I’ll keep going though.
I think tonight, or tomorrow when I am feeling the page turn and get that little wave of inspiration I’ll write a little something about what it is that keeps me going.
Never Stop, GET FIT.