Repost from 2/8/2012
Have you ever stood before a workout, hesitating, wondering how the hell you'll ever make it through this thing? Shoot, have you ever stood before anything, a barbell, a sports game, a meeting, a girl (or boy), and so on, wondering if you'll survive to see the end? Screw winning, screw setting a PR and announcing to the world you are the best; what if you don't even finish?
Well grow a set and make it happen! Who cares if you fail? Who cares if it means you lose, or get made fun of, or look like a fool. You'll even more stupid if you give up, or don't show up at all! You came to the gym, to the platform, to the field, to THIS PLACE to get something done and the only thing standing in the way of you 100% effort is your doubting mind making excuses.
If you want to lift shit-tons of weight, train for it, and then attempt to lift shit-tons of weight! If you want to tear it up at a CrossFit competition, you're going to have to have no fear, no matter what workout is thrown at you. And the same goes with anything and everything in your life. If you fear a negative result, you are hindering your ability to have positive ones. At the most basic level, if you have an idea and never implement it out of fear of failing, well, you're idea will never have the opportunity to make it. I have found this out over and over again the hard way. I have lost opportunity after opportunity because I didn't attack the things I thought would be great to do. And what did I get? Nothing! It's like that wonderful quote: "you can't steal second with your foot on first" (I'm a sucker for baseball metaphors and such).
What brings this on? Well, I see it every day in the gym, and I always internalize these situations so that I can work at becoming a better person myself, and to help motivate others to stop holding back. Today I had a baseball player tell me he was tearing it up on the mound, throwing hard, yet he couldn't seem to get his off-speed stuff figured out. I told him to tone back the velocity and work on locating all pitches, because in the end, accuracy is rewarded way more than velocity. His response was: "well you know me, I try too hard and am so injury prone". No, no, no! If you know exactly what you need to do to be successful, DO IT! Don't make excuses about how your personality is this, or that, or you can't be less social and drink less, or you need your crappy food, or your TV shows. If you want to do something, have the people around you to support you, and have all the tools to do it. Then do it.
I have no sympathy for someone who knows the best path for getting to his/her desired location, then chooses another and complains about how difficult it is. Be smart, and be good to yourself. Wild success will follow.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
There's something about seeing a barbell loaded with plates that creates such deep feelings of fear, intimidation, confidence and success. A bar waiting for you on the ground or on a rack, that you have not lifted can literally bring grown, confident men to their knees. It's scary to approach an unwavering mass of metal and solid rubber with the expectation that you are about to move that mass in a controlled, powerful, structured, violent way.
But then you visualize that movement. You see yourself execute it with Olympic perfection. You feel your muscles tense up, not with fear now, but with excitement. You are about to take complete control of this weight and do what you will with it, with every ounce of energy you can muster.
And when the chalk and dust has settled back around that weight, and you step back to look at that mass you just moved with power and grace, you feel completely in control.
A loaded bar lifted becomes sheer beauty. It is something you own, and you now know you can overcome. It's presence there represents your strength, your power, your control, your confidence.
Now add a little more weight to it and do it again.
I Love The Gym.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
The front squat is an exercise used very commonly in training weightlifters, but besides that is unfortunately not used all that much. I personally admit to not programming this incredibly effective tool as often as I would like for my general fitness members, but that is changing now.
I like the exercise because the front loaded nature of it demands a greater level of technical proficiency in the athlete. Because of that it allows for better movement and a more balanced athlete in the end. If you have an athlete who struggles with the back squat, a great deal of their issues will be mended rather quickly by incorporating more front squats in their program. Here's why I like it:
- forces the athlete into a more upright position
- force-recruits the muscles of the core
- allows for greater depth increasing lower-body joint function and strength
- demands greater mobility and control of the shoulders, arms and wrists
- does not overload the body allowing greater balance in strength gains
There are still plenty of things that can go wrong with this lift, just like any lift. So here are five cues I like to use with all my athletes to help them improve on their front squat.
1. Hold The Bar High
I coach that the front squat is an attempted back squat but the neck and head are in the way. This means that your goal is to get the bar as close to your back as you possible can. The higher on your shoulders the bar is, the easier it will be to establish the most efficient mechanics. You should feel the bar literally resting on your shoulders and physically pushing against your neck. The second the bar begins to slide away from your neck and down your shoulders you will tend to be pulled forward, making the squat WAY more difficult.
This can be uncomfortable, so be sure to practice this with an empty bar so that you can adapt to the feeling. It's never fun to rack off a crazy heavy weight and feel like you're being choked out.
2. Engage Your Arms
Something that is incredibly common for most squats is people forget to engage their upper body pre lift. Squatting trains your legs, sure; but you need your entire body involved if you expect to get the most out of it. This especially holds true for the front squat. If you soften up your upper body, you'll let the bar pull you forward and just like the first point, you won't be squatting with very efficient mechanics. Take a big breath, poof out your chest, tense up your shoulders, and drive your elbows UP. This tensions will fire up all the muscles in your upper body, and also right down your midline helping to keep your entire body engaged throughout the lift.
3. Balance Your Decent
It's common to cue driving your butt back on a squat. This makes sense to me in that it forces athletes to recruit their glutes as the main mover of a large leg exercise. You would obviously want your glutes and hamstrings to be very, very involved in any form of squat. The issue with this cue on a front squat is that the second you drive your butt back, you allow for a forward inclination of your torso, allowing the bar to pull you forward, and leading to the issues that the first two points generally have. The goal is to stay upright. To do so you simply drop straight down to perform this squat. Don't push the butt back like crazy, don't slide the knees forward. Simply break the the crease of the hip and knees simultaneously and think about dropping your butt directly down to the floor.
I use the seemingly contradicting cues of "butt back" and "chest up" together all the time. This actually allows for a more active body throughout the entire lift. If you stay completely upright and try to push your butt back as you squat, you will be very engaged throughout. But you must perform both, that is VERY important.
4. Use The Bottom
This is something you see with weightlifters all the time and something that is actually kind of challenging if you don't know how to do it. But, once you learn, this is an incredible tool to use to understand power into hip extension (something that EVERY athlete and human should truly understand if they expect to function well).
The idea is that you aggressively hit the very bottom of your squat (yes, I am assuming you actually reach the full bottom of the squat, you will not be able to use the bottom unless you actually hit it) and then drive up with the intensity of a max effort vertical jump. Many people call this "bouncing" out of of the bottom. I don't like using that word as it tends to imply, well, bouncing (all I can visualize right now is someone sitting on a stability ball and bouncing up and down). This always seems to lead to a disengagement of the body at the bottom and I see athletes lose tension like crazy as they attempt to drive out of the most challenging position of the squat. Stay on tension! If you can keep tension, then rebound out of that bottom position like you're superman about to leap over a tall building in a single bound!
Oh, and my favorite cue of coming out of the bottom is: drive your elbows up like your elbowing someone in the face with both elbows!
5. Finish Strong
Simple, do not come out of tension until you have completed the lift. For some reason people tend to relax their upper body a fraction of a second before they fully extend. Or worse yet, they begin lean to rack the bar as they come up from their last rep. Stop rushing and releasing tension! Stand up in control, stand there in tension for a second, then either take a breath and hit your next rep, or under control rack the bar back up. Train your body to be in control of every second of this awesome lift!
There are many forms of squatting, and I personally think the front squat is universally the most effective to promote better movement in the entire body. Find a way to incorporate it in your program, even if it's an accessory lift once a week. It may not be the most comfortable of lifts, but it sure as hell will help you out a ton!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Well, seeing how it's been forever since I last wrote on this thing, I figured I'd start back up with a string of posts inspired by what I've been seeing in my gyms, as well as my "Love The Gym" posts. I'll start with an issue that my fellow coaches and I will probably have to deal with for the next couple thousand years or so: athletes "sticking" to their program.
You see it posted and written up everywhere, if you want true success in the gym, follow a program. This means actually having a program that is written out and has some form of progression to it. And it means actually following that thing for at least a few months to see it through. Speaking from my own gyms perspective, everyone has a program, so that's not really an issue here (but I know it's an issue for some, so, perhaps a post in the near future?). So let's move on to the whole following of said program.
I find three main things occur that really get to me with my athletes:
1) They Don't Come In Regularly.
This is about the most basic idea to being successful in anything, staying committed. If you decide to skip out on sessions, skip a week because you're kind of feeling tired, or it's a little more stressful at work or school; you won't have the gains of someone who comes in for all their sessions. Um, duh! I've heard almost every excuse imaginable, and I'll be honest, I've made some excuses myself for why I can't be committed. But that's just what they are, excuses. Everyone has the time if they actually want the gains. If you show up here and there, skip out on workouts regularly, and are generally uncommitted to sticking with the program, you can't expect to get better all that much.
2) Doing What's Written.
My response for pretty much anyone who asks what they should do when they get to the gym is "what's on the board". Sure, you might not be a fan of snatches, or you might find Turkish Get Ups to be really challenging, or maybe you don't like running and there are 100 meter sprints as part of the program. Suck it up, stop being so damn difficult and get your work in. There is not a thing in this world that comes without some sort of challenging aspect, and fitness sure as hell comes at a price. You MUST work on things you suck at, do things that are really tough, push yourself out of your comfort zone and learn to adapt to many different demands and stresses. If you choose to skip reps, or exercises, go though the motions on movements that you don't like rather than challenge yourself to get better at them, well, you can expect to continue having the same issues you've been having.
3) Doing Stuff On Your Own.
This one is a tough one because there's a fine line between getting in extra work and overdoing things. Also, I have a hard time getting upset at someone who is dedicated enough to fitness to want to do more outside of the gym (usually it's the two issues above). But with the amount of high school and college athletes I get in the gym, it's incredibly common that these guys get together with friends to workout, have workouts with their teams, get pushed my their parents to do more, or just feel like doing more means getting better. Let me set the record straight: more does not always equal better!
Let me share with you an example that has happened far too many times to count with athletes at my gym. We are smack in the middle of an intense adaptation phase of a program (meaning very specific weight and rep schemes to help build muscular and nervous system awareness to specific loads and movements) and a couple kids complain that their shoulders are really tired. "Well, why?", I ask (because I specifically programmed the last three sessions to under utilize the shoulders in prep for this workout). "Oh, we hadn't really done all that much upper body work in the past few sessions so I went and benched with my buddies yesterday".
"Ooook" I say. "What kind of benching did you do?"
"We three rep maxed. Probably did something like 10 sets with the warm up sets". This is usually followed by some defensive statement about how good they felt, how they could totally do the workout today, they just wanted to, well, maybe modify it?
This sort of thing will do nothing but completely piss off your coach. We spend hours and hours writing programs, assessing clients, motivating each and every person in the gym, and dedicating our lives to helping you achieve all your fitness, health, and sport goals (at least that's what coaches should be doing). When you decide to take it upon yourself to do your own thing without first consulting with the person you are paying and trusting to help you get better, well, you're not being very smart.
What I always tell people in this situation is that they came to me to get better. If they feel like they are not getting what they want from the program they have two options:
2) Talk to me about what can be done to assess their issues.
I would say about 99% of the time they then express their concerns, the program is explained, they understand that they should trust in the program, they begin to commit fully to the program, and they get incredible gains and achieve all their goals. Crazy, I know.
The moral of the story here is the more committed you are to following through on something, the greater your chances of success are. Nothing new her. Something I'm pretty sure every single person who can read this would agree on. But, it's hard to do, especially when it comes to the gym. But, if you truly want to get better, the concept is the easiest and simplest possible: Find a place that you like, and commit fully to their program. Stick to it. That is all.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This "Love The Gym" is a new series on my blog that I thought of while standing at the door of my gym while a class was going on. I had this awesome mixture of adults and teens, guys and girls, 9 to 5ers and serious athletes. Music was playing, iron and rubber were slamming, sounds of exertion and motivation were flying though the air. To me, this is absolutely beautiful. A building filled with tools and toys that help make us better human beings. Groups of people coming in and pushing themselves daily beyond what they thought they'd ever be capable. They struggle, they fail, they hit a PR lift. They click with a concept of movement and that moment of realization when they all of a sudden pull themselves under the bar rather than pull the bar up to their shoulders, it's incredible to watch. Sweat and chalk on a loaded barbell, plates slamming down onto a sled and the grind of those sled skids across the floor as an athlete puts everything into it, awesome.
Sometimes it's as simple as rolling up the door in the morning before anyone gets to the gym to see the raising sunlight sweep across the platforms that gets me.
Sometimes it's flicking off the lights at night and seeing the stacks of plates looming in the shadows.
Other times it's sitting on a chair next to my platform or rack, a loaded bar calmly waiting for me to lift it or squat it. There's no music on, just my breathing, that sticky, slapping sound of me pulling up my knee sleeves, the creaking of the metal hook of my weight belt, and then I hear my own gruff, guttural sound of self motivation as I approach the bar. The way the bar feels the second my hands wrap around it, chalk poofing out from the sides of my hands. And then its just me and that weight. Tension. Lift.
I Love The Gym.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This past weekend I hopped a flight over to Boston to show off my fitness at the National Professional Fitness League (NPFL) Combine. It was an exciting and humbling experience to say the least.
First off, a little intro into what the NPFL is. Now that CrossFit has grown to a point where most people know about it, it only makes sense that it would inspire incredible new programs. It inspired clothing companies, food and drink companies, travel and vacation companies, and so much more. And now it has inspired an actual new sport. While the CrossFit Games is a damn successful individual and team competition, the NPFL is a full blown spectator sport. Teams, coaches, owners, TV, home stadiums, travel, sponsorships, marketing, etc. Here is how it works:
Teams from around the country (as of now there are 8, and next year there will be more, and more the year after that) recruit and sign professional athletes to compete against each other in what I am calling "Grid Races". The matches take place on what is called "the grid" and each team gets one side of it during a match. A match consists of 11 fitness races. These consist of different combinations of athletes from each team racing against members of the other team in pre-designed workouts. One workout may consist of each member racing against the clock to hit 1 snatch at stations along the grid, each bar is a heavier weight. When time expires whichever team lifts the most total weight wins that match. Another might be two women on the grid at a time racing though a specific number of reps of overhead squats, handstand push ups, pull ups, muscle ups, box jumps, and power snatches. They can sub out at any time, and when they are done, two men do the same race (these are just examples by the way). Races will include heavy weights, light weights, body weight movements, and so on. The best part is that the teams must work together, even using substitutions during a race to win. And of course, the team who wins the most races wins the match, easy as that!
So far, the NPFL has generated quite a bit of attention thanks to their impressive professionalism and organization. The man behind it all is one time CrossFit HQ big name Tony Budding. He has put a lot of thought into this thing and it really shows with how well things are run, and the attention to detail all around. And it all got kicked off with the Combines.
I flew out to the 4th and final combine to throw some weights around and hopefully impress the coaches and owners of teams enough to move on to the next step in recruiting. Day one of these combines I've been describing as kind of like the Hunger Games testing. You basically get to pick and choose to showcase yourself at things you feel you are best at. Can't handstand push up? Then just don't do them. Have a good front squat? Throw some weights in the bar and front squat the hell out of it!
You show off what you want and then at dinner the coaches and owners pick out the ones they want to invite to day two. Day two consists of team testing. The coaches and owners put the chosen athletes together to run through races; they work on strategy, communication, and everyone gets to show off how they work with the team. And at the end of day two, the coaches and owners invite another, even smaller group back out to the official Draft event in June. There, athletes will run through three days of racing before only a select few are drafted and sign with teams for the first ever Grid Race season!
OK, so now you know about the NPFL Grid Races, and the combines. Now I get to talk about me... Oh boy! Well, not all that exciting actually. Probably just talking more about what to do in the face of under-performing; because that's exactly what I did.
So, in prepping for this event I had chosen the tasks I wanted to show off and trained accordingly. I had trained well and felt very confident in my goal numbers:
Clean and jerk - 320
Clean - 325
Front squat - 415
Strict press - 210
Deadlift - 510
Handstand walk - 80'
Double unders - 180
5 rounds of 12 power cleans and 6 push press at 165 - sub 8 minutes
Well, I showed up tired, tight as hell, and feeling all sorts of messed up from travel. But I brushed it off as best I could and headed into warm ups. I had 8 hours to get these tests in and I did everything in my power to fuel and recover properly for it all. I've dealt with performance under fatigue many times before and have done rather well. So I got my mind as much in the zone as I could. Well, long story short, it didn't work out this time around. Here's how I did:
Clean and jerk - 285
Clean - 315
Front squat - 355
Strict press - 195
Deadlift - 495
Overhead squat - 295
Handstand walk - 67' or something around there
Double unders - 157
Power clean and push press workout - 6:45
Needless to say I was very, very disappointed in my performance. I tore up the metcon (power clean and push press workout) and actually put up one of the better times on the day. But I knew in my head that my sub-par performance on all my other tests would not get me an invite to day two. I kept a glimmer of hope given my background, and I took the time to meet some cool new people (there were three people there who pulled me aside and said they read my blog, so cool!), talk it up with the owners and coaches, and just soak it all in. And when my name wasn't called after dinner, well, even though I wasn't surprised, it still hurt. I really hate not being good enough. I spent the rest of the night looking back at my training and where I could have tweaked and changed things to have performed better. I hate making excuses, but I did have so much going on in my life that I honestly never factored in as serious stressors. And over the next couple days after the combine I felt all that stress overwhelm me now that I was all of a sudden made aware of it. I was happy to get back to watch day two for a few hours, cheer on some of my new friends who made it through, and reconnect with a few of the owners and coaches.
I was brought back to that lonely feeling of walking into a baseball game right after I hung up my spikes to see people I had played with not a year before. The feeling of "I should totally be there!" But also knowing that I held back just enough to not allow myself that gratification. I learn, I grow, I am put in my place and left to assess my goals, my training, and my life. It's tough. But it's something I need in my life to keep becoming the man I want to be. It makes me a better coach, makes me a better soon-to-be husband and father. And I know I'll be in the same situation many times throughout my life. And I'll be successful, win, and "make it" probably more in my life. And that's cool to me.
So in the end, what are my thoughts on Grid Racing? Well, I honestly think they will be wildly successful. I see this thing growing to levels way beyond what CrossFit has become, and grow to become a sport that is followed not just in this country, but probably a bit around the world. Budding is starting this thing ten steps ahead rather than totally grass-roots. And while I'm sure there will be mistakes here and there, just watching how a match goes down I could visualize it all coming together. I could see filled stands of excited fans, camera crews, beast athletes in their team uniforms bouncing around with nervous energy before the first race. I could see cities rallying around their favorite athletes, ads and marketing and social media littered with Grid Race athletes faces and stories. I could see heated revelries and down-the-wire finishes to secure celebrated victories. But most of all I could see people young and old getting their friends together to head to the gym for their own Grid Race. Local groups setting up "beer league" Grid Racing at their nearby gym, or even make-shifting equipment and meeting up at a park, marking off the grid, and getting after it. This part of Grid Racing is what excites me the most. And I am proud to have been able to share in even the smallest bit of the very beginning.
And no, Grid Racing is not the official name of this sport, but I am coining it here and now (actually came up with it Saturday night, May 3rd, 2014, just to be sure). You hear me NPFL? You hear me Tony Budding? The name of your sport should be GRID RACING, and I am taking full credit for that here and now!! Alight, deep breath...
Never Stop, GET FIT.
The kid in the picture claimed he was tired, and he normally doesn't sit like that. Yeeeah...
For those of you out there that spend a lot of time around young people (and honesty, any age people really) I'm sure you are well aware that that posture in the picture is a pretty common thing. Whenever I see a kid in the gym slouching like this, I walk up behind them, gently put my knee in the center of their back, and pull their shoulders back. It's an instant reminder that they are WAY off alignment.
It's a beautiful thing to see a large group of teens sitting at attention, supported spines and all, before a class. And I have this vision of a classroom filled with slouching teens, except for 3-4 Courage Performance athletes safely sitting with perfect posture.
Take a moment and check how you're posture is. Do you sit tall? What about standing? Get in front of a full length mirror every now and then and check it out. How you hold yourself says a lot about your ability to function. Your posture also dictates your potential for injury. Learn to hold yourself well.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
This Easter Sunday Lindsey and I drove out (after she made some wonderful pancakes for us!) to spend some time in the woods.
We drove out to skyline where some of the best trails in the area are to check out an 1800 year old redwood. The Methusela. Pretty damn cool.
We then took a random road down towards the Pacific, finding a fallen tree across a creek to journey across. In the forrest was an endless carpet of massive clovers, and for the next hour and half we searched for a four-leaf one. It was perfect.
We drove into Pescadero for a snack, then back home before joining friends for a feast dinner.
It was a great day.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
Well here it is folks, the last Open workout!! Yay!! It's finally over. Blows my mind that even without doing the workouts this year I still feel an overwhelming amount of relief now that it's basically all over! But, for many of you you still have one more absolutely BRUTAL workout to get through. And if it'll make you all feel better, I plan to do this one on Sunday! My goal? Sub 12 minutes. We shall see... I'll report back.
Who would of thunk it, a rower! Cool! It's not all that surprising though. With something like 10,000 affiliates and the popularity of CrossFit it seems that most people will have access to one. So, how should you go about this workout?
First and foremost, if you do NOT have muscle ups, sprint like a bat outta hell. The tie breaker is your only saving grace on this workout. OK, that takes care of that.
This is a straight up conditioning workout so be sure to get your heard rate up and get a sweat going. You'll want to get a lot of good mobilizing of the shoulders and arms as well. If anything is going to give way here it'll be the grip and the lats. I'm not a fan of giving very direct warm up instruction, just be surer to really warm this one up.
Pace, pace, pace. For you competitive athletes you could probably do this in 1:30 if you went all out. But I suggest you slow things down and get this done between 2-3 minutes, The fact of the matter is, losing 15-30 seconds on the rower means nothing. Save your energy to move better on muscle ups. So slow it down.
- Ease up on your grip for the entire row. Don't grip the thing tightly.
- Set the damper to a lower setting. (I am seeing many people actually UP the damper setting. I don't like that as it will force you to use more grip and more lats. Take it to a 4 setting or so, and let your legs do the work). Try to stick to the same pace the entire row so that you get off it feeling strong.
Toes To Bar:
I like Carl Paoli's tip of getting that pinkie joint up and over the bar. The goal is that if you get a solid position of holding on to the bar, you use less energy and save your grip. Besides that, pace this out. You don't want to get to singles. But if you do, I found that getting a rep-popping off the bar-turning around-getting a rep, is a really fast singles rhythm.
I suggest hitting a set of 10, then doing 5-8 until that seems challenging, then go to 3's
If you know how to use your legs on this, do that. This means that you'll practically jump every rep, but it saves SO much energy in your arms. Basically: throw with your legs. A lot of people are suggesting you to with a huge set here, try to finish this off fast. Again, the goal is the muscle ups for the competitors out there, so I would honestly suggest you break this up as 4 sets of 10. You'll be really freaking gassed at this point and hitting a set of 30+ is could take so much out of you. Do 10, rest 3-5 seconds. You'll "lose" 9-15 seconds here. And as with the rower, losing a few seconds here is worth it to have energy on the muscle ups.
Singles. Don't waist your time on the eccentric, that will crush you for the muscle ups. Catch the bar, make sure you get the rep, then dump it. Ideally you use plates that have minimal bounce. You'd want to get immediately back on the bar the second you drop it.
You are either attempting to get as many muscle up as you can, or getting back to the rower and getting as many calories as you can. If you can bang out 10+ unbroken when fresh, then hitting triples is probably our best bet. Maybe even hitting a set of 5 as an opener. If you're not a stud on the rings, go to singles quickly and minimize you're rest.
The thing to remember here is that it's either an APRAP muscle ups, or get the heck back to the rowing machine, so be smart. You want to get through the rings fast as hell, but you DO NOT want to miss reps. Know yourself enough to take the rest you need to not miss reps. Especially don;t miss on the lock out. Be deliberate there and show those elbows locking out.
If you are one of the good ones who gets back to the rower, go all out. There is no pacing on round two; just get reps!
Some More Tips:
If you have the Reebok weightlifting shoes that are a little ore mobile, wear them. Shoot, if you like the added weight on your feet for kipping exercises, go ahead and wear your Romeleos if you want. The heel will help on the row, wall balls, and cleans, and probably won't hurt you all that much on the bar and rings.
Stay relaxed! One of the worst things you can do on workouts that have fatigued muscle ups is tense up and/or get frustrated. Find a tempo, stay relaxed, stick to it. This is 14 minutes of a LOT of movement, so stay within yourself.
Most of all, have fun!
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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