12/16/10

The White Unicorn

This post shares some similarities to a Jon Gilson article written a while back. In it, he refers to one of his clients as "a white unicorn, completely untouched by the evils of the world." The client in question had never heard of a leg press machine or a pec-deck or any of that other malarkey. CrossFit was the guy's first fitness endeavor and at age 32 that's pretty remarkable.

I met my own white unicorn less than a month ago. Her name is Sai and yes, that name is totally badass, too. Sai's story isn't as drastic as the one Gilson tells and I won't riddle it with flowery language and wannabe-Shakespearean prose. Basically, she joined Balance and had three intro sessions available to her. She wanted to work on the Olympic lifts (the snatch specifically) and was referred to me. Sai had performed the clean, but had little experience snatching. On her first day, after only 45 minutes of work, this was the result...



Now, this isn't some post to make me look awesome (far too late for that), but it perfectly demonstrates why it's important to learn good technique before developing bad habits. Sai was "untouched by the evils" of poor form. And while she's already equipped with good mobility and body control, I'm now on a quest to make her an Olympic lifter (it has so far been unsuccessful). The point remains: with the Olympic lifts, get your technique in order first. Take your ego out of the picture before putting too much weight on the bar. Some of us will have to struggle through correcting bad habits and form errors, but it will pay dividends in the end. Unfortunately, we're not all as lucky as Sai...

12/11/10

Get Inspired

Stuck, stalled, or stagnating? Fret not, it happens to the best of us. Sometimes people find themselves at a loss for motivation, especially now that the weather has gotten more frigid than the Cold Miser's buttcrack. Firstly, I highly recommend Vitamin D3 to combat that seasonal depression, but in terms of stalling on your lifts, go to YouTube.

I'll concede that for every good YouTube video there's about 346 awful ones, but that's what Tosh.O is for. Regardless, the good stuff on there is gold and rife with inspiration to help you break through your plateaus. How about some anecdotal evidence?

Personally, as much as I love squatting, I've had trouble making any significant improvements in it. I maxed at 306lbs a little while back and then got bitch-slapped by 315lbs a week later. Then one day at work rather than actually doing work because that would be stupid, I saw this video...

"I have a question though. What's going on with Hulk Hogan's hair? It's blonde and yet it's silken like that of a Chinese man."

That's Jared Fleming. He's 19 or so, lifts in the 94kg class, and just back squatted 462lbs for 10 goddamn reps. This video made me want to squat. A lot. A lot more than I've been squatting. That night, I back squatted 307lbs for two reps. Obviously, this is still a weaksauce squat, but it was a big PR at the time. And I think strong-ass Jared Fleming and his flaxen locks played a part in that.

This can work for nearly everything. Just like the Waterboy, you have to visualize and attack. Taking on Fran? Watch Rhabdo annihilate her...



Heavy back squats coming up? Check out what Mike Tuscherer is doing in his garage...



Going for a 1RM snatch? Take some cues from Jon North...

Just treat the barbell with a little more respect please.

The point I'm trying to make is that there are people out there doing amazingly strong and badass things and we should be using it to help make ourselves better. Simply put: if not a single one of the above videos pumps you up, you need to take up rollerblading or something.

12/4/10

Footwear: Elaborated

I want to delve a little deeper into the footwear topic I touched on here. I mentioned how modern shoes pretty much suck, disrupt your natural running stride, and are likely doing more harm than good. Now, this doesn't mean you should denounce all worldly possessions and go all Lord of the Flies about it...

That escalated quickly.

Nevertheless, here is a brief guide to footwear choices, depending on the workout...

Chucks: Everything


The classic Chuck Taylors are very versatile, cost-effective, and damn stylish. Chucks are excellent for the powerlifts (squat, deadlift, press) and acceptable for the Olympic lifts (snatch, clean, jerk). The lack of arch support will help build stronger feet, but I recommend easing into these badboys. In other words, doing a 100-rep box jump workout having never worn Chucks could result in an injury, shin splits, or possibly plantar fasciitis. Personally, I prefer the low-tops because the world must bask in the glory of my ankles.

Inov8 / Nike Free: Everything (I think)

I actually have no personal experience with either of these brands, but I've heard nothing but good things. The goal/effect is similar to barefoot training, but there's more interior padding so it'll make for a better transition from those shitty Nike Shox to stronger feet. They're both extremely light weight, pretty cool looking, and will certainly be better than whatever the hell these are.

Oly Shoes: The Lifts & Some Low Impact Metcons


Weightlifting shoes are obviously preferred for the snatch and the clean & jerk, but they're also excellent for back squats, front squats, overhead squats, shoulder presses, push presses, Bulgarian split squats, and so on. Note: I prefer people deadlift barefoot or without an elevated heel. The strap/s on the front will stabilize your foot laterally inside the shoe, while the elevated heel will help keep one's torso more erect, especially during squats. The resulting feeling is that you're seemingly cemented into the ground i.e. stable as shit. Everyone I've recommended Oly shoes to has experienced positive results almost immediately. Generally speaking, weightlifting shoes shouldn't be worn for metcons, but it depends on the metcon in question. I will get more into this later.

Vibrams / Barefoot: Power Lifts & Lower Impact Metcons


Despite looking semi-ridiculous, Vibrams are actually excellent for your foot health. The will help strengthen your arches and improve your running patterns, which will both result in less long-term injuries. The biggest problem I see is people not appropriately easing into them. You can't just run a 5k barefoot without having properly prepared your feet for that kind of stress. Slowly building up the requisite foot strength will pay off in the long run (pun totally intended).


Don't worry, I'm not just going to reference a bunch of shoes without talking about the workouts they'd best be worn in. Oh no, I'll feed you, baby birds. So let's take a look at some sample workouts, the best options for footwear, and the reasoning behind each choice...

Example A
3 Rounds:
10 Burpee
10 Front Squat, 185lbs
10 Pull-ups

Shoes: Oly, Chuck, Vibram/Barefoot, Inov8/NikeFree

A workout like this can be done with any of the above options, but I'd recommend Oly shoes as a first choice. The limiting factor for most people will be the heavy front squats, so weightlifting shoes will help the most. The Inov8/NikeFree option is last because of all the choices, they are the least stable for front squats.

Example B
3 Rounds:
Run 400m
30 Double-unders
15 Box Jumps (30")

Shoes: Inov8/Nike Free, Chucks, Vibram/Barefoot

This one is kind of a three-way tie. Any of the above options is acceptable, provided your feet are adapted and prepared for this kind of stress. It's a lot of running and jumping so Vibrams or barefoot means your feet will take a beating. Oly shoes are obviously not an option as this metcon should obviously not be done while wearing something with wooden heels.

Example C
Snatch 1RM

Shoes: Oly, Chucks, Inov8/NikeFree

For the Olympic lifts, the first choice is obvious. If you don't have weightlifting shoes, Chucks will probably be your next best option. Failing that, go with Inov8's or Nike Free's. Try to avoid O-lifting barefoot or in Vibrams. Depending on one's technique, the feet can strike the ground with a lot of impact. You're better off with some shoe rather than no shoe, even if only for a slightly elevated heel.

Example D
Deadlift 1RM

Shoes: Vibram/Barefoot, Chucks

We want our heels as close to the ground as possible when deadlifting heavy loads, so an elevated heel of any kind will not do us any favors. Staying back on our heels allows us to keep the bar close and helps utilize the posterior chain more effectively.

Again, please note that this isn't some crusade to get you to throw out your LA Gear light-ups and buy fancy new kicks, but start thinking about how your footwear may be affecting your workouts and if some change is needed.

11/17/10

Another Revelation: Getting Two Birds Stoned At Once

You still working that 8-hour desk job? C'mon man, quit already. Seriously, go out like George Costanza. Your job is lame anyways. And someone probably keeps eating your sandwich out of the break room fridge.

Okay fine, if I can't make you quit, then maybe we can make your time at work more useful. As I've previously discussed here and here, that desk chair you're sitting in isn't doing your posture, performance, or health any favors. How do we combat this? Well, like Eric Cressey said, "Make a point of getting up and moving around as often as you can. The best posture is the one that is constantly changing." But here we encounter another problem: people get so ensconced in their work that they lose track of the time, lack the desire to move, or they're just plain too busy trying to look busy (I know that game). My solution? Drink water. A lot of it.


Let's face it, you're not drinking enough water. You know it and so do I. Maybe a few of you are, but generally speaking, most people live in a state of constant dehydration. Roughly 75% of Americans are dehydrated at any one time. The benefits of hydration are so often overlooked. Drinking sufficient amounts of water can enhance mental clarity, help alleviate joint pain, improve digestion and immune function, etc (more here and everywhere else on Google). Couple dehydration with poor posture and impaired mobility and we've got an individual poised to stagnate.

So how about we get two birds stoned at once? (You know what I mean)

By drinking a lot of water throughout the day, we'll have to constantly use the bathroom, which will force us to get up out of our stupid chairs, move around, stretch, and relieve our posture... and our bladders.

"Improving posture and hydrating at the same time? Surely, this must be some kind of sorcery!" I wish it were because then people could call me Jafar. It's a cheap trick, but it works - I've had to use the bathroom twice while writing this post. So get to it, people!!

Mobile, Hydrated, & Classy

11/8/10

Hardcore? Hardly.

The other night I was out with some friends, obviously doing everything I could to be the center of attention. At one point, I met a young lady who does CrossFit at another gym in northern Virginia. I'll refrain from naming said gym because it will add nothing to the points I'm going to make.

We began discussing the differences between our gyms and why, although living closer to Balance, she chose this other affiliate. Her reasoning: "I just think our gym is a little more hardcore than yours." Now, let me clarify: she said this in the nicest, most non-malicious way possible, but it still irked me a bit.

Look, right off the bat, I'm not going to try turning this into a dick measuring contest (I have a habit of losing those), nor will I attempt to explain why CrossFit Balance is THE MOST HARDCORE GYM ON THE PLANET because it's not. Neither are they. This isn't a discussion about who's "better" because, in the end, we're all alright. My issue here really stems from the term "hardcore" and all the connotations that come with it.

Oftentimes, I wonder if people are more interested in being perceived as badass rather than actually being badass. Of course, this all depends on how you even define "badassness" or "hardcore." And while I'm sure the definition differs for everyone, in terms of CrossFit, here are some quick guidelines:

1) Tearing your hands to the point of hamburger meat is not hardcore
2) Puking is not hardcore
3) Holding a plank for 40 minutes is not hardcore
4) Rounding your lumbar spine on a deadlift PR attempt is not hardcore (it's also not a PR)
5) Sumo deadlift high pulls are not hardcore

Your shoulders fucking hate this position.

6) Avoiding foam rolling is not hardcore
7) Being shirtless is not hardcore (doesn't mean I still won't do it)
8) Doing 45+ minute metcons everyday is not hardcore

I feel most people will agree this is all common sense. I'd like to elaborate on my last point, however; because there's confusion out there. For some reason, people assume that if a workout doesn't leave them half-dead on the floor gasping for air, it wasn't a "good" workout. Before I go any further, read this article from Whole9Life.

Did you read it? No? Well, here it is again: Beware The Lure of the Sexy Metcon. Don't worry, I'll continue after you finish it.

Done? Good. Those ridiculously long and complex workouts, we call those "Any Asshole" workouts. Because any asshole can design a workout that will make you tired. An expression I heard once: A trainer makes you tired, a coach makes you better.

And sure, we throw a couple of those in once in a while, but they by no means define our programming at CrossFit Balance. You don't always have to be lying in a pile of your own sweat to feel a sense of accomplishment. Our goal is to simultaneously build your strength and improve your metcon capacity, while refining your nutrition habits and developing your skills. Some might not see us as "hardcore" but they're usually the ones wearing board shorts, eye-black, and carrying a sandbag while shirtless for a charity 5k fun run...

Trying Too Hard To Be Hardcore.

If we absolutely had to label something fitness-related as hardcore, then Mikhail Koklyaev is decidedly so...



In the long run, it's really not important if people perceive you as hardcore. Just be consistent, be kind, be humble, and work your ass off. Everything else will fall into place after that.

11/4/10

The Sumo Deadlift

As many of you experienced last week, the sumo deadlift feels significantly different than the conventional deadlift. While many of the same muscles are being used, proper execution really allows us to use our glutes and hamstrings more effectively. As I've said before, weak glutes are a common affliction across the board, especially for those of us working lame-ass desk jobs.


Keys To Appropriate Set-up & Lift:
1) Feet wide. Width will obviously vary from person to person, but it should be enough to comfortably pull with our arms inside our knees.
2) Toes pointed slightly out. Again, weight on our heels.
3) Obviously, just like picking anything off the ground, keep your lower back in extension. Similarly, remeber to keep your keep your scapula retracted i.e. pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades. And to expand on this even further, think about actually pulling your lats down and back. If all of this is done properly, your entire back should be locked as one solid, straight piece.
4) Arms hanging straight down at shoulder width.
5) Head looking forward. Unlike the conventional deadlift, our torso will be in a more erect position, so we will not be in a position to hyper-extend at the cervical spine. How nerdy did that sentence just sound?
7) Be sure to keep your midline or "core" tight - this means abs, back, and obliques working in unison.
6) Once all of the above it taken care of, your breath is absolutely vital to a successful lift (this is true with all heavy lifting). This isn't just about taking a big breath in; it's about trying to fill your entire abdomen with as much air as possible.


7) When set, raise your hips until you feel tension in your hamstrings. This is important.
8) Begin by driving your feet into the ground and away from your center, utilizing that hamstring tension to begin elevating the barbell.
9) Once the bar passes above the knee, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips through to complete the lift.
10) Basically, do what Jen does...

Note her excellent glute strength and hip drive

Lastly, a big thanks to Bobby Goodfellow for his input on this post. He's strong and has a pretty epic beard, so I value his opinion. Check him out as he soon resumes his grip training at Cinderblock Hands.

10/20/10

If At First You Don't Succeed, Do Something Else

The other day I was working with Chris on snatches. I was hoping to have him set another PR, but wasn't too sure. He hadn't maxed since the last time we worked together and he had already done a workout in the morning. So I had him do a few drills with the barbell, a few doubles with lighter weight and then started working with singles.

His first few lifts: 110 / 132 / 154 / 164 / 174

Chris was steadily climbing and each attempt looked solid. I opted to load the bar to 184 (his previous PR), expecting him to hit it without issue.

His next lifts: 184-F3 / 174-F /154-F / 110-F2 /110

After missing 184 three separate times, I decided to drop the weight down and hopefully work back up. Unfortunately, Chris kept missing everything - for God's sake, he missed 110 twice! This was all a byproduct of mentally breaking down. He missed 184 a few times because of some technique errors - not finishing his extension, slow getting under the bar, etc. But then, frustration and over-thinking caused him to miss what should have been routine lifts. Ultimately, Chris's primary technical flaw was not fully committing to getting under the bar, so I moved him to some snatch balances. After slowly building up weight, he did the following:

204lbs

See, I knew anymore snatch attempts would have done more harm than good. So rather than have Chris get more upset and more mentally shaken, I opted to completely switch exercises and have him address the problem at hand. The result left him with a new snatch balance PR. Sure, he was still pissed about failing all those snatches, but he now knows he can receive 200lbs overhead.

The point I'm trying to make is that if something's not working, adjust your strategy accordingly. There's no use in beating yourself up with failed attempts - it's both physically taxing and mentally frustrating. Adapt to thrive.

10/16/10

What's In A Name?

As I'm sure some of you might be wondering what the title of this blog means, I decided to shed a little light on the topic. I realize some of you probably don't care, but oh well, you can call this post "filler" then. The expression "Becoming The Bull" is actually a song by Atreyu. While most of you will immediately dismiss it as angry white guy music, the lyrics are quite poignant and very relatable to training...


Grab the bull by the horns the old adage goes
Nobody tells you where to go from here
It seems like fate's pulling you
Decisions have to be made
The best path is the hardest earned

Back and forth the struggle consumes us all
Trying to keep a level head
In the most unsettling of times
Today I'll become the bull..

There is so much at stake
I stumble I'll lose my place
Pride and arrogance surrounded by sin
Destiny takes its hold
Fight it or let it go
But I choose how the day will end

Back and forth the struggle consumes us all
Trying to keep a level head
In the most unsettling of times
Today I'll become the bull...

This walk can get lonely
I lose myself inside myself
No one can touch you when you're outside staring in
Remove myself from this rat race

Back and forth the struggle consumes us all
Trying to keep a level head
In the most unsettling of times
Today I'll become the bull...

"Yeah, that's me, taking the bull by the horns. It's how I handle my business.
It's a metaphor. But that actually happened, though."

10/11/10

Why Focus On Getting Stronger?

Because Jesus says so...

10/2/10

Mobility Abounds!

It's no secret that I'm a fiend for mobility. Why? Because yours sucks. Don't worry, most everyone's does. Even mine. And I'm awesome. Fitness, or better yet, the general improvement of overall health revolves around more than just the "workout of the day." Exercise, sleep, nutrition, etc - these are all just pieces to the puzzle. Mobility is just another piece, yet one of the most often overlooked.

The human body is amazingly capable of adaptation - varying temperatures, changing foods, elevated stress, and unique movement patterns as well. Depending on where your inefficiencies lay, your body will do whatever it has to in order to help you do whatever crazy nonsense you're doing. Not using your glutes during deadlifts? Your body will call on your lower back and hamstrings to bear more of the load. We can only get away with this for so long until our progress stalls, or worse, we get injured. Improving mobility can have almost immediate implications on strength, speed, power, and movement efficiency.

After class one day, Cram asked if I could help her stretch her hamstrings. Since I'm such a gentleman, I obliged. Nick took some pictures as we did a little test/retest.

Before

I took her through a pretty basic PNF stretch sequence. PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation - see it in action here.

After

That's a pretty significant change for less than two minutes of stretching. This isn't permanent, though, so Cram will have to continue working towards improving her hamstrings.

It should be said that PNF is not a comfortable experience. But to be honest, if something is easy, then it probably doesn't work. "Look, facilitating the muscles...it's like a dogfight. You need to be ready to bite down on a bullet. You need to fight tooth and nail for this. And you need to go after it seriously. It's not pleasant and mobilizing should never be pleasant." -Kelly Starrett

If you find yourself stalling, plateauing, or just feel like you're not getting the most out of your body's potential, it's not always a strength or "lung" issue. A lot of times you're limited by your own crap-ass range-of-motion. So make an effort to resolve this issue. Sign up for one of Lauren Polivka's Functional Movement Screens, foam roll before class, stretch after class, go to one of Michael Hall's yoga classes, peruse K-Starr's awesome mobility blog, or just ask me what you suck at. I'm sure I'll have an answer.

All kidding aside, this stuff is important. Because...




Mobility is serious business.

9/27/10

Quick Shout-out

Right off the bat, I have to admit that I have no idea how to punctuate the term "shout-out." Is there a hyphen? No hyphen? Should I capitalize the "O" or is it all one word? Whatever.

I just wanted to direct everyone to Dave Lipson's blog 365 Days of Squatting. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Dave personally, but he's a strength-heathen regularly featured on CrossFit.com obliterating weights. He has overhead squatted 345x3, split jerked 340, back squatted 500x3, and deadlifted 651. So... he's kinda strong.

Anyways, Dave's blog documents his training in which he squats at least 450lbs every day. For 365 days. He also mixes other strength work and metcons into it as well, but he pretty much must squat at least 450lbs every freaking day. Aside from this being a brutally awesome challenge, the best part is that he is dedicating this effort to Amanda Miller and skin cancer awareness. Kudos to Dave for this thoughtful and badass endeavor. I am hoping to plan a fundraising event at CrossFit Balance next year in memory of Amanda. Details will be coming in the future.



You can read more about Amanda here.

9/20/10

The Hits Keep On Coming...

Chris set another huge PR this past Sunday. We started off with some foam rolling, mobility drills, and then basic positioning work with an empty barbell. Once I felt everything was in order, I let him clean & jerk from the floor, slowly adding weight. His previous PR was 220lbs.

248lbs

Quick critique:
1) You'll notice Chris's hips rise a little early. Ideally, during the first pull, one's hips and chest will rise at the same rate. Like this.
2) You'll notice Chris's shoulders go a little soft on the jerk (at roughly ~17 seconds). Receiving the jerk with one's shoulders and elbows completely locked is crucial to a successful lift.
3) On his recovery from the split jerk position, he struggles. A lot. One reason is because... well, it's a lot of damn weight that he's never put overhead before. The main reason, though, is that he extends his back leg early rather than keeping it partially bent. This shifts the weight towards the front foot and forces him to inch backwards instead of taking the necessary half-step backwards. The ball of the rear foot should actually be bearing slightly more of the load
4) You can hear Christy Phillips and I arguing towards the end of the video. It gets cut off, but I assure you, I won.

My goal was to have Chris hit 250, but unfortunately I put him through too many attempts prior in order for it to happen. He actually cleaned 252 three different times but kept missing the jerk. I'm quite certain that with bigger jumps early on, he can hit 250 with relative ease.

And finally, Chris also did "Fran" in 2:58 last Friday. So basically, I hate him.

9/17/10

Footwear

Believe it or not, what you put on your feet makes a big impact on your life, health, and performance. I’m not talking about toe rings here; I’m referring to the shoes you wear. Unfortunately, the advent of modern shoe technology has actually been very detrimental overall. Running-related injuries have only increased with the further advancement of cushioned heels, Shox springs, and a whole bunch of other useless crap.

The only redeeming quality of the K-Swiss Tubes is that Kenny Powers endorses them.

The problem with these super-cushioned, shock-absorbing, space-age sneakers is that they alter running technique to encourage heel striking, which the rest of your lower body absolutely hates. If you take someone's shoes off and tell them to go for a run, they might start with a few heel strikes, but it won't be long before they adjust and start using the balls of their feet. That's how your feet and body were originally designed to move. Not convinced? Try this: Take off your shoes, jump as high as you can, and land on your heels. Let me know how that works out. Simply put, the balls of your feet are natural shock absorbers, designed to withstand that type of activity.

Asafa Powell doesn't heel strike; Kanye West probably does.

We live in a world of collapsed arches, shin splints, ankle injuries, plantar fasciitis, and knee pain. Modern shoes have altered our running patterns and made our feet weak and deconditioned. Luckily, we're finally getting back to our roots. The advent of Vibram Five Fingers and the Nike Free line has encouraged people to get their feet strong again. So what am I getting at with all of this? Well...

1) Stop buying $120 shoes that suck.
2) Go barefoot more often.
3) Purchase some Vibrams or Chuck Taylors or Nike Free's.
4) Don't be a douche. Wear your Vibrams when you workout, but not with a suit. James Bond would hate Al Roker.
5) Ease into it. Don't go for a 5k run in a new pair of cushion-less kicks. Your feet need to be slowly conditioned and strengthened before that kind of stress.
6) Understand that I will make fun of you if you wear Vibrams. Again, they're a quality product and great for your feet - I just think they look ridiculous. I'm talking to you, Josh Courage!

For more information from people smarter than me, check out the following articles:

EatMoveImprove: Shoes, Sitting, and Lower Body Dysfunctions

Mark's Daily Apple: Flat Feet Treatment

Mark's Daily Apple: Even If The Shoe Fits, Forget It

9/13/10

Sweet Baby Jesus

Nothing poignant to say, I just needed to point out the absurdity of the following video...



Pat Mendes trains in Las Vegas out of Average Broz Gym with John Broz. He is 20(!) years old. He snatches 200kg and cleans 240kg - ridiculous numbers for his age. Excuse me, ridiculous numbers for ANYONE. The above squat is so nuts, I don't even know what to say. There are powerlifters out there working towards 800lbs squats while wearing gear and not going nearly as deep. Dude is not human.

The U.S. has not medaled in Olympic weightlifting since Mario Martinez won silver in 1984*. Pat Mendes is our best chance for a medal in 2012 (Kendrick Farris could make a pretty good run in the 85's if he gets his snatch up). Unfortunately, Pat isn't sure if he's going to compete for the U.S. or for Brazil. I was upset about this at first, but really, the U.S. is one of the few countries that does not financially support its athletes. Many athletes working towards the Olympics have full-time jobs, must rely on sponsorships or fundraising, and so on. Not Bode Miller, though. You know that guy couldn't hold a job. I don't want to delve deeper into this whole issue, but I hope Pat represents the U.S. in 2012. If he continues to progress the way he has, he's sure to make a serious impact.



*It should be noted that the Soviet Union and eight other socialist states boycotted the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The results would have been significantly different otherwise.

9/10/10

Shameless Self-promotion

Listen, I don't mean to toot my own horn, but beep beep. As many of you know, I have been teaching an Olympic lifting class at CrossFit Balance on Saturday mornings at 9AM. Danielle and I created this class for three reasons: 1) I love teaching the O-lifts, 2) It's an excellent opportunity for people to develop/improve their technique, and 3) You probably suck at the snatch and clean & jerk. Hear me out...

Olympic lifting is the most technically demanding aspect of CrossFit and dedicating some focused attention to it will pay dividends. Too often do you see these beautiful movements bastardized by people who care more about moving fast than moving efficiently. Newsflash: Efficient = Fast. You can only muscle through reps for so long until form breaks down, time slows, and the potential for injury increases. While CrossFit has helped provide more exposure to the Olympic lifts, it has also done some damage by exemplifying such poor technique development. Admittedly, most of the blame should be laid on the individuals and their coaches for failing to devote some effort into becoming proficient in the O-lifts.

Here is a quick case-study: Chris is a client whose best previous snatch was a 155lbs power snatch. Chris is plenty strong and has good mobility in his hips and thoracic spine. When he told me his best overhead squat was 195 for three reps, I told him there was absolutely no reason he couldn't snatch 185lbs. So I took him through some light technique work, a lot of positioning drills with a barbell, and when I thought he was ready, I slowly had him work up to a heavy snatch. The result?

184lbs

With some more work, I have no doubt that Chris can snatch 200lbs. Now, keep in mind, I am by no means an "elite" Olympic lifting coach, but I know enough about the lifts and have seen enough to help correct flaws in people's form. This is an opportunity to enhance your Olympic lifting proficiency. I encourage you to do so.

9/1/10

Breakfast With Champions

Since I stressed the importance of nutrition in my last post, I will delve into it a little further today. On Tuesday morning, Christy Phillips - my dear friend and 6th Place finisher at the 2010 CrossFit Games - came over for breakfast. And since she's eating strict Paleo at the moment, I did my best to prepare a Paleo-friendly meal. Here is photo of the meal half-ready:


First off, I totally agree with you: my kitchen countertops are to die for! Secondly, how delicious does that look? I'll do a little rundown of what you're looking at...

Counterclockwise from the top:
-Various spices
-2 sliced chicken breasts
-6 Beaten eggs
-Diced tomato and onion
-1 sliced avocado
-Almond & walnut slivers
-Frozen mixed berries
-1 can of coconut milk
-6 strips of bacon

Alright, let's dig a little deeper into this meal, shall we?

1) Spices. I reckon the spice of life is spice itself - seasonings, not the channel you all used to watch when you were 13. Let me get something straight: I'm no chef. Honestly, I know shit about cooking. But if something has the word "chipotle" on it, I'll throw it on something. Mix it up, try different combinations. Changes the whole attitude of the meal.

2) Chicken. Anyone who doesn't eat meat in the morning is worse than Mel Gibson. That's right, if you don't eat meat in the morning, you may in fact be an alcoholic anti-Semite. Chicken, steak, pork - it's all gravy, baby!

3) Eggs. Protein = Awesome. And don't ditch the yolks, either. They're full of nutrients you're missing out on. Cholesterol is a myth. I'll save that discussion for a later date.

4) Tomato & Onion. In retrospect, this meal should have had more vegetables, but damn it, do I ever love meat.

5) Avocado. Eat a lot of these. Very high in monounsaturated fats and very high in deliciousness.

6) Almond & Walnut slivers. More monounsaturated fats.

7) Mixed Berries. "Fruit, motherfucker!" -Samuel L. Jackson. Note: That may not be an actual Samuel L. Jackson quote, but I was just picturing him saying it.

8) Coconut milk. High in saturated fat, which is not nearly as bad for you as people like to think (this will be covered more in the cholesterol topic).

9) Bacon. Six strips is never enough. Especially for two people. When in doubt, add more bacon.

Now, Christy brought ingredients 6-7 to make "Paleo cereal." Sounded odd to me at first. But you just throw the nuts and berries into a bowl, dump some coconut milk in and that's it. And it's good as hell. Captain Crunch was a dick anyways - did you ever see that guy actually captain a ship? But I digress. Anyways, I cooked the eggs, threw the vegetables and some spices in, and here is the finished product...


How motherf'ing good does that look? Presentation is half the battle, of course. The point of this story, however, is really simple: if I can cook a Paleo meal, any of you can as well. It just takes a little time and creativity. If you really loathe cooking, you need to make enjoying it a priority. Pretend you're on a cooking show and talk to an invisible audience (I actually do this). Your roommates and neighbors might think you're insane, but it really enhances the whole cooking experience. Now get out there and refine your collective palates, people!

8/26/10

Supplementation, Take 2

Before I begin, the title above doesn't mean "Take 2 supplements" - I've just discussed supplementation already here. Nevertheless, I was asked to touch on it again.

The whole idea of supplementation is good and bad. Sometimes, you will need a little something extra to aid in recovery and increase performance. That's fine. What pisses me off about supplementation is people who ask about it when it's essentially pointless for them. Here's a quick questionnaire for you...

Are you sleeping at least 8-9 hours a night?

Is your nutrition dialed in? No grains, sugars, or processed foods?

Are you working out consistently and taking rest days when appropriate?


If you don't have these things worked out, then taking something like creatine is waste of your time and money. Look, there is no easy fix. If your squat is weak, you need to squat more. If you're not eating well and getting enough quality sleep, don't ask what kind of supplements you should be taking.

Unless your nutrition and sleep are dialed in, most supplementation is pointless.

Now, I put "most" in italics for a reason. There are some things you should be taking no matter what. I don't consider these "supplements" because they should become a normal part of your everday life.

Essential:

1) Fish Oil: Everyone should be taking fish oil. Back in the good ol' hunter-gatherer days, the ratio of Omega 3's to Omega 6's was about 1:1. Now, we're floating around 1:20 or 1:30. This is not good. Fish oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties (alleviates muscle soreness), helps brain and liver function, and is not some bullshit supplement - it's highly endorsed across the whole spectrum of medicine, sports performance, and rehabilitation.

Tips:
A. Keep in refrigerator or freezer. This will increase it's shelf life.
B. Eat immediately before or during a meal. Not after. It's okay if you do... you'll just get fish oil burps. They're not very appetizing.
C. Fish Oil Calculator. An excellent guide to find out how much fish oil you should be consuming daily. Dallas and Melissa from Whole9Life are top notch. When it's calculated, the number may seem absurdly high - trust me, it's accurate. And for the record, eating salmon once a week doesn't cut it.

Options:
A. Kirkland Brand Fish Oil from Costco is a very cost-effective choice (go figure). Decent quality at a great price.
B. Nature's Answer. For a high quality liquid form, you can't beat the price on this particular brand. I take it and I'm a fan.
C. Nordic Naturals. Allegedly, one of the highest concentrated brands out there, but very expensive.

2) Vitamin D3: Quickly becoming, quite possibly, the best supplement on the planet. A whole lot of studies have been done on this beautiful bitch and all the results/effects have been positive. Don't believe me? Here are three solid sources: EatMoveImprove, Charles Poliquin, and Huffington Post.

Tips:
A. Personally, I take 5000 IU before going to bed every night (or morning because of my stupid schedule). I started, however, by taking roughly 10,000 IU per day for roughly 3 months. This was to "get my levels up" so to speak and I now take 5000/day for maintenance.

Options:
A. While it can be bought at almost any grocery store or pharmacy, I prefer Healthy Origins brand off iHerb. Great price, good quality, and high concentration.

3) Magnesium (and Zinc): Most, if not all, people are deficient in magnesium and zinc, two essential natural minerals. If you recall that Dan John article, he highly recommends magnesium. It aids a boatload of biological processes such as the synthesis of protein, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction. Most importantly, it will help you sleep better.

Tips:
A. Take roughly 40 minutes to an hour before going to bed. This isn't required, but it's the best time frame for consumption.
B. You may experience some trippy dreams, but it's perfectly normal and sometimes very fun. I'm sure you all miss college anyways.

Options:
A. Natural Calm. Robb Wolf and many others have spoken very highly about this brand. I'm currently taking it and sleeping like a baby. Naturally, as you've all noticed, I'm not exactly "calm" but that's because I'm an asshole. Note: This supplement only contains magnesium so you may want to take zinc tablets along with it. They can be bought all over.


B. ZMA. The Twin Labs brand from iHerb is a good product for a good price, but there are other options out there as well. This contains both magnesium and zinc.

Important:

4) Protein: A diet loaded with steak, chicken, pork, bacon, and beef will certainly do wonders, but some of you will require a little extra (mainly former vegetarians and Too-Skinny Jimmies). Protein is vital, especially post-workout, to optimize recovery as well as repair/build muscle. This is basic, well-known shit so I'm not going any further into it than this.

Tips:
A. The optimal window post-workout to take protein is anywhere with 45 minutes of completion. Ideally, within 15 minutes post-workout is preferred.
B. For some of you in need of gaining weight, protein shakes can be consumed 2-3 times throughout the day. If you're trying to gain weight 1g of protein for every pound of bodyweight helps.

Options:
A. The EAS brand from Costco is decent quality at a good price. Flavor ain't so bad either.
B. I use Optimum Nutrition brand off Vitacost. Excellent quality and a solid price. Damn tasty, too.
C. OPT also has a wide variety of great products in his online store. Ranging from protein powders to REFUEL, a pretty solid semi-individualized post-workout recovery shake.

Ivan Stoitsov probably took protein
...and whatever they give racehorses

Useful:

5) Creatine: This is one of the few supplements out there that actually does what it says. It will help with weight and strength gains as well as recovery between workouts.

Tips:
A. Drink lots of water with it.
B. Don't worry about "loading" it as the directions may say. It's not necessary.

Options:
A. From what I've heard, CreaPure is a good choice.
B. There's also "creatine ethyl ester" which apparently absorbs into the body more quickly, but it's much more expensive. Basic creatine should do you just fine. 70's Big discusses creatine and other supplements a bit more here.

6) Glucosamine & Chondroitin: Many people take this for joint health. Reviews are generally mixed. Some people respond well to it, others think it's crap. If you're experiencing joint pain (i.e. you're old like Nick), it might be a good avenue to try.

Tips:
A. This one is self-explanatory. Just take it. Be warned: I've heard it can make you gassy.

Options:
A. Can be purchased in either liquid or pill form. And it can be found in any grocery store or pharmacy.

In closing, Information Is Beautiful provided an excellent interactive graphic regarding supplements, vitamins, and minerals here. So, to simplify all of this: improve your diet, get at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night, take fish oil, Vitamin D3, magnesium, and zinc. Add protein to optimize recovery and gain muscle. Take creatine once the rest is sorted out. Try glucosamine and chondroitin if you're experiencing joint pain. Most importantly, be consistent with your training and work hard.

8/17/10

Check Out That Rack!

Easy, perverts. I'm talking about front squats here. I doubt I'm going out on a limb when I say that a lot of you probably have a poor rack position. It's a very common problem for CrossFitters, especially those of us that come from the Globo Gym arena with limited flexibility from hours upon hours of bench pressing. But this isn't a problem without a solution, unlike the problem that is Lindsey Lohan, for which there is no solution whatsoever. If we work to improve our rack position, we will not only be able to front squat more comfortably, but we'll be able to lift more weight, clean more safely, and do thrusters far more efficiently. So let's get started...

This is my friend Jess and she is a yoga instructor. It's likely that not a whole lot of you can hold a PVC pipe with your arms completely parallel to the ground like this. You probably need 45lbs or more just to get that bar resting on your shoulders. Jess demonstrates incredible flexibility here. Below I'm going to describe some techniques and stretches you can do to improve your own rack position.

1) Foam Roll your thoracic spine, especially before sets of front squats, cleans, thrusters, push presses, jerks, and so on. For more, read this post from Kelly Starrett. To effectively foam roll your T-spine, you can use the basic method or you can perform thoracic extensions:


You know what would work best? Doing both!

2) Stretch your triceps, lats, and chest. Many people assume a poor rack position is an effect of poor wrist flexibility. While tight wrists play a role, there are other contributing factors to consider. Now, refer to this other post from Kelly Starrett. He's much smarter than me.

3) Stretch you hip flexors and hamstrings. All. Day. Long. The majority of us sit at desk jobs for 8+ hours a day. And it sucks. Our hips and hamstrings are constantly closed and dying to be stretched out and opened up. Stretching these muscles groups will improve all aspects of CrossFit, from force production to range of motion to good ol' flexibility. For effective ways to stretch all of the above-mentioned muscle groups, refer to stretches listed in this article by Mike Robertson.

4) Subscribe to the CrossFit Journal and watch/read anything and everything with Kelly Starrett. Like this third article I will link to. Can anyone guess if I'm a K-Starr fan?

5) The most important point that I hope everyone already knows is this: during a front squat, the bars rests on your shoulders - not in your hands! Please refer to the below picture...

8/12/10

Pushing Paleo

First off, congratulations to Simon and Katie for taking 1st and 2nd Place, respectively, in Kari's 30-Day Paleo Challenge. In light of this, I thought now would be a good time to share some excellent nutrition resources with everyone. So, in no particular order, here is a buttload of links to help improve how you look, feel, and perform:

Egg On Their Face by John Welbourn

Look Better Naked

Everyday Paleo

Change Your Life In 30 Days by Melissa Urban

Urban Gets Diesel

The Whole9Life Blog

Robb Wolf

Mark's Daily Apple Recipes

NorCal S&C Recipes

The Paleo Diet Recipes

My Paleo Kitchen

NorCal S&C - Sarah's Story

Jen's Gone Paleo

8/8/10

Quick & Random

There are a lot of topics coming up in the next few weeks, including but not limited to proper footwear, an absurdly long list of Paleo websites, the relationship between soreness and injury, insulin and its effect on the body, and much more. In the meantime, here are some quick things I wanted to share with everyone...


First off, Lauren Polivka, Balance Gym's physical therapist, will be offering FREE Functional Movement Screens to Balance members next Wednesday, August 18th, from 5PM to 8PM. What is this?

The Functional Movement Screen is a 7-step movement analysis which provides the participant with information concerning their imbalances. The results let the examiner know areas of flexibility and strength that need to be improved and the participant's risk for injury. It is used in areas of professional sports and physical therapy clinics around the world.

So why should you care? Over time, people tend to develop muscle imbalances, movement impingements, and a variety of other problems that are ultimately limiting their performance. These can come from inflexibility, prolonged periods of sitting at a desk, poor posture, and so on. Lauren's assessment will help illuminate where your problem areas are and what needs to be worked on.

The sign-up sheet can be found at the front desk of the main gym. Each assessment last 20 minutes and, again, is completely free. In all honesty, if you care about how you feel and perform, you'd be a moron to not sign up. Sign up now before I decide to take your spot. I did mention it's free, right?


Next, the 30-Day Paleo Challenge is wrapping up and everyone who participated should thank CrossFit trainer Kari Utz for organizing it. For anyone who didn't join in, ask those who did about their results. Why do we support the Paleo Diet so whole-heartedly? Because it works damn it. But for anyone who may be confused or unsure or not ready to commit to anything with a title, start with this incredibly simple prescription: Eat Real Food.


And finally, I'm not sure if this makes me evil or anything, but I've been laughing at this video for three days now:


Sure, this has nothing to do with fitness, but I'll bet you're laughing. I think it's his hilarious yell of impending doom that does it for me. It's pretty much how I would picture a six-year-old yelling, "Fuuuuuuuck!"

8/4/10

Proper Grip & Hand Treatment


Does that picture look familiar to any of you? If you participated in Tuesday's workout at CrossFit Balance, it certainly might. With CrossFit, the risk of hand rips is always present, but it's a reality we all accept.

Unfortunately, some people treat their destroyed hands as some kind of badge of honor, which is pretty much stupid. While some people think having ripped up hands is "hardcore" all it really does is delay your training and set back your progress. And while the risk of rips is always prevalent, we should take steps both to prevent them and speed their recovery. The root of the problem for most of you lies within three things: maintenance, grip, and recovery.

It's very likely that over time you may develop some significant calluses on your hands. First and foremost, this is a good thing. No offense, but none of you will be professional hand models in the near future like Ray McKigney (epic Seinfeld reference). The development of calluses shows you have tough, strong hands capable of actual work. Like this...


Bobby Goodfellow's got MITS.

Ladies, I know some of you would prefer dainty/feathery (Translation: weak) hands, but in the long run, properly maintained calluses won't even be noticeable. Besides, that's why Jon Voight invented cocoa butter. Or whoever invented cocoa butter.

The simplest way to maintain or control one's calluses is by utilizing a callus shaver, pumice stone, or razorblade. All are viable options, but the callus shaver is clearly the best bet. A pumice stone may not be rough enough and a razorblade could be downright dangerous, especially if Danielle accidentally spills piping hot coffee on you at 3PM yesterday. More info on shaving your calluses can be found in this article - I will be linking this article again so be sure to check it out.

On the grip side of things, the most common problem I see is over-gripping of the bar (or barbell). Essentially, people place the bar in the palm of their hands which leads to pulling - and eventually ripping - of the skin, especially if large calluses have developed. To better illustrate what I'm attempting to explain, here is Mark Rippetoe:


While this slight change will tax your finger/forearm strength a little more, it will decrease the chance of turning your hands into hamburger meat.

When a rip occurs, I generally offer the same prescription written in this article (told you it'd be back). It's simple and quite effective. Read it, learn it, live it, love it. I must say, however, that I do not agree with the article's promotion of hand guards. Really, unless you're doing this, I don't see the need.

In short, your hands play a vital role in the success of your training, so don't neglect them. Work on controlling your calluses, possibly altering your grip, and be diligent about nursing them back to health after "Murph" or other high-rep craziness. So until then, high fives all around!

7/22/10

A Revelation

I ran out of deodorant on Friday night. Bear with me, this story has a point. Upon realizing that I had used up my last stick of glorious Old Spice, what do you think I did? Well, despite their misleading commercials*, I didn't switch over to Axe. But sure enough, Saturday morning, I went right to Safeway and bought some more deodorant. This got me thinking...

Most people consider certain things essential - like toothpaste, deodorant, soap, and so on. Note: Normal hygenic people, anyways. If you run out of toothpaste, you don't wait a week to go buy another tube. You make time, you go to the store, you spend the money. People don't hesitate when it comes to purchasing these products. You may look for a cheaper brand or try to save a few pennies, but one way or another, you're leaving the store with something. And this made me realize something: we should be treating supplements like fish oil and Vitamin D3 with the same degree of necessity.

Fish Oil and Vitamin D3. Refer to this post for more information. Simply put, these two supplements help improve long-term health, accelerate recovery, and enhance performance. So...

Spend the money. Feel better. Make it necessary.





*If using Axe products made beautiful women crawl all over you, trust me, I'd be swimming in that shit.

7/14/10

Stand Up! Pt.2

To go into more depth on my last post regarding posture, desk jobs, and the negative effects on fitness, performance, and appearance, here are a few articles you may find useful.

First is from Steven Low of Eat. Move. Improve. Steve covers how prolonged sitting and modern footwear can be detrimental to one's health. It's an incredibly in-depth and well sourced article. Long, but top notch. The second is a four-part series from Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson. It covers not only the science behind muscle shortening, but case studies involving classic postural problems as well as loads of exercises to help improve and correct it all. And lastly is a classic/brilliant article from Mike Robertson regarding the relationship between your hip flexors and glutes.

I highly encourage you to give them a read. Enjoy.


7/7/10

Simon Says

Simon sent me an intriguing email I thought I'd share with all of you...

Take a crack at the picture attached. It looks like a genuine chef cooked it. Nope, that is my creation. Its a sous-vide chicken breast with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, cooked to absolute perfection. I'm not a bad cook, but they way I cooked it yielding amazing results - the chicken literally melted in your mouth and was perfectly moist. Note: Haha... he said "moist"
Sous vide is what is important here - it is a better way to cook, and it works especially well for paleo style diets. The idea is that you vacuum seal the food and cook it in a temperature controlled water bath. It allows you to get perfect cooking every time because you control the water temperature very precisely.

A sous vide can be pricey to set up, my setup cost just south of $600. I bought a sous vide supreme (449) and a Foodsaver vacuum sealer (130). There are cheaper ways to do it though, mainly by taking a crock pot and rigging up a $100 temperature controller. You don't need the vacuum sealer as well, there is a clever way of using a plastic bag and a water to remove the air from the bag (see this video: http://vimeo.com/11317493). I have a crock pot if you want it.

I'll keep experimenting, but I'm going to invite the crew in the next 2-3 weeks for a sous vide dinner.


Simon sets a great example here. While eating better is paramount, at times, one can feel limited by their options - "No bread?! But what about that sweet deal at Olive Garden!?!" First of all, when it comes to cooking, you're only limited by one thing: your imagination. Seriously, anyone who thinks Paleo is unreasonable because of a lack of options is really just goddamn lazy. At Robb Wolf's seminar, we did the following exercise:

1) Make three columns.
2) In Column 1, write down a bunch of meat options. In Column 2, vegetables. In Column 3, fat sources. And in Column 4, spices and such.
3) Start mixing that shit up!

Do the math on how many potential meals this list could make. Pretty substantial, ain't it? And this list only scratches the surface of what can be done. I'm not saying you have to go as far as Nils, who's enjoyment of cooking even exceeds my love of YouTube, but make an effort. If you can make cooking an enjoyable endeavor rather than an annoying chore, the results will astound you. You'll eat better, perform better, look better, feel better, and all potential mates are impressed by someone with cooking prowess. How else could you explain Nate Nash having a girlfriend?

In a short while, I'll be posting a list of excellent Paleo resources filled with recipes, tips, and ideas. Stay tuned...

7/1/10

Goals

Mike Robertson sent out the following newsletter on January 1st of this year:

The Most Important Newsletter You'll Get All Year?

That may have been exactly six months ago now, but the message remains important. Read it a few times and then honestly ask yourself two questions: 1) Do you have a definitive goal? 2) Are you on the right path to achieve it?

If not, it may be time to re-evaluate and make some adjustments. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

6/30/10

Agility Much?

Hat tip to Peter PC for sending me the following video of Chad OchoCinco. Don't get me started on his ridiculous/hilarious name. More importantly, focus on his obscenely quick feet...

6/21/10

Stand Up!

Let me start this one off with a series of questions...

1) Do you ever experience low back pain? Would you like to alleviate/prevent it?
2) Is your deadlift weaker than you'd like? Would you like to improve it?
3) Do you sit at a desk all day at work? STOP!

First off, regarding #3, I'm not telling you to quit your job. Nevertheless, if you sit at desk for hours on end almost everyday, it's going to negatively affect your performance and long-term health. This quote from Mike Robertson says it all:

"Tight hips lead to weak glutes."


What do you see in the above picture? We have a rounded spine, closed hips, closed hamstrings, and overall poor posture. Lovely pullover, though. This seated position is very likely how most of you sit for hours on end during the work week. With this position, we have a shortening of the hip flexors, which puts our glutes into a stretched position for a prolonged duration. Over time, this weakens our glutes and they eventually do not "fire" properly. This can lead to our hamstrings and adductors bearing more of the load, an anterior pelvic tilt, and lower back issues. All of these are common symptoms of Lordosis.

In order to avoid this, we need to take action in two different ways: Hip Flexor Stretching/Mobilization and Glute Activation.

Hip Flexor Stretching/Mobilization

We do the Samson Stretch everyday before working out to loosen up our hip flexors, but if you spend most of your day in a desk, you should probably be doing this stretch much more often. Also, check out the first two stretches from this StrongLifts article (the other stretches are good as well). For mobilizing the hip flexors, check out this drill from Eric Cressey.

Glute Activation

The posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors) is the key to athletic development. Unfortunately, most people have weak glutes and under-developed hamstrings - many have beefy spinal erectors because they compensate for the weakness of the other two. Activating the glutes is paramount. Here are some solid exercises you may consider incorporating into your daily warm-up:

Bird Dog
X Band Walk
Supine Bridge

And lastly, another great exercise to possibly throw in after your workout is the reverse crunch. It's a great correction for lordosis and - best of all - it will give you abzz!!!


These are some options open to all of you. Stand sideways in front of a mirror and see if you have an anterior pelvic tilt. Think about how often you find yourself in a seated position with closed hips and poor posture. If you really want to look, feel, and perform better, actively working to improve these issues will pay off greatly. Take this bit of advice from Eric Cressey, "Make a point of getting up and moving around as often as you can. Reach up to the sky, walk around, and do some doorway stretches for your pecs and lats (and your hip flexors, IT band, and calves, while you're at it). The best posture is the one that is constantly changing."

6/5/10

Paleolithic Solution Seminar w/ Robb Wolf

A quick heads up: Robb Wolf will be coming to the area July 31st for his Paleolithic Solution Seminar. Don't let name weird you out - it's a seminar on nutrition and it's excellent. I attended the first one out in California and I'm sure Robb has added even more information to it.

As I've said, no matter how hard you work in the gym, you can't out train a bad diet. The Paleo Diet is an excellent way to look, feel, and perform better. And while Robb covers the performance-related stuff, he also goes into a lot of other important health matters i.e. gluten's effect on autoimmune disorders, insulin and how our body uses/responds to it, and diet's affect on pregnancy (See: Q Helps Get Fanny Pregnant, 2010).

Robb is a brilliant guy, incredibly smart, and could literally talk about this stuff for days if his wife didn't stop him. I encourage all of you to sign up for it. Be warned: these things fill up quick as getting Robb over to the East coast is in high demand...

Paleolithic Solution Seminar: Potomac CrossFit, Arlington VA

5/31/10

The Need For Mobility

You guys have heard me ramble on and on and on and on about the importance of mobility, likely to the point where it's borderline annoying. Well, I've been annoying since I could talk so I'm not stopping now. And if you are dedicated to improving your performance, you'll embrace the importance of mobility.

I wanted to provide some quick anecdotal evidence supporting my stance on this issue. In training for the Blue Ridge Open, I was having some trouble with my split jerk - my lockout was poor, my shoulders and elbows were soft, bad posture, etc. It's no secret that my thoracic spine was lacking in mobility. So, I decided to be proactive about it. I began doing this routine from Mark's Daily Apple to improve my thoracic mobility (hat tip to Nate Nash for the link). With only a few weeks of work, the results were significant.


Both lifts are within 5lbs of each other and as you can clearly see in the first picture, my torso is leaning backwards to compensate for my tight upper back and shoulders. In the second picture, my torso is upright, my shoulders are back, the barbell is over my midline, and I look just plain fantastic in a singlet. All three of my jerk attempts at the meet were successful and solid - I actually wish I tried for a little more on my third attempt. Obviously, improving my mobility in that area paid dividends at the competition.

I continue to do the above-mentioned routine daily, as I sit at a desk for 10-hour shifts and my posture still isn't optimal. So take the time to think about which movements you have problems with. Chances are, your ability to perform them is being hindered by a mobility issue.

Currently, I'm researching/learning different assessments to test for mobility impairments so when I have more, I'll be sure to let you guys know...

5/26/10

Now What?

Well, for now, the A-Team is pretty much finished. It's another year until the next CrossFit Games. Many of you have approached me personally and asked what you should be doing. You've been following my crazy ass since January, so now I'm asking all of you: what do you want to do?

This is a critical point for all of you, really. This is where goals come in. The major benefit of the A-Team is that you all had something to train for, to work towards. Now that's over, what next? I think that will vary among all of you.

Obviously, many of you need to improve your strength. Right now, Greg, Peter PC, Jess, and HMS are all doing Starting Strength. Nils is doing Jim Wendler's 531 and Simon was on a Performance Menu cycle. I can't say how happy I am to see that you're all committed to getting stronger. Even if you goal is to improve your CrossFit abilities, building strength now will be most beneficial.

Again, you need to figure out what your goals are. Maybe you want a better "Fran" time, a bigger deadlift, improved Oly technique, or you just want to lose 5 pounds. Whatever the goal, it's crucial to choose the most appropriate path/program to achieve it. I'll help however I can.



You'll notice to the right that I have posted two upcoming events: The CrossFit Courage Games and the Keystone State Games. The former is (obviously) a CrossFit competition, while the latter is an Olympic weightlifting meet. I encourage you all to sign up for either or both. When there's an event on the horizon that you're preparing for, you're training. When you have a specific goal in mind that you'll work your ass off to accomplish, you're training. But when you're just coming to the gym and going through the motions, you're exercising. There's a big difference.

And if competition isn't for you, that's fine. Please at least heed the following advice from Dan John...