2012 Capital City Open

Alright, I wrote the following copy (yeah, I'm fucking journalist now) to be posted on all of Balance Gym's various blogs. It's basically a request for people to come out to support a bunch of Balance athletes/lifters/coaches this Saturday. Here goes...

Come out to Balance Gym Kalorama (CrossFit Dupont) to support and cheer on your fellow members and coaches as they compete in the 2nd annual Capital City Open, an Olympic weightlifting meet where athletes will snatch and clean & jerk. Each lifter gets three attempts at each lift. The combined total of their two best/successful lifts determines their place. Balance will be represented by both members and trainers. Of the 52 total participants, Balance alone accounts for 16 total lifters! That's 30%. It is -- I used a calculator.

Let's be honest, you and I both know you don't have anything better to do this Saturday. Swing by Kalorama and watch some weight get thrown around. You may even catch a few of your favorite (or least favorite) trainers rocking some singlets. How can you resist now?

What: 2012 Capital City Open
Where: Balance Gym Kalorama
When: Saturday, April 21st from 10AM to ~6PM
Who: 12 Balance gym members and 4 Balance gym trainers
Why: To support your fellow members and coaches as they lift heavy-ass weight over their heads.


Session 1: 10AM-11:15AM
Novice Female (all weight classes)

Sarah Shyr
Morgan Reynolds
Emily Baskin
Ilda Bajraktari

Session 2: 11:30AM-1PM
Senior Female (all weight classes)

Leah Cochran
Cali Hinzman

Session 3: 1:15PM-3:30PM
All Men (69kg - 77kg)

Ross Paolino
Sergio Schwimmer
Jeff Jenkins
JP Goshco

Session 4: 3:45PM-6PM
All Men (85kg-105+kg)

Aaron Bolton (Bolt)
Eric Peterson
Ken Greenfield
Robin Habberly
Jim Bathurst
Chris "Tex" McQuilkin

All of the athletes listed above are Balance folks. Yeah, folks. Many have been training hard for months preparing for this competition. Some have been competing in Olympic weightlifting since 2010, while others learned the lifts only a few months ago. Regardless, they've all worked their asses off to lift some serious weights on Saturday. Want proof? I got proof for days, son!


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 30

Well, today is Day 30 of my Paleo Challenge, but due to a few circumstances, I am forced to extend the entire experiment until next Monday. So, all told, it will technically be a 35-day challenge. Will this break me? I think not. I hope not. I don't know. Shit.

The earliest Kari can check my bodyfat and lean mass is next Monday, hence the extra days. After measurements and photos are completed, I will begin the process of reintroducing some non-Paleo foods. This is where a lot of people screw up. Think about it: you've just spent 30 days eating healthy, relatively natural foods, essentially detoxifying from all the crap you've been consuming since that first beautiful bowl of Apple Jacks, and then what do you want to do? Shovel a bunch of bullshit down your throat. The problem here is if you experience any reactions (gastrointestinal, energy level, etc), you have no idea which food caused it during your White Goodman metldown.

One of the best but oft overlooked aspects of Paleo is the opportunity to find out how certain foods affect you. So it's crucial to slowly reintroduce the things you've been weened off and observe/feel the results. Someone who is extremely gluten intolerant will react badly to breads and grains when they first try them after 30 days of Paleo. Some people will have poor reactions to dairy, legumes, and or sugary foods. You have to take advantage of this opportunity to see what foods may be affecting your health, digestion, and performance.

I've conferred with Dr. Mike Molloy, our resident coach/immunologist/athlete/smart person, and he gave me the following prescription for the reintroduction of non-Paleo foods:

1) Dairy first - least likely to be a problem. Cheese. You could be fine with milk and you'd still shit your pants just because you've stopped making lactase. This is good to know. That would make for an awkward staff meeting.

2) Legumes second... peanuts, beans or corn tortilla chips.

3) Grains third. Try a sandwich... sushi or some rice dish second. All the other grains suck anyway. Mike clearly doesn't respect my sugary love-bitch, Little Debbie...

You demon woman!

Now, don't be dumb -- I'm not going to reintroduce these foods by eating a piece of cheese and then some peanuts and then a slice of Wonderbread. Each group will be separated by some hours and possibly days to gauge my body's tolerance of each one. Do I have a gluten or lactose intolerance? No idea. I hope not because chocolate milk is like kissing Jesus. But we shall see.

The most important takeaway here is that everyone is different. Some people are allergic or intolerant to certain foods, while others are not. I have a suspicion people in China are more receptive to eating rice. Why? Because it's been a staple of their diet for over 10,000 years. Does this mean it's good for them? I can't say for sure, but they're probably better adapted to it than people of European descent. Check this out, if you're interested in the relationship between grains and human evolution.

So, for those of you participating in this latest go'round of the Paleo Challenge, be sure to slowly/intelligently reintroduce non-Paleo foods and see how your body responds. This is Biohacking 101, people. Don't slouch. Sit up straight and get your shit right.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 17

Supplements have been a part of my everyday life for a while now. I'm not talking about muscle milk and power bars, though. I'm referring to essential vitamins and minerals that improve overall health and performance. I've added a few things to my regimen for the Paleo Challenge. Here's a quick rundown of what I'm taking...

1) Vitamin D3. This has been a staple of my supplementation for the past 2+ years. This is one of the most recommended vitamins from doctors, nutritionists, coaches, and, well, everyone. It has an absurd range of health benefits regarding bone heath, asthma, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and so on. I take 5000 IU before bed every night. If I feel sickness coming on, I will sometimes take upwards of 20,000 IU. Healthy Origins -- about year's supply for $15.

Looks like leperchaun gold. Works just as well, too.

2) Fish Oil. I've been on and off fish oil for the past few years. For this 30-day span, I will be taking it regularly. Not really doing a specific dosage, but taking two spoonfuls per day of Carlson Labs. Some high quality shit, son!

3) Digestive Enzymes. Robb Wolf recommends these in his book, The Paleo Solution. Many people are deficient of the proper acid levels in their stomach to proficiently break down food and ensure sufficient absorption of essential nutrients. Digestive enzymes are supposed to help this process and make sure you're getting the most out of what you eat. I could list the ingredients, but I'm just going to tell you it has ox bile in it. This can only be a good thing. Now Foods Super Enzymes.

4) Goku Kola. This is an herb that has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries (apparently). I'm not much of hippie herbalist, but I've read that it helps improve collagen production, which in turn, helps tendon health. And when you've got some bullshit knee issues, you will try anything.

5) MCT Oil. I wouldn't really call this a supplement per se, but I've been putting it in my morning coffee with some Kerrygold unsalted grass-fed butter. What sorcery is this, you ask? It's called Bulletproof Coffee. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides and they are "considered a good biologically inert source of energy that the human body finds reasonably easy to metabolize" (Wantan GJ).

Please keep in mind that supplements aren't a free pass to good body composition and performance. That's how fat and lazy people think. It's not magic. You still need to eat well and exercise intelligently. Quality supplementation does exactly what it says... it supplements everything else. Get after it.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 18

This is some of the realest shit ever. If you or any relatives are suffering from an autoimmunity or something as awful as multiple sclerosis, why not at least try altering your diet? What do you have to lose? Think about what you may stand to gain...

Minding Your Mitochondria


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 15

So I thought it would be good to explain the type of training I'm doing while in the midst of this Paleo nonsense. As noted, my knee is in rough shape, so the exercises I love most (snatch, clean & jerk, squats) are out of the question. Even the power variants are somewhat off limits because of the impact and force the knees absorb. It's a major bitch.

There's a classic expression that rings true for many gym-goers: You cannot out train a bad diet. And this very true for the most part. For me, I realized early on with enough consistency and heavy resistance training -- in my case, Olympic weightlifting -- I could still keep an acceptable physique without having to watch my diet or do any conditioning whatsoever.

Shirtless lifting in Puerto Rico is mandatory.

I mean, I'm no Devin Maier, but this video was taken during a time when Taco Bell and KFC's Double Down were staples in my diet. Food quality was unimportant to me. And hey, I still looked alright. A little too skinny if you ask me. Now, I'm getting older, my knee is messed up, I have ongoing shoulder issues due to poor mobility and inactive lower traps. I can't currently do the O-lifts and my genetics may finally be saying, "Fuck you, dude, stop eating like an asshole."

This past January, I visited Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. Eric Cressey is a very popular strength & conditioning coach, lecturer, author, and major dude who is smart as shit. He works primarily with baseball players and is known as "the shoulder guy" but he has an array of athletes that go to him for help, including my cousin Murphy Smith:

This turned into a 624' homerun.

Eric did an initial assessment on me and then developed a program to address my problem areas. It's a four day split that includes some big lifts (trap bar deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, push jerks, chin-ups), an array of corrective exercises, a lot of very innovative core work, and a very thorough warm-up & mobility routine. The program incorporates a lot of supersets, focusing on hip/glute work, horizontal pulling, unilateral work, and basically getting the correct muscles to work properly. Here's a sample from Day 1:

A1. Push Jerk; 4 sets; 4 reps
A2. Prone Depression to Extension; 3 sets; 6 reps/side
B1. Standing 1-arm Cable Rows; 3 sets; 10 reps/side
B2. 1-foot Leg-elevated Push-ups; 3 sets; 4 reps/side
C1. Crossover Reverse Fly; 3 sets; 10 reps
C2. Reverse Crunches; 3 sets; 8 reps

Eric knew that my goal was to eventually get back to Olympic lifting, so he included exercises like push jerks and high pulls. One thing Eric does to ensure people don't skip their corrective work is to superset it with their major lifts. So rather than sit around and rest, you're actively working on muscle imbalances/weaknesses.

It's a very interesting program and far different from what I'm generally used to. Only one heavy barbell per session, despite normally doing 2-3 with Olympic weightlifting. Most people who partake in the Paleo Challenge are usually doing CrossFit sessions of heavy lifting and high intensity metcons -- not this dude. This program has minimal conditioning, which I prefer. And with the detailed warm-up routine and corrective exercises, I'm hoping this program improves my mobility, posture, and positioning in the O-lifts.

This would be nice.


Unnecessary Censorship

The title of this post has nothing to do with Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censorship. I wish it did, actually. But alas, we're swimming in a sea of stupid bullshit and I had to bring something to light.

Back in late January, I was filmed alongside Christy Phillips and Danielle Dionne in a video for the 2012 CrossFit Games...

Let me first say that I was very grateful that Christy and Danielle allowed me to be part of this experience. They let me design the entire workout, take them through each portion, and be a part of the final product. The three of us go way back to the 2009 CrossFit Games, so it was fun to do it again. I also appreciate the media guy (sorry, can't remember his name) from CrossFit HQ filming me and, more importantly, keeping me in the video. It would have been easy to say, "Ya know what, let's just blur out that bearded weirdo."

Now, let's get down to what irks me. I designed the workout with some quick skill testing and then a short metcon. It went like this:

1) Max Broad Jump - 3 attempts
2) Fastest across Strength Grid - 2 attempts
3) Max Calories on Airdyne in 30 seconds - 1 attempt
4) Six minute metcon

The above video included everything overlaid with voiceovers from Christy and Danielle about their preparation for this Games' season. All in all, it was a great workout and a cool video. There was one glaring omission, though, that both surprised and angered me. This was their six minute metcon:

amrap in 6 minutes:
3 hang clean, 135lbs
7 kettlebell swing, 70lbs
25 unbroken double-unders

Upon watching the above video, do you notice what's missing? That's right, not a single repetition of their kettlebell swings. For a while now I've been trying to understand why and the reason is almost too ridiculous to fathom. It's not because their swings were performed poorly or in a dangerous fashion. It's not because their kettlebells were made by Nike or anything. No, it's because their swings were to chest/eye level and not completely overhead.

"WTF?" indeed, funny monkey-face.

Going overhead has been called the "American" swing and swinging to chest level is often referred to as the "Russian" swing. Generally speaking, swinging a kettlebell to chest level is normal; swinging a kettlebell overhead is the CrossFit standard. Just ask AJ Moore. But this really confuses the trifling fuck out of me. I mean, the video even included footage of them carrying kettlebells over to the main gym for the metcon. And yet, they're essentially censored.

Isn't CrossFit all about variance and trying new/different/innovative shit? Hell, the Russian swing isn't even innovative since it was around BEFORE people started swinging shit overhead. Movement standards with CrossFit workouts change on a daily basis, so why is it so unthinkable to do kettlebell swings to chest/eye level? The Games don't always use chest-to-bar pull-ups. In 2009, kipping wasn't allowed during handstand push-ups; in 2011, kipping was encouraged.

Now, I'm not sure if this was HQ's doing or the camera guy, but the whole thing is stupid (and therefore, probably HQ's decision). I shouldn't even be worked up over it because in the end, it's just exercise anyways. But that's exactly it. It's just exercise. So why is the height of a kettlebell swing so offensive to these prissy, uptight douche-canoes?

The point is... there's more than one way to do something. If you don't have a climbing rope at your gym, then you can do towel pull-ups. It's not a perfect substitute, but it provides a similar stimulus. If you don't want your clients doing overhead "American" kettlebell swings because you believe the heavier weight causes a potential danger, then you can have them do Russian swings to chest/eye level. It's not a ridiculous notion. Meanwhile, CrossFit is fine with this...

But this is just unacceptable...

Well... I guess I understand Tex being unacceptable.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Day 10

Alright, I suppose I should offer some stats here. First off, a big thanks to my good friend Kari of Nutrition Figures for taking my body measurements. It's no easy task, to be sure. It took us roughly 15 minutes to awake her after she fainted from seeing me shirtless. A common side-effect of my physique. A gift and a curse, I'm afraid.

Bodyweight: 170.5lbs
Bodyfat: 11.9%
Lean mass: 150.1lbs
Fat mass: 20.4lbs

So I'm already beginning this challenge relatively lean. Personally, I think 12% is pretty good considering that I generally eat at Bobby's Burger 3-4 times per week. Not to mention, my training has be derailed to shit as of late. Kari projects I could drop down to possibly 6% on strict Paleo. I still can't decide if this is a good thing.

I had my blood taken over a month ago and I'm still awaiting the results. They won't be very reliable, though, because I wasn't fasted. Medical degree or not, some doctors are fucking morons. Regardless, I'll post those when they come in -- if they come in at all.

And finally, the moment you've all been salivating for...

I'll give you a moment to let your collective boners subside.

All good? Okay, on with it then. These pictures were taken on Day 8 of this challenge. I assure you, not much difference since Day 1, so the discrepancy shouldn't matter. Two things come to mind looking at these pictures: 1) My posture is fucking terrible and 2) My hair is fucking amazing. In any event, I'm interested to see any significant body composition changes.

We're 10 days in right now and everything is going smoothly. I'm cooking a lot. It's annoying, but I just pretend I'm a contestant on Chopped and it gets easier.


Paleo Challenge 2012: Introduction

I've done it this time. As some of you have probably heard from either me or Danielle, I will be committing to Paleo for 30 days. Thirty stupid days. In case you didn't know, the last time I tried the Paleo Challenge I lasted about 8 hours. It was a miserable 8 hours, too. Most people were amazed I lasted that long.

Truth be told, I've avoided Paleo mostly because I've been blessed with the genetics and metabolism to maintain decent body composition and strength without giving a fuck about what I eat. Perfect examples of my nonchalant eating habits can be seen here and below:

Unfortunately, as I approach age 28 (kill me now) I feel those days of shoving all manner of food into my face are eventually coming to an end. And from the perspective of a coach/trainer, it wouldn't hurt to actually practice what I preach as far as nutrition goes. Nevertheless, there are other factors at play here...

1) Health. My father has high cholesterol and he takes statins for it, which I don't agree with for many reasons. I had my cholesterol checked roughly four years ago and my results came back high -- roughly 216. I saw a nutritionist, altered my diet a bit (whole grain bread - hooray!), went back, exact same result. For the past month I've been trying to get blood work done on a variety of biomarkers of health (HDL, LDL, TAG, LDL particle size, c-reactive protein, glucose, etc), but for some reason the entire universe is conspiring to prevent that from happening. Doctors are dickheads and labs are useless. If I have insurance that will pay for the process, why can't I get blood work done whenever the fuck I want? Why does a doctor need to recommend it? Fuck a doctor. Suck my white ass, American medicine. Anwyays, this was part of the reason it's taken so long to start this stupid challenge.

2) Injury/Inflammation. As some of you may already know, I've been dealing with a knee injury for the past six months. Official diagnosis: an ossicle (bone fragment) from Osgood Schlatter's disease causing patellar tendonitis at the tibial tuberosity. Basically, there's a tiny bone embedded in my patellar tendon causing pain/discomfort during deep squatting and lunging. I've been working around it as best I can. I've seen three physical therapists, two orthopedic surgeons, and one chiropractor. I've been icing, heating, stretching, and strengthening. Not much has improved. Surgery may still be on the table, but I'd prefer to avoid it. Since tendonitis is an inflammatory response to injury, why not try an anti-inflammatory diet like Paleo? Booyah.

There's that little fucker.

3) Discipline. Lasting only 8 hours on your most recent attempt at Paleo is pretty goddamn pathetic. I consider this an exercise in self-control. I fucking love food, especially every kind that is bad for you. I'm well aware of the effectiveness of Paleo, but I've never fully committed to it. No time like the present.

So here we are. On the cusp of something annoying. No more bread, grains, shitty sugars, or dairy (except for grass-fed butter, which I'll discuss later). In the next installment, I will post some onset information i.e. body fat percentage, before pictures, and possibly cholesterol (if I ever hear from any of these ass-wipe doctors). Over the next month, I will be talking about meal plans, sleep/stress/cortisol control, energy levels, training on Paleo while injured, and so on. Stay tuned.

NOTE: I actually began one week ago, but it took me this long to write this goddamn blog post.


Announcement: Olympic Lifting Class

This should be a very quick post regarding my Saturday Olympic lifting class. I say should be because I have a tendency to ramble on far longer than necessary. Much like politicians, talk show hosts, and you telling me how "super wasted" you got over the weekend. Don't care.

Here's the deal: the 2012 Capital City Open is fast approaching. It will be a one-day event held on Saturday, April 21st at Balance Gym Kalorama. So far, I've convinced, persuaded, and downright coerced close to a dozen people to compete in it. Why? Because I think they have the potential to be good lifters and I think they'll have fun.

Now, with that in mind, many of these people are still relatively new to Olympic weightlifting and will likely need all the instruction they can get. So I have decided to reserve my Saturday time specifically for these individuals to prepare them for the meet. I do apologize to everyone else who simply wants to refine and improve their technique, but I have a handful of people who are committed to competing and I owe it to them to ensure that they're aptly prepared. I hope you understand.

For those competing in the Capital City Open, here are some important details:

1) This opportunity will only be available for three consecutive Saturdays i.e. 3/24/2012; 3/31/2012; 4/7/2012.

2) You must be a Balance Gym member and obviously someone I know. No stranger danger.

3) You must be registered for the Capital City Open in order to participate. No empty promises. Demonstrate commitment and you'll be rewarded.

4) Each Saturday will be considered an open session from 4:15PM until 6:15PM. What this means is that you can show up whenever during this time frame to work on your lifts. Obviously, the entire two-hour period is recommended.

5) You can work on the snatch, clean & jerk, or both. I will not be helping with kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups, high rep box jumps, or anything else that has absolutely nothing to do with an Olympic weightlifting competition.

6) It will be free of cost. I only ask that you take advantage of it, especially if this is your first meet. The only thing more important than lifting well and having fun is not embarrassing me. That's simply unacceptable.

As far as meet preparation goes, below is the best I can do for credentials...


Good Vertebrations At The Lumbar Yard

First off, if you caught the Seinfeld reference, well done. Anyways, a few weeks back I stumbled upon an article by renowned strength coach Mike Boyle. The premise revolved around certain warm-up routines that are aimed at improving rotation of the lumbar spine and why these kinds of exercises can actually do more harm than good. Read the article -- it's interesting and though-provoking.

One of the exercises mentioned was the scorpion. Since this is an exercise Jeff and I both use in our warm-ups for classes, I decided to forward the article along to him. Jeff's a great coach, very enthusiastic, takes dodgeball way too seriously, and used to kick people in the face. Naturally, a nice dialogue emerged. We'll start with Jeff's reply to the email...

Solid article, i think the gist of it is saying if you do not have the strength at your full capable domain in range of motion (in this case the lumbar) you will be susceptible to injuries(?)

Now, if you were to practice minor resistance training at extended(not extreme) range of motion around any joint (in this case rotational lumbar).. would this negate this theory(?)

In a sense, you must be realistic that your body may experience, through voluntary or involuntary measures, a more extreme range of motion than the 3-5 degrees prescribed. Having a trained and strong "core", that alone will not "protect" you from not experiencing the extended range of motion at all times, so wouldn't it seem logical to still practice a somewhat extended range of motion movement, but instead all some resistance, so instead of a strict mobilization exercise, it now becomes an extended ROM strengthening exercise?

Definitely not applicable for a class size of 20, but maybe as far as giving preventative strength and mobility measures to private clients... JUST my brain running loose on thought, would love feedback, i'm gonna shoot this to Issa also, i know he does many of these in his rehab PT.



Firstly, since I found these videos, I figured I'd start with them:

Tiger Woods
Roger Federer
Albert Pujols

Three athletes, each arguably the greatest from his respective sport. Three sports that involve a lot of trunk rotation. Amazingly though, if you watch each video and simply stare at their lumbar spine, it's always in neutral. They rotate from the hips and shoulders and keep the low back stays neutral. This is the optimal way to exert force.

Now, regarding injuries, you said, "In a sense, you must be realistic that your body may experience, through voluntary or involuntary measures, a more extreme range of motion." This is true, but I think the best approach is to develop the necessary means to prevent these ranges, not to get the joint accustomed to them, even if in a passive manner.

Having a strong/stable core may not necessarily protect you from the potential occurrence of excessive rotation, but since the goal of the core is to stabilize the spine, it's likely the best preventative measure. Pushing your lumbar spine into a range-of-motion it's not designed or intended to achieve won't do you many favors. From an injury prevention standpoint, I think it'd be more beneficial to develop and improve stability in a joint's neutral position.

Look at it this way: to prevent a neck injury, you don't load up a neck harness and put your neck into an extended ROM. Instead, you strengthen the neck itself (and the traps and upper back muscles) at its appropriate range-of-motion. Same goes for any joint that requires stability. Hell, look at the knee. For instance: Willis McGahee. To prevent that injury, he wouldn't have put his knee into hyper-extension while training for the Fiesta Bowl. The best he could do would be to strengthen the muscles around the knee accordingly to ensure it was a stable joint. That's a tough example because there's really nothing that could've prevented that injury. Shit was gnarly. See what I mean, though?

If going by the joint-by-joint approach to training (which people should pay more attention to), I look at it like this:

1) Develop range of motion in the joints that require mobility, then ensure the muscles are strong at those ranges (this is why gymnasts are so goddamn awesome, they're as flexible as yogis but strong at every range).

2) Develop stability and strength at joints that require stability.

Now, don't get me wrong, some people need a LITTLE added range to stable joints i.e. if someone is missing knee extension by a few degrees, but generally speaking, this isn't the case. How often do you see a K-Starr video where he's trying to improve mobility at the elbow?

I'm liking this back and forth we're having, brother. Good speak.

Beautiful email. Thank you kind educated sir ;)

Thus concluded our email exchange. Good stuff. Since this electronic conversation, Jeff and I have removed scorpions from our warm-ups. This isn't to say that mobility work throughout the body is awful. To quote brilliant physical therapist Charlie Weingroff: "Every joints needs mobility AND stability. Some need more mobility, while some need more stability."

This is even further exhibited/explained by Ido Portal, a master of human movement, below:

Obviously, what Charlie and Ido are saying makes a lot of sense and I think this is what Jeff had in mind. I certainly see the benefit of this concept, but in the population I see in typical CrossFit gyms most clientele exhibit classic movement dysfunction. This includes things like poor posture, tight hamstrings, short hip flexors, gross extension at the lumbar spine, and so on. I think for the general fitness enthusiast (CrossFit, especially) it's more important to fix these problems and strengthen the individual accordingly before worrying about things like improper alignment training. Ido commented on his philosphy expressed in that video and I will post that below.

Before this devolves into even more rambling, I will cut myself off. The purpose of this post was to give you some insight into the balance between mobility/stability and to let you know that your coaches are always focused on learning, adapting, researching, and adjusting to ensure your performance improves.


Control, Pt. 2

I briefly touched on the topic of control back in December. Despite my efforts, some of you still insist on working out like the goddamn Techno Viking. Note: That's not a good thing.

Some CrossFit trainers will argue the "20% slop rule" i.e. technique can break down about 20% so long as the intensity of the movement stays high. A direct quote from famed CF instructor, Pat Sherwood: "Technique only has to be good enough to increase the intensity. The goal is never perfect form. Remember, it's the speed of the set that is the goal." Now, Pat was the head coach at my Level 1 certification back in 2008 and he's a really nice and funny-ass dude, but I whole-heartedly disagree with this concept. Bryan Krahn from T-Nation offered this counter-point:

"To my mind, lifting is a learned endeavor. You practice perfect form over and over until it becomes second nature. That's especially true for Olympic lifting. How can you get good at an exercise if you force yourself to keep a set going past the point of technical breakdown? Aren't you just creating poor muscle-recruitment patterns that compete with the correct patterns?"

Speed is important; safety is more important. Intensity enhances progress, but without control, intensity is useless. The bottom line: 20% slop is a bullshit excuse to convince one's self that it's okay to move around like an idiot.

If you watch anyone who is truly elite in his or her chosen endeavor, there is one thing you will always notice: their movement is flawless.

Are you seeing a pattern here? It's called perfection. There is no wasted effort in any of their movements. Everything is fluid and smooth and relaxed and perfect. Very few people ever get to that level, but we should all always be striving for it. Everyday.


Get Some Fucking Perspective

Annoyed. And it starts here...

That's Noah. He's one of the coaches from District CrossFit, formerly of Potomac CrossFit. I've met Noah, he's a nice guy and a legit athlete/CrossFitter. He did a workout, jumped really high, and then whoever recorded it, uploaded it to youtube and labeled it a "world record." No big deal. So it goes. Normally, I avoid youtube comments like I avoid donating to charity, but I couldn't avoid this:

Those comments are courtesy of Ryan Moody, the self-proclaimed World Record holder for jumping on top of boxes. Or something. Basically, Ryan contacted Guiness, sent them video of his jumps, they looked into it, and he got a new world record. It was new because... ya know, no one had ever tried it before.

Look, if this guy wants to achieve a world record and go through the process of training, filming, contacting the Guiness Book of World Records, etc, then fine. That's his right. More power to him, since that all seems like a real pain in the ass. My problem with the entire endeavor is taking to youtube like an 8-year-old with a skinned knee.

"NO! That's not the world record. I have the world record!!" Dude, you're arguing over a record that NO ONE BUT YOU is trying to obtain. This isn't like the 100m dash or the fastest marathon or the long jump or whatever. This kid went to Guiness himself to be put into the record books. Meanwhile, you have this:

Steve Langton, USA bobsledder

An Olympic bobsledder hit a 62" box jump with no running start, no fan fare, no comments about him being the best box jumper, no stupid fucking celebration afterwards, and he wore a shirt the whole time. You know why? Because a max effort box jump like this is a parlor trick for him. You do it for fun just to see what you can do. You know what Langton does with the rest of his time? He devotes his life to an actual sport with real accomplishments!

This is classic CrossFit-moving-the-goalposts shit. This kid will never be an Olympian, realized he'll never win the CrossFit Games, so instead of just accepting that he'll never achieve true greatness, he decides to pursue a new world record... of jumping on stuff. Should he be proud of his jumping ability? Absolutely -- I'm assuming he's worked real hard to achieve it and that's commendable. But should he be scouring youtube trying to refute all claims of "world record" box jumps? I mean, yeah, he can, I guess... if he's a fucking loser.


I Guess I Have To...

When I first saw the following video, I wrote a series of rants and diatribes and saved them in my drafts. Some days passed, my anger subsided, followed by apathy and acceptance. But I figured, fuck it, hate's no fun if you keep it to yourself.

If you haven't seen it yet, watch here. It's Bob Harper's CrossFit Challenge on some asinine doctor show. In it, Bob puts Jillian Michaels and Dr. Handsome through a brief CrossFit-style workout. Bob and Jillian are both famous for yelling at fat people on The Biggest Loser. I yell at fat people on the streets of DC and I'm still waiting for Hollywood to call. But let's focus on this video.

First off, I would like to take some time to dissect Jillian Michael's performance in the workout. Considering she's lauded as one of the best trainers in the country, I expected her to man-handle Dr. High-Cheekbones. Instead, I saw the following:

1) Box jumps. Look at how caved in her knees are on her landings. This isn't good, especially considering women are highly prone to ACL injuries (JAHSP).

2) Sumo deadlift high pull. Where do I begin? This movement is dumb enough already as I discussed here, but Jillian manages to make it worse. She has no hip extension and is primarily letting her back and arms do the work. Also, a very slow eccentric portion. Basically, if you're gonna do something stupid, at least do it right.

3) Push press. She makes no use of the shelf, which limits efficiency of the movement and will further fatigue her shoulders. She's pretty much just holding the bar in her goddamn hands which is a perfect way to do it completely wrong. If you watch her last rep, check out those knees again. Bad news bears. They should be pushed out over the toes. Hard to say if she was driving through her heels as I only saw her legs during one rep, but I imagine she was creeping onto her fore-foot during the dip and drive.

4) Ball slams. These should be a powerful, hip/abdominal driven movement. Again, she seems to mainly be using her arms. The real issue here is how absurdly winded she appears to be by the conclusion of this two-minute workout.

Perhaps this isn't how Jillian typically trains. Maybe she goes running, does some light weight training, follows an absurdly caloric restrictive diet, and takes supplements. Maybe CrossFit is not her preferred method of training. But when I see how she performs during this workout, it's kinda... pathetic? To her credit, it appears that bar was loaded with 65lbs, so I can forgive that. Nevertheless, I could name roughly 10 women just from CrossFit Balance that would annihilate her in that workout. The workout lasted two minutes and she looked visibly destroyed. I just expected a little more.

A little more rabid wildebeest, for instance.

Two different, but viable claims can be made here: 1) A trainer doesn't necessarily have to be in great shape to get his or her clients great results, or 2) Jillian Michaels fucking sucks. Either one is applicable, both are obviously true. The bottom line is this: the general public thinks Jillian Michaels is an awesome trainer, while the knowledgeable people in the strength and conditioning community know she's a fraud. But really, enough about this disaster. Let's move onto Bob Harper's CrossFit Challenge...

Epic grunt 10 seconds in.

The problem with this whole stupid segment is that it highlights almost every bad aspect of CrossFit. You'd have figured CFHQ had done enough of this already. Exhibit A. Instead, this mincing vegan pussy gets on national television and shows the fat daytime viewers of America everything that's wrong about CrossFit.

1) No Instruction. Bob spends about 0.003 nanoseconds explaining to Jillian and Dr. Hairgel each movement. One could assume this wouldn't be a big deal since it's Jillian Michaels who is, presumably, competent at simple exercises she makes her clients do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this isn't the case and we're left seeing some pretty poorly executed everything.

2) No Correction. Going hand in hand with the above, Bob offers no further instruction or correction to either subject. Instead, he yells about going faster and harder. When he does correct something, it's a cue that's relatively worthless i.e. "make sure that weight touches the ground every time." Yeah, that'll help them do it better.

3) Poor movement selection. Look at that... sumo deadlift high pulls and box jumps. Two exercises I've already criticized. Aces, Bob! Top fucking notch. High rep box jumps and a movement essentially designed to fuck up your shoulders. Bully!

Dude, you're a personal trainer; not David fucking Beckham.

Now, for the most part, this whole thing isn't a big deal. But to trainers like myself that actually want to make you stronger, fitter, hotter, awesomer, it is kind of a big deal. For the worst reasons.

While the general public may not be aware enough to see the flaws I've outlined, it lets Jillian and Bob off the hook. Meanwhile, any real athlete who has heard of CrossFit will continue to laugh at it. But the average person sees this and they see a workout that crushed Jillian Michaels (because she sucks) and they think it will make them look just like her.

So, this kind of exposure will bring clients into the door, but when their form is taught, corrected, and reinforced with light weights, people may not think they're getting what they came for. "But Jillian and Dr. Jawline just jumped right into their workout!" Well, that's not how it works. Plus that workout was stupid. So these ass clowns from The Biggest Loser, who've proven to be more cheerleader than trainer, have given some exposure to CrossFit, but in doing so, they've unknowingly emphasized many of its faults. This, in turn, makes the job of actually decent trainers more difficult.

Essentially, getting people in shape shouldn't be approached in such a willy-nilly* fashion. Therefore, the responsibility lies on us, the trainers, to let you know that safety and movement quality are far more important than intensity, speed, and acting like a bitch.

*I'm so mad that I used the phrase "willy-nilly." Surprised I haven't been censored yet.