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Training Tips

I first published this post last fall. With so many new faces, I think it is a great one to revisit. The breathing techniques outlined below will carry over outside of the gym. I promise you!


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It is easy to get caught up in the needs and wants of others. Your boss, family, clients, friends its easy to feel like you are being pulled in a thousand directions at one time. Its surprising that by the end of each day we are not all wanting to be hermits with no social engagement whatsoever. Pure isolation.

How do you manage this? When everything seems to be coming down to you and beginning to overwhelm you, what do you do? Some just stuff it deep down inside themselves until eventually one day it explodes! Not the best option, trust me. Others break down and sob. Not my idea of a good time either.

A practice that I have been working with and have challenged my staff to begin trying is called “Sacred Silence”. This is another drill lesson that Coach Divine uses in the Unbeatable Mind Academy. The beauty of this drill is in its simplicity and it doesn’t require a long commitment. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just need to practice it. Below I have written out the basic premise of Sacred Silence. Give it a go and post to comments your thoughts.

Sacred Silence

The task is to find a comfortable chair where you will be uninterrupted for 3 minutes. Not a terribly long time at all. Be sure to sit upright. Now close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Employ the box breathing technique: breathe in for 3-5 counts, hold for 3-5 counts, exhale for 3-5 counts, remain deflated for 3-5 counts. As you are breathing begin paying attention to your mind in action: what you hear, smell, and feel. If you a car driving by just repeat to yourself in your head “hearing, hearing”. If you feel something, “feeling, feeling.” If your mind strays, that’s ok. Note it and come back to your senses. This will allow you to help settle down, relax and unwind after a stressful meeting, day, etc.

tranquil water




Day in and day out it is very easy to get caught up in the activities necessary to just get through the day. Sometimes it seems we are operating on automation. Have you ever finished your day and sat for a moment and ask what did I really accomplish?

When you walk up the stairs to the lounge, you notice the 5 poster boards hanging on the wall. The poster boards are the original creation of Dave Werner, founder of CrossFit Level IV and they define a limited set of physical skills and set progressive benchmarks in these skills.


Using these benchmarks, you can develop a personalized set of goals for improving your fitness. The purpose of these boards is to help the majority of our members to develop truly well rounded general fitness. A typical daily conversation that I have with members and prospects is the purpose of his/her training. Many times the answer is a generic “get fit”. Well that is exactly what CrossFit was designed for but it can be difficult to know if you are in fact on the best path to achieve just that.

Human nature is to keep working on what we are good at, our strengths, and skip the things we are not good at, our weaknesses. Using the Athlete Skill Levels Charts you can determine where you presently are AND how to make sure that you are working on all aspects to progress forward.

It’s important to understand what each level represents to understand where you are today:

Level I – You can move like a human. You’re not in particularly good shape, but if your town floods, you can get in a rescue boat without a firefighter pulling you in. If you can’t do three pull-ups, and three dips, you don’t have healthy shoulders. If you can’t squat all the way down comfortably, your hips are not healthy. These are basic health problems in the sense that they affect your quality of life. Fixing these problems generates a lot of self-confidence, and sets the stage for further progress.

Level II – You’re not a competitive athlete, but you’re an active, fit person who can tackle whatever you want to do. All of your joints have full range of motion and adequate strength. You know how to create stability and power. You are ready to dive into learning any new physical activity that may interest you. Being this capable is so much fun!

Level III – This is general fitness for a competitive athlete. That’s already pretty rare territory. Most adults don’t need all this, but it can be fun and give you some challenging goals. If you’re not working on Level III – for instance, if you can’t do a few strict dead hang muscle ups – you have no business entering the CrossFit Open and expect to get to Regionals or expect to be in the top 25% globally.  Stop being delusional about what you can do. Treat the problem.

Level IV – The Level IV goals explore the limits of general fitness. They are attainable only through many years of smart consistent training. None of the individual goals are very advanced when compared to a specialist in that field, but the combination of these qualities is very hard to achieve. For many, if not most people, this level of all around fitness is just not practical. Not practical because achieving all of these skills simultaneously means that you have really become a specialist in general fitness. Many, many people can perform some of the skills listed in Level IV, while at the same time they are unable to perform several Level II skills. Perhaps the best use of these levels is when you are able to realize that you are already “good enough” in one area, and can then focus on an area that needs work.


It is Friday baby and its time to Fire It Up! This has been a busy week with a lot of Private training sessions in addition to my classes. It is awesome when you can have provide that one on one attention and you see the Athlete really get it! Whether it is remaining patient on the pull for the snatch or really understanding the connection on the rower and how to be more efficient while using the recovery to better performance to completing your first forward roll. Ever. When an athlete finishes a movement or hits a lift and turns to me and states that it “never made sense to me like that before” then I know that there are going to be some great progressions coming soon. If you haven’t booked a session lately with your Coach, I highly suggest you do. Tell him what you want specifically to work on and you will have a blast.


This Friday is the 4th of July. There will be one class at 10am. The doors will open at 9:30am and we will be firing up the grill afterwards. Bring some food to share for the grill and your favorite side dish. Friends and family are welcome too!


The month of June is coming to a close. How have your handstand push ups improved? Wednesday 7/1 will be our final retest. On Wednesday you saw a glimpse of our next squat focus, the front squat. Next week will be a more thorough breakdown of what we will be working on.

Saturday 6/27
Strength/Skill: (G1) Handstand holds 7 x 1:00 or 7 x max time off the wall

Conditioning: With a partner, complete 100 TnGo Power Cleans for time


Two bars per team with one person working at a time. The partner resting is in active rest holding a Front Rack position with his/her bar. If the Front rack is dropped, then the set must stop and alternate to the other athlete.

Sunday 6/28
30 rounds for time
5 Wallball shots, 20/15
3 Handstand Push-ups
1 Power Clean, 225/155

Monday 6/29
Skill/Strength: (BB2) Power Snatch 10×2 (add more weight than 6/5)

Conditioning: AMRAP 12
10 Alternating DB Snatch
15 Box Jumps, 24/20
15 Knee to elbows

Tuesday 6/30
Strength/Skill: Back Squat 4×12, add 5#+ to the weight you used on 6/18

Conditioning: For time
30 Muscle ups
50 CTB pull-ups
75 Pull-ups

Wednesday 7/1
TEST: Strict Handstand Push-ups

Conditioning: Row 3k for time

ABS: 3×10 AbWheel/BB rollout

Thursday 7/2
Skill/Strength: A. Shoulder Press 5RM
Skill/Strength: B. Bent over BB row, 3×5 with a 3122 tempo

Conditioning: EMOM 20
3 Clean + 1 Jerk, ascending load to AHAP

Friday 7/3 – 4th of July TBA

I’ve always loved sports, especially when it comes to learning and competing at new sports that I don’t get to play often.  Whenever we learn something new it’s far to easy to try and learn a couple of basics and then go full speed.  Whether it’s golf, tennis, running, olympic lifting, rowing, or any other sport.  The thrill of competition and grace in motion that sports played at full speed creates is amazing.  Full speed competition elicits that feeling of joy and excitement that we all live for.  However, a couple of problems usually arise at one point or another in our performance at full speed, especially if we take it up to full speed to quickly.

1. We lose form and things get sloppy.  Basically the wheels come off.

2. We need more speed to out perform our competition, but it’s just not there.

Drew's new Catch Positioning

Drew’s new Catch Positioning

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve experienced this situation with many of the athletes I coach, both on the water rowing and in the gym training.  We’re always fighting for more intensity and boat speed, but too often something falls apart and our true potential is never reached.

Personally, I’ve experienced a similar situation while learning the piano.  I currently take lessons once a week and have worked up to playing 4 songs and almost all of the scales, but my progress tends to stumble when I go to fast.  It seems easy when I play a scale or a song slowly, so why not pick up the speed and just figure out how to not make mistakes playing faster?  Well because it just gets sloppy and I never really learn what I’m doing wrong or better yet, what I can be doing better.

After being turned on to two great blog posts on slow motion practice, one from the music world and one from the golf world, I decided to share this idea with the rowing and strength training world that I hope you all partake in.

Is Slow Practice Really Necessary? by 

Slow is Beautiful by Daniel Coyle

First, read through the above two blog posts and think about how slow is super slow.  To often we think we’re going slow, but we could be going slower.  Then, go out and practice super slow motion movements in your warmup.  Be mindful, find the points where your focus lapses or you make a mistake, figure out how you can be more efficient, smoother, and more consistent.  If you can take at least 20 minutes to practice this I guarantee you will find more boat speed, achieve more power, and perform at a higher level.

Above is Drew performing the Reverse Pic Drill in a single.  Think about how many hours of slow motion practice, balance, and boat feel it has taken for him to get to this point.  Look at where he slows things down to find better balance, feel, and connection to the boat and water.  For him to make this better and go faster at full speed, he will probably need to practice this even slower.  Now it’s your turn, get on an erg, setup a barbell, or get in a boat and master your movement skills with super slow motion.  It’s harder than you think.

Share your thoughts and experience to comments.

06 Apr 2015


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One of the things I preach to everyone involved in the strength programming is to really focus on recovery. This usually doesn’t take much convincing around 4 weeks into a micro-cycle after they’ve been hitting it pretty heavy and hard for a few weeks. When lifting heavy weights frequently and working with a lot of volume, your body accumulates fatigue quicker than you can recover. This is part of the design of strength programs (or really any periodized program to be fair) that forces our bodies to super-compensate and lead to progress. However if we never let our bodies recover after putting it through days and weeks of thrashing, how can we ever progress? Every so often we need to take a backseat and let our bodies make those adaptations to the stresses we’ve been putting it through. This doesn’t mean that you can’t come in to the gym. We love seeing you in here! It just means that maybe you scale back the weight and intensity during your WOD’s. It could also mean that you need to stay out of group classes if you don’t have the capacity to scale back when 3-2-1-GO! is heard. Spend an hour mobilizing and riding the bike… or shit go outside for a run now that we’ve survived Snowmaggedeon! But every month or so, scale it back for a couple of days. Your body will thank you and will offer you the gift of new PR’s and new goals to reach.


Monday 4/6
Conditioning: Complete reps of 21-15-9 for time

Bodyweight Back Squats

Skill/Strength: Abs – accumulate 10 minutes of ab work

05 Apr 2015

Getting The Basics

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A big part of what we try to do is to achieve Virtuosity – performing the common uncommonly well. This is not sexy, per se, but it is paramount to developing truly exceptional fitness. If you watch any of the best athletes competing in any sport, you will see as close to flawless movement as possible.

When mechanics are sound you are more efficient, more powerful. You can better express strength and fitness. These next 8 weeks we are going to pound the basics. We are especially focusing on improving pull-ups (strict then kipping) as well as dips (strict only). Lets review a few principles for each.

  1. Pull-up Progressions
    1. Ring Rows
    2. Strict Pull-ups in a band
    3. Jumping Pull-ups/Negatives/Flex Arm Hangs
    4. Strict Pull-ups
      1. With Load
    5. Kip Swings
    6. Kipping Pull-ups
  2. Dip Progressions
    1. Bench Dips
    2. Stationary Dips in a band
    3. Jumping Dips/Negatives/Dip Supports
    4. Stationary Dips
      1. With load
    5. Ring Dips
      1. With load


If you cannot perform pull-ups, the best starting point are ring rows. This will begin providing the strength for the shoulder girdle and is a gateway to the vertical pull-up. After you can complete 3 sets of 15 reps with excellent form at around 30 degrees. You can begin working in some strict pull-ups with a  band. NEVER should there be any kipping in a band. Choose the lightest band you can complete at least 5 reps with and then build up to being able to complete 10 to 15 reps unbroken before moving to the next lightest band. Continue this sequence until you have moved through all of the bands. By this time you can also begin working in some negatives (jump up and slowly lower yourself down to full arm extension), flex arm hangs, and jumping pull-ups. We will not ask you to perform these in a conditioning WOD because they can cause serious trauma when performed under high volume and for speed.

You are now finally ready to begin performing strict pull-ups. Here is a great article outlining how to keep working on getting more strict pull-ups from CrossFit Virtuosity. Even 4 years later, I have not come across a different version that works as well AND you will see that it has work for getting better at upper body pushing movements (the second focus for these next 8 weeks). Once you can complete 5-10 strict pull-ups without coming off the bar, you can begin adding some external loading to your pull-up. Start light and make small jumps.


Kipping pull-ups are a necessity in what we do because it allows you to do more work in less time. Therefore as soon as you are performing pull-ups with a band for assistance, we will begin teaching you the kip swing. Caution! We don’t want you to begin performing kipping pull-ups until you can perform at least 5 strict pull-ups. This is to ensure you have developed the strength of the shoulder girdle to withstand the force placed upon it by kipping pull-ups.


The progression to performing ring dips mirrors the pull-up progression in a very similar fashion. You can carry over the same rep schemes as you make your way up the ladder to the next progression. Notice there is no mention of utilizing a band once you are beyond the stationary dip? The rings are a dynamic plane and if you cannot stabilize them with your own strength, you have no reason to be on them. Respect the progressions and you will get there.

The DIP progression will end at strict ring dips with the kipping ring dip not being taught. The reason for this is to ensure tension is maintained throughout the entire movement and the shoulder girdle is always stabilized. If you are able to pick up a “kipping” rhythm on your own, so be it.


The number one thing I want to convey here is be patient with the progressions. This isn’t about today, tomorrow, or next month. This is about doing this correctly so that you have a base strength that will stay with you forever and PREVENT injuries to the shoulder rather than contribute to injuries.

Determine where you are presently, drop the ego at the door, and begin working towards the next progression. Don’t place a time frame on this, just come in and put in the work every time you walk through the doors. In no time you will be moving up the ladder.


Monday 4/6
Conditioning: Complete reps of 21-15-9 for time

Bodyweight Back Squats

Skill/Strength: Abs – accumulate 10 minutes of ab work

Tuesday 4/7
Strength: EMOM 12 – 3 Clean and Jerk
continue to add  weight as you are able

Conditioning: AMRAP 10
10 Deadlift, 155/100
10 AbMat Sit-ups

Wednesday 4/8
Strength: Back Squat 2RM
Perform 7 sets of 2 reps

Conditioning: Row (calories)
Repeat 5 rounds of a 30 calorie row for time

rest 1:00 between efforts

Thursday 4/9
Strength/Skill: Turkish Get-ups
Practice your TGU for 15 minutes. Work up to as heavy of a load as you are able with PERFECT FORM

Conditioning: Complete for time with a 20 minute cap.

30 Snatches, 75/55
30 Snatches, 105/75
30 Snatches, 135/95
15 Snatches, 165/115

Friday 4/10
A. Strict Pull-ups – 5 x submax reps
B. 5 x Handstand hold for max time or handstand walk for max distance

Conditioning: Complete 4 rounds for time of:

7 Handstand push-ups
30 Unbroken Double Unders

Saturday 4/11
Complete for time in a group of 4:

50 Thrusters, 95/65
10 Rope Climbs
40 Thrusters, 95/65
8 Rope Climbs
30 Thrusters, 95/65
6 Rope Climbs

Work must be divided evenly and only one person may work at a time.

Wed. Night at CFBWhen’s the last time you performed a Deadlift?  When’s the last time you picked something up off the floor?  Yesterday we got a chance to do Deadlifts and Rowing.  I wanted to use my post today to highlight some of the similarities between the two and what I think about when performing both movements.

First things first, anytime you pick something up you should be deadlifting, because that’s what a deadlift is.  It’s the strongest, most efficient, most powerful way to pick something up off the floor.

I believe that if you can learn to hip hinge and deadlift correctly you can and will become a better rower.  The key is how you deadlift and what you focus on.

Take a look at my hip hinge and deadlift above.  What parts of the deadlift can we tie to the rowing stroke?  I always teach the skills of 1. Posture, 2. Control, and 3. Connection whether it’s rowing or weightlifting.

1. Posture – How am I doing at maintaining a solid brace through my torso?  Is there any movement within the vertebrae of the spine?

2. Control – Is the bar traveling in a straight line over the middle of my foot?  Am I in control of my body and the bar? Can I stop at any point in time and be in a strong position?

3. Connection – How am I connected to the bar?  How am I connected to the floor?  Are my hips, hands, and shoulders connected when the bar is below the knee?

After taking a look and answering some of these questions, think about your own rowing stroke.  In the front end of your stroke, from 1/2 slide up to the catch and back, how do your joints move in relation to one another and what does your body angle look like?  Does it stay the same?  When does your body start to swing open?  Do you feel or see any similarities when you deadlift and row back to back?  Can perfecting one movement help improve the other?

Please share your thoughts to comments and checkout for more content on rowing and lifting.

Matthew Ibrahim liked this post

How’s it going CFB?

I must say it’s been awesome seeing everyone attack these reverse benchmarks like “Narf” and “Reverse Elizabeth”.  Keep throwing down and finding that high intensity.  The results are showing!

Today I wanted to offer up some reading from the Huffington Post:

6 Rowing Machine Mistakes You Might Be Making (And How to Fix Them)

5000m row Baby!

5000m row Baby!

Take a look and think about how you’re rowing in your pre-class warmups.  Are you making any of these mistakes?

If you’d like help or you think there is room for improvement in your rowing, grab me next time you’re in the gym and we’ll get you fixed up.

Have a great day and fingers crossed for more warm weather!

Kate Sherman liked this post
15 Mar 2015

Grab that Bar!

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Surprise! I know… it’s been a hot minute. Well I’ve got some things I hope to address (or shall we say readdress for some of us). Today I only discuss one though. And this is how you “handle” the barbell. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this error, addressed it (notice I didn’t say fix it?), and seen dramatic changes in how the ensuing movement is performed.

Let’s first take a look at what I’m talking about. Here is a picture of “poor” handling of a barbell.


What you will notice is that it kinda looks like I’m not really sure if I want to handle this kind of weight. It looks like I’m just going through the motions of lifting weight versus believing that I can do whatever I want with this weight.


Here’s what I’m talking about. Does it look like I have a solid grasp on the bar? Or does it look more like I’m barely hanging on to the bar? Exactly! Now if that bar were to go overhead, what do you think would happen? Would you have full control of that bar? You’re right, probably not. (I’ll address overhead grip in another post, don’t you worry.)


Another reason you should want to grab that bar tightly: radial tension. When you squeeze the bar tightly, you activate other muscles in your forearms which activate other muscles further upstream, generating more power output. Sounds like a deal to me! Extra weight simply for grabbing ahold of the bar tightly? Yes please!


Here’s a picture of what this should look like:


Which one looks like it is going to be moved with intent? Good. Now go practice this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME you pick up the bar. I’ve got a feeling that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how it affects your movement.


~ G2





For time:

100 Pull-ups

100 Push-ups

100 Sit-ups

100 Squats



How’s it going CFB?

Today we’re taking a look at Kevin mid race. This is a video review that I put together to help him and you develop your stroke and find new areas to improve upon. I’ll be posting regular video reviews about once a week, usually on Thursdays. If you’d like feedback on your stroke or would like to see me talk about a certain area of the stroke, please let me know in the comments. If you’d like to be featured in the weekly Video Review please send me a 5 stroke video via email to [email protected]

Also, if you’d like to join in the fun in person, the Renegade Rowing Club practices every Monday morning at 6am and Wednesday evening at 6pm.  There will be new days and times starting in March, so keep an eye out. Everyone is welcome, just let me know via email – [email protected], and I can get you the details on how to get started and join the group. Share your thoughts to comments and get fired up for CRASH-B 2015!

How’s it going CFB!  

What do you think of the new space?  Have you found us at 100 Holton St, Brighton, MA?  Our new space is located around the back of the building at the Southwest corner.  If you need any help finding it or you have any questions please shoot me an email – [email protected] and I’ll do my best to help you out.

Renegade Rowing Club Practice

Renegade Rowing Club Practice

I wanted to use this post to draw attention to one of the programs you have at your finger tips.  You may have seen a big group of people rowing together on Tuesday mornings at 6am and Wednesday evenings at 6pm.  They are part of the Renegade Rowing Club and they’re all training to improve their rowing form, efficiency, power, and endurance.  Many of them are also training for the CRASH-B’s which take place March 1st at Boston University’s Agganis Arena.  The CRASH-B’s are the World Indoor Rowing Championships and anyone can compete.

If you’d like to get better at rowing and improve your power and endurance you should consider joining us.  The Renegade Rowing Club is $47 per month and I’ll team you up with training partners that will hold you accountable.  Send me an email at [email protected] and I’ll get you setup!

If you’re thinking about CRASH-B’s or would like to get a taste of competition before registering, join us at our last Renegade Rowing League 2k Race on January 24th.  You can sign up here!

If the above options don’t work for you I’d still love to help you out.  Above is a video review I did of Shadi’s rowing during the last Renegade Rowing League in December.  If you’d like more info/help/workouts for rowing, be sure to check out my daily blog at:

The video above is a review that I put together to help Shadi and you develop your stroke and find new areas to improve upon.  I’ll be posting regular video reviews about once a week, usually on Thursdays.  If you’d like feedback on your stroke or would like to see me talk about a certain area of the stroke, please let me know in  the comments.  If you’d like to be featured in the weekly Video Review please send me a 5 stroke video via email to [email protected]

Today’s topic relates to how you sit on the erg.  Are you sitting on the back of the seat or the front of the seat?  Are you balanced on the back of your tail bones or the front?  How does your point of contact with the seat affect your posture and positioning throughout the stroke?  These are things to think about and an area where you can make a quick change to see big gains.  Let us know what you think and if you have any questions.

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