20 May 2014
The Back Extension (Much too often confused with Hip Extension)
We have programmed the back extension quite frequently as of late due to the arising need to increase the strength of the erectors for each athlete. This movement is often confused with hip extension. Here is a breakdown:
- Set up so that the pelvis is trapped on the pads.
- Without any movement in the hip, extend and flex at the trunk only.
- Range of motion will differ between athletes based on mobility of spine.
The hamstrings and glute muscles are working to isometrically stabilize the pelvis. When you are under a load while trying to lift heavy or to complete as fast as possible, not being able to maintain stability of the midline will result in inefficient movement at best and injury at worst.
If we are trying to isometrically hold the spine then why train a movement that emphasizes trunk flexion and extension? Building up the muscles while developing the “hardware” of the CNS to activate those muscles are going to enhance your ability to keep the spine neutral while under load.
If you are in the gym on a day that there are not back extensions programmed, then hit 2-3 sets in your warm up before class. Try to build up to 25 super strict and slow reps. Before long, your lower back muscles will look and feel like steel cables and be bombproof!
13 May 2014
We have addressed this topic in the past but now may be a great time to address it again.
In CrossFit we perform a great deal of volume with barbells, pull up bars, rings, and kettlebells. It is important to establish a plan on how to prevent rips and tears as well as how to care for them if they do occur.
First, allow me to say this, a hand tear is an injury. It is not a badge of honor of how BAD ASS you are. If you tear your hand, you may be derailing your ability to train for the next few days. Oh, your significant other is not going to allow you to put your hands on him/her either so now you are really out of luck!
Prevention is Key
First, go to your local pharmacy and pick up either a pumice stone or a callus shaver in the foot care section. I personally prefer the callus shaver as it slices those babies down really quick and easy. You may prefer both to smooth over any edges left by the callus shaver. Take the shaver or stone and cut down any built up calluses as needed. Once per week does the trick for me. Others need heavier maintenance.
Beyond, keeping the calluses down you can also be sure to apply lotion to your hands to ensure that your skin does not become too dry with cracks. This will lead to rips and tears as well. I am not a big lotion guy. In fact the only time I use lotion is when I am rubbing some on my wife’s feet and legs. But hey, maybe you like the stuff!
Friction is The Enemy
The reason the calluses build up and ultimately tear is due to friction. If your skin is constantly being rubbed along a surface it is going to be build to protect itself until it finally tears because it is too big. How can we minimize this? The first is obvious with using chalk.
There is such a thing as TOO MUCH CHALK. The substance is not supposed to be caked on your hands. If you are an excessive sweater then you need to have a towel to dry off your hands and forearms before applying additional small dosages of chalk to your hands. Don’t be a chalk whore. I have also heard of applying body glide to your hands and then a little chalk on your hands before hitting the pull up bar or barbell. I have not personally tried this yet but it makes sense. Marathoners and distance events use body glide all the time to prevent chafing brought on by friction.
Gloves are another option. Wait, gloves? That is being a sissy right? Set aside your macho ego. If you tear and tear regularly, get a pair of gloves. Buy the smallest size of batting gloves you fit into, they will stretch, and practice your grip. It will be different and you may have to make some small adjustments.
Build up your grip strength. This is a huge reason for rips and tears. Though we don’t want to have a death grip on the pull up bar when we need to finish 100 pull ups, we also don’t want our forearms and grip to crap the bed after 15-20 reps. Look for another post coming soon to address grip strength and programs to follow that can easily be applied 2-3 times per week at the end of your workouts.
In the Heat of the Battle
While you begin following the guidance written above, what about today? Tomorrow? Here is one basic rule I follow. Don’t go to failure on any set of pull ups, high volume snatches, or cleans. Once your grip begins to fail, you WILL rip your hand. Work smaller doses of sub maximal effort. Though it may seem counter intuitive, you will actually be able to finish your WOD faster due to less no reps and needing to take extra time for the muscles to recover. As you apply the grip strength work and continue training the number of reps you can complete will increase.
One last thing. If the WOD calls for 100 pull-ups and you know that the volume is too much for you, don’t “suck it up” and go after it. Build up your capacity over time. Scale it down. Know your limits, work to the very fringe of them to keep pushing further, but be smart. Then you will be able to continue training and improving your fitness instead of sitting on the sideline and having to go to sleep with latex gloves and moisturizer.
22 Apr 2014
My CrossFit Kids program is about teaching kids to take care of themselves and value fitness. I also believe in the intrinsic values and qualities sports can teach. Qualities I think are valuable in life and teaching kids and teens what they mean through sport was central to the mission of my fitness business. I come from an education background and I am always curious about the latest in education studies. I am fortunate to have some great connections with educators in the field of pedagogy and one such professor introduced me to the research done by Angela Lee Duckworth on GRIT. Her work in this field affirms what I have always believed, GRIT is a necessary quality for success.
I recently had a set back in my professional career and that experience got me thinking about GRIT again. I’ve always been willing to take risks. I went to college when my high school guidance counselor told me I wouldn’t make it. In fact, he was a little more harsh “girls like you don’t go to college.” I set out to prove him wrong. It took me 7 years to finish college while I worked a full time job. During that time I failed out of college once because I just wasn’t ready for the demands of school. I kept going back when everything kept pointing in the opposite direction. I believed that with enough hard work I could make it. I also had seen that poverty was a life I didn’t want to live.
When I applied to graduate school I didn’t know if I could get in. I didn’t have the best grades and my undergraduate school was by no means a top tier school. Hunter College is part of the CUNY system of New York City and it caters to students on the margins. While I was there I had to take remedial education and learn the basics of high school math. I was in a classroom with other students working full time. There were mothers in the classroom who would bring their babies because they didn’t have anyone else to watch them. I loved it! I understood their story and their drive inspired me.
Dr. Duckworth’s research on GRIT has started important discourse amongst educators and psychologist. She looked at success from a motivational and psychological perspective and what she asked is: Who is successful and why? The quality that kept emerging time after time was GRIT. She noticed that IQ was not the predictor of grades for students and that professionals in sales were most successful if they had long-term passion and perseverance. Adults and kids with mental stamina and the ability “to stick with your future” is what made success because hard work for many years is what makes that “future a reality.” Angela Lee Duckworth
My recent set back got me thinking about my goals for the CrossFit kids program I started 4 years ago. It was reality time for me. I had the next 6 months all planned out and in one phone call everything changed. I was going to take my kids program to another affiliate gym. The new gym had hired me as a consultant for 3 months. I would then leave the kids program behind and move on in the summer to work with inner city kids in another program. Seemed perfect until I got the call that the new home for the kids program was pulling out of the contract. It was the eleventh hour and all I could do was crawl in bed and pull the sheets over my head. “NOT Happening!” I kept saying to myself.
Once I emerged I felt defeated. I called a few trusted people and asked for advice. These are some of their insights:
“Don’t stay in the grey area for to long trying to figure out other peoples motives. Make a new plan and save your kids program.”
“You started this kids program when no one else was doing this in Boston. Keep it going.”
“Never give up your kids program!”
“This is not a failure but perhaps the best blessing you can’t see right now.”
I started to figure out a new plan. I also started to do what I do when life doesn’t make sense. Work out more and read research on education. I looked at Dr. Duckworth’s research on GRIT from a new perspective.
I took Dr. Duckworth’s GRIT test. I thought I would be the grittiest person in Boston. However, a 3.38 on a scale of 1-5 is not so gritty for someone as gritty as me. I’m a survivor for sure but perhaps at this point my gutsy determination was not enough to pull me through the latest set back. Perhaps what’s still missing is the last part of GRIT that I’m in the middle of trying to figure out—working hard over many years to make my future a reality. The future of the kid and teen program I started four years ago is just not finished yet. I was giving it up just as it was getting to the next level.
Dr. Duckworth has noted, people with GRIT don’t look at set backs or failure as a permanent condition. I liked her message, when we fail we have to be able to start over with lessons learned and find a way to be better. I learned a huge lesson~ Never give up my kids program! I was ready to hand it over to other people. Nice people, I’m not even upset that they pulled out at the last minute. I get to redo this and get it right. I get the opportunity to take this program to the next level. I don’t know what the future will bring but I’m not ready to give up.
I have always believed in the power of GRIT. I think it is a quality worth teaching kids and teens through the sport of fitness that we have all come to love. I continue to learn through my own CrossFit training about my strengths and weaknesses as a person. What I value: Honesty, Hard Work, Giving Back to Those Less Fortunate, and Fortitude, to name just a few. And what I would never do: cheating, stealing and cutting corners. The CrossFit community is full of amazing comeback stories of courage and resolve. This is my little story about getting a second chance to get it right.
How about you? Got GRIT? Is CrossFit a valuable tool in helping you become a little more gritty?
Take the GRIT TEST
01 Apr 2014
One of our very own, Tolly Taylor, recently authored an article that was featured on The Business Insider.
In a society where online dating is the norm because it’s so hard to meet people, CrossFit provides a ready-made community of people who share your interest in fitness. Through classes, bit-by-bit, you get to know the people at your gym—that’s not to say you’ll get along with or befriend everyone, but chances are you’ll find a group you like. Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself meeting up with people outside of the gym, organizing parties with CrossFit friends, and becoming more and more invested in your gym.
Awesome work Tolly!
11 Mar 2014
To go as Rx or not to go Rx? That is the question. Almost daily we as coaches receive this question from members at least 10 times when we bring the class in front of the whiteboard. Here is a quick and dirty guide when it comes to the Workout of the Day (WOD).
1. Fast Is Better
Metabolic conditioning is meant to be fast. (Once proper mechanics have been learned of course!) Speed is one of the 10 General Physical Skills outlined in CrossFit’s definition of fitness. CrossFit works so well because we train at HIGH INTENSITY. INTENSITY = POWER. Power is also one of the 10 general physical skills necessary in a well rounded fitness program. We can measure POWER as work (force x distance)/time. The faster a WOD is completed the greater the POWER and therefore the greater INTENSITY.
Greg Everett even has a webpage that allows you to compute your POWER output for some of the movements in CrossFit. You can check it out here. One Friday evening, the attendees and I played with this calculator. We inputted different weights, times, etc for the same individual to calculate the POWER output of the WOD “FRAN”. It was quite revealing to learn that performing FRAN with 65# and finishing 30-60 seconds faster than performing it as Rx and grinding through it created a much higher POWER output.
2. Strength During Strength WOD’s
We program strength separately than the WOD because it needs to be trained as such. Yes, CrossFit does improve your strength within the WOD. But it does so primarily through repetitions and increased movement efficiency. The more efficient you are at moving the greater loads you will be able to handle. I am not saying this is exclusive, I am saying that it is primarily what is occurring.
The days strength is programmed in the gym or if you are on an additional strength cycle outside of class time, that is when you should be loading the heavy weights. Our current programming has less strength programmed due to the Open season. That begin said, you should be on a supplemental strength cycle outside of class if strength is one of YOUR main issues in being able to perform better.
Back to the main point of this tip, adding too much weight in the WOD is going to slow you down considerably. Thus, decreasing your POWER, AND increase your potential of injury. Add weight to the WOD very slowly as your fitness and strength improves.
The WOD written on the board is programmed for the most advanced athletes in the gym, think Carla B and Dave Y. They have a ton of training time and ridiculously huge base of fitness. The majority of our members are not at this level. They are working to get there. So, it is important to look at the volume of training each and every day.
I will use yesterdays WOD, 21-15-9 Pull-ups and deadlifts, as the example. Lets assume I just got my pull-ups and can now perform between 2-4 pull-ups unbroken regularly. 45 pull-ups would be a disaster for my training if I attempted to complete the volume as Rx. What would be more appropriate is for me to scale the WOD down to 10-6-4. This would provide an appropriate dosage so that I could improve my pull-ups without risk of causing damage or injury.
Over time while practicing my pull-ups outside of class time, I would increase the amount of pull-ups that I would perform in a WOD inching closer to Carla and Dave all while drastically improving my fitness.
I hope this guide helps. It is by no means exhaustive and it is not meant to be taken as law. There are many exceptions to the rule. We all are each individuals and respond to training much differently. That is what makes our job as Coaches both exciting and challenging. If you have any questions on this topic any of our staff can help you. Just come up and ask!
25 Feb 2014
I know, Monday was yesterday. Better late than never. In case you have never read the CF Journal, it is packed with a ton of great information and resources. Better yet, IT’S FREE NOW!
This video came up last fall and it is a great motivational piece. Take a moment and watch the video (W&F safe). You won’t be disappointed. I love the dedication to virtuosity. She can’t “see” how the movement looks but she can feel it and know exactly how to correct herself and others. It’s a process and it can transform you.
Bettina Dolinsek was born blind, but she never asked to be treated differently. That same attitude carries over into her CrossFit training, and she doesn’t shy away from movements—even box jumps.
Watch the video here.
Tomrrow’s WOD features: burpees, power cleans, and chest to bar pull ups. The first two we practice and train so frequently that it is not necessary to say much about them. The chest to bar pull up on the other hand…
Go and get ’em!
11 Feb 2014
One of the legends of CrossFit, Chris Spealler, wrote a post about CrossFit for training v. CrossFit for Sport. I have a world of respect for Chris. I have met him personally, had the opportunity to learn from him, and discuss being a gym owner. He is a stand up dude and very intelligent.
I highly encourage you to read this post in its entirety. There is much that we all can learn from it.
One of the things I love about CrossFit that is communicated in our programming lecture and some of the other reading material that we see is that “Our needs don’t vary by kind, only by degree.” I whole heartedly agree with this statement. Essentially we are saying that everyone from the most deconditioned participant to the most elite athlete have the same needs. All of us will be required to squat, press, deadlift, push, pull, run, jump, etc. in different forms or fashions. The KEY that we need to recognize is that this vary’s tremendously by DEGREE. Particularly between those training CrossFit for what it’s truly designed for, and those that have chosen to seriously pursue CrossFit as their sport at an ELITE level. The difference between these two pursuits is going to be dictated by your goals. When you set goals you should be realistic but confident and depending on what they are it will require more or less sacrifice from yourself and even those around you. I think we can all fall into 3 basic categories.
Read the whole article here. Post your thoughts to comments.