Sunday, February 27, 2011

The problem with being impatient

So as class was getting ready one person, who I'll name Eric (not his real name), was rolling out from the 515 workout asked me if he could join in for the first 15 minutes. "But," he said, "my problem is with weight, so could we work on that?" I shook my head and told him that class was starting out with PVC pipe, and only after that will we work on weight.

Needless to say, he didn't join in.

This, as a coach, is one of the biggest problems I face, the impatient client. Now, for the two guys that showed up, we went through the Burgener warm up, I figured out their issues (speed under the bar, not curling the bar, etc), we did drills that fixed the problem, and then worked from the hang with light weight. If they had issues I had them go back to the drills until they got that, then work from the hang again. Once they figured it out, I then had them do it at least five more times so that some sort of muscle memory was established (it was getting near the end of class). Both of them really felt like they "got it" for the first time, and were very, very happy. Now I imagine if we started adding some heavier loads at that time, they would end up lifting more weight then they were able to before class.

My point here is that all to often people think that if they have a problem with heavier weights then that's the only issue. It couldn't possibly be an issue with technique that would should up even on a PVC pipe. Or, more probably, they just don't want to work with a PVC pipe because that's boring. For some reason PVC pipe work really seems to alienate a lot of people, even though it's probably the most important type of work in establishing proper technique.

Now, if Eric's issue really was with weight, in otherwords his technique was spot on but his actual strength is the issue that's one thing. If that was the case then I would work on exercises to get him stronger in whatever's holding him up (e.g. shoulder stregnth, core strength, or leg stregnth).

But I've seen Eric snatch weight, and there are a few holes in his technique. Holes that could be easily fixed if he went back to the basics. But he doesn't want to, because that takes time and is boring. Unfortunatly, investing time in "boring" drills are really whats needed to fix a technique issue, especially if you have to undo the incorrect technique and relearn correct technique.

I've always been described as a patient man. I know that the desired outcome, in whatever life persuit, will come if I keep doing the right thing. It is this strategy that has served me so well in life, such as taking over a year in figuring out how to treat the pain in my hip (something that has been well documented on this blog). I say this because I honestly don't understand why people don't take the time to do things correctly. Sorry I know that this is just a case of some one simply not really wanting to work on their overhead snatch, but if that's the case why did they even ask for help? If your not willing to but the time and effort in I get that, crossfit isn't the number one priority in you life, which is fine (and probably very healthy in a psychological sense), but when some one asks for my help and then is unhappy with the answer or just completely ignores it it upsets me. I guess I don't like be discounted, I don't like it when people think I don't know what I'm talking about.

Before crossfit, I used to work out with a coworker named Matt. During our workout I would talk about random exercise stuff, lots of kenisiology and why exercise X is great for muscle Y. Later he told me that he was surprised I was actually right. I asked him why, and he said he figured no average joe could know that much, that I was just making stuff up to seem impressive. I think a lot of people have treated me this way, and I honestly don't know why. What I do know is that it bothers me when it happens. OK, rant off.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Got Snatch?

So I've changed things up a bit with my class. I know I haven't been very vocal on the blog about my class, and that's mostly because I don't want to scare away any potential clients with the thought that I will write about their performance. But basically all has been quiet on the coaching front, I've found my routine and everything is going along quite smoothly.

However, I've been only getting a handful of people to show up. In looking for some way to spruce things up, I asked some clients last week if they would like me to start teaching the snatch and pretty much every one of them said it would be exciting. I love the Olympic lifts, one reason why I chose that as my first certification, even before my level one. So this is very exciting for me. It's strange to think that it's been two years since I attended that cert, starts to make me feel old.

I met up with Melissa to make sure I have all the tools ready, and I think i do. The snatch is, in my mind, the most difficult lift to master. It has been called ballet with a barbell, and I'm about to take on some peeps with two left feet.

Second most dangerous crossfit exercise

So earlier this month I talked about how the kipping motion (in both pull ups and toes to bar) is dangerous and can lead to a SLAP (or shoulder labrum) tear. Well, apparently there is another exercise that can lead to a shoulder injury is the sumo deadlift high pull, or SDHP. Basically, the SDHP is safe if you're not using your arms to lift the weight, but as soon as you get tired (and if you're trying to do this at 100% intensity then form will degrade rather quickly) you'll start to use your arms and it will cause an impingement and you'll hurt your supraspinatus. This is all explained beautifully here from Whole9. I highly recommend reading it. Makes me wonder about this years FGB and what I'll do.

The need for a stregnth bias in crossfit (aka, beware the sexy metcon)

Came across an interesting thread on the crossfit message boards talking about how all the game competitors train with a strength bias, and it got me to thinking about crossfit programming. Programming a good strength and conditioning program, in my opinion, is one of the top three things you should look at in a crossfit gym (Programming, emphasis on technique, and personality).

And when you think about crossfit sans a strength bias, which looks like a bunch of random met-cons that have to be done at maximum intensity, it becomes appearent that you need something more. That something more, if you want to get much faster times and bigger lifts, is a strength bias. Sure Met-cons are cool, but as Whole9 says, beware of the sexy metcon.

I've heard of the 5/3/1 program, and because Jerry always has us finding our 5, 3, and 1 rep max I think that's what we do here at CFOT. For anyone who wants to know what it is exactly, I reccomend checking out this awesome article summerizing the program here.

It seems to me that a problem with programming is two fold: 1) a lack of periodization and 2) high intensity all the time for every workout.

First, you need to have programming with a plan, you just can't vomit up a triplet of random movements and do it for time. However, as far as I can tell the .com workouts seem to be exactly that, there's no rhyme or reason, no repetition. It's exciting, but you actually need to repeat movements periodically if you want to get better at them. Muscle confusion is great and all, but you actually want muscle adaptation to occur, you need it to occur to actually be stronger. If you squat every week, your squat will get stronger. Proper programming is cyclical with goals in mind, a beginning, middle, and an end. Because .com is suppose to be for everyone all the time, it has no beginning, middle or end. It's just a continuous stream of workouts that leave people in a puddle. Which leads me to my second point, intensity doesn't always have to be 100%.

"Simple answer is you can't go balls to the wall all the time. Well you can but then it becomes raisins against the wall."

One of the hallmarks of is that you're suppose to do each workout as fast and as intense as possible, but as Crossfit One World says, intensity isn't always the answer. You'll open yourself up to injury and won't see much long term gains.

Point is, you need a stregnth bias in crossfit if you really want to see any real gains in you lifts as well as see improvement on your Fran time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

5 rep Back squat, definitely getting weaker.

So yesterday we found our 5 rep back squat max, and although it felt good, I only got up to 225#. This is not my best, not by far. One and a half years ago my five rep max was 250. After a year and a half, I would expect my strength to be going up, not down. So I must be doing something wrong, and I believe it's my diet. I'm must simply not be eating enough. I'm doing my damnedest, but it's just not working. In one day I'll have chicken, salmon, turkey, ham, and possibly steak. That's like a whole freakin' farm right there! The only thing that makes sense is I must not be eating enough.

I also think this because I do experience hunger a lot of the time. When this year started I joined a paleo diet challenge, and I've been doing a pretty good job of sticking with it. I've noticed I've been losing fat, and at a pretty high rate. Appearently, this comes at the price of losing strength.

The whole reason why I joined crossfit was for looks, I've always been pretty unabashed about this. I've never, ever, had a six pack, and I want one. I have a theory that if you've ever been muscly, strong, or ripped you can get back there fairly quickly. However, if you're like me and have never been muscly, strong, or ripped it is much, much harder to get there. I think this is why I see people who's only change is doing crossfit and they get a six pack, while I change what I eat, what I drink, how long I sleep, doing some form of massage every day and I still feel like I've got a way to go.

But back to my point: I joined crossfit because I wanted to look a certain way. Jerry has said a couple of times that you start working out for looks, then performance, then longevity. I am still in the looks category, especially since I'm so freaking close to my goal of having sweet, sweet abs. However, the fact that my lifts are going down substantially is really starting to annoy me. Now if you excuse me, I need to go eat some smoked salmon, an apple, and some almond butter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Front squat failure

Today was find your 2 rep front squat max, and this was a bit of a disappointment for me. Last year I was able to get 225 with one rep of 245. This time I hit 205 and couldn't get one rep of 225. I feel like I'm getting weaker, and I'm not happy with this. At first I thought it was the fact that I was relearning how to do everything, how to squat with my abs engaged. But now, now I'm getting frustrated. I feel like my diet is pretty damn good, paleo with very few exceptions. I have worked my ass off in recovery and mobility, and yet I feel like I've hit a ceiling. Is this as good as it gets, after almost three years have I reached my limit? I have seen a lot of gains when it comes to technique, muscle ups come to mind, but when it comes to my max lifts it seems like nothing has changed, if not reversed. Sorry I'm just mad and am ranting a bit. Hopefully things will be better in the morning.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday: finding my groove

So our workout on Saturday involved doing AMRAP of deadlifts for three minutes twice. There were other elements to the workout but this is what I'd like to talk about for now. My back is still a little jacked up from a workout a month ago at the superfit competition, even bending over to pick up a pen off the ground evicts a groan as I forget to keep a tight core and bend my back.

However, I was feeling good, just with a large dose of caution. So I decided to do deadlifts, but with a light weight, 165#. I worked on touch and go, and today it clicked. I think I've always been hesitant to scrape the bar against my shins, but after wearing tall socks and taping my shins underneath, it was enough to make me focus on everything else. I was able to keep a straight back and just throw my hips back and let the bar drop and come back up. I really started to feel like it was working my legs. I felt great afterward too, my back wasn't feeling it at all (although my legs and abs did).

This was important for me because I've finally figured out where I need to be with the deadlift, as well as figure out proper form for touch and go. I'll just have to go with the infidel weight and keep looking at form. I've always focused on form, but I didn't realize I needed to reduce the weight by so much. The weight might have been "light" but believe me, my glutes have not been this sore in a long, long time.

On a note about the abs, I've been adding GHD's to my post-wod work, and I think it's really working now. I started out at 20, and am now up to 35. I plan to add 5 reps each day until I'm up to 50, maybe more, we'll see.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Danger of doing kipping pull ups without sufficient strength

(UPDATE: if you've hurt your shoulder I've found something that can really help out.  It's simple and cheap, and it's hanging from a bar multiple times a day. Won't heal the labrum, but it can help out with a lot of other shoulder ailments.)

If you peruse the injury threads on the board you'll find a lot of shoulder injuries, specifically SLAP tears (tears in the labrum). A lot of them seem to come from kipping pull ups, and I've come across a possible explanation. There is an article explaining what a SLAP tear is and how it comes about, most notably:
In theory, SLAP lesions most likely occur in overhead athletes from a combination of these 2 previously described forces. The eccentric biceps activity during deceleration may serve to weaken the biceps-labrum complex, while the torsional peel back force may result in the posterosuperior detachment of the labral anchor.
As some one else pointed out, when you look at the kipping pull up with this knowledge you'll see:
Eccentric bicep loading = the negative part of the pull-up, the arms straightening at the bottom

Arm deceleration = the swing into the kip

Abduction and external rotation = the position of the arms at the apex/reversal point of the kip

Just imagine the "peel-back" force in the shoulders when they are forcefully wrenched back at the apex/reversal point of the kip. If you really think about it, the head of the humerus is trying to push out the front of the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint, the kipper is trying to RELAX their muscles at the bottom to get the most out of their kip, leaving all the strain on the LABRUM (think of it as a suction cup on the scapula that holds the humerus on the body, with the greatest forces on the top/superior and the front/anterior parts), and the resultant forces--over time (repetition)--TEAR the TOP part of the labrum from the FRONT to the BACK...this is therefore a SUPERIOR LABRUM ANTERIOR-POSTERIOR injury mechanism, almost perfectly designed (as evidenced by the orthopedic doctors making a ton of money off of people who do them).

Steven Low, writer of an awesome exercise blog, has chimed in on this subject matter as well. I have much respect for the man. Not only do I have a link to his blog in the margins, but his posts have really helped me in the past with my injuries (led me to find a DO for my hip, helped realize massage would fix the tendonitis, etc.). Concerning SLAP tears, he says:
The reason why you don't seen the top CF athletes getting slap lesions is because their shoulder mobility sucks. If your shoulder mobility sucks when you relax your shoulder muscles at the bottom of the pullup you have your muscles contracting against opening the shoulder all the way thus mitigating any forces on the biceps long head tendon. In addition, the muscles do help bar forces from the shoulder.

However, when you get people who are weak (e.g. women in general, or those with good shoulder mobility) they're the ones getting the primary forces distributed through the muscles into the other soft tissues such as the long head of the biceps. This is especially the case with learning the kipping pullups where there's going to be a lot of jerking down into the motion while learning it.

I would never ever ever ever recommending learning kipping before you at least have 3+ deadhang pullups. It's not just not a good idea putting trauma on the shoulder especially when it's easy to not do it right and jerking down into the movement which is much more dangerous than a smooth movement.

Jerking down from toes to bar can do the same thing for reference.
There's also another article here by Whole 9 that basically sends the same message of do dead hangs before working on the kip. Crossfit Virtuosity also recently mentions how important it is to have strict pull ups before you start kipping (and provides a great program to get strict pull ups).

This kind of concerns me because my shoulder mobility is pretty darn good, however I have a very smooth swing, without a jerk. I also wonder if butterfly exposes the shoulder in the same way (don't think so). But from now I will definitely make sure I'm keeping my shoulders engaged at the bottom of a kip, I already have a tear in my hip labrum, and I really don't want to add a shoulder one to the mix.

...I should also point out that, as far as I know, no one at CFOT has suffered a SLAP tear. This is further testament to the training and programming that Jerry lays out for us. The man knows his stuff.

(UPDATE #2: Turns out I have a tear in the back of my shoulder's labrum, not a slap tear, but a tear nontheless. I've decided to forego surgery and try prolotherapy to repair the damage naturally. For more about prolotherapy check out these two videos here and here.  I've started a vlog where I document what recovering from prolo is like:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Questioning of Faith

I'm not really happy with the title of this post, but I'm having trouble summing up my thoughts and feelings in just a few words. About a week ago I found a thread on the catalyst forums about the problems with Crossfit as a training program, and it's been very, very interesting. First off, one of the main problems pointed out is the programming and how rarely it is done with any purpose and doesn't improve one's strength. This really makes me appreciate Jerry's programming, with his use of the 5/3/1 periodization strength bias (if I'm understanding things correctly). Met-cons may be sexy, but working on strength is what produces a better athlete. There are many issues addressed in the thread and links to many other posts, and I'm not even done reading it yet, but here goes a summary of what the thread covers:
  • There's little oversight for crossfit. My office mate could pay $1k for a cert and then open up a box of his own. He knows jack sh!t about exercise and would probably teach very poor technique to people who wouldn't know better. This would lead to injuries and would hurt a lot of people, as well as hurt the brand image of Crossfit.
  • The acceptance of degradation of technique of complex lifts like the snatch for the sake of finishing WODs faster will lead to injuries as well.
  • Kipping pull ups, SDHPs and American kettlebell swings are easy to do incorrectly and if done incorrectly they will cause severe shoulder injuries (SLAP tear, impingement, etc)
  • Crossfit Headquarters is so close-minded they reject peer review and burn bridges with experts outside Crossfit (like Robb Wolfe and I think Riptoe), this makes it seem like Crossfit is snake oil
  • Crossfit Endurance is not going to get someone to a 12-15min 5k
  • The people who perform the best with Crossfit came in with an already strong base, no one's come in as a weakling, done crossfit, and become some one who can deadlift 500+ pounds, clean 350+ pounds, snatch 300+ pounds, and can run a 15min 5k
  • Typical crossfit programming will not improve one's VO2Max
Now let me be clear, I don't necessarily agree with all that is being said on that thread, but I feel like it is something that should be looked at. For me it makes me appreciate Jerry Hill and his knowledge base even more. There's more that I would like to post but I've got to get going.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hand stand push up work

So Monday's wod was 1 HSPU every 30 seconds for like 12? minutes. I was at first a bit bummed because it looked like I would have to modify by limiting my range of motion by having my head touch bumper plates instead of the floor. However, I noticed Uhle was done and was just hanging out, doing some extra work. I asked if he could spot me doing banded pushups and he said yes!

This was exciting because Danya says doing banded HSPUs really forces a tight core as well as you get full ROM. I didn't realize how much the band would help. I started out at the orange band, but then added 25# plates for my hands, increasing the range of motion. Then I did flat HSPU with the red band, but then I kind of hit a wall, so I went back to the orange band.

After that we did a workout with push press, and this is an exercise that has always given me trouble. With my weak abs my rib cage keeps poking out, thus arching my back unnaturally. However, this time around something kind of clicked, and my push press felt a lot, lot better. I guess working on the full ROM with the HSPU primed my shoulders to figure out the push press. If I can get a faster, better push press my fight gone bad score should go up dramatically.

The workout also featured box jumps, now that I've figured out how to do them plyometrically they are usually the easiest part of a workout, I just burn through them quickly and without pause.

The only downer from Monday was that I didn't have time to go in and do my interval work. This was partially due to it being so late at night (645) and partially due to me just forgetting about it. Once it becomes more of my routine I'll remember and do it with more regularity.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Post Superfit, where to go from here.

So I didn't do so hot with the superfit wods, now what? I asked for feedback and I got it, this is what I got:
  1. My aerobic capacity is usually what slows me down first. This can be remedied with some interval training 2 times a week.
  2. I'm not as strong as most of the competitors. Although CFOT is a strength bias, I should raise the weight and lower the volume on met-cons to increase my work capacity.
  3. Core strength needs work. I should do something, L-sits, GHD, toes to bar, every time I come into the gym.
So I guess I'm going to have to change up my routine a bit. I guess I'll "cash out" each day with some GHD's. I did that for a while, and it really started to bring out my abs, guess I should start doing that again. The interval training should be interesting, as I def don't do any aerobic activity outside of xfit, at least not until spring starts and I'll start biking again to the gym. ...I've been thinking of joining Alexandria's Master swimming program for some time, perhaps this is the time???

On another note, I'm participating in my gym's paleo challenge. And although during the week it's not a challenge at all, during the past couple of weekends it has been quite a challenge. Two weekends ago I went skiing in snowshoe West Virginia (which was awesome) and the only food there was crap. Fortunately I brought my own food for breakfast, but lunch and dinner were tough. This past weekend was both my birthday and the Superbowl, and when your gf makes peanutbutter cupcakes for you, it's hard to not indulge.

However, I'm still making good progress. The other day I ran into Chriss and Andrea, my old coaches before they went and started Trident Crossfit, and they were amazed at how I looked, and I was wearing a jacket. Chriss kept gushing about how I'd changed, and I responded with, "Well, I'm doing this thing called Crossfit, and it's really helping me get into shape." I miss those two. Anyways, point is I'm still making progress. I remember about this time last year when Judy commented that I was really starting to look ripped (a product of getting massages), and I've gotten only leaner and leaner.

Going into crossfit my goal first and foremost was to get a six-pack, to look ridiculously shredded. As the years pass, I'm now becoming more concerned with performance. I want to be stronger and faster. However, I think ideally I'll be able to accomplish both. I'm always looking out to see if I'm going into Keytosis, and I still eat a lot of almond butter. Yet I still find myself hungry, not starving, but hungry. Still tweaking, but I think I'm in a great place right now with diet, I've even given up on adding sugar and cream to my coffee!!!! Never thought I'd drink coffee black, but then this paleo challenge came around and pow, I want to win!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Superfit 2011 fourth workout

This is the last wod of the competition, and I was in the last heat because I was in the bottom five. I'm a bit frustrated by this, I've been xfitting for 2.5 years, I've been on the zone diet for 2 years and then the paleo/zone for about 4 months, I learned about recovery and mobility and practice it everyday, while getting a professional massage every two weeks (and I needed to get one every week for a while there) to make sure my muscles aren't suffering from an excess of inflammation.

Point is, I felt like I should be better than placing in the bottom five. So I was determined to do really well on this one, and I did have my best performance of the weekend. I felt confident with this workout because of the OHS's, my shoulder mobility is much better then most dudes (remember those massages?) so I wouldn't be fighting my own muscles or having to really focus on keeping the weight overhead. I could use my muscles to maximum efficiency.

I ended up doing four and some change, which was better than a few other CFOTers. However, it was exactly half the amount the guy who one it did (ridiculous), if that gives you an idea of relativity. My performance bumped me up two spots, but it also helped that 11 people didn't even show up to do this wod, so it kind of diminishes my sense of accomplishment. I just feel a bit weak, that I'm not progressing like I should be, it's a bit frustrating. I will say this though, I look way better than I did when I started, and I'm looking better every day, especially thanks to the paleo challenge some of my friends are doing, but I'll save that for another post.

Anyway, here's an awesome video put together by our videographer Koz:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Superfit 2011 third workout

This was a somewhat surprising and humbling experience. In posting my earlier blog post I said my goal was 40, but I had completely forgotten about the 7 pull ups on the minute. I ended up getting nine reps, which was not a whole lot, not a lot at all.

My game plan was not to burn out quickly, I wanted to pace myself. So I decided to go for 10 thrusters the first round and go by how I feel after that. I knew that the difficult part with this wod was the pull ups, but it had been a long time since I've worked out with c2b pull ups, something I should get back to.

So the first round goes ok, I tried to get a final one as the seconds ticked down and although I think I got it the judge said no. In doing the pull ups I'm really feeling light, and I'm doing belly to bar pu's. For some reason I just feel like it's easier that way, I'm using my momentum more if I'm starting up at a higher place. In the video you can hear Melissa mention that I'm going too high, perhaps I was, but like I said they seem easier when I'm going up that high. I think my first round was pretty strong, but after that I didn't have a lot in the tank. I didn't really feel winded, I just felt like moving was difficult. Sometimes I wonder if I'm all fast twitch, which would be pretty bad because I'm really not that strong.

Anyway, I really struggle with the pull ups, but my form was pretty darn good on the thrusters and was surprised they weren't difficult. Here's the video, so you can see me hit the wall after the first round:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Superfit 2011 second workout

Deadlifts and double unders

For the deadlift and double unders, I actually did way more than I thought I would. I got all the way into the fifth round before time expired. This workout really hurt me, physically as well as score wise. A lot of people were able to get this one done in 4:30, if not faster. My deadlift is crap, and I need to really work on it. This is a big, big flaw in my game.

I also learned that I really need to work on my double unders. In jumping high enough to clear the rope, I'm collapsing my body instead of using plyometric energy like a box jump. This is something else I need to add to the mix.

It's kind of sad because this is the quintessential crossfit couplet, and I suck at it.

If you like to see major thoracic bend, then by all means check out the vid. And a special thanks to Maggie for videotaping this as well as her support.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Superfit 2011 first workout

First workout, the skills test

Got 57th in this, which was one of my better rankings.

I was fairly close with hitting my goals, if I didn't actual make it. The most surprising was the L-sit, which I've held for longer than 30 second before. However with this workout the tolerance was a lot lower than what I'm used to. The handles were literally inches off the ground, so no room for error. I only lasted for 10 seconds, much lower than I thought I would get.

The Xfactor that was the med ball pull ups was interesting. I tried underhanded for the first time, and it was a lot, lot easier. However the ball slipped and so I only got seven. Considering how wacky of an exercise this is, I'm ok with the results.

Got 12 OHS, this was a the bottom of what I was aiming for, but I just didn't have it in my shoulders.

The row sucked, got like 1:43, was surprised at how tired I was.

Here's a vid of the med ball pull ups: