Christmas Time at the Box!

‘Tis the season for holiday-inspired workouts. I’m not sure how many affiliates around the world do a workout like the 12 Days of CrossFit. Unlike the story of Christmas, I’m not clear about its origins. But I’ll say this, I don’t know of any other workout I’ve done that seems so fun but is so physically crushing as this one. The idea is your trainer takes the song “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and you do it as a CrossFit workout — substituting the various gifts mentioned throughout the song for CrossFit movements and lifts. From the first mention of this, I was eager to give it a try. Trainers usually mix up the movements and the order. This is what last year’s line-up looked like (to give you an example):

1 Squat Clean Thruster (135 pounds/95 pounds)

2 Handstand Push-Ups

3 Over-the-Box Jumps (24”/20”)

4 Lateral Bar-Hopping Burpees

5 Waaall Baaalls! (40 pounds/30 pounds)

6 Push Presses (135 pounds/95 pounds)

7 Front Squats (135 pounds/95 pounds)

8 Kettlebell Swings (53 pounds/35 pounds)

9 Toes-to-Bar

10 Weighted Lunges (40 pounds/30 pounds)

11 Clapping Push-Ups

12 Squat Snatches (135 pounds/95 pounds)

This was followed by the instructions for members to “Complete this workout as if you were going through the ‘12 Days of Christmas’ song. Start with one squat clean thruster, then do two handstand push-ups and one squat clean thruster. Then three over-the-box jumps, two handstand push-ups, one squat clean thruster, etc. Singing is encouraged. Merry Christmas everyone!”

This workout starts off as rather jolly. I remember knocking out the thruster with ease, then moving on to the next movement of two HSPUs, going back to the one thruster, and so forth.

Does your box grind out this kind of a WOD? If not, do you do any kind of special CrossFit get-together or workout around the holidays? Stay on the grind and have a happy and safe holiday season!

The Most Common Deadlift Mistakes..Fix These Now

Here’s what you need to know…

  1. Set up with the bar directly over the feet. If you set up too far away from the bar, you end up doing some kind of half-assed front delt raise.
  2. The bar should be behind your shoulders and under the scapulae. Too many lifters treat the deadlift like it’s a squat performed with the bar in their hands.
  3. Take the slack out of the bar before you start your pull. Listen for that telltale “clink” as the bar hits the top of the weight plates.
  4. The back angle should remain the same throughout the pull. Do this by extending the knees and not keeping the legs straight and doing some sort of Romanian deadlift.
  5. Finish a deadlift with a strong and powerful hip extension. Too many lifters finish the lift by unnecessarily hyper-extending the spine.

In theory, you do a deadlift simply by picking a weight up off the floor. However, anyone who’s spent any time at all above the bar knows that there’s an enormous amount of technique involved. Unless you’ve been coached on how to do it properly, there’s a high probability that you’ll be making at least one of five common errors.

1 – Setting Up Too Far From the Bar

In order to perform an efficient deadlift, the barbell path needs to be as short as possible from start to finish, and that means travelling in a perfect vertical line. The final position of the bar should be directly over where it was on the floor.

Far too many people, however, tend to stand too far away from the bar. When they pull the bar in a vertical line, it ends up being some distance from the body. The lifter ends up doing an isometric, partial front delt raise instead of a deadlift. This isn’t just difficult, it’s actually impossible to do with any load that’s worthy of being lifted.

Bad set-up. The bar is too far from the body:

Bad set-up

Good set-up:

Good set-up

As it so happens, if this error is made during your set-up, there are forces that act on the load in order to return it to the more appropriate line of pull. However, these additional forces are the product of an increased length in moment arm (the length between the joint axis and the line of force acting on that joint) between the hips and the bar. This results in more effort exerted by the body, which is an absolute waste of energy expenditure and will reduce the amount of weight that can be safely used.

Poor bar placement is hardly noticeable with a very light weight, but since very light weights aren’t really used for anything, this is an error that should be removed from your set-up very early on, unless you want to be playing with teeny-tiny loads forever.

Take away point: Set up with the bar directly over the middle of the feet.

2 – Squatting the Bar

Attribute this one to beginners who’ve seen the deadlift performed a few times (probably on the internet) and perceive it as a “squat with the bar in the hands.” Their set-up involves low hips and an upright back angle. It also places all of the lifter’s body behind the bar, which increases the distance between his center of mass and that of the bar, in turn creating unwelcome leverages. With heavy loads, this leverage will be too much to overcome and the bar will likely remain firmly in place.

Incorrect “squat-like” set-up:

Incorrect squat-like set-up

When you see someone attempt to perform a heavy deadlift from a squat set-up, you’ll notice that the body reorganizes its starting position before the weight actually leaves the floor. They ultimately end up with their hips higher than their knees and their shoulders in front of the bar, which is exactly where they should’ve been in the first place.

This adjustment is completely unnecessary, as it brings no benefit to the lift, yet it can be costly in terms of energy output. It’s also worth noting that in a properly set-up deadlift, the tension generated by the lats not only allows for force to be transferred from the hips along to the bar, but it also assists with supporting the lower back in extension. But this can only happen when the shoulders are in front of the bar and the bar is directly underneath the scapulae.

So when the hips drop down into the squat position, the more upright back angle decreases the angle of the lats relative to the humerus, which increases their “slack” and prevents them from doing their job properly. The brief moment it takes to re-adjust body position from an incorrect set-up may not allow enough time for the lats to generate maximum tension, which means they may fail to do their job properly in supporting the lumbar spine. That is a definite recipe for lower-back injury.

Take away point: Set up with the bar behind the shoulders and directly underneath the scapulae. Make sure that the hips are higher than the knees.

3 – Neglecting to Take the Slack Out of the Bar

If a lifter doesn’t pull the bar up so that it’s making contact with the top of the rim in the hole of the plates, he’s initially not going to be working against any resistance. By not working against any resistance, it’s extremely difficult to produce an isometric contraction in the spinal erector musculature and the lats that’s strong enough to lock the lumbar spine into extension during the movement.

It takes 0.4 to 0.5 seconds for the average person to generate maximal muscular tension (0.25 seconds for well-trained athletes), so if the lifter attempts to “jerk” the weight off the floor as quickly as possible from a relaxed position, he’s not providing enough time to produce the necessary lower back stiffness. The end result is needless lumbar flexion as soon as the bar begins its journey against gravity, which can then lead to complaints of “hurty back syndrome.”rm: Slack Taken Out

Take away point: Once you’ve set up properly, the last thing you should do before lift off is to pull the chest up as high as possible, making sure you simultaneously pull the bar up as hard as you can against the weights. On some plates, there’s a small gap between the bar collar and the top rim of the hole – listen for the telltale “clink” as they make contact and then hold this position for a brief moment before lift-off.

4 – Losing Back Angle Before Lift Off

Many lifters straighten their knees before the bar has left the floor. When the knees extend before the bar has left the floor, it’s impossible for the back angle to remain unchanged, so the inevitable result is a more horizontal back angle and a more acute hip angle prior to lift off.

Incorrect. Knees have extended before the bar has left the floor:

Incorrect

Correct. Keep back angle constant until the bar has cleared the knees:

Correct

With straight knees, the quads are now unable to contribute to the lift off, so the entirety of the work has to be performed by the posterior chain, and through a much greater range of motion. This turns the lift into a Romanian deadlift from the floor and the increased demands on the posterior chain lead to much greater stress on the lower back, which can lead to premature fatigue and either a weakened lift or a bout of back pain.

Take away points: The back angle should remain the same when the bar leaves the floor, which is initiated by extending the knees.

5. Hyper-Extending the Low Back

The finish of the deadlift should be marked by a solid hip extension, which is created by the hips thrusting forward until the bar physically stops them from travelling any further. Many lifters, however, continue on by hyper-extending the lumbar spine at the expense of the hips. This is a completely unnecessary and useless addition to the deadlift. Remember that the lumbar spine should be locked into extension from the set up and remain that way until the end of the lift.

Incorrect. Unnecessary lumbar hyperextension:

lumbar hyperextension

The muscles responsible for holding this position do so with an isometric contraction. As such, the shape of the lumbar spine has no need to change during the lift. In some cases, the trainee may simply be unaware of how to properly use his hips during the deadlift, so he resorts to what’s more familiar i.e. hyper-extending the low back.

In other cases, the glutes may just be too weak to finish the movement, so lifters rely on using their lower backs excessively to help complete the lift. In either scenario, using less weight and/or going over technique will help to reinforce the correct movement pattern and stop this monstrosity from ever happening again. If not, the added lumbar stress will one day catch up with them.

Take away point: Finish the deadlift with strong and powerful hip extension. Stand tall and resist the urge to lean back.

Will Davis / Today

Why am I OBSESSED?

The cult fitness program has primal appeal
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Lift, Squat, Repeat: Inside the Crossfit Cult
If someone in your life does CrossFit, the high-intensity fitness training favored by Marines and first responders, you’ve ribbed them (out loud or in your mind) about being part of a cult. This is a natural response to their relentless insistence that CrossFit has changed their life, and that it will change your life, too! “The first rule of CrossFit,” the quip goes, “is always talk about CrossFit.”

So why are CrossFitters so wrapped up in this movement that’s grown from one fringe gym in a California industrial park to 10,000 independent “boxes” and the CrossFit Games, an international competition with over 200,000 participants? It’s not a cult of personality, although CrossFit founder Greg Glassman can rattle sabers with the best of them. There’s not much celebrity glitz-and-glamour. The facilities where people do CrossFit are bare bones, often in converted auto body workshops and defunct manufacturing spaces. There are no mirrors, and none of the conventional health-club amenities. And unlike bargain cardio-machine farms with monthly fees of twenty dollars or less, CrossFit isn’t cheap. Those people alternating Olympic weightlifting movements with handstand pushups and rope climbs are paying $150-$200 a month to throw themselves into their chosen ordeal.

They do it for three reasons. The first and most obvious is the physical result. High intensity exercise yields results that differ in kind from moderate-intensity efforts, not just in degree. In a peer-reviewed study in which one group exercised at moderate intensity for 45 minutes on a stationary bike and the other group did high-intensity intervals for 20 minutes and burned the same number of calories, the high-intensity group lost nine times the fat. Human growth hormone (HGH) and other compounds cascade into the blood of people who sprint as though a monster is chasing them and lift heavy objects as if earthquake survivors are trapped underneath. These hormones signal the body to burn fat and build muscle. The grim trudge-to-nowhere on a cardio machine, or miles of brisk walking, does not unlock this chemical cascade.

The second reason for CrossFitters’ passionate adherence is social. These gauntlets are run as a pack of between half a dozen and 20 people. Doing something physically intense and difficult binds a group of people. Military trainers have known this for thousands of years. But CrossFit is the first modern-day phenomenon that allows Jo-Anne from human resources to feel something like the fierce kinship of Marines. The workouts are scaled (weaker athletes modify the movements, or do them with less weight). But everyone gives 100% effort. There is a primal magic in going physically all-out with a dozen people. It’s not just a sense of accomplishment, the modern clock-punching virtue of exercise. It’s victory, the way you feel when your team beats the other team. Wrapped up in that sense of victory, as in any pack victory, is gratitude: that you’re getting stronger, and that you’re part of a pack that can move their own weight quickly and literally carry each other, that together you can leave all that energy out on the floor, three or four times a week.

The ritual sacrifice of human energy, argues classics scholar David Sansone, is the bedrock definition of sport, and the genesis of sport. When paleolithic hunter-gatherers sacrificed animals to their gods, they were also sacrificing the energy it took to hunt those animals. When those hunters became farmers, they continued to sacrifice animals. But because the animals were domesticated, there was no way to sacrifice the energy it would have taken to hunt that animal. This is when athletic rituals – foot races and field games – became part of religious practice. Freed from the constraints of a literal hunt, that ritual sacrifice of human energy could take a thousand forms, from Native American lacrosse to Meso-American ball games, tribal competitions in Africa and the Olympic Games, in honor of the ancient Greek’s pre-eminent god. The winner of the Olympic foot race was given a torch, and carried that torch up the steps to light the burnt offering to Zeus.

Rituals persist, even when we forget why we perform them. Sport, at its root, is sacrifice. This is why it bothers us so much when athletes take performance-enhancing drugs. We don’t feel the same way when singers or actors take performance-enhancing substances. But deep down, we know there’s something qualitatively different about sport that is sullied by steroids or EPO. Sacrifice demands purity – doping destroys the purity of the ritual.

As participation in sports declines, and is displaced by the fitness industry – the infomercial devices, the ellipticals, the gyms that profit because members don’t show up – intensity is leached out of athletics. Ritual becomes habit. Sport becomes exercise. What was meaningful, vivid and shared becomes mindless, boring and socially isolated (Bowling Alone at Bally’s). This is why most people think of physical exertion as a chore.

CrossFit’s ritual intensity reverses these polarities: it’s tribal, it’s intense, it’s never the same workout twice. It replaces cosmetic aspirations (six-pack abs, buns of steel) with an emphasis on function – mastery, progress, work capacity. It replaces the ease and comfort of gym machines with a demand for all-out effort and an archaic stoicism.

In so doing, CrossFit reconstitutes the ritual sacrifice of energy that made sport important to our ancestors – that makes it important to this day, though we’ve forgotten why. In that way, it’s more cultic than even the most pestered co-worker can guess.

J.C. Herz is the author of Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit and the Primal Future of Fitness.

The Girls!

The Girls

Many have asked, “Why are the workouts named after Girls?”  Coach Glassman, the founder and President of CrossFit explained it best. “I want to explain the workout once and then give it a name.  I thought that anything that left you flat on your back, looking up at the sky asking ‘what just happened to me?’ deserved a females name.  Workouts are just like storms, they wreak havoc on towns.”

“Amanda”
9-7-5
Muscle Up
Squat Snatch (135#/95#)

“Angie”
100 Pull-ups
100 Push-ups
100 Sit-ups
100 Squats
For Time – Complete all reps of each exercise before moving to the next.

“Annie”
Double-unders
Sit-ups
50-40-30-20 and 10 rep rounds; for time

“Barbara”
20 Pull-ups
30 Push-ups
40 Sit-ups
50 Squats
5 rounds for time

“Chelsea”
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats
Each min on the min for 30 min – number of rounds completed is your score.

“Christine”
3 rounds for time
500m row
12 Body Weight Dead Lift
21 Box Jumps

“Cindy”
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats
As many rounds as possible in 20 min

“Diane”
Deadlift 225 lbs
Handstand push-ups
21-15-9 reps, for time

“Elizabeth”
Clean 135 lbs
Ring Dips
21-15-9 reps, for time

“Eva”
Run 800 meters
2 pood KB swing, 30 reps
30 pullups
5 rounds for time.

“Fran”
Thruster 95 lbs
Pull-ups
21-15-9 reps, for time

“Grace”
Clean and Jerk 135 lbs
30 reps for time

“Helen”
400 meter run
1.5 pood Kettlebell swing x 21
Pull-ups 12 reps
3 rounds for time

“Isabel”
Snatch 135 pounds
30 reps for time

“Jackie” 1000 meter row
Thruster 45 lbs (50 reps)
Pull-ups (30 reps)
For time

“Karen”
Wall-ball 150 shots
(men 20#-10′ – women 14#-9′)
For time

“Kelly”
Run 400 meters
30 box jump, 24 inch box
30 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
Five rounds for time

“Linda”
(aka “3 bars of death”) Deadlift 1 1/2 BW
Bench BW
Clean 3/4 BW
10/9/8/7/6/5/4/3/2/1 rep
rounds for time

“Lynne”
Bodyweight bench press (e.g., same amount on bar as you weigh)
pullups
5 rounds for max reps. There is NO time component to this WOD.

“Mary”
5 Handstand push-ups
10 1-legged squats
15 Pull-ups
As many rounds as possible in 20 min

“Nancy”
400 meter run
Overhead squat 95 lbs x 15
5 rounds for time

“Nicole”
Run 400 meters
Max rep Pull-ups
As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes.
Note number of pull-ups completed for each round.

To Post or Not Post the WOD?

This will always be a hot topic for Boxes everywhere. Should you post a week’s worth of WODs, post daily WODs or don’t post at all?

Let’s consider each:

Weeks Worth

If you post a week’s worth of WODs you risk your members WOD picking throughout the week. They may look at the list of WODs and adjust their schedule according to their strengths. This could remove the entire purpose of CrossFit.

On the other hand, if you list all of your WODs prior to the week, it allows the athlete to know how to manage their fatigue. If they can see they may have two days back to back of squats, they may pick one and choose to do an alternate workout the next day, or a rest day. This could also be accomplished another way:

Posting at Midnight

If you post each of your WODs at midnight, you allow members to adjust their mornings accordingly. It allows them to prep for possible elements prior to leaving their homes, or take a necessary rest day. It could also be useful in planning the amount of time a person gives for getting to class.

For example, for myself if we are doing a lot of squatting or deadlifts, I will typically show up earlier than normal so that I can ensure I get in a solid active warmup. I need this because my hips and lower back tend to flair up in those exercises. If I know what’s coming at me in the day, I know I can go in, get warm and be able to enjoy the workout as opposed to hurting myself.

The downside to this is it also gives athletes the opportunity to WOD pick. Plus, it could also create anxiety if the athlete doesn’t think to look until right before they leave their house. They see they are required to run outside but it’s about 30 degrees and they need outdoor gear that they didn’t pack.

Don’t Post

If you don’t post your WODs and force athletes to come to the Box to see what they are working on that day, you remove the opportunity for WOD picking. Suddenly you create the element of surprise and epitomize the essentials of CrossFit.

Although this can be great for a Box, it doesn’t allow your athletes to be prepared. They won’t know the structure of the day and will probably feel like they are walking into the unknown, which they actually are. This could be a turnoff for some athletes, keeping them from joining. For others this could be exhilarating.

Personally, I like to stick with learning about the WOD the night before or in the early morning. I like to be able to plan accordingly before I leave the house and spend some time in thought about the upcoming WOD — for example, I like to have already considered how I’m going to maintain my fatigue rate and the amount of weight I can actually put on a bar.

Each Box has to figure out what’s best for them and their athletes. What is your system and how do your athletes react?

Burpees…..why?

Burpees. The suck. Whatever you call them, if you have ever done them, this topic probably makes you a bit uneasy, perhaps because you fear that you have unknowingly stumbled onto a feature that’s going to encourage you to get up RIGHT NOW and bang out 100 of these bad boys. Never fear. I, too, have had the best intentions of learning to love burpees, but even after performing literally thousands of them over the years, I have failed. Miserably.

CrossFit aficionados participate in the “fun” tradition of yelling “Yay, Burpees!” when their coach says the word and/or they appear in a workout. However, this is meant to be ironic (at least, I think it is—the Alanis Morissette song has confused me and an entire generation about the actual definition of that word). Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be a single exercise that inspires in athletes the kind of invective and old-fashioned cussin’ that burpees do.

To wit, the very same CrossFit community described above recently posted the following prompt on its Facebook page : “If burpee had an alternate name, it would be _____” .

Out of the 885 comments people posted, note the following sample of responses:

  • Hell
  • Torture
  • Burpee! Thy name is DEATH
  • Vomits
  • Kill-mes
  • Suck jumps
  • T.T.I.M.M = taste throw-up in my mouth
  • The devil
  • Satan’s idea of fun
  • Poop!
  • Awful!!!
  • My ex-wife
  • Skunks ‘cause they stink

There were many more in the same vein, far outstripping the number of responses that actually had something positive to say about burpees. And these don’t even include any of the many R-rated suggestions.

Why all the fuss about burpees? What is it about them that strikes fear and revulsion in our hearts? Descriptions of how to perform burpees don’t sound that bad, and they are legion (simply conduct a Youtube or Google search and you’ll see what I mean). Individual descriptions are vary somewhat, but they are all variations on the same theme; all you have to do is squat, sprawl, execute a pushup, jump back to the squat position, and execute a vertical jump. How bad can it be?

Crossfit Blog

What is it about Crossfit! My wife and I were curious about the new “box” that moved in down the street in July of 2012 and nervously checked it out. We heard that Crossfit was intense but were open to the challenge!

My first beginner workout lasted 5 minutes and 22 seconds when the instructor/owner recognized that I was struggling. I laid down on the floor and claimed NEVER to do this again! Fast forward to now 32 lbs lighter and 16% less body fat, and I am addicted! If we don’t get in 4-5 workouts a week, I’m bouncing off the walls!

Crossfit has changed out lives, not just physically, but mentally. It makes pushing through the hard tasks in life easier! I have learned so much about the culture and lifestyle of Crossfit that I will be starting a blog. Please subscribe and enjoy! Keep in touch keep pushing on!  John@wodstrong.com