I once went to a programming seminar led by Dutch Lowy, one of the original CrossFit athletes when CrossFit first made it on the map. At one point, we all shared which movements gave us the most trouble. Someone (probably me) said Wall Balls and I heard Dutch chuckle. He replied, “Wall balls are about a willingness to suffer.” The rest of us sighed in resignation. We were hoping he would give us some secret that would make them exponentially easier.
The truth is, wall balls are not difficult (once you learn to do them right). They are not a muscle failure movement, like yesterdays push ups or handstand push ups. They just make your legs and lungs burn. Sure you can always do ONE MORE rep, but you just DON’T WANT TO.
Instead, it’s easier to let the ball fall to the ground, stare at it for a few dejected seconds, slowly pick it up, and convince yourself to do a few more. Wall ball shots test your intestinal fortitude, your mind over matter, your resolve.
For those of you still struggling with doing a few wall balls without feeling like the ball crushes you with every rep, consider the following cues:
The rest of you wall ball OG’s need to push through that overwhelming desire to rest and find a way to do 3-5 more reps beyond the point where you want to rest. Dig deep, be willing to suffer, and know you’re making yourself a better athlete with each rep.*disclaimer: by suffer, I mean the uncomfortable burn that accompanies the wall ball. I’m NOT talking about training through any type of injury, etc.
Back Squat 3×5
50 Wall Ball Shots
20 Wall Ball Shots
Hindsight being 20/20, this should have been my first post of the “Adventures Learning Chinese Weightlifting” series but the Front Rack post from last week was meant to help those of you wanting to experiment since Front Squat was the lift that day for the CrossFit WOD. In Coach Wu’s “The Art of Power” seminar he introduced us to the approach used in China to teach and develop weightlifters. A theme throughout the entire weekend was the importance of finding and maintaining balance.
Balance can be thought of as an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Coach Wu adds that balance allows the body can move more efficiently, minimizing unnecessary muscular activation. The logic behind keeping balance is that the energy created by the legs carries through more readily to the barbell, resulting in better lifts. Simply by watching us practice jumping and landing Coach Wu could tell how we typically miss lifts. Coach Wu and the Chinese approach the snatch and clean and jerk like jumping, and keeping balanced in the take off and landing are essential elements to success in each.
Balance is so important to the Chinese that the bar path may stray forward slightly and around the knees, of course depending on the lifter and their center of balance. This is a big departure from how the Russians treat their pull as the bar path is kept vertical and sweeps back into the lifter as it passes knee level. Having had the opportunity to work with coaches from both schools of thought here are what I think are the major differences: Russians=bar path and body angles most important with beginner emphasis on body positions; Chinese=balance and tempo with beginner emphasis on the feeling of the movement. Diane Fu, Head Coach at Fu Barbell, has been working with Coach Wu remotely and routinely posts her thoughts and interpretations of key principles. In this post, she discusses how the idea of balance drives Chinese weightlifting technique and it’s not uncommon to, “see various Chinese national athletes expressing different styles of movement, but all of their lifts looks fast, smooth and effortless — each rep projecting the same feeling to the viewer regardless of the weight being carried on the barbell.” In the same post she includes a video of Coach Wu demonstrating balance by back squatting 160kg and 180kg without holding the bar. On Day 1 of the seminar Coach Wu asked everyone to practice air squats with their arms behind their back instead of the stereotypical CrossFit air squat stance with the arms our stretched in front of the body, with the idea of finding better balance. Very challenging for many of us but helped me understand where the balance should be in my foot when squatting. Try for yourself and be mindful of maintaining balance not only in your squats, but other movements as well.
4 Handstand Pushups
8 KB Swings (70/53)
10 KB Swings
10 Box Jumps
Empanadas fall into the comfort food group for me. Unfortunately, they’re usually made with flour and any alternative recipes using almond or coconut flour fall so short of the real deal, I gave up trying altogether. While I haven’t tried the following recipe yet, it looks pretty promising!
Predominantly Paleo posted this empanada recipe where the meat is encased in a yucca based wrap. The meat seasoning sounds delicious and it’s not nearly as complicated as I expected. The ingredients are listed below:
Click here to see the full recipe.
Greetings from Antigua! Ashley and I have certainly been enjoying our honeymoon in the Caribbean. Our days have been filled with sunshine and warm weather as well as amazing food and drinks. Even though we have been relaxing out here we have been missing Intrepid and it makes it a little difficult with no gym nearby. On the plus side, the absence of a gym has made us more adventurous with all the water and land activities that this resort has to offer. On two different evenings we played in sand volleyball games that lasted well over an hour. We took a stab at tennis and we both found that it is not our best sport. We did get a nice sweat going, but that was mainly due to chasing the ball from the other courts as neither of us have the best accuracy.
I had a better time with the water activities. We rented a jet ski for about an hour and took it around the cove that the resort is on. It was a ton of fun taking the jet ski up to 55 miles per hour. We also did some stand up paddle boarding on the third day. Earlier this year we took a lesson at the Redondo Beach Harbor and it was a lot of fun. It also was on calm water which made it pretty easy to maintain balance. This time around the ocean was mostly calm, but with sail boats and jet skis speeding by it made the water pretty choppy at times and made standing up way harder. It was definitely more of a challenge, but we did well and had fun.
The newest activity that we tried was kayaking. It has been something we wanted to do for a while, but with all the wedding planning we had zero time. We kayaked for about 25 minutes and let me tell you, it was one heck of a shoulder and arm workout. Not only was it physically tiring it was also mentally tiring because we had to sync our strokes to make sure we moved in the direction we wanted to go. By the time we got back to shore it was so hard to lift our arms up. The next day our ab region was sore due to the fact that the entire time we kayaked we did our best to keep an active brace. Ashley and I plan to do some more kayaking when we get back home and there are plenty of places down in the South Bay that offer kayak rentals. I found the best prices back at the Redondo Beach Harbor. If you are interested in riding alone, $15 will cover you for an hour. If you want to ride with a friend it is only $25.
It has been so much fun trying out new activities and just relaxing over all. Ashley and I can’t wait to get back home though. Have a happy Saturday and see you all next week!
In Teams of 3:
6x50m relays each
50m Tire Flip
60 Burpees (with one partner holding handstand against wall)
120 Front Squats (with one partner hanging from pull up bar)
Most of you have heard the news by now, but since there have been a few Intrepids who haven’t made it into the gym in a while, I figured it’s time to do an announcement. But first, let me get nostalgic…
Sean and I started Intrepid back in 2009 when Marcus and I renegade coached classes in Rec Park. We had a small but mighty core group who had followed us from our last gym and they helped build Intrepid to the family and community it is today. We had the honor of seeing our members go through some of life’s biggest milestones: engagements, weddings, births, and more. I can remember most of your first days in class, your first major PRs, and your frustrations. We care so much about every one of you. Thank you for making our dreams come true and for your amazing support through the years.
Soon after Cade was born, we realized So Cal was not where we saw ourselves in the long run. We love our community here at Intrepid, but as soon as we came to this realization, we opened our minds to a possible migration. While it was certainly not our plan to leave this suddenly, so many stars aligned on our recent Portland trip that we had to go for it. We’ll be opening Intrepid Athletics PDX in hopes we can cultivate a community like ours here in El Segundo.
Our last day here will be the Chili Cook-Off (which starts at 11am and judging begins at 12pm), which will also be known as “Please grab a box (or five) and help us load the Uhaul” day. We will be so sad to leave you guys, but we take comfort in the fact that we will be leaving you in great hands. All the trainers will still keep their regular classes; Sean and I will be just an email/txt away. And Intrepid’s new head trainer, Al Viquez, was my CrossFit coach when I started back in 2008.
Al, Marcus, and I were all coaches at the original CrossFit South Bay when the gym was still a small box in Lawndale. Al and Michelle’s son, Diego, was that gym’s version of Cade. And Al was my mentor. His thirst for knowledge and constant self-improvement was such an inspiration to me. When we started Intrepid, he helped coach some park workouts, created our logo (and designed most of our shirts), and even drove all the way out to help us move into this location three years ago.
Even though his family moved to Temecula, we kept in touch, often at seminars and certifications and exchanging ideas on how to improve our gyms. He trained in Olympic Weightlifting under Coach Pat Cullen-Carol, one of the heads of the So Cal Local Weightlifting Chapter, and even brought one of his athletes to Youth Nationals! He has coached, programmed at, and helped run 3 other CrossFit gyms. So it is with complete confidence that Sean and I leave you all in his hands. Most of you will see he’ll be taking Sean’s place as “the nice one” here in the gym. And you’ll all recognize his coaching style since it’s something Sean and I tried to emulate.
Check out his bio here on our trainer page. Al will be here to help coach classes tomorrow, so please come by and meet him!
4 Rounds NFT (Not for time)
30 yd Front Carry (atlas stone, keg)
10 Ring Dips
30 Double Unders
Anyone have achy wrists this week? I’ll admit, between the overhead movements, grippy movements, handstand skillwork, etc. and spending a lot of time at work on a computer…my writs aren’t my biggest fan this week. However, I accept this fault of my own for not doing any stretching or trying to manage my inflammation. I have a few go to stretches and some rolling I like to do, but I decided to seek out some information on this topic. One of the authors for a site I follow, breakingmuscle.com, is an athlete who now specializes in yoga and she provided a few quick stretches and some tips for yogis with achy wrists. When practicing yoga, people spend on lot of time on their hands, so I think the advice will translate well to CrossFitters.
The first thing she mentioned was not continuing to abuse inflamed wrists. If you’ve abused your wrists to the point that they are inflamed, avoid movements that put pressure on them or are high flexion movements for your wrists such as wide grip overhead movements or handstands (or maybe even cleans if you lack the mobility to get into a good front rack position). This is a lesson that coach Holley should probably remind athlete Holley more often…that maybe a break from handstand walks after class is a good idea if she allows her wrists to get inflamed. While the inflammation is happening, make sure you’re taking your fish oil, or getting assistance from another anti-inflammatory. Be careful if you’re taking an anti-inflammatory though, it can mask the pain, so wait to try those movements until the meds have worn off. My personal choice for an anti-inflammatory is called Zyflamend as it helps reduce inflammation without masking the pain.
Now, how can we try to avoid the wrist pain and inflammation in the first place? By stretching. The three stretches that the author, Bethany, suggested were really easy to do and surprisingly effective. I’ll describe them below, but you can check out pictures from her post here.
1. From a standing position, lean forward and tuck your hands under your feet so your toes are at your wrists. Hold this stretch for about 45 seconds to a minute. I preferred to do this one on carpet or a rug to avoid any uncomfortable pressure on my knuckles.
2. While standing or sitting, you put your hands under your arms, about like you were going to do a chicken dance. You put your hands up as close as you can under your arms with the back of your hand pressed against your body and then allow your elbows to droop to apply more pressure to the stretch. Hold this stretch for about 45 seconds to a minute. As silly as it looks to do, this one was a very effective stretch for me, and I discovered my left wrist is a bit tighter than my right.
3. Hold your hand out in front of you with your palm up, pull down on each finger individually, starting with the thumb. Hold the stretch for about 10 seconds per finger. Once you’re done with one hand, roll your wrist around a couple of times to loosen things up.
These are pretty quick and can be done anywhere, so make sure you give them a try next time you do a movement that puts pressure on your wrist while in flexion and see if you notice a difference the next day.
Skill: Turkish get-up
”Stay tight!”, “Engage your midline!” , “Squeeze!”. We use a multitude of phrases to remind you to brace your core during a workout or a lift. But do you really know what it means? In my foundations class for new athletes, I make reference to creating an imaginary line from the belly button to sternum while standing up straight. Then, take a moment to fill your belly with air and brace as you would for a punch to maintain the stability of that line. Whilst in motion that line can not be allowed to collapse or extend. Most people get it but the real definition of the brace is much deeper, literally, than that.
The core is defined as the following muscle groups: Rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus, pelvic floor, hip flexors and diaphragm. If you are unsure what any of these are, look down, it’s all of the business holding you up from your hips up to the ribcage. Without the core we would be a soft mushy pile of arms and legs laying on the floor. Even when we are not forcing our midsection to hold tension it is always doing work. Post have been written on this in the past. This group of power movers have the job of holding our core up much like the cables on the Golden Gate Bridge. The signature bridge of San Francisco is designed and shaped in such a way that the tension in the cables is what holds the red gold span proudly across the Marin San Francisco border. If that visual doesn’t work think of a keystone in a stone archway. In older construction, the keystone was set in a way that did require adhesives to keep the top of the doorways arched shape. The tension of the keystone and gravity’s natural pull kept the artistic and functional stones in their proper place. While these structures are similar to our relaxed standing or proper sitting state, let’s talk about the brace.
I am a classic example of someone with Janda’s Lower Cross Syndrome. I have chronically tight hip flexors, weak deep core and weak glutes. Now, that isn’t to say I can’t move my fair share of weight around, but I have to work extra hard to brace properly whilst breathing because my diaphragm can be inhibited by my posture. Most people are actually walking around with inhibited diagrams. This leads to using accessory muscles to breath like the upper chest or trapezius. This in turn causes shoulder tension and is a stress on the body; but that’s a post for a later date.
How can you know if you’re effectively breathing or bracing? Try first, laying prone on the floor (face down), cross your arms in front of your forehead and relax. When you breathe you should feel your back rise and fall with your breath. If you don’t you are probably chest breathing. So let’s change that. Redirect your breathing into your belly. Feel that? That is how you should be breathing all the time, with the thing that was meant to pull air into and push air out of our lungs; the diaphragm. Next stand up nice and tall. Imagine your core as a cylinder. The top, the diaphragm must be absolutely perfectly stacked on top of your pelvic floor to efficiently brace. Put on hand on your belly and on on your chest. Breath in. Guess which one should move while you breathe. Yea, the one on your belly should move and the hand on your chest should be still. Now that we have graduated from breathing 101 let’s talk about how to brace in the breathing.
Bracing is filling your belly up with air, as we just discussed, and then creating tension on the core movers. It’s similar to what you would do when expecting someone to punch or tickle you, hopefully more of the latter. Or not, no one likes being over tickled. I digress. So with that outward pressure circumferentially around your core, you should be better set up to lift, squat and move in general. As always, please ask your coach to help or even watch your brace.
Stronger Faster Healthier will be at the gym tonight from 4pm-8pm. If you’ve ever wondered about the nerdy scientific details of how their products work or just want to try a few samples, come in and chat it up with the SFH rep!
Power Clean 3×3
10, 9, 8 , . . . . 3, 2, 1
While often times we hear members talk about difficulty losing fat to improve body composition, we hear a fair share of members lament about their struggles with gaining weight, or more specifically, gaining muscle. The first question out of my mouth is usually, “What are you eating and how much?” But sometimes it’s not that simple.
We usually attribute difficulty gaining with a fast metabolism or someone who just doesn’t eat enough to support this metabolism. However, there are a few other possible considerations. Chris Kresser posted the transcript of his online radio show and talked about other contributing factors to difficulty gaining weight:
1. Malabsorption due to gluten sensitivity: Most people have some kind of gluten sensitivity, but sometimes the effects aren’t as obvious as with someone diagnosed with celiac disease. Instead, the gut remains chronically inflamed and makes it difficult to absorb nutrients necessary to gain weight. If you have a history of gut problems such as bloating, gas, and constipation, you may want to look into this possibility.
2. Gut bacteria overgrowth: Sometimes the bacteria in the small intestine grows rampant and gobbles up the nutrients instead of letting the body absorb. Kresser says people with small intestine gut overgrowth (or SIBO) almost always have deficiencies in minerals, vitamin B and D, and low amino acids.
3. Autoimmune disease and Chronic Infections: Hyperthyroidism, Lyme disease, Type 1 diabetes, neurological diseases, etc., are usually not on the mainstream radar and often missed or mistaken for other issues. If you have chronic low-grade inflammation, aches and fatigue, you may want to look into a possible chronic infection. Or if you have night sweats, hot flashes, loose stools, or body temperature regulation issues, you may want to look into hyperthyroidism.
Kresser’s suggestion if you are doing all the right things (eating clean, enough protein, nutrients, and calories in general), is to get some stool testing, urine organic acids testing, and a SIBO breath test to see if you have any of the above underlying issues sabotaging you. He’s quick to throw in the disclaimer that it doesn’t change your body type however and make you a mesomorph if you’re inherently an ectomorph, but it will allow you to see results if you weren’t before.
Click here to listen to or read the transcript and scroll down to see his strategies for gaining weight on a paleo [template] diet.
6 Rounds each relay style:
30yd Bear Crawl
1 Legless Rope Climb
10 Box Jump Overs (24/20)
10 Chest to Bar Pull Ups (B. can do regular pull ups)
(30yd Bear Crawl is from back plates to door)
This past weekend Ruth and I had the opportunity to work with Coach Wu and learn the Chinese style of weightlifting. Many of you may remember that back in December we were fortunate to have worked with experienced coaches and lifters and learn about the Russian style of weightlifting. This weekend it was apparent from the get go that the styles that Coach Wu and Russians like Dmitry Klokov teach are drastically different from one another, but the neat part is that both styles have produced world and Olympic champions. We feel it’s important to understand each philosophy of weightlifting and be able to apply their principles with athletes as necessary. There was so much that we learned this weekend from Coach Wu, but I’ll start with how the Front Rack differs from how most of us are currently doing it, and it may have a profound impact on your clean, front squat, push press, and jerk.
First off, hold the bar like you are preparing to jerk. This means that your fingers should all be around the bar with the elbows flared out to the side and somewhat down. Lat activation is the key to success with this new Front Rack position so feeling the lats support the weight is a must. I feel my lats activate the most when I sit my elbows wider and lower than what I was doing before by squeezing my elbows in and up. The upper back and lats stay much more engaged which Coach Wu says improves support and power generation. The photo that I included in today’s post was the closest I could find of the Front Rack position I’m describing. This is me preparing to jerk and my elbows are more down and out (albeit my right arm is in better position than my left). This weekend Coach Wu emphasized being less tense and to not shrug the shoulders into the bar for support as I’m doing in the photo, which we learned from the Russians. In Coach Wu’s opinion keeping the shoulders unshrugged allows the body to support the load with less effort, is a more stable position, and the arms are better able to help with the pushing of the bar upward so there’s not readjustment needed after the clean. Finally keep the chin slightly elevated.
If you’re like me, it helps to see the Chinese style Front Rack in action so check out this female Chinese weightlifter front squatting below:
If you’d like to read more about the Front Rack and the Front Squat check out this post entitled “Larry’s Chinese Weightlifting Experience Part 3-Front Squats” from All Things Gym. The author, Larry, echoes some of the same points that we learned from Coach Wu this weekend and perhaps offers some slightly different cues to consider. In today’s Front Squats try out the Front Rack position I’ve described, and see how you fare. Grab Ruth and I if you need something extra help.
Front Squat 4×3
3 Rounds for Time:
12 Overhead Walking Lunges (A:135/95, B:95/65)
15yd Shuttle Run
12 Shoulders to Overhead (A:135/95, B:95/65)
50m Farmer Carry
It’s Sunday. For most of us that means work on Monday. That may mean back to the stress of your job, stress from your commute, stress of getting through the week; a lot of stress. Often times, stress doesn’t just present itself as easily as grinding one’s teeth at night or raging headaches. Stress is a slow killer and along with its buddy cortisol, can lead to some serious health issues.
Personally, I never feel like I have enough time. It’s not just from the jobs and hobbies I have. I put my own personal stress into the mix which is unnecessary. Even though sometimes I do feel that having 30 hours in a day would help me complete all of my personal project goals. But I’m going to take a back seat here and blame cortisol. As the folks over at Whole 9 say:
“ . . . elevated cortisol also skews time perception – making us feel as though we’re always behind schedule and time is always running out”
. Good to know it’s my hormones making me crazy and not just my own brain.
In their article, a second part of a series on stress, there are some good pointers on how to balance stress and manage it more efficiently. I encourage you to read this article. It will take 5 minutes and I promise it will be 5 very helpful minutes.