Last spring we hosted a Tactical Athlete Instructor Course here at CFSS. The course was several days of primarily kettlebell and bodyweight intensive training, geared towards military, law enforcement, and first responder athletic populations. These folks have to train in potentially very austere environments where equipment is minimal and creativity is key. Even if you aren’t stationed in a FOB in Afghanistan, there are some key takeaways we all can apply to our own training.
One such takeaway is the concept of striving to be as strong as possible (or as necessary) at the lighted possible bodyweight. Unnecessary mass is expensive to carry in regards to energy requirements needed to maintain and move that extra bulk and the additional wear and tear on your musculoskeletal system.
This concept of maximizing strength at a given bodyweight is another way of defining relative strength. Relative strength is your strength to bodyweight ratio. Strength does not increase in direct proportion to gains in bodyweight, so we should expect a lighter athlete to have a more favorable strength to bodyweight ratio as compared to a larger athlete, and more likely to be better at bodyweight exercises. While you can’t change you build and body type, striving to maintain a lower level of bodyfat while monitoring your strength levels should result in overall improved athletic performance, especially if your sport or occupation demands being able to move large loads over long distances for extended periods of time.
By: Marcus Taylor
I loved this article from Chris Spealler. He really breaks down the differences well about Crossfit the training protocol and Crossfit the sport. Simply put, it’s two completely different disciplines. Crossfit as a training philosophy is ingenious- done safely and responsibly, the health and fitness benefits are limitless. Using Crossfit workouts helps you become a better functioning human. The movements teach your mind how to properly use your body….invaluable lessons are learned during every class. Plus Crossfit is fun- it feels good to compete against yourself every time you step through the door.
Crossfit as a sport is completely opposite. To train for the sport you have already shown the ability to do the more complex “CrossFit” movements i.e. Handstand Pushups, Butterfly Kipping Pullups, Barbell Snatch, etc. Health and general fitness is no longer the concern as this athlete is more than likely “in shape”. This athlete now has to work on his/her movement efficiency, total work capacity and strength, little tweaks are made to push past peaks. If the athlete has a 500lb deadlift PR what tweaks in their programming and/or form can be made to get past that 500lb peak? This athlete’s weaknesses and strengths must be analyzed, documented and properly programmed in order for them to be prepared for competition. This athlete is seeking to become physically elite.
Either way you slice it the Crossfit methodology is awesome and fun however you choose to use it. I just hope that people seek it out, learn from it and make it a part of their lifestyle.
We talk often about the rationale for our CrossFit Elements program, with the conversation usually centering around its benefits and the desired outcomes for you as an athlete. We want to get you exposed to and familiar with the many different movements you may be asked to perform in a CrossFit class. Establish technique in a low intensity teaching environment and bring people along slowly so they can progress safely. However, one of the oft overlooked, yet essential features of CrossFit Elements is that it acts as a diagnostic tool for us as coaches.
Elements provides us with hours of data to help inform our coaching when you are in regular classes. Watching someone move allows you to discover their strength, weaknesses, mobility restrictions and limitations, and more. Essentially, we are learning how to coach individuals most effectively within the context of a group class. If you ask me, that’s a pretty darn productive use of one month of your time as an athlete!
This was a concept raised by Dave Tate at the Learn to Train Seminar attended my myself and Marcos this past weekend.
The point he was making is that you cannot judge your progress, success, or status without a lens or standard to compare it to. That is, your success is only relative to what you assign value to and consider to be important.
If you define success in business as profit margins and units sold, then your markers of success will be fairly clear cut and objective. If your goal (as a coach or business owner) is educating others and having an impact, your metrics for assessing results are different and much more subjective.
The bottom line is that we all have expectations for ourselves and standards for what constitute performance / being successful. Don’t get caught up in chasing someone else’s goals or measuring yourself by standards that don’t matter to you.
Guest post by Tristan Cooley
Background- Tristan attended the CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course back in October at Trident CrossFit in Alexandria. The L1 is the initial certification required for any individual to begin training other individuals in the CrossFit methodology. The course is 2 days long, covering the underlying principles of the CrossFit method, the 9 foundational movements, as well as lectures on topics such as nutrition, running classes, and programming. There is a mix of theory and practical, with workouts and hand-ons demonstrations mixed in through the weekend. The course culminates in a multiple choice test relating to the content covered over the past 2 days.
The biggest thing I took away from my L1 weekend was that Crossfit movements are essential to independent living. I started CrossFit Elements at CFSS in February 2012. I was going through some personal stuff at the time so my family encouraged me to get back into exercising and see if I liked it. What I didn’t realize was that I was taking the first steps to becoming a happier person. In regaining control of my body I was learning about self respect, personal empowerment, and environmental adaptability. I had a handle on something even if it was just a kettlebell.
Anyway, there I was sitting in Trident Crossft listening to my first lecturer and he makes this point about Crossfit being “essential to independent living” and Bam! a lightbulb went off. I had this incredible cathartic moment. It was something akin to identifying with a character in a book and what they’re experiencing. I heard those words and suddenly something I believed inside was recognized, accredited, and codified on a white board. In fact, my experience and personal motivations to start Crossfit were part of a canon. My goals were the goals of a community and I realized something else: a front squat is not just about keeping your elbows up, back straight, tight belly; functional movement expresses something much deeper and universal than that. I’m still not exactly sure what that is, but I think it has something to do with inspiring each other and recognizing what a privilege that is.
One of my many takeaways from this past weekend working with some of the best (read: strongest) powerlifters and powerlifting coaches in the world is the importance of creating tension prior to and during a lift. They stressed constantly this concept of becoming extremely uncomfortable throughout your body before you attempted to pick the bar off the ground. This means getting all the appropriate muscle groups up online and firing before you try to move dynamically with the bar.
If you can create huge tension before a big lift, not only do your chances of being successful skyrocket, but your chances of injury fall drastically. This is because you are effectively bracing your spine and joints from being put into awkward and dangerous postures and positions.
This concept of discomfort doesn’t just apply to attempts at or above your max; you want to try your easy warm-up sets the exact same way. There should be no relaxation or comfort to be had when squatting, pressing, deadlifting and the like. Save that for when you are at home on the couch. In the gym, learn how to make your body into one taut, knit, piece of reinforced steel so that you can consistently smash PR’s, stay healthy, and make the most of your training.
One common mistake I see people make is when an athlete lets external factors influence the weight they are lifting in a given training session and not following their program. Allow me to elaborate with a few examples; ego is typically to blame in most of these scenarios.
Your EZ Strength log has you progressing by 5-10 lb increments on a weekly basis, which is more than reasonable and sustainable. However, the person you are lifting with is doing more weight than you are, so you decide to just do the same weight they are going because you don’t want to be the weak one who does less. Remember- heavy is relative to the athlete. If the person you are lifting with is quite a bit stronger than you, tying to keep up with their lifts is probably going to end poorly for you. Stick to the program and hit your lifts.
Another common issue is the subjective matter of how we feel today. Sometimes we feel great and energized, and others we feel weak and lousy. In any case, we probably still need to train regardless of these factors. However, just because we feel great doesn’t mean we should abandon the program and go for a 40lb PR. There are times where hitting a new record are justified, but most times, especially for novice lifters, where we should just carry on business as usual. Take that extra energy and put it into your conditioning instead. The reason behind this is that you are going to hit a ceiling or plateau very quickly if you make these huge jumps week to week; think about what will happen when you feel like crap the next time you train- it’s gonna be hard to beat a lift you hit a week earlier when you felt amazing.
These are just two scenarios I see often as a coach. I’m not saying there isn’t leeway and gray areas here, but you have to be a chef in order to call an audible and change the recipe without bad things happening. Get some experience under your belt following a smart plan, learn how to lift better and listen to your body, and then one day you will have the skills to make those tweaks seasoned athletes must make to stay healthy and improve.
Read today’s article link by Coach Martin Rooney on the importance of barefoot training.
Simply put, we don’t give a second though to our feet and we are stunting our athletic potential in the process. We frequently talk about the importance of laying a strong foundation in order to develop and progress in a sustainable, injury free fashion. Some examples- CrossFit elements is our foundation for the rest of our CF training careers; nutrition is the base of the health & wellness pyramid; etc. As Rooney says, “feet are your base of support, the foundation of movement.”
Think about it. Your feet are the only part of your body in contact with the ground when we are upright. In order to run fast, lift heavy, jump high, and move well, we need to have strong feet and ankles that can also move freely in broad ranges of motion.
The cool thing is that we do not need to perform any complex protocols or special exercise to regain these attributes in our feet. We simply need to take of our shoes in the gym more frequently. Think during warm ups, and almost all strength exercises where your feet remain planted on the floor throughout. It feels good, not to mention natural, crawling, deadlifting, swinging, and lunging barefoot. Our balance and stability on seemingly simple exercises are challenged, and this is a good thing. Try jogging around your living room or backyard sans tennis shoes- you will find that your running gait instantly shifts to the ball of the foot and looks much more athletic as a result.
Here’s the deal- if you drop a 25lb plate on your Nike free encased shoe, you’re gonna have a bad day. If you drop that same 25lb plate on your naked foot, you’re gonna have a bad day. I’m not encouraging you to run a barefoot 5k- let’s keep some perspective here. In the gym, which is a controlled environment, let’s shed the shoes and regain some authentic movement. All of the nerve endings and sensory inputs in the soles of your feet, not to mention all the little muscles, ligaments, joints, and connective tissues will thank you by functioning better and keeping you healthy.
You need to watch today’s video link on Richie Parker. This video is one of the most motivation stories I’ve seen in quite awhile, and is worth examining further.
Personally, I find it extremely difficult to even comprehend the notion of living without any arms for one day, let alone a lifetime. What Richie shows in taking us into his daily routine is the incredible ability for humans to adapt and overcome challenging circumstances, circumstances that most people would probably find insurmountable. Think about how many basic tasks we take for granted that would require you to find novel solutions to in this situation? I know that I would struggle making it just a few hours without the use of my dominant hand.
The thing that impresses me the most is the fact that Richie doesn’t simply make it through each day, it’s that he lives independently and works at his dream job as an engineer at Hendrick Motorsports. I mean, the guy does advanced computer design work with his feet! He doesn’t make excuses or ask for special treatment, seeking to be judged based simply on merit and achievement. He is not looking to be graded on a curve based on his disability.
It is hard to place ourselves in others’ shoes when it comes to facing adversity and dealing with stress. If your biggest stressor is your morning commute, being reminded that there are starving children in India to help keep things in perspective probably isn’t going to be tangible enough to make you any less frustrated when you are sitting on the beltway. However, the next time you make an excuse as to why you haven’t landed that new promotion, seized a big opportunity, pushed yourself in the gym when you were tired, or done any number of challenging things most people avoid (like running the mile at the gym!), reminder yourself of Richie Parker.
“He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning.” – Danish proverb
Becoming more adept at CrossFit, nutrition, mobility and recovery strategies, and sleep can seem daunting at times. There’s a ton of verbiage, techniques, and principles to try to learn and assimilate. This learning process obviously takes time, but you don’t need to try to navigate this process on your own. Chances are, if you’ve got a question, your coach can provide the guidance you seek or point you in the right direction. Collectively, we’ve got a helluva lot of experience doing this stuff; we love to teach and share what we know, but it’s up to you to ask!
Jenny Arthur doing some big lifts off the blocks! (Video)
Meals For The Week – Paleo Comfort Foods: 2
Mom!! The Meatloaf!!
Clean Grip Deadlifts
AMRAP 8 minutes:
2 Hang Dumbbell Snatches (total)
2 Ring Rows
4 Hang Dumbbell Snatches (total)
4 Ring Rows
6 Hang Dumbbell Snatches (total)
6 Ring Rows
8, 8, 10, 10, etc.,…
AMRAP 10 minutes:
2 Dumbbell Snatches (total)
2 Push Ups
4 Dumbbell Snatches (total)
4 Push Ups
6 Dumbbell Snatches (total)
6 Push Ups
8 Dumbbell Snatches (total)
8 Push Ups
10, 10, 12, 12, etc.,