Movement Patterns > Tools

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A common pitfall we routinely observe athletes falling into is the belief that there is something inherently magical about the barbell as a tool for getting stronger, as compared to the kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, etc. The logic goes roughly as such- I’ll spend a few weeks getting the basics down with these simpler tools so that I can prove I’m ready to graduate to the mythical barbell like all the rest of cool kids in the gym who have been training longer than me. Sound familiar? It should, because if you’ve spent any significant amount of time in the weight room, you’ve probably thought these exact thoughts. Maybe you are still currently trapped in this way of thinking.
There is nothing magical about a barbell. Nor is there anything magical about a kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, medicine ball, or any other piece of equipment in our gym. They are all tools with varying benefits, drawbacks, and degrees of utility. What’s crucial to understand as an athlete is that tools are always subordinate to movement patterns and training principles. Our express goal is to train all of the major human movement patters as frequently as possible, ideally with as much movement variety and diversity of stimulus as possible. If we accept the premise that squatting is important, we will then recognize that air squats, barbell front squats, kettlebell goblet squats, single leg squats, etc., are all equally valid and necessary means to help us accomplish our goal of squatting frequently.
Unless you are a strength athlete who competes in barbell based sports (weightlifting, powerlifting, strongman), there is no need to obsess over the barbell when it comes to performing strength work. The barbell will certainly allow for the greatest amount of weight to be lifted. However, we do not need massive weights, and the associated compression on our spine and stress on our joints and connective tissues in order to get very strong. Look at gymnasts for example – they hardly lift, if at all, and possess some of the strongest upper bodies and midlines imaginable. Additionally, absolute strength doesn’t correlate 1:1 with athleticism. If the strongest athlete in a given contest were always the best athlete, the NBA, MLB, NFL, etc. would be dominated by recreational powerlifters and weightlifters. The reality is that you need to be strong enough for your given sport or athletic pursuit in order to perform at a high level without getting hurt. Strong enough doesn’t equal as strong as possible.
Understand that every tool has a purpose, a role to play in our quest to help you build yourself into a more robust, resilient, well-rounded athlete. We choose the tools we use based on what will best help the athlete improve given their build, experience level, goals, limitations, strengths, etc. If you’re > 6’3”, chances are you’re probably going to deadlift with a trap bar or off blocks and not from the floor. If you’ve got a significant shoulder mobility asymmetry or strength imbalance, get ready for a steady diet of single arm presses until we resolve the issue. The tools are a means to help us move better and accomplish our goals; think of the tools as interchangeable and unimportant. A well-rounded athlete has mastery of all the tools in the weight room, not just the barbell. Look no further than this years CrossFit Games Regional events, which featured 0 barbell workouts, instead relying heavily on unilateral dumbbell based workouts. The most complete routinely spend time building and maintaining skill and capacity on the various implements we utilize. Lastly, a resilient athlete isn’t one heavy back squat away from a knee injury, or a max-effort deadlift away from 3 months of physical therapy, one 400 meter run away from plantar fasciitis.
When a coach tells you to perform a lift with one tool instead of another, it’s neither a punishment nor a regression, simply a better alternative for you at this time. The right to lift with a barbell is earned, not given. Once it is earned, however, always remind yourself that it is simply one of many tools in the arsenal to aid us in the path to getting better, fitter, and stronger.

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

By: Marcos Hernandez

“My idea was to encourage the kids to madly cheer for each other to set personal records. It was magic. Not only did we take the first six place in the girl’ discus throw, but every athlete scored lifetime bests that day.” – Dan John

This is a concept that every community can benefit from. Cheering on fellow athletes is encouraged! Supporting others during the workout provides energy for a strong finish. Not only can the support lead to new levels of success being reached for other athletes, the success of others tends to lead to more success for the community as a whole. Don’t sit quietly while others work hard. Be loud and encouraging!
The community in a crossfit gym is large; often times there will be other athletes that are new faces. Coaches do their best to make new athletes feel welcome but they need help from the rest of the community. Athletes can help out by introducing themselves to new people. A new face is a new opportunity to make a friend. Take advantage of the opportunity! Then make sure to cheer loudly for them in the workout.
The gym is not a library. Be loud, encouraging, and friendly. Extend your hand to every new face and cheer loudly to keep the sense of community strong!

Work Fucking Harder!


“Whats the secret to success? There are no secrets. Be humble. Be hungry. And always be the hardest worker in the room.”

2016 has finally arrived, and like every January before it hope springs eternal. A New Year brings new possibilities for growth, change, adventure, achievement, and much more. January is resolution and goal setting season, but it is also a time for reflection and introspection. Before diving into determining all the amazing, important things you will accomplish, places you’ll visit, and things you’ll do be sure to take a moment to look back. Objectively think about where you’ve been, your successes, failures, and shortcomings, where you surprised yourself and where you fell short of the mark. It helps to know where we’ve been to determine where we want to head moving forward.
Ask yourself where are you currently headed based on your actions and attitudes these past several months? Where would you like to be in 1 month, 6 months, 12 months? Think both big and small, across all the important areas of your life. Professional goals, relationship goals, fitness & health goals, financial & long-term planning goals. Be comprehensive and thorough in your approach if it is important to you.
While everyone’s values and priorities are unique, broadly speaking we all tend to share similar goals for ourselves. No matter what your goals are this coming year, our motto is the same: Work Fucking Harder. All you can control in any situation is your effort; put forth your best effort, stay the course, and good things will happen. Make a plan to kick ass this year, and execute that plan with a savage, ruthlessly efficient work ethic. I hope you took the weekend to get your mind right because the grind begins in full force on Monday morning whether you’re prepared or not.



Quote courtesy of Dr. Fred Hatfield aka “Dr. Squat”


Choose Your Pain

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment. ”Jim Rohn
Take a minute to re-read that quote and really think about its significance. One of the most common topics discussed on this blog is goal setting, as well as strategies for new habit formation, tips for improving your mindset, and overall mental toughness and resolve.
Everyone has goals for themselves, ways they could be better in all areas of their lives, and likely a long term vision of where they’d like to be one day. Let’s focus this concept on fitness and performance related goals specifically as they are easiest to quantify. Let’s say you play a sport, or have entered yourself in 10k race, CrossFit competition, or Weightlifting meet for example. Lets also presume you aren’t doing this “for fun” or for charity, and are actually invested in how well you perform.
You have 2 choices: train reasonably hard, eat reasonably well, get decent sleep, and achieve mediocre results. Leave not insignificant potential performance on the table by not optimizing all the variables clearly within your control. Then, when people ask about how your event went, tell them how you did while providing caveats and qualifiers, altering the narrative after the fact to make it sound like you were just doing it for the sake of doing it. We are all masters of rationalizing doing things half-assed, or providing excuses about how we could’ve done better if we wanted to if we had done x, y, and z.
The other choice is pretty simple, albeit not easy. This is the path of greatest resistance, the hard choices that separate the champions from the rest of the pack, who are destined to mediocrity. I’m talking about personal sacrifice of course; not skipping workouts, eating clean for extended periods of time, turning off the tv and going to bed early, missing happy hours and parties, and generally doing all the things that add up to provide massive advantage over your competition.
Here’s the cold, hard truth: losing sucks. Knowing you didn’t give your preparation your all is like a nagging itch you can’t scratch. Even the best at self-denial know deep down that only they are to blame for their sub-par results. Are you the kind of person who is content with being average, or squandering your potential? Whether you are an overachiever or an underachiever, consider the following quote from Muhammad Ali, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”

21 April 15

4.20 wod push press + k2e

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” Frederick Douglass

Sam Briggs, 30 muscle-ups in 3:03 minutes (Video)
<a href="Ripped And Miserable: How Neghar Fonooni Gained Body Fat And Got Her Life Back
Fluffy Blueberry Pancakes



LI Strength:

2KB Front Squats 4×5
Box Jumps 4×5

LI Conditioning:

4 Rounds:
12 Hang Dumbbell Snatches (total)
10 Cal Row
2KB Rack Walk

LII Strength:

EZ Strength

LII Conditioning:

4 Rounds:
10 Burpee Box Jump
15 Cal Row
2KB Rack Walk
Rx: M – 24″/20kg F – 20″/12kg

Do You Have the S-Gene?


“If you feel like you need management in your workouts, and you are just not finding your logical voice, talk to experienced coaches and have them keep an eye on you. Ultimately that is why they are there. Remember fitness should not include injury, and especially not chronic injury. If you are unfortunate enough to have the S-Gene, as I do, seek some outside assistance from an experienced coach to keep yourself on track. Managing the S-Gene is one more way to being Strong, Healthy and Happy!”

– US Olympian & Original CrossFit “Nasty Girl” Eva Twardokens

The Litvinov Workout

Today’s workout draws its inspiration from legendary Russian hammer thrower Sergey Litvinov. Litvinov stood 5’10 and 196 lbs, which is rather undersized for a Track & Field thrower, yet managed to win Gold in both the Olympics and World Championships. One of Sergey’s favorite training routines called for 3 rounds of 8 front squats immediately followed by a 400 meter sprint. That’s it- 8 squats, run 400, rest, repeat, and call it a day. Seems simple enough, right?
Today’s workout is a classic example of our philosophy when it comes to conditioning: keep it simple, not easy. While squatting and running may seem easy and straightforward, I want you to keep in mind that Mr. Litvinov himself did this workout at 405lbs, while also running his 400’s in 75 seconds. The sheer amount of strength and fitness required to perform this workout is astounding, and also why there wasn’t a need to do more than 3 rounds.
These numbers should provide a few valuable lessons for us all:
1) You probably can’t appreciate how ‘strong’ ‘strong’ really is. A 405lb front squat is nothing to sneeze at. A 405lb front squat for a set of 8, let alone for a < 200 lb athlete is astounding.   2) A 75 second 400 meter run is faster than you think. Doing that after squatting and fatiguing your legs is much harder than you think.   3) Most workout don't need more volume/weight/time duration, they need to be performed with higher intensity. If you use 135 lbs for the front squat and run a 2-minute 400 meter time, recognize you have a long way to go before you can comment on the efficacy of the Litvinov workout.   4) The aforementioned numbers used in this workout (especially the squat) are unachievable for all but a select few; however, your goal as an athlete should be to make 3 rounds of squats + sprinting as challenging as it possibly can be so as to render any additional sets or reps unnecessary. "Train like hell, you'll get there" - John Coffee.

9 February 15

ben pwr cln

“In Romania, I train on a bar that is bent. My gym has bad lighting and very little heat in the winters. Here in America, you have everything you need to train. It’s not in the bar or the gym or the platform… it’s in you.” – Nicu Vlad

Rocky Piwko 88kg/194# One Handed Clean & Jerk (Video)
5 Supplements Not Worth Taking (And Why!)
Coconut Whipped Cream



LI Strength:

EZ Strength 4.0

LI Conditioning:

AMRAP 12 minutes:
3 Box Jumps
6 2KB Deadlifts
9 Ring Rows
12 Situps

LII Strength:

Fat Grip Strict Press

LII Conditioning:

AMRAP 15 minutes:
3 Deadlifts
5 Box Jumps
7 Toes to Bar
9 Push Ups
Rx: M – 225# F – 143#

The Hay is In the Barn

I first came across the phrase “the hay is in the barn” from a blog post by NFL veteran and CrossFit Football founder John Welbourn. The “hay is in the barn” is a farming saying that means there is no further preparation or work to be done. This quote is highly applicable to the optimal preparation mindset for athletic competitions, exams, big work presentations, to name a few.
Being nervous before one of these significant performances is very common, but ideally this nervousness doesn’t stem from being underprepared. As John says, “do the work, put in the hours and the suffering, leave nothing to chance and when the moment of truth presents itself you can feel confident that “the hay is in the barn” and there is nothing left to do but get out of the way and let greatness happen. If you do this, the feeling in the pit of your stomach isn’t nervous energy…it is adrenalin.”
Think about it- the outcome of most events are out of your control; however, you are in control of your own effort, repetition, and sacrifice. With that in mind, don’t waste time worrying about your competition or other external variables you are unable to influence. Instead, turn your focus inward and strive to be as ready as you can given your time/rest/recovery constraints.
For a more concrete example, CFSS’s own El Jefe Barbell will be competing this weekend at the 2015 Baltimore Open (details and directions here). Our athletes having been training hard for this meet specifically for the past several months. Everyone has their own unique set of circumstances with regards to work, family, and other commitments. However, the most dedicated and committed athletes find the time necessary for their training and rarely, if ever, miss practice. Other athletes also want to improve and do well, but aren’t able to commit to their training with the same level of discipline as others. This isn’t exactly a revolutionary observation, but it bears repeating nonetheless. My advice to all my lifters the week of a competition is to trust your training and trust the process. Don’t sabotage your performance by doing anything dumb this week, or thinking you can improve a deficiency or strengthen a weakness during this final week of preparation.
Like it or not, at this stage the hay is in the barn. If you’ve truly done the work, rest easy this week and visualize your successful performance. If you haven’t fully put in the work, you may find it a bit harder to similarly keep your mind and body at ease. The beauty of sports is their unpredictable nature; excellent performances can happen at the most unexpected time. Even the prepared athlete can have a bad day. However, the prepared athlete should always hold their head high without regrets; they were ready, and if unsuccessful this time, their next victory is right around the bend.