Archive for March, 2013

That’s All He Wrote

Posted: March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

Hi Everyone,

A bit of bad news. This will be my final blog post. Unfortunately, at this point, I feel like I’ve touched on most of the topics which I wanted to address when I started the blog. Lately I feel like I have really been forcing posts, posting ANYTHING rather than actually posting for the sake of putting some important information out there. Since I’ve started the blog, two things have happened. First of all, I find I’m reading a lot less about fitness. That is partially due to the fact that the free time which I used to devote to reading is now devoted to blogging. Secondly, I am currently working as a manager rather than a personal trainer at the gym, and only directly working with one client. As a result, I haven’t been picking up new information via my own research or my own experience.

I have not given up on learning new information at all. In effect, I’m ceasing the blog for selfish reasons. I want more time for my own research!

My thinking is, rather than struggling to put out a sub-par product, I might as well end it here. I want to wish all of you who have frequented the blog best of luck with your athletic pursuits. Also, I wanted to thank you very much for taking the time to read my work. I had a great time writing the posts, and was happy that I felt I was making even the tiniest little difference in an industry which I love. Keep working hard and keep learning! #allgo

Advertisements

Did a fun conditioning session today. I wanted to hammer a medium-length circuit at the beginning and then do some heavy lifting while I was fatigued. In MMA or BJJ, it is important to be able to generate large amounts of force even when you are fatigued, whether that fatigue is due to muscular failure or high aerobic demands.To that end, the workout consisted of…

21 95# thrusters
21 burpees
15 95# thrusters
15 burpees
9 95# thrusters
9 burpees

Rest 5 minutes

15 minutes of (2×225# deadlifts and 2×185# bent over rows) every minute on the minute

Finish with 3 rounds of:

A1) prone 90 degree abducted dumbbell external rotation – 12 reps
A2) prone ‘I’ T3 raises – 12 reps

The 15 minute second portion of the workout may not seem like much, but after all of the burpees and thrusters, your energy will be sapped. Enjoy! #allgo

get-better-at-crossfit-ladies

I’m going to start off this post by warning you, the reader, that this is going to be a rare post which focuses on an experience which occurred in my life this week, rather than a strictly informative post.

I generally get about 5-7 days of resistance training in a week (some conditioning, some strength/power training, the breakdown of which is based on which training phase I’m in). Generally I workout on my own, which suits me nicely. I don’t have to worry about another person’s schedule. I get to program the way I want. I have my own quiet time with my thoughts.

But sometimes I find it difficult to push myself in conditioning. Since I do all my own programming and am not directly monitored by a coach, it would be really easy for me to skip workouts here and there, or to dog it. I’m proud to say that I can’t remember the last time I skipped a workout simply because I didn’t want to do it. But, the bottom line is, it’s harder to push yourself when you’re on your own than it is when a parter is there spurring you on.

For those of you who don’t know, the CrossFit open started recently. 2 workouts have been released, 13.1 and 13.2. I decided that I wanted to do all the workouts this year, but that I would modify certain workouts if necessary. Since I am very much against high rep Olympic lifting, I had to modify 13.1, which was a burpee and snatch workout. Today I did the 13.2 workout with no modifications. It was as follows:

5 x 115# shoulder-to-overhead
10 x 115# deadlift
15 x 24 inch box jumps
(as many reps as possible in 10 mins)

I work and workout at a YMCA gym. There are a few CrossFitters around the gym, including a guy who I will call “Tony”. Tony trains at a CrossFit gym, and mostly comes to the Y to do midday stretching. He has completed at least one Ironman that I know of, and several distance runs. We chat from time to time about our workouts. I mentioned to him before I started my workout today that I was going to do 13.2. He gave me a few tips having already done the workout himself at his CrossFit gym.

After chatting about the workout for a few minutes, we went our separate ways. I did my lacrosse ball work, foam rolling, and dynamic stretching. Since I was planning on doing the workout by myself, I collected a pile of 2.5# plates which I intended to use to help myself remember how many rounds I had completed.

I wasn’t too worried about this workout. It looked waaaay easier on paper than 13.1. 10 minutes is short, and I knew 115# wouldn’t be a problem for me to throw around. About 2 minutes into the workout I realized that it was going to be more challenging than I thought. “Ah well,” I said to myself. “You’re used to pushing yourself through conditioning, you’ll getter done”. Just as I was making this realization that the workout was going to be a lot more challenging than I thought, something really cool happened.

Tony, unprompted, came up and started to coach me through. He stayed for the last 8 minutes of the workout. He helped move the bar and count the reps, but most of all he helped push me through. Telling me to pick the bar up again. Telling me I was allowed to take 5 breaths and then start a new round. Having not had anyone there to push me through a workout in a long time, I couldn’t believe how much it helped. I listened to him, and definitely pushed harder than I would have had I been alone.

It really meant a lot to me that he did that, and as much as I blast CrossFit in some of my posts, as far as I have seen supporting your fellow exercisers during workouts is commonplace in CrossFit. I finished the workout surpassing the goal I had set for myself (scored 220 for those of you know know the workout), and I know Tony was a large part of that.

The whole ordeal just reminded me how important good training partners are. They will push you further, help you to correct things, and keep you motivated. We should all go into our workouts with the “all go” philosophy in mind, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t all benefit from some encouragement.

292

I guess this post is ultimately a love letter to training parters. If you are part of a team or training group, don’t underestimate how much your encouragement and kind words help your teammates. On the other side of the coin, realize that your success is due in part to their presence. Take care of your training partners, and be a good training partner yourself. Even if your sport, like mine, is an individual competition rather than a team one, your training partners do a lot more than you might realize to help you succeed. #allgo

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your conditioning programming (as opposed to strength/power programming) has to be super fancy. Especially if you are focusing on energy systems rather than muscular endurance, you don’t need to have a workout containing 12 different complicated movements. In fact, having too many complex movements in a workout where you will be trying to complete them while extremely fatigued can be a recipe for an injury. Keep it simple. Focus on a small number of movements in a workout, and try to choose options where either a) form breakdown is not extreme (ie box jumps), or b) form breakdown will not result in a huge potential for injury (ie burpees). #allgo

I got some feedback on my most recent post from another trainer friend of mine. He suggested that I might have left out a couple of mobility issues which might cause heavy torso inclination during overhead squats (or front squats, or back squats for that matter).

The first thing he noted is that tightness in the hip flexors (especially the iliopsoas) can pull the torso forward. If you do a lot of sitting during the day, this means you. Fix this problem by doing a Bulgarian split squat-style stretch with your knee on the floor (or a mat) and your glute on the same side engaged.

The second thing he noted is that poor hip internal rotation can cause forward torso inclination. This problem can result in you having to sit back in your squat rather than straight down, thus requiring you to lean forward to prevent yourself from falling over. If you are like me, and internal rotation of the femur is somewhat uncomfortable, try simply doing some bodyweight squats in a wider than average stance without letting your toes point out too far. #allgo

overhead-squat[1]
The overhead squat is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging non-Olympic lifting barbell lifts which you can do. It requires a ton of mobility in several different regions of the body, as well as a ton of core strength and overhead stability. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the overhead squat, check out this video below.

Perhaps the first question which needs answering is: do you even need to overhead squat? I had this debate with an Olympic lifter friend of mine. His argument was that overhead squatting is unnecessary because the movement is covered when you snatch. I still felt the overhead squat was an important exercise to help create core and overhead stability. It took my thick head a couple of days to realize why we had differing viewpoints: he squat snatches, while I mostly power snatch. As a result, he gets a lot of full range overhead squatting in from his snatching, whereas I do not. This would explain in part why I struggle with the overhead squat: I haven’t really done it much.

Long story short, if you do a lot of squat snatching, you probably don’t need to program heavy overhead squats into your routine. If you mostly power snatch, I’d recommend programming in overhead squats to get you comfortable in the bottom position. And just to throw a little common sense at you: unless you are a CrossFitter training the overhead squat for its own sake, or an Olympic lifter training the overhead squat for snatching with a belt on, ditch the weight belt. Doing an exercise like this which demands a lot of your core with a belt on doesn’t make much sense.

What Does The Overhead Squat Do?

Believe it or not, the overhead squat, for most people, is not going to do a ton to build up lower body strength/power. Think of it this way. Let’s say you can back squat 300# for 3 reps, and overhead squat 250# for 3 reps. In both movements, your legs are displacing the same amount of weight. Since you can presumably overhead squat less than you can back or front squat, your legs will not be challenged in the same way that they would be if you back or front squatted.

The overhead squat is GREAT for core stability, upper back strengthing, mobility (especially when done lightly with an emphasis on perfect technique), and assessment purposes. If you want to see what’s wrong with a person’s body mobility-wise, watch them overhead squat.

As a bit of an aside, if you have never done the overhead squat, it may look like it requires a lot of tricep strength. While the triceps might be needed to press the weight into an overhead position, your elbows should be locked out when overhead squatting. There should be NO bend. If you find your triceps working a lot, you are probably doing the movement wrong.

Am I Ready To Overhead Squat?

Here is a guideline which I would suggest. Ever heard of the behind-the-neck Sots press? See the video below. If you can do this exercise properly and pain free with an empty Olympic bar, you PROBABLY (and remember, I’m not a doctor) have the mobility and shoulder health required to overhead squat.

My Sots Press Was Laughable. How Can I Get To The Point Of Overhead Squatting?

There are a number of things which can cause a poor Sots press. If you are an athlete and have been training using even moderately good programming and full range of motion, I’m going to go ahead and assume core stability and upper back/shoulder strength are likely not the reason your Sots press looks like you are bowing. Chances are the culprit is poor mobility.

If your torso inclines forward, you may have poor ankle mobility (focus on soleus and heel cord) or poor hip mobility (focus on piriformis, glutes, hams, etc.).

If you have pain in the knees or hips you probably have poor mobility in the knees or hips. Pretty self explanatory.

If you cannot push the bar straight up overhead, chances are one or several of the following areas need mobility work: upper traps, lats, pec minor, thoracic.

While I’m not going to go into how to fix all of those problems, check out the video below from Kelly Starrett which has some good overhead squat warm-up/solution info.

I’m Good To Start Overhead Squatting. How Do I Incorporate It Into My Programming?

Since this movement demands a lot of the core and a little bit less of the legs, I would definitely suggest doing it closer to the end of your workout. You definitely want to get your Olympic lifting and heavy squatting in first. Essentially, I would categorize this lift as an accessory movement. Don’t make it the focus of a workout.

I would not suggest going much above 6 reps per set on this exercise. It is a very complex movement that requires a lot of neural drive. High rep it, and small muscles like the ones in the upper back will start to fail, thus causing poor mechanics and increasing risk of injury.

The overhead squat is also a great warm-up for snatching. As well, as I mentioned earlier, it is a great assessment tool.

In Closing…

The overhead squat is an excellent exercise for any athlete who is not squat snatching. However, if you don’t respect how difficult and demanding it is and just try to jump into it, you are likely to hurt yourself. Check out your Sots press, and if you have issues which need some attention, fix them. Once you are ready to overhead squat, definitely consider making it a regular part of your routine. #allgo

Had a bit of a challenge programming conditioning today for myself. My legs were dead from a thruster conditioning session yesterday and heavy power cleans and front squats the day before. I don’t like upper-body focused conditioning sessions because they are just plain easier than ones which use the lower body, especially when it comes to aerobic demand. Worked out this little number.

7 rounds for time (no breaks) of:
row 500 meters,
6 barbell push press at 135

Once all rounds have been completed, immediately do 30 box jump burpees with no rest.

This conditioning session was a little longer and a little easier than the ones which I ususally do, but it was a good way to give my legs a bit of a break while still getting in a decent workout. For the record, next time I think I might try 165 on the PP. Felt like I could have pushed a bit harder there. Enjoy! #allgo