Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 5: “Add-Ons” – Supplemental Training & Accessory Movements

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3, and MetCon advice was found in Part 4.

What’s left? Additional work to sharpen your skills, round out your mobility, and achieve the best fitness possible. The checks and balances of strength and conditioning.

As with most of the fitness concepts we’ve analyzed in this series, there isn’t just one way to approach supplemental work. Since human bodies are all different, each individual will benefit from a specific method to their own mobility, strength, conditioning, and accessory movements. There are a quite a few ways to obtain fitness, so therefore, there are several things to consider for additional weekly work.

In other words, if we are looking to create a sum of x (lifelong fitness), we can add up entities a, b, and c (strength, conditioning, and accessory activities) in a multitude of ways (program differentiation) to achieve our desired equation (weekly workouts).

Let’s find a formula to consider for additions to your workout regimen.

BEGINNERS:
First and foremost, your biggest efforts need to remain with the priorities. Hit your major lifts and skilled movements each week, attack a variety of metabolic conditioning, and then sprinkle in your supplemental work.

1.) Core to Extremity
The functional piece of CrossFit includes range of motion through multi-joint movements, where primary movers in the hips and shoulders create a force that flows to the arms and legs. You can see this in exercises like Wall Ball Shots, Push Jerks, Snatches, or Kipping Pull-ups. Let these be first in your fitness equation. After that, put any accessory movements at the end of your workout, or on off-days from strenuous exercise. At least to start.

Start simple with extra reps of Push-ups, Bench/Box Dips, or Hanging Knee Raises.

2.) Weakness Work
Any strict movement, particularly those you struggle with, can be an accessory throughout the week. Cap off a shorter workouts with more strength.

Try Strict DB Shoulder Press (seated or standing), Strict Pull-ups (which may be band assisted in the early days), or strict, eccentric negatives in Handstand Holds.

3.) Mobility Work
Mobility efforts never end, do they? However, do not force additional work when lines of action are sloppy. Get your movement algorithm straight and be rational: form first, intensity second.

Handstands, Kipping, and even Air Squat therapy might help for technique and range of motion.

VETERANS:
Experienced athletes tend to get in routines, and often those routines cut any supplemental work for the sake of time (and effort). But what about using those 5 or 10 minutes that you can grab here and there on either end of your workout hour? Want to maintain fitness with age? Need to push through a training plateau? Stop skimming numbers off the top of your personal fitness.

1.) Pay Attention
It’s a little rare to do accessory work beforehand, but it might be an option as a quick “primer” for the day. Better yet, notice we throw in accessory lifts during class from time to time with supersets of strength movements. These are a little more traditional than supplemental in nature, but deserve the focus just as much as the partner lift (Bench Press, Front Squats, or gymnastics moves). Try to hit all reps with sound technique and ROM just like any other movement.

Maintain efforts in Barbell and Dumbbell Rows (Bent Over Row, One Arm DB Row, etc.), Bulgarian Split Squats, or Floor Press.

2.) Decrease Wear and Tear
Instead of hitting a double MetCon or adding an additional barbell lift after a full hour of work, it might be beneficial to use accessory lifts instead to maintain volume of training while taking a little stress off the CNS. This could be particularly true as an athlete ages for recovery reasons.

Consider GHD Sit-ups, Back Extensions, Ring Dips, or Bicep Curls.

3.) Cardio, Anyone?
Directly opposite of the point above, some athletes actually do need that extra conditioning work. It can sometimes be an overlooked tenet of fitness once CrossFit has entered the scene. And let’s make one final plug to simply be active in life. Use your fitness to play sports and try new physical activities. You have a body; it has function outside of a typical gym sequence, and a value greater than the sum of its parts. Put it to use.

Think about extra sessions of sustained Running, Rowing, or Biking, at an aerobic heart rate.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Body Types
We come in all shapes and sizes. Check out body types and a little about the endocrine system as it relates to fitness.

Weakness
Embrace your strengths, and attack your weaknesses. See some recommendations on how to rid yourself of those chinks in your armour.

Midline Stabilization
“So what do you do for abs?” A question common for CrossFit gyms, as if the only measure of fitness is 6-pack abs. So what do we do?

 

This is part five of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for the final piece.

– Scott, 8.11.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 4: “Hold Fast” – The Right Conditions for Conditioning

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3.

And now for the tough stuff. Strength and skill work are difficult, of course, but the lung-burning effects of metabolic conditioning is simultaneously the exciting dread and the gritty appeal of CrossFit. A lot of times, it’s what draws athletes in– and likewise, what keeps people away.

The high tides and rough waters of a MetCon can make or break us, so it’s important to note: just because we will be moving with intensity doesn’t mean we will abandon safety and efficiency. The same rules for strength work apply during a MetCon. Move correctly, move confidently, and reap the rewards of fitness. Namely, cardiovascular endurance, speed, stamina, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy.

Here are some strategies to get the most from conditioning work. Anchors aweigh!

BEGINNERS:
It’s easy to lose sight of the horizon at the call of 3-2-1-GO! The ultimate vision? Lifelong fitness through safe, strenuous, effective exercise. Keep the following items in mind to hold your head above water as you maximize your MetCons.

1.) Be Smooth
Move well and move with purpose. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Work with efficiency to make gains and prevent injury. Stay organized in set-up to keep from drowning in poor movement patterns. (Think exercises like Wall Ball Shots, Deadlifts, or Kipping Pull-ups.)

2.) Be Responsive
Keep an ear open to coaching cues. Just because it’s go-time doesn’t mean we leave you alone. In fact, many movement issues are best seen when intensity is thrown into the mix. Your coach is your proverbial life jacket. Listen close. Don’t ignore persistent reminders on body positioning and range of motion.

3.) Be Patient
We’ve said it before: fitness takes time. Cardiovascular endurance in particular is a journey that deserves persistence and patience. Jump ship too early and you’ll be back ashore at square one. Follow the programming and trust in the time domains, whether long or shorter in session. In other words, let the workouts work.

VETERANS:
Humility can benefit even the most experienced athlete. Be willing to do some self-reflection– how can you improve your conditioning? Is it consistency… method… execution? To keep from treading water in your fitness journey, maintain the following approach to MetCons.

1.) Be Prepared
Just like strength work, strategize to get the most from your conditioning. Look at the rep scheme, check out the time domain, and know how you metabolically respond to certain movements. This will help you move fast and take breaks where needed. Repeating a MetCon? Any notes from last time can give you a leg-up on the retest. (Think benchmarks like Cindy, Murph, or– oh no– Fran.)

2.) Be Flexible
Although strategy is nice and all, in reality that often gets tossed overboard during the storm of a rough workout. Be willing to reel yourself in, especially if you find yourself frustrated, and adjust your sails to keep moving. Also consider forcing yourself out of your comfort zone every once in a while. For instance, if you know you tend to fatigue in longer, higher volume workouts, go out fast from time to time and embrace the discomfort of lactic threshold training. This purposeful variance, even with strategy, can propel your conditioning forward.

3.) Be a Role Model
Uphold the standards. Demonstrate full range of motion and honest, hard work. Instead of cleaning up early, remember you have a crew to cheer on. Give encouragement after you finish– you were once in those new shoes and benefitted from a community that decided to pursue fitness in a group environment. Helping others will help yourself to keep pushing with the positive current. And thanks for being our captains in this venture.

RECOMMENDED READING:
MetCons
Learn about the lure of the MetCon and the dangers of addiction.

Variance
Variety is the spice of life. But is it the key to fitness?

Scaling
Increase work capacity more efficiently by correctly scaling. Check out how.

 

This is part four of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 7.28.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 3: “Going Strong” – The Smart Approach to Strength Work

We got you started with preparation tips from Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, so now it’s go time.

Let’s look at how to approach any barbell lift (or even gymnastics skill focus).

First, understand there are quite a few styles of strength programs out there, with various macro- and micro-cycles to their name. Many have worth in any given fitness regimen, depending on desired goals and as long as the athlete is dedicated in following the progression.

In the CrossFit world, we want to build strength and skill while maintaining cardiorespiratory conditioning, so we put to use a generalized preparation program. Ultimately, let the coaches balance consistency and variance while you put in the work.

You’ve got your eyes on the prize, which is of course gains in muscular strength and endurance, so here are a few pointers that should allow you to ring that bell as you test your strength.

BEGINNERS:
Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up! Test your strength!
Make sure to simultaneously develop range of motion as you develop strength. Take the muscles through proper ROM so that each joint gains stability at beginning and end range. Connective tissues like tendons and ligaments need to become resilient while the muscle fibers grow in number and size, so it should all go without saying: strength takes time. You’re in this for lifelong fitness. Keep that in mind.

1.) Mechanics
Watch videos, pay attention to demos, and listen to cues. Be vocal with questions for clarification. Coaches will focus on the basics of the movement, then a few specific points during the exercise, then back to the large movement pattern. (Globally, then locally, then globally again.) Keep the form early for gains in the long run.

Mechanics Example: heels down, knees out, chest up during Back Squats.

2.) Consistency
Find and focus on the cues that seem to help– without overthinking the lift or skill. Move with solid mechanics every time, not just once in a while.

Consistency Example: stay smooth through the shoulder joints on kipping Pull-ups or Toes to Bar. Work strict pulls with sound form, then kip through the midline, not just legs, so multiple reps are clean.

3.) Intensity
If, and only if, a barbell lift or gymnastics skill is consistent in mechanics should we look to increase intensity. Be willing to reel yourself in during heavy 1rep tests or during a MetCon if your movement pattern is ever lost.

Intensity Example: are elbows dropping and lower back losing stability on high rep Cleans? Quite possibly an ego check is in order. No shame here; there’s no crowd of onlookers egging you on to swing the heavy mallet. Either slow down, drop the weight, or both.

VETERANS:
Big gun, coming through! No Rube here. Roll up the sleeves and give ‘er a whirl!
Don’t neglect the above. Check form first, then ramp up and attack the rep sequence of the day. And have fun! This is a great time to socialize between lifts. Give some kudos to the new kids on the block– they look to you for social cues. Plus, seeing others move, efficiently or not, can help with your own body awareness.

1.) Keep the Rep Scheme
Sometimes, the programmed sequence doesn’t seem like enough. Do not unnecessarily max out on a lift. Let the progression work for you. The No pain, no gain philosophy is short-sighted. Be smarter than that, and reap the benefits when it’s time. Likewise, try to hold on during the tough days. Those are on purpose, so only give in to keep safe or prevent from overtraining.

Strength Example: Snatch work calls for 5 sets of 3 at 65%, touch-and-go. You feel good and increase the weight, but have to drop in between reps. You missed the concept of barbell cycling here, and the purposeful lighter load to achieve the desired stimulus. Can’t complete more Snatch reps in a different part of the workout or on a different day that week? You missed the target completely. No prize for you.

2.) Know Your Body
Are you the type that needs a solid warm-up on the barbell before getting into the working sets of the day? Or do you tend to fatigue early and need to make bigger jumps in weight? We understand our tendencies better with experience, so let’s use that knowledge to get the most out of the strength session.

Strength Example: Deadlift options. 1) extended warm-up at #135/95 for 5 reps, then 5 more at #185/125, then 5 more at #225/155. Or, 2) quicker jumps with 5 reps at #135/95, 3 at #225/155, heavier singles up from there.

3.) Be Ready to Fail
How can you know what’s possible if you don’t test your physical threshold? Failure means we’ve tested the upper limits of our capabilities. The overload principle causes breakdown of the muscle by placing it under load, and the body rebuilds to resist future stress. We just want to safely find that failing point, and correctly do so periodically in programming, so we can approach our threshold again– whether it be in power lifts, Olympic lifts, or gymnastics movements like pull-ups and handstand push-ups. So, embrace the failure in order to succeed. Then ring that PR bell loud and clear and claim your oversized stuffed animal. Don’t worry– you’re strong enough to carry it.

Strength/Skill Examples: Strict Pull-ups to failure. Testing a 1rep Front Squat. Working on extra dips and transitions on the rings to finally achieve a Muscle-up.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Giving Up
Information on how to correctly fail by dumping a barbell.

Dedication
Hard work is never easy. Work, build gains, and work again. Check tips on how.

Movements
Click each link for pics, video, and other details.

 

This is part three of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 7.14.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 2: “You Are Here” – Upon Arriving at Amplify

You made it. You prepared with tips from Part 1 of this series, you’re off the couch, and you finally have pants on. Plus, there’s that unique mix of dread and excitement setting in for another Amplify workout.

Wait, you arrived more than a minute before class starts, right?

As coaches, we’ll get you warmed up– but keep in mind it’s a generalized warm-up before any specific workout preparation for the hour. This usually involves large muscle group movements followed by some quick drills, but you can get moving even before that. Yes, you’re in the gym, but now the work begins. If showing up is half the battle, there’s still more distance to cover.

Let’s map out some items for you to do in the minutes before class.

BEGINNERS:
To gain your whereabouts you need a zenith, since it’s easy to lose your bearings once inside the Amplify doors. Generally, there is a lot going on; often times several classes are occurring, the music is bumping, and of course there’s that whole sweating and grunting and dropping weights thing. So, let’s get you pointed in the right direction.

1.) Timeliness
Early on, we know you look to the coaches to tell you pretty much everything to do. But, surprise! You actually know your body better than anyone. Yes, even those of you with awful, *ahem*, developing body awareness. So, do you need more than 5-10 minutes preparation? Get here earlier, and follow #2 and #3.

2.) Blood Flow
Foam roll with a purpose. Rolling out increases circulation, breaks down soft tissue adhesion, and provides myofascial release. If you haven’t been shown how yet, grab a coach! A good start is to hit back and lats, quads and hammies, and calves/achilles. You can also warm up with simple PVC pipe movements or our crossover symmetry bands. Those are the elastic bands over in the corner, hanging from the wall. We have diagram details of exercises to do as movement prep there. We even have mobility posters on the wall. Still feeling lost? Don’t be stubborn– ask for directions!

3.) Socialize
Connect with our community. You won’t be disappointed. Drop any stress of the day and build your social health while developing your physical well-being. Not a social butterfly? No problem. Buddy up with just one or two other newbies you recognize. There is power in numbers, after all, and sharing accountability with another newcomer can set a grid of consistency on your fitness journey.

VETERANS:
As experienced athletes, your internal GPS is now preset– you have specific places you like to go upon arriving at Amplify. Your meridian, if you will. This is fine. Here are some reminders in case you’ve found yourself zoning out or losing sight of your surroundings.

1.) Know the Workout
Some check the WOD the night before, others like to find out upon arrival. Both for mental reasons; we get it. Either way, by the time your class starts you’ll benefit from knowing what movements are coming your way. It will help with warm-up and also any gear you may need (shoes, jumprope, wrist wraps, etc). Come with any questions to help clarify the expectations for you and other members.

2.) Movement Prep
Are you guilty of camping out on a foam roller? Don’t just sit and take in the scenery– get yourself moving so you’re not cold or stiff heading into the first portion of class. This might also be a good time to get extra weakness work in. Mobility/PVC drills? Kipping? Handstands? Even an easy barbell lift to activate the CNS might be worth your while. It’s your gym. Put it to use.

3.) Be a Leader
Give encouragement to the previous class as they finish their workout. Introduce yourself to any members you haven’t met. Build our community. Remember being a newcomer? Help guide our Intros or Elements participants. Develop comfort within our doors; everyone benefits. It isn’t just the coaching staff who open Amplify as a second home. You are here. Help make the most of it!

RECOMMENDED READING:
Warm-ups
Workout preparation and awaking the CNS. What works?

Range of Motion
Need work on mobility? Cutting your ROM in a workout? Check out these tips and videos.

Attitude
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you might be wrong? Check out how.

 

This is part two of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 6.30.2017

Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 1: “Cleared for Arrival” – Before Entering Amplify

Prior to setting foot in the gym, some items need to be in place to ensure success with any fitness program. For us at Amplify, we pride ourselves in understanding that the development of the whole person is the ultimate goal; we always want to consider the entire spectrum of health and wellness: a balance of physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being.

This means we should first acknowledge time outside of the gym in order to help facilitate personal progress in your fitness journey and in life.

To start, here are some “to-do’s” before coming to class.

BEGINNERS:
First off, welcome! You’ve taken control of your fitness journey, and in looking for a safe and reliable place to land, you decided on us.

Some newbies come to us with absolutely no fitness background. Others are athletes looking for the next step in life or have been in and out of other programs before settling on Amplify. No matter what, no matter how intimidating it may feel, and no matter how much turbulence life has had before now, we are here to make that transition as smooth as possible. We’re glad you landed on Amplify.

1.) See the big picture.
Strength and conditioning takes time. Fitness is both a journey and a destination, although in this analogy we never really “get there,” we just arrive at layovers– short-term benchmarks where we refuel and reenergize to keep working our way towards the next goal. Keep in mind, it doesn’t all have to happen in one workout. Set a one month goal. Set a summer goal. If you want, set lots, aim high. But see them through. How? Write them down. Tell other people. Amplify coaches are here to help, so ask questions!

2.) Plan ahead.
We already set the daily workout, so that’s easy. But by planning your set days each week, checking the workout and any related videos ahead of time, and coming in with a plan of action, this not only shows true commitment but it’s also mentally easier once you set foot in the gym. And no extra baggage! Work around your career and social calendar, just for an hour. Allow yourself that. Let the only weight on your shoulders be that of the barbell, and the only stress be that of the MetCon.

3.) Hold yourself accountable.
While it’s okay to miss workout days, it’s not okay for it to become a habit. You didn’t register as an Amp member to stay home. We host nutrition challenges, so become involved! Use Wodify or a personal journal as a workout log to see your progress. Need more help? Find a copilot. Connect with a buddy in the same class hour as you and create weekly check-ins.

VETERANS:
Thanks for continuing to fly the friendly skies with Amplify. You are the heart and soul here, so your preparation is not to be neglected. Even after months or years at the gym, we could all use refocus and reminders.

1.) Don’t become complacent.
No recycled air here. If you haven’t felt stagnant, good on you. However, if you think your fitness journey is now an overcrowded flight circling the runway, then we need to find new motivation. How? See #2 and #3.

2.) Revisit goals.
It is just as important to examine your own goals as it is for a beginner. Life changes, and so should your outlook on approaching your fitness regimen with fun and fury. You know how exciting it is to have small victories or PR after years of hard work, but also remember to smile at life’s setbacks. That’s just headwind, after all, so set a new standard and attack. Change your altitude to improve your attitude.

3.) Maintain priorities.
Family and friends matter. Put those life essentials on level with your personal health. Along with social health development should be your physical well-being, and vice versa. After all, you can’t be there for loved ones if you literally can’t be there because of a lack of wellness. There’s always a big picture involved; invest in yourself in order to invest in others. Adjust for heavy winds, and keep navigating.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Goal Setting
Simple tips on how to plan your summer workouts and reap the benefits come fall.

The Fitness Equation
Things can look so simple on paper: fuel, work, rest, repeat. So where do we go wrong? Check out the basic recipe for success in physical fitness.

Cherry Picking
Why shy away from the very workouts you need? See recommendations on how to avoid laziness.

 

This is part one of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Stay tuned for more.

– Scott, 6.16.2017

Words of the Week

target-practice-with-babyGoal Setting

Any good summer begins with a goal. Multiple goals, perhaps.

Most of these goals are unwritten, which is just fine. So in your head, or in your heart if you typically think of things cinematically, albeit inaccurately, what is it you’re looking to accomplish this summer? Does it include your personal fitness? Let’s assume so.

In life, a good goal needs to be smart.
It needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. “SMART.”

After all, a goal without a plan is just a wish.

SMART Goals

  • Create the specifics.
    Again, even if just in your head. What is it that will specifically happen, and how?
  • Fix a measurement to put in place.
    Without a means of tracking things, how will you ever know if you’ve succeeded?
  • Make sure each goal is achievable.
    Sure, you could shoot for the moon, but what frustration or procrastination might develop without immediate success?
  • Is your goal relevant to you?
    Make sure it’s not just something you think sounds good over cold beers at a summer party.
  • And finally, make your goal time-based.
    Bound it all to the calendar. When is it that these things will happen?

smartgoals

In the the realm of strength and conditioning, goal setting is just as important as it is in any other facet of life– career, family, hobbies, etc.

Spending an hour here or there throughout the week working through a series of Back SquatsPull-ups, or maybe hitting a fun MetCon while hammering an area of weakness is all well and good. All very important, and all topics in articles I’ve written in the past. But without a sense of what the end goal is, this work is futile, unfortunately. The Fitness Equation requires another piece: a look ahead to the why.

Each summer I kickstart our weekly articles with the same reminder: that this time of year can be two-fold in purpose. These are the months to do great things with family and friends. And those “things” are essential to life. Go, do them, and enjoy the social health development. But with the right plan, with set goals and fitness priorities, summer can also be the perfect chance to get your workouts in and reap the benefits come fall.

Below are my three constant reminders as I start into the Words of the Week each summer.

Summer Goal Setting
Step 1: See the big picture
You have three months of great things ahead. Three months to work on your strength and conditioning. It doesn’t have to happen in one workout. Set a one month goal. Set a summer goal. If you want, set lots, aim high. But see them through.

Hold yourself accountable with a nutrition challenge or look ahead to the Amplify Open competition in August. Use Wodify or a personal journal as a workout log to hit correct lifting percentages and also to see your progress.

I don’t know one CrossFitter who is content with their current skill set or fitness level.  That’s the best part– there is always more to do. But it takes goals, everyone. Which is why summer is not just a three month beach escapade with horrible pop music playing over the stereo.

Step 2: Plan ahead
If you come to Amplify we already set the daily WOD, so that’s easy.  But by planning your set days each week, checking the workout and any related videos ahead of time, and coming in with a plan of action, this not only shows true commitment but it’s also mentally easier once you set foot in the gym.

I don’t mean you should obsess over your future or what’s to come; I’m talking about knowing what you’ll expect of yourself come “go time.”

Let this also be my yearly reminder to warm-up properly. Yes, we’re all sore. So get in here and perform some self-maintenence whenever possible. Can’t fit in extra minutes before or after your class?  Foam roll at home any chance you get. Speaking of, are you in need of a mobility goal this summer? Neglecting your deficiencies for three more months seems like a really crappy plan.

Step 3: Intensity
Always include the correct intensity. Some is good, more is not necessarily better. Yes, intensity is key. But no, you don’t need to spend hours breaking down your body systems. Especially without proper recovery.

If you keep the intensity up in your conditioning and your time under duress at appropriate levels, you not only make gains but also keep overtraining from spiraling out of control.

funny-astronaut-space-moon-quote

So there it is; a three step process as common sense reminders each year. Make the most of your efforts by formulating goals each day, each week, and each month this summer and always.

And remember that baby steps are important and very motivational. Allow the little victories in life to build together like foundational columns supporting the future you.

So away we go! More coming each week through August, so stay tuned for updates each Monday. Or at least that’s the goal ;)

Happy Summer!

– Scott, 6.15.2015

dream-big