Maximizing Your Amplify Experience

Part 6: “The Juggling Act” – Maintaining Life Balance

Preparation tips were in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series. Strength work suggestions were in Part 3, MetCon advice was found in Part 4, and Accessory Lift ideas were in Part 5.

Here’s our final installment of the six-part summer blog series: life balance.

Life balance refers to health in the whole sense, which not only includes physical fitness, but also social, mental, and emotional well-being. Wellness is an overall state of well-being, so to be well means to maintain healthful activities throughout the aging process.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean any human being is perfectly healthy. And in many ways, we shouldn’t necessarily aim to be perfect either. Like a juggling act, our life journey includes ups and downs in health habits during the process of living. It’s the balance that helps us remain healthy and happy throughout the years.

Let’s look at some quick tips to keep juggling the many aspects of life.

BEGINNERS:
The great part of CrossFit and any group fitness community is that oftentimes other dimensions of life are acquired along with the physical benefits. Emotions are regulated. Stress relief is noted. Friendships can develop. A second family adopts us to nurture us through personal ups and downs. There are lots of priorities hovering in our air and aura; here are some ideas to keep a focused eye on.

1.) See the Big Picture
Always remember strength and conditioning takes time. Remain patient while celebrating small victories. What next? Visualize desired accomplishments by revisiting fitness goals as needed. Just as important: also include in your vision life’s social time, time spent learning or creating, and mental health breaks.

2.) Map Your Week
After visualizing the next few months, create a plan to attack each week that surrounds your fitness routine. Map your time so an hour at Amplify is a part of a lifestyle, not a break from it nor an excuse for it. Write things down. When a plan is put into a calendar format, you are more likely to follow it through. This will also help you catch any potential setbacks before your vision falls to the floor.

3.) Pay it Forward
You are no longer a beginner! Through six weeks of this blog series and your work in the gym, you have gained insight that can benefit others. Reach out to newcomers with tips you found for success. The true newbies will look up to you as someone who successfully navigated the beginning months and juggled work and family demands with a new fitness routine. Socialize. Share. Help make our community the great place it continues to be.

VETERANS:
Assuming you’ve had success experiencing results in your extended time with Amplify, you deserve a round of applause. Yes, you… for your constant juggling act. Your ability to balance priorities is impressive to outsiders, but you know the work you’ve put in. Even if it looks effortless, continue to sweat through your self-management, since 1) it’s paying off, and 2) ups and downs will continue to balance with your life routine.

1.) Stay Committed
One hour at Amplify is a mere 4% of your day. Therefore, it gets increasingly easier to skip your fitness time as you get in the thick of life’s demands. It’s like taking your eye off the prize, just for a second, simply because things are going well. The fix? Find that place where habit becomes routine, and routine becomes a lifestyle. You’ve come this far; don’t drop the ball now.

2.) Allow for Leniency
Even with a committed action plan, a few days may fall by the wayside here or there. To use an analogy, you don’t scrap the entire car because a headlight went out. So don’t get rid of an entire routine because you made one mistake. While juggling priorities in life, sometimes we lose sight of one and just need a chance to pick it up again. Solve the issue, get back in rhythm, and smile through small errors.

3.) Spread the Love
As Amplify has grown, we owe it all to the members. You are the reason we exist. And you are the reason word gets around. Like what we do? Often, all it takes to spread healthy vibes is a personal invite. Word of mouth is our greatest asset, so please, continue to stay involved in Amplify outings, in-house events, fundraiser efforts– and don’t forget social media shout-outs for all you’ve gained in your fitness journey. Progress is continual motivation.

RECOMMENDED READING:
Balance
Physical, mental, and social well-being are ever-present as essential pieces to a happy and fulfilled existence.

Setbacks
It is not the setbacks themselves that define us, it is how we face each obstacle that proves our worth.

Time
How can we stop time? Or at least, how can we prolong the onset of the aging process?

 

This is the final part of a six-part series entitled Maximizing Your Amplify Experience. Check the Words of the Week links and backtrack for more!

– Scott, 8.25.2017

Words of the Week

ramboDedication

In a time where the world seems to have one giant attention deficit issue, loyalty is hard to come by.

After any setbacks, any wane in motivation, any results not experienced quickly enough, we see people jump ship. Abandon their fitness routine, sometimes after just a few short months, and try the next big thing. A perennial search for the new what-next in exercise and nutrition, looking for that quick fix like the cheap thrill of an action movie. Lots of excitement, absolutely no substance.

Spoiler alert: hard work is never easy. The path of least resistance, on the other hand, is.

Not just that, it’s also the bounce around that can affect progress with personal fitness. Switching from one style of programming to another, then back again, never settling in to give the body a chance to adapt and benefit.

Even within CrossFit, consistency is key. Variance will get results, but consistency is the glue that can make those results optimal.

Work, benefit, build gains, and work again. Slow and steady, bit by bit. Like a good movie unveiling its plotline, the molding of you takes time.

Thumbs-And-Ammo-Pulp-Fiction

What’s the difference between dedication and stupidity?
It’s been another summer of hard work. Another summer of blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We put in some dedicated time at the gym, seeing major fitness benefits through the hot summer days. Being persistent isn’t stupid, as long as a negative impact doesn’t arise. It’s definitely a fine line, however, between being determined and being stubborn.

Let’s clarify, then. Determination is not just a degree of stubbornness, it showcases tenacity, purposeful fixation, and the will to fight adversity.

Devotion to a program is often the best effort you can give to fitness. One day does not make or break the man. One day does not make or break the woman. It’s a series of great things in life that leave the lasting effect. A lifetime of devoted physical movement and nutrition outside the gym matter as well, even with lazy days and cheat meals, or sneaking treats and dietary lapses… you know, the stuff that keeps us human.

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Where does dedication fit into the process of progress?
Many of us are in a constant fight with ourselves, yet it could be we’re in search of something we may not realize we’ve already obtained. Maybe we have our sights set on a great body. Maybe instead of aesthetics it’s a PR on a barbell lift or an addition of a certain gymnastics skill. But remember to take compliments and realize if people notice your progress enough to make a comment then that’s direct feedback you’re on the right track.

Stay dedicated. Celebrate the little victories and inspire the future you.

With all the push forward, with all the drive to become better than yesterday, we sometimes forget to look in the mirror to realize how awesome we already are.

Yes, our fitness journey is ever-present, and as a writer I constantly push readers towards the next piece of life… what will you do this year? Where are you going? What will you be? But it’s also huge for our self-esteem and our overall wellness if we realize that once dedicated, we’ve actually started to do exactly what we set out to do. This doesn’t mean we should become complacent. It just means the process is well underway.

And if it isn’t? Okay, well, start today. Set a goal, dedicate yourself to a program, and move ahead with a plan of action.

Thumbs-And-Ammo-Big-Lebowski t9 A Christmas Story (1983)

Is there a sure-fire way to remain dedicated to physical fitness?
The short answer? No.

Through the ups and downs of motivation, determination, and commitment, anyone’s dedication can falter. In particular times of stress or busy personal schedules, our workout routines are affected; we can lose focus or time or energy. It is often easier to go into binge fits with comfort food or beverage indulgences or veg outs on the couch instead of creating time for exercise and healthful meals.

There are some tips, however, to both staying committed and knowing when to change loyalty, if needed. Here are the takeaways I leave to you at the end of each summer.

Recommendations:

  • Be patient.
    Progress can come in waves, like a fury of new turns in the storyline of life. Delays in start times; skips in the film. Use these as reminders that nothing comes without hard work. Stick with it.
  • Be persistent.
    Consistency pays off in the long run. Quality time spent pursuing your fitness goals will allow your body a chance to see results and your mind to benefit from the experience. This is a potent combination, and strikes a confidence in oneself that only fuels more progress.  Feed the fire.
  • Know when to quit.
    Here’s the plot twist. If a lifting session or some post-workout skill work aren’t going well, then a new PR or your first muscle-up probably won’t happen on your 50th attempt. Remember, being persistent is one thing, being stupid is another. Too many issues with the program? Dedicated time spent still didn’t produce rewards? It is indeed time to cut your losses and find a new focus. Live to work another day.

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So, that brings the Words of the Week articles to a close for another summer. As always, I wish everyone the best in becoming better than yesterday in all that you do. Stay at it, remain dedicated, and good things will come… even if it’s little by little.

If life is a movie, I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thanks for taking the time to read, this summer and always.

– Scott, 8.18.2015

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Words of the Week

Muscle-Up-BiathlonMuscle-ups

Another milestone worth highlighting, the muscle-up is a particularly challenging movement for those in the CrossFit world who lack any previous gymnastics background.

It’s easy to explain why people like them, though; once witnessed, why athletes who first step into a CrossFit gym set their sights on accomplishing a muscle-up.

Plain and simple, the muscle-up looks cool.

Muscle-ups are like that middle school crush– attractive and popular and seemingly unattainable. And a lot like that fleeting feeling of teenage turbulence, if ever attained, muscle-ups can confusingly become more work than ever believed. It’s because we’re always wanting more, always striving to be better. One muscle-up is never enough, we want to string multiples together… and efficiently.

Keep these off the hot girl/hot guy pedestal, however, because a muscle-up is just like any other difficult movement in the gym. And there are plenty of those in the fitness sea.

So let’s jump in head first to battle this beast from the depths of gymnastics lore and bring the muscle-up progression to light.

Gymnastic-Rings

What prerequisite strength exists for a muscle-up?
Similar to our previous focus on pull-ups, let’s clear up some prerequisites for strength and skill before looking at specific drills in the developmental progression of a muscle-up.

Naturally, we’ve come to realize the online hate of the gymnastics kip often utilized in CrossFit. “Cheating,” it gets called. What’s interesting is that we rarely see the sport of gymnastics get bashed for using momentum in competitive programs or in the Olympics every four years.

There’s a reason for this: gymnasts, both men and women, have a baseline of muscle strength that allows them to safely use body momentum in their movements and routines.

Pull-ups
Compared to a kip, strict pull-ups are a safer movement for a beginner. A strict pull-up helps develop muscle strength in the latissimus dorsi, the biceps, and to some extent the rhomboids and trees major in the back. These are similar pulling muscles involved in both the bar and ring muscle-up, so therefore it makes sense that a prerequisite for any muscle-up training is exactly that: a pull-up, both strict and kipping.
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The movement of the gymnastic kip can be taught on the pull-up bar simultaneously as the strict movement to help embed the concept through routine, yet this involves some quality coaching. While upper body strength is acquired, so is the idea of generating momentum. Proponents of kipping cite the athleticism it requires and develops; coordination is necessary for hip recruitment in order to use swinging momentum correctly. The kip fosters a body awareness akin to other muti-joint movements we see in Olympic weightlifting or sport-specific actions like throwing or jumping.

Kipping practice can be done before or after a workout, although afterwards would generally mean a person works while fatigued. This is not immediately unsafe, but overtrain while already muscle fatigued and that’s a recipe for potential disaster.

Just remember that kipping without at least some basis of strength is not productive.

Ring Dips
If a CrossFit athlete has a kipping pull-up, the next requirement for the muscle-up is a ring dip. While box dips and stationary bar dips are all well and good, the rings obviously throw a snag into things because of the multiple planes of movement that the gymnastics rings allow. This stabilization is what we are seeking; that shaky movement will eventually tighten up.

Strength development tends to take time for the dips, plus, these are stereotypically quite difficult for women because of the necessary upper body control.

Shoulder Mobility
The transition from the pull-up to the dip portion of a muscle-up requires stable but mobile shoulder sockets. Because the ring dip out of the muscle-up is initiated in a deeper starting position than usual, new athletes whose pull is not as experienced and therefore not as high up on the rings tend to struggle to turn their pull over for the transition.

Check mobility videos to maintain a healthy and prepared shoulder. It is an absolute necessity in the grind of a muscle-up; a stable shoulder is needed to turn through the very strength-intensive transition.

The Ring Muscle Up

What progressions will help acquire a full muscle-up?
Getting the most from your work in the gym means being smart about what scaling options you have and how to correctly move up a progression to the real thing. This holds true with the muscle-up, both of the ring and bar variety.

Below are some options for strength and skill development:

Ring Rows: A great start for the absolute newbie.  The more horizontal the body, the harder the ring row, but also be careful to try and emulate a more upright pull-up motion to work the lat muscles correctly.

  • Do keep the core tight and complete the full range of motion for best results.
  • Don’t think these are for wussies. Ring rows can be brutal, even for the experienced.

Hollow Body Position: Underrated, at least on the pull-up bar, and usable not just as an exercise in itself. As a good counter balance, the hollow position builds core stability while keeping posture, on the bar in particular. This transfers to many other aspects in gymnastics and CrossFit.

  • Do practice hollow rocks on flat ground and apply it to your starting position at the bottom of the muscle-up. A tight midline aids the stretch reflex during the loading phase of a kip as well.
  • Don’t get frustrated. Hollow positioning is not easy. (Unless you grew up a gymnast… lucky.)

Gymnastics Kip: A kip can be small or big in terms of the swing, and therefore can be used to eke out just one additional rep on a set of muscle-ups until failure or during a first muscle-up attempt with a humongous “load-up.” Hips are essential, whether on rings or on the bar.

Working on stringing more consecutive bar muscle-ups?  Remember to push away at the top to use a bigger “chest through” load-up swing in the later rep numbers as you near your max. On the rings, work neutral grip and allow the body to swing with hands pushed forward/out slightly to help a full kipping motion for success.

  • Do generate power from the hips to get them up and turned over.
  • Don’t worry if you get a muscle-up, or multiples, and then “lose” them for a day or more.  They come and go quite often. Stay at it.

pull up kip hollow

Transition Work: A few options exist in working the transition of the muscle-up. A common one involves dropping the rings down to ring dip level or below, and allowing the feet to assist in getting from a ring row position to the bottom of the ring dip. See a video here for quick tips.

  • Do work over time on using less legs will develop strength in the turnover. This is definitely different than a free-swinging kip to transition, however, so use this in conjunction with the next drill.
  • Don’t stay put in this drill from the ground. Full hollow body extension on the rings or the bar is quite a bit different and where you want to go with your progression.

MuscleUpDev

Assisted Muscle-ups: A coach or partner can be a huge help in assisting that last portion of the pull to get on top of the rings/bar in the transition. This is great when the kip looks good and the ring dip out of the muscle-up can be obtained but it’s that pesky transition that is holding everything back.

  • Do keep the rings in tight to pull them along the chest to directly under the armpits. Shoot the chest through and look at the toes, if that helps.
  • Don’t pull to the bar or the rings, pull up and over.

Muscle-Up-3

Multiple Reps: Once one muscle-up has been achieved, obviously efficiency with multiple reps is the next goal. Kipping out of the bottom of the dip can happen with the legs behind a bit to continue to use momentum. A typical knees to chest kip for the dip can be utilized for those a bit slower and at the starting level of linking muscle-ups together.

  • Do work on maintaining a tight midline and great hollow position to maximize hip drive for consecutive reps. At the very top, lean back and fall into the next forward swing.
  • Don’t get anxious. Be patient for the right time to pull on consecutive reps.

Strict Muscle-ups: In need of a whole other challenge? Dead hang muscle-ups are strictly for those ready. Pun intended. Use a false grip to help the wrist on top of the rings and get a big pull before working to crank the elbows back and chest on top of the hands.

See videos here and here for great visuals on the body positions needed to complete this huge piece of muscle-up extra credit.

FalseGripMuscleUp-582x319

 

Now you’ll really impress the popular kids.

Get a video so you can see yourself move, ask for coaching cues, and then celebrate your success with the public. This is one feat that deserves bragging about. No fish tales, however– be honest, be persistent, and good luck!

– Scott, 8.11.2015

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Words of the Week

band-aidInjuries

You could get injured doing CrossFit.

You could get injured doing Olympic weightlifting, kipping pull-ups, or handstand push-ups.
You could get injured while running, biking, swimming, or rowing.
You could get injured doing bench press or bicep curls.
You could even get injured during a yoga session on your living room floor.

You will NOT get injured if you are sedentary.

Without physical movement, you will be safe from any trauma of muscular exertion and metabolic work. Your body won’t ever experience workout fatigue, oxygen debt, or delayed onset of muscle soreness.

No activity, no injuries, no worries.

At least temporarily.

Instead of injury, of course, you may lose longevity and livelihood. Illness or disease could set in. These aren’t immediate injuries, per se, but are instead quite a bit more devastating.

No activity, no injuries… no benefits.

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What issues currently plague human health?
For starters, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 600,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year— that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. (1)

Each year about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 515,000 are a first heart attack and 200,000 in people who have already had cardiac infarction. Coronary heart disease alone costs the United States $108.9 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications, and lost productivity. (2; 3)

Secondly, diabetes is so prevalent now that 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes. This is directly related to poor diet and lack of exercise. 29.1 million people in the U.S. currently have diabetes; this equates to 9.3% of the population. 21 million people are diagnosed; 8.1 million people are undiagnosed. This results in 27.8% of people with diabetes being undiagnosed. (8)

Finally, obesity rates are alarmingly high in America. No state in the U.S. has a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. This means that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese— 78.6 million Americans, or 34.9% of our population. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. (9)

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Are there concerns over the safety of physical activity?
Healthy lifestyle habits, including nutritious eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing lifestyle related diseases. We’ve known this for decades.

Obviously the goal is to be as safe as possible while being active. And further, if you believe CrossFit, or any method of fitness, increases the likelihood of being unsafe, then you should find something active that lowers your perceived risk. But if perfect safety is really a concern, then running, weightlifting, and quite a few other modes of exercise should be checked off your list. While we’re at it, be wary of playing pick-up basketball with friends or running around with your kids in the backyard. While these injury rates are often unreported, it’s definitely viable that weekend warriors and Turkey Bowl heroes have an increased risk of injury equivalent or greater than weekly fitness grinders.

The safety first philosophy is always a good one, but major concerns over physical activity, namely CrossFit, are seemingly cloaked in something else entirely. Ego? Ignorance? Misunderstanding?

Fitness professionals and physical therapists ultimately want what’s best for the health and well-being of the general public. This is great and never an issue. The pursuit of safe movement is valid and necessary in any athletic endeavor. Bad form, incompetent trainers, ego over safety? By all means, critique and strive for change. Still, ever see the CrossFit “fail” videos? Much of what gets shown and laughed at isn’t even from a CrossFit gym.

So what are accurate injury rates as we compare methods of training? Let’s check the stats below.

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What is the statistical risk of physical training?
If we look at the statistics of workout injuries across any fitness regimen, we see a large discrepancy in what gets reported. We have an issue with what is argued as truth versus hearsay.

Yet while some items remain debatable, all legitimate data gets compiled in reference to number of injuries per 1,000 training hours.

Let’s look at some common exercise and movement trends and their injury rates. References are noted.

  • Running & Triathlons:
    There is a prevalence of somewhere between 5.5 to 12.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of training in running and triathlons. (Korkia, 1993; Zwingenberger, 2014)
  • Gymnastics:
    Injury rates range from 3.5 to 22.7 injuries per 1,000 hours of training at the club level to college gymnastics. (Mahler, 2008)
  • Bodybuilding:
    45.1% of the test subjects reported some symptoms of physical injury while training, but the overall injury rate reported was 1.0 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. (Siewe, 2014)
  • Power Lifting:
    43.3% of tested Powerlifters complained of injury-related problems during workouts, however the injury rate reported was 1.0 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. (Siewe, 2011)
  • Olympic Lifting:
    In an incorporated investigation of the incidence and prevalence of injuries among both elite Olympic weightlifters and Powerlifters in both 1995 and in 2000, in both sports and across both time periods, the tested subjects incurred 2.6 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. (Raske and Norlin, 2002)
  • Strongman:
    There is a rate of 5.5 injuries per 1,000 hours in Strongman strength training. In terms of region of injury, the most common locations were lower back (24%), shoulder (21%), biceps (11%), and knee (11%). Researchers observed that strongman athletes were almost two times more likely to sustain an injury when using strongman implements than when using traditional resistance-training methods. (Winwood, 2014)
  • CrossFit:
    CrossFit has an injury rate of 3.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of training. (Hak, 2013)
    CrossFit has an injury rate of 2.4 injuries per 1,000 hours of training in regards to true incidence versus prevalence. (Giordano, 2015) In both reports, zero cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported.

falling

Is CrossFit dangerous?
There are quite a few online articles criticizing CrossFit for being dangerous; criticism exists in everything from small blogs to the Washington Post, CNN, Men’s Health, Huffington Post, Breaking Muscle, and ESPN.

The most recent ado in the CrossFit injury debate is the information released from an Ohio State University study performed in 2013. The study, entitled CrossFit-Based High-Intensity Power Training Improves Maximal Aerobic Fitness and Body Composition, included 54 original participants, of which 43 completed the 10-week CrossFit exercise program challenge. The results were subsequently published in the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The conclusion? Participants burned fat and expanded their VO2 max (volume of oxygen uptake).

The kinesiology doctors of the research study inferred from their data, “a CrossFit-based high intensity power training program can yield meaningful improvements of maximal aerobic capacity and body composition in men and women of all levels of fitness.” (11)

However, the study also reported that 16% of the 11 participants who didn’t finish the 10 weeks cited “overuse or injury” as their reason for failing to complete the study. The authors also called into question “the risk-benefit ratio for such extreme training programs,” even cautioning that the measured improvements from CrossFit training “may not be worth the risk of injury and lost training time.” (11)

At which point, CrossFit Inc. fired back at what they called “junk science” with a full lawsuit, and in turn incited much of the internet public to label this move as bravado… as well as some other choice words. The issue that CrossFit Inc. stated through Russell Berger, a head trainer and legal advisor, was that “overuse injury” wasn’t a defined term by the Ohio State associates, but more so, when questioned, the nine subjects that the NSCA/Ohio State Devor study claimed were injured have all sworn to the court that they were actually not injured throughout the course of the program. (12)

Confusing? Definitely. Yet rightfully questionable on a few angles. Is CrossFit Inc. in fact a bully, or alternatively, did CrossFit simply stand up to the fitness scene with confidence?

The decision lies within.

So as we conclude, indeed, there is an inherent danger in physical activity, and yes, you could get injured doing CrossFit.

Of course, there’s always the contrary to consider.

– Scott, 8.4.2015

 

References

  1. Murphy SL, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Final data for 2010. National vital statistics reports. 2013; 61(4).
  2. Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Blaha MJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics — 2014 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2014;128.
  3. Heidenreich PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123: 933–44. Epub 2011 Jan 24.
  4. Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2008. National vital statistics reports. 2012; 60(6).
  5. CDC. Disparities in Adult Awareness of Heart Attack Warning Signs and Symptoms — 14 States, 2005. MMWR. 2008;57(7):175–179.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Specific Mortality from Sudden Cardiac Death: United States, 1999. MMWR. 2002;51(6):123–126.
  7. CDC. Million Hearts: strategies to reduce the prevalence of leading cardiovascular disease risk factors. United States, 2011. MMWR2011;60(36):1248–51.
  8. CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States, 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.
  9. CDC. Obesity prevalence across states and territories. Prevalence of Self –Reported Obesity Among U.S. Adults by Race/Ethnicity and State, BRFSS 2011-2013.
  10. Beardsly C. Which strength sport is most likely to cause an injury in training? Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014.
  11. Smith MM, Sommer AJ, Starkoff BE, Devor ST, et al. Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: 2013:27(11):3159-72.
  12. Berger R. NSCA “CrossFit Study” Fraud? The CrossFit Journal: 2013.

Words of the Week

hspuHandstands

For many, being upside down is scary. It’s the opposite of feeling safe and comfortable. The antithesis of how we want to end up in any given hour of the day. It can be an awkward feeling and, because the sensation is so foreign, one we only momentarily like to experience.

It’s a roller coaster ride, not just in the physical sense but in emotional terms as well.

Unless you’re a toddler in the hands of a playful parent, being upside down generally means something went wrong. In many cases being upended in an athletic event resulted from a trip and a fall or a flat out dangerous mistake.

Gymnasts use handstands regularly, but our general public obviously does not. There are a few other sports where being upside down is part of training or competition, but those are rare compared to most of the movement we see in sports worldwide, so therefore most people don’t lock handstands into their exercise routines.

In the fitness pursuit, however, much can be gained from turning our rooted and natural bipedal movement on its head.

So keep your hands up and your eyes open because we’re about to conquer this movement like the big drop of an old wooden roller coaster.

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Why put your body in a handstand?
If we’re looking to develop overall strength in a fitness program, then being in a handstand is a powerful position. If a full handstand is not possible, even with support of a coach or a wall, a scaled version will still provide payoffs. General shoulder health is a necessary prerequisite, but there are a series of muscles that benefit greatly and actually develop from being upside down while pressing and/or stabilizing against gravity.

Besides the deltoids of the shoulder socket, handstand work also provides stimuli to the triceps in the arms, the trapezius of the back and neck, and the midline stabilizing muscles we generally refer to as the core: rectus abdominis, back extensors, and the obliques, to name a few.

Another benefit is proprioception in the brain. This refers to the ability to sense body position, motion, and equilibrium. Handstands also develop the central nervous system (CNS) as it responds to being upside down. It’s a kinesthetic awareness we can more simply call athleticism.

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Why are handstands so hard?
Hand balancing presents one of the biggest challenges for me personally. Without a gymnastic background, and with height and long limbs, handstands are a self-proclaimed goat; my weakness. Many people are like myself: if something is difficult we tend to shy away from that movement.

In the front row of handstand culture is the sport of gymnastics, leading the ride now for centuries of human performance. Lifelong gymnasts literally have a leg up on any new competitors or adults learning the gymnast ropes as best as they can for a generalized physical preparedness program such as CrossFit. This isn’t to say that any person off the street should give up or never pursue a handstand. Instead, it’s a reminder that formative years matter for more than just music and language development– we know that physical skills and related endeavors also harness themselves in the developing brain much easier than that of an adult.

Yoga enthusiasts know the pose as a downwards facing tree, which is essentially the same thing as a handstand. For the public and those just starting in yoga, this pose will require years of development just like a gymnast.

Whatever the case, a quality handstand is a feat lost on so many… myself included. The combination of strength and skill and mobility is a tummy turning corkscrew of a requirement. But this difficulty is part of the challenge; it’s part of the fun.

Keep in mind that the human body has developed homeostasis on years of inner ear balance while walking upright. So if you struggle with handstands, don’t beat yourself up; buckle up, seek knowledge, and find practice time to build from the ground up.

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What are some tips for handstand success?
CrossFit.com added hand balancing to its regimen immediately upon onset with Coach Greg Glassman’s background as a gymnast spearheading the inclusion. Read his full article here.

Other tips for success depend on one’s handstand experience. Are you a complete newbie, or have you accomplished some skill development but are in need of additional resources?

Whether you’re looking to develop your skill and strength for handstand push-ups, free standing handstands, or simply unassisted wall climbs, let’s check out some movement ideas and quick guidelines on the fast track upside down.

Movements For Handstand Development:
Hollow Rock Holds
: A great start for the absolute beginner, and also a staple for other gymnasty moves like pull-ups and toes to bar. This is a static global flexion that tightens from the legs through to the shoulders.

  • Do keep the core tight, the lower back flat on the ground, the shoulders active by the ears, and the quads and glutes on and activated.
  • Don’t think these are for wussies. Hollow Rock Holds can be brutal, even for the experienced.

hollow rock

V-ups: Used correctly, this can foster some of the greatest strength development for those without much core strength, but it does include movement in the midline while a handstand requires tight muscle control.

  • Do know when to scale. Knees can bend until a straight leg movement develops.
  • Don’t forget your hollow position. This is meant to be a skill transfer; don’t lose sight of the correct positioning needed.

V-ups-jackknife-sit-up
Piked Push-ups
: Although these can be awkward and do require strength, balance, and bravery, some prefer this scaled version for the full Handstand Push-up against a wall.

  • Do be careful of shoulder position. Mimic good posture to ensure safety and strength/skill development.
  • Don’t leave behind Hollow Rocks. Continue to fight for a straightened midline that will lead to a strong handstand.hspu-progression

Wall Climbs: These are rough. While utilized as another scaled option to the Handstand Push-up, this is also a great alternative to handstand walking in workouts. The hand over hand push into the wall recruits lots of CNS energy as well as shoulder socket muscles to make this move nearly as tough as a HSPU.

  • Do be careful of foot height. If you’re wary of being face first in the wall, stop the hands early and remember to always tuck your chin for a somersault if you start to tumble.
  • Don’t lose body position. Wall Climbs can be frustrating in a workout and often people push their hips and chest at the wall, forcing an unnatural extension in both the shoulders and the lower back.

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Static Handstand Holds: In many ways, if you can kick up into a handstand against the wall, these are easier than a Wall Climb. Facing away from the wall requires strength and solid hollow positioning, but can also put a person into too much lower back extension. Keep the heels on the wall, not your butt.

  • Do use a trustworthy coach to help you with your kick up. Use a static hold as a confidence booster.
  • Don’t use these to absolute failure since crumbling with bent elbows spells disaster.

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Handstand Push-ups: In CrossFit, this becomes the Rx go-to for both workouts and local competitions. Strict HSPU demand strength, kipping HSPU require skill, both tend to fatigue fairly quickly as the rep count goes up. Either way, keep hand position similar to that in a Push Press or Push Jerk in the sense that we want a “V” shape with our head coming in front of the hand line. For safe and efficient movement in the HSPU, push the head through the imaginary window like finishing a barbell move.

  • Do check resources and videos like the one below to see progressions for kipping. Notice the hand position as the head touches in a headstand. Kipping can occur facing the wall to develop confidence and posture.
  • Don’t neglect strict Handstand Push-ups. Also be careful of letting your entire bodyweight rest on the head while upside down, compromising neck/spinal safety.

Freestanding Handstands & Handstand Walks: For the elite in the handstand spectrum, walks and freestanding handstands (as well as freestanding HPSU) are a great new standard to aim for.

Drills include, but are not limited to: shoulder taps, headstands to handstands, “holds & splits” from the wall, and “holds & splits” with a coach/partner.

  • Do find time to practice so that quality hand, head, and shoulder position can allow balance to be achieved. Grip with the fingers. Stay hollow. Squeeze lower body tight as well. Work every day, if possible!
  • Don’t lose position. Work on global extension versus local extension. This means controlled arching is only necessary to move in the Handstand Walk. Otherwise, fight for a perfect handstand position during stationary work, as seen below.

handstand13perfect-yuval-ayalon-handstand-versus-arched-handstand   Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 11.38.19 AM

 

So, as the ups and downs of examining handstands come to an end, I wish you luck and remind you to be resourceful– find the pieces that cause you the most frustration and tunnel through them, full speed ahead. Scream-laugh your way through trips and turns and hopefully you’ll find success at the end of the track.

Keep at it and enjoy the ride.

– Scott, 7.28.2015

rollercoaster

Words of the Week

tK6AVADlSetbacks

Reversals or delays in progress, setbacks certainly happen… and more often than we’d like.

Success in and outside of the gym occurs on a monthly basis. If you’ve been putting in hard work, you already know this. Look where you are compared to where you started; how far have you come?

No matter the length of your fitness journey, or how small the results, there are definitive accomplishments. Maybe it’s been a recent PR in a barbell lift, maybe gymnastics movements are coming along more efficiently, or maybe nutrition habits have been on point and you’ve reaped the benefit of correctly fueling before and after workouts.

So, the gym life is cruising along, and then bam… a huge wall of reality hits and a setback stops us dead in our tracks. Or worse, we’re knocked backwards, reeling from a bad day or an off week, our world of fitness suddenly smashed and leaking like a spilled milkshake. All that tasty goodness reduced to mere ant food.

Panic sets in, because that’s how we are– we worry that all previous gains are lost. What strength or skill we used to have will never return. What clicked before will now evade us forever.

So how can we use setbacks in a positive vein? How do we see past any stalls in personal training to maintain headway? Is it possible to have any good come from the bad?

Yes and no.

It is resiliency that can foster success. But it’s also crucial to realize our limitations to best spend our time and energy, specifically in sport or fitness endeavors.

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How can setbacks provide motivation?
Determination is not just a degree of stubbornness, it includes the will to fight through adversity. Determination showcases tenacity and purposeful fixation. The goal through setbacks, then, is to stay grounded in reality and use this base to build again.

More specifically, any time we find ourselves tripped up and waist deep in the muck of a setback, we are forced with two choices: 1) give up, or 2) battle onward. The latter not only exudes character, it develops it.

I’ve touched on similar issues in past pieces like Failure, Progress, and The Fitness Equation.

We’re not just examining injuries here. We’re talking about a lapse in training mentality, a stifled competitive nature, or a loss of interest or drive. After all, if you stick with physical fitness long enough, there are bound to be ebbs and flows in motivation. It’s only natural that some days feel bogged down in routine. The key is finding the light at the end of the tunnel like the end of a great nursery rhyme.

“Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

You are no more over-and-done after a setback than a toddler playing this childhood game with friends. Laugh, stand up, and dust yourself off. Back in the circle you go.

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How can setbacks provide input?
As we age, any athlete will undoubtedly find that work capacity diminishes while recovery demands expand. It is a natural part of human life; our body tissues deteriorate at a rapid pace once later years set in. Mobility issues become more rampant and strength significantly diminishes as specific hormone levels change; people experience a dip in testosterone and estrogen after menopause (and male menopause). [12]

It is well-chronicled that a sedentary childhood can set up a sedentary adulthood which of course can lead to disease and early death. From generalized inflammation to cardiac disease, our diet and exercise directly contribute to our daily aura. We know this, and know it well, in the hangover effect of a previous day of binge eating or drinking.

The trained and physically fit body has a resilience to all of this.

Still, the setbacks we might feel as an aging athlete, or simply a person pursuing a healthy lifestyle as we age, can give important information. Have years of activity now limited knee or shoulder action? Is an old high school injury starting to plague movement in some way? If so, this might be time to examine what extra effort needs to be put in. Is a longer warm-up now necessary? Are routine visits to a chiropractor or sports massage therapist essential to your physical health? Have the joint or immune system issues of overtraining finally hit, like a face-first smack to concrete?

Whatever information you receive, make sure you listen. Setbacks can give some valuable insight.

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What are some steps to success?
Recovering from an injury, coming back after time away, or just battling a rut?

  1. Set new goals.
    Even if you’ve already hit that Clean & Jerk weight or that number of consecutive Double Unders, after a major setback you’ll need to rebuild, right? So once again use the little victories to inspire the future you.
  2. Check your ego.
    Have enough mental stability to swallow your pride a bit. Consistency will once again breed results, but one day does not make or break your long-term vision. Don’t get hurt trying to push the limits for one workout and don’t overtrain on your road past obstacles. Further setbacks will most definitely occur.
  3. Be ready when the time comes.
    You’ll notice that quality days in the gym will be here and there; Monday may feel great where as Tuesday does not. Be willing to pull at the reel a bit or cut yourself some slack if needed. Likewise, listen to your body and read recovery signs so you can grab that good day by the horns and go.

 

Setbacks in training can either be seen as a detriment or a blessing in disguise. A gift from the training gods, if you so believe. A reminder to stick with it, to work on weaknesses, mobility, or movement patterns. A kick in the ass to fix what’s broken.

They can happen to anyone, from beginner to elite athlete.

It is not the setbacks themselves that define us, it is how we face each obstacle that proves our worth.

To borrow a quote from Henry Ford, the great industrialist who believed in air travel as much as affordable automobile business, “when everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

– Scott, 7.21.2015
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Words of the Week

frontsquat The Front Squat

It’s like sitting in a chair for a nice dinner, isn’t it?
Company has arrived, the table is all set, and the meal is steaming and ready. You bend at the knees, sit your hips back slightly, and keep your chest up as you go… eyeing what food awaits.

So why is it so difficult when we ask the body to hold a weighted object at the chest and travel below a parallel line of action?

As I initially touched on the topic of Squats in an article back in 2012, I acknowledged that in many senses we were all born to squat. Check out any toddler as they play or pick up items from the ground.

Heels down, knees out, chest up.

Baby Squat

In the case of a developing child, the body moves in a correct pattern because of its attempt at finding strength and efficiency.

The culprit for adults, therefore, is life.
Specifically, a stereotypical sedentary adult towards the opposite side of life’s spectrum from the toddler above can incur years of bad motor patterns, due in large part to travel, work, and leisure habits. Not to mention one too many episodes of seconds and thirds at the dinner table. This can result in lack of strength, conditioning, and create major mobility issues that take time and patience to correct.

To the point: the compound movement of the squat is responsible for such important muscle growth and athleticism that it is a benchmark lift in any exercise program across the world. It is also one that can provide a lot of frustration at one’s own body.

Heels down, knees out, chest up. A lack thereof? Mashed potatoes.

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As with any physical movement, you put some work in, get good cues from a coach or through a little research, and your body adapts. Put time, and weight, to your squats and you’ll surely benefit.

If we pick at the bone of some variations of the squat, we can get some juicy details for the beginning athlete and hopefully some good reminders for the experienced one as well.

The Front Squat.
A small step in front of its cousin the Back Squat in terms of difficulty for the public, the Front Squat is one that deserves attention in the Olympic Lifting and CrossFit community because of its direct carry over to the Clean. It is also one that we don’t find in high use in generic gym settings compared to the Back Squat.

The difficulty typically lands in issues of trunk strength in the midline to counteract the propensity to let any weight take the spine out of good posture. In other words, it’s hard to hold weight in the right position without losing core stability.

The other difficulty is to correctly coach an athlete who is lacking in one or more essential areas of Front Squat safety and mechanics.

To clear up one basic premise, we will focus on the barbell Front Squat from here on out. While a myriad of other objects can take the place of a bar (kettlebell, medicine ball, heavy bag, a 2-year-old, etc), this will help for the sake of simplicity.

Let’s look at a few important items to consider when trying to improve Front Squat mechanics and consistency.

Kendrick-Farris-front-squat

The Front Squat portion of the Clean

Tips for a Successful Front Squat:

1. Hand and Arm Placement
Our default here will be to squat in a Clean grip. This is to mimic picking up a bar from the ground and shouldering the load to stand up. This, versus a crossed-arm variation which can be easier on those athletes with flexibility issues or previous injuries, is generally a tougher bar position but one we want to infuse in the brain and body if utilizing Oly Lifting as well.

Cue: Elbows Up. [Mobility Video]

  • Release your grip. Do not death grip the bar; instead let it sit on the deltoids in the fingers.
  • Work on latissimus and thoracic spine mobility, not just wrist flexion and extension, so that the elbows can fire up and across the room with imaginary lasers firing through the farthest wall. This will be crucial at the bottom of the Front Squat as you drive up out of the hole of the squat.
  • Let the elbows lead the way, as if marionette strings are attached and pulling you upwards.
    gripcollage

2. Leg and Knee Action
This will obviously change a bit because of human body variance. Meaning, one person’s squat stance will look a little different than the next. Same on knee position through the squat. In essence, squats are like snowflakes; every one is unique.

Cues: Heels down, knees out. [Mobility Video]

  • Keeping the heels grounded will help create a full foot drive but will also maintain knee health.
  • Knees out. Debates circulate regarding the “knees out” cue. A natural valgus knee action while standing will occur in everyone. Find a good coach to help with this cue. For general use, though, drive your knees out as you stand.what-your-knees-should-not-be-doing-during-a-squat1

3. Spine Position

Cue: Chest up. [Mobility Video]

  • This cue is not meant to be tricky or confusing. It is simply to help maintain and upright posture throughout the full movement.
  • The opposing action is also helpful as this sets the lumbar back in a strong, stable position, able to handle the load of the barbell up top.photo

Find more Front Squat resources.
Items left might be how often to squat (timing), and how/when to go heavy (progression). There are many great sources of info out there regarding squats, so check into things if you have the time and interest.

Starting Strength (with Mark Rippetoe):
Recommended Reading

Elite FTS (with Dave Tate, et al):
Recommended Reading

California Strength (with Glenn Pendlay):
Recommended Reading

Catalyst Athletics (with Greg Everett):
Recommended Reading

 

There it is. A detailed look at tips and resources for the Front Squat.

If there’s still not enough on your squat plate, what’s left on the table? Decide on the meat of your strength programming, sprinkle in some sides of conditioning and skill work, and always leave room for dessert.

-Scott, 7.13.2015
front-squat

Words of the Week

Men-at-Work

Balance

Life is short. Live fast and die young, as the saying goes.

Or, if you want the most out of your numbered years, what about living a healthy, extended life with family and friends and dying fulfilled and grateful?

Live balanced and die happy. Now that’s more like it.

What is a balanced life?
In the weekly grind of mundane haste, it’s easy to get caught up in the flow of school or work and lose oneself in a rut of unhealthy behaviors. By unhealthy I don’t solely mean the truly damaging habits of poor diet and lack of exercise; I’m not just focusing on eating, drinking, or sedentary slip-ups. I am referring to health in the whole sense, which includes social, mental, and emotional well-being.

Never spending quality time with family and friends can be socially damaging. Never having alone time can cause a negative mental dependence to develop. And never taking time to slow down and appreciate the positive pieces surrounding us can create a void in our emotions.

Introverts and extroverts alike, a balance is crucial. Our personalities may change but the primary parts of life remain the same.

Physical, mental, and social well-being are ever-present, and like an equilateral triangle, all are essential pieces to a happy and fulfilled existence. It is this balance that keeps us safe and thriving atop the gigantic skyscraper of life.

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Why the glorification of busy?
So why do we neglect these inherent parts of being human? Are we afraid of something? Of not having money… or worth… or prestige? If life is a skyscraper, are we afraid of taking an epic fall to a meaningless concrete demise many stories below?

Working too much has been detailed and researched, particularly as of late, to prove that the stresses of life can cause mental and even physical duress. [Sources here, here, and here.]

Time spent traveling to and from work can sap energy, change body composition, and harm spinal posture; it is particularly stressful when being late for work is factored in. In addition, combine this with time crunches or the pressure to make quotas and stressors quickly build up to take their toll on the body.

A shortened lifespan? Not something worth singing about at all.

How does balance affect fitness?
If we’re looking for overall health and well-being, then we want a balance of work and the rest of life.

We also want a balance of work in the gym with the rest of our day. Meaning, we need nutrition, we need exercise, we need recovery, but we also need our friends and family. Our focus can’t just be physical work. It’s important to realize the full spectrum of life includes mental health and social well-being.

Word hard (work smart), rest (recover well), and repeat (build healthy habits).

And remember to include others in the journey.

The great part of CrossFit and any group fitness community is that oftentimes these other dimensions of life are acquired along with the physical benefits. Emotions are regulated. Stress relief is noted. Friendships can develop. A second family adopts us to nurture us through personal ups and downs.

So how do we maintain this balance of physical, mental, and social well-being?

City workers walk through London's Canary Wharf

Tips for Creating Balance in Life:
1. Prioritize. Big rocks > pebbles > sand.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    If you only worry about the little things then all the important items in life will fall by the wayside.
  • Apply your daily energy correctly.
    Drop activities that sap your time. Let go of unnecessary drama like a piece of scrapped metal from a rooftop construction worker.

2. Organize. Past → Present → Future.

  • See the future.
    Use past knowledge to set schedules and make deadlines. Write things down to cement plans and lessen the stress of forgetfulness.
  • Create downtime in your day.
    Leisure time matters! For instance, make space for fitness, and the rest of your life will benefit. For many, a daily workout is the ultimate stress-reducing activity.
  • Declutter.
    Get rid of any mess. Purging can be freeing. A happier you transcends all efforts in work, hobbies, and family time.

3. Energize. Dream / Drive / Reflect.

  • Dream big.
    Sure, stay grounded in reality, but keep ambition and desire alive. Use the huge crane known as goal setting to drag your aspirations skyward.
  • Maintain a healthy drive.
    Tell others about your goals. Settle things into place with help from co-workers, friends, and family. They are your rock, your foundation.
  • Reflect.
    Step back and see what you’ve built. Do you like it? If not, get the blueprints back out and get to work. If so, congratulations. Use that success to energize the next life project.


Balance your hobbies with your profession, balance your workouts with your social life, and balance your stress with decompressing activities to get the most out of life.

Keep your footing. Remember what is important to you and learn to walk that fine line between busy and dedicated.

Not only is this possible, but it is also essential to overall wellness in the balancing act of life.

– Scott, 7.6.2015

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Toes to Bar: Words of the Week

saloonToes to Bar

An elusive movement for CrossFit newbies, and a frustrating one for fitness veterans.

For many, they just plain stink.

It should be so simple, right? Step 1: jump up and grab the bar. Step 2: raise your feet up to said bar.

Similar to Olympic lifting, however, gymnastics movements are hard to come by… at least for the general public who didn’t grow up on a regimented gym program. In the pursuit of adult fitness, our strength, range of motion, and body awareness can still be developed, but we’re possibly working against years of not doing certain activities.

Naturally, the major battle is with higher skilled movements. The ones that make you want to hit up a real bar and drown your sorrows in a drink.

To kip, or not to kip?
Like kipping pull-ups, toes to bar, knees to elbows, or any movement performed with momentum will receive its fair share of criticism. Before moving on, let’s default to a kipping toes to bar movement as our go-to T2B. The strict form of the movement exists and can/should be performed as a muscle strengthener of the abdominal and hip muscles (namely rectus abdomens, iliopsoas, and the hip flexor portion of the quadriceps), with additional help from pulling muscles in the back and arms (latissimus dorsi, the biceps, and to some extent the rhomboids and teres major.)

anterior-core

Proponents of kipping cite the athleticism it requires (and develops), namely the coordination for hip recruitment in order to use body momentum correctly. The kip fosters a body awareness akin to other muti-joint movements we see in Olympic weightlifting or sport specific actions like throwing or jumping. In this realm, besides needing core strength, one requires agility as well.

Negative aspects of kipping are also reported. These include infringing on shoulder socket health with rotator cuff issues like bursitis or shoulder impingement. This is usually discussed in relation to kipping pull-ups.

Both strict and kipping styles of pull-ups have their merit, in a fitness sense, so both can and should be used in a general strength and conditioning program. The same is true for toes to bar.

While on the topic of injuries, always keep this math equation in mind: chalked hands + a pull-up bar = ripping. Check out more about calluses and hand health in a previous article on the topic here.

OWIE!

All in all, point be clear: the strict toes to bar movement is different than kipping.

What you put in, you get out.
I have previously expressed that in a coached athlete the movement of the gymnastic kip can be taught on the pull-up bar simultaneously as the strict movement to help embed the concept through routine. While upper body strength is acquired, so is the idea of generating momentum.  Kipping practice can be done before or after a workout, although afterwards would generally mean a person works while fatigued.  Not unsafe, per se, but it needs to be noted that higher rep kipping, whether it is pull-ups or knees to elbows/toes to bar, receives the magnifying glass from the online fitness community, where negative feedback is aplenty. Overtrain while already muscle fatigued and the consensus agrees that’s a recipe for potential disaster.

Thus, kipping without a basis of strength is not productive.

Great news, though, no matter what experience level: gymnastics development is like everything else in the gym. You put some attention towards the exercise and gains are made.

The bad news?  That strength development takes time.

So, grab a drink and a stool and belly up with your bartender. (That’s me.)
Here’s a mixture of movements to get the right concoction for toes to bar development, from simple core strengthening exercises to high rep efficiency tips.

Toes-to-Bar

Movements For Toes to Bar Development:
Hollow Rock Holds: A great start for the absolute newbie. This is a static global flexion that tightens from the legs through to the shoulders.  Hollowing out is a set position in much of gymnastics and related exercise– in CrossFit, this is namely push-ups, handstands, ring dips, pull-ups, and muscle-ups.

  • Do keep the core tight, the lower back flat on the ground, the shoulders active by the ears, and the quads and glutes on and activated.
  • Don’t think these are for wussies. Hollow Rock Holds can be brutal, even for the experienced.

hollow rock

V-ups: Used correctly, this can foster some of the greatest strength development for those without free-hanging knee tucks, but it limits learning of the kipping movement. Scaling: more pros than cons, for sure.

  • Do know when to scale. Knees can bend until a straight leg movement develops.
  • Don’t forget your hollow position. This is meant to be a skill transfer; don’t lose sight of the correct positioning needed.

V-ups-jackknife-sit-up

Kipping Swing Practice: A kip can be small or big in terms of the swing, and therefore can be used to eke out just a few additional reps on a set of toes to bar until failure. The swing itself can develop more than just a solid toes to bar technique. Plus, you don’t have to attempt to fold the body or raise the knees in any way to benefit from your swing practice.

  • Do work shoulder mobility to allow the chest to come forward and through the window of the arms to gain swing momentum. Generate power from a tight hollow position into a globally extended position, and back again.
  • Don’t worry if you get the rhythm down for a while and then “lose” it for a day or more.  Kipping comes and goes sometimes. Stay at it.

pull up kip hollow

Knees to Elbows: A challenging move in itself, some even describe these as more difficult than making bar contact with the feet. Since it generates more crunching of the body to raise the knees to the elbows, these develop hip and abdominal strength and flexibility as well as one’s pull strength with the lats in the upper back to down under the armpits. Kipping Knee Tucks are also a great scaled option as K2E develop.

  • Do continue to work shoulder mobility and your gymnastics kip. To increase efficiency, make sure you are regenerating momentum through the window of your arms. Heels pull back immediately for your next kip.
  • Don’t count knees to elbows if in the middle of the workout you’re only touching triceps. Keep yourself honest, if this is your skill level. How is your overall strength with V-ups and pull-ups?


CrossFit Efficiency Tips

Kipping Toes to Bar: Our default “Rx” movement and one generally used in CrossFit competitions because of the ease in judging.

  • Do grip your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, kip to take your body from a hollow position to an arc, transition from backswing to upswing, drive your knees toward your elbows, and finally flick your feet toward the bar as they rise.
  • Don’t lose your momentum. Use your swing to pull back into an arc; squeeze your glutes to load your body up for the next rep. This will be essential to stringing higher reps together in unbroken sets.


Kipping Toes to Bar Tips

Strict Toes to Bar: These show great body control, and can be worked in post-workout as accessory strength work, assuming you didn’t just fatigue a similar movement.

  • Do hang in a hollow body position to start, then pull thighs towards your chest, keeping legs straight. Keep squeezing up until the toes touch the bar, then slowly descend.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to hit small sets of 1 or 2, again as supplemental work in warm-ups or after a conditioning workout.

toestobar

There you have it. A beginner’s look at toes to bar and related lead-up exercises.

Refill your drink and get to watching more videos if needed; there are plenty out yonder on that there internet machine. Decide on your goals and where you fit in the skill spectrum. Then wipe your mouth, strap up your boots, and get after it.

Don’t forget to tip your bartender. I’ll be here cheering you on, pardner.

– Scott, 6.29.2015

Unknown

Words of the Week

chicken egg

Giving Up

Bailing out. Missing a lift. Saving your skinny little chicken neck.

In weightlifting, it is so necessary to correctly fail that dumping a barbell should be simultaneously taught with how to successfully make a lift. Also very necessary is to know when to cede to a workout or give up on a fatigued movement.

Which came first, the failure or the lift?
The concept of “giving up” creates such a negative connotation that the motivational nonsense spread through life nowadays gives the impression that anyone willing to give up is a failure. Weak, inadequate, and/or inferior.

No better than a shivering chick… a wet newbie peeping for its mama hen.

hatching-chick_400

Quite the contrary can be said when we look at making or failing a lift, whether it be a power lift like a Deadlift or a Squat, or an Olympic lift like a Jerk or a Snatch. It is those athletes that know how to bail out that keep themselves safe, healthy, and strong.

Those athletes that have trained the correct bar path in order to efficiently make a successful lift know this. When something goes wrong, when a movement is incorrect, even in the slightest, failure means you live to lift another day.

Plus, heavy squats are always the go-to fix for chicken legs. So the skill of dumping a barbell helps to correctly use the progressive overload principle.

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For those who haven’t failed, their potential in whatever endeavor they seek in life has not been fully realized. They haven’t tested the upper limits of their capabilities. In weightlifting it’s knowing how to safely fail that shows strength through intelligence.

Like a smart, egghead brainiac, strength can come in many forms.

Similar to weightlifting, if a gymnastics movement or other bodyweight exercise starts to lose efficacy, if the body is shutting down to a point of inefficiency, then giving up is a necessary evil. Sure, there are times to drive ahead, to push through fatigue and complete a workout as it was written. The mental gains are particularly worthwhile in this regard, so long as the movements are still safely executed. But the moment where one puts themselves at high risk for injury, at risk for overtraining or under-recovery, this is the time when a workout becomes completely negotiable. At this point, the decision to end a session early is not weak in any regard; it is not incompetent or pitiful. Instead, it is mentally strong. It is egotistically impressive, actually. Realizing that range of motion is breeched and safety is compromised is in fact a very, very strong attribute.

Know when to fold ’em. When it’s time to “snuff the rooster.” This is tricky, for sure, but highly necessary in strength and conditioning.

Little-Boy-Boo

Dan Maggio has done such a great job at succinctly highlighting the specifics of intentional bailing from a lift that it deserves reprinting here to his credit on how to implement this into your training.

How to Miss a Lift
When teaching/coaching weightlifting related lifts, the FEET MUST ALWAYS MOVE in order to get the base of support out from under the falling bar. [Source: The Importance of Missing Lifts and Bailing Out]

  • Bailing out of the Back Squat: Release grip on bar, push chest and head UP to pop the bar off your back, JUMP feet forward to avoid the bar hitting your heals if you land on your knees.
  • Bailing out of Front Squat: Release grip on bar, drop the elbows as you simultaneously JUMP your feet back and push your hands to the ground. Not jumping your feet back can cause the dumped bar to crash on your thighs and knees. (This bail is the same as bailing out of a Clean.)
  • Missing the Snatch (in front): Actively EXTEND arms forward. JUMP your feet backwards.
  • Missing the Snatch (behind): Actively EXTEND arms backward (as if giving “Jazz Hands”). JUMP FORWARD quickly to avoid the bar landing on shoulders or back. It is vital to extend the arms backward fully to create more space and avoid collision.
  • Missing the Jerk: If the barbell is already moving forward, JUMP the body back while pushing the bar away. Similarly, if stability is not maintained and the barbell drifts backward, JUMP forward away from the weight.

Humptydumpty

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…
As far as “giving up” goes, we’re on the topic of succumbing to a lift or movement in a positive, thoughtful way. Not just being lazy or unmotivated.

In reference to being smart with a conditioning workout or to avoid overtraining/under-recovering, some specifics have been highlighted in past articles. Check “MetCons” and “Progress” to get the full explanation.

Our basic concept is always to pursue lifelong fitness. If we’re looking to stay healthy for years to come, then one day does not make or break a workout regimen. However, one day can turn into a week, then a month, and so on. So therefore, since a longer term view on fitness best serves our ever-aging bodies, then pushing to a point of immense fatigue is a slippery slope. Particularly dangerous is exercise addiction.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put an addict’s fitness together again.

One must ask some important questions: “Am I working hard because this will gain me the necessary muscle breakdown and/or cardiovascular stress?” vs. “Am I doing this because I’m stubborn and masochist and want to prove something to myself?” Be honest.

In other words, be cautious of forcing a conditioning workout if you crash and burn. Once you bonk, die… lay an egg.

Finish what you started if you can, sure, but only if is still safe in the realm of total work. For example, is the run mileage just too high? Burpee reps too many? Barbell weight too heavy? Plus, will you be sore and out of commission for the rest of the week? Time to be smart and give in.

A full week of quality work is more beneficial than one day of feigned glory.

As I’ve stated before, if a lifting session or post-workout skill work aren’t going well, then a new PR or your first muscle-up probably won’t happen on your 20th, 30th, or 100th attempt. Being persistent is one thing, being stupid is another. Stop. Cut your losses. Look ahead to the next day.

This is a plan of action where giving up is actually moving forward.

So off you go with brains and brawn. Never be chicken to check yourself before you wreck yourself.

– Scott, 6.22.2015