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6 Fitness Controversial Arguments – part 1 of 3

December 8, 2014
Fitness arguments

The health and fitness industry cannot seem to shake off the label of it being full of snake oil salesmen, smoke & mirrors and people looking to get rich quick. The general lack of adequate legal regulation in the industry allows fraudulent information to permeate the airwaves with very few people able to understand the truth. (Granted, a recent TV doctor’s scandal involving false information shows that this isn’t isolated to the fitness side of the industry.) Often times, individuals from trainers to members to athletes will believe one particular reason without even coming close to comprehending the mechanics behind it. (Here is a prime example courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel:). So, in an effort to help further your understanding of some complex and potentially controversial topics, here are nothing but the facts:

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Function Training Tips

5 Rules for warming up

November 25, 2014
Warming up

What to you do when you walk into the gym? Most people wonder over to the white board, look at the workout, write their name on the board, and walk over to a group of their friends. There they lazily stretch while someone nearby is experimenting with the most recent creation from mobility WOD. Why don’t you turn wasted time into functional time?

Here are 5 rules for warming up:

Foam roll when you are cold to inflict the most damage – As your body warms-up, some of your fascial restrictions might not register as tight when you pass over them with a foam roller. Basically, when your body is cold, foam rolling will hurt more, and that is a good thing.

Take a few minutes to perform some gross movements like jogging, rowing or jumping rope – Basic cyclical movements will help stimulate your nervous system, improve oxygen transfer into the muscles, and reduce viscosity over your tissues and fluids. Usually 3 minutes will do the trick. My favorite is 3 minutes of jump rope variations or 3 minutes on the air dyne.

You can static stretch, but only if you reset your nervous system – Generally, I would only static stretch if you have an injury or at high risk of an injury (chronic hamstring pulls or inhabited hip-flexors). However, if you do decide to static stretch, make sure to rest the muscles firing capacity by performing a light and explosive movement like tuck jumps or med ball chest throws.

Perform similar actions to what you plan to do – The purpose of a warm-up is to warm you up and to prepare you for the events you are about to do. If you are going to Olympic lift, you better practice dropping quick or landing in your jerk position. Similar for gymnastics, prep the movement positions such as active shoulders and inverted hallow holds.

Put complex skills in the beginning – The old notion of practicing your free-throws when you are tired so you are good at them when you are tired is stupid and wrong. Most of the time you just create bad habits. Do you have a skill that is nagging at you to get? Practice it immediately after your warm-up.

Example Warm-Up

Minutes 0 – 3: Foam Roll Trouble Areas
Minutes 3 – 6: Jump Rope singles with foot drills
Minutes 6 – 12: Dynamic warm-up such as: 3 rounds, 12 good mornings, 12 reverse lunge, 10 sumo-stance forward reach.
Minutes 12 – 14: Static Stretch tight Hip Flexors
Minutes 14 – 20: Work on Skill – Hand Stand Walks
Minutes 20 – 22: 3 x 5 tuck jumps then practice clean drops and jerk drills with 45lbs

Start workout…

Questions or comments for me? Post below!

Function Training Tips

20 Tips to improve your olympic lifting (second ed.)

October 20, 2014
Olympic lifting

I put together a post in mid-January on 20 tips to improve your Oly lifting game. Since then, I’ve refined that list of 20 by adding to, editing some, or replacing a few altogether. Below, find the revised and improved 20 tips to keep in mind when working your Oly lifting. Let’s start…

Work on the basics – Weightlifting can get complicated very quickly. Make sure that you master the basics of the lifts and continue to work on the basics before you start focusing on some crazy new Russian drill you heard about from a buddy at your box.

Pull from the blocks – Using the pulling blocks correctly is a great tool to help with mastering the basics of Weightlifting. This allows you to focus on individual positions and break down the pulling motion.

Don’t forget the jerk – If for every CrossFitter I saw that could clean waaaay more than they could jerk, I was able to hit one more KG on my lifts, I would be in the Olympics. Do not forget to work on your jerk!

Lift before you squat – Sometimes Lab Rats get it right. You should almost always perform your cleans, jerks and snatches before you squat so your nervous system is fresh. Plus, the plyometric component of the olympic lifts will prime your body for squats.

Get flexible – The flexibility that high level Weightlifters possess is astounding. The best will have no restriction anywhere. Diagnose your problems and fix them. (Hint: Lats, triceps, calves, hip flexors, hamstrings)

Stay flexible – Continue to work on your flexibility. High level Weightlifters stretch every day. Why don’t you?

Stay healthy – You cannot weightlift if you can’t lift weights. Make sure to stay healthy by sleeping a lot and treating any aches and pains right away to make sure they do not become anchors (anchors prohibit you form moving).

Progress gradually – Sure, it would be great to add 50kg in a month. However, is that really plausible? Focus on adding a few KG every month and trying to improve your technique every day instead.

Focus 3 weeks at a time – This is older advice in the Weightlifting community and I found it works great with my athletes and myself. Every 3 weeks, alternate the focus of your drills. For example, spend 3 weeks working on snatches and cleans from the hang and then change it up and spend 3 weeks focusing on multi-position lifts.

Technique, technique, technique – Chances are, the easiest way to get better at Weightlifting for you personally is to improve your technique and improve your nervous system. This is done by perfect repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Add load appropriate to your technical base. (Refer to #8)

Get Olympic lifting shoes – Olympic weightlifting shoes are like football cleats. You can play without them, but most people will wear a pair. They will help improve your ankle range of motion allowing you sit on your hips better, providing an improved upright torso receiving position. I wrote up a good post about this, here it is linked below: Related Post: How To Pick The Right Weightlifting Shoes

Learn as much as you can – I guarantee there is someone out there that knows more than you when it comes to cleans, snatches and jerks. Seek them out and learn from them. Use their experience to improve yours.

Do not over-think! – In addition to #12, it is also important to not over-think. For every Olympian, there is a slightly different style of lifting. But they all made the Olympics so they are doing something right. Just because it is not the same technique as your favorite coach does not mean that it is wrong.

Fast Elbows, Fast Feet – This is one of the best cues I have for CrossFit weight lifters as well as Division 1 athletes. When your feet reposition on the ground and make that “POP!” your elbows need to be in position. On a tough clean, feet hit and elbows around. On a smooth snatch, feet hit and elbows lock out. On a big jerk, feet smack and elbows lock out. This needs to be fast and aggressive.

Think Vertical Jump – At the end of the day, you are moving a barbell up. Weightlifters are basically vertical jumping with a bar in their hands and then quickly changing direction. If you start to get confused with all the different cues, just think “Vertical Jump” or “Box Jump”

Do Not ‘over hip’ it – A huge problem I see in CrossFit weightlifters is the excessive use of the hips since all they have been taught is ‘hips hips hips’. This is best seen in the large amount of lifters that seem to stay back on their heels and then jump forward for the receive. It is a whole body lift, do not boil it down to one joint. You need to use the entire legs, hips, back and shoulders to get the bar up and keep it back in position.

Strong Back – Weight getting a little heavy? Focus on your upper back. The nature of CrossFit leaves little concentrated work on your upper back / scapula retractors. Take some time out and work on bent over rows, face pulls, or band pull-a-parts. This has much more carry over to Weightlifting than a reverse hyper.

Strong Middle – Weight still getting a little heavy? Provide some extra work for your middle unit by focusing on functional drills like strict leg raises, barbell roll outs, and front rack work.

Know when to back off – We all know the feeling where that next big milestone is in reach but you can’t seem to grab it. For me, it always helps to back off for a few weeks and work on the little things. When I come back to the main lift, I tend to not only achieve my goal, but surpass it.

Have Fun – All these lists need to end with a cheesy one, right? Remember to have fun. You are more likely to PR if you are enjoying yourself. (Unless your family is dirt poor and live in mud huts and making the National team is not only a question of pride, but a question of saving your family. Then, fun or not, you are more than likely to PR as well.)

For further reading on Olympic Lifting, I also wrote up this one: Beginngers Guide: Olympic Weightlifting that may be worthwhile checking out (especially if you’re just starting out). Oh, and here is the original 20 Tip list that I posted back in January: 20 Olympic Weightlifting Tips For Your WOD. Have a question for me? Post to comments below!

Function Training Tips

4 Ways to fix your overhead squat struggles

October 13, 2014
Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is the bane of existence for many individuals at the gym. Exercisers must have prerequisite mobility, flexibility and strength across multiple joints; specifically the ankles, hips, trunk, shoulders and wrists. Without adequate movement and stability across the aforementioned joints, the overhead squat (OHS) becomes increasingly difficult and often unsafe. If you struggle with the OHS, you need to change something. If you do not struggle with OHS, read this article anyway and see if you can make your body perform even better on the ultimate of isometric strength blended with movement efficiency.

1. Address your body from the ground up – Start with your ankles; can they go to full range? As you assess each part of your body, continue to move up from the ankles, to your thighs (tight IT band / surrounding fascial area) and on to the hip capsule, hip flexors, trunk musculature, scapular function, shoulder stability and mobility and wrist flexibility.

2. Hip capsule or hip flexors? If you are unable to sit your pelvis down to your heels, or your knees cave in, you possibly could have issues regarding the musculature surrounding your acetabulum and the femoral head. In this case, joint mobility drills such as internal and external rotation drills with joint distraction may be applicable to your situation. For more on working out these kinks, check out: Starrett and the hip capsule.

3. But what if it is my hip flexors (and potentially rectus abdominis)? If your torso comes forward when you overhead squat, it potentially can be caused by tight hip flexors and/or tight rectus abdominis. You can easily increase functional range-of-motion through this portion of your anterior kinetic chain by performing a reverse lunge while reaching up with a medicine ball in the bottom position.

4. My shoulders are tight! Do your humeri internally rotate as you descend? Or perhaps your scapulas wing out whenever you attempt to hold a load overhead. The primary issue with the gleno-humeral joint is the sacrifice of stability for range-of-motion. To allow large and multi-vector ROM, many muscles act on the shoulder. The downside to this is that any one of them can be tight and thus affecting your overhead squat. Common perpetrators that often need to go through flexibility training include:

• Latissimus dorsi
• Triceps
• Pectoralis major
• Anterior Deltoid
• Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis
• Upper Trapezius (overactive)

If you can get with an experienced and qualified coach/trainer to do an overhead squat assessment with you, it will greatly expedite the transformation process. However, depending on your experience with biomechanics and the overhead squat, this list should greatly improve your ability to diagnose and fix anything wrong with your overhead squat. Still having problems? Comment below and we might do a follow up post with your answer!

Function Training Tips

5 things the NFL can teach us about Crossfit

October 6, 2014
Football and crossfit

The smell of Autumn is in the air. Leaves are changing color, Halloween costumes need to be purchased, and pumpkin lattes are causing people to go to the gym more. Fall also means football. From the pee-wee to the Pros, America becomes engrossed with the pigskin every fall. One may argue that the men on your TV on Sundays are the greatest athletes in the world –which should give us reason to study them. If you have become engaged with the upstart sport of CrossFit, and are seeking athletic confirmation, why would you look beyond the absolute athletic example? For example, linebackers are often regarded as the most well-rounded individuals on and off the field with hard hits, tremendous ability to move in space, back squats over 600lbs and the ability to knock out over 20 deadhang pull-ups. When individuals are able to excel at most of the 10 components of fitness (strength, flexibility, speed, power, endurance etc), one must ask, what lessons can I learn from these football greats?

1. You need recovery, you need planning – 16 games a year, only14 fully-padded practices meaning that over 17 weeks, players in the NFL will only be in full pads 14 times in addition to their games. This is a perfect example of prioritizing your needs. Recovery and planning need to take precedence; get your body back to health, sit down and focus on what you need to do better. If you just got back from a competition, don’t just hit the WOD hard tomorrow. Sit down with a friend and discuss your weak spots from the competition and practice them methodically, not with reckless abandon.

2. When the lights go on, the world tunes out – I have personally seen people get so engrossed with the competition atmosphere that they completely forget what they did in training and go out and perform like a fool. You must not forget what your training has taught you. Before you WOD, stop, take a deep breath, and remember your training.

3. Everyone has a role – If a left tackle misses a block or if the containing linebacker gets sucked in, it is lights out. This example is symbolic of the holistic approach you need to take with your training. If you hip mobility is not adequate, you will never reach your potential and will be disappointed by your stagnating progress. Pay attention to the details by focusing on the little things.

4. Execution breeds success, failure requires recognition – When you are doing well, keep up the momentum. Sometimes it is best to postpone your de-load week if you feel great. In the same mindset, if you are really struggling with your weights or your WOD times, recognize what the problem is (sleep, nutrition, overtraining?) and address the situation.

5. It is a game, and games are fun – You cannot get caught up in any single competition or the greater idea of competing at CrossFit. Most people that I know perform better when they are having fun. If you put in the time training smart and getting in the right mindset, you should be able to go out and have fun at a competition and perform to the best of your abilities, whether that includes winning or not.

I always enjoy looking to the most successful athletes in the world to try and decipher what they do in order to provide advice for budding athletes. These 5 tips are the just the tip of the iceberg of what one may learn from NFL players. If you have any other lessons you feel are applicable, please post them below.

Function Training Tips

5 Best practices for a crossfitter

September 29, 2014
5 best practices for Crossfit

Often times at the box, there are one or two individuals that everyone looks up to in terms of how to combine an active and healthy lifestyle with the demands of modern living. Not everyone is in the ideal situation complete with flexible work hours and convenient clean-eating food choices. However, some of the most successful CrossFitters that I’ve witnessed achieve their goals do seem to have a few good practices in common.

Here are 5 of those observations and how you can start applying them right away in your life.

1. Start meal prepping – Avoid the pitfalls of the office lunch (sandwich, chips, soda etc.) by preparing ahead of time. On Sunday, marinate some chicken breasts and prepare some pork chops and bake them in the oven. Use these foods as the protein base of your daily out-of-the-house meals. Just add some fruit, a side salad and potentially some sweet potato or squash and you’ll have an extremely healthy lunch that can be contained in a lunch bag to keep your nutrition goals on track.

2. Stay consistent with your workouts – Not every day needs a workout, but understanding that averaging 4 to 5 times a week will get results allows piece of mind if you have to end up skipping one last minute. Schedule ahead of time which days of the week you’ll be working out, and shoot for 4. If you end up missing one, have a back-up day ready to get that workout in if it’s possible. Related Post: 7 Mental Traits of a Great CrossFit Athlete

3. Stay active on the weekends – Weekends can very easily be your downfall, so make frequent weekend plans to keep you moving and avoiding couch-potato syndrome. Going to the gym for one hour a day won’t burn as many calories as spending an entire day at the park kayaking or playing volleyball at the beach with friends (amongst many other options). If you do have a weekend workout planned already, consider exchanging it for an outdoor activity and reap the rewards of practicing/learning new things.

4. Surround yourself with like-minded people – One can only have so much will-power. If you are constantly surrounded by people binge drinking and hitting the drive through at Taco Bell, chances are you will fall into the trap eventually. I am not saying to get new friends, but I am saying it is possible to avoid certain situations and if you’re looking to make lifestyle changes, it may be in your favor to surround yourself with others who have similar goals. That tends to make the pursuit at the collective level easier to stick to as opposed to when you’re all alone on the road to wellness. Related Post: 10 Things You Will Learn The Longer You CrossFit

5. Enjoy the journey – This one piggy-backs a little on the previous one. If you are not looking forward to lunch, you probably will end up purchasing a less-than-optimal option. If you are not looking forward to your workout, chances are you won’t achieve as high as an intensity as possible and won’t perform at your energy burning potential. Making subtle changes like putting cinnamon on sweet potatoes or working out with a best friend can make certain tasks instantly more enjoyable and easier to sustain over the long-haul (which is where the results are!).

What are your thoughts on this list of 5 best practices? In your experience, have you found any of these in particular to be most effective, or are there others not listed here that you would recommend? Share with me below!

Function Training Tips

3 things to do before Working Out

September 22, 2014
3 things to do before workout

You can just picture it: you get wrapped up in the excitement of going up to the board to either lay eyes on the WOD for the first time or to check other people’s scores while disregarding pre-wod “personal” time. However, if you avoid tearing into your WOD like a toddler unwrapping gifts on Christmas, you will get more benefits and be able to perform better. Here are 3 things to do before every WOD.

1. Go over the movements and plan a warm-up. This suggestion will vary depending on whether or not your Coach provides you with a warm-up. If your Coach provides you with a warm-up (an appropriate warm-up), you can still get to the gym a few minutes early to work on some trouble spots. If you get to the gym 10 minutes early, you should use the first 5 minutes to perform a general warm-up like jumping rope or rowing. Then use the second 5 minutes to work on a flexibility requirement that is specific to the workout that won’t damage your power output. For example, if the workout had cleans or snatches, stretching your lats and triceps would improve the rack position without hampering power output. Also, if you have a desk job, stretching your hip flexors by doing some reverse lunges would improve almost all movements seen in CrossFit by allowing you to maintain a strong, neutral position without “anterior pelvic tilt.”If you do not have a Coach providing you with a warm-up, it will be your job to think about what muscles are important to each movement in the WOD and to warm them up respectively. For example, doing good mornings without weight will help loosen up the hamstrings and lumbo-pelvic hip complex which is important for any power or Olympic lift. Doing push-ups and raising an arm at the top will help engage shoulder stabilizers which are important for kipping pull-ups and burpees. Related post: 10 Things Every CrossFitter Should Do

2. Refresh your technique on difficult movements. No matter how advanced you are, it is always beneficial to refresh complex technique before ‘3,2,1 GO!’ If the workout involves Olympic weightlifting, doing a warm-up that covers the individual components of each lift will be incredibly beneficial. For example, doing 2 x 5 Hang Clean Pulls, 2 x 5 Hang High Pulls, 2 x 5 Hang Power Clean, 2 x 5 Front Squat, 2 x 5 Hang Clean before a heavy clean session will help warm-up the movement patterns and refresh the technique.If the WOD has a complex gymnastic movement, it is easy to knock out a few practice reps or, even for the advanced athletes, review a few of the progressions you learned before even starting. Refresh how to get your hips to the rings or perform the swing part of the kip in complete control before even going into a muscle-up or a butterfly pull-up.

3. Think about the workout and how you might want to scale down or up. It is preached to hundreds every weekend: CrossFit is infinitely scaleable. Fran can be given to anybody. An 80 year old, deconditioned lady could do, for example, 9-7-5 chair stand-ups (with or with-out help) and assisted seated rows (resistance provided by Coach). Rich Froning Jr might decide to do Fran with 225lbs Thrusters. Both of these are neither the original workout, but it is an appropriate modification of the original workout that suits the goals and needs of both athletes. Decide what movements pose the issue for you and whether you need to scale down or up. If in doubt, always ask your coach, but having a simple understanding beforehand on which movements you would like to scale down or up will help your coach out.

There you go! 3 things that you can do before every WOD! Arriving to the gym 10 minutes early will allow you to really focus on these 3 things, helping improve your times and decrease your risk for injury, improve your technique, and make sure that you are getting the most out of your workout!

Do you have any pre-WOD rituals? Share them with me below by commenting please!

Function Training Tips

3 things you will learn training young athletes

September 15, 2014

Youth sports training, and specifically youth strength and conditioning, is one of the most misunderstood topics in the industry. There are many values that you, whether as a competitor, or more specifically if you are a coach dealing with a diverse population, can take from youth training and apply it to your daily WOD/coaching. Here I want to share 3 things I learned from coaching young athletes:

1. Movement, Movement and Movement! The most important thing when it comes to working with young athletes is movement. Not just getting off the couch, but being able to do human movement efficiently and effectively. Teaching the basics of strength training is rule #1. You need to be able to have a perfect lunge, step-up, strict pull-up etc. You also need to be able to move somewhat athletically. Learn how to skip correctly, high-knees, butt kicks and other simple footwork. Keep stuff simple, but demand perfection. Load can come later. A kid’s athletic future can be destroyed by loading improperly (just like an individual starting CrossFit), but you will only aid their development by teaching movement virtuosity.

2. What’s more important, playing or winning? As we delve into youth sport psychology, the age old question erupts on whether or not winning is everything. One can argue their points, but if a child is only obsessed with winning, other qualities of life will be forgotten. Values of teamwork and off-season hard work are best taught in early athletic development. As either a coach or a newbie to the CrossFit realm, you must not forget this lesson from youth sports. Coaching members to win the workout is not going to benefit them like coaching them to get the most out their workout through virtuosity of movement. It takes a bigger coach to scale someone down (or yourself down) than to cheer someone to power through without regard.

3. Communication and Listening! Personally, some of the movement cues that I learned through coaches that worked with kids greatly improved my coaching of adults. With kids, it is important to keep things simple; understanding what “scapular retraction” might be beyond them, anybody however will understand “pinch a coke can with your shoulder blades.” Similarly, as a coach, you need to listen to what your members are saying. There is valuable feedback that you gain by listening to the people you work with. From programming feedback to personality traits, all are important. For example, a shy individual might not like to demonstrate in front of a group, but might instead like to be praised as “looking like the best in the class” when no one else can hear; information you can only gain by listening closely.

Working with young athletes is incredibly rewarding. The fact that you can take place in the development of growing young men and women makes the philosophical profit even greater. However, just like we cannot forget what it is like to be young, we also must not forget that the young can teach us a lot about being old!