Friday, 24 August 2012

The NEW Crossfit rules - Olympic Lifts

Podium SC Athlete Lindsay M - Regionals 2012

Olympic lifting is awesome – performed correctly it requires an impressive combination of strength, power, flexibility, balance, and speed.  It is truly an athletic form of lifting huge weights overhead and requires dedicated practice to get it right.

In CrossFit however, most are doing it wrong, VERY wrong.  I can’t tell you how much it bugs me to see “another” Crossfit video posted online with people lifting with terrible form... and there are WAY too many of these already.

Two factors are at the heart of this issue - the low average skill of Crossfit coaches in terms of effective teaching practices and the relative ignorance of whoever is planning the wods.  If that sounds harsh to you that’s fine, but I’ve seen a LOT of coaching and a LOT of programming and these are the conclusions I’ve come to.  Your members are paying you good money with the expectation of high level service, so it is up to you to provide it and make sure they get their money’s worth.

The “typical” Crossfit coach is an interesting phenomenon in the physical training world – a weekend, $1000, and you are set up to teach others highly complex skills.  You might mention that there are a bunch of personal training courses that run similarly but the reality is that those people are NOT turning around and teaching cleans and snatches and doing 30 of each for time.  You also might mention that there are a bunch of specialized Crossfit courses out there for lifting and gymnastics etc.  I will respond that these are merely the STARTING point of your skill development as a coach, and in no way truly prepare you for actually coaching these lifts effectively.

In order to fully understand teaching the Olympic lifts, you have to train them yourself and for a LONG time.  You really will not know how to truly coach these lifts until you have reached a reasonable level of proficiency (which in my mind would be about a minimum of 50/70kg for women and 80/110kg for men).  Bodyweight plays into this a bit but for average sized individuals, if you are lifting those loads with good (FULL snatch and FULL clean) form, you probably know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Class structure, contrary to popular belief, is NOT a restriction on effective teaching – you just need to know HOW to do it and how to identify technique issues.  Without extending the length of this blog unnecessarily, this means a lot of skill transfer exercises (NOT 5x3 snatch balance for max load) with a reasonable progression and KNOWING what you are looking for so that you can cue corrections. 

You should probably also have a structure for your class in terms of WHEN people lift so that you are watching 4 or 5 people at a time as opposed to a whole class of 15+.

So, RULE #1 – if you are a coach, GET BETTER, a LOT BETTER at the Olifts yourself through dedicated practice (and I mean a LOT of practice), LEARN what works and what doesn’t through personal experience and research, and develop a teaching progression that is sensible and with a long term view.

Issue #2 is programming.  I almost hate this word in the Crossfit world since it is so abused.  “Programming” used to mean employing a systematic series of physical challenges that progresses someone (or a group of people) towards an end goal.  It requires forethought, an understanding of the goal, proper progression, and reasonable knowledge of the energy systems and muscular characteristics of the body.  What it has degenerated into in the Crossfit world is shotgunning wods based on a “we did that yesterday so we’ll do this today” type approach.  Believe it or not, when I first showed up at the affiliate I used to co-own, the programming was done on a night-before basis or even sometimes 15 minutes before class time!  “Programming” has become synonymous with “making up workouts” and it is not surprising to me at all that people are F’ing things up badly as a result.

The Olympic lifts are one of the biggest victims of this trend.  Here’s the deal – the Olifts are best performed and LEARNED from at least a “relatively” rested state with a focus on accuracy and coordination.  This is the exact OPPOSITE of what happens in a wod.  Case in point – Isabel – 30 snatches for time.  If someone is reasonably proficient, they will get maybe up to 10 reps with pretty solid form and the remaining 20 reps with successively worse and worse technique.  In that scenario, you have AT BEST 10 reps that are developing a “good” motor program and 20 reps that are developing a POOR motor program... guess what wins out?

An interesting insight into Isabel in particular comes from a personal programming experience of mine.  I create a wod for my Affiliate called “Breaking up with Isabel” which consists of 6 rounds of 5 snatches, each successive round starting on the minute.  Interestingly enough, MANY people got a BETTER Isabel time out of this workout than they did when they actually did the full 30 snatches in a row... and guess what, their form was a WHOLE lot better.

Now I understand completely the need to test wods like Isabel and Grace ON OCCASION, especially as athletes near competition time, but these (and things like barbell complexes) should not form the majority of any Crossfitter’s exposure to the Olifts.

Secondly, much too much time is spent on learning (and training) the power variations of the lifts.  The power variations are technically simpler but can create serious flaws when it comes to developing full clean and full snatch techninque... primarily, the arms in the power variations are used excessively in pulling the bar UP whereas one of their main functions in the full lift is to pull the body DOWN.  Repetitive power snatches and power cleans will interfere with the timing for full snatches and full cleans.  I have met a LOT of people who can power snatch and power clean who CAN’T do the full lifts... But I’ve yet to meet ANYONE who can full clean and snatch who can’t do the power variations.

I’m wary of giving programmers too much info as the absolute worst scenario is utilizing methods that you don’t fully understand, but this is too big of an issue to let slide for much longer.  So here are the NEW Crossfit rules for programming the Olifts:

RULE #2 – If you want to do Olifts in metcons, make those metcons interval-style with the Olift as the FIRST component.  The rest period leading into the Olift will preserve the “good” stuff better this way.

RULE #3 – Program both Snatch and Clean variations (i.e. teaching and skill transfer exercises) at LEAST once per week... it is preferable to have some sort of technique work (bar only in some cases) on an everyday basis to ensure your members get good contact with these movements

RULE #4 – Spend MORE time at 75-85% loads and LESS time “going for max”

RULE #5 – PLAN ahead with your progressions and work towards an end goal 4-8 weeks down the road

RULE #6 – The vast majority of your programming of Olympic lifts should be as a technique/strength portion prior to the WOD... I’m talking 80% or more of the reps should be under low fatigue conditions

RULE #7 – Program with the goal of the full lifts in mind as opposed to the power variations

 I could go on for a while on these, but that is the starting point.  If you do the above, you will be ahead of most Crossfit coaches and Affiliates in terms of sensible, safe, and progressive programming of the Olympic lifts.

Before I end this blog though, one more request – if you have a wod video and the form is TERRIBLE, please please PLEASE do not post it up online.  We’ve got enough people sniping at us already, let’s make things better as opposed to worse!


Friday, 10 August 2012

Changes to Coaching and Programming

Michelle hitting du's at last year's Taranis Winter Challenge

Fitness, and the pursuit of optimal levels of fitness, is constantly evolving... and since my business is built around helping others explore and develop fitness, it must also evolve.  As a result of necessity (my time available) and athlete requests (more accessible programming), I am changing some of the structure of my Coaching and Programming Services.

Primarily, the Complete Training Systems section is getting a makeover.  From here forward, the fully supported training option ($250/month, all training provided with online support) will be known as the Elite Training Group.  Athletes within this group get training tailored exactly to THEIR needs based on a series of assessments and ongoing measurements. The good (and bad, depending on how you look at it) news is that this group is currently FULL, as I have a core group of committed and talented people and need to ensure they receive proper quality of service.  Stay tuned for an Athletes Page on this website detailing who is training wth the PSC Elite Training Group.

To provide more options for programming for competitive crossfit athletes who aren't part of the ETG, I have created a new programming service.  I will offer complete training (i.e. metcons, strength, technique) that is targeted towards peaking for the Open and Regionals but is not individually tailored to each athlete.  This is a great option for those looking for a progressive plan that is well designed and focused on hitting all of the needs of the crossfit athlete.  This will also be the plan that I myself will be following, so you are guaranteed that I will make it as good as I possibly can.  This option will now be known as the PSC Competition Team and will be offered for $150 per month.

These changes will be happening as of right now and I believe they will provide a lot more opportunities for people to engage in some excellent programming with some real thought, experience, and passion behind it.

Onwards and upwards!


Tuesday, 24 July 2012


Realizing potential through
Executing plans that move us forward.
Learning from mistakes,
Educating our bodies and minds.
Never settling for good enough, we
Take hold of all opportunities to progress.
Leaving fear of failure behind while
Elevating our game.
Striving for constant improvement so that the only result is

Monday, 23 July 2012

Cutting Some Slack

Lucas Parker has quite the training setup at his house – logs for flipping, a 20’ rope climb, stones for lifting, heavy jugs for carrying, and a sled for pulling. In addition, strung between a large tree and a stake pounded into the ground, is a slackline. While the first 5 implements listed are challenging, the slackline requires a whole new skillset – and one that I am sorely lacking in.

It looks pretty easy when Lucas is on it – he can walk with ease, do 90* turns, pistol squats etc. Not so easy in practice though as I can barely (at the moment) stand on it for a seconds at a time. Of course, this indicates to me that there is a gap in my fitness… and being a bit obsessive about my “CrossFitness”, it was imperative that I pick up my own slackline to fill that gap.

I ordered two direct from Gibbon (THE standard in slacklines) – one for use in the area around my work, and one at home so that I can get a balance fix whenever tempted. All I need are two sturdy trees (or other similar anchor points), a good attitude, and a relatively soft landing area.

Over the next weeks and months, I’ll be setting out to utilize the slackline whenever possible. The primary focus will be to develop a new level of dynamic balance with the secondary goal of having some fun times. With this in mind, slacklining will fit well on my rest days when I need some motion with different characteristics than my usual training activities. It will also be a great way to get outside and enjoy the summer weather.

I’ll write some updates as I go to document my progress, it should be a fun experiment!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Have KB, will travel... and WOD!

Kettlebells are useful little devices - compact and extremely portable, they offer a wide range of challenging movements if you have the knowledge and creativity to put them into use.  On a road trip to Utah in the summer of 2010, a 55lb KB was the only piece of equipment I brought and it was an excellent choice... nothing like crushing kb snatches and goblet squats in the desert in July!

Ideally it would be great to have a selection of weights along for the ride but I find the good old 1 pood fits most needs really well - it's a good weight for swings, presses, snatches, c+j, goblets, and TGU's.  If you're a bit stronger, a 1.5 (73lb) kb might be a better option.

Either way, pick one up, learn yourself some KB skills and pop it into your car.  That way, whenever the mood strikes you, there's a gym just waiting to happen.  This is a great option during the summer months as well when it's so nice to get outside to crush a workout.

Last night I did just that.  There's a small school with a big playground and field a short drive away from my house, and I needed to do some conditioning work.  The obvious choice with a kb, a pullup bar, and field was "Helen" (3 rounds of 400m run, 21 swings, 12 pullups).  I wanted a bit longer wod so I bumped the rounds up to 4.  The pullup bar was a good challenge since my feet tended to scrape the ground a bit when I did my kip, and I'm not sure about the run distance but it "felt" about right!

In the end, it was a great evening to be outside and crushing a workout... all thanks to my kb buddy.

Give yourself a break from the usual gym-ness during the summer when you can - you'll find it's a great way to enjoy your fitness experience and it will add some necessary variety.


Friday, 15 June 2012

Visiting Catalyst Athletics

It goes without saying that not all coaches or training centres are alike, and there are definite quality differences even between people who are at "the top". After visiting Catalyst Athletics and getting to see Coach Greg Everett in action, I can assure you that he lives up to his reputation. Greg is mostly known for his excellent book - Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches - as well as the monthly Performance Menu online magazine that is published through Catalyst. With these accomplishments it might be easy for someone to forget what formed the basis of Greg's publication success - which is excellence in coaching. My main goal for heading down to Catalyst was to see him in action and working with his competitive lifters. There are certain cues and technical details that are only truly realized when seen in person. One thing that really stuck out for me was the emphasis on the "pull under" the bar. I've seen this many times before of course and it is emphasized by all good Oly coaches, but the way that it is taught and ingrained at Catalyst really hit home. The best drill that I've seen to develop this pull is what they call the "tall snatch". Check out to see a video of this in action... it definitely pushes the development of the pull under like no other teaching drill that I have seen. Over two days there, I definitely picked up a lot in regards to training lifters. I was fortunate enough also to observe Catalyst's beginner/recreational Oly class and their fitness class, so I saw how they developed the skills of part time lifters. I even got a glimpse of 2007 CF Games champion Jolie Gentry crushing a workout one night. Aside from the training aspects, two other things are remarkable about Catalyst. Firstly, I am a great believer in associating with quality people, and they have that part dialled down there. Steve and Alyssa are two competitive lifters that are both friendly and humble people and are dedicated to their coaching duties for the recreational lifters and fitness group respectively. In addition to that, the lifters that train there genuinely seem to be friends and the environment in the gym was very positive. Secondly, you have to have PASSION if you truly want to succeed in your position. You can tell that Greg honestly loves his job - it's evident in the way he coaches and interacts with his athletes, his commitment to excellence, and even how he has hand-built many of the structures and platforms in his gym. Overall, it was a great trip and my only regret is that I didn't get so spend more time down there... maybe a week next year! Cam

Monday, 28 May 2012

GOLD coaching advice

This one is NOT for the kids or the workplace but is a GREAT video for so many different reasons.  Picked this link up from Freddy Camacho's One World blog.  Check it out:

What needs to be understood is that beneath the bravado, the swearing, and the verbal beatdowns is that this guy loves his job.  He likes the people that go train with him for more than the reason that they are easy cannon-fodder for his wit... and he LOVES his fellow co-workers.

Lesson #1 - find your passion and pursue it

Lesson #2 - surround yourself with good people

That's a pretty damn good start!


Thursday, 26 April 2012

Literal Power

Letters and words... truly a definitive part of human culture.

Quotes, phrases, and catchwords are everywhere, plucking at our thoughts, feelings, dreams.    
Slogans catch our eye through the simplicity of their message – they entice us to follow brands and trends or to follow dreams of “what could be”.
Words truly do have power... and if a particular arrangement of letters resonates with you, then you can grow more powerful from it.
I know a lot of good phrases – I’m a words guy.  Words and language are my game and exactingly accurate communication is the goal.
That being said, it’s taken a while for me to settle on my keystone word – the one that makes everything fit together.
I’ve found that word now.


The pursuit of something (or many things) with undying perseverance. 
The unwillingness to settle.
The desire to keep striving.
I like this word. 
It extends through all domains in my life: my search for continued physical performance, my desire to utilize my coaching talents to their fullest and enhance people’s lives, my need to create and nurture a strong and close-knit family.
It speaks of toughness, both physical and mental.
It is goal oriented in nature.
It implies a purposeful progress forward.
It is a good word.
That’s why you’ll begin to see “Relentless” increasingly and inextricably associated with Podium SC.  You’ll see it on my blog, on our training gear, on our letterhead, and, most importantly, in the attitudes and performance of our athletes.
If it resonates with you, join us and enjoy the progress.  If not, continue searching for that theme that defines your purpose and passion. 
Take hold of it and let it make you powerful.


Friday, 30 March 2012

Sample Sessions

So I get the occasional email or question in the gym about training... more specifically, what the training of my athletes looks like and how my programs are constructed.  The questions typically come from crossfitters (inquisitive bunch) so I give them a bit of an idea of the fun that my crossfit athletes get to have on a regular basis.

The best way to describe the bulk of the training is a "crossfit by pieces" approach... meaning I identify the key abilities a crossfitter needs to have and then work them either seperately or in synergistic combos to achieve the desired effect.  As competition season (or the more important parts of the comp season) approaches, the training gets a bit more "crossfitty" but retains some of the principles of the "pieces" approach.

Since the athletes I coach pay for my programming, I don't think it's a great idea to share everything that I give them but I figure it won't hurt to put a few sample sessions out there for interested people.

Here's a three day block that is happening this week.  It is adjusted for each athlete depending on their needs but the general idea is the same.

Day 1 - Aerobic Power
Rowing or Deathbike (aka Airdyne):
3 min hard, 3 min rest.  15 min of - 30s hard, 30s easy.  3 min rest.  3 min hard.

Day 2 - Applied Strength
Snatch Balance - 5 x 3
Snatch Pulls - 4 x 2
Intervals - 5 power snatch (weight dependent on athlete), 7 hspu, 14 box jumps.  rest 3 min between rounds, 5 rounds total.  the last part was adapted from an OPT wod for Thursday of this week.

Day 3 - Anaerobic Capacity
Quick build to heavy C+J (10 min)
Intervals -
Quadskis - 3 heavy FSquat, 6 heavy smooth thrusters, 12 wallballs (up-weighted - 20lb girls, 25-30lb guys).  Rest 2 min, 5 rounds
Upper Bod - 15 sec ring dips, 15 sec pullups, 30sec rest x 4 x 2 (rest 5 min between groups of intervals).

So you can see two things clearly - 1. each day has a specific purpose, and 2. there's some really hard work in there!

Give one or three of those sessions a shot and send me an email or put up a comment to let me know how it went :)

keep fit and have fun


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

"Injury focused, performance limited"

I’ve been mulling the phrase “injury focused, performance limited” over in my head for about a month now.  I figure a month of thinking about something is long enough, so I’m hoping that writing it down will allow me to move onto my next theory obsession. 
As you are reading the paragraphs below, keep in mind that I am not a doctor or sports medicine practitioner and so in no way am aiming to guide your decision making regarding  your personal exercise plan… but I am trying to make you think about what you are doing.
There are two types of people in the world – resilient people, and soft people.  Resilient people forge ahead, get outside of their comfort zone, and are strong and fit, both mentally and physically.  Soft people find excuses to be satisfied with being less than their potential and are as a result, physically and mentally unfit.
In the exercising world, the resilient people are the ones trying hard, pushing fitness in new areas, and training through minor soreness or working around issues that come up.  The soft people are the ones that shy away from work at the first twinge or sign of DOMs or any significant discomfort.  Invariably, the reason why these people back down is because of fear of injury.
Having an injury-focused mindset is like trying to drive with the handbrake on… sure, you can do it, but you are holding yourself back substantially and will never see your best performance.  The unfortunate thing is that this injury mentality is reinforced through several common pathways and is also a descending spiral.
Some of the most powerful reinforcement can come from misguided physios, chiros, trainers, and doctors.  Most times it is not intentional – it’s just that many of these practitioners view people as having “problems” that need to be fixed… it’s just a mindset that directs their way of thinking.  Having a professional tell you that you should not be doing certain things (which may or may not be the case) removes power from you.  The more things you are told you cannot do, the more things you believe that you cannot do.
I see this all the time with athletes I train and people in the general gym environment, and the reinforcement from their guiding professional is strong.  I’ve seen world champion athletes reduced to barely moving lying on the floor – which was their strength program!  I’ve seen housewives and househusbands train for months on end doing useless micro-movements for stability and balance and seeing no visible changes in their capacity.
I can assure you that 99% of people have issues, some mild, some more serious, but we all have issues.  Any sports medicine practicioner would have a field day with my body after 13 years of rugby and 3 of BMX and likely I would never be able to do much after that if I listened to them.
I have been told, on separate occasions, that I should stop doing (forever!) the following things:  deadlifts (bulging disc), bench press (shoulder surgery), shoulder press (AC separations, shoulder surgery), pull-ups (shoulder surgery), and running (dislocated foot, 5 fractured bones)… say nothing of overhead squats or muscle ups!  I do all of the above, and at pretty good performance levels because I refused to accept that injuries would dictate my physical life.
 If we allow ourselves to become wrapped up in the fact that we are not functionally perfect, we will begin to pursue that theoretical ideal at the expense of all other aspects of fitness.  If we allow ourselves to be so focused on our “injury” issues that we actually cease any productive training then the descending spiral begins.
The descending spiral is this – the more you focus on injury (real or perceived), the more limitations you put on yourself and the more likely you are to become more injured!
Strength provides resiliency and function yet it is one of the first things to be dropped from an injury-focused program. 
“I can’t do deadlifts/squats/presses/pull-ups” … i.e. I have ceased to be a useful human, but I’m allowed to lie on the ground/BOSU/Stability ball and make small movements with my arms and legs!
What’s even worse is that these “rehab-prehab-balancing” programs are often touted as “functional” – but truly what could be more functional than being able to lift, carry, and move things?
Sidetracked slightly, but the point is there – if you allow a real or perceived injury to permeate your daily thinking, you will never gain in performance and will likely become more injured as a result.  The vast majority of minor injuries will sort themselves out over time simply by continuing to move… that movement may change in type, duration, and load, but it still needs to be as challenging as possible.
Do not be soft.  Be resilient.  Move forward with hope and courage as opposed to fear.  You will see gains in all aspects of your life.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

100% at 90%

Mike at full effort AND output

In competition, mental intensity and work output are the keys to success.  It is imperative that you learn how to switch on your body and mind so that you can perform at 100% capacity.  With single seconds, reps, and pounds deciding placings this is all the more important.

There are many people out there though that operate 100% at 90% ... which means that they are performing at 90% output 100% of the time.  Note that I said output, and not effort... these are different and your mind can trick you into believing that they are one and the same.

100% effort is you feeling like you are giving your best on that day.  The trouble is that if there is underlying fatigue or lack of mental focus, your 100% effort is NOT going to be 100% output.

100% output is your maximum physiological capacity for completing work - i.e. what your body is truly capable of.  This not only requires full effort but also a rested and primed physiological state.

Typically in Crossfit people tend to push themselves hard (maximally?) every workout.  This can be (almost) okay if you work out infrequently and aren't concerned about performance.  However if competition achievement is your game, you need to change your mindset.

You need to be able to recognize when you are physically ready to compete at your best and are also mentally tuned for peak performance.  The way to do this is twofold - adjust your effort level on a daily basis and target key wods to demonstrate maximum output.

Performing workouts at 70, 80, 90% effort will reveal several things to you (more on that later) but will most importantly allow you to judge what is easy, moderate, hard, and maximal.  It will also provide your body with opportunities to grow its fitness in other areas while helping avoid excessive fatigue. 

By targeting 1 key workout a week and getting prepared mentally and physically for it, you will begin to be able to demonstrate 100% output.  Practicing operating at this intensity will improve your ability to repeat it in other workouts and will sharpen your competitive edge.

So if you feel like you're putting out 100% but are performing at 90% or below, try the suggestions above - with training for the 2015 Open already underway, dial in your focus and work some quality.


Thursday, 26 January 2012


If you have time.

If you have energy.

If you have food, shelter, safety.

What is your excuse for not becoming the best you can be?

We are all fortunate.

Do justice to your talents.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Muscle Up Technique and Training

I recently discovered this excellent video (see bottom of post) of all-round awesome Annie Sakamoto performing muscle ups in slow motion at the 2011 CF Games.  There are many styles of muscle up technique now practiced, Annie has more of a classical "pull" style which is the same one I typically employ under fatigue.

Watching the video has validated the training advice I give to people who are learning the muscle up or are looking to improve their rep numbers in it - practice hard ring rows (with/without false grip) and deep dips. 
I once heard a gymnastics coach describe the muscle up as "the highest pull-up you've ever done into the lowest dip you've ever done".  This does describe some muscle up variations quite well (i.e. the stricter forms), however you can clearly see that Annie isn't really performing a pull-up in the usual sense of the word.

For Annie, the real "pull" motion occurs with the body virtually parallel to the ground (i.e. not vertically positioned) which is "rowing" strength and power as opposed to pullup strength and power.  Once she flips her shoulders forward though, the dip position she achieves is VERY deep - note that the upper arms are well below the top of the rings... (also influenced by the size of her arms - Annie is not the tallest athlete). 

As you get fatigued and height of pull decreases, the only thing that will save your muscle up is fast action forward and strength from a low dip position.  It is worthwhile then to really extend the depth of your ring dips when practicing for muscle ups.  A drill that is particularly useful is repeatedly lowering into the deepest dip you can control and practicing letting the rings drift slightly away from your body and then drawing them back in before pressing back up to full arm extension.  Only perform this if you are strong in ring dips and have healthy shoulders.

The other video links in the youtube sidebar (all from user "hookgrip") show some of the other women performing muscle ups also.  There are variations in technique which typically involve different lowering strategies and size of kip.  Depending on the technique used, the dip may be as low as Annie's or may also be higher but all of the women pass through the parallel or close to parallel body position and therefore are pulling in a "rowing-horizontal" direction. 

So the short advice is - if you employ a "pull" technique similar to Annie, invest some time in getting some ring rows done (make them hard - 4-6 reps max) and work a very deep dip and some ring holds in the bottom dip position.  Your muscle up numbers will soon improve and you will save more reps that you may have lost before!


Thursday, 19 January 2012


(nice quilt)

Most people think 'programming' means simply making up workouts.  It doesn't.  Programming is a systematic and thoughtful arrangement of sessions towards an end result.

I liken it to making a quilt (something I've never done but I understand the process of).  Ideally, you have a design for your quilt and then you work backwards.  With a design you will know where each square of cloth gets placed and how to interlock them to get the desired effect.

Two things are necessary for this to happen: 

1.  You have to know what you want the quilt to look like (so in our case, what is the desired outcome of the program).

2.  You have to know which squares (training methods and modes) to use and how to assemble them.

It takes an understanding of the physiological effects of training and years of solid strength and conditioning experience to accomplish 1+2 together. 

If one or both of those components are lacking, then the programming will suffer, typically resulting in a disjointed day-to-day approach (i.e. we did squats on Monday, so we shouldn't do them on Tuesday!).  In these circumstances, who knows what the quilt (or resulting fitness) will look like.

I should mention that for a lot of Crossfitters, this simply doesn't matter.  They just want to turn up and crush themselves.  However as an affiliate owner or coach you have a responsibility to offer high quality service to your membership (they are paying premium prices after all), and that should involve a thoughtful, reasonable, and effective approach to programming.

Keep fit and have fun,


Monday, 16 January 2012

Age and muscle loss?

Check out these images from
The incredible unaging triathlete

Definitely it's not the whole story as a multitude of factors can intervene and these aren't the same (or matched subjects) under different conditions but pretty powerful nonetheless!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Speaking Volumes

The 2012 Reebok Crossfit Games Open is 40 days away.

Last year's motto (for me) was "I will not be undertrained" - you can probably guess what happened as a result.  My weekly training sessions from November 2010 through to Regionals in May 2011 averaged just over 8 (range 5 to 12).  I got in very "fit" condition but burned out early (dropping strength into the Regionals) and developed bilateral knee tendonitis that only started easing off a few months ago.

This year's motto is "Do more with less".  My prior 6 weeks of training featured 5.5 average training sessions per week, this current 6 week phase is capped at 5.  Less volume requires a more focused and accurate approach - I can't afford to spend time on activities that aren't directly contributing to a specific aspect of my competition fitness.  As a result, there is a lot of structure to my weeks and I know exactly what characteristics I am training each day.

So far, my body feels great.  I'm doing weekly tester wods for both a training effect and to monitor my metcon status as compared to last year, so it will be interesting to see where I stand on those.

I have confidence in my approach - both from the standpoint that I believe I will compete strongly once competition time comes and also that I will be in a healthier (and more sustainably healthy) state.  This is a manifestation of another transition in my fitness training that has more of a longevity component to it, but more on that later.

The target is to make Regionals and place better than last year.  If it works, maybe I'll drop down to 3 sessions a week for 2013!

Good luck to all those who are prepping for the Open - I'll see you online.


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Batman's Training Program

My friend and colleague Tyler recently forwarded me this training program performed by the Dark Knight.  It is a high volume and high weight program and not for the genetically average, but Bruce Wayne can afford to be a pro athlete given his millionaire status and given his physique, he’s definitely on the upper end of the genetic spectrum.  He’s also really got to be able to walk the walk day in and day out and truly may face some very unexpected and dangerous circumstances, so his training better be on point.
There’s definitely some crossfitty type stuff in there, including a 5-round Helen twice in the week.  I like that he balances his high intensity work with easier activities and some focused meditation – something that we all should be doing.  Those 30 min AM runs are reminiscent of Mikko Salo’s typical programming and will help his body recover and regenerate, along with providing some important aerobic adaptations.  The gymnastics work and combatives practice are a must, and his dedication to flexibility training is refreshing in an athlete of his strength and power… especially as he ages and begins to lose some of his youthful suppleness.
 If I was his strength coach, I’d add a few components though (assuming this is representative of his year-round training program):
·         There’s really no speed work (sprinting) in there and given that he may have to generate some decent forward momentum for a big leap off a building, I think that would be appropriate.  Also, I think the Joker is pretty spry, so you want to be able to close the gap quickly in order to punch him a few times.  I’d pop it in on the Tuesday morning after a solid warmup so that it is a couple days away either side from his Helen wods.
·         Instead of the second day of clean and jerks, I’d put some snatches in there.  Firstly this creates a bit of a different stimulus and secondly it’s way more impressive to flip some criminal up over your head in one movement than in two.  Given his C+J weights, Batman would likely be able to crush 8 x 3 at about 220+, which is pretty decent.
·         I’d like to see some obstacle course work in there… mixing in some horizontal rope traverses, ducking under/hopping over obstacles, and walking tightropes/balance beams.  Bruce has a lot of flexibility work in his program already so it would be nice to transfer that into fluid movement for stealthy approaches.  I’d put this in as an anaerobic interval circuit instead of the second Helen wod of the week.
·         Lastly, it would be really cool to see what his Filthy 50 or Fran time is… so he should switch up that Monday wod and rotate through some different challenges!
·         There are a couple other tweaks of course that could be made, including using odd objects and mixing up his strength work but I think the above would do wonders for his overall readiness.
Batman’s program represents something that is possible but not probable…  but then again if you’re a superhero then you should be able to defy common convention and as Tyler says "that's why he's the Batman."  Fair enough! 

Monday, 9 January 2012

Priming the Hips for Olympic Lifting

One very common flaw in a lot of athletes’ Olympic lifting (myself included) is shorting extension of the hips in the last pull.  Not fully extending the hips can lead to both less power imparted to the bar and a poor bar path (too far forward – more evident in the snatch, but causes problems in the clean as well).
In quite a few athletes, this issue is compounded by limited ROM in the front of the hip, so it’s best to address full hip extension mobility for those individuals.  For others who are able to adopt a fully extended position in a static test but short hip extension in the actual lifts, the barbell hip thrust may be the answer.
This exercise has gained a lot of popularity both in bodybuilding and athletic circles for its ability to develop the glutes… which we know are very important in terms of hip extension.  When performed correctly, the hip thrust not only strengthens the glutes but it also encourages simultaneous relaxation at the front of the hip and patterns in the full hip extension that we want to see in the Olympic lifts.
The video below from Iron Samurai blogger Nick Horton details the ideal way to perform and integrate the barbell hip thrust into your Olympic lifting training.  I agree with Nick’s suggestion to perform the exercise in a progressive loading manner and before training – adding in some prior mobility work before the hip thrust.

If your lifts have stalled for a while or you have the habit of a short extension, give the barbell hip thrust a go for a 4 week period.  You may find some crossovers into sprinting speed, jumping, deadlifts, or any other movement in which the glutes are primary movers… and hey, if it doesn’t work, you’ll probably end up with a more well rounded posterior J

Thursday, 5 January 2012

In Praise of the Football Bar

If you've trained for a long enough time, are flexibility-challenged, or are a Crossfitter, you likely have had some wrist pain from pressing exercises.  Most often, poor warm-up practices and lack of flexibility combined with repeated extension of the wrist will combine to create a descending cycle of pain and limitation.  You can only mask this for so long with tape and wrist wraps, so why not give your joints a break?

Enter the Football Bar.  Engineered so that the hands are in a neutral (or semi-neutral) position as opposed to fully pronated or supinated (overhand or underhand), the Football Bar is a useful tool.  With the hand in a neutral position the wrist is less prone to get pushed into a high degree of extension (i.e. the pain zone).  What this means is that you can press, push press, thruster, and bench press to your heart's content with minimal wrist strain.  This will minimize damage in the short term that could become a larger problem further down the road.

Because of the orientation of the hands, the angle of the upper arm relative to the torso can change also.  This can provide a unique and challenging stimulus along with the subtle alteration in the stability characteristics of the bar (especially at lockout).  I've found doing thrusters with this bar to be productive and much easier on my wrists than with a standard barbell.  The only difference is that its harder to stay tight in the bottom of the squat.  I've also used it for push press, bench press, and regular presses and find it is often easier on my shoulders.

The bar I use is from Westside Barbell (currently $350 US) but I'm sure there are other options out there.  Definitely worth a consideration for yourself or your training group.


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Manual Labour

Even as the 2012 CrossFit Games Open approaches and training becomes more specific to metcon performance, I like to try and get "outside the box" when possible.  There is always the assumption that CrossFit-style training transfers out to a wide range of physical activities and I like to test that assumption when the opportunity arises. 

Activities done without the relative comfort of the barbell and within constantly changing and unbalanced environments provide insight into true transfer of fitness.  They can also help identify weaknesses and challenge the body in new ways.  Many of the best forms (in my opinion) of real world fitness challenges are represented by manual labour tasks.

Digging fence holes, sawing logs, moving dirt, and building a stone wall are all relatively simple labour tasks that will quickly show if you have real world strength and fitness.

I had the opportunity over the recent holiday break to try out my fitness in a similar task.  My dad lives on top of a bluff overlooking the ocean and has carved a very steep path of 99 winding steps down to the beach.  Several deadfall logs clog up the lower area of the stairs and so he set about to cut them up into rounds for firewood.  The challenge for me was to carry the rounds up the stairs and through the back yard.

The rounds weren't all that heavy - maybe about 20lb on average - but were mismatched in size, of an awkward diameter, and 99 steps is nothing to sneer at.  I set a goal of making 10 trips and trying to maximize the number of rounds I brought up.  In the end, over about 50 minutes, I brought up 17 rounds - pretty poor by horsepower standards but it was a pretty tough challenge for me (I'll do another post up with heart rate data from the task soon).  7 trips were done with 2 logs and 3 trips were completed carrying one (heavier) log at a time.

I found that the gripping and holding of the rounds was as hard as the climbing and tried a variety of techniques - holding them on my shoulders to by my sides to in a front rack position on my chest.  All of those carrying styles taxed me in a different way and added to the challenge of the activity.

It was difficult but enjoyable - there is definitely something to be said for exercising in the outdoors and seeing physical proof that the energy you put in has had an impact.  You lift a barbell 50 times and it comes to rest in the same spot it started.  You climb 990 stairs and now there's firewood to chop up and keep friends and family warm - it's a little bit different.