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Posts Tagged ‘70’s big’

CrossFit: Nothing New

In Training on August 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

It seems to me that when CrossFit is poorly planned and haphazardly applied, it’s accused of being a dangerous wreck, but when it’s smartly implemented as part of a focused training program, it’s suddenly an innovative, cutting-edge approach to athletics.

Recently, I came across this video about the training regimen of MMA athlete George St-Pierre. It shows St. Pierre using gymnastics to work on his strength and agility. He uses O-lifts to hone his explosive power. There are also shots of him doing sledgehammer strikes and plyometric jumps. What are these techniques if not the same components of CrossFit? With all this Olympics press, I noticed everyone fussing over Ryan Lochte’s “unconventional training” methods. He does tire flips and keg throws. He tests his vertical jump. Actually, this isn’t new and remarkable. This isn’t innovative and unconventional. CrossFit isn’t even new.

Athletes have a long tradition of borrowing training protocols from other sports. Tabata intervals were invented long before CrossFit. “Cross-training” appeared long before CrossFit. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman simply tacked a name to something coaches have been doing for their athletes for a long time now. It’s not “dangerous” and “crazy” if done correctly, nor is it some revolutionary new system. It’s just that CrossFit suffers from poor quality control and some gyms do haphazardly incorporate techniques for which their members aren’t prepared… but, correctly implemented, it can help a middle-aged working mother get off her couch, it can help a 16-year-old football player get faster, bigger, stronger, and it can help MMA champions up their game in the ring. It’s just about thoughtful program design.

But designing programs for a CrossFit box has its own unique challenges. Whereas most athletes at a boxing gym are probably training to be competitive (even if just in a recreational sense), the members of a CrossFit gym are often more diverse than that. A lot of CrossFit boxes have competitive hopefuls as well as desk jockeys just looking for a good workout or to lose a little weight. Is there a way to design an overarching program that can cater optimally to both extremes? Or do boxes have to find a strange middle ground that doesn’t fully serve either individual? Or, is it appropriate for the individual to take his/her goals into his/her own hands? For the competitive athlete to stay after WODs and work on skill and technique? All this thinking about programming has really developed in me an admiration for people who do this well.

Speaking of programming, it is at last time for me to move on. I thank Justin of 70’s Big for his strength and conditioning program that helped me add 60 lbs to my deadlift, 25 lbs to my squat, 20 lbs to my clean, and 20 lbs to my press. My lifts, however, have slowed or stalled on everything and I feel that this strictly linear progression isn’t working for me anymore. I’m trying to decide on an intermediate lifting program that suits my needs. Here’s my evaluation of where I am:

– I like that I’m stronger, but I’m actually about 10 lbs under where I’d hoped to be for each lift, so strength is still important to me… but I’m no longer tragically below where I want to be.

– I like that I’m stronger, but I’ve lost my ability to carry that intensity into my new strength. I fatigue a lot quicker during WODs. I think there’s two reasons for this: 1) I’ve entirely avoided long WODs/metcons for the past five months, and I’m not accustomed to anything that demands endurance anymore. 2) Being able to lift more means that these lifts are now more demanding for me, and I’m not accustomed to carrying that intensity for multiple reps

– I can do a lot of movements, but can’t link them smoothly. My toes-to-bar and knees-to-elbow involve a weird half-kip between reps, and I max out at 8ish butterflies before I lose the rhythm and start swinging wildly. When I’m tired, that number’s closer to 3-5.

– I still don’t explode. I lift slowly… I’m not aggressive enough in my movements and I just… somehow have difficulty recruiting all my strength potential in a single movement. I often feel like I still have something left in the tank, I just don’t access it at the right moments.

I’d like to think that CrossFit Strength Bias can help me with that. Particularly, I appreciate this snippet from the CFJ article:

So, for the CrossFitter who has a need or desire to get much stronger much more quickly, who is unable to decrease his time on a benchmark “girl” because he just can’t move the weight any faster, or just can’t do the “hero” WOD “as Rx’d” because she can’t lift the weight, we introduce CrossFit Strength Bias.

That’s me. I can Rx Fran, but I don’t even want to test my time because the weight would have me moving much slower than the intense, sprint-like movement that the programmers had in mind. I have a slight misgiving about CFSB in that it doesn’t work the power clean– and I’d like to, in order to both build on my technique and to work on my explosive power… but I think people have successfully incorporated it before. I’m thinking about subbing it in for the front squat day. Anyway, I’m going to be finessing the details of my regimen in the past few days, and I’m sure I’ll update you on that. Another “wild card” for me is that I know I want to participate in Penn State’s powerlifting open and to do that I intend to train a little bit with the powerlifting team and I’m not sure how that will work/what sort of training I’ll do with them…

Anyway, happy Monday to everyone.

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Foodstuffs and Linear Progressions

In Food, Training, WOD on June 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Welcome to Day 5 of my “Whole 14” challenge. Breakfast is served:

I’ve found that a really easy, convenient breakfast is to mix canned seafood (today, crab… yesterday, salmon; the day before, tuna…) with an egg and fry it in a pan with some olive oil. It turns into something between an omelet and a burger patty. You can also play around with seasonings. Today, there was oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Yesterday I went with something spicier– chipotle and paprika. Also reheated leftover veggies from last night, and whipped up a quick paleo mousse for the hell of it. I didn’t use the maple syrup since it’s not “whole 30 compliant,” and I added coconut oil as well as… wait for it… mashed cauliflower. I know it sounds weird, but I had leftover, unseasoned cauliflower and it’s utterly tasteless when you blend it in, I promise. It just tastes like coconutty chocolatey goodness. … really.

Stop judging me.

I may have licked the food processor.

And the food processor blades.

I also only used 2 TBSP cocoa powder, which is why it’s a lighter color than the one on the recipe’s website. Personally, I thought it tasted plenty sweet without the maple syrup, but if some of you are trying to stay Whole 30 compliant and need the touch of sweetness, I imagine dried fruit (dates? figs?) could do the trick– or maybe some applesauce or 100% fruit juice of some kind.

I also still wanted something starchy, so I ate a 1/2 microwaved sweet potato. I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to eat more starches than most people on the Whole 30.

I had a pre-WOD snack of turkey + almond butter (yes, I combine deli meats with nut butters… I actually didn’t think this was strange until I started telling people this), then the gym.

Today, I managed to pull 1.75x bodyweight for 5reps for my Deadlift, but I know my form was hideous before the end, so I’m actually going to stay at this weight and repeat it next week, hopefully for better form. I did some more research on linear progressions, particularly the CrossFit football template (since I’m doing the 70’s Big S&C Program and the two are very similar). According to the CFFootball experts, most of their athletes require a reset by week 12. They recommend that you then take the lift back to where it was 3 weeks ago and start back up. Most linear progressions peter out around 20 weeks, when all the lifts stall out.

I’m actually creeping up on week 12, so it makes sense that my lifts are starting to feel a little wobbly. I hope to push this for at least another month or two. My press has already been reset once… my clean is getting wobbly, and we know I have concerns about my squat. However, I hope to still see gains on my bench. They recommend that you ride the linear progression until all lifts stall out, which I intend to do . After that, I hope to look into another strength-focused program, but probably one less linear (I mentioned before that I really like CrossFit Strength Bias).

Anyway, after the deadlifts, I did 3 sets of pull-ups, and actually participated in the box’s WOD today. It’s been a while since I’ve done a more traditional CrossFit workout and I’ve been missing them. Besides, today looked quick and like it would clock in well below my 15 minute time cap:

WOD:

50 Double-Unders

40 American Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1pd)

30 Walking Lunges with plate overhead (45lbs/25lbs)

20 Med Ball Cleans (20lbs/14lbs)

10 Squat Clean Thrusters (95lbs/65lbs).

A quick, fun chipper.

After the WOD, I repeated the post-WOD snack of a hard-boiled egg and a nuked sweet potato:

Confession: I’m a sucker for oddly-shaped produce…

Then shower and lunch. Still feeling more sore than usual. I don’t actually miss or crave the taste of my recovery shakes anymore, but I’d still like to reintroduce them after the Whole 30 to see if there were actually helping with my recovery… otherwise I can’t explain the increased achiness of my past couple of days.

Anyway… yesterday was actually a surprisingly productive flurry of writing for me. Let’s hope today I can maintain some of that momentum. Happy Monday, folks.

So Mother****ing Badass

In Rhetoric, Training, WOD on April 19, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Here’s the thing… though I am a woman blogging about fitness, I’ve actively avoided posting about “women in fitness.” There are several reasons for this. One, I’ve misstepped and misspoken often enough that I don’t feel as if I have any right to criticize anyone. Two, there are so many articulate, intelligent bloggers out there who’ve already said what needs to be said (the problem is putting those words into action). But, in all my strength program research, I’ve run across so many inane posts that I’m going to abuse your patience, dear readers, with a little verbal musing.

I’m still consistently surprised by how many women are genuine afraid of building muscle. The amount of “will this program make me bulky” questions out there make me laugh. Firstly, because I don’t see the rationale behind the muscle-aversion, but secondly… do they think it’s that easy for women to bulk up? I love the image of some unsuspecting girl waking up like she-hulk because she accidentally squatted too heavy and drank a protein shake. And hell, even if she were some lucky genetic freak of nature who put on muscle easily, it would never be an instantaneous process. She could easily decide that she didn’t like her newfound strength (god knows why) and back off the lifting and resume… Zumba, or whatever it is people do for fun that doesn’t involve moving heavy things.

That said, I’m also wary of people who too readily disparage these women. I balk at the idea of women who are afraid of muscle because it says something to me about the image we’ve built of women and their relationship to strength– physical or otherwise. But on the other hand, I don’t like the ways in which people feel as if they have a right to judge others and their relationships to their individual bodies. After all, it’s her body and if she wouldn’t be comfortable as a firebreather with a 4 minute Grace, what right do I have to disparage her for it? I may be sensitive to this issue because there are still individuals in my life around whom I’m uncomfortable wearing short sleeve after one too many unpleasant remarks about “muscle” (even though I’m far from she-hulk, I promise). And then I feel guilty about the self-censorship as if I’m “caving” to some sort of outside pressure, but sometimes it’s easier than repeating the same arguments…

Last summer, I was at a cafe with a few of the other women in the English Department. One of my coworkers– who is usually a very pleasant, considerate individual– hissed an appallingly judgmental remark about a random girl in the restaurant. The girl was thin, but not dramatically so. I wish I remembered her phrasing, but my colleague made some very derisive, snarky “joke” about how the girl must never eat. I was taken aback for a moment– that she was so quick to judge someone based on how she looked, and… on the off chance that this girl actually had an eating disorder, that it would be an impetus to jeer at her in passing.

I attribute her (my coworker’s) perspective to the collective knee-jerk reaction to the unrealistic portraits of women painted by the media/etc/every other straw man we like to burn in the name of our societal fuck-ups. I suppose it might be a necessary step in the rejection of these paradigms and the adoptions of new ones, but… why combat negativity with negativity?

It makes me think about some of the rhetoric that comes out of CrossFit. For the record, I love that CrossFit promotes strength in women– that it sees beauty in figures for their functionality rather than abstract aesthetics– “My butt is awesome because it can back squat a small car” (I wish… I’ll get there… give me a few years :p) I appreciate the sentiment behind “Strong is Sexy,” and I love the CrossFit Women’s Creed. But, “Strong is the New Skinny” makes me laugh. The reason we even want a “new skinny” is because there were so many damn things wrong with the old skinny. The old skinny glorified unrealistic (and honestly, unattractive) portraits of undernourished models. The old skinny inspired crash diets and compulsive cardio and stigmatization of strength in women. The old skinny prompts snarky criticisms of unfortunate girls in downtown cafes who might just happen to be genetically skinny rather than self-starved, aspring-model skinny. Strong shouldn’t be the New Skinny. It shouldn’t be any kind of skinny. But I suppose “Strong is so motherfucking badass it doesn’t need a slogan” makes for bad t-shirts.

Whoo… Okay, I suppose that’s my rant.

I’ve now completed one week of the 70’s big S&C program, which means it’s still way too soon to make any evaluative marks, but I’m feeling good about my squats. Coach Jefe said that I’m at least squatting deeper than I ever have before, which means that I’m at least achieving priority one– improve my form. Also, I did 3 sets of 5 at 90% bodyweight today, which felt okay. I’m getting nervous though as the weights increase. I wish the box had bumper bars. I feel troublesome having to ask for a spotter twice a week, but I’m trying to do my squats on open gym days so I don’t have to distract a coach from a class, at least. Also, my strict pull-ups are up to 3 sets of 6… I hope that translates into good things for my kips. A quick cool-down of skill work today… a very moderately paced six rounds of

6 wall balls

6 American swings

6 SDHP

6 pistols

6 pull-ups.

Waiting for a meeting with my thesis adviser now. Then porchside drinks with friends to enjoy this (long-awaited) summer warmth!

Jo Smash!

In Training, WOD on April 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm

As with most trends, CrossFit has more than its share of naysayers. I’ve read so many inane, misinformed articles denouncing CrossFit for any number of imagined defects. However, there’s one major criticism that’s stayed with me. A friend and a powerlifting coach here at Penn State told me: “The best CrossFitters are not CrossFitters. You do not get better at CrossFit by doing CrossFit.” On the one hand, that’s a little bit flawed because plenty of people experience phenomenal success (athletic, general-health-wise, WOD-times, body composition, etc) by following mainsite programming or standard box programming. But the thing is, most people who excel at CrossFit come to CrossFit with established athletic backgrounds. At our box, our coaches are former powerlifters, track athletes, baseball players, gymnasts, etc. Many of the elite athletes in the Games came with gymnastics backgrounds. Rich Froning apparently strength trains 8 months out of the year and WODs for the remaining 4. So, by the rule of majority, shouldn’t he be considered a powerlifter first?

I ran across a post on the CrossFit forum website:

Typical CrossFit met-cons and dietary recommendations will inhibit the body’s ability to get bigger and stronger. So much so many of us, myself included, have gone to strength focused programs because we can’t make gains if we do too many met-cons. We have to run the strength programs until we get our desired results then come back to traditional CrossFit.

And this man is a trainer at a CrossFit facility.

The forums contain a wealth of questions about what outside strength program to use in order to improve at CrossFit. The most popular ones include: Starting Strength, Wendler 5-3-1, Greyskull Linear Progression, CrossFit Football, and the 70’s big S&C program that I’m using. Greyskull’s website is overrun by CrossFit refugees who claim to have “seen the light” and returned to conventional strength training after a bout of CrossFit left them weak and exhausted.

But I see no need for this extremism. As much as I’ve enjoyed and taken advantage of the discursive online fitness community, I’ve never understood why so many individuals are so dogmatic and quick to judge. An inexperienced forum participant is often disparaged for his lack of knowledge, and I’ve seen novice athletes torn apart for ill-informed training practices. But if they’re already seeking advice, clearly they understand that they have more to learn.

At any rate, I’ve given the topic some thought and… CrossFit doesn’t market itself as a strength program. It’s a “strength and conditioning program” and often we forget about the conditioning part and how it impacts strength training. It’s very upfront about its lack of specialization, so naturally, those looking to hone their weaknesses might need to defer to other programs to build better foundations. So… after all that, you might ask me– why CrossFit? Why a sport that recruits (or steals) athletes from other sports, that createsunspecialized athletes that couldn’t outlift a powerlifter or outrun a sprinter? Because I’m not looking to specialize. I don’t want to be a competitive powerlifter or a professional sprinter (as if that would happen). I enjoy that CrossFit offers a fun solution to individuals looking to improve their health and stay fit, and it builds a supportive community of people who share those goals. I want to continue participating in this community, and I’d like the opportunity to someday help individuals improve their well-being through CrossFit (I think it’s the teacherly impulse in me… spread the knowledge!). But, in order to be in a position where I’m confident and comfortable instructing, I need to be comfortable performing the wide range of tasks that CrossFit demands. And, without a strong athletic background, I need to first build that foundation before I can go onto experience CrossFit as the practice and enjoyment of physical fitness.

That said, I wanted to share today’s WOD with you (it was my conditioning day) because it was just a load of fun. I’m told that this week’s programming was designed with recommendations by Jeff Martone, with whom the Cyborg is in regular contact. I believe they have Skype dates.*

5 Rds for time:

12 wallball sit-ups

12 wall balls

12 burpee smashballs

12 kettlebell snatches

with EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute 2 med ball cleans)

I enjoyed this WOD because it was so skill-based. I like that we’re introducing more technical movements into our workouts– and intelligently so, with carefully supervised, lightweight introductory WODs. And there are few CrossFit movements more cathartic than a burpee smashball. So if, hypothetically, a short, uncoordinated, little Asian CrossFitter not at all resembling Jo happened to hypothetically suck at wall balls, she could vent her frustration on hurling 10 lbs of rubber smashball to the floor.

*Jeff Martone is the generally acknowledged Kettlebell expert of the CrossFit world. As long as CrossFit icons are doing Skype dates, could I get one with Josh Bridges?

Back to Butt Basics

In Training, WOD on April 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm

First of all, thank you for all the helpful responses to my post yesterday. After too much research and  evaluation, I think I’m going to experiment with Justin’s Strength and Conditioning program from 70’s big:

(I attribute my discovery of this program entirely to a friend, who for the sake of our blog, shall be nicknamed The Archeologist — partially for his actual profession, partially for his ability to excavate and inventory every CrossFit article/video on each training topic, and not at all for his dashing resemblance to Indiana Jones*)

I like that this program prioritizes strength but also acknowledges that CrossFitters can’t be kept from their metcon tendencies and accounts for that. As much as I do want my strength gains, I think alot of this fitness fun would seem futile if it disallowed me from participating in the activities I enjoyed most. I also like that it’s modeled off a 5×3 structure, since I’m not a major fan of the reps-to-failure scheme of Wendler’s 5/3/1 template.

True to my geekish self, I spent last night mapping out a training plan that would allow me to use gym “rest days” to do my heavier strength days, the lighter strength days will go with short, strength-emphasis metcons, and I can still incorporate some O-lift skill work (more for technique than strength), and participate in occasional classes– and have a full rest day in there as well. What I disliked about doing my own strength routine for so long was that it kept me from being able to hop in with the normal CrossFit classes because my strength work was actually the bulk of my workout and I couldn’t speed through it at the pace that most people blaze through their 5/3/1 stuff. This way, I’ll have a day or two to do a class if I want, or on the lighter strength days, I might be able to come in five to ten minutes early and participate in the metcon. I think I’m going to avoid chippers for a while, though I love them.

The Archeologist was also kind enough to watch and comment on my abysmal squat form. A note: I’ll be dropping my weights significantly when I first start this program, paring everything back down to the basics. I think my back squat has been so inconsistent lately (I could do 1.2x bodyweight for 20 reps one week, and then barely seven the next)   largely due to really shitty form. So I’m going to start at ~85% bodyweight and add accordingly, going as deep as possible. Not sure why, but I never thought about pushing my butt back on the way up, only the way down— which seems silly now because it’s as if I were disregarding the lifting portion of the lift.

So instead of looking like this:

I should look more like this:

(don’t we all wish we could look more like Camille?)

… which bears close resemblance to, but is not actually this:

(photo from– and I’m serious– polekittenfittness.com)**

I’m fairly certain that the success I saw with the doubled-up 5/3/1 routine could be attributed to the higher amount of overall reps. Not only did I repeat each set, but– because I designed my own workouts instead of following the classes– I tended to do WODs that worked the same movement or muscle group with lower weights. I think my body responds better to more reps rather than more weight, and this new routine will account for that, but still hopefully leave me a little wiggle room for normal WODs.

Speaking of WODs. Today’s was pretty damn fun. Possibly the only thing I enjoy more than burpees: partner WODs (a partner WOD with burpees would almost be too much happiness– almost). I think the “team”/”community” aspect of CrossFit comes out best during team and partner WODs. I sometimes find it difficult to motivate myself when training alone, or working alone amid a “competitive” class, but I always want to push harder if I’m part of a team. It’s just impossible to whine or feel sorry for yourself when your buddy is pounding through his deadlifts right next to you.

WOD:

AMRAP 20

Partner 1: Deadlifts (185/115)

Partner 2: 1 round of Cindy (5 pull ups, 10 push ups, 15 air squats)

Count number of deadlifts.

Good times 🙂

At any rate, I’ll probably take it light on the weights for the next few days and start fresh on the new training routine next Thursday. I actually can’t wait and wish I could start sooner, but this works best with my schedule. It’s normal to feel childishly giddy about starting new strength programs, right?

—-

*Actually, I’m pretty sure The Architect could squat the boulder that chased Indy through the Temple of Doom.

** Yesterday, after Striking, we discussed the potential marriage of the newest fitness fads: CrossFit Pole Dancing. The Cyborg demonstrated; truly, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Marine veteran/CrossFit coach treat a Rogue rig as a stripper pole 😉