Category Archives: CrossFit

Strength vs. Technique

Being stronger is better. Period. Anybody that tells you otherwise, doesn’t know anything about being strong or about being better. Strength is not just how hard you contract your muscles nor is it how big your muscles are. Strength is the productive application of force. Strength is force applied at the right place and at the right time to complete a task. If you cannot complete the task, then you are not strong enough. No amount of stepping on the pedal or turning the wheel will make your car go forward if there is no engine under the hood. The bigger the engine the faster the car goes. There is no real world situation where strength is a disadvantage. It’s not the only important thing but you should never pass up an opportunity to get stronger and avoid people that encourage you to do so as they are not to be trusted.

Jiujitsu guys love to give lip service to technique. And you see guys complain when they get tapped that the other guy was using too much strength and their technique was bad. A tap is a tap. In the real world we don’t tap just because someone used good technique. We tap because the move worked. Technique is merely the movements or positions used to accomplish a task. There are many many different techniques that can be used to accomplish the same task. When we rate a technique as good or bad what we are really looking at is the amount of energy expended to accomplish the same task. One technique is “better” than the other if it accomplishes the same task with less energy. Both good and bad techniques can be effective and accomplish the task, but the more efficient technique will lead to better results in the long run.

I want you to have strength and technique because both of these vectors point in the same direction. We have all faced the person who has limited technical ability but they make up for it with a lot of strength and they are tough opponents and can overcome very advanced practitioners just based on their size and strength. We have also faced some tiny black belt that seems very frail yet they are able to gradually break down our defenses and submit us. However, the most formidable opponents are the ones that are strong and technical.

To separate strength from technique is actually a fallacy and cannot be done. Strength and technique both point toward task accomplishment, i.e. getting the job done. An athlete that has good technique will appear stronger because the techniques they use will maximize the force they can apply to an opponent. Conversely, a stronger athlete can overcome technical deficiencies with their strength and pull off moves that a weaker athlete would not be able to.

Choose strength and use that strength to bolster your techniques.

Simple Jiujitsu Workout

A common problem in jiujitsu is that people fatigue and give up position or their grip gives out when they are going for a submission and eventually have to let go before the opponent taps. These are failures of stamina and cardio-respiratory endurance. Stamina can be thought of as localized muscular endurance. Muscle fatigue is usually due to 1) the inability to supply them with enough ATP and/or 2) the inability get rid of the waste that is the byproduct of vigorous muscular activity. “Gassing” or failure of the cardio-respiratory system is due to 1) the inability to uptake enough oxygen and/or 2) the inability expel carbon dioxide expediently. Regardless of the deficiency, you need both stamina and cardio. It is of little use to have strong grip but get gassed before you can apply a choke or, in the alternative, can run circles around your opponent but cannot hold on to them. While these are different physiological and biological functions, in truth, there is lots of overlap.

Training your grip and lungs simultaneously might not optimize either function but will more accurately replicate the demands of a jiujitsu match where you need to be able to grip while your heart rate is high. With a little imagination you can create a vast amount of great workouts that will address both issues. Here is my suggestion for a very jiujitsu specific workout that will immediately start to improve your game. This is also the simplest workout I could think of that requires a minimum of space, time and equipment, thus it is nearly impervious to all your shitty excuses.

Equipment: 1) A pull-up bar or something to hang from. If you do not have a pullup bar, exposed beam, door frame, scaffolding, or staircase to hang from, then open a door and simply hang off the top of the door or throw a towel over the door and grab the towel. You will also need enough space to jump and lay on the floor.

Workout: Hang from the pull-up bar for as long as you can. When you finally come off the bar, immediately do 20 burpees and then jump up and hang from the bar again. Continue for as long as your typical match would be according to your rank.

White belt -5min; Blue belt – 6min; Purple belt – 7min; Brown belt – 8min; Black belt – 10min.   

If you are an adult blue belt, your matches typically last 6 minutes. Start the clock and jump up and hang from your pullup bar. Let’s say you can hang for 45 seconds, when you drop down you immediately start doing 20 burpees. As soon as you finish, you jump up and grab the pullup bar. Let’s say the burpees took 1 minute, you should be back up on the pullup bar at 1:46 and trying to hang again. Most likely you will come off much sooner the second time and each time after. If you find that you cannot consistently do 20 burpees consecutively and quickly (90 seconds or less), then drop the burpees down to around 10-15 reps. Any resting time should be done while hanging from the bar and any time on the ground should be spent doing burpees. Work to the point where you can hang for one minute or more each time you get on the bar. Then work on increasing the speed of the burpees until 20 can be done in less than a minute.

Once your hang times are consistently over a minute and your burpees are consistently less than a minute, then extend the time to the next belt level. Once you can do this for 10 hard minutes, you start to alternate hands while hanging so you are only hanging by one arm at a time or put on a weightvest.

If you want to make it more challenge, hang from one arm at a time and/or wear a weightvest.

Should I Scale

It’s “Open Season!” The CrossFit Games Open: The five weeks from February through March where CrossFitters all over the World compete with each other to see how they stack up. It is an amazing and stressful time of year for athletes and affiliate gym owners. For the affiliate owners, it throws a wrench into your regular flow of classes and programming because you have to clear out at least one day per week to run the weekly workout as well as time for people to make it up if they miss it or want to repeat it. You are also stressed because you have no idea what the workout is every Thursday night when it is announced. You do not know in advance what equipment or space or time requirements you will need for the weekly workout. The workouts have ranged from 4 minutes to 20 minutes and have required multiple pieces of equipment and space requirements that can tax the resources of smaller boxes.

On the other end, the athletes are faced with a new challenge each week that they are expected to give their all to. This means that between each weeks challenge the athlete has to continue to train but also recover enough to be prepared for the next challenge. Program has to be potent enough to keep athletes progressing and getting fitter throughout the five weeks, but also forgiving enough to allow athletes to be fresh each weekend to perform the workout once (or possibly more times).

The biggest question for most athletes is whether they should scale the workouts. For many athletes, the Open presents an opportunity to try going Rx’d for the first time and getting a personal record (PR). It might be some athlete’s first double under or pull-up or an opportunity to lift more weight than they ever have before. It’s this aspect of the Open that is the most inspiring across the community. Watching people dig deeper and expect more of themselves and those around them is the best. That being said, scaling is still a great choice for a lot of people. Take a realistic look at where you are at with respect to what is asked of you in the workout. If you cannot do a pull-up or a dip, then spending 14 minutes trying muscle ups is pretty pointless. Scale it so you can workout hard. If you’re close to a skill and have never had success previously, then the Open might be the right time to go Rx’d and see if you can get a PR.

However, if you really are going to sit around for most of the workout practicing, then maybe you should allocate that time to practice, but then do the workout scaled and get a good workout. Here is what most people forget about a properly scaled workout: it’s still a hard workout. You’ve simply taken what is an impossible workout and made it possible. If you think your scaled workout is too easy: you either did not scale it correctly or you were not trying hard enough. I recommend most people work on their movement first and their intensity second and then worry about the weights. People are eager to master more complicated skills and add more weight and that’s great but, in the meantime, work on getting the most out of the lighter weights and easier variations but being able to work at intensity. It’s the intensity that is going to get you results.

The workout this weekend (18.3) was a long one and I scaled it. I feel good about my choice, because it became a good workout for me. None of the moves or reps or weights in the scaled version by themselves were a challenge to me: single unders, overhead squats at 45lbs, dumbbell snatches at 35lbs and pullups. However, the challenge was to move as fast possible through the 928 reps. My goal was to keep moving and rest as little as possible. I finished the workout in 12:26 and I only had very small breaks in the transitions or when I tripped on the jump rope or could no longer hold on to the pull-up bar. Certainly there is room for improvement. It was a good test of my fitness and let me know that while I have some capacity in one gear, I need to find another gear and work on going faster still. My goal was to finish in around 11 minutes, so I missed the mark by about 90 seconds. The althernative was doing a bunch of double unders and overhead squats and then spending the remaining time trying to eek out a couple of muscle ups. Sure that would be fine but not much of workout. It would be a different kind of victory to get some muscle ups and feel good in that regard. However, the workout of 200 double unders and 20 overhead squats would just be an appetizer to the main dish of muscle up practice for 10 minutes. Whereas, by scaling I got to just push myself 14 minutes and get a fun and challenging workout.

There’s not one right way to do things, but choosing your adventure can change the outcome so think about what you want. And there is no rule that says you can’t do both.