Tag Archives: crossfit

Routine: The Enemy Or The Path To Success?

CrossFit seeks to build a program that would best prepare trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the unknown but for the unknowable. Varying workout elements provides the mechanism for creating a stimulus that is broad, general and inclusive. Any program, no matter how complete, contains within its omissions the parameters for which there will be no adaptation. Routine is the enemy.

However, there is a natural tension that exists between varied stimulus and ordered progression that leads to success in many known tasks. Routine is a double edged sword: it can provide the necessary framework for success or lead to gaping blindspots that lead to the loss of game, mission or life.

Routines are habits and like habits can be good or bad. A good habit like brushing and flossing can be preventative of future pain and disease. And a bad habit like smoking can lead ultimately to illness and death.

The two guiding principles should be dosage and balance.

A routine of exercising everyday is generally favorable. However if your exercise routine every day is the same chances are it will eventually become ineffective and possibly detrimental. For example, if you run 3 miles every morning, at first that might be a huge benefit to your health. However, if the stimulus ceases to be sufficient enough to drive adaptation, you will cease to adapt and get the benefit of that exercise. Secondly, the repetitive stress of running everyday can lead to orthopedic injuries.

Biologically speaking exercise works on the principles of stimulus and adaptation. You overload your body with some stimulus of force, distance or time and your body adapts to that stimulus by creating more muscle fibers or becoming better at gas exchange or becoming more metabolically efficient. When the stimulus ceases to exceed a certain threshold, the body ceases to adapt. That is why all programs vary the parameters over time and progressively get more challenging as the athlete adapts.

The body is wired for survival. If you ask your body to run, it will run. If you ask it to lift, it will lift. However, the body isn’t wired for optimum safety and mechanics. You have to teach it to run and lift with proper mechanics. Each foot strike when you run can send a force of greater than twice your bodyweight into your body. Multiply that by the thousands of foot strikes you will make running 3 miles per day, then ask yourself how long your body can tolerate that before something gives.

Balancing variance with routine is a skill that must be cultivated. Create good habits but make sure those good habits have lots of room for variation. I taught yoga for many years in New York City and sometimes we would be in a studio on the second floor and sirens and the other sounds of the city would bombard us through the windows or we would be in a room inside a gym blasting techno music right outside. And most people found it very challenging to concentrate and relax. I would always remind my student that anybody can go to a mountain retreat and meditate and find peace and quiet but the true object of meditation is to find peace and quiet while in the middle of the storm of noise in the city.

Setting aside 6 minutes of 60 minutes every day to exercise is a good routine, but make sure that within that time you allotted that you have made it hard and stressful and taken yourself outside your comfort zone.

Advanced Kettlebell Course

I spent the weekend taking the CrossFit Advanced Kettlebell Seminar with Jeff Martone.  The content was divided between what I call “Old School” and “New School.”  The Old School stuff was rotational work with the kettlebells most notably the Windmill and the Bent Press, two lifts that are synonymous with physical culture.  Look at this iconic photo of Arthur Saxon.  How cool is that?  arthur_saxon.fw_

The new school content was what is known as Girevoy Sport or Kettlebell Sport.  In this sport like Olympic Weightlifting there are 3 contested lifts: the snatch, the clean, and the jerk.  However, unlike Olympic Weightlifting, this is an endurance sport where athletes compete to complete as many reps as possible (usually in 10 minutes) of either snatch, clean & jerk (“long cycle”) or jerk (“short cycle”).  They basically stand in one place and lift the kettlebell(s) as many times as they can without putting it down.  When competing with a single bell, they are only allowed one hand switch.  The bells can not be put down.  Merely standing and holding one or two kettlebells for 10 minutes without putting them down can be arduous.  Imagine exercising non stop for that time.

Personally I was excited to work on Windmills and the Bent Press was a move I have struggled with and was eager to get some pro tips on how to do it correctly.   I have had some exposure to Girevoy Sport through friends but never really had any desire to do it.  However, I was fascinated by the fact that my female friends could do 100 kettlebell snatches on each arm without putting the bell down.  My best was around 27.  So clearly there was something to be learned about efficiency.

I prefer the kettlebell moves where I do 3 to 5 reps per side and put the bell down.  When we got to the KB Sport section of the course I was less enthusiastic to be doing longer sets of cleans, jerks and snatches.  However, Jeff was able to layer on so many effective techniques to help relax.  The goal as he described it was not a powerful effort but effortless power.  With each passing set he cued different ways to stand without tension, to relax whatever body part wasn’t working like your face or the opposite arKB_Sport_Featurem.  He emphasized “anatomical breathing’–breath coinciding with the position of the body.  Constantly breathing and not holding the breath.  He emphasized a relaxed grip and different ways to minimize the stress on the grip.

By the end of the weekend we tested out with a set of 30 snatches on each arm with a 20kg kettlebell.  It was the easiest 60 kettlebell snatches of my life. I was shocked at how little I was winded after the effort.  My grip was taxed but I never felt like I had to drop the bell nor was I afraid it would fly out of my hand if I dared to do another rep.  I was a little surprised because, if you have ever spent two straight days swinging kettlebells, then you know your hands are just rubbed raw and your hamstrings are smoked, I thought for sure I was going to struggle to get to 30 reps.  I didn’t.  It was effortless power.

It made me start to wonder if I could use these techniques to do 60-100 reps of any exercise.  Martone claims that the Russians use that 100 rep milestone for squats and deadlifts and lots of other exercises.  Certainly being more efficient and more relaxed and breathing more would have to carry over.

I’m lucky if I breathe once per rep.  We learned that on just the swing itself you take two breath cycles.  Additionally, when you receive the bell there is an exhale, when you lower the bell there is an inhale.  If you rest with the bell in the rack or overhead, you continuously puff out short exhales.  Ultimately, there is way more breathing going on in one rep of a kettlebell snatch than I had previously imagined.  This breathing helps a lot in being able to sustain longer efforts.  I think about what I do in a set of wallballs or burpees and realize I am not breathing nearly as frequently as I could… or should.

Further exploration is required.

 

When It Finally Happens

So after many, many,…. many years of CrossFit I finally got a bar muscle up.  It was long overdue.  This weekend the CrossFit Open Workout 16.3 is 10 snatches and 3 bar muscle ups.  It was time to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.

To be honest, I really haven’t really tried very hard to do a bar muscle up.  I’ve done jumping bar muscles ups and banded bar muscle ups in workouts, but usually just avoided them a lot.  That being said, I have been working really hard on all the elements of a bar muscle up.  I do a lot of work on my gymnastics swing and my transitions and deep pullups and dips.  Today was the day I put all the pieces together.

Here are the things that conspired today to make me successful:

  • I have been doing the preparation: hammering positions and the basic fundamentals.
  • I had a bunch of supportive people around me cheering me on.
  • I had good coaching that helped me get closer and closer with each attempt.
  • There was an urgency because I needed to get them this weekend in the Open.
  • I tried…Hard.

I can’t stress how important each of these elements are to success.  Do you prepare? Do you surround yourself with supportive people?  Do you have a coach that can be objective and point you in the right direction?  Do you have a sense of urgency?  Are you trying hard?

I should probably state before all of this comes the belief in yourself.  Without a belief in yourself, nothing is possible.  Stack the deck in your favor and set yourself up for success.

 

A Stimulating Review

Electric Stimulation: Should I get a Marc Pro or a Compex?

What is E-Stim? By now you have seen a pic or two on social media of crossfit athletes with little electrode pads hooked up to them getting zapped by a tiny little machine. What is the deal with these things? Is it all hype or do they really work and should you get one?

recovery

I am not expert on these matters and I don’t have any strong scientific evidence to base my opinions on. I have been playing with the Marc Pro  and the Compex unit for the last month and will tell you what I found. In my opinion, both machines are excellent and worth the investment but both machines are different and serve different functions. I give several examples below of instances where I have had success with one machine or the other. Depending on your particular needs, figure out which situation sounds most like you and choose from there.

The two most popular machines are the Marc Pro and the Compex. I have had the opportunity to try both of them and here’s what I found.

What’s in the box?

I have had the Mobilitywod edition Marc Pro for over a year and really like it. It comes with the base unit, charger, 5 packs of electrodes, cables, instructions and carrying case. It is the simplest of machines. You connect the electrodes to the cables and plug them into the base unit, attach the electrodes to the areas you want to work and then turn up the knobs to the desired intensity: zero to nine (Oh how I wish it went to 11!). There is nothing else to do. If you like complicated gadgets, then the Marc Pro will disappoint you. If you want something you can set and forget, then this is the unit for you.

I have had a Compex Super Elite on loan for the last month and it comes with the base unit, 4 cables, 4 square pads, 2 rectangular pads, a charger, belt clip, instructions and pad placement guide as well as a carry tote. The tote doesn’t offer any protection and is too small to hold all the accessories. Despite that, the Compex is more compact than the MarcPro, feels more substantial and the pads are thicker, stickier and last longer. Also the pads have convenient snaps that are easier to connect and disconnect. By contrast, the marcpro pads have male to female connectors that are harder to connect and disconnect.

Based on craftsmanship the Compex wins. The Compex has more settings than the MarcPro. The settings are set & forget, but the Super Elite model has: potentiation, resistance, endurance, strength, explosive strength, recovery, recovery plus. It’s overwhelming and I couldn’t find a clear explanation of the differences. Each setting varies in time and intensity and the contraction algorithms are all different. Additionally, the Compex has 4 intensity buttons to raise or lower the intensity of each pad.

Based on output strength and the potential for unpleasant surprises, the Compex wins. You can quickly find yourself experiencing profound levels of discomfort as the Compex goes through various algorithms and zaps the heck out of your muscles.

But when it comes to whether or not to buy an E-Stim machine, it’s all about the results. I will share some great results I have had with these devices.

You want to prevent soreness.

I have been finding that if I do a healthy dose of self-myofascial release immediately post workout, I can prevent much of the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) I usually get. That being said, sometimes it is simply hard to squeeze in 30 minutes of rolling on my Yoga Tune Up® balls immediately after working out. Sometimes I find myself on a long train or plane ride post workout and rolling is a challenge. The Marc Pro has been a lifesaver. I can put the pads on and flush the lactic acid from my legs and avoid the DOMS.

For example, I did a workout that involved a LOT of squats (“Bring Sally Up”) with my 6pm class, then I taught 2 more classes and took an hour long train ride. When I got home at 11pm, I placed the electrodes on my quads (per the included placement guide) and then ran it for about an hour. It totally prevented the usual DOMS that comes 48 hours past a brutal squat session. If you have a schedule where you cram workouts in where you get them and don’t always have that optimal time to roll and stretch, then the MarcPro is a great investment.

You have pain and swelling.

Inflammation is part of the bodies natural healing process, and we want to help it along. Ice actually delays the healing process. The bodies lymphatic system is stimulated by movement. Traditional coaches will tell there athletes to keep moving after long, painful efforts. After a long run, a cool down walk assists the lymphatic system in moving the waste products out of the muscles and keeps the oxygenated blood flowing into the area. This is another reason why some self-myofascial massage is also beneficial after a strenuous physical effort. However, there are times when more movement just hurts or the area is painful and tender. This is another instance where the MarcPro excels.

For example, I did a strenuous gymnastic session that involved pull-ups, swinging on the rings and other hanging exercises and my hands hurt really bad. In fact, I woke up in the middle of the night with my hands throbbing and feeling swollen. I got out of bed and grabbed the Marc Pro and placed an electrode in the middle of each palm and one further up my arm (as shown in the placement guide). I kept the intensity low and rested. After around thirty minutes my hands felt normal again and I regained fine motor control. I was able to fall back asleep and woke up and my hands felt great.

Healing an injury.

Occasionally you have an injury that requires you to remain immobilized for a period of time. You have to reconcile this with the fact that movement is the best to heal injured tissues. In these instances there are a few things that work well to aid in the healing process. Voodoo Floss compression bands are great for ankle, knee, shoulder and elbow injuries. A tight wrap around a swollen joint will often blunt the pain signal enough to allow the athlete to gently move through a range of motion (passively or actively) and assist the healing process. Some self-massage around the injured area (NOT ON the injured area) will often help increase circulation. As you guessed, some e-stim around the area helps tremendously.

I have an injured collar bone and doing heavy clean and jerks left me bruised and unable to move my shoulder without pain. I placed the pads on the sternoclavicular joint, the pec minor, the levator scapula and the high pec/subscapularis, essentially surrounding my injured collar bone. I set the marcpro to a low intensity and took a nap. The pain and swelling was reduced and I was able to move without pain after a few sessions.

In another example, I made the classic mistake a crossfit coach makes and demoed some moves in class without warming up. All night my pec was killing me. I definitely strained it. I tried to roll and stretch during the next 3 hours in between coaching athletes but to no avail. I went home and attached the Marc Pro to my pec and left it on for 45minutes. The pain was gone before I went to bed. I woke up and I was sore but the pain was gone.

marcpro

More fun things to try with the MarcPro

I have seen Brian MacKenzie do some interesting work with the Marc Pro (https://youtu.be/jTMDODkTZ8Q) for immediate recovery during interval workouts. Also I have seen him use the MarcPro to increase muscle activation and proprioception. I am curious to try some of his protocols for the Marc Pro in these contexts.

Generally speaking, I am huge fan of the Marc Pro as recovery tool. If you are someone that works out hard and suffers from extreme muscle soreness and pain, then this is a smart investment. That being said, it is not a miracle cure. I have had the best results and the best recovery if I do my rolling and stretching, keep my diet clean, sleep and use the Marc Pro after especially hard sessions. This is not a magic machine that will fix your shitty squat and lower your “Fran” time, but it’s a great investment if you are training hard and looking for a way to improve your recovery game.

compexThe Compex is a different animal altogether and a good compliment to the Marc Pro. It uses varying intensities and speeds and waveforms that are different than the Marc Pro. The Marc Pro pretty much just zaps you at a steady rhythm and you can adjust the intensity but not the speed or any other parameter. The Compex utilizes various algorithms that vary in speed, intensity and duration. For example, you’ll be sitting there all calm and suddenly the machine just zaps your muscle into an isometric contraction that immobilizes you and makes you feel like you’re cramping hard for about 5 seconds. It seems like it is a surprise every time it happens too. For all it’s power the Marc Pro takes advantage of a wavelength and algorithm that allows the muscles to relax and doesn’t leave them feeling fatigued. After a session with the Compex I feel like i just got a tiny workout in the area.

I tried both the ‘recovery’ setting and the ‘recovery plus’ setting, as well as all the other settings, and didn’t have the same result as the marcpro when it comes to preventing soreness. It worked but just not as well as the Marc Pro. So if battling soreness is a priority, I recommend the Marc Pro.

Although I didn’t get as good a result when it comes to soreness, I did get some other great results with the Compex.

Muscle Activation

I have pinched nerves in my neck and as a result my right arm is atrophied and weaker than my left arm. I have been using the Compex in conjuction with corrective exercises to stimulate my right arm and shoulder and have seen an increase in muscular size and strength in my right arm. For a person with similar injuries, I highly recommend getting a Compex to help your injury.

The Compex in concert with corrective exercises is a great tool for getting the right muscles to fire and can be used to enhance the athlete’s proprioception.

Muscle Relaxation

My right lat is always cramping which I assume is due to my pinched nerves and the fact that it has to compensate for my weaker right arm. Using the Compex on my right lat allows my right lat to relax and stop cramping. I have heard similar reports from people that say their backs are tight and sore all the time and they use the Compex to help the muscle release and relax. So if you suffer from cramping or muscles that always feel ‘locked’ or ‘tight’ then again I can recommend getting the Compex.

The Bottom Line

Do you really need one of these expensive machines? Chances are that you do not actually need to get one of these devices. If you are eating right, sleeping enough, doing enough myofascial release, then you are probably fine. If you are a competitive athlete training for an event, sitting/driving/traveling a lot, getting behind on sleep or diet or have some nagging injuries, then an investment in one of these devices is a good idea.

Which one you should you get? The Marc Pro is the clear choice for battling soreness and accelerating the healing process. The Compex is the choice if you need muscle activation and stimulation.

Here We Go Again

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‘Tis the season for starting a new diet. I am sure most of the people reading this are considering a paleo, zone, Whole30, flexitarian or other challenge come 2015. I fully support you and so do my friends. Maybe you have done it before. Maybe you are jaded by the less-than-stellar results of previous New Year’s resolutions. Have no fear. The new year is teeming with possibility. There are so many people in your corner willing to help you. Me for instance…and my friends.

CrossFit Solace is hosting a paleo challenge. The only thing better than being a better you in the new year is to be a better you with better friends. I love doing challenges with a community of like-minded peers that help each other succeed.

CrossFit NYC is doing the Whole 30. My friends Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s Whole 30 website is the best online resource for people going paleo. If you have a question, they have an answer.

CrossFit has always encouraged people to eat meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. And to keep intake to levels that support exercise but not bodyfat. CrossFit has always leaned on the Zone diet for precision and accuracy in feeding the machine. I always encourage everyone to try the Zone diet for 30 days. It will give you a tremendous insight into proper portions and control over what and how much you eat.

If you are like me, finding time to cook can be impossible. My friends at Kettlebell Kitchen are always on call with great meals prepped and ready to go. I highly recommend utilizing them for for stocking your fridge with ready to eat meals.

When I need to cry from lack of sugar, I know I need someone to talk me off the ledge. That person is Liz Barnet, a friend and a nutrition coach that is ready to coach the coach through the hard times that inevitably arise when you give up sugar and booze. Get her in your corner to help you meet your goals this year.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” –Hippocrates

Forearm Blast: Part 4

Grip strength is important to health and fitness and if the tissues in your forearms are knotted up, then it will impact the ability of those muscles to fire properly. I have been doing Ido Portal’s 7 Minute Hang Challenge and it’s been kicking my butt. Without these Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball exercises, I would not be able to function.

See also:
Forearm Blast
Forearm Blast: Part 2
Forearm Blast: Part 3

Forearm Blast: Part 4 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Forearm Blast: Part 3

The small joints of the body can take some of the most abuse in our training. If you are spending time lifting overhead or walking on your hands, then your wrists and forearms can get overused and abused. Make sure you do some of these simple strengthening exercises for your wrists to keep them strong.

Go to Forearm Blast: Part 2 for some good warmup stretches for the wrists. Then check out Forearm Blast for some more great wrist exercises.

Forearm Blast: Part 3 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

Forearm Blast: Part 2

I have been doing the Ido Portal 7 Minute Hang Challenge. It is a great way to strengthen the connective tissues in your shoulders, develop a stronger grip and more supple shoulders. The downside to this focused work is that my hands and forearms are getting smoked. So I have gone back into the archives to find some ways to take care of my wrists and forearms. Here are a few wrist stretches that you can do to warm up or cool down. Try to do 10 reps of each moving slowly and holding the deepest part of the stretch for 2 to 3 seconds.

Be sure to check out these great forearm exercises too.

Forearm Blast: Part 2 from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.

The CrossFit Defense Course

When I told people that I was going to take the CrossFit Defense seminar, I got a lot of weird looks and questions like, “What are we going to do an AMRAP of eye gouges and groin kicks?” I can understand their confusion. CrossFit is, after all, the sport of fitness and we are about working out and getting in sick shape. How does a self defense course fit that profile?

If you know Greg Glassman and what he believes about fitness, you would know that CrossFit was designed make people generally physically prepared for the unknown and the unknowable. CrossFit should prepare you to live a long and healthy life outside the gym. If you understand that, then you can see that there is no greater threat to your life, liberty and pursuit of happiness than a violent attack. Ergo there is no greater need for physical fitness than when you are faced with such a threat. Tony Blauer understands that and he has been training military, law enforcement and civilians in self defense for 35 years. He has also been crossfitting for almost a decade. He blends the two worlds seamlessly.

What is the most surprising and refreshing about the CrossFit Defense course is that it builds off of something else that Coach Glassman said, “The greatest adaptation to CrossFit is between the ears.” The CrossFit Defense course focuses on training your mind. Blauer teaches you to recognize and understand fear, to read the signs before something goes wrong, to de-fuse a situation, to act before it’s too late, to get out of harms way and, as a last resort, to use your fitness to defend yourself.

Blauer says this, “Self defense is the most important skill you hope you never have to use.” I agree. I feel better prepared after taking this seminar in my ability to avoid dangerous confrontations and get out of harms way and more confident should I need to use my fitness to defend myself or my loved ones. It is like having your First Aid or CPR certification: you need it and are glad you have it, but never want to use it. I cannot recommend it enough.

Sign up to take the course at CrossFit.com
Learn more about Tony Blauer at Blauertactical.com

CrossFit Defense Seminar, June 28 & 29, 2014 at CrossFit Mayhem

CrossFit Defense Seminar, June 28 & 29, 2014 at CrossFit Mayhem

Foot Fix

Have you been on your feet all day? Have you been running, doing box jumps and double unders? Do you have plantar fasciitis? Do your feet just plain hurt? It turns out that we hold a lot of tension in our feet.  We stand on them all day and we keep them bound up in socks and shoes which restrict their natural movement.  Restoring movement in the foot and massaging the plantar fascia can relieve pain and increase range of motion upstream in the ankles, knees and hips.

Kick off your shoes and socks and let’s roll it out. All you need is a Yoga Tune Up® ball and some bare feet. You can do this standing up or sitting down. Any time. Any where. Five minutes a day can make a huge difference.

Some tips:

  • Lean on a wall or table for support and balance.
  • If you are sitting down, use your other foot to add more weight and pressure to the foot you are rolling.
  • Back off on the pressure if it hurts.
  • Spend at least 2 minutes on each foot.
  • Check in with a forward bend before and after to see if your range of motion increases. It’s okay if there is no change, you will still have received a benefit.

Foot Fix with YTU Balls from Force Distance Time on Vimeo.