Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is Our Concern


So, a recent study found that mental fatigue can have an effect on your physical performance. Let's forget for a moment that the study kind of sucked (16 people?! Talk about a sample-size!) and hold back the 'no-shit' that should be coming out of your mouth, as anyone who has done any sort of training in anything will tell you that coming into the game 'less than motivated' will lead to a sub-par performance.

Let's just think about this for a moment in terms of the things that you do to create mental fatigue before and during your workout in an attempt to minimize these less desirable in the future.

Do you audibly groan when the movements of the workout are announced?

Is the phrase 'man I hate _______' uttered from your lips?

Does the weight of the rest of your day cloud the moment?

Can you scrunch your face any harder when working out?
Do you allow the rep scheme or load of a workout to dominate your soul?

All of the above have the potential to create un-necessary mental fatigue. Stop it! Compare the placid, benevolent face of Mr. Robinson below to the Face Of Pain(Tm) of Mr. Henry above:
Which do you think sends a stronger message to the brain that all is well and it's okay to keep going?

On a personal note, I always try to remind myself before some excellent hybrid that I really do enjoy this stuff. Seriously! I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. You all are no different, whether you know it or not. Don't believe me? Look at all the happy people below. And yes, that was just post-sunrise before most people are even up.

Don't create that which doesn't need to be created,
-Boz

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ummm, You're Overhead Break is On?



Before we start this discussion about your triceps, let's lay a few more ground rules about how to think about increasing flexibility and mobility.

First, try to stop thinking about stretching specific muscles.
We are mobilizing restricted ranges. Don't get all caught up in exactly what you are moving and stretching, think rather, in terms of movements. For example, your quads may only really be tight in full hip extension and leg flexion. So stretch in this position of emphasis. Also, you are mobilizing a whole world of connective tissues besides the muscle (so don't be all muscle stuck up).

Got it?

Well let's look at your overhead for a minute. There are a ton of potential overhead pits of despair and this time, we are just going to look at a single performance vampire--your triceps.

Honestly, how many times have you given these bad boys any attention in the last year?
Hmmm? How many pushing combinations have you performed in the last month alone? Yeah, a bloody ton. When did we stop thinking about the triceps when we were talking about shoulder flexibility? Specifically, the long head of the Triceps. The long head crosses two joints (elbow and shoulder) unlike the other two heads. So just stretching this beast at the elbow is going to miss some of the action. The long head is a little like a hamstring in that way (Biceps gets all the attention, which is total bullshite).
The long head attaches to the scapula under the "socket" of the joint. Pretty low down in fact.

Ever had your tri's hurt after a ton of pull ups? Yeah. That's the one resisting full arm extension and helping with a little humeral flexion.
So, to stretch this bastard, you've got to go beyond thinking about the elbow.

To start:
Wind up your arm on a wall as in the photo above. Don't press your armpit to the wall.
Instead thinking of contacting the wall with the distal part of your elbow and sort of lean away from the wall while driving force through that contact point. This is the part of the stretch where we are attempting to wind up the tricep as it inserts on the scapula above the arm pit. Imagine creating space between the bottom of your arm and your scapula. Got it?

All right. Now take your other hand and over-press your triceps by pushing on your wrist as in the photo below.



The body's tissues will put a greater stretch emphasis on the tissues that are loaded first. This is why stretching your hammies with your leg straight makes you feel it behind the knee. We are trying bias the proximal attachment of that long-head of the tri. So wind it up first.

Get after it. Remember to practice your contract relax here or at least stay in the fight for at least 90 seconds.

Not bad right? Post experience to comments.

--
Kstar

Friday, February 20, 2009

Role Call!


Just a quick reminder that Crossfit Oakland will be hosting a Team Challenge tomorrow morning. The fun begins at 11am and I think it would be great for us to get to know our neighbors to the east.

Details of the competition are here.

So, who's in? If you're going, post to comments and maybe some carpool action will develop.

Have fun!
-Boz

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Not Fancy, But @#&* It Works



It has been noted on more than one occasion, that the ability of an athlete to powerfully extend the hip, correlates rather well with athletic capacity and prowess.
There are many ways to facilitate hip function in athletes including barbell training, kettlebell training, and Olympic lifting to name a few. Often over looked but no less potent, is the good old fashioned Jump. I'm not talking about 150 reps of jumping onto a 24 inch box. No, I'm talking about nasty jumping, higher, farther, bigger.

Do you know how high a box onto which you can jump? Running start? Standing start? Sitting start?

No? Doode. Get on it!



Let's talk about why jumping beyond the metabolic box jump effort is so badass.

1) You don't need any equipment.

2) Results are measurable, and repeatable.

3) You will know precisely how high a fence you can jump should you be running away from a stampeding herd of musk ox. It happens you know.

4) There are real consequences to not making it onto over the jump. You will have to learn to develop a strategy to bail. Which is good. Because bailing happens.



5) Jumping means landing. Teaching athletes to land safely protects them from landing injuries in the future? Why do you think there are so many ACL tears amongst female athletes? How many of those women were not taught how to land?

6) Jumping is elemental and primal. Everyone knows how they can do it. It scales for huge numbers of athletes.

7) You can see the direct implications of your lacking flexibility and hip mobility.
It's hard to stick a max jump if you can't pull your knees up to your forehead.



8) Jumping variations and permutations are endless. Boxes, long jump, high jump, jumping with dumbells, sitting start, standing start, running start....

9) Jumping from a seated position teaches pure concentric power by breaking the eccentric-concentric cycle typical of a quick stretch down-up. Think deadlifting, but speed.

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10) You have to be responsible for your own carcass. Sure you may squat 400, but you also weigh 215 bro. Oh, you can jump onto a 56 inch box? Legit!

11) There is some real fun to be had in this kind of training. It's not so, muscle-heaving-power-snatch-jerky. You know? Fun?



12) Most importantly. It works.

So, I triple dog dare you to find out how high you can jump. And keep your eye posted on the SFCF blog for a little upcoming jumping challenge.


Coach K-like mike, I wanna be like Mike -Star

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Finishers


Finisher:

1)The act of getting one last-blast before calling it a day.
2)A dedicated practice time after the bulk of the work has been done.

The art of the finisher:

#1)Blast through the 'main-course' of your workout.

#2)Pick a category of movement you did not address in the main-course (Weightlifting/Gymnastics/Monostructural activities). Or simply select a movement/pattern or two that were not expressed earlier.

#3)Recover from the main course and hit that shit hard!

Things not to do:

#1)Hold back on your main workout anticipating the finisher.

#2)Hammer the same movements that you just did in the workout.

#3)Over-reaching or creating a 2nd workout with your finisher. Making the finisher just a longer extension of the main workout isn't effective either.

Examples of a fine finish:

#1)A few sets alternating of weighted back extensions and L-sits.

#2)A few sets alternating of Handstand holding and deadhang pullups.

#3)One set of one of the following: Max Pushups/Dips/Pistols/HSPU/Muscle-Up etc.

#4)On heavy days, a back-off set after your work sets with about 60-75% of your effort with flawless technique.

#5)One all-out 400m run, or two-all out 100m runs (one there, one back).

#6)Best box/broad jump.

Now go-forth and be beast!

-Adrian "Goes-down-smooth" Bozman

PS I'm working on the first 'earned' SFCF shirt...It will be awarded to those that can conquer the coffin...details to follow.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Simplicity


We are community of seekers. We read esoteric lifting blogs, we argue about lifting-shoe heel heights, and the best place to rest the bar on the shoulders in the backsquat. Our athletes attend Olympic lifting seminars and many of our regulars hold Level 1 Crossfit certifications. Some of our fire breathers have been training with us for years and know a bloody ton about increasing work capacity. They can tell you why raising your butt too fast on the first pull will cause you to miss forward. They can tell you that turning out your feet a little on the set up will help you transition to a faster second pull (it is the new black).

We are well versed, well coached, sophisticated, proletariat Crossfitters. Dammit.
And the further down the path we travel towards a physical culture that has near open access to Coaches like Glassman, Berg, Rip, and Starr, the more we can't forget to pay attention to the big detail, big picture issues of technique.

Ok, here's a pop quiz hotshot. What did you notice first about the technique of the lifter in the photo above? I bet you can name at least three things you would have her do to improve that power snatch. You technicrat you.
Was keeping your eyes open while lifting one of the things you would mention?
Notice that this same athlete makes the same error in the photo below.




When selecting appropriate cues to improve an athlete's performance, don't get caught up in the small stuff. Go for the low hanging fruit. Does having a technical understanding of the lifts matter? Of course, but don't forget to coach. See the athlete as a whole. Try and notice the small stuff and the big stuff, at the same time. Continue to pick off the obvious stuff before you delve into the miniature. There is a story around about Coach Rip answering questions about someone's deadlift.
The athlete was asking overly technical questions about his inability to lock out a big weight. Rip is reported to have said something like: "Sometimes you just have too much weight on the bar."

There is zen saying about simplicity:
Draw bamboos for ten years, become a bamboo, then forget all about bamboos when you are drawing.

The capacity to do so is why there is a difference between coaches and trainers.
Strive for Coachdom.


K-coach-in-training-star

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coming Down the Pipe


In an attempt to hone the skill of the NorCal CrossFit minions (and show our fitness-based superiority to the world), several events have been planned for your workout pleasure around the Bay Area. These will be team based events, so hopefully we can get our team out and about, but everyone from SFCF who would like to participate is more than welcome and encouraged to attend. The time for these events is not set yet, but most likely they will begin around 11am. Here's the schedule so far:

Sat Feb 21: CrossFit Oakland
Sat Mar 14: Diablo CrossFit
Sat Apr 4: CrossFit Santa Clara

(then a little break for the NorCal Qualifiers)

Sat May 9: CrossFit San Francisco
Sat May 30: CrossFit One World

Rock your socks off!

-Boz

PS I was recently interviewed by CJ Martin of CrossFit Invictus. CJ grilled me about 'the issues'. You can read all about it here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fightin' Force

The votes have been tallied....the six that you have chosen to lead us in team competition at this year's CrossFit games are:

J.D, Damian, Lucas

Catherine, Corrine, Tamra

Excellent! We wish them the best. Let's all support them in their training so they may represent us well in July.

What do you think we can do to send them off as prepared as possible? Keep training the way they are? Team practice? Power Lunches and late-night strategy sessions?

-Boz

Monday, February 09, 2009

Your Poor Lats, Instructions For Care and Feeding

Your Lats are unheralded super beasts. Whether they are hucking your carcass through a 150 pullups, stabilizing your spine in the back squat, ripping a sub 7 minute rowing 2k, or just pulling 225 from the ground a couple of 45-plus times, they never let you down.
And what do you do? Basically, you ride em hard, and put em away wet because YOU have to stretch your precious "hamstrings". Your lats are like the Ford F150 on the ranch that never gets washed, but gets used to pull out stumps.

Doodes. Even Lats need love sometimes.
I know y'all know how to grab a bar and stretch these "wide back" beasts. But, here is a fancy little trick to really wind them up.

Grab a PVC pipe or a dowel and get your elbows close together while kneeling in front of one of your box jump boxes. Now, while trying to keep your elbows close together, slide your hands apart on the pipe to externally rotate your arms (remember lats are powerful internal rotators of the arm.)




Once you feel wound up in that awkward externally rotated position, and keeping elbows together, bring your arms into relative flexion by attempting to bring your chest to the ground. Keep your back straight and elbows together. If you can bang out a high rep Cindy, chances are that you are probably feeling a pretty good stretch about now. In the next photo, note that my elbows are coming apart a little, due to the ungodly force of the stretch I'm enduring.



Take huge breaths, hold at lease 90 seconds. Or, better yet, practice your contract relax here. Don't worry, the tearing sensation will go away.

Coach Kstar

Saturday, February 07, 2009

You there. Stop your adaptation.

Failure to adapt to training is to adapt to training.--Westside Barbell Club



The Crossfit Prescription is to keep our training exercises constantly varied.
Per Glassman, "We fail at the margins of our experiences."

Too true.

And while we may perform many barbell, dumbell, and kettlebell variants, there tends to be a great deal of stance homogeneity within our movements. In fact ask any Crossfitter to perform a "landing position" movement and they will occupy the same foot position that they employ for the air squat, front squat, back squat, Olympic lifting receiving position, overhead squat, kettlebell swing, dumbell snatch, etc.

About the only variation that occurs in a wider than "jumping position" stance for your average Crossfitter occurs solely in the Sumo Deadlift Highpull. And while I would argue that the beauty of Crossfit is that there are so many things to suck at, we need to go farther in finding conjugates to our staple movements. Enough people have been Crossfitting for long enough that we must continue to find ways to expand upon our "constantly varied" mandate.

Great, you deadlift (this is no small achievement I know but...) Can you sumo deadlift? Let's expand the conversation beyond foot positioning. What happens when you pull while standing on a couple of 45's? What about deadlifting from a snatch grip for a one rep max? Or, what about pulling a couple of inches off the floor? What's your five rep max? Your bodyweight for reps max? I bet you don't know. And, therein lies an whole new world of new training stimuli.

We have a whole host of Olympic lifting skill transfer exercises (snatch balance, hang snatch, hang power snatch, hang muscle snatch etc.) Why is it you have never tried to squat from a narrow stance? Yeah you suck at it because it loaded your back. Of course it wasn't your strongest effort. But, it was a new PR in a narrrow "olympic high bar squat". And that's cool because it will tell you volumes about what you need to work on, and it will continue to be a novel training stimulus.

What's that? Competing in a squat contest? Well pull out your big gun, best squat stance ever. But in training, keep that sucker different. Add chains, squat lower, squat wider, you get the idea.

If we are going to continue to evolve as a community, we are going to have to get more sophisticated in our understanding of our movements and how to exploit the nuances of each for all they are worth. You need to be able to pull out like, ten different squats.

So go and see. Start to examine your basic movements with "beginner's mind".
Then go set some records and take some more names.

Coach K-hold-my-trophy-while-I-kiss-your-girlfriend-star

Friday, February 06, 2009

Unleash Coolness



San Francisco CrossFit T-Shirts and Pullover Hoodies are now on sale! Ask a coach before or after class to help you out. You can also email Coach Angel at angel@sanfranciscocrossfit.com.

T-Shirts: $20
Hooded Sweatshirts: $40

Available Sizes:
T-Shirts: XL, L, M, S, XS
Hooded Sweatshirts: XL, L, M, S

Shipping is available upon request.

--Coach Angel (aka. Angel of Death)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Head Faults Revisited




Here is the premise: Best positioning equals best force production. Let's call this concept "Best Fit". The body has natural positions from which it can perform the most work. This may due to maximizing leverages, best joint contacts, best length tension muscle relationships, etc. But just as we all agree that the best means for a human being to lower it's center of mass, make itself more stable, and lift heavy objects is the squat, so too within that movement there is "ideal" positioning and setup.

During any human movement of consequence, the most effective means to generate peak force is to try and approximate this "best fit" ideal. Take the photos above for example. The athlete is in a safe environment. He is not about to get run over by a car or stampeded by a herd of crippled yaks. Ergo, there is no functional reason for his head to be in that position while deadlifting. Ever. Especially when this head position leads to a failed lift! What?! We know what motivates you, you performance whooors.


So now that you understand why the head positioning in a deadlift matters (less force production potential), let's talk about what's likely going on so that you can understand why you should banish the head fault.

1) Our mid-line stabilization concept extends beyond just the low back. Yes, it includes the neck too. Simply put, chicken necking is a first order positional foul. We don't let our athletes lift with a rounded lumbar spine, we shouldn't allow this neck position either. Mid-line stable athletes are badasses.

2) It is clear from the photos above that the athlete has translated from a poor set up into an even worse position. The human spine is set up to be extremely mobile for weight baring column. However, it does not tolerate inter-segment movement under peak compressions well. In fact, this is the primary mechanism of injury for disc derangement, to say nothing of screaming hot facet joints or nerve root silliness.
Bottom line. Keep your spine quiet. Don't generate a bunch of dynamic end range spinal movement when you are attempting your max lifts.

3) This is my favorite. Lose the head, lose the pelvis.
An extended cervical position upstream allows for rounded shoulders and lumbar flexion downstream. Don't believe me? Let your head flop back and see how easy it is to let your pelvis tuck under into the dreaded "dog poo" position. Forget lumbar disc injury, putting your neck back into an unseemly position will allow for your hamstring anchors to essentially pull loose. Poof, instant loss of power. Watch athletes in a deadlift for example, as soon as the head goes they loose all hope of making the lift.
The head is like a keystone keeping the whole system in balance. Thus, loose the head, loose the pelvis.

4) There are probably some issues of alleviating neural tension and some deep seated mass extension movement components to the head extension fault too, but they go beyond this blog.


Coach K-head-in-line-please-star

Monday, February 02, 2009

Home-Made Support

Everybody loves a project! Here's one to do the next time you have a spare 10 and 10 (minutes and dollars). These handy dandy wrist wraps are great if you are finding yourself doing a lot of weightlifting, and as such a lot of taping of your delicate wrists. Tape is sticky, messy and, in the long run, expensive.

Required equipment:

-Wrist wraps used for boxing/fighting (most major sporting goods stores will carry these)
-Knife/Scissors/Teeth (knife is the obvious choice for all-around awesome-ness)
-Wrist or approximation



Step 1: Find an appropriate length.

Use your fingers to grab/palm the long end of the wrap. The free is hand is, uh, free to wind the wrap around your wrist. You want a length that will offer some support, but not be too bulky. I've found you usually want the finished product to be a little longer than your arm.


Keep your finger marking the distance you find most comfortable while unwinding the wrap.

Step 2: Make the incision.

Using your sharp thing and your finger mark, cut that sucka!


(Optional) Step 3: Tidy Up

Using your mom's sewing kit, fold over a little bit of the end and sew it down to prevent fraying when you wash them sweaty wraps (you were planning on washing them, right? Tossing them in a dryer might be a bad idea as it may weaken the integrity of the fabric). If you are punk-rock or making your wraps in a hotel-room in Virginia, let them fray. Oi.

Step 4: Wrap it up!

Wrap your wrists. Make sure the wrap is fairly tight. Go lift something heavy over your head. Save the excess for the unfortunate time you might need to bandage an appendage. (Optional: Remove dorky EVERLAST logo with knife)



There you have it, a stylish, washable wrist support that won't leave any crazy tape-residue. I believe I first head about a similar solution on the CrossFit Evolution website, but I couldn't remember/find the specifics...

-Adrian "Modern-Day-Solutions" Bozman