Three exercises you should never, ever do.

First of all, let me explain how I approach exercise selection. The most important part of an exercise is that it can be done relatively safe. That doesn’t mean there’s no risk involved at all, but the rewards have to exceed the risk by a huge margin.

Even if an exercise was the best thing under the sun, I probably wouldn’t do it if it involved a significant risk. I’m all about longevity and playing it safe.

While I do think you have to practice what you compete in (if you do), this post is aimed at the general trainee, who doesn’t compete. Competing will always include a certain risk – take for example baseball pitchers – their shoulders take a beating from all the hard throws. They still have to practice their sport though, so using physical training to counter the side effects of the throws would probably be a good idea.

Likewise, if you compete at CF, you have to do these exercises. Still, know the risk and program them intelligently.

  1. Box jumps forendless reps. Number one on the list because it does absolutely nothing you can’t get elsewhere yet it involvesFS_STOP_S.T.O.P__23399.1332884842.1000.1000 a significant risk. Bloodied shins and torn achilles tendons are the most common injuries. Cure: don’t do them, or stick to sets of low reps with ample rest.
  2. Kipping pullups: By throwing your hip into the movement, you place your upper back in a position it’s not strong enough to handle. There’s also a tendency for people to poke the head forward like a pigeon. Over time this exercise will wreck your shoulders. Cure: do them strict. Can’t? Get stronger, lose weight.
  3. Kettlebell high swings. As with the kipping pullups, pulling up high instead of stopping at shoulder height will often make people stick their head forward. Bad idea. The swing is a hip-hinge exercise and shouldn’t involve any pulling with the arms/shoulders. Doing a “swingpress” is even worse. Cure: Don’t do high swings.

What you have to ask yourself is “why am I doing this exercise?”, “will it get me closer to my goal?” and “can I get hurt doing this exercise?”. Adjust based on your answers. The three exercises mentioned are just examples.

Remember that “getting an injury” probably isn’t on anybody’s short list of goals, so try to make training as safe as possible for you and your clients.

On that note, have a great weekend. <3

Wendler 531 Cycle one week three wrap-up

Press: Got 5@82,5kg as planned. Not too hard. Backoff was 3x5x65, which was easy as well.

Support: Five singles at 112,5kg in the benchpress. Three triples with a purple band firgure-8 at the same weight. WG pullups with hold, forehead supported rows with hold.

Notes: Have implemented tons of holds and general tempo manipulation on back work, which is actually great as a bit of a change. Right now I’m just experimenting on pretty much everything, but after a cycle or two, I’ll mix it up a bit.

Squat: 5 reps @155kg as planned. Followed up with a quick single at 170kg. It wasn’t terribly good, but not exactly bad either.

5 sets of 3 reps at 122,5kg paused squats ranging from “decent” to “very good”. Yay.

Support was three sets of RDLs and three sets of BSSs – they’re always a pain. Finished up with sumo groin mob. Great day.

Benchpress: 8@107,5kg without pushing too hard. Decided not to stay with the 5 reps, since a) bench is set so low and b) upper body DOMS isn’t as bad as lower body DOMS (and you can’t really push yourself as far either). Three singles with a figure 8 band moving up to 127,5kg. Paused benches were 5 sets of 3 at 85kg. These were really good today, which is a good sign.

Did chins, DB rows and bat wings for the back. Gonna keep bat wings for some time and see where that takes me. Dan John sure loves them, so they gotta be good, eh?

Cardio: A 5k hill interval session with the lady and the kid. Good fun and a decent workout. Five really long hills pushing the kid.

bakker

Deadlift: 5@177,5kg – not hard and not easy, it just was. Worked up to a single at 220kg sumo deadlift, though I really shouldn’t have as I wasn’t having the best of days. Was a clean lift though and easy enough.

Support: This is where it got UGLY. Five sets of three block pulls with 3 second eccentric phase. Used a snatch grip this week as I was pulling from higher blocks. This murdered my back. Finished off with hack squats, abs and a 70-rep sets of leg extensions. Decent workout on an off-day. 🙂

Weekly round-up: this week was the last of the first three-week cycle. I’m moving straight on to another three-weeker, then deloading after six weeks total. The week was great in terms of training and life, and I’ve been adjusting my routine a bit throughout the first three weeks. I’ll keep tweaking here and there, but I feel I have a solid foundation with the main lifts+back off in place. Things are looking good. On a side note, I’ll be cleaning up the diet a bit after letting it slip for some time. Hoping to slowly crawl down towards the low 90ies and if all goes well, I could end up making a comeback in the sub-93 weightclass. Time will tell.

A simple two-step way to visualize

Today I’m gonna detail a really simple way to boost performance. Visualization or psyche-ups have been used by great lifters for ages. While this is a powerful tool if used properly, it wont make you superhuman unless you’re already pretty good. Using myself as an example, my friends say I over-perform whenever I step on the platform. My lifts on the platform are always better than my lifts in training by a good bit. I don’t break any records though, and at the end of the day, I’m still a mediocre lifter – just a mediocre lifter who knows how to perform on the platform.

focus

First of all: music or no music? Ideally, you’d do this in complete silence, though that’s rarely an option. Music is better than random noise, so I’d go with that. When you become really good at the first part, you can do it at a rock concert pretty much, but for now just stick with some music.

This entire visualization will take about two minutes for most people. Don’t stress it!!

Part one: The first step of the routine is the general focus part. Close your eyes, sit in a comfortable position with your back straight and your head in a neutral position. Focus on pulling air all the way to your stomach and on the movement of the diaphragm. Count out 21 fully controlled breaths. Whenever a distracting thought pops into your mind, just accept it, let it slide on and move back to your focus. Let your breathing guide you.

Once you’re at 21 breaths (this is not a magical number in any way, but it’s the number I’ve gotten used to using), you should be extremely focus and detached from the world around you. You should be very alert at this point.

Part two: this is the “real” visualization. Go over the situation in great detail. The more detailed, the better. Smells, sounds and sights of the gym. Everything. Go over the lift in slow-motion, how you approach the bar and set up for the lift. Each and every detail is important. Go over all your individual cues for the lift, and then pick up the bar. Go through a mental checklist starting with the feet and moving up to the position of the head.

As you begin the lift, you should visualize the bar feeling light on your back/in your hands – and how you move it with confidence and precision. Go through each of the reps you’re gonna do, paying as much detail as possible. Focus even more on the final rep, and make sure you absolutely kill it. By now, your heart should be beating faster and you’ll feel a certain controlled aggression, ready to be let loose.

Stand up, get ready to lift and unleash hell on that weight.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, but you have to find the right balance. I only use this technique occasionally on top sets, but I practice the first part daily. The second part is the lifting-specific part of the visualization and it’s also the most stressful part. If you’re just practicing (out of the gym), stick to the first part for 2-many cycles. More on that in another post.

For now – go out and break some personal records. 🙂

Update from Famez HQ

Last week marked the ending of a five week cycle. It’s been great to get back on track and I feel like my plan has worked out very well. Except for the fact that I can’t seem to lose weight. On the upside though, my waist measurement has dropped a couple of cms, and I’m looking a lot tighter.

I’ve been able to train without any issues from my hip, which has been and will continue to be priority number one. If I can stay healthy, I’ll get stronger. It’s that simple.

My best lifts during this cycle were pretty light but I actually managed to make them feel light. 167,5kg on the back squat, 190kg in the conventional deadlift, a couple of triples at 145 in the paused squat and 11 reps at 77,5kg in the press. Nothing too impressive, but a good place to start.

ZombieKillerFP

Going forward, I’ll be sticking to training three times a week with an optional weightlifting day and an optional hill sprints day, the split is gonna look like this:

Day 1: Press, more press, chins and dips. This day is all about building the press, so I’ll also do some overhead triceps and possibly some DB/KB presses.

Day 2: Squats, paused squats, deadlifts and deficit sumo deadlifts. Lots of abs and unilateral legwork.

Day 3: Bench press, rows, more rows, upper back and guns. Back/arms day with a bit of bench press thrown in.

Lower body training will focus on getting strength back, while remaining healthy. Hypertrophy is not a priority at this point. Abs are a weakpoint, so they get extra work. Volume stays pretty much the same as for the past five weeks as that’s worked very well for me. Same with frequency – only squatting once a week has been good.

As for upper body, the bench press is back. I’ve also moved the chins to my pressing day, as I found it a bit too easy. Bench press will be programmed based on a conservative max, but this cycle should reintroduce some good weights on the other three lifts. After this cycle I’ll have a very good idea of what to expect from my next meet in November.

I’ve made another minor modification to the split and switched days 1 and 2. The reason for this is that I usually run hills during the weekend, and with only one weekly lower body day, I figured it was silly to do it so close to hill sprints.

Apart from that, I’m really enjoying training only three times a week (+hills +weightlifting), and the 5 week cycle was really good for me. I’ll be using a 9 week cycle based on the same principles (three singles and some backoff volume). This’ll also help me figure out how to plan the cycle leading up to TSK Cup in November.

Crossfit Regionals 2013 team events

You go to bed only to wake up to a shit ton of newly released team events and a couple of individual ones as well. Jeez HQ, how am I supposed to write a meaningful post about all this? Well luckily, some of the workouts are recycled, so this post covers the basics. I’ll focus on the teams from now on. Here are the workouts:

Teams

The first three events are pretty straight forward. Though event three does have a little twist for many teams as two out of three of each gender must be able to perform three muscle-ups to avoind disqualification. I have a feeling quite a few teams will get a score of 6 from their females. There is no tiebreak for this workout, so if you have one team member that cannot perform a muscle-up, you pretty much have all the time in the world to get the six. Ideally though, blast through the first 6 as fast as possible to set the third member up for a shot at getting just one rep. That one rep will make a HUGE difference in the standing. If you’re close to getting one, you should focus on that for the next ten days.

Event 4 was brought back into the sensible realm but apart from the lower reps it’s the same workout as for the individuals. 120 reps total per competitor. This is a sprint. Everything counts here, so make sure your transitions are crisp. This will be a hectic event for sure though a bit repetitive for the spectator.

Event 5 is pretty straight forward. Check out what I wrote here for tips. They’ve stuck to the males/females weight ratio in this workout unlike they did throughout the Opens where the ratios were a bit off on some events.

Event 6: Let’s just say I’m happy I’m not a CFer. This one is tough and I sure hope you’ve got someone on your team with superhuman shoulders. Static work to “prepare” one member for their active work active work to “prepare” the other athlete for the static holds. This obviously means you have to blast through as fast as possible to make it easier for your partner. Making a game plan so both athletes know when to rest will be a difference maker on this one. Finish off with 90ft of lunges with a heavy weight? Brutal. Not sure I like this as some people will inevitably fall on their face. The STOH after hand stand pushups and T2B will determine who wins this event. This one finishes in a bad way. Bring wrist wraps for this one.

Event 7: All team members participate in this one. Three rounds of 2 rope climbs and squat cleans. The first pair will do two cleans, next pair three and the last pair will do four cleans. What this means is you have to pair up athletes (male/female), that are similar in strength, as both will have to finish before next pair starts.

Overall: sheesh, I hope you brought the strong hands this year, as there are quite a few grip-intensive workouts. There are no cut-offs though, which means all teams will get to do all workouts.

Unlike what I was hoping for, the events aren’t particularly heavy. Events 2, 5 and 6 are good though. #1 and #4 are very light and then there are the burpee muscle-ups. I guess that’s about as many heavy workouts as you could realistically hope for.

top3

We’ll do some test runs with the team this Sunday which will be fun. For now, I’ll keep the deeper analysis and more specific tips to myself. Every little thing counts at this point as there’s heavy competition for the three top spots.

Having a plan

I wasn’t gonna post up the video in this post, as it’s just too damn embarrassing. Then, talking about what happened just last night made me realize something. There’s a good lesson to be learned from my failures.

plan-ahead

Having a fucking plan and sticking to it is not only preferable in lifting, but also in life. What I did on Saturday was this: I’d decided on an opener and once I’d weighed in, I decided on my second lift. I was gonna wing it on the third lift. I should’ve skipped the last lift, as I’d already gotten what I came for. Winging it is just silly.

Having a plan will allow you to prepare mentally  for a lift as well as concentrating on just lifting the damned weight. No need to gauge if it felt heavy and if so how heavy? Let me tell you a little secret – when you’re deadlifting around 2.5x bodyweight, everything feels heavy. Everything feels like shit. Different amounts of shit, but I’ve yet to do a maximal effort deadlift that didn’t suck.

Here’s the video I promised – it’s proof of what happens when you don’t have a plan. Lack of focus and willpower.

For my next meet, I’ll have all 9 lifts planned out several weeks ahead. Actually I have a good idea of what I’m shooting for already.

PS: If you’re good enough to have a shot at winning something – anything, you might have to adjust your lifts on the day based on the competition. Most people just need to plan out some big solid (PR) lifts and keep improving over time. That eventually will get you medals/fame/women/world domination. It’ll also get you a reputation as the white-light-guy. Who doesn’t want to be Mr All Whites?

Doing work! Part two – stepping on the platform

So you’ve done what I suggested and signed up for your first meet. Now you’re all nervous about what kind of numbers you’re gonna get along with a bazillion other things. Allow me to be your mental cleaning lady and help you calm the fuck down.

First of all, for your first competition, your goal shouldn’t be a number, but a color. White. Three whites on all lifts to be exact. Your snatch (or squat) opener is really the most important lift to make as it’ll help you calm the fuck down.

Getting a good total and setting PRs is great, but it’s not something you should worry about at your first meet. Worry about picking up some experience, having a good time and getting a feel for it. Lifting on a platform with three judges is NOTHING like lifting in your gym.

WL

I recommend you start as low as 85% of your best single – this is a weight you can do for a triple comfortably. Yes it’s easy – it’s supposed to be. Your gonna hit this shit out of the park and send a big solid fuck you to your nerves. Second attempt should be a bit over 90% and third attempt should be 98-100%. That’s right – you’re not going for a new PR at your first meet. Why? Because every single lift is a meet-PR. Training and competition are two different things and should be taken as such.

Warming up:

Make sure you have plenty of time. Start warming up 45-60 minutes before your group starts lifting. Spend the first 10-15 minutes stretching and getting loose. Static stretches 45 minutes before your lift will not affect your lifts negatively, though for most people they’ll help you hit the right angles to maximize leverages.

Move on to more dynamic stretches and increase intensity a little bit. Focus on hips and upper back (and if you have any problem areas). This goes for the stretching too.

About half an hour before the show starts, you should be ready to grab a barbell. Follow the second approach outlined in this post – make sure to keep your jumps small and the volume low. You should be warm by now, so the specific warmup is just that. Take your time. Focus on executing each lift perfectly. Somewhere around 6-10 sets with the barbell (starting with at least three sets with the empty barbell) is appropriate for most (exception is if your starting weight is so low you can’t fit in so many lifts). Aim for a final warmup around 80% of your 1RM if you’re following my advice and opening at 85%. This will be easy and it should be.

42998-bantamweight-weightlifting-competition-f6d0a

A few do’s and dont’s:

Do this:

  • Bring lots of easily digested food – this is not diet day. Chocolate is good and so is PB&J sandwiches.
  • If possible bring a “handler” or a coach to help you manage your lifts and keep track of time etc.
  • Bring an Ipod
  • Bring extra underwear and socks as well as an extra t-shirt. Also bring a small towel and a watch.
  • Enjoy it! You’ve been training hard for this – let it out on the platform.
  • Get somebody to video your lifts.
  • Take some time off after the meet – personally I take as much as a full week off.

Don’t do this:

  • Expect to set PRs. What’s important is white lights and a total to build from.
  • Starve yourself to fit into a weight class. Getting on teh platform for the first time is stressful enough – lift in whatever weightclass you fit into.
  • Stress! 🙂
  • Post updates on Facebook all the fucking time. Focus on the moment and let the world know how you did when you get home.

Now go out and have a great meet, and if you have any questions, feel free to post a comment – there are plenty of weightlifting and powerlifting veterans following. 🙂

PS: this is a great post from 70sBig on being a rookie lifter.