In-season training

Actually, I should’ve posted this before the Opens hit the world a couple of weeks ago, but with 14.3 out it became about a thousand times more relevant overnight.

During the season (however you define that) training should always be centered around the sport itself. You should never leave the gym all beat up and feeling mashed. Prioritize your energy and make sure you’re leaving something in the tank all the time. Leave the gym feeling fresh and make sure your normal training is focused on maintaining strength and conditioning.

Furthermore, if you’re a crossfittian doing the Opens, your “sport” will change on a weekly basis, it is therefore advised to do the same in your programming.

This week for example is a ridiculous low-back smasher from hell. Does it make sense to stress the lower back a lot in your other training? NO! Does it make sense to do everything in your power to minimize the stress on the lower back throughout the week? Hell yah!

Side note: whatever happened to CF workouts where the exercises would compliment each other and work the entire body like for example Fran? Drawing up a “bottleneck”-type workout is one thing, but when that bottleneck is the shoulder girdle or the lower back you’re asking for trouble.

Especially if your competitive season is short, always go for “less” instead of “more”. You’re not gonna get weaker by taking the foot off the gas for five weeks.

Just a quick Friday reminder to keep the goal the goal and on that note, I’m gonna finish up my resume. <3

The Crossfit miracle

If you’ve been around the Crossfit (and weight training) scene for some time, you’ll start to notice a trend. A sad trend.

People are getting injured.

I’m pretty sure that’s not why they train in the first place.

CF brought a lot of good things to the table, but the one-sided focus on “moving things from A to B” also created some issues. See when you’re pressing a lot and mostly using momentum to pull with, all the little muscles controlling the scapula gets neglected. That’s why a lot of CFers have shoulder blades sticking out like this:

Winged-Scapula

That’s bad news. It’s an injury waiting to happen.

On the upside though, a few simple things will go a long way. These three points will drastically improve your shoulder function and reduce the risk of injury:

  1. Do some kind of exercise where you focus on retracting the shoulder blades EACH workout.
  2. Balance out your pressing and pulling. If you’re doing 4x as much pressing as you are pulling (a lot of CFers are), things are gonna get ugly fast.
  3. For back work like BOR, focus on working the muscles and not just moving the weight. A one second pause at the top of the moment helps accomplish this.

Implementing YTWL as part of your warmup and doing band pull aparts between sets of presses will go a long way, but don’t forgot to train your back hard and heavy too. Nobody ever built a big back with bands and small dumbbells.

Give yourself about a month of following these three simple principles, and you have probably fixed that nagging shoulder pain of yours.

Have a great day, talk to you soon

C

Wendler 531 Cycle three week one wrap-up

Deload done. My deloads need to be shorter – had ~10 days which is way too much.

Press: 6@77,5kg – this is bad. Bench was fine, though I managed to fail a rep in the pinky grip figure-8. Roll of shame. Duh.

Did backwork as a triset batwings->chins->BOR which was ok. As soon as I get my lower back 100% I need to do some heavy backwork instead of all this dicking around though.

Managed to close the level 3 progression from CC on pullups and pushups, as well as level 2 on squats. Still on level 1 for HSPU (headstands) and level 2 for bridges. This is fine though as the book actually suggest you wait with these two. Headstands are tough when you try to support as little as possible with the hands.

Squat: Wasn’t really expecting to move mountains, as my SI-joint is still off. Getting it fixed before DL-day though. 5@145kg with relative ease. 3×5@110kg paused as backoff.

Managed to close level 2 bridging, level 3 HLR and level 1 grip. Yay.

Cardio: Saturday morning hill sprints and bodyweight stuff. Got in some quality work on clutch holds and my squat progression. Did short sprints, sprints with flying start and played around with changing direction too. Worked up a good sweat. 🙂

Bench: kept bench at just an easy 5@100 and went a bit heavier on the figure-8s instead. Up to 5@117,5kg. Did batwings and weighted chins as support as well as some easy easy work on the BW progressions. Finally managed to crack 120s headstand, so that’s good.

Finished off with neck, gut and grip.

Deadlift: 5@167,5kg was easy. Ready to push it now. Support was really good as well.

I’ve reached the first “real” bridging” exercise, and it feels fantastic. So excited. Finished up with some abs and grip. 🙂

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

I got 99 problems!

In training, as well as in life, it’s all about finding the point of diminishing returns if you want to be efficient. I’m not talking about slacking or being lazy at all, just finding the sweet spot for effort in a given pursuit. Effort in this context can be your time, money, attention or any other limited asset.

In close relation to this, you’ve got to figure out where you’ll get most bang for your buck. Look at it this way – if you were an alien landing on earth – which languages would you focus on? If you don’t list English and Mandarin in your top 3, you’re doing it wrong. Those two languages will let you speak to about half of the world’s population. Work on mastering those two languages, and add a bit of Spanish and Arabic, and you’re getting close to full coverage. Hindustani deserves honorable mention as well, but due to the fact that a majority of the people that speak Hindustani also speak English – you’d be better off just getting better there.

How about this: Mandarin is the squat, English is the deadlift and Spanish the bench press. Mandarin is protein, English is fats and Spanish is carbs. Mandarin is injury prevention, English is strength and Mandarin is hypertrophy.

kiss

Way too many people major in the minors and focus all of their energy on some silly little language like Danish for example. While learning Danish is smart if you live in Denmark, it doesn’t really carry over very well to any other language (except Swedish and Norwegian at very high levels of proficiency). For overall usability, you’d be better off just sticking with English.

So what I’m trying to say here is actually really simple. So many people have 99 problems, and yet they’re trying to optimize the last piece of the puzzle – the one percent. The last percent is the meal timing, the fasted cardio, the fancy supplements, the antioxidants, the phytonutrients and all those other fancy words.

Master the basics and everything will follow. If you speak fluent Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic – you’re gonna be hard pressed to find a place where you can’t get by.Throw in a bit of Russian and Hindi and you’ve pretty much got the whole globe covered.

On the other hand, if you speak Finnish, Bulgarian, Basque and Xhosa (btw Xhosa is a really friggin awesome language with “clicks”) – you’re not gonna get very far.

If you master the squat, deadlift, benchpress and the bentover row, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a muscle that’s not big and strong. Throw in some weighted carries and a few other bits and bobs, and you’ve got the whole body covered.

See?

Now go learn Mandarin. <3

PS: Obviously just like there are other interesting and useful languages than the top 5, there are also interesting and useful exercises. Just keep the great picture in mind and remember that most of the time it’s better to work hard on the basics, than to add complexity.

Strength training essentials #3

Third post in this series, and it’s gonna be a bit controversial.

See for years I really didn’t like this piece of equipment at all. I figured it was unnecessary, wimpy, girly and a lot of other things. Then I learned to think. Seriously.

See using straps is a matter of eliminating a limiting part of a chain. No matter how strong your grip is, you’re gonna be able to do more reps in a high-rep set of rows using straps than without. So if you’re training your back primarily, straps is the logical way to go.

Take for example the farmer’s walk. Without straps it’s a great static grip exercise, and a good exercise for the midsection, upper back and lungs. With straps, it becomes a great exercise for the upper back, midsection and lungs, that also challenges the grip a good deal. Though I wouldn’t use straps exclusively, it’s pretty clear that they have their merit.

Ironmind Lifting Straps is a quality pair of straps, that’ll last you a long time.

What about grip strength? Isn’t it important? If you compete in a sport where you have to grip things, it is. For someone training purely to look good, it’s not – you’ll build decent forearms using straps too. If it’s not enough, doing a few sets of towel chins once or twice a week should be plenty.

Now if you compete in a sport, things are obviously different. For me personally, grip isn’t an issue, so I do most of training with straps. I do however do all my heavy deadlifts and all my pullups without straps.

Straps are not gonna make your grip weak, but if it is, you obviously need to fix it. There are two ways to fix the problem:

  1. Train without straps for a couple of months. This should fix the problem.
  2. Add dedicated grip work for a month or two. Towel chins and farmer’s walk should be plenty.

Final note: there’s really no reason to limit your back (or other) training by not using straps. And no, it’s not “manlier” and using straps isn’t “gay”. If using straps will get you bigger and stronger, not using them is just plain silly.

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.