Thursday, December 31, 2009

DEC 30 2009 - Tabata Deadlift

I'm running a day behind the CFFB site, which gave me plenty of time to dread this workout.

Power Snatch 5 sets of 3 reps (55kg)
Strict Pullups 3 sets for max reps (15,11,12)

Tabata Deadlift at 100kg/225#
8x[20sec DLs for max reps, 10sec rest]
(9,6,6,7,6,6,4,3 = 47 reps)

I used my new weightlifting shoes for the power snatches. They definitely make it easier to get into a deep overhead squat. In fact I think I did my first legitimate full squat snatch during my warm-up sets with 45kg. I wish I'd had it on video, but my camera battery was completely dead. Landing low in the new shoes is still taking some getting used to.

Tabata deadlifts are crazy hard. I'd done them before as part of a DL/burpee Tabata mash-up called "Death by Tabata." That was with 85kg and the relative rest of burpees every other round. By round six today my back was screaming at me (tired, not injured) and it took a lot of effort to keep picking up the bar. Glad of the rest day tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DEC 29 2009 - Back in Chattanooga

Yesterday was a bonus rest day. My recovery has been poor due to lost sleep from travelling and lots of sugary holiday food. Now I'm on a one day delay from the CF FootBall site. I'll stay on the delay until the end of the week, rest Sunday, and be back in synch on Monday.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (99kg)
Press 3 sets (5,3,5 reps at 49kg)

As Many Reps As Possible
10x [1 min Sumo DL High Pull (20kg), 1 min Rest]
Goal = 300 reps

My pressing irked me. I don't know why I missed 2 reps on the 2nd set. The last rep of set 3 was ugly, too. The squat went fairly well, I'm starting to get the hang of the belt and shoes.

The conditioning workout got scary reviews in the CFFB comments section yesterday, so I thought I'd be well below 300 reps. Turned out I got 342. I'm guessing there's a disconnect between using the C2 rowing machine and my sumo deadlift high pulls with a kettlebell. I'd love to do this workout on a C2 and compare my score.

DEC 26 2009 - Tabata Run

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (215# / ~97kg)
Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps (180# / ~81kg)

Tabata Treadmill Run
8x [20sec running, 10sec rest]
at 15% incline, 7.7 mph

I squatted in my new weightlifting shoes and used my new belt. The support felt good, but I wasn't used to the increased pressure in my face. My face actually tingled from all the extra blood in my head. I contracted slightly less on subsequent sets and experienced no ill effects. It makes me wonder about using the belt, though. I'm most excited to try it on the next really heavy deadlifts I do.

The Tabata run was extremely hard after squatting heavy. I called it quits after seven rounds, since my feet started coming off the back of the treadmill. I had no desire to be flung accross the YMCA.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

DEC 24 2009 - New Shoes!

Thanks to a family member's travel plans we got to open Christmas presents early. (Thanks Courtney!) What was waiting in that shiny box for yours truly? A brand new pair of Rogue Do-Win size 10s! (Thanks Mom & Dad!)

I got to play with my new shoes at the local YMCA, since it is a facility enlightened enough to have bumper plates and rubber flooring. I put 40kg on the bar and pulled a trial squat clean and promptly pitched forward and dropped the weight. Grrr. Second try I overcompensated and almost fell on my butt. I pushed the weight out front and stepped back to save myself the indignity of winding up on my back under the bar. But really, 0 for 2? I tried a few more squat cleans before realizing that I wasn't going to be able to put up any serious weight today.

I played around with power cleans and worked up to a 70kg power clean & jerk. Next I tried power snatches and overhead squats. Again, my balance was off for the overhead squats. At least I was ready for it.

After 30 minutes of play, I'm really happy with the shoes. The power transfer through my shoes felt solid on all the pulls. I just have to work on the new landing platform and adjust my balance. I recommend that anyone lifting in new shoes take a couple sessions to work on balance at really light practice loads before trying to lift heavy in them. After a few more sessions in the new clogs I'll post a full review.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

DEC 23 2009 - Why I hate Mirrors

No, it's not 'cause I'm ugly, but nice try. I hate mirrors in the weight room because they mess with my balance. I learned to squat by reading Mark Rippetoe's excellent book Starting Strength, and he is vehement about looking at a spot on the ground six to ten feet ahead while squatting. His reasoning is that it makes balancing a little easier to have a fixed reference point at about that distance. Since reading that I have not squatted at a facility with mirrors right in front of the squat rack. Until today.

When I squat at home I have a little water mark on the wall that I like to focus on. At the YMCA, the mirror stopped at about the same height as my happy little water mark, so I picked a spot just below the mirror as a point of reference. As soon as I started squatting, I saw myself move in my peripheral vision and couldn't stop from looking up. I wound up with my weight too far back and wobbled a bit in the bottom. Fortunately, this was my first warm-up set, and I had about four more sets to correct my tendency to look up.

But the mirror made it so hard to not look up. It seemed there were two types of distracting thoughts runnning through my head. One is the visceral "look out for danger" response that I have to anything moving in my peripheral vision. The other is more cerebral. I want to check my form. Are my knees staying out? Is my chest up? Did my lower back round at the bottom? It was actually easier to ignore the distractions caused by the mirror once the weight got heavy. The last two reps of each work set were hard enough that all I could think about was driving up.

But I still hate the mirrors. The only reason they're in the weight room is so the boys doing their alternate dumbbell bicep curls can 1) make sure they're flexing their glutes or 2) make sure someone else in the gym is looking at their glutes.

Squat 3sets of 5 reps (210# / ~95kg)

As Quickly As Possible: 100 Pullups

DEC 22 2009 - Bench Reunion

My last bench press was sometime in September, so I wasn't sure how today would go. I was, however, very happy to have the opportunity to push more than I can press overhead. I used the equipment at the local YMCA, so my weights are in pounds.

Bench Press: 3 sets of 5 reps at 175# (~79kg)
Deadlift 5 Rep Max: 315# for 3 reps (~142kg)

Benching felt good. I'd like to be able to do as much benching as the CF Football site programs. It is a very satisfying movement.

The deadlift concerned me. I didn't expect it to be as hard as it was. What I had forgotten is that at home I have a 25mm bar, while the bar at the Y was either a 28 or 30mm powerlifting bar. The extra grip diamter made holding on difficult. I used a mixed grip (one hand pronated, one hand supinated) and alternated which hand was supinated each rep.

DEC 20 2009 - Travel Workout

We were on the road for the holidays, so I made up a kettlebell workout. The heavy lifting will have to wait until I get near a gym.

As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes:
1 Round =
. 2 KB Thrusters (1 per arm)
. 5 KB Swings
. 4 KB Thrusters (2 per arm)
. 10 KB Swings
. 6 KB Thrusters (3 per arm)
. 15 KB Swings

I used a 24 kg kettlebell, which felt very heavy. I spent more time catching my breath than I would have liked, but it was probably good for me. I finished 3 complete rounds and got all of the fourth except the last 15 swings.

I spent yesterday driving, and I'll do the same tomorrow, so it was great to have a workout. If you're travelling by car a kettlebell or dumbbell is a handy impromptu workout tool. Bring it along. For a wide variety of workout options google "kettlebell complex" for a host of different workout schemes. My travel kit consists of a kettlebell, rings, a jumprope, and a programmable timer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

DEC 18 2009 - My First CF FootBall Total

CF FootBall Total:
The total is the combined weight from 1 rep max lifts in each of the following 4 lifts : power clean, back squat, bench press, and deadlift. The lifts are done in that order, with 3 attempts allowed in each lift. Only the best 1RM weight counts toward the total.

Lacking a bench, I substituted the press, which brought down my potential score. On the positive side, I can compare my strength gains to previous CF Totals (squat, press, deadlift) more easily, since that workout uses the press.

Power Clean - 75kg / 165#
Back Squat - 111kg / 245# PR!
Press - 55kg / 121#
Deadlift - 149kg / 328# PR!
Total - 390kg / 859#

I've cleaned 170# before, and pressed 130#. I think my press would have progressed more if I had been able to bench press when the CFFB program called for it. Nevertheless, I'm a lot stronger than I was at the beginning of November, when I started following the CFFB site. On November 1st I squatted a 1RM of 95kg (209#); I'm happy with a 16kg (36#) increase. It's a 15# increase over my previous PR back in April. The deadlift is a 13# increase over my previous PR, also from April.

I'm pleased with the effect that CrossFit Football has had on my body, and will stick with the programming once I return from Christmas travels. Blog posts may be sporadic until the first week of January. Thanks for following, and have a merry Christmas!

DEC 17 2009 - Snatches & Sprints

Power Snatch 5 sets of 3 reps (51kg)

20 x 40m Sprints (on 20 sec rest)

This was a pretty light day by CrossFit Football standards. There's rumors of a CF Football Total tomorrow, so I'm avoiding any extra exercise and saving my energy for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DEC 15 2009 - Double Trouble

Strict Chin-ups 3 sets for max reps


5 rounds As Quickly As Possible
. 7 Deadlifts (115kg)
. 21 Double-Unders

I was ready for the double-unders to give me fits. During my warm-up I did several sets, made some adjustments to the rope length, and began cussing. I couldn't seem to string more than two double-unders together without tangling the rope. Oddly, they went pretty smotthly during the workout. Maybe double-unders are like jokes, the more I think about them, the worse I perform.

The original prescription for thw deadlifts was 315 pounds, which is the heaviest I've ever lifted for one rep. I scaled to just over 80% of my most recent 5 rep max. It was heavy enough that I spent slightly more time on deadlifts than double-unders. Total workout time - 18:11.

DEC 14 2009 - Press Progress

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (91kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (49kg)

4 rounds As Quickly As Possible:
. 5 Clean Pulls (90% 1RM Clean=65kg)
. 10 Strict Pullups
. 15 Back Extensions (Superman)
. 27 Sumo Deadlift High-Pull (20kg)

Even though I didn't get all 15 reps up on the press (missed the last one), I feel that I'm making progress on form. Heavy weights force improvements in form - you weed out inefficiencies or miss the lift. The head-bob that I was doing earlier is much diminished. I'm pretty happy with the lockout position. Also, watch the change in elbow position between when I clean the bar up and the first rep of press.

press 49kg 12 14 2009 from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

The conditioning workout required me to make some substitutions. The original called for back extensions in a roman chair or GHD while holding a 25# weight. I had to make due with Superman back extensions on the ground without the extra weight. The posted workout also called for rowing, which I replaced with 27 reps of Sumo Deadlift High-Pull with a 20kg kettlebell. It took me 13:17.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

DEC 12 2009 - Gardening and Roller Derby

5 rounds As Quickly As Possible
. 3 Power Snatches (75% 1 Rep Max)
. 6 Ball Slams (40# ball)
. 9 Ring Dips
. Rest 45 sec

Compared to the power cleans yesterday, the snatches were much more smooth. The rest period after each round let me push through a little harder. The dips were the sticking point yet again. They got hard after the first round, which was sooner than I expected. I used 45kg for the power snatches and a 20kg kettlebell for the ball slams. The kettlebell left some decent-sized craters in the flower bed.

This evening I got to see Chattanooga's roller derby gals at their first home bout - an exhibition event drawing a crowd of about a thousand. It was good fun. Looked like the gals were working hard and having fun smashing each other up. The rules are still a bit beyond me, but it looks like the female equivalent of hockey, in that fighting is an encouraged part of the game.

Friday, December 11, 2009

DEC 11 2009 - Power(less) Cleans

Power Cleans 5 sets of 3 (67kg)
Strict Chin-ups 3 sets for max reps (7chest+7chin, 4+5, 5+4)

10 x 150m Sprints (on 60sec rest)

My form was a bit squiffy on the power cleans. I've been working up to a 65kg clean & jerk as a regular part of my warmup, but after yesterday's painfest I lacked the snappiness usually present in my cleans. I should have taken video to see how bad it was. But I didn't feel like messing with the camera today.

The chin-ups went better than expected. The fact that I did more than last time means at least I wasn't pulling with my arms on the clean (which is a cardinal sin of weightlifting).

Spirints took between 21.5 and 28 seconds. I have a slight grade on the street, which widened the gap between my splits. Happy it's over. I'm ready for a Guinness float tonight!

DEC 10 2009 - Monster of Another Sort

7 rounds As Quickly As Possible:
. 6 Back Squats (115%Bodyweight = 85kg)
. 8 Broad Jumps (6ft. minimum)

It doesn't look too awful, does it. Trust me, it's a beast. Something about the broad jumps makes everything harder. My thought is that the back & abs get a double whammy from stabilizing the explosive jump, then the landing, and it leaves them whining when it comes time for another round of heavy squats. 85kg was a 15 rep (3sets of 5) PR for me, just a couple weeks ago. Now I got to do 42 reps! Super-happy-fun-time! I finished in 19:30 and went to bed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DEC 09 2009 - Zombie Attack Preparation

It has recently been pointed out to me that a 300# deadlift is really only the equivalent of 2 zombies, and that practicing picking up a mere 2 zombies will not help me much if I am being rushed by a crowd of undead. So I'd like to use this rest day to discuss the efficacy of different training methods as preparation for a zombie attack. Feel free to post suggestions for surviving a zombie attack to comments.

Deadlift - Develops strength for moving furniture or broken-down cars to block entry points.

deadlift from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Power Clean and Jerk - Throw zombies (or parts of zombies) at the attacking hordes.

clean and jerk from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Press - To push a door closed on an encroaching zombie horde, you'll need functional upper body strength that's supported by your hips and legs. Nothing builds zombie-fighting pushing strength like the press.

press from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Ball slams - An ab exercise with plenty of crossover value. Trains for the coordination and strength to bash a zombie with a rock on the first try.

slam ball from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Slasher - This aptly-named exercise develops power in the backswing for destroying the brainpan of zombies with anything from cricket bats to crow-bars.

slasher from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Thrusters / Wall-ball - Launch supplies or small friends over walls or to the upper level of a stronghold.

thruster from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

wall ball from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Pullups - Get over that wall or into the stronghold. Strict pullup develops arm strength. Kipping variety trains for power and endurance.

pullups from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Burpees - After playing dead to allow the hordes to pass in favor of fresh victims, hop up & run away.

burpee from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Sprints - Obvious. Distance running can help, but the initial speed to escape the zombie's grasp is most important. Their shuffling gait is an impediment to their endurance.

Jumprope - Agility training. Avoid ankle-clutching zombies hidden in sewers, reaching under fences, etc.

jumprope from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Box jumps - Hop over obstacles. The more difficult your escape route, the more it'll slow down the zombie horde. Obstacles buy you precious time to reload or check the map.

box jumps from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Farmer Carry - Be able to drag a friend to safety.

farmer carry from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Knees-to-elbows - Besides being a great ab workout, it's excellent practice for keeping your legs out of reach as you're clutching the skid of the rescue helicopter. There's alway one guy who gets pulled back into the waiting arms of the hungry horde. Don't be that guy.

knees to elbows from Scott Francis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DEC 08 2009 - Return of the Deadlift!

Deadlift 5 Rep Max (139kg)
Max Reps Strict Pullups x 3 sets (on 2:30 rest)

As Quickly As Possible:
30 Push-press (55kg)
10 x 40 meter Sprints (on :15 rest)
30 Push-press (55kg)

I got my deadlift back over 300 pounds! Last time I lifted this much was May, when I set my current personal best. Since I was able to get 5 reps, I feel like I could set a new PR as soon as next week. I'm hoping for a CFFB Total so I can give my 1RM a try.
My pullups are suffering a little for now, since I'm gaining bodyweight. I'm up to 73kg (163#). Pullups: 4 chest-to-bar + 7 chin-over-bar, 3+5, 3+5.

I had to make some substitutions to the CF Football conditioning workout. It called for 30 reps of bench press at bodyweight. I have no bench, so I opted for push-presses at 75% of my bodyweight. 73kg x 0.75 = 55kg. Finished the conditioning workout in 17:37.

Monday, December 7, 2009

DEC 07 2009 - Press Trouble

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (89kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (49kg)

As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes
1 Round = [10 Ring Rows, 10 Ring Push-ups]

I felt good on the squats. The press was hard, I got 4, 3 & 3 reps. Didn't complete any of the sets. If the pattern holds, I'll get all 15 reps next week. If not, I'll have to re-think what to do for the pressing exercises. CrossFit Football prescribes press on Mondays, bench press on Thursdays. Since I have no bench, I've been playing around with different substitutions. At first I also pressed Thursdays, but hit a wall trying to increase the load twice a week. Next I tried 5sets of 3 split jerks, on the theory that supporting a heavier load than I can press would drive improvement on my press much like the bench press would. It'll be interesting to see how that works out.

I finished the conditioning work with 11 full rounds and 2 more ring rows.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

DEC 05 2009 - Social Suffering!

Our neighbor Bryce invited us to the local CrossFit affiliate (Get Built Chattanooga) for their running of "Fight Gone Bad" a notorious mainstay of the CrossFit community. It was great to work out in a group again. Shared suffering is great for bonding with one's fellows, and it's a little easier to find the motivation to push hard when other athletes are putting up inspirational efforts and there's a cheering section. (Thanks, Hope & Robbie!)

Fight Gone Bad:
Five stations:
. Rowing machine (count calories burned instead of reps)
. Sumo Deadlift High-Pull (75#)
. Push-Press (75#)
. Wall Ball (20# ball, 10 ft. target)
. Box Jumps (20" box)
Spend one minute at each station; do the maximum ammount of reps. After all five stations, rest exactly one minute. Repeat for a total of 3 rounds. (18 minutes)

Audrey did a great job at her first official FGB, scoring 225! And I put up a personal best of 266. Many thanks to Bryce for bringing us; we had a great time working out and meeting people.

DEC 04 2009 - Runnity-Run-Run

Power Snatch 5 sets of 3 reps (49kg)
Strict Chin-ups 3 sets for max reps (14,8,8)

8x 200m Sprints on 2:30 rest

I tried the first set of power snatches at 55kg, but it was too heavy. Once I learn enough technique to get all the way under the bar in a full overhead squat I think I'll have no problem with that weight. But for now, it was too much to lift 15 times.

I did as many chest-to-bar chin-ups as I could before resorting to chin-over-bar. For some reason I find it easier to get strict chin-ups (palms facing me) chest-to-bar, than strict pullups (with palms facing away). Thinking back on it, I'm curious if it has to do with different grip width on the bar, range of motion from the wrist rotation, or different muscle involvement. Any guesses?

The sprints workout was more running than I'd done in a while. It totaled a mile. I ran up hill from my house 200m (each took between 41 and 44 seconds), and walked back for the next one. The return walk usually took about 2:15. I don't think it was the best rest pattern. I would have gained more benefit if I had lied down or sat for 2 minutes, but the workout took 25 minutes as it was, and more rest would have cut into my supper time. I could have rested at the far end of my sprint, and run the even sprints downhill, but I don't really care for downhill sprints. It's harder on my joints and gravity is doing most of the work.

It was interesting to note how long I could go all-out. It was only about 120 meters. After that my leg cadence slowed noticeably. I was able to keep my speed up longer towards the middle of the workout, once I focussed on it. Then I began decelerating sooner as I fatigued. Makes sense, but it was good to feel, so that I know to watch for it in others.

DEC 03 2009 - Substitutions

Sorry for the delay in getting these posts up.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (87kg)

As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes:
1 Round = [3 Handstand Pushups, 5 Strict Pullups, 7 Knees-to-Elbows]

I made two substitutions: I did incline push-ups (feet 4' off ground) as I don't yet have a handstand pushup, and I counted pullups where my chin rose above the bar but where my chest failed to touch the bar. Since this Summer I've been doing chest-to-bar pullups and feel that it's been a tremendous aid in getting my first muscle-up, and improving pulling power all around. But I have a hard time getting chest-to-bar without kipping. So I still do strict pullups to the chin-over-bar standard.

10 rounds + 2 incline pushups.

Friday, December 4, 2009

DEC 01 2009 - Need Help Counting

A condition I refer to as the deadlift dumb-dumbs set in almost immediately. I have my deadlift 5 rep max very close to my past personal best. As soon as I set down the 5th rep I was overcome by a desire to go to bed. No shower, no stretching, certainly no conditioning workout. But I settled for 5 minutes of laying on the floor, then geared up for a big, heaping serving of power cleans & push-ups. The amount of reps decreased by one in each set. I used to know the mathematical formula for figuring the total number of reps, but it eluded me tonight. Thankfully, my lovely assistant handled the counting.

Deadlift 5 rep max
As Quickly As Possible: Alternate sets of Power Cleans and Push-ups
. PwrCLN - 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1
. Push-ups - 20,19,18,17,16,15,14,13,12,11

I used 55kg for the power cleans, and finished in 14:22. Out of curiosity I used Catalyst Athletics' on line power calculator and found that I averaged 122 watts for the conditioning workout.

Monday, November 30, 2009

NOV 30 2009 - Press Progress

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (85kg)
Press 3sets of 5 reps (47kg)
5 Rounds As Quickly As Possible:
. 7 L-Pullups
. 14 Ring Dips
. 100m Sprint

I was able to complete all 15 reps of the press at 47.2kg today! Last time I only got 11 reps. My squat feels strong, but heavy. I come up slowly. The conditioning workout took me 14 minutes, 30 seconds. The ring dips really slowed me down.

NOV 28 2009 - "Death By Tabata"

Another fearsome named WOD!

Alternating Tabata intervals of Deadlift (85kg) and Burpees for max reps.
8x[20 sec DL, 10 sec rest, 20 sec Burpees, 10 sec rest] for a total of 8 minutes.

Crushing workout! I was pooped after this one. 106 total reps.

NOV 26 2009 - Sluggish Turkey Day

I lacked motivation. The squats went well, but the split jerks and conditioning were less than my best.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (81kg)
Split Jerk 5 sets of 3 reps (55kg)
As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes:
5 Pullups
7 Push-Press (45kg)
9 Knees-to-elbows

I managed 7 rounds, plus one pullup.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NOV 25 2009 - REST

After the past two days, it felt like heaven just to sit around today. Just a reminder, rest and recovery is when we get stronger. It's the calm after the storm in which our bodies rebuild. In the spirit of recovery, here's links to a few sites that have influenced my current nutrition and recovery:
(Side note, there's some drama in the community right now; don't let it overshadow the quality of the information you use. Seek excellence.)

CF FootBall's Nutrition page.

Robb Wolf.

CrossFit Invictus.

Mark Sisson's "Daily Apple."


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NOV 24 2009 -

Here's video of the first two reps of my deadlift. My butt rises a half second before the bar moves. This means my starting position is not right. Heavy deadlifts are great for pointing out flaws in technique. The bar doesn't come off the ground until you get it right. I'm in the habit of a more upright back from pulling cleans and snatches. But when it gets heavy, you have to be in an efficient position. Bar over the mid-foot, shoulders just in front of the bar, back set, chest up, and butt no lower than the tight torso dictates. If you pause the video right when the bar starts up, that's what you'll see. So all the movement before that is inefficient.


Deadlift 5 rep Max (129kg)
3 sets Pullups for Max Reps (13,10,9)
As Quickly As Possible:
. 20 Thrusters (45kg)
. 100m Sprint
. 15 Thrusters
. 100m Sprint
. 10 Thrusters
. 100m Sprint
. 5 Thrusters
. 100m Sprint

The deadlift reps were HARD. If I can keep progressing on CF Football's linear progression I'll be back to setting PRs in a month. I'm looking forward to the chance to try a one rep max the next time the CFFB Total comes around.

I don't have dumbbells capable of holding 23kg each, so I used 45kg on the barbell. I missed out on some coordination & balance components in the workout, but was happy I got to go heavy. Not during the workout, of course. Any day that includes both deadlifts and thrusters is difficult. But it's great programming. If my nutrition and rest are dialed in, I can't help but get stronger in a hurry.

My finisher today was Tabata knees-to-elbows.
For knees-to-elbows hang from the pullup bar and touch knees to elbows. Try to keep from swinging. It's great for the abs & back.
Tabata intervals are 8x[20sec work, 10sec rest].
I got a total of 55 reps, spread between 8 and 6 reps.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NOV 23 2009 - Security

The workouts after rest days are always special. Today's was no exception:

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (79kg)
3 Rounds As Quickily As Possible:
. 4x 53m Sprints (out,back, out,back)
. 12 Power Cleans (55kg)
. 6 Push Jerks (55kg)
As Many Rounds As Possible in 3 minutes:
. Medicine Ball Throw (20#)
. Broad Jmps to Med Ball
. Return to start carrying Med Ball Overhead

I finished the conditioning workout in 10:55. Looking at the CF Football site, maybe I scaled it too light. I chose 55kg because 65 seemed too close to my 1 rep max (70kg). If I'd used 65kg it would have turned into a 20 minute strength workout. At 55kg it was good for power production. I only had to set the weight down during the last round of push-jerks. Overall, this was an excellent workout. Lots of power production, a pull, a push, and sprints. Hits everything an athlete needs.

Today I added my first "Finisher" workout. I made a deck of cards with very short workouts that address one of my limiters or add core work. Today's turned out to be a fun combination of medicine ball throws and broad jumps.

Midway through my first round of power cleans a couple of door-to-door salesmen started asking me questions. I had no inclination to slow down my workout in order to more politely shatter their dreams of making a big sale. One guy was shouting what I think was encouragement as he approached. Fortunately (for them), before they could get within throwing range of my barbell, my lovely fiancee explained what I was doing and fielded all their questions. After I was done with the workout, I asked her what they were selling. Security systems. "Does it look like we need a security system?" she asked. I agree, it's much more fun to chase down criminals and beat them with a kettlebell. I wonder if there's a "Beware of CrossFitter" sign I can put up in the yard?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mark Rippetoe on Cheese & the Feds

"Yes, it is the law here that un-aged cheese must be made from pasteurized milk. I mean, really, what good is having a federal government if it can't make eating cheese safer for everybody? Imagine the landscape littered with the corpses of innocent children whose immune systems were not up to the challenge. Is that what you really want?"
- Mark Rippetoe

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NOV 21 2009 - Burner!

Chin-ups weren't on the CFFB website, but I noticed that yesterday's were supposed to be strict (no kipping), so I did them strict today.

Strict Chin-ups, 3 sets for max reps (11,8,7)

As Quickly As Possible:

30 Back Squats with bodyweight (75kg)

200m Sprint

30 Burpees
Tabata Push-Press (25kg) - (12,11,10,9,8,9,8,9)

First time doing this workout with full bodyweight squats (I weighed 71kg this morning). Finished in 8:58. My goal was under 10 minutes. I broke the squats into sets of 5. The "sprint" felt like a slog. I had to stop for breath 3 times during the burpees. In Crossfit beware anything that's "only" one round. They burn!

I added Tabata Push-presses as a finisher, since I have a rest day tomorrow. Tabata intervals are 8 rounds of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. Do as many reps as possible. I use a weight that lets me go fast. Tabata work is great for building muscular endurance.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NOV 20 2009 - Power Snatch

I felt much more comfortable about today's workout, compared to yesterday's. I've been working on my Oly lifts as part of my warm up, so I knew roughly what to expect. But the Olympic lifts aren't familiar to everyone, so here's a quick & dirty explanation of the exercise, and a vid.

In the Snatch, the athlete must lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one fast movement. The Power Snatch is a type of snatch in which the bar is caught overhead while the athlete is not in a full squat. In the video, you can see my hips are above my knees the whole time. Although my arms support the bar, the majority of the force is generated by an explosive hip extension.

3 sets of Chin-ups for max reps (15,11,12)
3 Power Snatches on the minute, every minute, for 15 minutes (45 total reps)

CFFB recommended using 70-80% of your heaviest power snatch for this workout. I'd say that if you're new to the power snatch, you can probably stick to right around 80%. I'm pretty sure some technique flaws are keeping me from having a heavier snatch, so I opted for 45kg (81% of my 55kg max). However, if you're brand new to heavy lifting, then strength may be a limiter, so those folks should stay closer to the 70% range.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NOV 19 2009 - "The Ensign"

Any time a named workout comes up on a CrossFit web page I worry. In the short time I've been following CrossFit Football, this is only the second named workout I've done. It's a modification of another workout I have done called "The Chief," which left me gasping on the deck. For me "The Ensign" was harder due to the substitution of ring dips every other cycle.

I feel that I got the scaling about right for the power cleans, but perhaps I should have done fewer ring dips, or dips with a band assist. After cranking out 6 fast pushups I was struggling to do more than 3 dips in a row. They really slowed me down.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (77kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (47kg - 5 reps, 4 reps, 2 reps)
"The Ensign"
Six cycles of 4 minutes each:
. 3 min As Many Round As Possible where
. 1 Round = [3 Power Cleans (55kg), 6 Pushups, 9 Air Squats or Ring Dips*]
. 1 min Rest
*on cycles 1,3,&5 do 9 Air Squats per round;
on cycles 2,4,&6 do 9 Ring Dips

My results:
Cycle 1 - 4 rounds + 3 power cleans
Cycle 2 - 2 rounds +3 power cleans, 1 pushup
Cycle 3 - 3 rounds + 3 power cleans, 6 pushups, 1 squat
Cycle 4 - 2 rounds + 1 power clean
Cycle 5 - 3 rounds + 3 power cleans, 6 pushups, 5 squats
Cycle 6 - 2 rounds + 2 power cleans
16 total complete rounds.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nov 18 2009 - Bouncing Back

After addressing some serious weaknesses the past two days, I'd like to review one point of progress I've made this year. I have become better at using the "bounce" in the bottom of a squat. I'd read about the hamstring stretch-reflex which can help propel an athlete out of the bottom of a full-depth squat, but hadn't been able to feel it until this Autumn.

I think it took me a long time to develop the back strength and hamstring flexibility necessary to use the bounce. Until recently I had a "butt wink," or loss of lumbar curve, in the bottom of my squat. My hamstrings were pulling my back into flexion. Essentially my tight hamstrings and soft back were absorbing the bounce.

Here is a video of my overhead squat this March. Look for the quick rounding of my back in the bottom of each squat. Also, note that my heels come off the ground in the bottom of each squat - another sign of tight hamstrings.

Next is a video of my squats two days ago. Watch me start up fast, due to the stretch-reflex, then grind up slowly through the middle.
Now, if I can just keep my knees all the way out to the sides....

NOV 17 2009 - Discovering Weaknesses, Day 2

Yesterday forced me to address my jumprope skill deficiency. Today the problem was my whole left side. I'm right handed, so the left arm thrusters in the workout were a huge challenge.
Deadlift 5 Rep Max (125kg)
Max Rep Pullups 3 sets on 2 minutes of rest between sets (15,13,11)
As Many Rounds As Possible in 20 minutes:
1 Round = [15 Right-arm KB Thrusters (20kg), 15 Left-arm Thrusters, 106 yard sprint]

Just to review, a thruster is a squat with a press at the top. You stand up, holding a weight in your hands, and push it all the way overhead. Moving the weight quickly through such a long range of motion is great for developing functional strength and power. Today the CrossFit Football site prescribed single-arm thrusters, which required me to balance a kettlebell on my shoulder and press it overhead. It was hard work for my right arm, but also a constant fight for balance with my left. I dropped the kettlebell a couple times, and was drenched in sweat by the end. Here's the sweat angel I left on the mat.

I managed 6 full rounds plus 15 R-arm thrusters and 15 L-arm thrusters.

To give yourself a glimpse of how much harder this workout was than traditional barbell thrusters try brushing your teeth with your less dominant hand tonight. It's maddening how alien a familiar activity can become when done with the other hand.

NOV 16 2009 - Dealing with Frustration

Today's workout included Double-Unders, which means passing a jumprope underneath your feet twice per jump. To do them quickly takes skill, speed, and coordination. To do them poorly takes patience, a high pain tolerance, and a broad cussing vocabulary. I had a trying time with the jumprope today. I hope the neighbor kids didn't learn any new words from me.

Here's a video of both single- and double-unders, just so we're all on the same page. Singles are just regular rope jumps. Doubles make the whistling sound. I can't yet do double-unders back-to-back, so I alternate singles and doubles. WARNING! There's a truck passing my house, so you may want to turn off the volume.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (75kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (45kg)
As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes
1 Round = [5 L-Pullups, 10 Ring Pushups, 15 Double-Unders]

L-pullups require the abdominal strength to hold your legs in front of you. They also eliminate the ability to kip, so they take more arm strength. Ring pushups require all the little stabilizing muscles to work hard to keep your arms from wobbling around. And then the double-unders strike - requiring that you coordinate your arms with your legs and core for a quick, precicely timed jump. I broke my jumprope twice by snagging it on my foot or head. By the 15 minute mark I'd only completed 4 full rounds, plus 5 L-pullups, 10 ring pushups, and 7 Double-Unders.

Well, working on becoming a better athlete means developing more than just strength. I need to work on Double-Unders to increase my agility and coordination. I'll keep at it. A man I respect has a sign in his office that reads "Frustrating problem? You're about to learn something." Feeling frustration means we're addressing a weakness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NOV 14 2009 - Quarter Fight Gone Bad

No heavy lifting today, just straight to the conditioning workout: Quarter Fight Gone Bad. I've done FGB before, but never the heavier QFGB. I was curious to see how much it hurt. I ended up scaling the weights back to what's below. The prescribed 60kg thrusters and 25kg pullups would have kept my reps at about 1 each per round. I scaled back to what I thought would wear me out, but let me keep moving the whole 15 seconds each round.

Quarter Fight Gone Bad
5 Rounds For max Reps:
1 Round = 3 minutes, broken down as follows:
15 seconds of Thrusters (45kg), 45 seconds of Rest
15 seconds of Weighted Pullups (16kg), 45 seconds of Rest
15 seconds of Burpees, 45 seconds of Rest

Physically, this was a hard workout. I had to give a lot of effort on the thrusters and pullups, though I think next time I'd do the burpees with a weight vest. I did 5 burpees every round and they weren't hard, which makes me think I can't go any faster. So I should go heavier!

Mentally, this workout frustrated me. My score was 61 total reps, slightly better than one quarter of my last FGB score of 230. At first I thought I may have scaled the Thrusters too light since I had a consistent number of reps each round. I guessed maybe 50kg would have been about right for me. But then I looked at the comments on the CF FootBall page and saw many scores doubling mine, and most of them at least over 100. Perhaps I didn't scale light enough. A much lighter bar would have let me do more reps, possibly increasing the total power output for the workout. But it's hard to tell from the first workout.

On reflection, I think that for my goals of increasing my strength & power, it was right to keep it relatively heavy. I'm curious if anyone has an opinion on what weights I should use next time. Please post a comment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NOV 13 2009 - Power Cleans & Sprints

I got to run in the street in these:
I've been using Vibram Five Fingers shoes for all my weightlifting and the workouts involving short runs (400m or less). They take a couple weeks to get used to. I had to start by walking in them for 30 minutes at a time until my arches were strong enough for running. I run using the Pose method, which emphasizes landing on the forefoot and avoids "heel striking." The Vibrams definitely let me know if I ever land heel-first. In fact, I've only done it twice. For weightlifting, the Vibrams are great, I feel like they give me a much better feel for how and when my balance shifts. And I get much better power transfer through the thin, solid rubber sole than in running shoes.
Power Clean 5 sets of 3 reps (65kg)
Rest 5 minutes
Sprint 110m every minute, on the minute, 10 times.
I was happy to get all 15 reps up on the Power Cleans. I lost count on the sprints and accidentally did eleven. My fastest was just under 17 seconds, the rest were right around 20.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NOV 12 2009 - Slightly More Solid Squats

Strength work today went well. The depth is good and I feel like I was a little better at controlling my back angle in the bottom of the squats. But here's a vid so you can judge for yourself.


Well, maybe not. Reps #2 & 3 are good, but in #4 & 5 my hips come up first and I lean forward.

Presses were OK, though I felt some imbalance between my right and left arms. I wonder if I got one hand farther out when I shifted my grip after the clean.

The conditioning workout was a bear! I was breathing hard and shedding clothes in no time. The CrossFit Footbal folks have nailed the art of intensity. Doing two sets of the gymnastics movements instead of one big set of 6/12/18 kept me moving the whole time. Wicked.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (71kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (41kg)
Rest 6 minutes
As Many Rounds As Possible in 15 minutes:
1 Round = 3 Power Snatches (45kg) + 2 sets: [3 Pullups, 6 Pushups, 9 Box Jumps]

I finished 6 rounds and missed the seventh by 5 box jumps.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NOV 11 2009 - Thank You, Veterans

We owe more than we can know to those who have served in the military. Thanks to all of you, for your service and your sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NOV 10 2009 - Rain Sprints

I did this workout in the rain in the dark, running through puddles. At least I stayed warm from all the hard work.

Deadlift up to a 5 Rep Max (119kg)
10 rounds As Quick As Possible:
5 Power Cleans (55kg)
5 V-pushups
50m Sprint

The workout posted on CrossFit Football called for powercleans at 75% of bodyweight. I weigh 70kg, which means I should have been lifting 52kg, but I don't have the right plates for that. On the other hand, the prescribed workout called for handstand push-ups, which I can't do yet. I substituted V-pushups. I put my feeet on a 24" tall box, my hands on the ground about 3 feet in front of the box, and bent my body into a V so that my torso was almost vertical. (I'll add a pic tomorrow.)
I thought the workout might take a really long time, so I imposed a cut-off time of 16 minutes to keep from losing intensity. Well, I finished in 15:01.

NOV 09 2009 - How To Trick Yourself Into Lifting More

Had you asked me yesterday if I could push-press 45kg (99#) 55 times and do 55 strict pullups in 15 minutes, I'd have said "No." But it's amazing what one can do by breaking things down into smaller sets.

Today's Workout:

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps at 69kg (on 2 min rest)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps at 39 kg (on 2 min rest)
Rest 5 min
As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) in 15 minutes:
1 Round = [1 Push-Press, 1 Pullup, 3Push-Press, 3 Pullup, 5 Push Press, 5 Pullup]

For the Push-Presses I used a 45kg bar. I was able to get 6 full rounds completed, plus 1 more push-press and one pullup. Very tricky.

Here's a short vid - the last 2 reps of my press at 39kg. I tried to keep my head more in line with my spine. I'm pretty happy with this, I have no doubt that I'm locking out overhead. If anyone has feedback, I'd like to hear it in the comments section.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

NOV 08 2009 - Why CrossFit Football?

Why am I subjecting myself to the CrossFit Football workouts?

Short answer: so I can do this stuff next year.


These guys are athletes at the Stone Mountain Highland Games. The guys in the foreground are throwing a 22 pound "Stone of Strength" for distance. The gentleman in black is tossing a caber. The caber is over 20 feet long and weighs somewhere between 120 and 140 pounds. When I saw this, I thought it'd be a lot of fun to try next October.

So, the long answer to "Why CFFB?" is that I believe that the CrossFit Football programming will give me the fastest strength and power gains.

How? CrossFit Football uses relatively heavy weights in fast movements through large ranges of motion. That takes power and trains for power. Sounds hard? It is. But when was the last time you did something easy and thought "That was something I'm proud of!" or "That will make me a better person!"?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NOV 07 2009 - Bear Crawl? Are You Kidding Me?

I had no idea what effect the bear crawl in today's workout would have. I'm still new to the CrossFit Football programming, so I had not encountered it before. Since I live on a poison-ivy covered hill with no sidewalks, I elected to take my barbell and kettlebell down to the park and crawl around on level grass. I'm sure the passers-by thought I was nuts.

5 Rounds for Time:
9 Rack Thrusters (45kg barbell)
20m Bear Crawl
7 Ball Slams (24kg kettlebell)
20m Sprint

Here's some explanations of the above terms:
1 Rack thruster = 1 Back Squat + 1 Push-Press at the top. A Push-Press is like a shoulder press with a little knee bend and hip drive to add momentum to the bar. The key to the Rack Thruster seems to be driving hard at the end of the squat to launch the bar up as much as possible before your arms take over. I found that these were much less painful on my wrist than front thrusters (which require a front squat, and mean I have less grip on the bar). Rack thrusters are most easily done by stepping under a bar in a power rack to get the bar in position on the back. I have no rack, so I clean & jerked the weight overhead and lowered to my back before starting each set.
Bear Crawl = Crawl on all fours with only hands and feet touching the ground. Don't crawl on your knees. This turns out to require a lot of accessory muscle work in the shoulders to keep on course and keep one's face out of the dirt. Hand turnover speed was my limiter during the bear crawl. The rack thrusters took it out of me; it was all I could do to keep from face-planting.
Ball Slam = Pick up something heavy, hold it fully extended overhead, then slam it into the ground. Very primal. Very satisfying. Releases all manner of inner turmoil/ angst/ demons. It'll cure what ails you. Not having a heavy enough medicine ball, I settled for aerating the park's mulch by slamming my 24kg kettlebell into the ground. It left craters!

Overall - great workout for me! It hit one of my weaknesses (overhead lifting) from two angles by requiring strength and power for the rack thrusters, then agility and stabilization for the bear crawl and ball slams. I took 16:04 to finish; I had to break the last two rounds of thrusters into two sets. Next time this workout comes around my goal is to keep going through the whole round.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NOV 06 2009 - Sprints

I haven't sprinted in a while. I found it mentally challenging to work on balance, explosive hip extension, fast cadence, and breathing all at once. Next time sprints show up in the workout I'll warm up with some Pose running drills. I learned about the Pose method at a CrossFit Endurance Certification in 2007 - it's helped me run my last few triathlons faster and with much less joint pain. Check out the CrossFit Endurance website for videos of their drills.

Power Clean 5 sets of 3 reps
10x 40m Sprints, Rest as needed

I rested one minute between each sprint. Tried to remember my pose form. Tried to start explosively. Balancing the forward lean with the hip drive at the start was the most challenging.

NOV 05 2009 - Correcting My Press

Here's a side view of my press lockout position. Note that the bar is NOT directly over my head. There is a vertical line between the bar (where I'm gripping it), my shoulders, and my feet. As viewed from the side, at least some of the lifter's ear should be visible in front of the arm. Locking out fully in the press means pinching your shoulder blades together and shruging your shoulders up to your ears. However, I'd like my head in a more neutral position: head in line with the spine. I have a tendency to tilt my head forward when I pinch my shoulder blades together in back. Avoid that, but get the bar shrugged all the way up. That last 1/4 inch of height on the bar provides a lot of benefit for your shoulder health by balancing the strength around your shoulder girdle. You can prevent a lot of rotator cuff issues and postural problems by pressing all the way to a full, shrugged-shoulder lockout.

Apparently the heavy set of five deadlifts and seven weighted pullups a couple days ago wasn't enough for the guys at CF Football. Today there were more waiting for me in the conditioning set.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps
Press 3 sets of 5 reps
As Quickly As Possible:
10 Deadlifts, 10 Pullups,
9 Deadlifts, 9 Pullups,
8 Deadlifts, 8 Pullups,
7 Deadlifts, 7 Pullups,
6 Deadlifts, 6 Pullups,
5 Deadlifts, 5 Pullups,
4 Deadlifts, 4 Pullups,
3 Deadlifts, 3 Pullups,
2 Deadlifts, 2 Pullups,
1 Deadlift, 1 Pullup.

I squatted 66 kg because I forgot to put a 1 kg plate on the right side. It felt a little unbalanced, but I thought it was because I had not centered the bar on my back. Oops. I pressed 37 kg. For the deadlifts in the conditioning sets I lifted 75 kg, which is less than the 150% of my bodyweight (I'm 70 kg) that CFFB prescribed. But it seemed about right - it was heavy enough that I had to break up the set of 9 and take two breaths, but light enough that I kept good form on all but two of the 55 reps. I'd really like to do this workout again in a few weeks. Pullups were definitely my limiting factor. Again. I broke them into sets of three on the first set. Then singles by the third set. ARRRRRGH!

Well, that's why I'm training. I'll get my set of 33 unbroken pullups on my birthday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NOV 04 2009 - Creatine

Today I rested. And bought creatine. It has a myriad of health benefits, just some of which apply to lifting heavy things. You can start by checking out these articles:

or Google it. I'm sure there are even more reputable articles.

Of course, I'm interested in it primarily to aid in lifting heavy things and sprinting fast. I get the unflavored variety and mix 5 grams (1 teaspoon) in my post-workout protien shake. I paid $24 for 1000 grams, or about twelve cents a serving. You can probably find it cheaper on the internet, if you're inclined.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NOV 03 2009 - Weighted Pullups

Today was a heavy lifting day; no conditioning work.

Snatch: work up to a heavy single rep
Clean & Jerk: work up to a heavy single rep
Deadlift: work up to your 5 Rep Max
Weighted Pullups: seven attempts to work up to a 1 Rep Max

I snatched 55kg, C&J'd 65kg, deadlifted 115 kg, and got a 20kg + body weight pullup.

NOV 02 2009 - My Experiment With CF Football Begins

After looking over the past few months of programming on the CrossFit Football website (, I think it's exactly what I need. They program for strength, power, and speed - all limiters for me right now. The site offers a lot of options, to tailor your programming to your needs, and the "New to CF Football?" link does a good job of describing how to get started.

Each day's workout is composed of a strength workout, where the goal is to lift heavy, and a conditioning workout (they call it the daily wod), which is usually performed for time, or max number of reps. Since I'm not competing in a sport right now, I'll be using the off-season workouts. CFFB offers three levels of strength workouts, for people at different percentages of their strength potential. I feel pretty far from mine, so I'm going to begin with the amateur strength workout, in order to make the fastest progress. Once I stop making progress on the amateur level, it'll be time to move up.

Since I'm relatively small and weak compared to football players, I'll be scaling the workouts - using lighter weights, and sometimes fewer reps. I'll post only the workout that I actually do. If you want to see the posted workout instead of my scaled-down version, check it out on their website. Here goes.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps
Press 3 sets of 5 reps
Rest 5 minutes
As Many Rounds As Possible in 12 minutes:
5 Hang Power Cleans (55kg)
7 Ring Rows
9 Box Jumps (20" box)

I squatted 65kg, pressed 35kg, and got 7 complete rounds plus 3 hang power cleans. My right wrist is still unhappy with overhead pressing.

NOV 01 2009 - Squattin' Heavy

After two rest days, it was time to hit it hard with a one rep max squat attempt. I followed it up with a scaled-down Crossfit Football conditioning workout.

1RM Back Squat
Rest 4 minutes
For time:
4x100m Sprints (on 30 sec rest)
30 Push-Press (35kg)
4x100m Sprints (on 30 sec rest)


Here's video of my heaviest squat. I'm doing a low bar back squat, so I have a more horizontal back angle than you may expect. You can see that my hips go just below parallel with my knees. (Sorry for the camera not being level.) That's the good news. I'd like to see less delay between when I drive my hips up and when the bar starts up. What's going on is that my back muscles are not set tight enough, so I'm losing power transfer. The increased back angle makes for more torque (and thus more work) on my back muscles. Back strength was the limiter for my heavy squatting. Also, those are bumper plates, not metal - the total bar weight is 95kg. The conditioning took me just under 9 minutes, including rests after each sprint.