Thursday, November 25, 2010

Box Squattin'

Box Squat 3-3-1-1-1
PushPress 3-3-3-3-1
Yesterday was my second Box Squat workout. Cullen at Crossfit Flagstaff has coached me into a good position - feet wide, butt back, shins vertical. The key to box squatting seems to be exploding out of the bottom position. Even though I was moving slow at heavy weights, the goal is maximum force production. Think about jumping the weight through the roof as soon as your butt touches the box. I hit a 1RM of 235# in the Box Squat, and 160# in the Push Press.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Split Jerk PR!

The day after moving to Flagstaff was time for a solid crossfit workout. I dropped in on CrossFit Flagstaff, where Audrey has been working out for the past few weeks. We attempted to find our one-rep maxes on four lifts: Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, and Split Jerk.

Trainers Cullen and Lisa were giving me very helpful cues and analysis. They're both excellent coaches. Thanks to their influence, I was able to lift a new personal record on the split jerk - 190#!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I'm adding this to my list of things to do.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Motivation, Mr. T Style!

I'm back in Yosemite, and did the Physical Efficiency Battery (PT test) today. It's composed of an agility run through a 30' cone course, a sit-and-reach flexibility test, 1 rep max bench press, and a 1.5 mile run. I used mental imagery of Mr. T to motivate myself, and finished the mile and a half in 9:05 at 4000' above sea level. Thanks Mr. T! I was very happy with my bench press, setting a new personal record of 235# at a bodyweight of 172#.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Great Day at the Running Workshop!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the running workshop today at Get Built! Everyone improved their stride quite a lot. If you have any questions about run form feel free to post them to comments or e-mail me at

Mike requested a video comparison of sprinters vs. distance runners. Here goes:

First a video of Usain Bolt winning the 200m sprint at beijing in 2008. Be sure to watch the slow motion after 1:13. Watch his feet land directly under his center of mass until he crosses the finish, he keeps an upright torso, and has a high cadence. As he crosses the finnish line, watch how he decellerates by landing in front of his center of mass.

Next a video of elite marathon runners in the 2008 Boston Marathon. Commentary gives pretty good analysis of their strides. The only thing I disagree with is the way the commentator describes the runners driving and extending their trailing legs(*run-geek note below). I just think this puts a detrimental cue in the runner's mind. I find it more helpful for most folks to think about pulling the rear foot off the ground quickly. This helps maintain a high cadence. His description of landing under the center of mass, minimal vertical bouncing, and upright posture is spot-on.

Bonus points if you spotted the lead runner land with a slight heel strike going into the turn. The take-home point: no one has perfect form all the time, so don't beat yourself up about having perfect form right away. We can all improve with attention and practice.

Now go back to the first video and look at Bolt near the finish again. The basic form is the same as the marathon runners. You'll probably need a protractor to see any difference between their body angles. Note that Bolt's heel is almost touching his butt as he swings his leg forward. The marathon runners aren't pulling their feet quite as high, but it's not a drastic difference. Also, the sprinters are all driving their arms much farther down than the long-distance runners. (**see run-geek note #2 below for more).

UPDATE: Here's a great link for anyone considering barefoot running or wearing Vibram FiveFingers!

*run geek notes: Feel free to skip over these unless you're really interested.
1- There is definitely a quick, strong hip & knee extension extension in the trailing leg. The hip & knee extension sets up the stretch-shortening cycle in the calf. When the calf contracts, the center of mass is either directly above or only slightly in front of the foot. The combination of the hip & knee extensions with the calf contraction is mostly vertical. But thinking about driving the leg back, tends to slow an athlete's cadence and make them heel-strike out front. Thinking about driving the leg down into the ground doesn't help either - it tends to make the athlete's torso bounce way too much and wastes energy. The cue the Pose coaches seem to like the best is to focus on pulling the foot up quickly. It minimizes the athlete's ground contact time, and preserves forward lean and a smooth, fast cadence.
2- Arm and leg drive are linked, physically and psychologically. Right out of the blocks, the sprinters need as much explosive hip & knee extension as possible to accellerate quickly. This is facilitated by a coordinated vigorous arm drive. It balances the violent twisting motions of the lower body to keep the athlete on a forward path. By the time the sprinters near the finish they are at cruising speed, their torsos are basically upright, and their legs are no longer driving them forward as much. Near the finish, they could do without the extended elbows, but it probably makes them feel fast, and there is no reason to worry about the minimal energy cost of some extra arm swing in a sprint.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Birthday Pullups!

To celebrate the 33 orbits of the earth around the sun since my birth, I did 33 pullups today. According to my (completely arbitrary) birthday pullup rules:
Kipping was allowed,
Chin above the bar counted,
Resting while hanging from the bar was allowed,
Letting go of the bar before rep 33 was not allowed,
Touching the ground before rep 33 was not allowed.

Reps were counted by a thoroughly objective and unbiased party. (Audrey)
The magnanimous folks at Get Built Chattanooga allowed me the use of their pullup bar.
Thanks to everyone who cheered for me!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Press Improvements

A friend asked me how to achieve her goal of bench pressing her bodyweight.

First, how cool is it that a gal wants to bench bodyweight? I think its AWESOME!

Here's what I told her:

1) Lift heavy. Alternate bench and press (Some people call it shoulder press, overhead press, or military press - I just call it press because I think Rip is right about this.) every other workout. Do as much weight as you can lift for 3 sets of 5 reps. Add weight every workout, in small, but consistent amounts.

2) Eat big. The major limiter to upper body strength is muscle size. Upper body muscles are smaller than lower body muscles. To get bigger, muscles need protein. You need to eat at LEAST 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This is a minimum for anyone lifting weights to get stronger. Yes, that's a lot of protein. A lot of food. Remember: you're not going to eat like this forever, but you need to give your body the raw materials to build itself into the kind of body that can do what you're asking it to do - which is lift something heavy. To do that, you need muscle, and muscle comes from protein.

3) Do your squats. And do your deadlifts. These two exercises are responsible for dumping the maximum amount of growth hormone into your system.

4) Get at LEAST 8 hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. REM sleep is the time when your body does its construction work. It takes all the protein you ate, all the growth hormones you got from your lifting, adds in some more growth hormones, and goes to work building new muscle.

5) Every once in a while do ring dips, push presses, push jerks, hand-stand push-ups, prowler sled pushes, or something else that's difficult and involves pushing.

It'll be fun to see her progress this Summer.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My First Weightlifting Meet

My first experience in a competitive weightlifting tournament began as a result of curiosity and internet badgering. CrossFit’s main page recommends “learning new sports and competing in them,” CrossFit Football is rife with competitive spirit, and the guys at 70s Big are relentless about using competition as the perfect catalyst for self-improvement. So Audrey and I signed up for the War Eagle Classic at Woodward Academy in Atlanta.

As a painfully shy & skinny kid, I would rather have jumped into a pit of tigers than lift weights standing all alone on a platform in the center of a gymnasium full of people. Perhaps I’ve grown up a bit; it was fun. The people were really easy to get along with and there was a lot of encouragement for us newbies. The spirit among competitive weightlifters is more camaraderie than animosity. Everyone was trying their best at something very difficult, and supportive of others doing the same.

I walked into the gym at Woodward Academy in Atlanta with no expectations. I’d spent the last week and a half hanging out on beaches. No heavy lifting, no training, no exercise beyond tossing a Frisbee. I certainly wasn’t going to expect much from my body. But it went well. Looking over the videos, I’m pretty happy with my form and I put up a new PR in the clean & jerk.

One piece of advice from the 70s Big guys was spot-on: look at a spot over the center judge’s head; don’t make eye contact. It’s distracting having someone so close to my line of sight staring at me, but that’s his job. I kept my eyes on the bar while setting my feet and grip, then blinked while I settled into position, opening my eyes on the far wall.

Audrey made me very proud. She had heaps of extra pressure from going first. The very first time she tried a weightlifting competition she didn’t get to become comfortable with things by watching someone else first. Audrey was a champ, and lifted gloriously. She made 5 of her six lifts, and set a new PR in the clean & jerk!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts on Transition Periods

My exercise programming is currently in fartlek mode, which I think is an old Norse word meaning "do what you feel like." I just finished up two cycles of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Program at Get Built Chattanooga CrossFit. It's a different kind of max strength training program, which seems to fit very well with CrossFit-style programming. In a week I'll be travelling for about two weeks without access to a gym, so this week isn't going to build into any kind of new strength cycle. What to do?

This is a perfect opportunity for a transition week. Instead of just jumping from one hard training cycle to the next or loafing around drinking beer for a week, I'm going to play! Over the past year I've been getting more interested in the two olympic lifts: the snatch and clean & jerk. This week I'm going to try out one week of an olympic lift oriented training plan that the 70's Big guys at Wichita Falls Athletic Club have used. I'm not evaluating the whole plan or expecting it to work magic in a week. I'm doing it 'cause it looks fun - I get to spend two days on just the olympic lifts, plus I still get to squat and deadlift. Where's the down-side in that?

In any case, I think it's important for an aspect of one's training to be fun. Sure, it's important to put in the hard work to get stronger and build charachter, but the part of working out that continually motivates me is the chance to learn something new. With the olympic lifts I'm going to be learning for a long time to come. I've signed up for my first weightlifting meet in Atlanta on March 20th; a great opportunity to try my best and watch some experts. I'll let you know how it goes.

Stay safe, lift heavy, and have fun!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feb 22 2010 - The times they are a changin' ...

Alas, the body is weak enough from working out, and my spirit ain't strong enough to make it type about it afterwards every day. So I'm limiting my posting to times when I have something a little more enlightening to say.

I am still working out at Get Built Chattanooga. I just finished my second cycle of Wendler's 5/3/1 program, and am collecting data and thoughts for a post about it. Stay tuned.

Also in the works is a running clinic for the good citizens of Chattanooga. I'll be putting some folks through drills and sharing some of the insights I've had from doing the CrossFit Endurance workouts.

I am making progress toward my birthday pullup goal. Friday I put up a set of 31 as part of Lynne - a max rep bench press & pullup workout.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jan 22 2010 - Triple-Under!

Today I did my first triple-under. One of the Get Built members saw a jumprope demonstration at school and threw down the gauntlet. I got one and only one.

Snatch Practice - Drill Set 3 (25kg)
Mid-Hang Sn Jump + Pull x 2 reps x 4 sets
Mid-Hang Sn Pull x 3 reps x 6 sets
Tall Muscle Snatch x 5 reps x 5 sets

30 Ring Rows (3 sets of 10)
Bench 145# x 5, 170# x 3, 190# x 8
Wt Ring Dips +25# x 5 reps x 3 sets
Barbell Curl 65# x 5, 70# x 5, 75# x 5
Wt Chin-Ups +25# x 5, 35# x 3, 44# x 3

The ring dips were hard; I'd never done them with extra weight before.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jan 21 2010 - Double-Under Trouble 2

Oly Practice (all reps w/25kg)
Snatch DL 3 sets of 5 reps
Snatch Jump 3 sets of 3 reps
Snatch Pull 10 sets of 3 reps
25 Hip Bridges (155#)
DL 225#x5, 255#x3, 285#x10 reps
AQAP 5 rounds:
. 15 KB Swings (53#)
. 20 Box Jumps (24")
. 25 Double-unders
Loved the deadlifting, as usual. Overall, the metcon went well, I finished in 14:01. The double-unders, however, gave me fits. I alternate singles and doubles, since I haven't practiced enough to string two doubles in a row. I was able to count my misses on my arm tonight. 19 stripes of shame. (To see the whole arm click the pic.)

Jan 20 2010 - New Kinds of Pain

Row 2km for time
50 Wall-ball shots (not for time)

Looks simple. I've been rowing 500m as the first part of my warm up for the last two weeks. But be wary of any single-exercise workout that shows up at a crossfit gym. Rowing 2km is like running an 800 - short enough that you have to go fast, long enough to really be hard by the end. I finished in 7:30.2, which is about middle of the pack for the folks at Get Built. The fire-breathers were throwing down times between 7:15 and 6:55. I signed up to be part of an indoor rowing competition on Jan 30, and am hoping to knock at least 5 seconds off my time by then.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jan 19 2010 - Run, run as fast as you can...

Snatch Drills
Following Greg Everett's progression for learning the snatch
Overhead Squat 15kg x 5 reps x 2 sets
Snatch-grip Deadlift 25kg x 5 reps x 5 sets
Mid-Hang Snatch jump 25kg x3 reps x 8 sets
M-H Snatch Jump + DL 25 kg x 1 rep x 5 sets
Working on developing better form.

2 hours Rest

100 Double-Unders
Press 80# x 5 reps, 90# x 3 reps, 100# x 10 reps
AMRAP 15 minites:
. 380m Run
. 15 Push-Press (95#)

Completed 5 rounds of the conditioning workout. The run felt good. I worked on a couple of running drills before we started. I was definitely working hard, but felt smooth and was passing people pretty regularly. I had to break the push-press up in to two or three sets each round. One of the other crossfitters was finishing the push-press way ahead of me each time, then I'd pass him on the run. Upper body strength is still a relative limitation for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jan 18 2010 - Snatch Form Review

I took some time this morning to work on snatch form. A couple of my lifts are worth watching.

Oly Practice
Catalyst Athletics Drill Progression (15kg x 5 reps ea.)
. Overhead Squat
. Pressing Snatch Balance
. Heaving Snatch Balance
. Snatch Balance
. Tall Muscle Snatch
. Scarecrow Snatch
. Mid-Hang Snatch
Snatch 35kg x 1 rep x 9 sets (on 1 min rest)

Three snatch attempts at 35kg. Reps 1, 2, and 8.
Rep 1 - watch how the bar ends up behind my heels in the squat.
Rep 2 - the bar gets in front of my toes as I over correct.
Rep 8 - I settle into a decent receiving position, but it's not quick.
(WARNING: there's cool music in the vid.)

3 hours Rest

50 Bar Dips (10 reps x 5 sets)
Back Squat 160# x 5, 185# x 3, 210# x 9 reps
AQAP: 15-12-9 [Front SQT (155#), Strict Chin-ups]

Today was a wonderful test of my new weightlifting shoes. They helped tremendously with the full-depth squat snatches in the morning. The Get Built workout had me back squatting heavy, then front squatting a reletively heavy weight for 36 reps. I felt like I got good depth in all of the squats. I only had trouble with 3 reps of front squat, where I was fatigued and not balancing well. I decided not to scale the front squats and ended up having to rack the bar after every 2 reps in the final set. My quads are no longer speaking with me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Jan 15 2010 - Deadlift

Hip Bridges 95# x 25 reps
Deadlift 200#x3, 230#x3, 265#x12 reps
3 rounds: (not for time)
. 5 "King" DL per leg
. 50m Broad Jumps (27,28,27 reps)
Max Effort Broad Jump: 7'

Bonus Strength Work
Weighted Chin-ups 26#x5, 35#x5, 44#x5reps

The broad jumps were much easier on my back (compared to broad jumps in previous workouts), most likely due to the fact that I was landing on grass instead of concrete.

Regarding the Wendler 5-3-1 program, I feel much less systemic stress following workouts than on the CrossFit Football program. For example, after a 5 rep max deadlift and CFFB WOD I usually wanted to go directly to sleep. I get what I've termed the deadlift dumb-dumbs, feeling as though I've lost 30 IQ points. This has not been the case with the Wendler lifting I've done this week. Even with the broad jumps, the deadlifts today left me with plenty of energy. They were very hard, especially the last 3 reps, but I haven't felt the systemic effects that I've experienced on the CFFB program.

If I end up gaining strength on the Wendler-style cycle, it will have been great to have done so on less of an IQ drain throughout the week. But I'm worried that the lack of systemic stress means that I'm not getting the same volume of muscle-building hormones released into my body.

I'd love to do an experiment comparing the Wendler-style lifting plan to both the CrossFit Football plan and the Starting Strength novice progression. Unfortunately, there's only one of me and I'm not willing to atrophy after each program to start from the same baseline.

One decision I have arrived at this week is that I'm not doing enough olympic lifting. I have the bar, bumper plates, & shoes, so I'm going to schedule a couple of skill sessions next week, video my lifts, and do some serious form critiques. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jan 14 2010 - Bench Day

1000m Row (3:36)
Bench 120#x3, 145#x3, 170#x11
Dips 2 sets of 12 reps
Ring Rows 2 sets max reps (16,10)
5 Hill Runs (10 to 12.5 sec)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jan 12 2010 - Rip Van Winkle

Yesterday was hard work, as evidenced by my creaky, tired, old-man body this morning. I should have hit the sack an hour or two earlier.

50 Ab Mat Crunches
Press 75# x3 reps, 85# x3 reps, 95# x12 reps
As Many Rounds As Possible in 10 minutes
1 Round = 200m Sprint, 5 Burpees

Well, I managed 10 rounds of running & burpees. I am now ready for bed. Fortunately, my hamstrings are feeling fine today, even though I didn't stretch very much yesterday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jan 11 2010 - Wendlerriffic Squats

This is my first day combining both the strength progression and lifting at Get Built. I probably should have started the deadlifts earlier to get a couple more hours of rest between workouts.

Deadlift 5 rep max (138kg/305#)

3.5 hours Rest

20 Strict Chin-ups
Squat 145# x3reps, 170# x3reps, 195# x17 reps
Reverse Lunges 75# x 12 reps x 2 sets
One-Leg Romanian Deadlifts 75# x 12 reps x 2 sets
Burpee Box Jumps 12 reps x 2 sets

The squats were 60%, 70%, and 80% of my one rep max. Two sets of three reps, then a set for as many reps as possible. Get Built is following the 5-3-1 program by Jim Wendler, a former competitive powerlifter. I'm curious to see how this works.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan 10 2010 - Scared of Letting Go

Power Snatch worked up to 55kg/121# for 2 singles
Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (107kg/235#)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (39kg/86#)

Since I've been making good progress on my squats, I want to keep at it. On the other hand, I'm excited to do conditioning with the crossfitters down the hill. Mixing two programs is usually a pretty bad idea. But I can't let go of the strength gains I'm making yet. This means I'll have to pay a little more attention to my recovery. We'll see how well it works.


I've still got a delay between driving my hips up and lifting my chest. This causes me to have a pretty horizontal back angle. Anyone jogging by has my permission to shout "chest up" if they see me doing this again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jan 08 2010 - Transition

Happy birthday to me! Well, it's not really my birthday, but a kind and caring couple has given me an early present - a gym membership! Not only is the gym warmer than my front porch, it's run by CrossFit trainers! So I'll be shifting my programming to take advantage of the warmth, both physical and emotional, that comes from working out with the group of crossfitters at Get Built Chattanooga. (Thanks Mom & Dad!)


Overhead Squats 95# x 21 reps
Bench 115# x 5, 135# x 5, 155# x 17

As Many Rounds As Possible in 12 minutes:
1 Round =
. 5 Hang Power Snatches (75#)
. 7 Overhead Squats (75#)
. 9 Hang Power Cleans (75#)

Those who despise or are confused by the metric system will be happy to know that I'll be back to expressing most of my lifting in pounds. The exception will be any supplemental lifting I do on my front porch.

Jan 05 2010 - Injury

Power Snatch 5 sets of 3 reps (57kg)

Well, I got half of the strength work done before tweaking a back muscle. It feels like either the top of where the lat attaches to the spine or the bottom of my trap attachment. I toyed with the idea of doing the conditioning workout (deadlifts and weighted pullups), but reason kicked in soon enough to stop me. I took a couple of rest days. I have lifted with a tweaked back muscle before, and it was just stupid.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jan 04 2010 - Where is my motivation?

I put off my workout until it was very cold and dark. Big mistake. I need to lift when the sun is shining and the bar temperature is above freezing.

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (105kg)
Press 3 sets of 5 reps (35kg)

5 Rounds as Quickly As Possible
. 20 Ball Slams (20kg KB)
. 10 Broad Jumps

I'm de-loading the press and working back up to my current sticking point of 49kg. Hopefully the lower weight will let me recover fully and break through the barrier.

The broad jumps tired out my low back in a hurry. Kettlebell slams in the garden in winter are less than joyous. Once the bell broke through the frozen layer of ground and started sticking in the mud beneath I had a slippery, colder kettlebell to deal with. Again: work out in sunshine, be happy!

Jan 02 2010 - Weenie

Returning from the last bit of holiday travel has left me without the inclination to spend any more time than necessary outside in the cold & dark. Call me a weenie, I skipped the conditioning.

Power Clean 5 sets of 3 reps (69kg)
Strict Chin-ups 3 sets for max reps (13,11,12)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jan 01 2010 - New Year, New Order of Magnitude

OK, so I haven't made a huge jump since the last workout, just the usual 2kg increase. But I've passed the 100 kilogram mark. It's not magic. It's only a nice, round number because I've been using kilograms the past couple months. But I'm a lot stronger than I used to be, and I'm happy about it.

Looking back through my training logs, I see that two months ago 95kg was my 1 rep max, and now I'm doing 101kg for reps. A year ago I had no idea what my 1RM squat was - I'd just returned from a month in Australia and two weeks of franticly moving my belongings across the country and catching up with family. Training wasn't a priority.

It doesn't have to be around the new year, but it's a good idea to take some time to look at one's training in longer spans than the current week or cycle. A bit of review lends perspective, allows one to appreciate how long progress can take, and celebrate aspects of improvement.

When asked about the intensity of his training, Greg Lemond once said "It never gets any easier, you just go faster." It's the same with weight training. It doesn't magically become easy, but the way we keep progressing is by pushing beyond comfort. Because it's always difficult, we can get discouraged. Keeping track of workouts in a log or journal lets us see how far we've come.

So keep a training log. Record your workouts. Once in a while, look back and celebrate the progress you've made. Have a safe and happy new year!

Squat 3 sets of 5 reps (101kg)

5 rounds for time
1 Round =
. 4x20m shuttle run
. 8 Kettlebell Swings (24kg)
. 16 Pushups
. 60 sec Rest

Happy with the squats. Pressed only 4 reps at 49kg. Scrapped it and moved on to conditioning for time management & mental health purposes. Conditioning rounds took from 52 to 56 seconds. Fast, fun workout.