Back to the heavy squatting

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Back squat from before the injury on 6 August

Well, heavy for me, anyhow.

We had a challenging EMOM today with 10 total rounds of 3 different movements:

  • 3x heavy back squats
  • 10x dumbbell lunges
  • 10x toes-to-bar

The back squats were meant to be at about 80% of our 1 rep max. I was happy to complete the workout at 70%. This felt incredibly heavy for me and for that many reps, it wasn’t easy. Throughout the squatting section of the WOD, I focused on a few things:

  • setting up properly – making sure my hands were in a good position on the bar and positioning the bar in the center, standing tall and looking forward, taking a deep, diaphragmatic breath, bracing my core and then descending.
  • breathing correctly – I had a gym fail of note a while back where I breathed out in the bottom of the squat, got stuck in the hole and had the bar roll over my head and bash my forehead on the rack. Fun times :-). I tried to ensure that I braced my core on the way down and breathed out slowly on the way up. I wore a weight belt to help with this as the tactile feedback was a great cue for me.
  • keeping my feet flat at the bottom – one or two of my reps I started rocking towards the front of my feet and coming off my heels. Part of this was the weight and part of it was that I wasn’t keep my chest up. When I focused on keeping a tall posture, looking forward and not down and my chest out, I was able to maintain a stronger position and drive out of the bottom more strongly.

I found a good article on Boxrox dealing with some common squat mistakes and how to correct them. It’s sponsored by Rehband so the article keeps telling the reader how much they can benefit from wearing knee sleeves. I’ve also found the Instagram feed for Squat University to be a treasure trove of sound advice and tips.

Happy squatting. Any tips or tricks that have helped you squat stronger and better? Please share in the comments.

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17.5 – Thrusters and Double unders?

Tonight the final workout of the 2017 CrossFit Games Open is announced. Thus far the workouts have been as grueling as expected. Dave Castro posted a clue to 17.5 earlier in the week.

17.5 clue

Social media was alive with guesses and predictions. Dead meat came up a few times. A knife thrust through under-cooked meat. A Ka-Bar knife. Thrusters, double unders, bar muscle up (again!). There are some movements that have been repeated every year since the start of the Open. Two of those have not been in any of the workouts yet – thrusters and double unders.

thruster

I have a tough history with both movements. In last month or two, I’ve become more comfortable with double unders but given how I’ve struggled I don’t take this comfort for granted. I still practice regularly and was happy to have them programmed in our WOD yesterday. I should manage if they do appear in 17.5. Thrusters have been my Kryptonite since I first started CrossFit. My form has certainly improved but I still find a 95lb weight rather heavy for the movement. The fear I have is that we’ll end up having 50lb dumbbell thrusters. I tried these earlier in the week and wasn’t able to complete even a single rep. Anyway, this had me scouring the interweb for some tips and tricks. I found this article on Boxlife Magazine’s website which had some good insight. If you’re uncertain about thrusters as well, have a look. There’s also a link to a demo video of Jason Khalipa doing thrusters. Hopefully these are useful.

I’m excited about tonight’s announcement. Castro may yet surprise us with a completely unexpected workout. Looking forward to the final one of this season. Good luck everyone.

Conditioning Day: Embrace the Pain


This was a tough but good WOD.  After our coach said 3-2-1-GO, most of the athletes took off at quite a quick pace. My comment was ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint!’ When I saw the workout posted I decided that I was going to aim for a steady rather than quick pace. 

I’ve recently managed to figure out how to do kipping toes-to-bar so I felt ok about those. I just had to keep moving. I broke them up into sets of 5 with a 5-10 second break between each. This worked well throughout because I was able to maintain a steady pace. 

The double unders were sooooo frustrating. Every time I think I’ve learned how to do them properly it gets programmed into the WOD and I realize I haven’t. The most I managed unbroken was 6! So I lost a lot of time doing these and I have the whip marks on my legs to show the struggle. I need more practice!

Wall balls! At the end of each round. This is where the suck really set in. Again I broke these up into sets of 5 or 10 with a 10 second break between each set. Slow and steady. Despite this I was so tired at the end of each round that the run in the next round was more like a shuffle. 

In the end I didn’t finish before the time cap was reached. I managed to get through the 30 double unders of round three. I did continue and completed all 150 reps of all  4 exercises. I was so finished at the end I could barely form coherent sentences.

If you’re looking for a great conditioning workout give this one a try. Scale where necessary – knees to chest/single unders/manageable wall ball weight. Let me know how it goes. 

16.3: Snatches and Muscle Ups

First ever bar muscle up

My first ever bar muscle up

Last night, Dave Castro announced the 3rd workout (16.3) of the Crossfit Games Open. I knew that at some point muscle ups were going to feature in the games. I’ve been looking forward to it because our coach keeps telling us that a lot of people get their first one during the games.

I first heard about muscle up from a friend last year. He was working on pull-ups so he could eventually do a muscle up. He showed me some videos of people doing them and it was so cool I immediately decided that I also wanted to get strong enough to do one. Every few weeks, our coach puts some progression work into our WOD so that we can practice the required movements to finish a muscle up. Some of us stay after class sometimes and practice some more. Each session, we’ve been improving. But never quite getting there. A couple of weeks ago, we had another session and I was sooooo close. Then last night the announcement came about 16.3. A 7 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible):

  • 10x 75 pound power snatch
  • 3x bar muscle ups

I was completely amped. I was texting the other guys in the gym. Texting the coach. I spent most of the evening looking at videos of people doing it. I spent a fair amount of time visualizing myself doing it as well. I was totally excited but super nervous.

When I arrived at the gym, there were two other guys who were planning to go for the Rx version and try to get their first muscle up. We finished the warm up and then our coach briefed us on the workout. He gave us some time to practice and also demonstrated the movement. He always makes it look so easy. I practiced a few snatches. The weight felt manageable. Then we stepped up to the bar to practice the muscle ups. One of the other guys nailed it. The look on his face when he closed out the move at the top of the bar was priceless – joy and disbelief in equal measure. I went for it. First one failed. Second one failed. But I nailed the third one! I was over the moon. Yay! On to the actual workout.

It was tough going. I tried to maintain a steady pace. The snatches were ok. But the muscle ups remained tough. Each rep was an effort. I finished 3 full rounds and I managed to complete 2 muscle ups in round 4 for a total of 51 reps. I was ecstatic. I’m still ecstatic. I’ve been on a high all day long. What a feeling. What. A. Feeling!

It took me 6 months but I did it. The key for me was making sure I maintained enough momentum on the kip to get above the bar. And then keeping my arms as straight as possible on the upswing.

How has 16.3 gone for you? Anyone else make their first muscle up today? What were your keys?

 

16.2: Can I try that one more time?

 

16.2 the first time around

 

16.2 has come and gone now. The deadline to submit your score was a 5PM PT last night. I’ve been reading various blog posts about the workout and I noticed similar themes in almost all of them. There were a number of crossfitters who were excited about it after the announcement on Thursday and there  were a fair number who felt that it was going to be a manageable one. Once they tried it, the other common theme that emerged was that there were a good few people who were surprised at how tough it was to get past round 1 and just as many who felt they could improve on their first attempt and were planning a second try.

The prescribed workout was as follows:

16.2 WOD

While the scaled one was:

Scaled WOD 16.2

On Friday morning I arrived at the I Will Crossfit box determined to do the Rx version and make it to the squat cleans in round 2. My one rep max up until that point was 155# so I would have to improve on that by 30# to even make one rep. But I figured I could give it a try. I felt that my toes-to-bar was in good shape and as you might’ve  seen in an earlier post, I had just managed to get double unders. I figured I would make it to round 2 within the 4 minutes and then give that my best go. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The toes-to-bar went a lot slower than I anticipated. My technique is good but my speed not so much. Then the double unders which I thought I had worked out. I couldn’t string together more than 2-3 unbroken. It took me way longer than I expected to finish the 50 reps. I had only about a minute and a half to finish 15 squat cleans at 90% of my one rep max. I completed 3 successfully before the time ran out. Wow. What a humbling experience. 4 minutes of workout and I was done. Another guy in the gym had been equally frustrated. We decided to take a break and then try again. He was going to go Rx but I thought I’d switch to scaled and see if that was better.

Hanging knee raises and single unders were easier but the squat cleans were still tough despite the lower starting weight. I managed to complete round 1 with some time left on the clock. This meant I had more than 4 minutes to finish round 2. Going into the knee raises I was already feeling  winded. I don’t know if I went out too quickly in round 2 or if the Rx attempt had taken more out of me than I realized or maybe the workout was just tougher than anticipated. When I reached the squat cleans at 115# I knew I could manage the weight but I wasn’t sure I could manage 13 reps. I couldn’t – the clock ran down at rep 10. Aargh!!! A big improvement in total reps over the Rx attempt but I had been hoping to reach round 3 at least. How difficult 16.2 was turning out to be.

At the team WOD on Saturday there were a few other people who’d had similarly frustrating experiences with 16.2. And they were all planning to give the workout another try on Monday. The seed was planted. In fact, the seed sprouted a fully fledged tree within minutes. I decided to join these crazy people who couldn’t get enough of the challenge. I was further inspired when I heard that one of the guys had finished the scaled version of the workout. All 430 reps!! In the allotted time. Impressive. I just wanted to get to round 3 and post a good score for the week. Third time lucky? I hoped so.

I was awake super early yesterday morning. I was nervous and excited about my final attempt at this workout. There were two other guys also giving it a last go at 5:30am. All of us were doing the scaled version. After our normal warm-up, we set up the bars and found our jump ropes and spots for the knee raises. All too soon, Coach Matt was saying 3-2-1-GO! I took off like a bat out of hell. I was so determined to get to round 3 I let all my plans for pacing go out the window. I managed the squat cleans a lot more comfortably this time. When I started the knee raises for round 2 I tried to keep a steady pace but sped up again on the single unders. I decided to try and do the 13 squat cleans in sets of 3. This worked out well. I finished round 2 with time to spare. Yay! On to round 3. Knee raises and single unders went well. The 135# squat cleans slowed me down. This was at 90% of my  rep max, remember? I used the same game plan – 3 reps at a time. To my amazement and excitement, I finished. On to round 4. This was unplanned territory. Throughout the workout the other two guys and I kept shouting encouragement to each other. We were side-by-side and I know that made a massive difference. The other people in the gym were equally enthusiastic with shouts of support while they were getting through the normal WOD. We have a great atmosphere of camaraderie.

Round 4. My knee raises and single unders were slowing down but I finished them with a few extra minutes left over. I had about 7 minutes to finish 9 reps at #155. My one rep max! I would have to go one at a time. It took everything I had but I cranked out 6 reps before I ran out of time.

I was elated. Three attempts later I had reached a total of 345 reps. Almost double my Friday score. I’v decided to embrace scaling. For my first Crossfit Games Open, the scaled division will give me a nice benchmark for future workouts and for next year. And it is damn challenging. As with 16.1  and 16.2, I eagerly and nervously await the announcement of 16.3 on Thursday.

How did 16.2 go for you? Any new PRs? What are your predictions for 16.3? Muscle ups maybe? Wall balls? Whatever Dave Castro has in store, it’s going to be a challenge.

Double under agony and ecstasy 

du rope 3

During our warm up this morning we caught a sneak peek at the WOD. The first set was going to be double unders and burpees. I’ve been working on my double unders and they’ve been improving. However, just last week I couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going and couldn’t string more than 2 reps together. I am pretty sure that the Open is going have a workout that includes double unders, so I was keen to give them another go.

First was the agony:

whipped arm

I covered my arm in whip marks in the first two rounds. I was doing one rep then hitting my arms. Then another then hitting my arms. I couldn’t even get the single under followed by double under rhythm going. All this agony also meant that the total time it took me to finish 30 reps was ridiculous. I was determined to do the workout as prescribed though.

Round 3. Let’s make this happen. I started out a bit slower. Worked on 2 singles followed by a double. That was working nicely. Around 15 reps, I tried to string together more than one double under. I made 5 in a row. Yay! Progress. I managed to finish the last 5 reps of the round with sets of 5. 

Round 4. After the burpees were done from round 3 I started the next round wanting to nail the double unders. I managed 2!!! Damn it!! Then something clicked. I started using slower hand movements. My timing for the jump was better. I did 20 unbroken! And unwhipped. 

Round 5 wasn’t as good but I strung together 7-8 reps at a time. But I was so excited. Finally. Double unders. I was ecstatic. 

So my keys were slower rotation and higher jumps. What are your keys and tips to double unders? What doesn’t work?   

Injury denial – it’s only a twinge.

Death_to_stock_photography_wild_3

Lost in the injury wilderness?

I’ve been reading about injuries and talking about injuries quite a lot over the last couple of weeks. I’ve noticed in a number of articles that there is a tendency among many amateur athletes and weekend warriors to ignore and/or deny that the injury exists. We carry on training hoping that it will resolve spontaneously. If not spontaneously, we apply various balms to the affected area and hope this has the desired effect. If we’re feeling especially worried we may resort to massage. We consume copious material online in an effort to self-diagnose and find treatment option. Consulting a medical professional seems to be the last thing on the list.

The reason I’ve been doing the reading is because my elbow hurts. It started when we were doing clean and jerks during a morning WOD not too long ago. I’m not too good on the clean part of the move and I think this is when it happened. During the movement, you are meant to push your elbows forward and up to catch the bar in the front rack position. I was able to do this but I don’t think I execute(d) the move quite right and repeating it incorrectly for however may reps we did that morning probably didn’t help. It wasn’t too bad after the workout but I haven’t stopped training regularly since it happened. I’ve also been attending my regular Kuk Sool Won martial arts classes during this time. We do a number of different techniques and movements which require extension and flexing of the elbow. I’ve felt some pain during the classes but not enough to make me feel I should stop.

As you can tell, I’ve one of those sportspeople who carry on regardless and hope for the spontaneous change which will signal that I’ve trained through the injury and it fixed itself. This morning I skipped my WOD. When I woke up my elbow was too sore. Might be time to take this more seriously. But this post is not meant to be about how I choose to treat/not treat the injury. It’s more about why I avoid admitting I have one at all.

It’s not the first time I respond in this fashion. Any time I have an injury or think I have one, I immediately go into denial mode.

I don’t get injured. It’s a minor ache which will pass by tomorrow. If I keep working out, it will just go back to normal. Once the muscle is warm I won’t feel the pain anymore. Pain is where the growth happens. Etc., etc.

Why do I do this? I think one of the reasons is that most of the time it works. Most of the time it is a minor twinge that I can work through. That passes by that same afternoon. Most of the time. Another big reason – probably the main reason – is that I don’t want to stop training. I don’t like missing a day. Sport is my bliss. Sport is my passion. I feel out of sync with life if I am not participating in some form of sport or exercise on a regular basis. When I’ve been able to maintain consistency in my training schedule for a number of months, the mental anguish I feel at the prospect of missing a day, a week, or more, outweighs the physical pain I’m feeling because of the injury. I know fitness and strength don’t work like this but I imagine both draining from my body drop-by-drop and the only way to stop the leak is to train.

So I train. I make the injury worse. Knowing that I am going to end up with a longer lay-off eventually but hoping against hope that the injury just disappears.

Good grief. I think I need help :-).

Anyway, I took today off from crossfit but I still cycled to work. I’ll see how my elbow feels tomorrow and have a chat with my coach to find out if he has any advice.

How do you deal with injury? How do you deal with the time off training? Any tips on not going bananas? Any studies out there on how long it actually takes to start losing significant fitness and strength gains?