Coaches Corner

Coaches Corner: How’s Your Triple Extension?

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The athletic pyramid has a strong, solid base in the most important concept - triple extension. What does that mean and how does it apply to you?
 
Let’s start with the definition: Triple extension is the holy grail of power generation; the point at which the ankle, knee, and hip are fully extended, providing maximum power output upwards. The use of triple extension is the driving force of all weightlifting and jumping movements, among others.
 
Why should you care? Because the better your triple extension, the more efficiently you’ll move, the more weight you’ll lift, and the better athlete you’ll become. Not improving on the Olympic lifts? Work on triple extension. Having trouble getting the bar overhead? Work on triple extension. Want to become more explosive in running and kettlebell swings? Work on triple extension!
 
Need help with your triple extension? Ask any of the coaches. That’s what we’re here for.

Coaches Corner: Getting Gymnasty

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When it comes to gymnastics in CrossFit, most of us aspire to attain the big skills: ring or bar muscle ups, chest-to-bar pull ups, handstand push-ups, or big sets of toes-to-bar.
 
Attaining those skills requires a certain amount of body weight strength, coordination, and spatial awareness. The best and safest way to ensure you have the requirements needed for these high-level skills is taking the time and putting in the effort to do them STRICT.
 
Performing the higher-level gymnastics skills strict (without momentum, i.e. a kip) demonstrates mastery of the movement. It shows possession of the required body weight strength, coordination, spatial awareness, and flexibility to perform the skill. It also significantly reduces the possibility of injury when momentum (a kip) is later added.
 
But gymnastics in CrossFit is much more than high-level skills. All body weight movements in CrossFit are considered gymnastics (pull-ups, push-ups, air squats, etc). Mastering and building strength in body weight movements will positively influence your functional fitness, both inside and outside the gym, and serve as a stepping stone to the higher level gymnastics skills while enhancing your proficiency when an external object load (such as a barbell) is added.
 
So take a few minutes a day, before or after class, to work on your strict gymnastics strength (whether you have the skill or not) and watch how it pays off!

Coaches Corner: Strict Press

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One of the most common issues I see with the strict press is not engaging the core enough. This leads the athlete to lean back at the top of the press, putting extra strain on the lower back and increasing the risk of injury.
 
Here’s how a good strict press should break down:
 

  • Unrack the bar with purpose and get it in a solid front rack position.

  • Tighten your mid-line (core) and squeeze your glutes and quads even as you engage your upper body.

  • Recruit your entire upper body for a press, not just the shoulders. Engage your arms, upper back, and chest; a strict press requires everything to, well, press. 

  • Keep the core stable and lock out the arms overhead. If you’re doing multiple reps, this should be your starting position. Bring the bar down quickly to touch your chest and press back up. Your body is primed with the weight coming down to press it away, so get ready. Pausing at the shoulders blocks momentum and, more importantly, can psyche you out when the going gets tough.

Don’t lean back. It may seem easier because you’re recruiting more of your chest (as in an incline bench press) but it is terrible for your back.

Coaching Tip: Eight Ways to Welcome New Members

This week we stole a great article from Morning Chalkup, a daily roundup of all things CrossFit. 

It’s January and that means new members armed with resolutions and hungry for some fitness. Here are eight ways to help them feel more comfortable at RPE.
1. Say hello. It can be scary going to a new place, period. Now imagine walking into a new place where everyone has their shirt off, music is blaring, barbells are dropping, and a packed room of athletes are using weights in ways you never knew existed. Intimidation city, population one! So when you see a fresh face at the gym, say hello, introduce yourself, and make a new friend.
2. Save the weight-loss advice. Maybe wait until a little later before offering unsolicited weight loss advice. Yeah, it's the new year and lots of athletes are focused on the scale, but the in-shape athlete telling the new out-of-shape athlete how to shed and shred might not be the most encouraging.
3. Offer help. Bands, barbells, PVC pipes, ab mats, you name it.  They're not always easy to find. Don't wait for them to ask for it. Pick one up and bring it over.
4. Don't coach. Unless you are the actual coach leading the class, don't coach a newcomer. You don't know their background, if they have any injuries, or if they've been on ramped yet. That is not your job. Let the coach do the coaching.
5. Partner up. No one likes being the last one picked on a team. Do a solid and partner up with the newcomer. It doesn't matter if you're the fittest in class and you'll need a second barbell; lead by example. 
6. High fives abound. Fist bumps, high-fives, knuckles. Whatever. Make a point to find that athlete and congratulate them on a great workout. There's no better way to encourage a new athlete to return than offering some praise. 
7. Encourage them to return. Walking through the door was the hard part. Help make their decision to return easier by encouraging them to come back. "Will I see you again tomorrow?" shows them that CrossFit isn't like any other gym they've ever been to. 
8. Remember your first time. Remember, unless you were born with a double body weight back squat and a 400-pound deadlift, someone had to help you get to where you are. Return that favor.

Member Focus: Sonya Jones

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Meet Sonya Jones. Sonya usually attends the 5:30 pm class at Deerfield and she is a powerful lifter! 

How long have you been doing CrossFit? Seven years.

Favorite movement? Deadlifts and thrusters.

Least favorite movement? Running.

Any recent PRs? Nope.

Upcoming fitness goals: I want to increase my endurance and improve my running.

What is something that most people don’t know about you? Most people don’t know that I love history and I would love to work for the CDC.

Why CrossFit? CrossFit has made me more aware of the importance of functional movements. I also never knew that I was physically strong until CrossFit.

Why do you keep coming back? I enjoy the challenge. It is satisfying completing WODs.

Why CrossfitRPE: The community and the coaches!

Coaching Tip: CrossFit Etiquette

This week’s column is a bit outside the coaching sphere, but important to the overall success of a workout and our community. Here are 10 resolutions I hope everyone will make in 2019.
 

  1. Sign up for class and sign in. Our classes are getting larger and we want to make sure they’re staffed appropriately. We also want to track attendance to know when it’s time to add (or delete) a class.

  2. Be on time. Our coaches work hard to start and end class on time. If you come in 10 minutes late, you don’t have time to warm up and it can disrupt the class.

  3. Listen. Coaching instructions while at the white board are designed to keep you safe and help you be successful with the lifts and WODs. Side conversations keep you – and others – from hearing

  4. Protect the equipment. Please don’t drop light weights from overhead. This is called ghostriding and it can damage the bar and break the plates, not to mention bounce around and hurt someone. Oh, and dropping kettlebells on the platform is also a no-no.

  5. Clean your stuff up. That means wipe off the equipment and the floor and put everything away – where it belongs.

  6. Stay in your space. We can get pretty crowded in some classes with people and equipment.

  7. Respect the athlete’s space. Someone starting a big lift? Be careful not to walk in front of them – they need to concentrate.

  8. Introduce yourself to new members and drop ins. Remember, CrossFit is about community!

  9. Respect the coach. Our coaches work hard and want only the best for you. That’s why they’re continually providing you with tips to help you improve. After all, no matter how long you’ve been doing CrossFit, we all have room for improvement!

  10. Use the right towel for the right purpose. The bright white ones are for your face; the grey icky ones are for the floor.

What Are Your Goals for 2019?

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In 2019 I will . . .
 

Studies find that if you tell people your goals and make them very specific you’re more likely to achieve them. So tell us your goals!
 
We’ve put an envelope containing goal strips on the bulletin boards in each gym. Write your goal, pin up the paper, and get working. Do you want to lose 3 percent of your body fat? Get your first muscle up? Finally string together 10 doubleunders?
 
Talk to a coach; they can give you the necessary progressions to reach your goal.
 
Once you’ve reached your goal, put a big checkmark on it. We’ll collect them every quarter and have a drawing for prizes. Then pull out another piece of goal paper and get started on the next one.

Coaching Tip: Keep Your Kids Active Over Winter Break

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Just because the weather’s bad doesn’t mean your kids have to become couch potatoes. Here's an easy game for you to play at home. All you need is a dice and an open space. Roll the dice and have your child complete the following movements. Substitute movements throughout the winter break to keep it interesting!
 
For younger kids (ages 2-6): 

  • Crab walk

  • Bear crawl (hips high and straight legs)

  • Frog hop (broad jump)

  • Bunny hop (quick jumps)

  • Giraffe walk (up on your toes, reaching high overhead)

  • Gorilla crawl (like bear crawl, but sideways and bending knees)
     

For older kids (ages 7-12) 

  • 10 jumping jacks

  • 10 squats

  • 10 push-ups (or press up to plank and hold for 2 seconds, repeat for 10)

  • 10 burpees

  • 10 mountain climbers

  • 10 sit-ups (butterfly legs where bottoms of feet touch)

Have fun! Feel free to tweak any of the movements to your liking but we have a lot of success when kids think of exercise as a game. 

Eat This/Not That: New Year's Resolutions

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It’s New Year’s resolution time! Studies show that the more specific your resolution (ie, “I resolve to only drink 1 glass of wine a night,” vs “I will cut back on drinking,”) the more likely you are to stick to them. Here are some fitness-focused resolutions to get you started.

In 2019, I resolve to: 

  1. Attend class at least ___ days a week.

  2. Meet my macros at least ___ days a week.

  3. Not beat myself up if I have an “off” nutritional day.

  4. Get at least 25 percent of my body weight in ounces of water with an ideal goal of 50 percent.

  5. Plan my meals for the week.

  6. Bring my lunch at least ___ days a week.

  7. Limit myself to ___ alcoholic drinks a week.

  8. Pay more attention to how my clothes fit than to the scale.

  9. Take at least 30 minutes a day just for me.

  10. Focus own progress in the gym rather than comparing myself to others.

Coaches Tip: Run Better and Safer

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The running equation is pretty simple: Speed = stride length x stride rate (cadence). So if you want to run faster, you can either increase your stride length (take bigger steps), or increase your stride rate (take more steps per minute).

  • Stride rate (cadence). Studies of elite runners suggest an ideal cadence of about 180 strides/minute or more. Taking smaller, quicker strides minimizes the impact on your joints, decreases the risk of overstriding, and helps prevent injury.
  • Stride length. Too often when runners try to pick up their pace, they end up overstriding (reaching out too far with each step, exaggerating the heel strike and increasing the force through the knees, hips, and back). To increase stride length without risking injury, increase stride length on the back side of your stride rather than reaching forward. In other words, use your glutes and hamstrings to push the ground away, rather than reaching forward with your front foot to lengthen your stride.

Written By:  Kate Blankshain, PT, DPT

Enjoy the Process, Move with Intention

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When you started your CrossFit journey, your coaches told you two things that would provide the best chance at obtaining the results you wanted: come to class and bring a positive attitude. While critical steps, I want to take it even further: you also need to bring a Purpose with you.

 

That means understanding why you do CrossFit and why each movement is important in meeting that goal. And that means going beyond just the movement. Whether in the warm-up, strength or metcon component, even the cool down, every movement – from a plank to a sit-up, to an Olympic lift or muscle up – offers an opportunity to improve. To get better at the movement, to get in better shape, to give yourself a better chance at lifting more weight, completing more reps, or mastering more movements.

 

Think about how much better you’d do if you started moving with a precise purpose. But purpose isn’t just for the 60 minutes you’re in the box. Purpose should be a part of every moment of your day, including waking up in the morning, going to work, spending time with your family and friends, even choosing what to watch on TV. Once you understand the purpose of each “movement” of the day (To earn money? Stay healthy? Surround yourself with and give out love? Improve your community?) your ability to meet those goals will improve – just like your performance in the box.

Take Care of your Hands!

Contrary to the machismo central to CrossFit, ripped hands are not cool. And, if you’re taking care of your hands, they shouldn’t happen. That’s why proper hand care is crucial.

I’m not talking soft hands; you need your hands to be tough enough to handle our rigorous workouts. But you also need to find a happy medium between tough and calluses the size of marbles. Otherwise, when you’re hanging on the bar doing pullups, toes-to-bar, or other gymnastic moves, those calluses will rip right off.

Here’s what I do to protect my hands (and I never tear):

  • Moisturize daily. The worst thing is dry skin, which creates the perfect environment for growing calluses. This is particularly important in the winter. If your hands are really dry, moisturize them when you go to bed and sleep with socks over your hands.
  • Shave your calluses once a week. This keeps the skin from building up too far. I use this callus remover.
  • Use a Ped Eggas needed to remove dead skin and keep your hands smooth. Just don’t overdo it!

Let me know if you have any questions or want a quick hand appraisal!

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Coaching Tip: It’s All About the Thumbs

How do you grip the pull-up bar? If you say with all five fingers over the bar (like a monkey grip) then you need to change. To ensure the right grip, reduce the risk of tearing, and stay safe, you should grip the bar with your pinky knuckle over the bar and your thumb wrapped around the bar, not on top. Also, grip the bar across the middle of your palm, not where your fingers meet the palm. It’s the same way you’d grip a barbell.

Correct Grip  

Correct Grip  

Wrong Grip

Wrong Grip

This is, by and far, the stronger grip. It can keep your shoulder more stable, reduce the risk of tearing, and, hopefully, keep you from slipping off the bar. It also helps build grip strength and works to activate your lats.

Have a weak grip? Active bar hangs and farmers’ carries can strengthen your grip.

In Search of the Elusive Double Unders

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By: Coach Brad

I remember hitting about 50 double unders on my first day of practice and within a week completing Annie with unbroken sets (50-40-30-20-10); then Flight Simulator in under 7 minutes; and eventually hitting a max unbroken set of about 250. I was lucky: I never struggled with them and I still have the skill to this day, although with far less endurance.
 
Not everyone is so lucky.
 
As a movement, jumping rope is neuro-muscular in nature. That’s why it requires practice – to develop those connections between your brain and your body. And that’s where practice comes in.
 
The top reason to practice doubles is not just to get better at doubles (although practice will get you closer to perfect). The real reason is that a flawless exhibition of rope skills will also lead to improvements in other technical demands of gymnastics, weightlifting, and sports conditioning and performance.
 
I have a friend who practiced daily for 6 months before he could consistently string more than one together. But he used the “dolphin kick,” which is self-limiting because it’s so exhausting. So, he started over and after two years of practice was able to do numerous sets of 100 doubles back-to-back, surpassing me in all benchmarks.  
 
The point of that story is to tell you that it may take weeks, months, or even years before you can string together your first doubles. But if you stick with it – including incorporating attempts into the WODs instead of immediately going to singles – I guarantee you’ll get there!
 
(It’s also a good idea to buy your own rope).

I have a lot more to say about double unders, including drills to help you get better and scaling options for classes, and you can read it all here.

Avoiding Injury with the Deadlift

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By: Emma Minx, DC, CCSP and Kate Blankshain, PT, DPT 

We co-manage many crossfitters. Our goals are to restore mobility and function (Emma), then address weakness, imbalances, and movement deficiencies (Kate). We often consult together to identify the cause of injury and determine the best treatment plan.
 
Common injuries we treat involve the low back, shoulders, and knees. Whenever there is a heavier deadlift workout, we know we’ll be seeing an influx of patients. The culprit is typically one of two things – the hips are too tight, which puts a greater strain on the low back, or the movement itself is performed incorrectly.
 
Let’s start with mobility. Your body alternates mobile and stable joints. For instance, your ankles, hips, and mid-back should be mobile, while your knees and low back should be stable. When the body loses mobility in one area, it has to compensate for it somewhere else. Typically, this affects the low back, which should be a stable area. That’s why making sure your hips are properly warmed up prior to deadlifting is critical.
 
During the deadlift, it is important to maintain a tight core and extend the hips as you bring the bar up from the floor. Instead, most people initiate the movement with their arms and back. In other words, they begin raising their torso to a vertical position too soon rather than pushing into the ground, driving their hips forward, and squeezing their glutes. 
 
Bottom line: the deadlift should be considered a pushing movement rather than a pulling movement. Push into the ground and push/drive the hips forward. 
 
Emma Minx is a chiropractor at Bannockburn Chiropractic and Sports Injury Center and Kate owns Rally PTE.

3,2,1 . . . Breathe!

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Think about the last time you did 15 thrusters or 30 wall balls or ran 800 meters. Could you get through it without stopping? Were you able to immediately move onto the next movement? If not, think about your breathing.  
 
The idea of “training with a purpose” all too often gets lost in the rush of complex movements, friendly competition during class, and the relentless search for PRs. Yet part of training with a purpose is learning your individual work capacity and heart rate control.
 
That’s where controlled breathing comes in. The purpose of controlled breathing is to keep you from “red lining,” that moment when you realize you can’t possibly do another burpee, clean, or pull up yet there’s still 8 more minutes on the clock. The more consistent your breathing, the steadier your heart rate.
 
So if you find yourself gasping for air, stop. It’s counterproductive to continue because the longer you deprive your body of oxygen, the more acidic your blood becomes and the more your performance will suffer.

The better you get at controlling your breathing, the shorter (and fewer) rests you’ll need, enabling you to return to the workout faster and resulting in a better overall performance.
 
You can find some great blogs and videos on proper breathing for crossfitters here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJht14CTV8g
https://youtu.be/melaUbdYjbQ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJht14CTV8g
https://www.crossfitinvictus.com/blog/breathing-techniques-situation/

Making Room for the Donuts

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Anyone who knows me knows how much I love donuts and ice cream. I could eat both at least twice a day given the opportunity. But I don’t. Instead, I plan my sugar highs around my macros rather than planning my macros around my sugar highs.

In other words, I don’t eat donuts and ice cream and then figure out how many carbohydrate and fat macros I have left. Instead, I decide that on Tuesday I want a cup of ice cream, input the fat, carb, and protein macros first, then build the rest of my food around those to meet my daily requirements.
 
Do I slip up? Yes, of course, especially when I pass a Joe’s Donuts. But the key to meeting my nutritional goals and having the foods I love is moderation.
 
I try to only give myself two to three “treats” a week but I’m not perfect. If I find that I’m indulging too frequently, I’ll just dial back for the next week or two. It’s easy to make justifications on why I should have that donut but  I focus on trying to become a little bit better each day.
 
Moderation is important but knowing what your next meal will be is one of the best ways to keep yourself on track. That way, little over-indulging doesn’t knock me off track.
 
I never want my clients to view the healthy eating plans we come up with as restrictive. If you like a glass of wine, you can have a glass of wine – just build it into your macros. And if you like a donut or bowl of ice cream, you can have those, too – within your macro framework. You’re not “cheating.” You’re planning.

The Holy Grail of Squatting: The Squat Stance

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A squat is a squat is a squat. Often heard but rarely understood. It means that no matter what type of squat you’re doing – full clean, front squat, back squat, air squat – consistency is key. And one of the important -- but most commonly missed -- constant is the stance.

The stance is your foot position or angle and the width and balance of weight on your mid foot. It should look and feel the same in your overhead squat as your air squat, back squat, and every other type of squat we do in CrossFit and weight lifting.

You can see how important consistency in this position is when you consider the Olympic lifts, in which the accuracy and precision of the foot work is amplified when dynamically transitioning from the pull to the catch.

A good way to find your natural stance is to jump and land in a squat. From there, take note of your foot position and make small adjustments as needed. Then work to replicate this same position across all your squat movements. When you notice you’ve deviated from your standard stance, identify the factor causing this and work to improve it versus compensating in other ways and losing that critical squat stance consistency.