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Archive for the ‘Olympic Lifting’ Category

For the Love of All Things Heavy, Deadlift.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Some will argue that a squat is the king of all lifts, but I respectfully disagree.  I believe deadlifts to reign supreme for reasons ranging from improving overall strength and body composition, to building a backside and improving posture.
There is no other exercise that requires much of the body to work extremely hard in unison in order to get the job done. High energy output plus external resistance is a dream come true for fat loss and physique change!
The deadlift absolutely torches the posterior chain, making it the perfect exercise to strengthen and develop both the glutes and hamstrings.   Furthermore, deadlifting will strengthen the entire back and its surrounding muscles, making this lift great for rehabilitative, and preventative, purposes. In fact, the deadlift is the most effective exercise for building the core strength that supports all other major muscle groups.
Core strength (core pertaining to the central muscles of the body, i.e. lower back, glutes and the abdominal region) is a very important health component, in that it supports the body in almost every movement and position, and the deadlift is the key core strength building movement.
I’m a big fan of conventional pulls using the barbell, however, the beauty of the deadlift is that there are plenty of variations of it for you to try! Sumo deadlifts, Snatch grip deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, single leg Romanian deadlifts, and trap bar deadlifts, are all at your disposal.
The self-assurance that deadlifting (and really, any heavy lifting) gives a person is significant, because there is no grey area when it comes to getting stronger. You either are, or you aren’t, and unlike the scale or other subjective ways of measuring things, the weights don’t lie. When lifting a weight that you couldn’t 6+ months ago, you can’t help but feel good about yourself, and that ego boost carries over into our day-to-day life as well.

I pick things up and set them down — functional fitness at it’s best!  Lifting objects from the ground, from a variety of angles, is enhanced through regular deadlifting. We pick stuff up off the floor all of the time in real life — our kids, boxes, groceries, you name it!  Deadlifts help train our muscles to lift practically outside of the gym minimizing injury in real life too. Deadlifts actually have a real life application.


Deadlifts help to develop cardio-respiratory fitness. Like the squat, deadlifts will severely tax the cardio-respiratory system if done with enough intensity. This obviously has positive ramifications for cardiovascular health. In fact, high intensity deadlifts aerobically tax the body big time.
The benefits of consistent deadlifting with substantial weight are numerous, and you’ll notice improvements in both your physique and in your self-confidence.


The deadlift is a tricky exercise to master due to the high level of balance and coordination needed, and the injury risk if incorrectly performed.  Therefore, the deadlift requires an intricate series of steps that need to be followed. A step by step guide to the standard deadlift follows:

FIRST STEP: Achieve the right stance

Assume a shoulder width stance, and grip the barbell so that the inner forearms touch the outside of thighs, and shins lightly touch the bar. Either an overhand or an under/overhand (one hand over, one hand under) grip can be used. The under/overhand grip is preferable in most instances.

SECOND STEP: Adjust posture

Fix spine in a neutral position (neither up nor down, but looking straight ahead), and place the hips down. Pulling in the lower abs will ensure a neutral pelvic position. Shoulders should be held back, squeezed tightly, and positioned over the bar - they should never be rounded.
Chest should be forward, not down. Before lifting the weight, tighten the shoulders and squeeze the glutes together to help generate power during the initial part of the movement.

THIRD STEP: Lift the weight

Grip hold of the bar tightly, and push with the feet. The legs must power the weight up. Hips and shoulders should ascend at the same time, while the hands are holding the weight in place. Toward the top of the movement, lock out by employing more upper body strength until the weight is at about the midway position of the upper thigh.
During the ascent phase, there should be an initial push with the balls of the feet followed by a transference of weight to the heels, as the bar passes the knees into the lock out position. Remember to keep the bar in contact with the body throughout the movement.

FOURTH STEP: Lower the weight

Reverse step three until the bar touches the floor, pause, and repeat until completion of set. Bear in mind that the weight should not forcefully hit the floor - it should be lowered in a controlled manner while tightness is maintained throughout the body. Do not rely on momentum to power the weight up on the second rep, as this will cause a jarring effect, which might contribute to spinal damage.

For the love of all things heavy, deadlift.

The deadlift is picking something up and putting it down. You do it a million times over the course of your life, so it’s important to learn how to do so properly. Even if you don’t have any desire to compete in powerlifting or to set a new gym record, you still need to be strong enough to lift things up off the floor without hurting yourself. It’s basically necessary for life. I’m sure this, in some roundabout way, means that deadlifts are imperative for living.

Super Slow Motion Olympic Lifts

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

This is incredible.  Watch these videos of Chad Vaughn doing a 315# clean & jerk and of him doing a 285# snatch.

I’ve seen lifting in slow motion before, but this is a whole other level.


Workout for May 8, 2013

A) Warm up: Front Squat 3 reps @75%, 3 reps @85%

B) 5 Mintues hip mobility

C) Front Squats 2-2-2 reps @95%

D) 5-minutes forearm/wrist mobility

E) 5-min EMOM: 1 deadlift/ 1 hang power clean/ 3 push press/ 2 thrusters/ 1 split jerk

Heavy Musings

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We’ve linked this video a couple of times, but it’s still good.  I watch it every few months as I continue to improve my own lifts and as I learn more and different cues to teach these lifts.


Optimum Bodyweight for Olympic Lifting

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Bryan sent me this link to an article on “Power Zones” for Olympic Lifting.

Old school muscle

Old school muscle

A power zone is the ideal body weight range for a given sport.  As you gain muscle, you’re more able to move yourself or weights, so you become generally more athletic.  However, as you gain muscle, your weight also increases, so there are diminishing returns on muscle gain at high levels.

Your optimum size is determined by your sport.  Distance runners, who do not need to rapidly accelerate will perform better if they are lighter, while power lifters will be much heavier.

The article gives height and average weight of Olympic Lifters in the 2004 Olympics.  CrossFit shares quite a lot with Olympic lifting, so there is pretty good applicability of these numbers to our sport.  Many of the top CrossFit men fit pretty closely with these standards.  Unfortunately, the article does not give similar numbers for women.

The article wraps up with an important note about size and nutrition: “Bigger isn’t necessarily better. You will only really know your power zone by experimenting with your bodyweight. The best way to control your bodyweight is through proper nutrition: if you really want to be a champion, you must become a student of nutrition. However, for maximum weightlifting gains, you must follow the old axiom Eat a lot, sleep a lot, train a lot—and lifting a lot will follow.”

Strength Training Rankings

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Here’s another gem of a suggestion by Martin H.


This is the strength training rankings for the squat (high bar, back squat).

This site has rankings for the other major lifts: press, deadlift, bench, clean, and snatch.  The site has the tables available in pounds or kilograms for your convenience, as well as a simple explanation of the categories.

It’s worth noting that these tables are from Dr. Lon Kilgore’s work.  Kilgore worked closely with the original CrossFit Barbell guy, Mark Rippetoe.  These tables are the same ones used for rankings of the CrossFit Total, and can be found on the CrossFit Main Page’s FAQ, here.

I like using these tables to keep an eye on my rankings, if for no other reason than it gives me a simple goal.  Where do you rank?  Where do you want to rank?  Are there any lifts that you’re really good at, or that you’re really bad at?

The Soft Curve vs. the Sharp Curve in the Snatch

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

This blog post is about the hip contact on the snatch.  One day, maybe about a year and a half ago, Russ and a perhaps a few of our athletes and coaches went to do an Olympic Lifting session with John North at California Strength and conditioning.  One of the big things that was brought back was the “hip contact” on the snatch.  Personally I never particularly liked this technique myself, preferring to keep the bar closer to my body through the transition and chaulked up the contrast more to a difference of style than neccesity, (seeing as that there are other elite lifters that don’t use this “hip bump” and have more of what I’ll call a “soft curve”, as you’ll see in the Heavy Musing video).  Nevertheless I didn’t argue the new coaching cue going around the gym.  After all, I consider myself a descent Olympic Lifting coach, but not a master at it by any means.  While I may have a descent snatch for a CrossFitter, (85kg or about 185 lbs, a little over bodyweight) and a several years experience teaching the Olympic Lifts,  John North, has made a career out of specializing in Olympic Lifting and can toss up over 160kg.  But recently the topic has come up again in my teaching circles and I wanted to expose what I think of as this “difference in style” in greater detail using my favorite Olympic Lifting video, “Heavy Musings” by Iron Maven.   If you’ve followed my blog posts for long enough, you’ve probably seen it before (it’s a real gem, pay close attention to the details and subtle differences in bar bath trajectories and body positions ).

At one extreme of the not using contact we have the “soft curve”.  I think the best example used in the video is the grid and bar path trajectory shown in minute 1:31.  Notice that the curve that is traced by the bar at about the point of full extension is still a soft arc, as opposed to fat kid (please don’t tell him I said that!) at 4:48 who definitely uses a lot of contact to execute his successful lift.  Both are great lifts with what I would consider different styles, and obviously a lot more than I can do myself and with better technique, but I still have a strong personal preference for the “soft curve” in 1:31.  Evidently someone else shares a similar opinion.  If  you watch the video on YouTube you’ll notice that mikeyburger1 comments “@1:31 that curve is almost perfect..”  Presumably that’s Olympic Lifting coach Mike Burgner.  But obviously the contact technique has it’s merits as well. Watch the video again at 4:48.  It’s amazing how far back he leans on his jump right before his transition.  I was expecting the bar to be displaced forward somewhat after the , but he actually manages to keep it almost entirely over his base after the hip contact.

There are other amazing lifts throughout the video that fall in between these two extremes, and they are worth observing and scrutinizing as well.  To me the trajectory of the bar in a well executed snatch is almost majestic in how it traces such a beautiful and sublime path through space and I think this is captured amazingly throughout the video. Perhaps my preference for the “soft curve” is partly aesthetic?!?

So what do you think?  Do you prefer the subtle soft curve?  Or do you prefer having that sharp, distinct thigh or hip contact near the point of full extension?  Have you every switched from one technique to the other?  If you have, did you find what you tried helpful?  If so, was it helpful for long term gains or short term gains?  Please share your thoughts.

How low should you go in your Over Head Squats on Strength Workouts?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was coaching the Tues. 3:30 CrossFit class and the only athlete who Showed up was Shari M.  For those of you who know Shari, she is quite strong and tenacious, being one of the most competitive females in our CrossFit program.  So Shari, for better or for worse, ended up with a one on one private from myself.  Shari is a pleasure to coach.  Not only is she strong, but she has good mobility as well and is eager to learn and improve.  The workout was a strength set of over head squats in which she was doing considerable weight.  When she got to her heaviest sets she was barely, and I mean barely reaching parallel.  I was a bit perplexed (considering how good her mobility) is that she wasn’t going any deeper and when I commented on it she asked me, “How deep should I go?”.  Well, honestly it depends on your goals.  If your goal is to score as much weight in your overhead squat lift for the workout as you possibly can  (Hey, braging rights for the chaulk board?) then by all means just go barely, barely, barely, low enough to get credit for the lift.  But it seems to me that a more functional goal would be to increase the strength and power of the muscles involved throughout as great a range of motion as possible and train for it keeping the long term benefit in mind.  Also remember that your snatches are particularly tied in to your overhead squats and the more comfortable you are sitting at the bottom of an OHS, the easier it will be to snatch that weight when you are performing the Olympic lift, which for a competitive CrossFitter is a very important skill.  Just make sure that you have enough pelvic tilt at the bottom to not compromise the integrity of the position and put too much strain on your spinal column.  Otherwise go all the way down and find out if you can dig yourself out of the hole.  If you can’t and you miss the lift, that’s not a sin, it means you’re actually working hard and pushing your limits.  Just look at how deep this Olympic lifter in London caught his snatch and see if you can get your overhead squats that low.

By the way, I have a great picture of Shari’s over head squats that I intended to post but this retarded computer that I’m using at my parents’ house won’t let me download the picture so I’ll have to try to add it later.

Common Thread between CrossFit & Ninja Warrior: The weak-link concept

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

During this “Competition Weekend” for The Cave, it’s been hard to think about anything other than American Ninja Warrior 4 or the 2012 CrossFit Games Open, so I’d like to point out a similarity between the two events.  While many competitions are about specializing and having certain extraordinary strengths at very specific skills, both American Ninja Warrior as well as the CrossFit Games style competition ruthlessly attack your weakest link or ability.  Although you are rewarded in both for being exceedingly good at one thing, nevertheless what will completely take you out of the competition and the standings is being weak in one of the exercises or facets of the competition that comes up.  Specifically as an example, let’s take the first two workouts of the CF Open this year (which I think have been simple but brilliant).  If you did very well in the Burpee workout having good stamina, cardiovascular capacity and being able to move your body-weight well, you’d be in good standing after week 1, however, if you suck at snatches, and can’t take it heavy, basicaly it will give you such a disadvantage in the standings that it could take you mostly out of contention as an individual for Regionals, and vice versa if you didn’t do well on the burpees but rocked the big numbers on the snatches.  In Ninja Warrior you’ll see certain athletes beast challenges that others had to struggle through, but then they’ll fall on an obstacle that requires a different strength or skill set.  You may think “…what happened?! They were so strong!” Maybe they were just good at something specifically, but they haven’t trained well in another arena. There are many plyometrically gifted traceurs that don’t have the grip-strength, gymnasts who don’t have the cardiovascular conditioning or climbers who can’t jump.  From a CrossFitter’s, perspective, work on your weakness, and you’ll be harder to kill.  From an emotional perspective, remember that part of the fun is that you “get to” work at everything and learn new stuff, so keep an open mind and an open heart to trying new things and working at skills that you might enjoy even if you’re not very good at them despite fears of what others may think.  Usually the people who’s opinions we’re fearful of would simply support and cheer us on for our efforts at trying something new!

American Ninja Warrior 4 Course from the window of the Venice Beach Co-tel

American Ninja Warrior 4 Course from the window of the Venice Beach Co-tel

Be Careful Of What You Find On The Internet

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Ok, so these two videos are instructional on lifts we are very familiar with. The thing is, they are terrible. The guy in the video clearly doesn’t know how to perform the lifts properly. Bottom line is this is completely unacceptable, especially if you consider that 15 minutes of searching online will give you enough information to determine that this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about regardless of your experience in these lifts. Anyone who has been through a single session with us knows more than this “fitness expert” about proper lifting mechanics.

I hesitated to post this because I really don’t want this guy to get any more views, but I did want to get this point across. There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts online and it does take a little diligence to make sure that the information you are reading and viewing is backed with experience. This is an extreme case and most are not so easy to pick out. There are a lot of well written misinformed pieces out there. Any time you read anything that you plan on implementing in your life, be sure to find other sources to confirm the information. Never rely on a single source. You can even check out what we tell you. I will back up and support anything we are teaching.

Potential New Types of Classes at CrossFit Marin this Fall

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Hi CFM Crew,

   It’s the end of the summer, and for CrossFit Marin, it’s more like the beginning of a new year for a couple of reasons.  First, since the business was started on October 6th, 2006, that means our birthday is in the fall.  We may be planning some events around the weekend of the 7th, 8th & 9th of October so if you’re in town, you may want to keep those dates available.  Also, since we’re largely a community and family-centered operation and everybody gets back from summer travels and vacations around this time of year, for all intents and purposes we’re on more of a school-calendar year than the January-December type.  Now that we have a dance studio we may have the resources to start a few new programs this upcoming month.  We’d love to hear about what interest, if any, you or your friends may have for these. 

Pilates (Mat) classes.:  We’ve been planning on starting Pilates Mat classes taught by Kristen G.  Some of you may want to take a break from the heavy lifting and ultra-intensity of the CrossFit classes and do a little core work with the Pilates classes.  There may be some other CF Marin gymnastics and parkour moms that aren’t interested in the CrossFit classes but may find the idea of getting a pilates class in while their kids are training too tempting to resist.  These classes might be offered on Tuesday or Thursday mornings come September.

Pole Dancing Classes:  Rosanna S. has been asking us to look into installing the fixtures for a removable pole in the dance studio.  Pole dancing can be very athletic and artistic- it is quite incredible, and no, you do not have to take any clothes off while you’re dancing.  Please post to comments if you would be interested in taking such classes.  They would likely be offered late Tuesday or Thursday evenings.

Zumba Classes:  I recently took Jasmin to a Zumba class taught by a couple of girls that I know.  We were both rather blown away by the experience and we’re both pretty excited to bring a piece of their program in to CFM.  IF the logistics work out, we could have at least one class a week.  After, all, what good is fitness if you can’t shake it on the dance floor?  Please post to comments if you would have any interest in attending.

Modern Dance Class: Lindsey Herrera, our ballet teacher, has metioned several times that she would love to teach an adult modern dance class at CFM.  I only know a couple of CFM boys that would like to take that class.  If anyone else is actually seriously interested or knows someone who would be, please have them contact us to see if it would be viable to get such a class up on the calender!

Olympic Lifting & Stregth Training-  Specific class offered weekly or bi-weekly for Olympic Lifting and Strength Training.  We know that this one has been in demand for a while, and it’s more of an issue of staffing it than whether there is any demand for it, but if you’d like to see this added to the class offerings, please post to comments.  It would accelerate the process and ifluence any decisions made, ’cause after all, the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Remember that part of the CrossFit fitness protocol is to constantly play and engage in new sports and activites.  Movement is life!

See you all in the gym,