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Archive for the ‘Tricks’ Category

Jump Rope Master

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

This is Adrienn Banhegyi. She performs with Cirque de Soleil and holds two world records for jumping rope.

Something tells me that she wouldn’t have a problem with double-unders….

Holy Cow!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Narendra R. sent me a link to this video.  I thought it was worth sharing.

What’s your max box jump?  It might be worth testing it again soon, if you haven’t done it in a while.


Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

The pistol, or one-legged squat is a deceptive exercise, in the same vein as the overhead squat.  You would think that simply being strong enough to squat your own body weight would enable you to be able to perform a one-legged squat, however there’s much more to it than simply leg strength.  Like the overhead squat, balance, flexibility, and coordination are required for pistols.  On top of that, like other uni-lateral movements, the pistol helps eliminate imbalances in strength and coordination between each side of your body.

And there’s much, much  more you can do with the movement than just squatting.  Adding weight in a variety of positions (such as overhead), balancing on an unstable surface, or doing pistol box jumps are just some ideas.

Check out this video, which Mark R. brought to my attention a few days ago.

The pistol is a complex and difficult movement.  Getting good a them just helps you do everything else better, and most importantly, helps you do fix your imbalances which might otherwise lead to injury.

How are your pistols?

The Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Performing a free standing handstand push up takes work. A LOT of work. If you are not doing gymnastics on a regular basis significant specific time will need to be spent practicing and training the strength for this movement. We practice things a lot in CrossFit. It is often hard to choose where to put in the effort. The Olympic lifts take a lot of time. Getting the mechanics down for efficient bodyweight movements takes a lot of time. With a lot of practice things it often just takes 5-10 minutes a day, but you have to be consistent with the practice and as Emily C. put it “I’m running out of 5 minutes”.

I have a particular bias toward this movement. I’m pretty good at handstand push ups, and in my sport being able to perform a solid handstand push up free standing is essential, and an eventual byproduct of the normal training. I am always encouraging everyone to aspire to making this movement, but few accomplish it. It is a very lofty goal. On par (possibly harder, I don’t have the best perspective on it) with a bodyweight squat snatch. Working in this direction can be frustrating because the scales aren’t just a change of weight, but a modified version of the movement, so progress isn’t as easy to measure as a weightlifting movement.

I wrote a CF Journal article which gives great detail on the progression. Here’s the repost on

The Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Air Sense

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Have you ever watched complex acrobatics, particularly aerial movements and wondered how these people keep track of what is going on well enough to safely land? With certain movements it is not just the ability to complete a skill, but the ability to complete it with enough precision consistently to land well enough that no body parts are in awkward positions (ie minimal risk of injury).

Here’s Jonathan Horton playing around on high bar. Watch the release combination then the dismount. The dismount is a full twisting tripple back flip. In other words he rotates head over feet three times backward and twists one full rotation. This also can be called a full in-double back out indicating that the twist occurs on the first flip. This takes incredible speed and rotation to complete, but the toughest part about it is keeping your bearings well enough to land on your feet.

Here is a video of Jason Burnett doing 10 triples. A trampoline routine consists of 10 skills. All world level routines have a few triple flipping skills in them, but few have ever done anything like this. Even tracking what is going on while watching it is a feat when you know what to look for. Imagine being Jason and having to keep track of what is going on, get your bearing and land each of these skills well enough to go immediately into the next.

Can you see why I say we need higher ceilings?

The ability to know where you are in the air, control rotation and make adjustments to land under control is referred to as “air sense” in gymnastics and acrobatic circles. Similar to learning walk, ride a bike, etc it is a skill that is learned best through a lot of repetition. For example, if you’ve had a chance to get on the trampolines at the gym have you noticed some people are able to just start jumping, stay in the middle and clearly have control right from the start, others are all over the place, buckle in the legs, bounce from side to side a lot. Even athletic people often struggle when they get on a trampoline for the first time. One of the most dangerous classes I ever taught was trampoline classes at UC Davis that were open to the entire student body. This was a popular class, especially for athletes. Unfortunately many of these athletes had to be held back quite a bit on the trampolines because they were athletic enough to get themselves in a lot of trouble. They could bounce very high, but didn’t have a clue what to do with themselves once they were in the air and inverted. Add that with a sense of invulnerability that comes with being 19 years old and it is a recipe for disaster.

Developing an air sense takes practice. You need to spend time rotating on all three of the different axes. The time when my air sense was strongest was late in college when I was performing double rotations off most apparatus and twisting doubles in some cases. I also spent a lot of time on trampolines. This air sense does wane over time. There are things I am capable of doing right now, that I won’t because I can’t be sure I could land safely. I need to take the time to work back up to them and reacquire the air sense. A lot of our CrossFit athletes could pull off a double back flip on trampoline, but few if any could land it safely.

If you have a strong air sense you can even turn a bad fall into a pretty cool trick. I was able to once do a front flip off my bike when my front wheel locked up. No though was involved, I just felt it going and rotated with it. Landed on my feet in front of the bike. Unfortunately the bike then crashed onto my head and the pedal jabbed into my calf so I didn’t walk away unscathed, but pretty cool in any case. This would not have been possible without time spent flipping.  This is one of the reasons we encourage you to play around with unusual movements. As Nick posted recently, practice rolling regularly. Spend some time developing an air sense. It is a ton of fun and can come in handy.

Acro Yoga At The Cave

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

If you haven’t heard yet we are going to start offering acro yoga classes at The Cave in January. We are offering two separate classes that take different approaches to this discipline. Come to a therapeutic session to help increase mobility and improve recovery, or come to an acrobatic session to learn some great partner acro skills.

The classes will be taught by Crystal Hatzimichael and Kathy Gade (Seen in the video). This is a great opportunity to try something new and improve yourself. The classes start on Tuesday January 8th at  7pm. The 7-8pm session is therapeutic and the 8-9pm session is acrobatic. Try them out.

Another Thing to Be Thankful For

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

There is a lot to be Thankful for, including old friends whom you haven’t heard from in ages who text you “Happy ThanksGiving” around this time of year.  Talking about flashbacks from the past, here are a few from our blog, followed by the subject matter of today’s blog.

ThanksGiving feasting by Roger (2009):

There’s a Lot to be Thankful for by Andres (2010):

Holiday Shopping by Marisa Lee:

What Doodad to get This Holiday Season by Andres:

Family Eats Paleo This Holiday Season by Karen Minot:

One thing I’m thankful for is my ability to move, that is my skills, the things I can do.  (Probably best showcased by my 2010 American Ninja Warrior submission video, here) Nothing makes me more acutely aware of these great gifts than when they’re missing or “on hold” due to sickness or injury.  Lately my back has been a bit tweaky so I’ve been borderline between having them and not.  Three years ago I seriously injured my back to the extent that I was bed ridden and it was a horrible struggle to simply roll over in bed let alone get up to go to the bathroom.  During the injury I realized how easy it was for me to take for granted everything I can do and how lucky I am to have my body and to be able to explore all of it’s capacities.  I love movement and the adventure for exploring and learning that it brings. Sometimes while coaching a birthday party or Ninja Warrior summer camp, I like to play a related name game with the kids.  We often do “your favorite flavor ice-cream” for name games but I prefer “something you can do and a skill you’d (realistically) like to be able to do someday”.  So this Thanks Giving I think we should play a similar skillz game.  Tell me your name and “something you’re greatful that you can do” and “something you’d like to be able to do in the future”.  I’ll go first.  I’m greatful that I can do big precision jumps (there was one at the end of that Ninja Warrior submission video, if you watched it) and I’d like to be able to stride from the mezzanine all the way accross the pull-up rig some day (hopefully soon).  And I’ld like to have my heavy snatches back, at least when my back feels better!  What skill are you greatful for?

Athletes Keep Getting Better

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

As time goes on we see new world records. People are running faster, lifting more weight, jumping further and in some sports doing entirely new movements. Timescales at which these are changing are far too short (by current theories) for selective processes to be leading to these changes, additionally there is little selective pressure in humans, but that is entirely a different subject. These records are being beat by better training, nutrition, understanding of mechanics and in many cases (unfortunately) drugs.

Periodically there is an individual where many things line up exceptionally well. A personal strongly genetically suited for a sport happens to choose that sport early on in life and is in the right place geographically and financially to take advantage of a coach that can truly lead them to their potential. Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps are two such individuals. When this happens previous records are beat and in some cases crushed. These records then tend to stand for a long time.

In most sports shaving a few hundredths off of a time, lifting one more kg or jumping a couple cm further or higher is the continual next step. In sports like gymnastics it could be performing the next big skill. The skills being done at the elite level are phenomenal, many of which were considered impossible by the top gymnasts and coaches in the sport just a few decades ago. An example is a triple back flip on floor, which was considered impossible (I’ve even seen articles discussing why from a physics perspective), but Valeri Liukin (Nastia Liukin’s dad) competed this skill in the early 80s.  The video is Epke Zonderland performing the 2012 Olympic Gold medal high bar routine.  He has a release move sequence that is just ridiculous.

A double back flip over the bar to regrasp is called a Kovacs (skills are named after the first gymnast to compete them in a sanctioned international competition). This skill has been around since the 80s. In the early 90s a full twist was added to the skill to make it a Coleman. Then it started being performed layed out (straight body) and with a twist to be a Cassina. This year in the Olympics Epke Zonderland strung a few of these movements together. Cassina-Kovacs-Coleman. Eventually we will reach human limits, but we’re not there yet.

And to see that there is still more to come. An unofficial Cassina 2. A stretched Kovacs double full.


Thursday, November 8th, 2012

I know that there are still a couple of you who work out with the express intent of being attractive to the opposite sex.  There’s nothing wrong with that, everybody has to have a goal.

So, for the gentlemen out there, I present,


Good luck.

Have you ever done AcroYoga?

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Hi Cavers,

Have you ever done AcroYoga?  I’ve had the pleasure of playing around with it a little with Shira, co-owner of  The Athletic Playground in Emeryville and some of our other friends.  I think it’s actually really fun and stretches you out in a way that feels so positive to your body that it’s hard to describe.  I was wondering if any of you have ever tried it and what you think of it if you have.  There are two main “types” of AcroYoga, one “therapeutic” which feels,… well, therapeutic, and the other one that emphasizes the Acrobatics and fancy moves which is fun and cool but a bit more show-offish.  Here are some videos that can give you an idea of what it’s about.

This is a really good example of therapeutic Acro.  You have no idea how good this feels are your spinal column unless you’ve tried it.  The “flyer” is the one benefiting from the “base”.

I really like this one not just because the practitioners are so good, but also because of I think the sound track and tempo are perfect for a good relaxing, therapeutic AcroYoga session.  Not that these two throw in their fair share of acrobatics in there as well!

Here is one of Crystal and Kathy from The Athletic Playground demonstrating one of their tricks:

Can you believe that there is also an AcroYoga move called a “Ninja Star”?  Well, you know I have to post a video of a “Ninja Star”, don’t you?  These are Zac and Crystal from at The Athletic Playground  as well:

And finally here is the 2011 AcroYoga festival, which gets pretty fancy.  Maybe even proves that  even hippies are competitive at heart.  Rofl.

So what did you think?  Would you try something like this?  Why or why not?