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Got Rings?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

You have now acquired a pair of rings. So, now what? You know what a muscle-up is, maybe you can do some dips on the things, but there’s got to be more, right? Absolutely! A pair of rings has limitless possibilities for training. Common exercises take on a whole new dimension when performed on the rings, and many ring exercises can be performed nowhere else.

Ring rows

A ring row is an excellent beginner drill to progress an individual toward pull-ups. Start with the rings at just above shoulder height. Grab the rings and lean back until your arms are straight, to place tension on the straps. Keep your body straight and tight and pull your shoulders to the rings. As strength increases, simply lower the rings so that your body is closer to being horizontal when you lean back.
Ring RowRing RowRing RowRing Row

Hang pull-through to skin the cat pull-out

A hang pull-through to skin the cat pull-out is a sequence of movements that works basically every muscle group from the mid-thigh up, while providing an excellent shoulder stretch as well. Starting in a hang and keeping your arms and legs straight, lift your toes up and back overhead, through a piked inverted hang. Then, continue to lower your toes slowly toward the floor behind you. This hanging position is called a skin the cat. At first you will want to practice this movement with the rings low enough so that you will be able to touch the floor with your feet as you lower toward the skin the cat position. This will enable you to safely get a feel for the movement. From the skin the cat position, lift your hips and pull out back through a piked inverted hang and lower to hang. Once you have some experience, you can raise the rings and lower into the skin the cat clear of the floor and then pull back out. Try to relax your shoulders at the bottom of the skin the cat to get a good stretch and truly find the bottom of your skin the cat. This skill works as an excellent part of a warm-up, or can be used in a conditioning set when done for repetitions’ even if you find one or two reps easy, they add up quickly as part of a workout.
Skin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull OutSkin the Cat Pull Out

Straight-body inverted hang

Straight-body inverted hangs require balance and constant stabilization. Simply hanging upside down with your toes pointed toward the ceiling will be a challenge for many people unfamiliar with being upside down. This drill helps to develop balance and control while inverted and also strengthens the rotator cuffs due to the constant stabilization required.


Pull-ups on the rings are more difficult than bar pull-ups for some, and easier for others. Some people who are unable to do pull-ups on a bar due to limited shoulder flexibility are able to do full range of motion pull-ups on rings. The freedom of movement allows the shoulders to align themselves in a comfortable way while doing the exercise.

Inverted pull-ups

Inverted pull-ups combine the stabilization requirements of an inverted hang with the conditioning load of a regular pull-up. Starting in a piked or straight-body inverted hang, pull up as high as you can and return to the start position. Be sure to practice these in both the straight and pike positions.

Straight Body Piked

Pull-up to lever

A pull-up to lever sequence is a good starting point for developing a front lever. Starting in a bent-arm hang and keeping your body straight and tight, lift your toes and push the rings away to a front lever, then return to a bent-arm hang. The key to this exercise is to lift and push into the lever. Do not allow your shoulders to drop as your legs lift. Keep your shoulders as high as possible and push the rings downward. This makes the motion significantly easier and helps develop proper technique for the front lever.
Pull Up To LeverPull Up To Lever

Back lever

A back lever is the easiest straight-body strength move in gymnastics. From a piked inverted hang, push your toes out directly toward the wall until you are just barely able to hold the position. Return to the pike. Work the back lever and push your limits until you are able to stop your body parallel with the ground. It is essential to actively tense your entire body when executing this skill. Squeeze your arms tight and press the rings inward, while simultaneously squeezing your heels together and keeping your butt tight. Finally, lower into the skin the cat and pull back up to inverted hang with a straight body.
Back Lever

Front lever

There are several steps to help develop a front lever.
Step 1: Tucked front lever. Try to hold your torso parallel with the ground with both legs tucked. Be sure your arms are straight.
Step 2: Single leg front lever. Hold a front lever with one leg straight and the other leg bent so that your foot is next to your knee. Be sure to switch which leg is bent.
Step 3: Straddle front lever. Hold a front lever with your legs straddled as wide as possible. Gradually, bring your legs closer together as you build strength.
Step 4: Front lever. Following the above drills will bring you to the point where you can hold a stable, legs-together front lever.

Straight-body pull to skin the cat pull-out

A straight-body pull to skin the cat pull-out is identical to the hang pull to skin the cat pull-out with the exception that it will be done with a straight, rather than piked, body. With straight arms and a straight body, pull through a front lever to inverted hang, continue through back lever, and lower to skin the cat. Lift your heels and pull out, keeping your body straight, then roll through an inverted hang, lower through front lever, and return to hang.
Straight Body PullStraight Body PullStraight Body PullStraight Body Pull

The Support

A basic requirement for ring work is to obtain a solid, proper support in which your arms are straight, hips open, and chest up. The rings should be turned out between 15 and 45 degrees so that the insides of your elbows are facing forward. Before moving on to presses, rolls, or any other support work, you should be able to hold this position for a minimum of 15 seconds with little to no movement.

Ring Support Ring Support, Rings Turned Out
OK Better


Start with the rings at about waist height. Perform push-ups on the rings. As strength increases, lower the rings until they are just above the floor; then, to make them more challenging, you can elevate your feet a little. To further increase difficulty, lean forward a little bit while you do the push-ups so that at the bottom of the push-up your hands are right next to your hips.
Ring Push UpRing Push UpRing Push UpRing Push Up


Perform dips just as you would on the parallel bars. At first, do whatever it takes to get the dips done. As your support gets stronger, work toward doing the dips with the rings turned out (palms forward) in the proper support position described above.

Ring Dip Ring Dip, Rings Turned Out
Standard Turned Out


See issue Parallette Training - Volume 1 for progressions for an L-sit. The progressions on parallettes and rings are the same. The only stipulation on rings is that the arms and shoulders in the ring support should not change as you lift into the L-sit. Rings should still be turned out, and your head and chest up.

Hollow body training

Set up matting for this exercise. Set the rings a couple inches above the mat. Start in a push-up position, with hands on the rings and feet on the floor. Push the rings forward, maintaining a hollow body position, then pull back to a push-up position. Once this sequence is developed, you can continue past the push-up position and push the rings back toward your hips to work the planche position as well. Once some strength in the planche position has been developed, you can try, from the planche position, to push the rings out to the side a little and allow your body to drop down between your hands to train the maltese. Arms should be kept straight throughout this sequence. If you have to bend your arms to complete a motion, then start over and go only as far as you can while maintaining straight arms.
Hollow Body TrainingHollow Body TrainingHollow Body Training

Forward roll to inverted hang

From an L-sit in support, lift your hips up behind you and bend your arms. Try to lift your hips up over your head. Once completely inverted, roll forward and let the rings turn out and you will end up in a piked inverted hang. In starting and teaching this skill, be sure to lift your hips at the beginning and do not dive your chest forward. This is a very common mistake and can lead to injury. It should be a very controlled lifting motion. The roll only occurs once the hips are directly above the head. If you can not reach this position, do not try to roll out just lower your hips and return to support. When first learning the skill, be sure to use a spotter.
Forward Roll on RingsForward Roll on RingsForward Roll on RingsForward Roll on Rings

Shoulder stand

Initiate a press to shoulder stand just like you did for the forward roll: start in an L-sit and lift your hips until they are directly over your head, but, now, instead of rolling forward, straddle and lift your legs until they hit the cables. Use the cables for stability and get comfortable in this position. If you fall too far forward, just roll out. Once you are stable upside down, you can bring your feet to the insides of the cables for minimal assistance, then bring your legs together and balance the shoulder stand free of the cables. Once you have a sense of the balance, try to press into the shoulder stand keeping your legs together throughout, then balance the shoulder stand, then lower back to support.
Shoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on RingsShoulder Stand on Rings

Support swings

While maintaining a good support position, swing forward and backward. At first, it will be very difficult to maintain stability. Keep the rings turned out and try to keep your body straight. Resist the temptation to lift your toes and pike the hips in the front swing. Swing with your whole body straight. This exercise will greatly stabilize your support and build strength.
Support Swing on RingsSupport Swing on RingsSupport Swing on RingsSupport Swing on Rings

Bent-arm press to handstand

A bent-arm press to handstand is similar in technique to the press to shoulder stand. Start in an L-sit, and then lift your hips to the back and push the rings forward. When your hips are as close to directly above your shoulders as you can get them, straddle and lift your legs to the cables. Push your arms straight to reach a handstand. Once you have reached a handstand, work on stabilization and moving your feet to the insides of the cables. Try to then turn the rings out. The rings should be parallel with each other. Once this position is stable, try to hold the handstand free of the cables. Again, if you fall forward, simply roll out. As your press to handstand gets stronger, work toward performing the press with straight arms.
Press Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on RingsPress Handstand on Rings


A muscle up is simply a combination of a pull-up and a dip, with the addition of a nasty little transition. A proper false grip and technique are essential to achieving the muscle up. For the false grip, place your hands in the position that they will be in when you reach the support. This means that your palms need to be on top of the inside of the rings from the beginning. To learn the false grip, place the rings at a bit below shoulder height. Open your hand completely and place the ring so it runs from the crook of your thumb to the opposite heel of your hand. Then grasp the ring and lower yourself down to hang from it. Once you have a good sense of the grip and can hang with both hands in false grips you can begin working toward the muscle-up. Start with the rings low so you can use your legs to assist yourself through the motion. When you are below the rings in the hang, you will want to have your legs a little bit in front of you. This will allow you to rotate over the rings through the transition. Start the pull and roll your shoulders over your hands, keeping your hands and elbows close to your body. Your elbows should travel in curves that are parallel with each other; they should not point outward at all. Once your shoulders are up over your hands, push up to support. Once you have a sense of the motion, try to do it without the leg assist. Think about pulling aggressively, getting through the transition quickly. As your muscle-up develops, you will find yourself able to hop through the transition.
False GripFalse Grip

Muscle UpMuscle UpMuscle UpMuscle Up

Backward roll to support

A backward roll to support combines kinesthetic awareness, inversion, and great strength demands. Start from a hang with a false grip, pull your legs up and forward, roll over backward and push into a support. The keys to this skill are similar to those for a muscle-up: keep a good false grip, and keep the rings close to your body.
Backward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to SupportBackward Roll to Support

Kip to support

Start in a straight-body inverted hang. Pike down, and then quickly kick upward. Once your body has fully extended, sit up and try to catch up to your legs while pushing down on the rings. As you roll forward, keep pressure on the rings and finish in a support. The kipping motion can be practiced on a mat. Begin by lying on your back in a pike with your hands pointed toward the ceiling. Your weight should be on your upper back and shoulders. Kick your legs up and extend, then snap forward. There will be a moment when you are completely off the ground. Try to reach back with your hands and catch yourself in a rear support before your feet hit the ground.
Kipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on RingsKipl to Support on Rings

By Roger Harrell.

Related Events:

Related Skills:

Muscle up
Press to handstand/shoulderstand
Support technique
Back lever
Backwards roll to L support
Front lever

Muscle Up Clinic and Upcoming Events At The Cave

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Get your first muscle up or improve your efficiency? Come work with Roger Harrell, original CrossFit Gymnastics SME, for an hour refining your technique, or learning the proper progressions for developing a fantastic muscle up.
register here

Want to improve your running efficiency? Want to run faster?
Come to our Pose running seminar on March 15th 12:30-3:30pm
A 3 Hour running seminar to improve efficiency, reduce impact and increase speed
Click here to sign up or learn more

We also have  a Double under clinic  March 16th 10-11:30am
Improve your double unders or get them for the first time - World Record holder Shane Winsor

Don’t wait too long, these camps are excellent and fill up quick!

Epic Bridge Run Recap

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

The Epic Bridge Run this year was a blast. We had a great group of folks ranging from our competetive team BoManda to several folks completely new to CrossFit and The Cave. All were able to participate, get in a great workout and have fun. This year’s workout was designed for pairs, though we had one group of 3 and one solo participant.

The run started on the north end where all teams had to grab a pair of rings and run over to the bridge walkway and string up their rings. Then they had to complete Ryan - The Firefighter.

  • 5 rounds
  • 7 Muscle ups
  • 21 Burpee

After completing Ryan they then had to break down their rings, run them back to the starting area, then perform Golden Gate Bridge Murph. This involved running to the south end of the bridge, down to the Marina Amphitheater, then performing:

  • 100 V-ups
  • 200 Push ups
  • 300 Squats

Followed by a run back to the north end of the bridge.

At the north end they found a barbell waiting for them. At this point they just had to complete Randy - The Police Officer 75 snatches. The teams took between 1 hr 15 minutes to just a bit over 1 hr 30 minutes. Complete details on the result are here.

6th Annual Epic Bridge Run Coming Soon!

Friday, December 20th, 2013
Cold Wet Bear Crawls

Cold Wet Bear Crawls

2014 is almost upon us. It is time for the 6th Annual Epic Bridge Run. This started as a group of friends getting together to just do a workout on New Years Day and has become a Cave/CrossFit Marin tradition. Nick W. has run this event since the beginning and rest assured he is still involved in the planning. Unfortunately he’s not going to be able to join us as his LEO duties will be keeping him busy.

A little history on the Epic Bridge Run.

2009: Golden Gate Murph. This was an impromptu get together. It involved doing Murph, but using the bridge as the “mile run”. 4 people attended and it sparked the idea to do this every year.

2010: Bridge Ball Brought down a truck load of equipment, and utilized medicine balls on the bridge for a variety of tasks. Unfortunately the Golden Gate Bridge authority didn’t like us bringing equipment on the bridge. After I spoke with them it totally made sense. They were actually quite kind when they approached me about the potential problems.

2011: Zombie Apocalypse The first of the themed Bridge Runs. This event involved tasks and scenarios that may be encountered during a zombie Apocalypse.

2012: Bridgepacolypse What would you do at the end of the world. Would you be able to help your fellow humans, or would you become a burden? Gathering resources and getting around without modern machines is difficult.

2013: Caveman Games The life of the caveman was hard. Gathering supplies and hunting large game is exciting and exhausting.

2014: Come and find out!!!

Be sure to register. The earlier you register the better we can plan for the event. Hope to see you all there. Participate in a Cave Tradition!!

Challenge Workout #3

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Challenge WOD #3 has arrived!

You may complete this workout as many times as would would like until the workout closes.  Closing date is Wednesday, June 26th.  Remember you must have a judge to verify that your repetitions are good and that your score is valid!

Challenge WOD #3:
In 8 minutes, complete as many repetitions of wall ball shots and burpees in the following order;
2 WB
1 Burpee
4 WB
2 Burpee
6 WB
3 Burpee
and so on…
Your score is total repetitions completed.
Movement standards:

Wall ball–Men will use a 20# MB and shoot to the 10 ft mark.  Women will use a 14# MB and shoot to the 9 ft. mark.  For each rep to count, each squat must achieve full depth, meaning hip crease below the knee, and the ball must hit the targeted height.
Good Rep
This is a good rep!
No rep
This is a “no rep”.
Burpee–Your chest hips and toes must touch the ground at the bottom of the burpee.  Both men and women will jump onto a 25 KG plate.  The jump must be competed from 2 feet onto 2 feet.  This means both feet leave the ground at the same time, and land on the plate at the same time (no stepping onto the plate).  You must show an open hip on top of the plate for the repetition to count.  The athlete may get off the plate however they choose.
Bottom of the burpee
Hips, toes and chest must touch the ground at the bottom of the burpee.

On top of the plate

You must stand up on top on the plate with your hips fully extended.  Jumping onto two feet at the same time is required.

Good luck everyone!

Competition Workouts

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

I was highly impressed with the energy, enthusiasm, and community spirit shown during the Games Open this year.  I’d like to recreate that on a regular basis throughout the year, so I’m including regular competition workouts in addition to the regular gym programming.  These will be done in a similar manner to the Games Open workouts: you’ll have a week to do the workout, and the workout must be judged by a client or coach.  We will record all efforts on the board, just like during the Games Open.

Also, even though scaling will not be allowed, programming with ensure that all athletes will be able to compete in all workouts, so you have no reason to not participate.

For our first workout, I give you: “10-Minute Nasty Girls.”

For those of you who don’t know, “Nasty Girls” is an old-school CrossFit workout consisting of 3 rounds for time of 50 squats, 10 hang power cleans at 135/95#, 7 muscle-ups.

In this version, athletes will have 10-minutes to do as many rounds  as possible of 50 squats, 10 hang power cleans, and 7 muscle ups.  Tie breaker times will be recorded at the end of each set of exercises.

Movement standards:

Squats must start and finish with full hip extension, and the crease of the hip must pass below the top of the knee at the bottom.

Poor depth (also weight is on the toes and she's leaning forward).  In the second pic, the hips are not fully open at the top.  Both of these examples are No Rep.

Poor depth (also weight is on the toes and she's leaning forward). In the second pic, the hips are not fully open at the top. Both of these examples are No Rep.

This is good squat depth.

This is good squat depth.

Hang power cleans must start with the bar hanging above the knee, and finish with the bar in a front rack position with the hips and knees in full extension and the elbows in front of the bar.

These are bad.  No full hip extension in the first picture, elbows are not in front of the bar in the second picture.

These are bad. No full hip extension in the first picture, elbows are not in front of the bar in the second picture.

Good reps start above the knee and finish at full hip extension with the elbows in front of the bar.

Good reps start above the knee and finish at full hip extension with the elbows in front of the bar.

Muscle ups begin hanging with straight arms below the rings and end with the elbows locked out in a support.

These are good muscle-ups.  Full extension of the elbows at the bottom and top of the movement.

These are good muscle-ups. Full extension of the elbows at the bottom and top of the movement.

Workout for May 1, 2013:

A)  Warm-up: Back Squat 4 reps @ 65%, 4 reps @70%.

B) 5 Minutes hip mobility

C) Back Squat 4-4-4 reps @75%

D) For time: run double Marsh Mile OR Row 4000m

E) Spend remainder of class working on Goat.

Post times to Comments.


Saturday, April 20th, 2013

There are a couple of things that human beings do really well in comparison to most other animals.  True, we don’t have claws, sharp teeth, fur or thick skin, our hearing and smell are poor, and we’re not very fast or strong when compared to most other animals.  But we have really good eyesight, we have an amazing cooling system which allows us to stay active in hot environments for a long time, we can throw things, and most importantly we can work together like nearly no other species on the earth.

Many hands makes light work

Many hands makes light work

CrossFit regularly utilizes the community aspect of the program to squeeze more effort out of athletes.  The idea is simple, people will “die for points.”  We like racing against other people because it helps us push to the level of intensity that gives us results.

But we don’t always have to race against another person, sometimes, like last Saturday, we can do team workouts.  These help us train communication while under physical stress (a useful skill in the real world), and helps build our Cave tribe by having us work with each other to accomplish a difficult task.  They’re also quite a lot of fun, as those who attended the Tough Mudder or the Epic Bridge Run can attest.

What do you think about the team workout format?  What types of team workouts would you like to see in the future?

Perspective on 13.1

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

This was originally sent out to the Cave’s Google Groups email by Shari M.  It’s posted here with her permission.

Shari M.

Shari M.

    I wanted to share with you all a vulnerable moment that I had yesterday
    during my 13.1 Open workout and the valuable lesson I learned as a result.
    Just to set the stage, I came into the gym yesterday with a goal for 13.1: to improve upon the number of snatches I got in last year’s open workout (the snatch ladder) in comparison to this year’s union of burpees and snatches. Bo agreed to judge my performance. In the final minutes of my 100 lb snatch attempts, I split snatched a rep and did not stand with my feet together before dropping the bar which as you all are probably aware you are required to do for the rep to count. As a result, Bo called “No Rep”.
    My reaction to Bo was to yell an expletive and shout, “You’re not going to
    let me have that one?” And after the workout I even (half-jokingly)
    suggested to Bo that he should feel bad about not giving me that rep. Yes,
    I am embarrassed by my behavior…shame on me. It was poor sportsmanship, plain and simple.
    And now for the valuable lesson I learned….
    Your judge is either your coach or your peer. No one wants to see you succeed more than they do. We’ve worked along side of each other all year, supporting one another through the trenches of sweat and mental toil. Judges are your friends. But, even more importantly, we’ve all worked too hard over the last year to cheat a rep. This will be even more important in the weeks to come with movements such as wall ball where the ball has to touch the tape or toes to bar where both feet have to touch the bar or hand release push-ups etc. The rules are the rules and we all have to abide by the standards set by rule makers. Our goal for a workout should be to earn every last rep that we can. This is a competition and we should compete with integrity.
    And lastly, I did improve upon the number of snatches I did over last year. Last year, I couldn’t even snatch 100 lbs and this year I was able to snatch 4 reps at that weight. I am proud of my score.
    Thanks Bo for keeping me honest!

Firefighter Fran

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

An oldie but goldie in the world of CrossFit videos.

What’s your Fran time?

Know Your Numbers

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
These things have numbers on them

These things have numbers on them

As I’m sure you’ve noticed we ask you what your 1 rep max is for a given lift on a regular basis. There is a reason we want to know this. It is so we can optimize the load for the workout. Sure your coaches can estimate pretty well what load you should use for any given workout, but it is not ideal. If we know what your 1RM is, we can dial in your workout. It also gives a better metric when we look at times and rounds.

Some of you have not truly ever maxed out on a lift. That’s fine, we can still work out good weights to use in a workout if we know a little bit about what you’ve lifted for a workout previously. If we ask what your 1 rep max back squat is and you’ve never done a max effort back squat you can tell us “Well I used 50kg for the deadlifts yesterday and that felt ok/easy/heavy”, we can then use that number to ball park other lifts.

Some of you have been training with us for quite a while, but still can’t tell us anything about your numbers. This is an indication that you are leaving too much of your training to us. You just come in and lift what we tell you to lift, but don’t really pay attention to what the numbers are. You are slowing your progress by doing this, and relying too much on us. Take charge of your training. Know your numbers. Understand what the different loads feel like. When it comes to a workout you will then have a better idea of what you are shooting for or what to expect from a workout.

One of the best ways to know your numbers is by logging. We have a fantastic tool to use for this. The AthleticsLog tracks all of your numbers, can help you monitor your progress. It also helps the gym in aggregate because we can look at numbers across the board. Whatever you do, know your numbers. Help us help you.