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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 http://www.inthecave.com/events?eventid=127

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

tim_hill_pose_web
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!

The Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Bottom phase of a HSPU

Bottom phase of a HSPU

From The Vault

Originally published in the CrossFit Journal and now resides at DrillsAndSkills.com - Free Standing Handstand Push Up

Performing handstand push-ups (HSPUs) without the support of a wall or spotter dramatically increases the demands of the movement. The stabilization required during the movement provides a stimulus that is simply not present when the HSPU is assisted. Regularly performing freestanding HSPUs will dramatically improve any overhead lifting or throwing activities. The following article provides a progression for developing the ability to do a freestanding HSPU, starting with no handstand experience whatsoever. This process may take years for many people.

Beginning handstands

Many people will be intimidated simply by the concept of doing a handstand. Fears of falling and/or not being able to support themselves with their arms will be the primary hindrances early on. Proper positioning and a gradual progression will take trainees through this process safely and quickly.

The first step to a handstand is simply to learn how to be comfortable in a hand support. A vertical handstand is not necessary to start this process. Start with a folded panel mat, plyo box, or other stable raised surface. Stand in a shallow lunge in front of the object with arms overhead. In the lunge, the rear leg is the kicking leg, and the front leg is the support leg. Place your hands on the object, and kick your rear leg up toward the ceiling so that the support leg comes off the ground only a few inches. Start small. Getting up into a handstand at this point is not necessary and not recommended.

This initial stage can tell you a lot about the handstand and you can begin to improve handstand technique. The first thing to look for is proper shoulder angle. Many people will push their shoulders forward past their hands. This creates a very unstable position unless the individual performing the handstand is capable of performing a planche. The shoulders should be completely open and active with the arms by the ears. The head should be positioned so that your hands are just visible by looking toward them with your eyes (not moving your whole head). If you can see two feet past your fingertips then your head is too far out and your shoulder angle likely is “broken.” Once the proper position has been established, work on kicking higher. If the handstand is approaching 45 degrees from vertical it is time to move off of the raised surface.

Before moving to a handstand on the ground, you should be very comfortable with forward rolls. A forward roll is the easiest and safest way to exit a handstand that falls forward. Training a forward roll is discussed in detail in CrossFit Journal issue 38.

Practicing a handstand on the ground may be the starting point for individuals who already have a solid base level of strength and kinesthetic awareness. The starting point is the same as it was for the raised object. Start in a shallow lunge with arms overhead. Kick to a handstand by lunging forward and kicking your rear leg up toward the ceiling. The kick is what brings the hands to the floor, not reaching down with the hands. A very common mistake is to reach down with the hands, which breaks the shoulder angle and creates a less stable position. The line from wrists to the rear leg should be kept straight. When starting to kick to handstand, the kick should be kept low. As with the handstand drill on a box, only a small kick is necessary to identify deficiencies in the position. Once proper positions have been demonstrated, the kick can be taken higher. Simply kicking up and stepping back down repeatedly will begin to bring the hips higher in each kick and train an understanding of the shoulder and arm push required to hold a handstand. Once the kick leg is reaching vertical, the support leg can be brought up to meet it in the handstand.

Holding a handstand and improving alignment Once a kick to handstand is consistent, shift focus to holding the handstand. The only way to improve your ability to hold a handstand is to practice handstands. Do handstands whenever you get a chance. This is comparable to learning to walk. When children learn to walk they practice constantly. This is the same approach that should be taken with handstands. A solid static handstand is essential to performing free standing handstand push ups. Handstands can be practiced against a wall to develop strength in the position and to allow for enough time in the handstand to play with body alignment. Handstands against a wall should be practiced both with the back to the wall and facing the wall.

Handstands facing away from the wall do not encourage a proper hollow handstand posture, but allow for practicing balance in a handstand. Start in a lunge facing the wall and kick to handstand so that your heels hit the wall. Be sure to place your fingertips only a couple of inches away from the wall. Start the lunge far enough away from the wall so that you have to stretch forward a bit as you kick to the handstand. This will force a better alignment in the shoulders and improve the mechanics of the kick. This also creates proper positions for other kicking skills such as front handsprings and round offs. Once in the handstand, the shoulders should be pushed up (toward the ears) as far as possible and fully extended. There should be no angle between the shoulders and torso. The line between wrists and toes should be as straight as possible. Once the handstand is aligned properly, push with your fingertips and try to pull your heels away from the wall slightly to hold the handstand. As you get more stable you can walk your hands farther away from the wall to practice your balance.

Practicing handstands facing the wall helps to ensure a proper hollow handstand position but does not allow for balance practice as readily as facing away from the wall does. To get into a handstand facing the wall start with your back to the wall, bend down and place your hands on the floor 1 to 2 feet away from the wall, then walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands in to the wall. Try to get your hands as close as possible to the wall. Your toes should be pointed and the tops of your feet should be the only thing touching the wall. It is possible to do this with your wrists virtually touching the wall assuming handstand alignment is good. Proper alignment is an open hollow with shoulders fully extended and pushed up. Think about pushing your toes as high toward the ceiling as possible. Once this position is obtained, try to push away from the wall slightly and transfer your weight to your fingertips and hold the handstand.

Practice freestanding handstands as often as possible. Kick up to a handstand whenever you get a chance. When you kick to handstand, think about extending your lunge, keeping your shoulders open, and maintaining a straight line between your kick heel and your hands. Part of your practice should be just trying to stay on your hands no matter what it takes. Walk, break form and bend your arms, just stay in the handstand. As you spend time in the handstand you will begin to feel the adjustments that are necessary to maintain it.

In addition to practicing handstands allowing for walking, you should also make a concerted effort to practice static handstands. Kick into a handstand with a tight, straight body and don’t move. If you have to take a step, come down and try again. As with previous handstands, kick into the handstand with an extended body and shoulders. Once in the handstand squeeze your legs together, extend your shoulders so that they are completely open, and hold the body in a straight, slightly hollow position. Think about digging your fingertips into the floor while practicing static handstands. This will create a more solid base for the handstand. Think about leaning the handstand slightly forward, as it is easier to save a handstand that is falling forward (over onto your back) than it is to save a handstand falling backward. (The exception to this is on rings.) To save a handstand that is falling forward, extend through your shoulders and dig your fingers into the floor as hard as you can. To save a handstand falling backward pike your shoulders and hips and if necessary bend your arms. As the handstand gets stronger, a slight planche will save a handstand that is falling backward.

Assisted Handstand Push Ups

There are several methods of performing assisted HSPUs. Each has benefits, and the various methods should all be used in the progress toward a freestanding HSPU. Doing HSPUs against a wall allows the balance factor to be removed from the exercise so you can begin to strengthen the movement. As with static handstands, these can be done facing the wall or facing away from it. A spot can provide as much balance and lift assistance as necessary. HSPUs can be performed on the ground or on parallettes. Parallettes allow for greater range of motion and help to stabilize the handstand. They can also relieve wrist strain for those with inflexible or injured wrists.

Proper technique during the assisted HSPU will allow faster progress. Throughout the HSPU the body should be kept hollow and as rigid as possible. It is much easier to push a stick than a rope: make your body like a stick. The elbows should be kept in close to the body throughout the motion, not flared out to the sides. In the bottom of the HSPU your hands should be about six to twelve inches in front of your shoulders and your elbows should be directly above your hands. Upright, this would be like holding two dumbbells just in front of your shoulders with your elbows directly beneath your hands. Do not allow your elbows to jut out to the sides or your stability will be severely compromised. When doing HSPUs with your back to the wall, start by just kicking up and working through the movement with your hands close to the wall. As you get stronger move your hands farther away from the wall to allow you to lean your shoulders forward toward the wall as you descend on the HSPU. This forward movement of the shoulders is essential to developing the control required for freestanding HSPUs. In addition to the shoulder lean, bend one or both legs to allow your knees to move away from the wall as well, so you can maintain a straight body from the knees to the hands.

Practicing HSPUs facing the wall allows for a hollow position and proper shoulder mechanics without compromising positions in the legs. Hands should be placed a few inches away from the wall to allow for the lean that is necessary in a freestanding HSPU. As the HSPU descends the shoulders should track forward of the hands. The torso should be kept hollow throughout the motion. Resist the urge to arch as you push back to the handstand.

The self-spotted HSPU was introduced to me by the CrossFit community and is an excellent option for practicing HSPU. Using a bar or stacked mats that are just under shoulder height, kick up to the handstand so that your heels can hook the support. You can then use your legs to help balance and lift the HSPU, which makes this exercise a glute and hamstring exercise in addition to training the HSPU.

A practiced spotter can give enough assistance to allow someone who can just barely hold a handstand to perform an HSPU. This same spotter can also provide minimal, balanceonly assistance to someone who is almost capable of a freestanding HSPU. The spotter should stand in front of the spottee and catch his heels as he kicks up to the handstand. From this point on, the spotter should provide the least assistance possible. To provide balanceonly assistance, the spotter can keep her hands completely open, with her thumbs on the spottee’s calves and fingers on the spottee’s shins. This way no vertical assistance will be provided. On the other end of the spectrum, if the spottee is highly fatigued, or is just beginning to practice HSPU, the spotter can hug the spottee’s legs and perform squats as the spottee performs HSPU.

If you are able to perform a 10- to 20-second static handstand with proper position and can do HSPUs with minimal assistance, it is time to start working the HSPU free standing. It will be easier to start on parallettes, as they will provide more stability. Kick into the handstand and push into an extended hollow handstand. Shoulders should be actively extended, shoulder angle should be completely open and body should be hollow. As you descend into the HSPU, allow your shoulders to shift forward of your hands and let your legs counterbalance this motion. Remember to keep your elbows in. At this stage you will find yourself piking to control the balance at times. This is OK. As you progress, you will find that you can pike far enough to touch the floor with your toes at the bottom of the HSPU then press it back to a handstand. As your HSPU gets more stable, aim to eliminate this pike. The effort required to perform one freestanding HSPU is drastically greater than the effort required in one assisted HSPU, and the stabilization it requires provides a demand and stimulus otherwise not present in the movement.

A freestanding HSPU will take a significant amount of work to accomplish, but the benefits gained along the way will be significant as well. All overhead work will be dramatically improved and stabilized. Performing freestanding HSPUs during a workout will increase the time required to complete the workout versus doing HSPUs with assistance, but it will increase the demands and benefit of the workout. As your freestanding HSPU gets more solid, the time discrepancy will be reduced. Practice freestanding handstands and HSPUs frequently. And be patient, as it will take significant practice to perform them with any consistency.

I Am Not A Natural Athlete

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

I am fortunate to have been exposed to a lot of different activities when I was younger. I was very involved in music, science, sports, etc. Music and science came naturally and I did well without a huge amount of effort. Sports were a different story. I did ok, but was in the lower 25% as far as “talent”. I did baseball, soccer and my brother and I spent a lot of time riding our bikes, doing jumps and the like in the hills around our house. In school games I was often one of the last picked to be on teams. A clear indicator of my lack of ability. It wasn’t that I didn’t practice or wasn’t exposed. My brother and I continuously played catch and played basketball using our own driveway court. I did get pretty good at long shots because that was about the only way I could score on my brother. Otherwise I was mediocre at best at most athletic pursuits.

I have had this discussion with several people at the gym and felt it was time to post about it. I am not a natural athlete. When I tell people this now, I generally get met with disbelief or scoffing. Yes, now I can pick up sports and perform pretty well even with little practice, though I am still not superb at learning new movements. I can fake it pretty well. Ask Russ sometime about how naturally coordinated I am. He’ll tell you I have trouble with things on a regular basis. When I was younger it took me a long time to learn new things and I had to work at any new sports a long time before I had any ability at all. I am pretty disciplined, but that may be a result of my lack of natural ability. If I wasn’t diligent I wouldn’t have gotten good at any physical pursuits.

The primary reason that I bring this up is that I now often get “accused” of being a natural athlete. This ability is a direct result of a lot of years of work. I attribute it entirely to having done gymnastics for the last couple of decades and forcing myself to work very difficult movements nearly every day. Drilling difficult movement patterns makes you better at learning new movements. This is all about developing your kinesthetic awareness. Learn how to move well and everything gets easier.

There is also a large strength component to being able to pick up and learn new sports quickly. Due to the strength I developed through gymnastics, and now have maintained and improved (in some areas) through CrossFit and continued gymnastics, it is easier for me to replicate movements that I see. Even if I can not mimic the movements perfectly and/or efficiently, I can often work it out through strength, or other familiar movement patterns.

This is not to say that being naturally gifted at sports is not an advantage, it certainly is. The point is that you can turn yourself into a “natural” athlete through work. Given the same training conditions and diligence a gifted athlete will still excell over someone that is not, however the athlete that puts in the time and work will generally prevail over the athlete that does not regardless of giftings.

Do the work to turn yourself into a natural athlete. The benefits are well worth the effort. Do not let anything convince you that you are simply unable to do anything. Keep working at it, and enjoy the process.

New Female Gym Record - Weighted Pull Ups

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Sorry for the grainy video, but Mikaela hit 40lbs weighted with her pull up. She needs to add another 52 lbs to hit the world record. Get to work Mikaela, you slacker!

Back Handspring Series

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The title is twofold. First, this is indeed a back handspring series, meaning multiple back handsprings in a row. Second this is the third post in a series of posts on kids acquiring back handsprings, therefore it is a back handspring post series.

Athlete Profile and Gymnastics Development and Another Back Handspring are the other two posts in this series.

In the above video we have Meghan R. Meghan has been a Cave gymnast for about 7 months. She joined in our burgeoning level 3 group and has been improving rapidly ever since. This girl is strong. How many of you have tried a press handstand. Meghan can do that. Oh, and she has made 21 consecutive pull ups, mostly strict. Can you do that? As with the rest of her group, she works hard. We’re going to see a lot of great things from her.

Why Squats are Important

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

For those of you who still don’t know, we’re currently doing Sword’s Squat Program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  But why do we we spend so much  freaking time in CrossFit doing squats, when we could be out there doing “Helen,” or “Murph?”

Back Squats at CrossFit High Voltage

Back Squats at CrossFit High Voltage

Simply put, we do so much squatting because heavy squats give you the most bang for your buck.  CrossFit is all about maximizing safety, efficacy, and efficiency; it doesn’t hurt you, it works, and it gives you good results for the time you put into it.  Heavy squats are all of these things.

Squats are a pretty safe exercise, and while it’s not impossible to hurt yourself doing squats, it is pretty hard to do so once you get the hang of it.  And in addition to safety, squats help strengthen your entire body.  Due to its compound nature, the squat “targets” nearly all muscles in the lower body and everything in the mid-line.  This has multiple benefits.  First, it makes your legs and hips strong and flexible, which correlate with increased athletic ability and increased ease of dealing with everyday life.  Second, since you have to lock in your stomach muscles to help stabilize your spine, it makes your core hard as a rock.  Third, it strengthens the muscles of your middle and lower back, which gives you better posture and increases your resilience against back injuries.  Fourth, working so many muscles releases human growth hormone and testosterone, hormones necessary for overall muscle growth and restoration.  Finally, spending time under heavy squatting loads is one of the best ways of increasing bone density.

Overall, heavy squats are easily the best exercise you could do: they are safe, effective and efficient.  Go lift something heavy!

Swords’ Squat Program

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Now that the CrossFit Games Open is over, we’re moving back into a more normal cycle of training.  CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, and so far, we’ve found nothing that is better than heavy squats for gaining strength.  This isn’t to say that we’re not going to program in our regular sweat-fest metabolic/ cardio workouts, just that we’re also going to be focusing on gaining some functional strength.

Squatting is SERIOUS business!

Squatting is SERIOUS business!

Of all the squat programs that we’ve tried, the program developed by Tim Swords, of Team Houston Weightlifting, is one of the most effective.  The program works both front and back squats over a seven week cycle at sub-max weights and low volume.  The upshot of this is that you can do a lot of other stuff without interfering with your strength gains.

And you will see gains if you’re doing the program effectively.  I’m no slouch when it comes to squats, and I was still able to increase my back squat by 25 lbs (over 8%) in seven weeks.

We will be including the squats into the CrossFit programming Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the next seven weeks.  We hope that you’ll be able to follow the program because it will do some great things for you.  But if you can’t come in on those days, don’t despair, you can download the entire program here as a .xslx spreadsheet, just input your maxes in the top and it will do all the calculations for you.  It’s even printer friendly.  If that doesn’t work for you, talk to your trainer and we’ll help you.

Remember, the whole point here is that we want you to be strong because strong people are harder to kill, more useful, and more attractive.  Go lift something heavy!

Advanced Parkour Kids

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Here’s a video recommended by Andrey P.  These kids demonstrate some pretty wild advanced parkour and freerunning skills.

We’ve got plenty of kids in our program around this age.  This video is a great example of what you can accomplish with dedication.  Go train!

Bulkiness and Vanity

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

One of the most common things I hear from people, especially women, when asking about goals during Foundations is “I want to get toned, but not bulky.”  I’ve had men say similar things, which boggles my mind.  But, we all have a different perception of ourselves and what we want to look like.

Nikki Fuller does not do CrossFit

Nikki Fuller does not do CrossFit

We’ve said it about a million times, but it bears repeating.  If you want to look like a bodybuilder, you’ve got to train, eat, sleep, supplement, and probably “supplement” like bodybuilder.  If you train, eat, and sleep with the goal of being able to do things, you will build muscle and burn fat, and your appearance will follow.

This post from CrossFit FMS mostly echos my thoughts on the matter.  It’s worth reading, not because it contains any information that is new to any of you who follow this blog, but because the author did a great job in selecting visuals to make his point.

Now, I understand wanting to make changes because you’re unhappy with how you look in the mirror.  But consider this, no matter how you look, there will be people who think you look great and people who think you’re hideous.  What matters is how you feel about yourself, and how you live your life.  As a trainer, I’ve seen many people make positive changes in their lives unrelated to the gym, but in part because they had greater self esteem, confidence, and self worth.  Shouldn’t training be about making yourself a better human being, rather than making yourself a better looking human being?

What do you think?

Workout Music

Monday, March 25th, 2013

As most of you know, there is almost always music coming from the CrossFit Area.  While I regularly work out without music, I know many people who enjoy a rousing beat, or get pumped up by good music blasting in the gym.

Chris Spealler listening to music during the Games

Chris Spealler listening to music during the Games

This article from Scientific American delves into a bunch of research on the topic.

There are numerous studies showing that music has positive effect on working out, and there are multiple hypotheses as to why.  One of the more obvious explanations is that music serves to distract us from the pain of the workout.  Another is that it helps us keep a good pace.

One of the more interesting ideas is that the areas of the brain responsible for processing sounds and for coordinating movement are strongly linked.  “We have also known for decades that there are direct connections from auditory neurons to motor neurons… When you hear a loud noise, you jump before you have even processed what it is. That’s a reflex circuit, and it turns out that it can also be active for non-startling sounds, such as music.”

How does music motivate you when you work out?  What kinds of music or what bands/songs pump you up the most?  Or do you prefer to work out in silence?