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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

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!

GHD Extensions

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

No, it’s not an extra feature for the GHD.  I’m talking about the exercises you can do on it: the hip extension, back extension and hip & back extension.  There’s a little bit of confusion about those three movements, so here’s a couple of videos to give you a good idea of the difference.  The first one is classic, old-school CrossFit video (I apologize for the music, the video would be great without it) that shows the difference between all three movements.

The second video is Josh Everett explaining the movements and their purpose at a Level 1 seminar.

Recap: Hip extension = hip free of the pad, back stays flat.  Back extension = hip on the pad, back does the snakey thing.  Hip & back extension = hip free of the pad, back does the snakey thing.

Workout for May 22, 2013:

A) 5 Minutes hip mobility

B) Swords Day 20: Warm up: Front Squats 5 reps @60%, 5 reps @65%

C) Front Squat 2-2-2-2-2-2 @70%

D) 4 rounds for time: row 500m / 15 burpees.  12-minute cut-off.

E) 10-10-10 GHD sit-ups / seated good mornings


For time: row 1000m / 25 push press (20/15kg) / row 500m / 50 push-press (20/15kg) / row 250m / 75 push press (20/15kg).  20 minute cut-off

Challenge Workout #2

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Alright, folks, here’s our second challenge workout.  This one will be open for two weeks.  Remember, one attempt per challenge.  Also, if you haven’t completed Challenge WOD #1, get it done soon.  Everybody can do it.

Challenge Workout #2:

In this workout, you will perform a dumbbell snatch ladder.  Every 30-seconds, you will perform a dumbbell snatch with each hand.  Each successful round enables you to attempt the movements with a heavier dumbbell.  When you reach the max weight, or point that you cannot perform a 1-arm snatch with both sides, you move back to the previous successful weight and perform a 3-minute AMRAP of alternating 1-arm snatches.  The competition starts at 30# dumbbells for men and 5# dumbbells for women.  Your total score will be the last round you completed times the total number of rounds of you completed at the end.

For example, an male athlete performs the workout and is able to perform alternating side snatches for 30#, 35#, 40#, 45#, 50#, and 55#. At 60#, he fails.  At the end of the 30-second round where he would have moved to 65#, he instead starts a 3-minute AMRAP of alternating snatches at 55# (his last successful weight).  He performs 6 full rounds of alternating side snatches, and one extra rep on the right side, for a total of 6.5 rounds.  His score is 39 (55# is the 6th round, times 6.5 rounds in the AMRAP = 39).

Movement standards:

These are good reps.  The weight starts on the floor and finishes completely locked out overhead.

These are good reps. The weight starts on the floor and finishes completely locked out overhead.

The dumbbell must start on the ground, and move to a locked out position overhead. The knees, hips, shoulder and elbow must be fully open and the dumbbell must not stop between the ground and the overhead position (i.e. no dumbbell clean & jerks).  Note that “fully open” refers to the athlete’s normal range of motion– athletes that have mobility issues are free to do the workout, provided they do the movements safely.

These are bad.  Seriously.  Look at them.

These are bad. Seriously. Look at them.

Workout for May 15, 2013:

A) 5 Minutes hip mobility

B) Swords Day 17: Warm up: 5 reps @60%, 3 reps @70%

C) Front Squats 3-3-3 @75%

D) 5 rounds for time: run 400m / 15 toes to bar / 10 deadlifts (80/60kg). 20-min cut-off.

E) Remaining time: roll hamstrings & lower back.

CrossFit Cardio:

5 Rounds for time: 10 ring push-ups / 15 box steps (or jumps).  10-min cut-off.

8-Min EMOM: 5 squats / 10 lunges

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.

Squats and Ankle Flexibility

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The other day, I was doing a Foundations with a new client, Dana H.  She’s strong and otherwise mobile, so I was initially perplexed as to why she was unable to do a good air squat.  She couldn’t get below parallel, nor could she keep her torso upright.  After a few minutes, we discovered that her issue was simply immobility of the ankles.

With her permission, I took some pictures to demonstrate the mobility issue, and a quick fix for athletes with poor ankle dorsiflexion.

Squat improvement using a heel cheat.

Squat improvement using a heel cheat.

In Figure 1, we can see the angle of ankle flexion, angle A1 is about 90°.  This prevents her from flexing her knees, angle B1, more than about 90° as well, and causes her to have to lean very far forward to keep her balance.  We can see that the angle of her torso to the ground is about 30°.

In Figure 2, I’ve had her put her heels on a couple of plates, elevating her heels by about an inch and creating a “heel cheat.”  You can see that the ankle angle, A2 is still about 90°.  But angle B2 is much more acute, enabling her to get her femurs parallel to the ground, and also improving her torso posture by 20°.

The “heel cheat” is one of the purposes of lifting shoes; they let you keep your torso angle while getting a deep squat without having extremely flexible ankles.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you neglect  your ankle mobility by using lifting shoes or by standing on plates all the time, but until you develop good ankle flexibility you might want to try these quick-fixes to get the most out of squatting.  Ideally, you’ll be doing ankle mobility work every day until you can squat without extra assistance.

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!

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 Importance of the Overhead Squat

Sunday, March 17th, 2013
Here is a blog post from Clark P.
In CrossFit we frequently use specific terminology, key-word, tricky phrase type stuff. Examples include “explosive hip drive is nearly sufficient for elite athletic performance,” GPP (general physical preparedness), anaerobic conditioning and more. We also frequently talk about how so much of what we do in CrossFit is applicable to real life. The examples are many and varied but any of you reading this know them.
That said, I frequently hear clients ask the same question when I tell them they are doing this:
Athletes always ask, “Why are we doing this? I’d never do that in real life.” Remember, I’m not asking them to go for 15 overhead squats at body weight, or to do a 355# overhead squat, I’m talking about any overhead squat in a WOD.

I agree, it’s awkward and extremely challenging. It isn’t intuitive and yes, the odds of doing something resembling an overhead squat in your daily life are rather narrow. So why overhead squat? Here’s why: show me someone who can easily rep overhead squats at a respectable weight that isn’t an impressive athlete. That person will have fantastic core strength and stability, strong legs and shoulders as well as good flexibility. Simply put: overhead squats make you awesome.

Overhead squats make everything stronger. So while doing them doesn’t necessarily have direct real life transfer, they will make all those other techniques which do directly transfer even better. So get out there, grab a barbell, put it overhead and get that hip crease below the knee — over, and over, and over again.