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Archive for January, 2013

Quick Shoulder Mobility Trick

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Shoulders are one of the major issues we have in CrossFit.  Here’s a quick and dirty mobility trick, courtesy of, to help you get those shoulders open.  This was actually in the programming last week, for those of you who missed it.

While this is a great trick for CrossFit and lifting, having mobile shoulders is also very important for gymnastics and parkour.  Next time you’re working on handstands, or back tucks and you feel your shoulders not wanting to open up, try smashing them– you don’t even have to use a barbell, just get under the p-bars or uneven bars!

You can find the full explanation here.

Go Register for the Open

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Let’s get ready for the Games!

cf_games-2013 Last year, we had a lot of people not register, for whatever reason.  But let me tell you right now, there’s no good reason to not register for this event.

It’s inexpensive, and even if you’re not “competitive,” it will allow you to see how you rank among thousands of other people doing the same workouts around the world.  It’s also a good way to show support for the community, and for our gym.  And on top of that, it’s fun!

The Open workouts will run through March, but registration starts today!  You can register here.

Let’s get some good participation this year, folks!  And if you’re interested in trying to do well, now’s a good time to kill your goats!

Miss America & CrossFit

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

For those of you living in a cave, the most recent Miss America, Mallory Hagan, lifts heavy weights.  Here’s a quick article about her doing CrossFit and the fact that she’s bucking the stick-thin model of… um.. modeling.

Here’s a video of some of her training.  The part where her trainer talks about getting bulky is great.  ”If you’re female and looking to work out, you really want to prioritize lifting heavy weights because, counter-intuitively, it’s going to make you smaller and hotter.”

Ladies, don’t shy away from the barbells!

2013 CrossFit Games Open

Monday, January 28th, 2013

By Amanda:

2-logo-games-2013My people,

Games season is right around the corner.  (Registration opens this Wednesday!)

Read this article for more details.

If we reflect on last year, and what the open workout were like, they were mostly a pain-fest   7 minutes of burpees to kick off week one really set the tone for what the rest of the WODs were going to look like.  In my experience  the open is all about who can get through a mess of work quickly.  Anyone can do the workouts…for the most part.  Then, there are the few movements that set people apart.  For example, the muscle ups at the end of a WOD, or the ridiculously heavy snatches.  These were the things that set people apart.

My advice, keep working on the key skills:  high reps of toes to bar (no misses), handstand push ups, cycles of box jumps, clean and snatch technique, muscle ups and pistols (although its unlikely they will through this into the open).  Patch the holes!

But please, most of all…continue to train safe.  There is no need for any of us to get hurt.

Body Weight Overhead Squats

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

A week or so ago, part of our workout was performing the maximum number of  body weight overhead squats possible.  Nobody could do it.  That made me sad.

I’ve mentioned before that overhead squats are a good way to make you better at CrossFit.  The movement requires balance and stability, as well as flexibility across a variety of joints.  It’s easily one of the most simple but difficult movements that we do.  If you’re not good at overhead squats, start practicing them every day.  It just takes a minute to grab a bar and knock out a few reps.  Get them in during the warm-up, or after class.  They will only make you better.

Here’s a cool old-school CrossFit video of Nicole Carroll’s attempt at 15 bodyweight overhead squats:

Lessons Learned From the NorCal Masters

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

By Rich L.

richThis past weekend I participated in the NorCal Masters in Richmond, CA– the largest masters competition in CrossFit. What did I learn?

1.    Train hard, knowing that there are folks just like you who may be training harder. Whether you’re training for a physical competition, are participating in the Open or are taking a CF class, the person you are competing against the most is yourself. (Thanks Dallas Broussard) The harder you go the better you will be. Even when I’m training by myself, I’m always remembering the other guys in my age group.

2. Go hard.  In a competition, the old saying that every rep counts comes alive. I did better in the workouts where I went harder than I had planned. I didn’t do so well where I stuck to my game plan. And if I went out hard from the beginning, but things didn’t go as planned, I still feel good that I left nothing on the table. So go hard.

3. Enjoy it. This is true whether in a CF class or during a competition. This past weekend when the WODs were adding up, I finally started to enjoy the whole pre-WOD staging of the heat right before the workout. Talking to the other guys in my heat, seeing how everyone got ready, that time when we all wish each other luck and mean it—I realized that there was no place I’d rather be. It’s a real privilege to be with a group of men and women who go out and test themselves, unsure of the results, committed to their best and supportive of each other no matter what the outcome—a competition is an experience unlike no other. That shared connection is worth the discomfort. It’s the community aspect of a CF class multiplied by 10+, but remember that connection whether you are in a class, doing the open or a physical competition.

4. Accept it. Discomfort will be there, especially if you push yourself to go harder. But I’m always a little surprised that no matter how spent I feel, I feel better after a little while. Remembering how fleeting the discomfort can be is the trick, especially when it comes to going harder.

As you may know, I didn’t end up making the podium, tying for third place in a four-way tie at the end of the regular competition –they chose the person who had the most number of first place finishes to go onto the finals, which is fair. So at the end of the competition, I ended up in a three-way tie for fourth. And there was only a 0.9 point difference between 2nd and 3rd place. As Bryan observed, this was the result of a very competitive field or a faulty scoring system.

But more than the results, I learned a lot about going hard, how to enjoy the competition and how the hours of training all matter. My advice is to sign up for the Open, do the workouts after thinking about how you can do your best, and have fun!

Blood Glucose and Exercise

Friday, January 25th, 2013

By Amanda: bggraphRemember a few months ago, when I tortured 10 of you with my Physiology class lab project?  Well, just so you’ll never forget it, here are the details of our write up.  My group and I ended up receiving the high score in the class for our project and for our paper.  IT was super fun, and thank again to all of our loyal participants!  If all the science is too much for you, understand this:  Our bodies work in cycles.  If we don’t give it what it wants, it will tap into stores to make sure we get what we need when we need it.  But, that will only last for so long.  Feed your bodies well, and they will perform. In case you forgot… Workout: -take blood glucose readings from all test subjects -(Phase 1–> 0-20 minutes) 3-2-1-go -run 1 mile -3x (6 burpee box jumps/30 double unders) -3x (10 KB swings/10 back extensions/10 broad jumps) -3x (5 pull ups/7 cleans (50%)/9 hollow rocks) -1000 m row -note: if time remains continue rowing until the clock runs out -20 minutes stop workout and take blood glucose readings (2 minutes to collect data) -(Phase 2–> 22-40 minutes) 3-2-1-go -run 1 mile -3x (10 wall ball/200 m wall ball run/5 WB burpees) -3x (10 ring push ups/10 squats/10 ring rows) -3x (10 lateral steps/50’ OH walking with weight) -1000 m row if time remains continue rowing until the clock runs out -(Phase 3–> 42-60 minutes) 3-2-1-go -run 1 mile -3x (10 toes to bar/10 squat on jump off) -3x (50’ farmers walk/10 walking lunges/10 DB push press) -3x (3 pull-overs/5 snatch grip DL) -1000 m row -if time remains continue rowing until the clock runs out From the paper:


Our results are congruent with our expectations, in that blood glucose levels jump significantly in value during the initial 20 minutes of exercise. The body’s increased demand for muscular energy as compared to periods of fasting leads to the large spike in blood glucose.  Post 20 minutes of moderate activity, the body’s blood glucose falls slowly over the next 40 minutes. When the metabolism of the skeletal muscles is greatly increased, they begin to deplete their own glycogen reserves and must start to pull from blood glucose stores produced by the liver.

In a study done by Matthew L Goodwin, Ph.D. on glucose reuptake during prolonged exercise, it discusses how the normal plasma glucose provides the brain with more than adequate reserves.  Cerebral metabolism is not impaired until plasma glucose declines to less than 65 mg/dl.  Once the skeletal muscle has used up its own available glucose, it then begins to compete with the brain for the glucose available in the blood.  A person undergoing submaximal exercise in Goodwin’s study shows a glucose response as diagramed in figure 1.


Figure 1. The typical response during sub-maximal exercise. Goodwin, 2010.

Our results compare closely with studies done on these subjects.  Figure 1 above demonstrates the typical blood glucose response to moderately intense exercise.  As exercise begins, the increased demand from the skeletal muscle for energy causes an increase in glucose uptake via glucose transporters.  This in turn causes a rise in blood glucose levels due to an immediate response and release of glucose from the liver.  This response however does not last long and blood glucose levels soon decline.  As Goodwin’s study showed, blood glucose levels do not typically fall more than 10-15% during this normal response despite the fact that the liver has almost more than doubled its output of glucose and the skeletal muscle is taking up large quantities.

The sympathetic nervous system plays a part in these changes during exercise via a-adrenergic and b-adrenergic receptors on the pancreas to increase or decrease insulin and glucagon accordingly.  This insulin/glucagon response to moderately intense exercise is the most important regulator of plasma glucose (Goodman, Mathew L. 2010).  While glucagon exerts no direct action on muscle cells, it does increase the output of glucose by the liver.  The primary regulator of plasma glucagon is the amount of glucose in the blood.  During prolonged exercise, the primary stimulus that promotes an increase in glucagon production from the pancreas a-cell is a drop in plasma glucose and a drop in insulin as seen in figure 2.

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Figure 2. The major systems involved in blood glucose homeostasis during submaximal exercise.  The center cylinder represents blood glucose during exercise. Blood glucose maintenance is a balance between glucose available and dispersal into the muscles.  Below each organ lists the major changes during submaximal exercise.  The dotted lines represent the direct influence on several organs during exercise from the central nervous system.  The large black arrows represent humoral communication.  Goodwin, 2010.

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

NorCal Masters 2013

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

This one is by Bryan:


Over the weekend, I coached Rich LeFurgy at the NorCal Masters, a regional CrossFit competition hosted by TJ’s Gym. The event was held in Richmond at the Craneway Pavilion. In 1931, the 525,000 square foot space was a Ford Motor Company assembly plant, the largest assembly plant on the West Coast. The building’s history and industrial design provided a perfectly suited backdrop for the sweaty 40-60+ year old competitors to grunt and cuss their way through the competition’s three major and minor WODs.

The three major WODs, 54% of the competition’s value, were cute named, hard nosed workouts.

The first was “Oly Smokes,” an eleven-minute workout where competitors would perform two five minute EMOMs with a one-minute rest in between. In the first EMOM, competitors did over-barbell burpees and one snatch. In the second EMOM, competitors did toes to bar and one clean. The workout’s scoring was divided into two pieces, 50% was the total number of burpees and toes to bar, and the other 50% total weight lifted. If an athlete missed any of their lifts, they would get a zero for that round.

The second workout was “Hellenita,” a play on the name brand, metcon-killer, “Helen.” The workout was essentially a ten-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) of 150m shuttle run, 10 kettle bell swings, and five pull-ups. The workout, like “Oly Smokes,” had two scoring segments, 50% of the workout’s value was in completing 3 rounds as fast as possible, and the second, finishing with the most rounds at the end of the ten minutes.

The last workout was the “Fat Gripz Master Chipper,” a for time workout composed of a 20 cal row, 50m bear crawl, 13 thrusters, 13 up and over box jumps, 13 deadlifts, 13 wall balls, 13 ring push ups, 13 wall ball, 13 deadlifts, 13 up and over box jumps, 13 thrusters, 50m bear crawl, and a 20 cal row. There were no schemes to this workout, just a slog to the finish.

The floaters, 46% of the competition value, were:

  • “Yougin:” A three minute workout where athletes had to do a max weighted pull-up, 50% of the workout’s value, and one minute to get as many 10m farmers carries as possible. The farmers-carries were done with a kettle bell.
  • ” Whippersnapper:” A workout where athletes had to get as many ball slams as possible in six minutes after rowing, 1000m for women and 1200m for men. (Ugly)
  • “Junior:” A for time workout where athletes had to perform 35 air-squats, run about 40m, grab two plates, run them back to the starting line, load them onto a wheelbarrow, push the wheelbarrow about 20m, perform another 35 air-squats, push the wheelbarrow through the finish line, and then perform 100 double unders.

A quick aside to all of you who have said, “Bryan, why do we have to do 100 double unders? That’s so stupid. In fact, you’re so stupid. Only an idiot sadist with no empathy would program 100 double unders. Only a person, should the justice system not breakdown on us, destined to do a medium to long-term stint in San Quentin would program 100 double unders. Who can do a 100 double unders, honestly? Can you do 100 double unders? I bet you can’t because no one can do 100 double unders. Not a single person I know, at least those with decent lifestyles and health, happy families, can do 100 double unders. None of my friends, and I emphasize friends here, can do 100 double unders. Only sick-o, twenty-five year olds hopped up on that new stuff can do 100 double unders. You know what? You shove those double unders. And do that for time.” Wrong. I watched a 72 year old man squat and double under his ass off, after pushing a 300+ pound wheelbarrow half a football field. You’re going to be seeing a lot of 100 double unders for time. DU development phase here we come.  Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, please allow me to continue:

The men and women that distinguished themselves from the pack, the top three men and women from the 60+ and 55-59 year old age categories, and the top five from the rest of the categories, competed in the finals. The finals were a seven-minute, ladder style workout where every minute the workload effectively doubled.

Rich unfortunately did not get to compete in the finals. Going into the final workout, Rich was in a four-way tie for third place (a symptom of either fierce competition or a sloppy scoring system, maybe both), and they chose to break the tie by selecting the man with the most first place finishes.

From the workouts, Rich and I found a few pieces of his game we need to focus on going into The Open, which starts on March 6th this year. Rich’s highlights from the weekend included a second place finish on the Hellanita WOD, and a PR on his weighted pull-up, a piece he has been working on diligently for the last couple months.

As the open gets closer, should you be  interested in participating, and I suggest you all do, please come up and speak to me about how to maximize the couple weeks you have left before it starts.

Hamstrings in Children

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Here’s a good article suggestion by our Parkour coach, Andrey Pfenning.

Gotta stretch the hams!

Gotta stretch the hams!

This article from Positive Sport Parent is a pretty good primer on the need to make sure your kids stretch their hamstrings.

We find flexible hamstrings are super important for adults in their CrossFit endeavors, but the hamstrings are a major mover of the body in all types of athletic movements.  What’s more, because they’re so integral to the functioning of the hip, having inflexible hamstrings can lead to back problems and deformities, especially in children.

The article gives some tips for being able to spot tight hamstrings in your children, as well as some sample stretches.  The article suggests the following with regards to frequency and volume of stretching:

“· Best recommendation is to hold each stretch 30-40 seconds. Repeat 3 times and try and repeat that 4 times per day.

· Stretch 6 days per week to improve flexibility. Once flexibility is where you want it, maintain this by stretching 3 times per week.

· Stretch into discomfort and not pain. Tease out the tightness. No jerkiness or bouncing into the stretch as this can cause a reflex tightening of the muscle.”

Make sure you and your kids are stretching these important muscles for their athletic ability and their general health!

See you in the gym!