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Want better lifts? Here are 5 muscle groups stretches that can help

December 6th, 2014 by Dana

1. Gastrocs
Power lifts can suffer is your calves are tight.  Often people have difficulty squatting all the way down while keeping their heels on the ground.  Try to catch a max clean or snatch with your weight on your toes, you’ll fall forward.  Tight calves ulitamely limit your ankles natural ability to dorsiflex.  When this happens, your knee often is forced to thrust over the foot to put the ankle in a dorsiflexed-like position.  Whether it’s lifting or running, having your knees over your toes isn’t a good thing for the knee.
The Stretch: It’s as simple as putting your toes and ball of your foot against a wall or curb with your heel on the ground.  Lean forward and feel the stretch in the calf.  You can also get a lacrosse ball for pressure point work on the calf.  While sitting on the ground, put the ball on a block and put your calf on top of the ball.  It’s good to use a block in order to elevate the ball off the ground or else your heel will hit the ground and prevent you from getting good pressure on the ball.
2. Quads
When lowering towards the ground during a squat or lunge, the quadricep muscles are lengthening.  When they are tight you might feel  discomfort in the front of the knee.  This can affect your ability to get low enough for Rx squats, thrusters, wall balls, etc.  It could also cause you to alter your motion in an effort to compensate for the tightness or discomfort that you might be feeling in the knee.  In the long term, the compensatory movements can cause injuries to other body parts due to the improper biomechanics.
One of the quadriceps, rectus femoris, attaches to the front of your pelvic bone.  Tightness in the rectus femoris can cause a forward tilt of the pelvis to occur.  This increases the arch in the low back.  If the pelvis is tilted forward, then everything above it (ie. your entire upper body) will also have a slight forward lean when you squat.  How many people have difficulty keeping their weight back and chest up when doing squats?
The Stretch:  The simple way is to stand up while holding onto something for balance, then pull the heel of one foot to your butt cheek.  We’ve all done this at some point in our lives.  The better way to attack the quads is to roll them on a foam roller or if you really don’t mind pain, a lacrosse ball.  You will be surprised at some of the spots that you find.  Work through them.
3. Iliopsoas (hip flexors)
Tight hip flexors can create a slew of issues in the body.   The iliopsoas is actually two muscles (iliacus and psoas) that come together as one and attach to the top of the femur, the inside of the pelvis, and to the vertebrae in the lower mid-back region.  The muscle is shortened when the hip is in a flexed position, which can be anything from doing toes to bar or just sitting in a chair.  Ever feel low back pain or tightness while standing up after sitting for a period of time?  Then it’s time  to stretch the hip flexors.
Stretching the hip flexors will benefit your power lifts and Olympic lifts.  When you clean, deadlift, or snatch your hips are starting in a totally flexed position.  Then you need to quickly, especially in the case of the clean and snatch, extend the low back and hips in order to generate momentum while lifting the bar off the ground.  You already have enough working against you in the weight on the bar and gravity.  You don’t need tightness in the hip flexors slowing down your ability to extend the hips as fast as possible.  Neurologically speaking, stretching the hip flexors may be even more important than just the shear anatomical effect.  Briefly stretch the hip flexors, right before a max deadlift causes reciprocal inhibition of the hip extensors.  In other words, if I stretch the hip flexors, then I’m better enabling the hip extensors to do their job.  I’m making sure that my glutes are ready to work as efficiently as they can for this one heavy rep.
The Stretch: Place one knee on the ground, place the opposite foot pretty far in front of you with that knee bent.  Have something next to you to hold onto for balance.  If you have to use your muscles to balance, then you won’t be able to get the best stretch possible.  This isn’t meant to be a yoga pose.  Lean your weight forward onto your front leg.  KEEP YOUR CHEST UP!  Don’t bend forward.  You’re trying to stretch the hip flexor so bending forward will not allow full extension of the hip flexor.  You should feel the stretch in the front of the hip of the leg that is on the ground.  When all else fails, grab the trusty lacrosse ball.  Lay on your stomach with the ball under you, just inside the pelvic bone.  Move around a little until you find the spot.
4. Hamstrings
Tight hamstrings can really affect hip mobility.  Lack of hip mobility can prevent athletes successfully completing their lifts. Tight hamstrings can also make it difficult to do other exercises like toes to bar, as well as affect your running.  Hamstrings are also important when it comes to hip extension so you might as well have them working optimally when trying to use them with the deadlift, snatch, and clean.
The Stretch:  There You can do it sitting or standing.  One leg at a time or both.  You can even lay on your back.  When laying on your back, it’s beneficial to  use a band to help get the most out of it.  Wrap a band around the ball of the foot and pull your leg up with the band try to keep your knee straight.  This will make sure that the hamstring is fully lengthened and with time the range will improve.
5. Pecs
Let’s take a look at your overhead squat.  Are you having trouble keeping your chest up?  When the pecs are tight, the shoulders can round forward, the mid back can have difficulty extending, and the upper back muscles can be weakened.  All of this leads to it being almost impossible to do an overhead or even a decent front squat.

The Stretch:  1. Lacrosse ball of course.  Lay on the stomach, arm out to your side, ball under the pec, and well OUCH!

2. Stretch on the wall or with a band.   It’s not the best angle for the shoulder joint to have your arm going straight back, parallel to the ground..  Instead, raise the arm at a 45 degree angle.  Place your hand against the wall or grab the band and then turn away.  The more you turn or the closer you stand to the wall, the better the stretch.  A 45 degree angle also allows the muscle fibers of the pec to travel in one continuous path as they go from the sternum up to the humerus, rather than making a last second turn.  Just try both and you’ll see what I mean.

Chocolate Covered Raisins

December 4th, 2014 by karen

chocolate_raisinsThis is easy. Really, really easy. And it’s delicious from both kid and grown-up perspectives alike. I make it with just four ingredients, but you can add nuts, shredded coconut, chia, other dried fruits or anything your Paleo imagination can come up with for this 2 minute-to-make, low-processed sugar delight.

Ingredients

  • 50g (about a quarter cup) 85% dark chocolate bar chopped or broken into bits (this is even good with unsweetened chocolate as the raisins provide plenty of unprocessed sweetness)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa nibs

Directions

Place chocolate and oil in a bowl and microwave for about a minute until melted, but not burned. A few unmelted lumps are okay, just stir until these are dissolved and chocolate mixture is smooth.

Stir in raisins and nibs and mix until these are evenly coated.

Spread evenly onto a large plate or sheet of parchment and place in freezer for about a half hour. Remove, break into desired-sized bits and enjoy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Great to pack in a school lunch.

Challenge WOD #4 has been extended!

December 3rd, 2014 by Dana
Because of the holiday, I know it was difficult to find time to take on challenge WOD #4. So, we’ve decided to extend it until this Sunday!!
it’s only 7 minutes, making it easy to find time before or after class to attack it.
Challenge WOD #4 is a 7 minute AMRAP
RX: 50 double unders and 15 handstand push ups, or
Scaled 100 single jumps and 15 dumbbell push press. (35/20 lb)
Challenge WOD is a great way to push yourself, practice for upcoming competitions, cheer on your friends, and don’t forget there are great prizes for top and/or consistent competitors.
Sam R has been crushing all the workouts, and Margo is showing a great performance as well.  Amanda and Bo consistently post the time to beat but Chelsea is showing strong, too. It’s been great to see Roya and Heather take on the scaled options, both with great numbers, too.  I wonder who rises to the top with Challenge WOD #4.
So let’s keep the momentum going and give Challenge WOD #4 a try!
Who’s in?

This Week In the Cave

December 2nd, 2014 by Dana

Kids’ Night Out This Saturday!

Parents, don’t forget to sign your children up this Saturday for Kids’ Night Out! This Kids’ Night Out will be Ugly Sweater Night.

The Cave is now offering yoga by Stephanie Ring on Thursday from 4:35-5:25. We hope to see you there!

The Cave is now selling Harmless Harvest Organic Coconut water! YUM! Come to the office to try it out and give us your feedback!
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Challenge WOD #5 and December Monthly Skill Challenege

December 1st, 2014 by Dana

December Monthly skill challenge is:
Handstand shoulder touches.
These can be done against the wall or free standing.  This is for total max touches in one handstand.For against the wall: 2 shoulder touches = 1 rep, free standing with a spot 2 touches = 1 rep and freestanding without any help 1 touch is one rep.

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The 17 commandments of rowing

November 28th, 2014 by Dana

1402357_10151923022080853_158321450_oWhy am I smiling in this picture?  Because I WAS DONE ROWING!  The rower and I don’t get along well, I’m more of a burpee girl.  However, I’m always working on my technique and perhaps one day I’ll smile like this when I get on the rower, not off.
My friend Becca recently shared this list with me that has some great tips to remember.
The 17 commandments of rowing:
1. Don’t grip too hard – Don’t hold on so hard to the handle. Keep enough grip to not lose the handle, but also not so much that you wear out your hands, have achy forearms, and tear up your palms.
2. Drive with your legs – Rowing is mostly about your legs. Despite your natural instincts, your legs are far stronger than your arms and should be doing the vast majority of the work. Your quads and booty should be toasted after a hard rowing workout.
3. Imagine you’re doing a clean – If you don’t know how to perform this lift properly, don’t imagine this. Imagining doing a clean won’t help in that case.
4. Legs, hips, arms, arms, hips, legs – This is the sequence of rowing. If you reorganize this list, it doesn’t work.
5. Drive straight back – If you feel yourself lift off the seat, or tragically, you pop off the seat and land on the rail, it is because you are pushing UP instead of back. Push straight back.
6. Don’t let your butt go solo – Don’t shoot your butt back first. Keep your core engaged throughout the stroke; the angle of your back should not change as you drive with your legs. Said another way, the handle should travel in sync with your seat for the initial leg drive portion of the stroke.
7. Don’t pull with your arms – Keep your elbows straight as you drive your legs. It’s about your legs, not your arms. As soon as your arms bend, you’ve lost the ability to translate power from your legs.
8. Keep your elbows relaxed – Don’t lift up your elbows at your sides. Don’t artificially tuck them in, either. Keep them relaxed at a natural angle and don’t make chicken wings.
9. Don’t shrug your shoulders up – Don’t pull your shoulders UP into your ears as you drive back in the stroke. Instead, imagine you are pulling your shoulder blades together behind you.
10. Pull the handle to the bottom of your ribs – For the ladies, you want to pull the handle to the bottom of your sports bra. For the men, pretend you’re wearing a sports bra.
11. Sit up tall at all times – Hinge at the hips and keep good posture, like a good morning or a deadlift. Lift your chest up. Don’t let your lower back or shoulders collapse. Be relaxed, but with good posture.
12. Imagine your upper body like a pendulum – Okay, maybe an upside down pendulum. More like a needle ticking back and forth between 11:00 and 1:00 on a clock face. At the “catch” or beginning of the stroke, right before you drive back, you should be leaned forward at the 1:00 position. At the “finish” or far end of the stroke, when your legs are fully extended, you should lean back to the 11:00 position.
13. Feel the connection through your feet – The whole way through the drive you should feel a solid connection between the balls of your feet and the footplates.
14. Don’t re-bend your knees too soon – As you start to return forward in your stroke, your knees need to remain straight until the handle is above your mid-shin. Hinge at the hips, sit up tall, and wait (just like with a deadlift) until the bar has passed your knees to re-bend them.
15. Don’t slam the seat into your heels – As you continue to move forward and return to the start of the stroke, you should stop when your shins are perpendicular to the ground and your heels are curled up off the footplates, but your seat should never run into your feet.
16. Breathe properly – Exhale as you drive back; inhale as you recover forward.
17. Focus on consistent steady movement – You are the master of the numbers on the computer screen, not the victim of them. Steady consistent movement will be more efficient. Remember you are on the “water” – smooth movement is rewarded. Smooth movement is fast and efficient. Jerky movements make waves and flip boats.

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Happy Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014 by Dana

We are thankful for all the wonderful families in our community.  Thank you to everyone for being part of The Cave and CrossFit Marin.
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“The Don”

November 26th, 2014 by Dana

“The Don” donmarler_th
U.S. Marine Corporal Donald M. Marler, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Camp Pendleton, California, died on June 6, 2010 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He is survived by his mother Susan, his father David Sr., his sister Jennifer Pupillo, and his brothers David Jr. and Jacob.
For time:
66 Deadlifts 115/85
66 Box jumps 24/20
66 Kettlebell swings (1.5/1)
66 Knees to elbows
66 Ab Mat Sit-ups
66 Pull-ups
66 Thrusters, (55/35)
66 Wall balls (20/14)
66 Burpees
66 Double-unders (264 Singles)

May Dan’s Family find comfort and as he Rests In Peace.

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“Skin the Cat”

November 25th, 2014 by Hannah


For a child in gymnastics the words “skin the cat” is a common phrase heard and it is used to describe a skill they perform on the bars. However, I so often hear this skill repeated as “spin the cat”. This is a common mistake, and honestly, it makes quite a lot of sense! The gymnast is physically spinning him or herself upside down, so the term spin the cat makes sense, but things in gymnastics don’t always have the most obvious names! For the past month I have had several people ask me, “why do they call it that?!”. Honestly, I am not sure. I have researched it and had no success in finding the origin. But, it’s an important skill that we as coaches often teach in classes ranging from pre-rec to Level one so in lieu of this I decided to write a short blurb about what a “skin the cat” is and why it’s an important milestone for your kids.

First, let’s break down the movement. A skin the cat is generally performed on the rings, however, you will often see them learning and performing this skill on a bar. A gymnast first holds onto the bar (or rings) with their hands and then proceeds to to pull their feet to the bar. They then pull their feet in between their arms and begin flipping over. Generally, when they first learn this movement we have them flip completely over, pull their feet all the way to the ground, and complete the movement by planting their feet on the mat. However, once this is achieved we begin having the gymnast extend their legs to the ground and instead of landing on their feet they begin pulling their feet back up and back through. It is kind of like a “yo-yo” motion!

The skin the cat is a great exercise for your young gymnast. It teaches him or her how to grip the bar and most importantly to hold on! Especially, when they are upside down. It also boosts their confidence because it is generally the first upside down skill they learn on a bar. How exciting! It is also important for strength. During a skin the cat your gymnast is working their abdominal muscles, arms, and upper back, as well as, improving their flexibility in their upper extremities. So, yes, it has an odd name but all in all it’s a wonderful skill to practice and a great milestone to accomplish!

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This Week in The Cave

November 24th, 2014 by Dana

10599201_10152692667121499_9091236393461364094_nThanksgiving Hours:
The Cave will be OPEN for all regularly scheduled classes (in all disciplines) on November 26th(Wednesday) and November 29th (Saturday). We will be CLOSED November 27th (Thursday) and November 28th (Friday) of Thanksgiving week - ALL classes cancelled.Except Crossfit! There will be workouts on Thursday and Friday; 9:00 and 10:00 AM classes next week during the Thanksgiving closure. Coach Chelsea will be here to help you justify the turkey stuffing, as well as make you pay for it. If you are interested in child care please contact Amanda. If you have any questions regarding holiday hours contact Amy.
Welcome Susie Burch
If you haven’t had a chance to meet Susie Burch, keep an eye out for a new intern on the floor. Susie comes to us with an extensive personal athletic background. She has trained in depth utilizing functional fitness methods. Though not called CrossFit she had a rowing coach that included gymnastics elements, Olympic Weightlifting and interval training in their rowing program back in the ’80s and ’90s. Once she discovered CrossFit she never turned back. She will be assisting with classes for a while as she continues to develop her coaching skills and learns the program here at The Cave. Thank you for continuing to be a part of our community.

Safe and Happy holiday season to all!

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