Ok, Cavers, it’s a quick post day. So here’s a “How to Train for Ninja Warrior” video by Ryan “Demon Drills” Ford and Brandon Douglass. I’ve been wanting to make one of these myself but he beat me too it, and I don’t mind promoting his work, since he’s a good instructor. Some of you will notice that there is quite a bit of overlap and many similarities with CrossFit training. Indeed, a lot of those same functional movement skills come in very useful on the Ninja Warrior course. Most of my top picks for exercises would have been the same. Please comment and let me know what you think.
For the record, Ryan Ford finished 32nd in the south west regional qualifiers, narrowly missing the semi-finals for one of the most competitive regions in the nation. He had an injured ankle before the warped wall. I will also give him credit for training some of the very beasts that kept him out of the semi’s and providing them with their training grounds, Apex movement. Brandon Douglass is considered Ninja Warrior Elite, and tied for 10th in 2012 ANW 4 in Las Vegas, along with Elet Hall (NE region) and our own JB Douglass, falling on the transition of the Unstable Bridge in Stage 2.
Some of you may have noticed that we recently cut two new holes in the walls next to the adjustable wall run bar in the parkour area. Or maybe you haven’t since no one has asked me “what are those holes in the wall for?”. Nevertheless, there they are, and for a purpose. We now have another Gibbon slack line anchor wrapped around the post that’s in the wall and we can easily set up the slack line for our kids and adult parkour classes. If you’re ever interested in training on them and you are experienced with one, you can ask me and I’ll see if we can set it up for you during non-class hours. If you are inexperienced with them and would like to learn you can also schedule a private with myself or one of our other coaches. You can also sign up for our parkour classes where we use them on occasion. We used to have open gym on Thursday and Friday nights where athletes and clients could come in and play on the equipment at their leisure but we cancelled it due to poor attendance. If you’d like to see ”open gym”, or “Optional Skill Training” time, as we used to call it, make a comeback on the schedule during the day or in the evenings or make any other suggestions you can always try to sway The Cave’s management by signing in to our website’s members area and then click on “Give us Your Feedback”. Writing up feedback on our website counts for a lot more than just telling one of the coaches or owners what you’d like because then there is a written record of the clients’ requests. In the meantime I will leave you with this cool little video of some of the possible tricks and skills that you can eventually work up to on a slack line. Truth is, just walking across one is loads of fun and there is no better way to develop your balance.
Typically when athletes pick up a new activity or start practicing a new skill, there is a period of time when the improvement and breakthroughs come often and without all that much effort, reltatively speaking. This applies to different activities such as gymnastics, parkour, CrossFit, martial arts, or team sports. You can learn new moves, gain strength and see vast improvements and PR’s for months if not years. Later, though, there ususally are more “sticking points”. These are the periods when it doesn’t seem like you’re improving at all. You may be trying to bust your ass just as hard or even harder than ever before, but you may not see any improvements and you start wondering if you’ve peaked and whether you’re ever going to get better. These are the periods that really test an athlete’s determination, passion, and their commitment to their sport. When we first start something there are so many “psychological rewards” when we acquire new skills, see quantum leaps in our lifts or break personal records that we can’t wait to go back to practice. That’s the easy part. What differenciates the “good” from the “extraordinary” is dedication, commitment and ability to keep improving. That’s when the difference is in the details. We need to put in the “extra credit”, push through the dreary days and add the extra intensity, study master athletes and refine our own techniques and movements with theirs, dial in our nutrition and be protective of our rest times. It also helps to put ourselves in new competitive situations where we can force ourselves to perform at a higher level than we would otherwise. These are some of the things that can help you break through the “sticking points” where you might have stopped seeing improvements and may even start wondering if you have the fire and motivation to keep going or ability to improve. Of course, the most important thing is to never give up if you love what you do. If you don’t, then go find something that you do love and that you can be passionate about and don’t waste your time. Post to comments if you’ve ever had to deal with a “sticking point” and how you handled it.
Parkour Fail videos are horrible, because people get hurt, often badly, and not just physically. They’re embarrassing too. But I actually like watching parkour fail videos, as much because I enjoy the process of analyzing what went wrong and mentally archiving how to avoid that “wrong”. I often cringe even before the crash. Most of the time if you have an experienced eye, you can tell what’s going to happen before it does, and especially when the “athlete” doesn’t look anywhere near well prepared you know it’s going to go horribly wrong. Nevertheless, in contrast there are “pro parkour fails”. I recently watched one of Jesse Le Flair during a commercial shoot. Sometimes even pros eat it, but more often their training kicks in to save them. Look at the difference between Jesse’s fail and the other fails in the Parkour Fail compilation. My reaction to Jesse’s fail was… “Wow..! Nice reaction. Great awareness. Grip strength came in handy.” As opposed to “you fool, you’re no where near strong / flexible / prepared / experienced enough to try that outside of a foam pit!” Many people trying or learning parkour on their own are often fool hardy and try a trick or skill well before they’re athletic base is an parkour skills are sound enough to attempt a trick of the level of difficulty that they have in mind. People who try parkour and freerunning tricks that they are nowhere near ready for aren’t only a hazard to themselves, but mar the art form and set a bad example for others as well. Here is the video of someone failing a cat-to-cat with a strong base:
In contrast, most of the fails in this next video are performed by folks who don’t even seem to know they’re not ready to try these. I love the music for this next one. It’s so appropriate. Try analyzing some of the fails and “read” what exactly went wrong with each trick. The more you understand, the safer you’ll be.
Ultimately, my philosophy for throwing dangerous skills is that it’s better to be over-prepared for a skill than to increase the risk of injury or even tragedy by throwing a skill prematurely.
By the way, I think that the kid in 3:40 may have broken his neck.
How often do you “test” yourself and how often do you go at a percentage of your full all-out effort? Here, testing can be thought of as your absolute, nerve-wrecking hardest attempt. (You’re going as if your life, family and posterity depended on your 100% performance. ) Do you think it’s optimal to give it that much effort with every workout? Does it have to do with how much stress you’ve been experiencing in you life, or how much rest you’ve had? Perhaps younger athletes can give 100% more often than older ones? Do you go all out periodically and for a “good workout” more often? Have you ever experienced a difference in your injury rate? Or do you think that CrossFit wouldn’t be crossfit if you held back at all? Does it partly have to do with age or youth? Maybe you can test your absolute limits more often when you’re younger but you have to be more careful as you age? Testing is certainly important at times to see where you’re at as well as for the workout. I personally don’t find myself going “all out” as often, but it may have to do more with being absorbed by a myriad of training mechanisms that have kept me from specializing on any one and therefore it’s harder to get PR’s in what I previously used to specialize in. (I’m referring to a variety of training mechanisms even when compared to CrossFit.) Please post thoughts to comments.
During this “Competition Weekend” for The Cave, it’s been hard to think about anything other than American Ninja Warrior 4 or the 2012 CrossFit Games Open, so I’d like to point out a similarity between the two events. While many competitions are about specializing and having certain extraordinary strengths at very specific skills, both American Ninja Warrior as well as the CrossFit Games style competition ruthlessly attack your weakest link or ability. Although you are rewarded in both for being exceedingly good at one thing, nevertheless what will completely take you out of the competition and the standings is being weak in one of the exercises or facets of the competition that comes up. Specifically as an example, let’s take the first two workouts of the CF Open this year (which I think have been simple but brilliant). If you did very well in the Burpee workout having good stamina, cardiovascular capacity and being able to move your body-weight well, you’d be in good standing after week 1, however, if you suck at snatches, and can’t take it heavy, basicaly it will give you such a disadvantage in the standings that it could take you mostly out of contention as an individual for Regionals, and vice versa if you didn’t do well on the burpees but rocked the big numbers on the snatches. In Ninja Warrior you’ll see certain athletes beast challenges that others had to struggle through, but then they’ll fall on an obstacle that requires a different strength or skill set. You may think “…what happened?! They were so strong!” Maybe they were just good at something specifically, but they haven’t trained well in another arena. There are many plyometrically gifted traceurs that don’t have the grip-strength, gymnasts who don’t have the cardiovascular conditioning or climbers who can’t jump. From a CrossFitter’s, perspective, work on your weakness, and you’ll be harder to kill. From an emotional perspective, remember that part of the fun is that you “get to” work at everything and learn new stuff, so keep an open mind and an open heart to trying new things and working at skills that you might enjoy even if you’re not very good at them despite fears of what others may think. Usually the people who’s opinions we’re fearful of would simply support and cheer us on for our efforts at trying something new!
American Ninja Warrior 4 Course from the window of the Venice Beach Co-tel
I wanted to point out (once again: http://www.inthecave.com/blog/?p=1363) the importance of grip strength. Grip strength is consummately useful in real life situations, if you’re overcoming obstacles, grappling, rock climbing, getting up a tree, moving heavy equipment, doing construction work, navigating a “Ninja Warrior” obstacle course, or fighting through a grip-intensive dead lift /Rope climbing CrossFit metcon, it’s going to come into play. In my view, one of the coolest, most interesting pieces of equipment that we have in the gym would be the hang board. It’s that weird-looking pull-up thingy that we have between the two blue pull-up bars under the mezzanine. Here’s a picture:
“Hang Board” or “Campus Board” Great for Grip &
Here’s a little video by metolius for some hang board workout ideas:
Quite honestly, in my opinion the absolute best way to train grip strength is by rock climbing, and you also get the added benefit of getting better at rock-climbing! Nevertheless, since many of us don’t have an extra 2-3 hours a couple of times a week to spend rock climbing, a ten-minute hang board sequence two or three times a week will go a long way towards acquiring the type of unnatural super-mutant grip strength that can make so many seemingly impossible tasks almost trivial. In some unique situations grip strength can come in so “handy” that it can even save your life! But how to start training on it? Well, thank our friends from Metolius for these concise and effective training sequences:
15 second hang, Jug
1 pull-up, Round Sloper
10 second hang, Medium Edge
15 second hang w/ 3 shrugs, Pocket
20 second hang w/ 2 pull-ups, Large Edge
10 second hang, Round Sloper
5 knee raises, Pocket
4 pull-ups, Large Edge
10 second hang, Medium Edge
3 pull-ups, Jug
Hang as long as you can, Round Sloper
15 second hang, 3 pull-ups, Large Edge
2 pull ups, Round Sloper
20 second hang, Medium Edge
20 second hang, Small Edge
15 second 90Âº bent arm hang, Pocket
30 second hang, Round Sloper
20 second hang, Large Edge
4 pull-ups, Pocket
3 offset pulls each arm (high arm jug, low arm small hold), Jug/Small Edge
Change hands and repeat
15 knee raises, Jug
15 second hang, Medium Edge
25 second hang, Medium Edge
15 second hang, Slope
3 pull-ups, Jug
Hang as long as you can, Round Sloper
20 seconds straight arm hang, Large Slope
3 pull-ups, 4-Finger Flat Edge
20 seconds slightly bent arm hang, Large Slope, stay on
20 seconds L-sit or 20 hanging knee curls
5 pull-ups, 3-Finger Pocket, stay on
25 seconds straight arm hang
Use every hold starting at the 3-Finger Pocket and working up, staying on each for 5 seconds (don’t get off to change holds)
Finish on Large Slope with a 20 second hang
20 seconds single arm hang, Four-Finger Flat Edge
switch hands and repeat
5 offset pull ups, Large Slope (top hand) 3-Finger Pocket (bottom hand)
change hands and repeat
30 seconds 90 degree bent arm hang, Four-Finger Incut Edge
15 seconds straight arm hang, 3 Finger Pocket
3 L-sit pull-ups (bend knees if you have to)
5 seconds front lever or 15 seconds straight arm hang, Large Slope
20 seconds straight arm hang using only 2 fingers on 3 Finger Pockets
3 power pull-ups (use weights or helper for resistance, should just be able to do 3 pulls)
maximum slightly bent arm hang, Large Slope (go â€˜til failure) no rest
maximum straight arm hang - Large Slope
Warning All Training Board Users: Training on a hangboard carries risk of injury to fingers, arms, shoulders and the joints connecting them. Take every precaution to avoid damage to yourself; warm-up, stretch, don’t overtrain and listen to your body. Remember, even under the best of circumstances, injuries can occur. In addition, however you mount your board, be sure that it cannot move in any direction. There should be no possible way for the board to come down while training.
…which we happened to post up under the hang board here:
The Metolius hang board training sequences are on the ceiling right under the hangboard.
Remember that grip strength is of great importance to not only your Ninja, Judo, Parkour, and climbing abilities, but it comes in extremely handy for a lot of CrossFit workouts as well, especially in competition. Just like anything else, ease into it slowly and consistently at your level and if you keep at it before you know it you’ll see vast improvements!
With the open casting for American Ninja Warrior 4 (ANW4) coming up and the actual regionals coming up in March, I figured I’d post a couple of videos contrasting American Ninja Warrior vs an actual parkour community competition. American Ninja Warrior is serious competition (at least compared to Wipe-Out!), yet goofy and of course awesome, entertaining and a tons of fun. It’s made for TV, so it’s made and edited to be entertaining. For example, they don’t actually show all of the contestant’s runs on the actual show, after all, they have to edit it to make it fit the show’s time slot! Also, they may not even show the runs in the actual order that they happened. (At least, that’s my impression, considering that I’ve competed in American Ninja Warrior 2010 and 2011 and the show didn’t seem to completely square up with what I actually remembered.) Maybe as the show evolves, gets more popular, and commands a larger time-slot it’s possible that there will be more complete coverage of the actual runs. No matter, it’s still an awesome program and lots of fun. After all, where else can you get to actually run such a wickedly creative course?! Well, maybe at local parkour competitions. Hmmm… As parkour gets more popular and more parkour gyms sprout up around the country and certain gymnastics gyms expand to have parkour programs you’ll start seeing more and more parkour competitions. Parkour Visions in Seattle, Apex Movement in Colorodo, and of course, The Cave in Corte Madera have all hosted and organized parkour competitions of different sorts, whether open to the larger PK community as a whole, or tailored to members participating in classes, or kids or specifically elite traceurs. So here are a few videos from said events.
First, a collection of some memorable 2010 American Ninja Warrior 2 runs. Goofy, serious, or otherwise:
I’d like to emphasize that Sasuke, (the term used to describe the obstacle course competition in Japan from which they created the show “Ninja Warrior”) is not parkour. Parkour can be useful for doing well in Ninja Warrior, but training for Ninja Warrior isn’t necessarily the same thing as practicing parkour. For example, training the technique for passing “The Bridge of Blades” can hardly be considered parkour since you won’t find too many “bridge of blades” in your natural or urban environments. Backgrounds in various areas of physical endeavor can be useful for improving your Sasuke skills, such as gymnastics, climbing, soccer, track, martial arts or other sports. In my opinion though, the three areas of athletic endeavor that typically help the most for Sasuke (Ninja Warrior) are parkour, track and field, and rock climbing, (ok, maybe add rope-climbing to that mix) but training specifically for Ninja Warrior on a replica obstacle course can probably give even better returns for your training time.
Here is our own (The Cave’s) inter-gym invitational from Dec. 10th, 2011. The idea behind this competition was that it should be tailored for local bay area parkour programs, specifically for our members/ clients who had been taking the classes consistently and had risen to at least an intermediate level. Vargas gymnastics even fielded a complete team that showed up in uniforms. The competition had three parts. The first was a speed course that was parkour. The second was a sasuke / feats of strength type obstacle course and the third was a free-running event modeled after “Jump City Seattle”. Unfortunately somehow this video featured more of the “special guests” and coaches’ runs than the runs of the actual local inter-gym competitors. Here is Malachi, the Vargas Parkour & Freerunning Coach’s run:
The following is a compilation from the 2010 Apex Movement Invitational. Ryan “Deamon Drills” Ford and the team from Apex Movement have been influential early innovators in the parkour community in the United States. The organization and level of competition at this event was excellent and you can see how the bracket system that they used enabled the competition to be open to a large pool of competitors for the first stage and by the last event they had narrowed the field to a sharper and more manageable talent pool. The videos looked amazing. Wish I had been there.
Here is what I consider to be “The Real Deal” for parkour competitions. Parkour Visions, one of the most serious and purest parkour programs in the country hosts an intense, well-run, serious parkour competition invitational where they invited mainly the best of the best from around the country:
These are the programs that I’m more up to date with. I don’t even know what Primal Fitness, Miami Freerunning or other east-coast gyms have been doing. These days there are many more parkour programs sprouting up throughout different communities and I foresee a time when parkour competitions may become as prevalent as gymnastics meets or rock-climbing competitions. I certainly hope so!
I know from personal conversations that some of the most serious parkour coaches from the local communities think that Ninja Warrior is a bit gimmicky (which it is) and they’d like to keep the parkour competitions local and in and by the communities. I think that those are noble thoughts and there are definitely compelling reasons to support, promote and continue hosting those local competitions and events. I however, still love Ninja Warrior despite the “gimmicky-ness” and I admit that I train obsessively for it whenever I get a chance, which is not nearly as often as I would like. Also, it makes it that much more fun that the television networks have the means, organizational power, business model and resources to build ridiculously awesome obstacles that even if you mess up on you’ll probably be OK just and just plunge into the murky ninja water all while offering some serious prize money. I’m looking forward to G4’s crews coming up on Sunday Feburary 12th and I can’t wait to see what this new season of American Ninja Warrior will bring us!
I see this form break all too often during CF metcons at CrossFit Marin, so I finally decided to record it so I could address in on our blog. The slightly unfortunate subject of our video who was quoted as saying “great, I make the blog for something I’m doing wrong!”, but very kindly acquiesced to letting me use the video was Samir W. Here it is:
Can you guess what the form break is? Samir “over-shoots” his cleans. ( I know that he also doesn’t have his thumbs around the bar, but let’s not focus on that one today.) Notice how the bar is a couple of inches over his shoulders on every single one and the bar “falls” into his front rack. This means he’s using extra energy to “jump” the bar that high and also he’s beating himself up unneccessarily due to the force of the bar falling on his shoulders, chest, and clavicle. When you do a clean, you want to “meet” the bar at the very top of it’s trajectory where it is actually changing directions and therefore weightless. This makes for a “soft” catch and no nasty bruises and swollen collar bone areas. Try practicing with light or medium wieght and “jumping” the bar to exactly where you want to meet it untill you get a nice soft catch. Don’t forget to get your elbows all the way around quickly so you catch the weight on your deltoids and not your wrists!
Check out this video by Iron Maven if you haven’t seen it already and pay close attention to the trajectory of the bars and the subtleties in technique for each of the types of lits. It’s my favorite Oly Lifting video, so I’m reposting it a 3rd time to make sure that all of the newbies get to watch it!
Happy CrossFitting and stay healthy! By the way, thank you Samir for letting us use the video to everybody’s educational benefit! Does anybody else have any input or valuable coaching cues that you think everyone could stand to benefit from?
It’s finally here! We are going to have our first “Ninja Class” this Sunday Sept. 12th from 2:30-4:30pm. It will be comprised mainly of a combination of parkour, gymnastics, rock-climbing, plyometric, and balance elements interwoven with brutal conditioning including strength, stamina, and cardio. I will be coaching the class with Andrey Pfening as assistant coach. My rock-climbing buddies (mainly Keller & Josh) are rallying up a bunch of their friends to come up for the class so there should be anywhere from 5 - 15 people coming to the class this Sunday. We will likely keep it ongoing depending if the time works for enough students. It is included in the “Unlimited Everything” and “Unlimited Parkour & Gymnastics” plans. This is going to be the most comprehensive class at CFM to date. I am not exculding any training modality from the class. The only thing I can promise is that they will be very hard and fun and that you may just find your inner “Ninja”.
By the way, American Ninja Warrior II airs this December. You can check www.g4tv.com for updates.