Thursday, February 26, 2015

Many Things

Most disappointing post ever.  Just a few housekeeping items today.

And they say I never help out with chores around the gym!

Class Schedules:

Brian's Saturday class is cancelled this weekend due to him being out of town.  And his classes for the next four weeks will be pushed to an earlier start time to accommodate the Open workouts (classes will start at 6:30 instead of 7:30).

Amy's Mobility Class dates for March:

3/7 (10am)
3/22 (1:00)
3/28 (10am)

And speaking of the Open ...

As we have for the past two years we will be performing the CF Open workouts on Saturday of the week they are announced (which happens on Thursdays).  As always, I reserve the right to modify the workout for our Saturday crew should they come with some insane back-wrenching Deadlift / Box Jump combo (which they will).  Of course, if you're signed up then you'll be permitted to attempt the workouts as Rx, under the watchful eye of our trainers.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Big Thanks

A big thank you and triple nipple to our good friends at CrossFit Kirkwood for hosting the mash up last Friday night.  A good time was had by all BARx’ers in attendance.  Unfortunately CFKW had to find out the hard way - much like every other gym that’s ever invited us over to play – that we tend not to leave until physically forced out at the tail end of the night.  This probably explains why we rarely get invited back for second events.

To be fair, they should have known when we rolled up with the BARx RV and tent that we were in for the long haul that night.

But seriously, the event was very well planned and executed.  And somehow Ed’s team walked away with a trophy, even though no scores were tallied or awards were given out that night.  I think he just keeps a bunch of generic ones in his trunk for occasions such as this.

 Also we may have set a new world record for “bro hugs” in one evening, so we’ve got that going for us.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Programming FAQ

Now that we're in week 8 of the strength cycle, I seem to be getting a couple recurring questions which as you'll see have a very common theme.  I'd like to address these once and for all in my typical fashion, with nothing but straight talk and love in my heart.  It seems that when people get stronger, the only question in their head is when and how are they going to get STRONGERER.  This I totally understand, and should have seen coming.

OMFG.  I only hit 3 PRs today.  What have I become?

Question:  When will we test a true 1RM again?

Answer:  Listen, I get it.  The 1RM is sexy.  It's the number you tell all your friends at work around the water cooler.  It's how you got those 7 followers on Instagram.  I know we've been grinding away for 8 weeks (otherwise known as ETERNITY) on this program, and many of you have seen big improvements.  Some are even squatting/pressing/pulling old 1 rep PRs for sets of 5 or 6.  It's a valid concern to want to test out a "true" 1RM and find out where you stand so you can reset all your percentages.  And we will .... eventually.  At the end of the 12 week cycle, I promise.  Until then, trust that the programming is doing exactly what it should be and continue moving forward using the same maxes.

So you mean to say that if I can squat a weight for 7 reps that I used to be able to squat for only 1 rep, that means I'm stronger?  I don't believe you.

Question:  When will we get to max out on the Olympic lifts again?

Answer:  When you qualify for Rio in 2016.  No but seriously, not for a while.  I've come to believe that the weightlifting movements have to be treated differently than other strength movements like squats, presses, and pulls.  They are so much more technique dependent, and require a ton of positional strength.  Not to say that a back squat doesn't require those things, however you can make progress on a less than perfect back squat for a long long time.  Not true for a snatch:  the barbell ends up on the floor every time you mess up even a little bit.

Or maybe your face.  Don't worry, he was just fine afterwards.

For this reason, extreme patience is the key to making small incremental improvements in weightlifting.  Once you've trained enough and make all the initial gains, many athletes will go 6 months to a year between new PR lifts in the Snatch and Clean and Jerk.  I know you might not think this is true from all the YouTube and Instagram videos you watch, but trust me it is.  Again, I'd ask you to trust in the programming and the progression I've put together.  Strength, speed and power in the lifts are built in the 70-85% range.  This is where we train.  If you're truly wanting to test yourself out, I suggest signing up and training for an upcoming weightlifting competition.  More to come on that ....

Again, we will test out the lifts when the time is right.  Patience my friends.  Longevity and improvement in this game is about more than just constantly testing yourself.  If only there was a great article that happened to pop up in my Inbox as I was writing this to hammer home my point even further ... Oh well.

Test out the lifts we will, when ready you are.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What Happens at the BAR...

...stays at the BAR will be photographed and shared to Facebook.

And Instagram.

And maybe Twitter if you're fancy.

Way back when, Ed gave free reign to Monica to set up BARx Twitter and Facebook profiles and to Susie E. to set up a BARx Instagram account. We all know Ed had no idea what he was agreeing to; he just heard "you don't have to do anything." He later figured out he could get away with doing even less by making someone else responsible for posting to "those ... social ... eh, web, you know, ... things."
source BuzzFeed

That lucky duck was yours truly. No complaints, though. Because I figured out I could post endless embarrassing pictures of Tim on Instagram and he WOULD NEVER KNOW. 

Tim Layton, circa 2009
1. Proof there's hope for us all
2. Proof he once did MetCons
3. Proof no one should be photographed doing SDHPs
4. Proof he's made many gains since 2009. Calf size is not one of them.

Thing is, I need your help documenting all the nonsense that happens at the BAR. If I could, I'd perch up on the Rogue foam boxes 24/7 and capture every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, and every step you take. 

But Ed and Brian already called dibs on the bunk bed. 

If you're ever at the BAR and something awesome/cool/boring/silly/goofy/dopey/stupid/groundbreaking/irrelevant/incredible/noteworthy/funny happens, grab a coach or a friend and get to capturing. 

What happens when you run out of adjectives.
Also what I envision happens at Doerr family get-togethers. 

Otherwise, I'll be left to shooting movies about inanimate objects in the gym.

Written, produced, directed, and starring Kiva G


Monday, February 16, 2015

The Whiteboard: A Weapon of Mass Destruction

It was a big consideration two years ago when we first opened:  to whiteboard or not to whiteboard, that was the question.  Many CrossFit gyms write each individual's weights/scores for each day up on a whiteboard for the world to see.  These daily boards may even get photographed and archived in some way.  Oftentimes this is executed as part of a daily routine and is so ingrained as part of the culture that nobody stops to think about the consequences of what's taking place.  If you haven't already figured it out, we were strictly in the no-whiteboard camp.

Now that doesn't mean we eliminated them entirely, just for that particular use.  We still have them around so Abe can write his name on them and I can meticulously note every single warm up rep that I perform in a given session.

Instead we decided to compromise and use Wodify as our whiteboard.  The most important driver for this decision is that it is optional.  If someone doesn't want their work for the day splayed up on the screen for the world to see, that is totally up to them.  It also has many added benefits such as tracking your individual progress and recording all your workouts, so in other words it wasn't simply a "scoreboard" to see who is going to "win" today.

Wait, I can do more in wodify than compare myself to everyone else??

To be fair, there are several benefits to the more traditional whiteboard implement that confused individuals (read: people who think differently than me) will argue make it a worthwhile approach.  The primary argument typically revolves around something about competition driving people to be better and push themselves further, beyond what they may have originally thought themselves capable.  In a vacuum, statements like this are very true.  By golly, our entire economic system and some might argue the very foundations of this great country are built upon ideas like this!

Tim's first show of patriotism!  USA!  USA!

Competition is fantastic, it's fun to watch and for most people it's fun to be a part of.  It excites us.  It drives us.  In the right setting, it's an extremely powerful motivator.  But here's the problem:  the gym is usually not the right setting for most individuals to compete.  People often cite the competitive aspect of CrossFit as one of the reasons they become so addicted and keep coming back, so I won't deny the fact that it's a useful and powerful drug.  But just like all of the other drugs we do, it has to be managed carefully and kept under control.  This is why we decided against the more traditional whiteboard approach:  it inherently causes most people to throw caution to the wind and "compete" for that top spot.  This leads to technique abominations, bad decisions, and injuries.  It also promotes a culture where pictures of ripped up hands on Facebook and selfies with your severed femur on Instagram are completely acceptable.

Maybe a slight exaggeration.  Also, I clearly have no idea where a femur is.

Many of you might be score-chasers out there and don't even know that I'm talking to you right now.  I see you, and I know how you think.  I used to be you.  As we speak, for some unknown reason Rachel is busy digging up old pictures of me doing CrossFit from 2009 (God knows what she has planned).  My approach was quite different back then:  I used to chase the whiteboard just like some of you do today.  I used to obsess about the top score and then push myself like crazy to try to beat it, making endless mistakes along the way.  You know where it got me?  Absolutely nowhere.

That's not entirely true. It did earn me an endless series of pointless injuries, pain, and frustration.

Many of the people I used to chase are a huge part of BARx now.  And guess what?  They're not chasing the whiteboard anymore either.  They all learned the hard way, just as I did.  We learned that improving yourself has to take extreme priority over comparing yourself.  We learned that our competitive personalities do not lend themselves well to daily competition, as ironic as that might sound.  We learned that the "chase approach" - while effective and useful in certain circumstances - is not sustainable in the long run.  And finally, we learned how to take the drug in small controlled doses as we need it - and not become an addict without hope of recovery (pun intended).

Just one more hit of push-presses.  I promise this is the last time.

We've done our very best to eradicate this whiteboard culture from BARx and - in my opinion - have been mostly successful in doing so.  But I still see it flare up in many of you from time to time.  All I can do is caution you, and hope that next time you catch yourself worrying about the clock or your position on the Wodify scoreboard as your hang power cleans degrade into some sort of spastic cocaine-induced break dance, maybe you could stop and reflect for a moment about what really drives success.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Start Positions

I've been thinking and talking about doing this post for about 2 weeks, and now I'm finally getting around to it.  This is a hugely important part of weightlifting that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted.  Hopefully today I can help to clear some things up, with the help of some super sweet BARx models (some of which even gave me permission to use their likeness!).  I am also publishing this article with the help of my good friend and religious consult monsignor Millikan.

The start position of a snatch or clean is important for one main reason:  it is the start of a snatch or a clean.  If the very beginning of the lift is compromised, then the rest of the lift will be spent trying to compensate for early mistakes and regain position.  Today I've been advised by my co-poster (Mr. Millikan) that I should use more pictures, because apparently too many of my words bore people to sleep.  So here you go:

 This is a start position.  Good thing they both signed the media waver for when this thing goes viral.

Above we have two good examples of the start position for a clean.  Here are the hallmarks of this position, all illustrated by the lifters above:

Shoulders:  Out over the bar.  By this I mean the meat of the shoulder and arm is in front of the vertical plane of the barbell.  This is the key to a good setup and gives you the leverage to start sweeping the bar back immediately as it breaks the floor.

Chest/Back:  The chest is driven up and the back is tight and extended (i.e. not rounded).  This is very similar to, oh I don't know, every other movement that you do in life and also it's how you should be sitting at your desk right now (tell me at least half of you didn't just perk up).

Elbows:  Turned out, meaning that from the angle those pictures are taken the elbow is pointed straight at you like a gun.  Turning the elbows back towards the lifter, as many tend to do, is a recipe for a bad bar path as the lift progresses.

All of the elite (wow I hate that word) lifters in the pictures above are also following the principles I listed.  But what's most important to note is how different the start positions look based on how the lifters are built.  The athletes in the top two pictures are 6'4" and 6'0" respectively.  I don't know about the lifters below, but let's assume they're all between 5'4" and 5'8" with a more "typical" build for weightlifting.  This build is typical and/or optimal for a number of reasons including the fact that these athletes can start with their hips lower at the start which allows them to maintain a consistent angle from the floor to the optimal power position where they drive the bar up.  This consistent angle minimizes errors in the first and second pulls. Unfortunately, in looking around the gym, I don’t see a lot of male lifters who fit solidly in this category.  So if you are one of those lifters who stand north of 5’7” or 5”8’, you should pay particular attention to the difference in the height of the hips and the angle of the torso between the pictures above and the pictures below.

In my mind, there are two key reasons that people tend to get a bad start position into their head:

The "Chest Up" cue.  Sometimes this is taken to extremes.  If a coach gives you this cue, typically it's meant to get you to tighten up your back and shoulders and drive your chest to the sky (or as Janeann would say "boobs to the sky").  Often people will misinterpret this and drive their hips down to obtain a more vertical torso, which can result in some janky positioning off the floor.

Watching others.  I'm a huge proponent of watching the lifters around you and watching your coaches as they lift or help others.  This is a great way to learn and perhaps pick up something new.  However, in the start positions for weightlifting there are going to be many differences based on how someone is built.  A taller person trying to "mimic" the start position of a shorter position is not going to work out well.  I wish I had a great example of this happening ....

Oh wait, I do.

Don't worry, Andy gave me full permission to rip on him today.  Plus, he's used to it.  The above photo is probably a case of both of the mistakes I mentioned above.  Since Andy is such a tall lifter, the problems become even more exaggerated.  In his defense, the adjustment needed was actually a very slight one.  But what's important to note here is that this problem is not unique to him: this start position is one of the most common problems we are seeing with the lifts.

Many of you might look at the picture above and not think there's anything inherently wrong with it, which makes perfect sense.  The differences are subtle, yet extremely important.  The first thing to notice is that he's violating the shoulder principle:  rather than being out over the bar, he actually has managed to get the majority of his shoulder meat back behind the bar by shoving hips hips way down.  A side effect of this is that his massive kneecaps are now shoved way forward and providing a giant bony obstacle for him to try to get out of the way as he breaks the bar off the floor.  An obstacle that I would argue is impossible to overcome:  the bar has no option but to go forward right of the floor, which is exactly the opposite of what we want.

The point of this post, if you haven’t gotten it already, is that not everyone will start with their hips in the same position at the start.  The taller you are, the higher your hips will likely be.  Having said that, I do have a note of caution when changing to this higher start position.  You will have to be more focused than ever on not allowing your hip to lead the pull from the floor.  You will have less margin for error and you increase your risk of ending up in “stripper” pulling position with your legs straight and torso bent way over the bar.  If you do make this adjustment, start slow with clean and snatch dead lifts to the knees to break down the learning process.  Just work the first pull and progress from there as you get comfortable with it.

Not good for lifting.  Not good for anybody.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ding Dong ...

Yes, the rumors are true.  Next Friday BARx will be participating in a Mash Up (one word?) with our good friends at CrossFit Kirkwood.  Yeah, we have friends.  If you're interested - and you damn well should be - then please sign up for this historic event on the bulletin board at the gym.  Unaware of what exactly a "Mash Up" entails?  Me too.  But I don't write the posters ... I guess we'll just have to show up and find out.

I can only assume it will involve Russet potatoes.  And maybe some gravy?