Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tim with the FAIL

It's official. I (Rachel) annoyed Tim so much with my "guest posts," he went ahead and gave me the login information for this here Bloggy Blog. Operation #TakeOverTheWorld is in full swing.

This transfer of power nicely coincides with Tim's Epic Fail No. 593. Remember the "Behind The Muscles" series? Remember the hilariously written profiles of our BARx Coaches? Remember how Tim was going to post a few at a time? Remember how he got halfway through the project and then...stopped?

Tim's middle name is A.D.D.

Lucky for you, I'm here to right Tim's wrongs. Without further babbling, I give to you the final installment of BEHIND THE MUSCLES: AN INSIDE LOOK AT BARx COACHES.*

*Or, the exact opposite. It is, after all, way more fun to write about alter-egos. 

(If you need a refresher, read the profiles for Tim, Monica, Brian, Steph, Kristina, Ed, and Maggie.)

The-Most-Hated-Man-On-Earth Tony 
It’s hard to find something nice to say about this Belieber, because everyone who meets him hates him. He’s the kind of guy who invades your lifting space and yells “F**K YEAH!” after he PRs on ab-mat situps. Mirrors are a must wherever he works out, and selfies come second nature to this Insta-famous bro (@TonyTheTool). I once made the mistake of making eye contact with him in the gym. This invited a two-hour discussion on his favorite workout “attire” (his words, not mine): Neon pink Affliction t-shirts, skinny jeans, and a rainbow Junk Band. You’ll know when he’s at BARx because he always double parks his Hummer in the handicap spot. Besides “gettin swole,” his only interests include “miring” himself in the mirror and going to Nickleback concerts.
  • What He Coaches: G.T.L. Gym. Tan. Laundry.
  • What to Expect: Spray-on tans, fist pumping, and foul language
  • What’s On the Radio: Justin Bieber. On repeat.
Do you even lift, bro?

She-Will-Kill-You-In-Your-Sleep Amy 
Sick, twisted, and down-right mean. She wears nothing but black and doesn’t believe in shaving her underarms. I heard she kicked a puppy once.
  • What She Coaches: Terror
  • What to Expect: Pain
  • What’s On the Radio: You’ll hear nothing but the sound of your own tears.
Peace-Zen-And-All-Things-Tranquil JaneAnn 
Her presence calms the storms and her voice soothes like the ocean. When she speaks, flowers bloom and Bambi appears. You’ll grow to love her earthy smell and hemp shirts, because her serene playlist evokes introspection and relaxation worthy of Utopia.
  • What She Coaches: Peace, serenity, and tranquility
  • What to Expect: Only hushed whispers allowed 
  • What’s On the Radio: Pandora’s “Nature Sounds” (on the softest volume setting)
Sit back, relax, and try not to fall asleep.

Anti-Fun Abby 
Nobody sucks the life out of the party quite like this one. Crotchety and bitter, Abby believes smiling causes cancer and laughter leads to babies. Her days consist of: grumbling out of bed at 4 a.m., driving 20 miles under the speed limit to the local Hardee’s, requesting the “senior discount,” playing Soduku, trying to get the neighborhood kids off her lawn, and enforcing a strict “lights out at 6pm” rule.
  • What She Coaches: Knitting, modesty, and Price Is Right marathons
  • What to Expect: Laughter’s forbidden
  • What’s On the Radio: Nothing. Music is the sound of the devil
“Fun” is the devil’s middle name.

MeatHead Susie 
This swole beast hates running, metconning, and sweating in general. She’s “more brawn than brains” and can’t hold a conversation about anything other than weightlifting and protein shakes. When she’s not at the gym, you can find her prowling the local nightclubs wearing a backwards hat and sleeveless TapOut shirts that are 10 sizes too small. Twice a day, she takes her coffee straight from the devil (Starbucks) and mixes it with 4 raw eggs. Protein, brah.
  • What She Coaches: Steel spines and steel minds, one lift at a time
  • What to Expect: Cursing. Lots and lots of cursing.
  • What’s On the Radio: Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath (on the loudest volume setting)
Bulging veins lead to bigger gains.

Anger-Management-Dropout Cari
Watch out for this newest edition to the BARx coaching staff--she's easily provoked and packs a mean right hook. Her preferred coaching technique consists of rear-naked chokeholds and beating people with PVC pipes if they pick up the barbell improperly. Rumor has it her morning ritual consists of punching holes in walls, crushing soupcans against her forehead, and body slamming DJ while yelling "HULK SMASH!" In her spare time, I think she likes to eat small children and floss her teeth with electrical wire. But I don't know. The only talking she does is with her fists.

  • What She Coaches: Wrestle Mania
  • What to Expect: the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club. 
  • What's On the Radio: Drowning Pool's Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
She's an angry elf. 

The Most-Intriguing-Man-On-Earth Chris 
Much like 3.14 (aka Pi), experts are still trying to figure out the complexities of this guy. He’s like the Bermuda Triangle. You’ll go in, but you’ll never get out. Ask him about the lost city of Atlantis and Amelia Earhart when you’ve got a few hours to spare.
  • What He Coaches: Quantum physics, molecular biology, ancient Greek philosophy, and How to Become a Billionaire Secret Spy Agent in Ten Days
  • What to Expect: The unexpected
  • What’s On the Radio: Pandora shuffle
He's an open book and you're invited to read.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Take It Easy, Turbo.

How to Approach Warm Ups and Adding Weight in the Olympic lifts

This post is inspired by Tony.  Because every time a missed snatch, clean, or jerk falls to the floor unnecessarily, a single tear can be spotted rolling from his eye.  And I personally can’t sit back and watch this heartbreak any longer without doing something about it.

You could have made that lift …. If only you knew the error of your ways.

It seems to be something we see around the gym all too often:  a lifter either starts their session with way too much weight on the bar, or they take a huge unjustified jump in weight that causes several missed attempts which are completely unnecessary.  It happens to us all, and I've been guilty of it in the past myself on many occassions.

Here’s the deal:  the Snatch, Clean, and Jerk are not easy to master.  They require constant practice, attention to detail, drills, practice, mobility work, timing, coordination, practice, strength, power, speed … oh and practice.  Did I mention practice?  I’m not telling you this to scare you away from the lifts, but simply to make the point that they need to be approached in a slightly different manner than a Squat, Kettlebell Swing, or Bench Press.

Learning the lifts is very much like perfecting a golf swing … except you can’t drink while you do it.  Okay, maybe “can’t” is the wrong word …

For this reason, the warm ups for the lifts can and should be treated slightly differently.  My opinion on the best way to do this is to take small incremental jumps right from the start of your session and get more total lifts in before approaching your working weight for the day.  Obviously you could take bigger jumps the further you are away from your max or goal weight ….. but why?  As I previously mentioned, PRACTICE is the best (and only) way to improve these lifts.  So why not just take the time when you’re warming up to get in a few extra sets and some much needed time under the bar?  A light to medium Olympic lift really doesn’t fatigue your body all that much, so if you’re worried about the few extra warm ups affecting how much weight ultimately ends up the bar …. Well that’s not a very good excuse.

Been crushing rep after rep since he was zero years old.  Your only hope to catch up is by taking extra long warm ups.

As a matter of fact, in addition to arguing that the extra lighter sets are not detrimental to your performance, I would argue that they actually enhance it.  Tony would agree.  He gave me a quick example of a BARx lifter who recently made a huge jump from a light warm up weight to quickly adding 30-40 lbs on the bar and attempting to snatch a weight close to their all-time PR.  Can you guess how that attempt ended?


But after instructing the lifter to go back down the original weight and work his (or her) way back up with 5 lb jumps, not only did they make that very same weight they initially missed, but also several reps beyond that – and eventually ended up setting a new lifetime PR.  This is not the first time we've seen this happen, and it works because the nervous system has time to adapt to each small increase in weight and handle the weight properly.  When you take a massive jump in weight, it’s very easy to shock the system and get pulled way out of position.  This results in a missed lift at best and a higher risk of injury at worst.

Since I know you’re all huge fans of me doing stuff in spreadsheets and then making pictures out of it, here’s a quick illustration of a good session and a bad session applying the principles I've discussed above.  This would be for hypothetical lifter Johnny BroFlex working up to 155 lbs for 5 sets of singles on this particular day.

Results extremely typical.

Bottom line:  when it comes time to work on your weightlifting, take smaller jumps and progress the weight on the bar slowly.  Not only will it likely improve your performance that session, but the extra practice at light weights will be beneficial to you in the long run.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wrist Straps 101

With all the increased interest in weightlifting lately, I'm noticing quite a few people making use of wrist straps to hold onto the barbell for longer periods of time.  So I thought it would be a good time to discuss how and when to use them, and most importantly what NOT to do with them.  For those who are unaware what they are, straps are simply pieces of leather wrapped around the wrist and then the bar in order to alleviate the strain on the grip and make the bar easier to hold onto.

Acceptable use # 17:  you're bringing the grocery bags in the house and only want to make one trip with all 12.  Strap up!

I bought the pair above several years back from IronMind.  They don't look quite that shiny anymore, but they are still very functional and I've had no issues with them.  Some of you nerdy engineer-types can certainly make them yourself by knitting together some old seat belt leather, but I personally think it was worth shelling out the $17 for me not to have to learn how to sew ...

Also I'm fairly confident they put seat belts in cars for a reason, and you should probably leave them there ...

So now you have a pair of straps.  When should you use them?  My opinion on the topic is that they should only be used when absolutely necessary, or when grip strength is not a primary part of the movement you're trying to train.  For any type of deadlift off the floor, I would give you the same recommendation that I do for using the "switch grip."  That is, use a palms back hook grip for as long as possible, then switch when you can no longer hang onto the bar.  Keep in mind for any deadlift to be legal in a powerlifting or crossfit competition, you're going to have to be able to hang onto the bar without the use of straps.  Additionally, training the grip is a huge component of working on any pulling movement from the floor.  Therefore, I would shy away from using them as much as possible for deadlifts and train your grip strength as part of the movement.

They also might be legal in certain strongman tire deadlift circles.  So if you come into the gym and are deadlifting 1200 lbs worth of tires, I won't argue with you about the use of straps.

I've found that for our purposes at BARx, the main instances on which to use them would be the following:

Heavy Clean or Snatch Pulls (or High Pulls) - These are the movements that mimic the first and second pull of the Olympic lifts without actually pulling under the bar.  Often times they are done for heavier sets of 3 or 5 in order to train the leg drive and positional strength needed for this portion of the lifts.  Straps are very useful in order to take the grip out of the equation and allow you to focus simply on the movement by using larger sets.  The same goes for high rep sets of shrugs and pulls from the hang (one of Brian's favorite movements).

Heavier sets of high-rep RDLs or SLDLs - Someone might make the argument that we could apply the same logic here as with the deadlifts.  However, I've found that if you're trying to hang onto the bar for a set of 10 RDLs, and training back and posterior chain strength is the main objective, straps are again quite helpful to take the grip out of the equation.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of instances where you might want to use them, however those are probably the two that are most likely to occur in our gym.  For example, they might also be used on occasion for multiple Snatch reps from the hang.  You will sometimes see video with Olympic weightlifters using them for Snatches from the floor ... This is typically because their hands are destroyed (or in risk of being destroyed) from doing two thousand reps that week ... A problem you shouldn't have to encounter.  However, no matter who you are, there is most certainly one thing that you NEVER want to use them for:  Cleans or any Clean variation.

Seriously.  I'm not going to tell you again.

Due to the nature of the front rack position, using straps for cleans is generally regarded as a massive bonehead move throughout the weightlifting community.  There are several reasons for this, but the main one is that there are just too many things that can go wrong when you're locked onto the bar in the front rack.  And as you know, "Safety Tim" is not a huge fan of anything that quickly increases your chances for injury.  So don't do it.  If I see somebody using them in the front rack, not only will I revoke your strap privileges forever, but I'll also slap you on the back of the calf with a PVC pipe.

So that covers most of the why and when.  As for the "how" - as in "How do I actually strap these things onto the bar?" - I'll be covering that topic in a 3-day seminar dedicated solely to learning the technique and theory, with plenty of time for repetitive practice .... seems to be the only way some of you are going to figure it out.  Best of luck.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If You’re Sexy and You Know It

You wear shirts like these

In an effort to make BARx the most swag-tastic  gym in the world, we’re taking orders for BARX-MEN shirts.
Ladies, this includes you.
The X-“MEN” had Storm. And Jean Grey. And Rogue. I’m pretty sure they all snatch 300lb+.

Monica, Donny, Abby, Nathan, Susie, and Justin are the original masterminds behind these shirts. They rocked them down at the Heart of America Affiliate Competition. Rumor has it they added 500lbs to Abby’s clean and jerk and inspired a strip tease by Justin, Nathan, and Donny.

guys strip tease.jpg
Tim’s best day. EVER.

With that image in mind, how could we not order more? Plus, consider this:   

1. Ladies, anything that Monica, Susie, or Abby wears is worth getting. Period.

The Sexy Trifecta

2. Men, I don’t have an argument for you since Donny’s taste in clothes can’t be trusted after the booty-shorts scandal:

Close your eyes and hope it all goes away.

But the shirts are inspired by the X-MEN logo. Soooo, wearing one means you’re basically Wolverine.

Just saying.

3. Parents, if your kid is into superheroes (and cool shirts), get ‘em one. If your kid is not into superheroes, I de-friend you.


Basically, the shirts are freaking sweet and have a statistical probability of decreasing your Fran time by 30 seconds. #DontQuoteMeOnThat. We’re not stocking the gym with these, so if you want one, sign up the old-fashioned way at the gym. You have until February 7th.

The Options
Style Options: Men’s tee, Fitted tank, or Loose tank
Color Options: Blue or Black
Adult Sizes: S-XXL
Kid Sizes: S-L
Price: $20. Payment will be charged to your Wodify account.

Men's tee. Color options: Blue or black.

Fitted tank. Color options: Blue or black.

Loose(r) tank. Color options: Blue or black.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Pow Pow Power Cleans - And How They Differ From Cleans (Hint: NOT AT ALL)

I will admit that I had a minor meltdown last Saturday.  But there's only so many painful looking power clean catches a man can watch before he's sent into a rage of fury.  It's appears my limit is somewhere around 800.

Young Ally's reaction to your Power Cleans.  She later commented that they were "extwemely poopy."

Understand that my frustration wasn't exactly with everyone's performance of these "power cleans."  It was more with my own inability to correct the issues I was seeing on the fly.  What I later discovered is that most of the technique problems I was seeing were simply an issue of misunderstanding the proper execution of the lift and how it should look and feel.  Today we're going to clear this up once and for all:

And while we're at it:

It's my belief that the heart of the issue here is that we all have it in our minds that these are two separate and distinct movements.  That when we put the word "Power" in front of a Clean or Snatch, they become two very different exercises.  They are not.  They are exactly the same in how they are executed, with only one minor difference:  the height of the catch position.  In the Bible Greg Everett's Book "Olympic Weightlifting," there are over 20 pages devoted to the description and analysis of the Clean.  For the Power Clean ..... 1 page.  And he really only needed the first sentence:

The power clean is mechanically identical to the clean - the sole difference is the height at which the bar is received.  (Everett pg 162)

This distinction is important.  So important that, rather than stealing from the internet as per usual, I decided to use one of the sexiest models I could find to visually demonstrate the ONLY difference between a clean and a "power" clean.  You ready?  Here it is:

Pop quiz to make sure you're paying attention:  Were these two photos taken from two separate videos, OR THE EXACT SAME VIDEO OF A FULL CLEAN??

A couple things to take notice of here, aside from the albino glow of my shins:

1.)  Both pictures have the same characteristics of a decent front squat rack position:  the bar is resting on the shoulders, the elbows are high and out front with the bar resting on the shoulders, the hips are back and loaded, and the knees are in-line with the toes and not shooting way out in front of the them.

2.) The bar is about 8-12 inches higher in the picture on the right, and the thighs are above parallel.  This is what makes that a "power" lift and now classifies it as a Power Clean rather than simply a Clean .... the bar is pulled and received slightly higher (but in the exact same positions otherwise).

It's important to note that I'm not bringing up this distinction for some silly CrossFit reason such as I want your power cleans to "count."  The problem with the receiving positions I continue to see is that they are unsafe and compromised positions.  Many people are catching the bar with the hips shoved out front, the knees well beyond the toes, and the elbows underneath or even behind the bar.  This puts a ton of pressure on the knees, the lower back, and the wrists ... doesn't sound very nice, does it?  When is the last time one of your coaches cued you to use your knees and lower back to support that weight??  If we can start receiving our power cleans and snatches in a mechanically sound partial squat, the movement not only becomes easier to execute but much safer and easier on the joints as well.

Obviously this entire post probably only resonated with 5% of you, and the other 95% were just reading for the hilarious memes.  So to hammer this point home, you'll start to notice over the next few weeks that we will be working on some drills in class to solidify the catch position of the power variations.  We are also moving the Snatch skills to Saturday so I can have a chance to personally teach you about the distinction.  This means that the Make-Up skill work day will move to Thursday.  Yes, I just embedded a programming change deep in several paragraphs of text ... I hope Brooks is still paying attention.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Guest Post - Rachel Wants You To Do The Open ... I Think

Here it is, from your Director of Social Media, Events, and Hilarious Insults. I apologize, this should have been up earlier.  However, it took me about 7 hours of hard work to transfer all of the jpegs, links, and embedded videos she put in this post.  Enjoy!

You + the 2015 CrossFit Games Open
Brace Yourselves…

Tomorrow (January 15th), registration officially opens for the 2015 CrossFit Games Open, which runs from February 26th through March 30th. For those five weeks and five workouts, athletes around the world have the opportunity to participate in WODs alongside the fittest men and women in the world. Anyone anywhere in the world can sign up to compete in the Open’s five workouts and post their scores online. Last year, the Open reached 209,000 athletes from around the world.  I think your name should be added to that statistic this year.

There are a lot of reasons why I think you should take part in the Open, but it’s mainly because (1) you’re awesome, (2) you’re more awesome than you realize you are, and (3) see #1.

Of course you do, ya sexy fool. 

Look, besides Steph, no one is actually giddy about the idea of performing 7 minutes of burpees or 150 wallballs or anything involving the phrase “AMRAP.” 

Most know it’s going to suck and most, deep down, are probably dreading it. But that’s the very reason why we should all do it. #EmbraceTheSuck to #GetDemGainz… or something hipster like that. Or, as the ever-inspirational Coach Brian would say: “try harder, you little b*****ds.”

Brian came out of the womb cursing about missed pockets and lazy pulls.

If that pep talk didn’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy and motivated to sign up for the Open, try this approach: you’re going to end up doing the WODs; you might as well register, make it official, and have fun with it.

There’s no way out, sucker.

If you workout on a regular basis during the 5 weeks of the Open, there’s a good chance you are going to end up doing the workouts anyway. Since participants have 96 hours to submit scores online for each week’s workout, and since participants can re-test the workout as many times as they want until they get the score they want, you’ll probably see people (Ed) at BARx doing Open WODs throughout the week. And you won’t be able to resist joining in on the fun. Or you’ll accidentally show up on a Saturday when the Open WOD is programmed for the day’s workout. And you won’t be able to avoid the “fun.” Either way, chances are very high you’ll end up performing one of the Open WODs at some point during the Open. Why not formally step into the game and see what happens? What do you have to lose?

The Open workouts are designed to be grueling but doable. If you have been following BARx programming for at least a few months, you are capable of participating in the Open. You might only finish one round in an As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) workout. You might not make it all the way through an increasing weightlifting ladder. You might finish dead last. But you can do it.

Read this article to gain some perspective.

Plus, with the addition of a “scaled” option this year, the 2015 Open is designed to be more inclusive than ever. (More on this later). And Safety Tim has told me to tell you he “reserves the right” to change any workout he feels is “inappropriate.” I think he means to save you from injury, but here’s hoping Dave Castro programs the first WOD as 7 minutes of nude burpees. 

Will sweat for nudity.

Ultimately, whether you choose to participate or not is up to you. If you choose to not participate because your schedule doesn’t allow it, because you’re recovering from an injury, or because your training is currently focused on something else, we support that. We want everyone to enjoy their time at BARx and if competing in the Open makes it not fun for you, then please don’t sign up. But if the only thing holding you back from signing up is fear, then, well….

PR High Kick ... To the face!

  • 2015 CrossFit Games Open
  • 5 workouts, 1 each week for 5 weeks
  • The first WOD will be announced on February 26th. Workouts will run for five weeks thereafter.
  • Register online here, starting January 15th*
WOD hosting days at BARx
  • to be determined
  • RX (as prescribed)
    • Note: to advance to Regionals, an individual athlete must c
    • mplete all workouts as prescribed
    • Note: for purposes of calculating BARx’s team score, only scores from those athletes who completed workouts as prescribed will be considered
  • Masters
    • Athletes who are 40-years-old or older are automatically entered into one of five age divisions (40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60+).
  • Scaled
    • New this year! Available to any athlete in any division wishing to reduce load or perform less challenging movements
  • Teens
    • New this year! Available to athletes who are 14 to 17 years old
*Participating costs $20. We’re not encouraging you to sign up because we’re looking to make a buck (we don’t see that $). We’re encouraging you to sign up because we think you’re awesome. And the best way for us to prove it to you is to encourage you to push outside your comfort zone and discover it for yourself. Go get ‘em, ya sexy beast.
I Took Last Place In the CrossFit Games Open by Greg L. from CrossFit Industrious

Monday, January 12, 2015

Programming Announcements

Well we had a big important meeting yesterday, and some big important decisions were made.  Hopefully much of this is going to make your lives easier and less complicated.  Here are the highlights:

1.) For the vast majority of you that attend regular classes and follow the class programming, it's important to note that NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

2.) For those of you that have been following programming outside of the standard class program (including the Wednesday and Saturday barbell classes), here's what we've done:  All programming is now combined into one cohesive program.  Anything "extra" (including "competitive" work and Barbell Class programming) will be denoted as such and will be incremental to the standard class.  This will be included as notes in Wodify, but you will need to add an extra performance if you end up doing it.

3.) I will now be posting the entire week's worth of programming (both the standard and extra work) up in a new tab created at the top of the page called "PROGRAMMING."  This accomplishes several things, such as giving you the entire week in one look.  It also leaves this section of the website entirely to my rantings and ravings, otherwise known as "Tim's BS."  Now on those days when I don't make a post, the programming will still be available to you in the new tab.

4.) We all suck at Power Cleans.  More to come on this one later ....

This is for your own good.