Categorized as: Exercise

Learning the Power Clean in 60 seconds

The utility of the Power Clean is unparalleled. Not only does this exercise develop explosive power coupled appropriately can produce effective conditioning doses. 

As a staple exercise in our gym, our coaches have mastered a simple warmup for the Power Clean. At the novice and intermediate level, the Power Clean is a hybrid exercise of both the Deadlift and a partial Front Squat. The third most crucial instructional advice we teach is how to add speed and timing to the lift. 

Deadlift

The narrow stance and hand placement of the Power Clean are very similar to the Deadlift, plus or minus a few inches. More importantly, we teach our athletes how to initiate the Power Clean with their legs and not their back. When the deadlift is trained correctly the transition to the Power Clean is smooth. 

Front Squat

If the start position is the DL, then the finish position is a partial front squat. Here the athletes learn approximate heights where they feel comfortable catching the bar, while learning how vital resting the bar across the shoulders is. Pausing athletes in the partial squat teaches them balance and body awareness. For coaches it allows us to see possible errors in the Power Clean before ever attempting the entire motion. 

Hang Power Clean

The considerable distance from the ground to partial front squat creates multiple error points. By starting in a hang and “dragging the bar to the top of the knee” before jumping to the Front Squat works miracles in timing and lack of explosiveness. Keep it simple. “Jump and land in a partial front squat” eliminates the tendency of pausing and overthinking. 

Power Clean

The effectiveness of this teaching progression is that we can chunk this movement into its parts before building it back up. An error in the Power Clean is usually an error in Steps 1, 2, and/or 3. Placing the athlete at the step and correcting the fault is the smartest thing a coach can do.

As you get more comfortable coaching this progression, this can be performed as a warmup. When you’re first learning this complex it acts more like an instructional piece.

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How To Perform the Elusive Toes To Bar

Watching the Toes-To-Bar (TTB) performed at high speeds is beautiful. Advanced CrossFit athletes can make them look effortless. If you’ve ever attempted to perform TTB’s you know they are anything but effortless. Like anything in life, if you want to get good at these it’s going to take proper practice and training.

Training only the CrossFit for the last 10 years, and owning a gym for the last 7, I can confidently name 4 commons reasons athletes struggle to perform this exercise.

1.Grip Strength

If an athlete cannot hang on a pull-up bar for 60 seconds at-a-time there is no magic cue you are going to be able to give them as a coach that is going to help. Whether you are performing a kipping version or a strict version grip strength is paramount. There are many ways we can help develop grip strength. The most functional would be the implementation of the farmers carry or another odd object lift. Not only can this strengthen the forearms they are an effective conditioning tool when coupled with other exercises. I would be remised if I didn’t talk about appropriate body composition levels. Novice athlete that are severely overweight will always struggle with this exercise. No amount wrist curls or farmer carries are going to help this individual. The real issue is their weight, not their grip. As their weight comes down their grip strength will improve drastically.

2. Core Strength

The next step once an individual is able to consistently hang on the bar is to focus on their “core” strength (I hate that word but you know where I’m getting at). The best transfer exercise would be a hanging L-sit hold. These are performed statically which help reduce the shear forces on the grip compared to swinging. The goal should be to build up to holding a fully extended L-sit for 30 seconds at a time. From there a strict TTB is in order. Multiple sets of 5-10 reps are ideal. Another good option if an athlete still can’t hang on a pull-up bar is V-ups. If you watch TTB performed you will notice a forceful, if not violent, contraction of the abdominals. The closest thing to that is the V-up

3. Coordination

In comparison, stringing 5 TTB is much more advanced than performing 1 TTB strict. Not only does a kipping version provide more volume in less amount of time they indirectly develop grip strength through the intensity of quick cycle rate. In gymnastics, we call this coordinated effort of the body a “kip swing“. The force potential, when performed correctly, transfers into other movements like Pull-ups and Ring and Bar Muscle-ups. In training, a progression of kip swings that immediately follows a knee-to-chest motion is very effective at developing the timing needed to be able to kick the leg higher and higher into the air.

4. Flexibility

An athletes inability to touch their toes from a standing position severely limits their ability to string multiple reps together. Although an efficiently performed TTB doesn’t require a full extension of the knee, the tension on the hamstrings will always there. Every workout that includes Knees-to-Elbow KTE) or TTB should always begin with a 5-minute mobility piece on the hamstrings. With time, if an athlete works on it consistently enough, their flexibility will improve. Here’s a secret…the difference between a KTE and a TTB is about 2-3 inches of hamstring length. Even with tight hamstrings, an athlete can perform the TTB if they learn to quickly “flick” their toes to bar at the moment their knees come up to elbow height.

 

I hacked the dreaded warm up

By: Coach Mario

I can’t think of many things I hate in life but warming up for a workout is definitely one of them.

For me, I don’t have the convenience of training for long periods of time. So my window of opportunity comes between coaching classes and office hours. From start to finish my session lasts 25 minutes. Warming up would drag that time out even longer.

For me, the purpose of a warm-up is about getting my body primed and ready for intense training. I call it getting “hot and sweaty”. Until that moment comes I jack around in the gym until I feel myself break a sweat. I’ve never regretted warming up before lifting heavy but something in my mind always tells me to skip it. You know exactly what I’m talking about. 

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had to come up with creative solutions for preparing my body for training while removing the monotony that is attached to stretching and jogging.

These are some of my favorite creative warmups:

  1. Tabata Squats

Tabata is an interval of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest; repeated 8x. Every set I flow through Air Squats at whatever pace I feel like. I use the squat because of it’s bigger muscle group in comparison to the upper body. But really there are no limitations to the body weight exercises I use. Use a timer to hold yourself accountable.

2. Ladder Drills (video)

It’s rare we train for speed, agility, and quickness but ladder drills can be a great addition to a warm-up. It’s fun, challenging, and different from the traditional norm of warm-up exercises. I go back and forth until I can’t come up with other movements to complete. That usually does the trick.

3. Barbell Warmup (video)

This is by far my favorite warm-up because I heart weightlifting. It becomes, even more, fun with I add a Tabata interval to the mix. Every set I change the barbell exercise. Matter of fact, I don’t know the exercise I will perform until the prior set is over. Not only am I breaking a sweat, my heart is pounding ready and prepared for the training session.

There’s tons of evidence that promotes the benefits of a sound warm up. More than that, I just feel and perform better when I spend time preparing for my workout.

Doing something will always trump doing nothing.

Give it a try. Let me know what you think!

Kipping Pull-Ups: The Truth

Here’s what you need to know…

  1. No exercise is more divisive than the kipping pull-up and its “butterfly” cousin.
  2. A kipping pull-up is to the strict pull-up what the push press is to the strict overhead press.
  3. If you can’t perform strict pull-ups, you should not be kipping.
  4. If your main goal is to build muscle, kipping pull-ups alone won’t do it for you.
  5. Kipping can be used for hypertrophy however. Do strict pull-ups first then squeeze out a few extra reps using a proper kip.
  6. The butterfly kip isn’t necessary to learn unless you’re a CrossFit competitor and it works better for you. If any pull-up variation is going to cause an injury, it’s the butterfly.

Kipping: Legit Exercise or Circus Act?

Want to start an augment? Just bring up the topic of kipping pull-ups. Want to cause a fist fight? Expand the conversation to butterfly kipping pull-ups.

On one side you have traditional strength athletes and bodybuilders. On the other, CrossFitters. Let’s bridge the gap and objectively discuss the pros and cons of kipping. Read More…

TRY SOME SQUAT THERAPY TO IMPROVE YOUR POSITION AND FOCUS

Let’s take a moment to talk about how working some squat therapy into your life can help you not only achieve all the difficult positions of the squat, but also give you a focus point for each so that you can make more gains while lowering the risk of injury.

Squat therapy is not new but I venture to guess you don’t regularly work it into your routine, which is why I want to encourage you to start incorporating it into your warm-up on a squat day.

How to Perform Squat Therapy

1) Start by facing the wall with your feet in squat stance (under the hips) and standing about ten to twelve inches away from it. Focus on tight abs and squeezing your glutes.

2) Extend your arms above your head and activate your lats and scaps by pulling your shoulders down and toward the center of your back. In this position, you should be focusing on: keeping the chest up; staying tight in the upper back, and keeping the lats engaged so that they form a shelf for your arms to rest on.

3) Initiate the movement by sending your hips back slightly before you begin to pull yourself toward the floor with your hamstrings. Everything you focused on in the first two steps should still be a focus as should be keeping the weight toward the back of your foot and externally rotating the hips. If your knees touch the wall, you probably initiated with them instead of the hips. Keep practicing this step until you get the hang of sending your hips back and down. Read More…

Stop Rounding Your Back!

Rounded backs have always peeved me. The worst is when you’re rounding when you’re NOT even fatigued. In situations where you are fresh, there should be no excuse to round your back on any exercise. Not only does a rounded back exponentially increase your risk of injury, it also decreases performance due to a lack of structural rigidness. This is very similar to pulling a boat with a rubber band instead of a chain. 
 
There are three main reasons why rounded backs happen:
  1.  Lack of awareness – bad habitual posture
  2.  Poor flexibility in hip flexors and hamstrings
  3.  Lack of spinal erector strength AND Lat activation
In many cases, a rounded back is a combination of all three reasons listed above. So how can we get your back to straighten out under load?
 
Default posture: You should be aware of what your default posture is when sitting, standing, and walking. You should always try to draw your shoulder blades together and stay rigid in the abs. If your default posture is excellent, it will be easier to maintain in all situations.
 
Hamstring and Hip Flexor Stretches: If you’re too tight in these muscle groups you have to work way harder than you need to just to get in basic positions. Loosen up the hammies here, and hips here
 
Lat Activation: When pulling from the floor the, the fastest way to improve your positioning is engaging your lats. Check out this video for detailed instruction.
 
You have to work on this on your own at home or before or after class. It’s not going to magically happen overnight either.