Sunday, February 3, 2013

Choose Your Coach Wisely Correcting Power Clean Mistakes

Someone once told me that it takes 300 repetitions of any single foreign movement for your body to master muscle memory. That is, the ability to "just do it" without any thought at all. I was also informed that if you are taught how to do that movement wrong then your are doomed to have to reteach your body. This being said, it takes about 1500 repetitions for your body to reconfigure that already set muscle memory for that certain movement. 

This should just begin to show you how important your coach or trainer can be. I have been doing crossfit for about 2.5 years now and I have always had trouble with my Olympic movements.  Its only within the last year that I have noticed it is because I was poorly coached. When I went to my Level 1 CF certification back in August I was holding my head high. Truly this would be a breeze. I knew the handbook in and out and I was well versed in all the movements with impressive weights. Or so I thought.

Once we began breaking off into small groups and they started critiquing us one on one I realised just how wrong I had been doing my movements all along. You know that person that you watch doing the movements and your like "Ouch, that was ugly." well unknown to me, I was one of those people. (Just look at my stance in the above photo) I think the power clean might suffer the most from bad coaching. Being that it is one of the easiest lifts and everyone seems to just assume that since they can do it they are doing it right. Not so my friends.
I love those who over load there bars and roll the weight around in front of there feet as they prepare to Power Clean and impress with what they believe to be 'perfect form'. Then they, not too surprisingly, muscle it up and catch it in such an awkward position that you find yourself wondering how much flexibility they have in their adductors. I am going to list some common mistakes people are plagued with when learning and executing their cleans. I myself
1st mistake I see allot of is that the athlete doesn't seem to have a correct starting position with consistency. In any movement you learn, from as easy as bringing your fork to your mouth or completing your follow throw on your free throw, consistency is a must. As stated in the opening the technique that we consistently use is the one we will revert to when the going gets tough. I am a big advocater of keeping it simple. No need to roll the weight around and raise and lower your gluts 2 or 3 times to prep for lift. Walk up to the bar with confidence, get close so your toes are just poking through the other side(ensures your body has a close relation to the bar), begin to lower into a deadlift like position(ensures that the hips are behind the bar/weight and will stay loaded through out the movement), and then tighten your core and squat to the bar(this ensures that you have a consistent torso angle upon lifting and keeps your shoulders over the bar through initial pull. (*If you can not get into this position properly then you need to work on your mobility and I suggest reverting to a Hang clean position until you are able*) You are now ready to just lift.
2nd mistake I often see is people who repeatedly miss they lift. They seem to believe, or their coach has lead them to believe that if they overload there bar to try and max out that it is OK to miss it a few times. The thought is that when they lower the weight back down, they will get it with much more ease then before. This is ludicrous. Again I revert to what I stated in the beginning. If you overload the bar your body goes into panic mode and more often then not tends to sacrifice form to achieve the lift. This is never the route to go. I always say keep the weight at a manageable number and only increase as your strength level allows you to. Plus too much weight too soon causes uneducated lifters like I was to force the muscle up technique and once your body is comfortable with the feeling it will be very very hard for you to increase your weight. The power your hips and legs provide in this movement is crucial to maxing out your weight.
3rd most common mistake (ex specially in beginner lifters) is when the pull too fast from the ground. What they fail to understand, or their coaches fail to tell them, is that there are two lifting parts to a power clean. The first is to be slower and more controlled to sustain correct positioning above the bar. I know as the weight gets heavier your first thought is to pull hard and fast and yes, speed and power are very important for these lifts, but the most important part of this lift is from the point when the weight hits about mid thigh. This first pull needs to be used to align the bar with your center of gravity. Always make sure the knees go back on this first initial pull. You do not want to find yourself with your alignment curving towards the front of your center of gravity. This will cause you to be misaligned forward of the toes and keep you from getting your full power and full hip extension on the second part of the lift. Also leaving you with a very poor 'catch' position, resulting in many missed lifts.
4th mistake I have seen is not finishing this second pull. Something that I was never taught early on was that the lower you can go while trying to catch the lift the higher your percentage rate of catching and finishing the lift will be. Whats the key to being successful at Olympic lifts? Being explosive in pulling the bar to full hip extension in the point. These lifts are fast and it is hard for coaches to catch the fact that you are not coming to full extension. My suggestion is to video yourself doing the movement from the side and/or mark the spot on the floor where you feet begin. If you find that upon completion of the lift your feet have moved drastically forward then you may want to concentrate on the second part of your pull and full hip extension. Complete extension will more often then not cause you to catch the weight in the exact same position you started, or slightly behind it. Never in front.
5th and finally, the spread eagle catch. This is my favorite because I am still trying to stop my guilty self from doing it from time to time ( remember how I said it takes about 1500 reps to correct a wrong). The fact of the matter is, that when the weight gets too heavy for me I find myself more afraid to drop under it. I sacrifice form and rather then drop my butt under the weight I spread my feet while in the air and hope I land low enough to get under it enough to catch it. This rarely works for me and is a huge way for me to injure myself. If you find yourself with more of a sumo dead lift stance or a split stance when you complete your lift, you may want to drop down in weight and practice dropping under it until it completely feels natural for you.
Try as you might some of these faults will always haunt you. But tackle them one at a time and you will eventually see massive results in your lifts. I am so lucky to now have Crossfit Bluegrass there team of coaches really actually cares and has helped me tremendously on improving my previously ingrained sloppy lift technique.

1st Trimester & CrossFitting

Picture From
So I have recently discovered that I myself am pregnant. There are so many mixed reviews on what I should do or what I shouldn't do when it comes to my workout routine. It doesn't help that my mother is a nurse of 30 years and is full of her own expert advice. She also doesn't share or understand my desire to crossfit. She sees it as extreme and unsafe. I guess to the outside, uneducated viewer, this may seem true. So I have done some research and have come up with a better understanding of what the new research has found. No more worrying about keeping my heart rate below 140. YEAH!!

I will brake down the thee trimesters and point out different changes I will be going through in the upcoming months. I will describe how it will change my workout routine but not hinder it. We can do most everything we were doing before. There is just a little more to it then adjusting your grip on your snatch to make way for your ever growing belly.

A lot of women will wait until after their first trimester to announce their pregnancy, I was the same. I did inform my head coach of the important news. Someone needed to understand why I scaling back all my weights and taking so many breaks during each WOD. It was tough for me but not to easy to forget. Every time I would try to push myself to my max my body would remind me of the changes I was going through.  The first trimester brings on heavy fatigue and no matter how hard the competitive nature in me tried to push the prego part of me always had the gyms box fan and a water bottle in site. Some women are comfortable maintaining intensity during the first trimester, but try as I did I just found myself not feeling absolutely comfortable with it. I would advise girls like me to maybe cut out some reps. It helps you to keep up with your normal WOD times and no one around you will be the wiser. I am not an advocater of cheating, but in this situation I feel we can make an exception. In my worst days of my first trimester I actually just claimed to be sick allot. My man also is a member at my box so it was rough, because there was only half of this normal "power couple" showing up to the gym. I feel some people expected and there is no way to avoid that but just remember only do what you are comfortable with. There is no reason not to use the same amount of weights as you were before. Just accept the fact that you are not going to be hitting PR's anytime soon and maybe sometimes its OK to do 8 reps instead of 10.

There are some stats that I don't completely agree with. Like keeping your heart rate below 140. With all the changes that are going on in your body during the first trimester, and the rate at which your body is beginning to produce more blood it will be really hard to achieve this with any workout regimen. I like to look at it in a different lite. I feel that as long as you are still able to carry on a conversation while you are working out then you are at a good pace. This works for everyone at any level. If your like me, you have seen those two 10k ladies running while the entire time caring on a complete conversation about there family, job, and latest weekend endeavours. They don't skip a beat. Now, me my friends, there isn't a long distance bone in my body and about the third of the way through any distance run I am completely winded and just pushing through it.  So to make a long story short, just don't let yourself get winded, stop or slow down at what ever your max point is. . A better guide in my opinion is the talk test.  Always remember that even though you may not feel any different you are changing every day, don't ignore it. The first trimester is the most vital to you and your ever growing baby. Anything you put your body through you then put your baby through. Just the same as not smoking and drinking when your pregnant, you shouldn't restrict you or your babies oxygen either.

I am normally super active, I work out at my box 5-6 days a week and competed on a competitive adult kickball league. I am so glad to finally round out my first trimester because the increased blood volume and progesterone couple together for extreme fatigue. I took complete weeks off at one point. I had no desire to get off the couch, let alone go to the gym. For Christmas my man got me a stationary bike so that I could at least do something on my worst days.  Remember you are now at a greater risk of overheating. This is your most important concern when hitting the gym in this trimester.  While in my first trimester and working out at my box I always made sure that I was closest to the big floor fan. If there is no floor fan, try to stand next to an open door. Even if the other members think its a little cold this time of year, you will need it. I also encourage you to make sure you have plenty of water. Dehydration is a huge concern at this point as well. You need to already be drinking excess water for your bodies increased production of blood so while working out you are in desperate need for excess water. I always workout close to the water fountain and now that everyone knows my secret I even pull the fan close to me so I have both. I have no problem being a fan hog. I have noticed that none of my fellow crossfitters at CrossFit Bluegrass do either.

Exercise substitutes for the First Trimester
GHD Sit Ups: Regular Sit-Ups / Crunches
Toes 2 Bar: Knees 2 Elbows
Burpees: Use Cation & Your Head (See below)
Hand stand push-ups: Push Press
Box jumps: Lowest Box
Above I have listed the exercise changes I made in the 1st Trimester. I do not think it is smart to do any exercises on the GHD machine while pregnant. Too many people over extend while on this piece of equipment. I feel its just safest to avoid it all together. I continued to do burpees during my 1st Trimester but there wasn't much speed involved (very sloppy form was OK with me). I went down 1 hand and 1 leg at a time (NO dropping to the ground). I also completely avoided handstand push ups. There is enough going on with your circulatory system and heart that there is no need of putting your body through the extra stress of having all the blood rush to your head. Hand stand push-ups are a shoulder push movement so I recommend doing either dumbbell presses, strict shoulder presses or push presses, which ever your comfortable with. I also continued doing box jumps during my 1st Trimester, I just lowered the height of my normal box(instead of 24 in I used a 20in box). I am by no means a doctor. These are just my suggestions. No professional opinions here.
2nd Trimester tips to come. I am in my 14th week so I will keep you posted with what I find..... 

FOOTBALL 5-10-15

Lets not be a complete waiste today...
I know its a big day for all you football fans, but lets start it off right.

The Football 5-10-15
5 Hanstand Push ups (5 push-ups)
10 Ring Dips / (Tricep chair dips/ the stronger you are the... lower your but must go.)
15 Toes to Bar (No pull up bar at home/ do Butterfly Sit-ups
( *Do five rounds then do one 1 min wall sit at end.)
5 Deadlifts (Use dumbells if no bar)
10 Alternating Weighted Lunges (each Leg)
15 Weighted Squat bottum hold. (hold at bottum for 4 seconds. No weight if beginer)
(Do 5 rounds of this and one 1 min wall sit at end again.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Energie Addidction.... Needs to End!

A note on using caffeine… (Disclaimer: I am in no way a science person, all of this is coming from my personal experience). Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE caffeine addict; like some people wonder how my heart still functions. While... I know it’s not a good thing, it is my vice and it is hard to quit.
The thing is, many people use caffeine, whether as their morning Starbucks fix or in a preworkout supplement to enhance their performance at the gym. I do believe caffeine has its place, but, too much of anything is a bad thing. Here is what happened to me yesterday…

 As I’m standing in the checkout line I see those lovely Monster Rehab “lemonades” staring at me. A cloudy day, early morning, a 2-for-1 sale and I caved. A smarter, more disciplined person than I would have one now, save one for another day. Well, suffice to say my diet yesterday basically consisted of both of those. I guess it’s a vice. 
You may be thinking heart palpitations, jitters, all those other sorts of caffeine related side effects… those things don’t happen to me anymore (I told you, caffeine addict, I’m now immune). Here is what did happen… I went to class last night. I went early to do my extra strength training; when class started I did my class strength training, I did the first portion of the “metcon”… The second portion started and… nothing. I had nothing left to give. It wasn’t that I was tired, I just had nothing left. THIS is my caffeine side effect, and it prevents me from doing all of the things I’m capable of.
It was once explained to me that we basically have a certain amount of energy everyday. When we use caffeine, it doesn’t exactly give you more energy, it steals energy from your reserve for later and uses it up now. Then later you have nothing. I cannot attest to the “science” of that, but it made sense to me.
This was my cue that it is time to stop altogether, at least for awhile. Bring on the headaches and drowsiness, I’d rather have that than weakness. Detox day 1 starts tomorrow, I’ll keep you posted.
At some point, that which you use to be more, can make you less and you have to step back and readjust your priorities.