Fix Your Squat

10896871_936713919680138_7746851009549468939_nEveryone wants to master the snatch!!!

It is the fastest barbell movement, and since we are talking about it, it is also the coolest looking lift in the world!

Let’s look at this in terms of how we began to move as toddlers: first we learned how to crawl; then we moved on to walking; and once we figured that out, we started running.

Why do we try to reverse that order in the gym?

CrossFit Equation: If (snatching= running) and (overhead squatting= walking), then (_______= crawling).

Answer: ________= squatting.

So to recap, we first polish up on the squat, then hone in the overhead squat, and lastly work towards mastering the snatch. Today we are going to focus on the squat.

Squat: In a recent post, coach Teddy talked about the importance of range of motion. If we are in fact going to start with squatting then let’s make sure that range of motion is one of our priorities in our squat.

Watch Kendrick Farris in this snatch video. Where do you think he squats to? Stopping at parallel is not the goal.

Another priority in the squat is to keep tension throughout your squat. You want to actively push through your midline. You do this by engaging your core as if you were pushing into a weight belt on the way down and all the way back up.

If your first move at the bottom of your squat is to lean your chest forward, then you are completely taking your quadriceps out of the equation and putting the load on your lower back and hips. Is this you? Have you hurt yourself or been super sore in areas that you shouldn’t when squatting? Take a deeper look into this then.

Along with keeping tension in your midline, focus on keeping the weight directly over the middle of your foot. The second you lose tension and your chest dips forward, the weight is now over your toes. Not good.

There are many other facets of the squat that we can talk about, and we will at some point, but for today let’s focus on pushing our range of motion to a place that might be out of our normal comfort zone, while keeping tension through our midline.

Homework: Instead of putting yourself in crappy positions just to get a quicker score or to put up more weight, try the above technique tips to keep you working towards bigger and better goals within the gym!

Creamy Spiced Kale

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Tired of eating the same old chicken breast, wishing that you had a great side dish to compliment it?

Say no more.

Try this tasty kale dish that takes less than ten minutes before its ready to devour.

Ingredients:

- 1 large bunch of kale

- 2 teaspoons Ras el Hamout (bunch of spices thrown together- look below)

- 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

- pinch of salt

- 1 teaspoon coconut oil

- 1/2 cup coconut milk (make sure to buy a brand without guar gum in the ingredients)

- (optional for more spice)- 1/2 jalapeño pepper finely chopped or 2 tsp crushed red pepper

Ras el Hanout- This is good to have on hand for different dishes that you make. Combine all spices and herbs together and mix. Store in airtight container.

- 2 tsp salt

- 2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp powdered ginger

2 tsp ground black pepper

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Directions:

- Wash kale and remove large stems. Tear into smallish pieces. Don’t dry off leaves before cooking. Wet leaves are good for steaming and softening harder greens.

- Over medium heat, toss in half the kale and stir until it begins to wilt and then throw in the remaining leaves. Cover with lid.

- In a small bowl mix Ras el Hanout, garlic and salt. If you chose the optional jalapeño or crushed red peppers, add them in.

- When leaves are dark and have begun to wilt, remove the lid and slide the kale to the side of the pan.

- Now add coconut oil to the pan and pour spices directly into the melted coconut oil.

- Lastly pour in the coconut milk and stir until everything is mixed evenly.

This was an instant classic at our house and probably will  be in yours too!!!

Just Show Up

10917440_927878980563632_32964233361846055_nFor the past few weeks we have spent time figuring out our 2015 goals; goals that we would move mountains to achieve. Prepare for victory by breaking down these goals into not so overwhelming steps.

You have goals. Now what?

Now it’s time to walk the walk and do what you said you were going to do. A lot of us make it a huge deal to have actionable steps broken down so much that you almost forget about what your trying to achieve in the first place. Don’t over think it.

1) Just show up.

2) Track your progress.

3) Watch the great results you’ll get just from following the weekly programming.

Just show up does not mean come when you feel like it or when it’s convenient. It means plan out your week in advance, come to the amount of classes you committed to, and move towards your fitness goals. Personally speaking, I plan the rest of my day around when I am going to workout, because it is that important to me. I assume that most of you fall into this category yourselves. You can choose to make it a habit or a hobby.

Track your progress does not mean that you gauge where you think your athletic abilities are in your head. It means that the first thing you do when you get done with your workout, yes before you drink your muscle powder shake, log your results into Beyond the Whiteboard. This is not optional. You are all at this gym for a reason; track your workouts! We all have smartphones that have the Beyond the Whiteboard app., and we now have a kiosk located by the door where you can enter your scores.

Beyond the Whiteboard put out a blog post that talks about tracking how much you come to the gym per week, per month, and per year. If you logged your 2014 workouts, it will show how you stack up from an attendance standpoint, right on the home screen of the app.

Showing up is ninety percent of the battle. The other ten percent is making a plan and executing.

If you need help breaking down the goals you’ve made into how you can work towards achieving them, please let your coach know and we will tailor a plan for you.

In 2015 be intentional with your health. Plan when you are going to workout. Show up and track your progress!

If you have not yet submitted your goals to goals@twintownfitness.com, please do so by Sunday, January 11th.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

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This Winter I decided to work on my front squat. I can’t adequately describe how much I fear and hate the front squat. It hurts. I’m bad at it. But it’s the limiting factor in my clean & jerk specifically and CrossFit generally, so I figured I better deal with it.

I did a bunch of research and found a twelve week front squat program written by the venerable Charles Poliquin. I’m now starting my sixth week and I can say that my front squat has improved. A lot.

What I can’t say is that it’s because of the programming.

Looking through my training journals, I realized that I’ve front-squatted more in the past six weeks than I have in the past six years. Twice a week, every week, grinding out reps no matter what.

It adds up, and at my level, that’s what matters. I could have rolled dice to determine sets and reps and as long as I showed up and put my work in, I would have gotten better at the front squat.

CrossFitters, especially those who wish to compete, ascribe magical properties to programming. Rudy Nielsen of the Outlaw Way, James Fitzgerald of OPEX, and others have achieved wizard status in our world.

I get it. People want to believe in magic, because it makes reality less painful. Who wants to grind when you can become awesome with a magic pill?

But for those people who think the only thing preventing you from becoming a superhero is special programming I have a few observations:

1) People love success stories and it’s awesome to root for Outlaw and Ute athletes who consistently reach the podium. But lots of people train under those systems. If the magic only works for some, is it really magic? It’s not the programming. It’s the athlete.

2) Rich Froning, the most dominant CrossFit athlete of our time follows no set programming but makes it up as he goes along, based on how he feels on a given day. What differentiates Froning from everyone else is not his programming but his volume, which is mind boggling. It’s not the programming. It’s the athlete.

3) ALL programming is based on the assumption that you are a good mover. If you are not a good mover; if you don’t have an impeccable squat; if you have any form of impingement or restriction, then accumulating volume will cause you to regress and probably injure yourself. It’s not the programming. It’s the athlete.

Occasionally people will ask me to write programming for them and I am glad to do so. I work hard at it and take it seriously, and most of my clients are happy with the outcome. But when my clients succeed, it’s because they showed up and put in their work.

It’s not the programming. It’s the athlete.

Arousal States and Training

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I used to listen to Bebel Gilberto in the gym until everybody complained. Apparently I’m the only one who wants to listen to bossa nova while working out. Nowadays the speakers blare a reliable cacaphony of popular music by long-haired degenerates and big-bootied minxes. Groan.

Aside from the obvious, the difference between Bebel Gilberto and say, Nicki Minaj, is that Gilberto’s beats are usually notated in 2/4 time which is characteristic of a relaxing, side-to-side, “swaying” beat. Minaj’s music is primarily 4/4 which is a straight-ahead, charging beat that you can bob your head to.

Most people prefer working out to a 4/4 beat because it increases arousal state which is a fancy way of saying it psychs you up. In the world of sports psychology there are numerous divergent theories about how arousal affects performance, ranging from the plausible to the absurd.

I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole but I will point out that most research in the area is based on the assumption that athletes’ arousal states are low in training and high in competition.

This is a very problematic idea for CrossFitters for whom the line between training and competition is blurred. I would make the case that in a completely randomized programming environment you can’t train, because training presupposes deliberation and planning. If every workout is a random beat-down then you basically have to psych yourself up, as a matter of  survival. At TwinTown we don’t like random. The foundation of  our programming is progression and repetition. Whereas civilians exercise…athletes train, and we see an athlete in everybody.

So how do you meet us in the middle? You can’t do much about the music in the gym, but you are in control of your own mindset. The biggest thing you can do to affect mindset is to think beyond the workout that’s in front of you. If you have a clearly established goal you can treat your time in the gym as focused training, rather than mere exercise. When you set foot in the gym, remind yourself of your goal. Ask yourself, what am I training for?

When you find a strong, goal-directed motivation, you won’t need to psych yourself up anymore. You will be able to manage your arousal state and train from a place of calm and focus, rather than desperation and anxiety.

If you haven’t yet emailed your 2015 goals to Coach Brock it’s not too late. Email goals@twintownfitness.com with your top three fitness goals for 2015. Let’s train!

Prepare for Victory

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Last week we went over how to go about choosing goals for the New Year.

If you really want to achieve your goals you need to be specific, and also have something that is reasonable, measurable, and attainable. Pick something that is going to drive you until you have achieved it.

Do you have an eerie feeling when you think about your goals? Oh man, why did I tell everyone what I want to work on, because I don’t even know how to get there? I’m not even sure where to start?

Any goal that has ever been written looks overwhelming to begin with, so thats why it is important to break them down into small actionable steps. There was a great article on TED Talks earlier this week, where Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University, mentioned to focus on the process, not the outcome.

“People often get lost thinking they have to change everything all at once,” says McGonigal. “But small changes can pave the way for bigger changes.” Ask yourself, what is the smallest thing I can do today that helps me reach my goal? For example, if you’re shy and you want to be more outgoing, you might accept someone’s invitation to lunch or say hi to someone you usually walk past in the hallway. From there, just follow the breadcrumbs — one small choice after another.

“You can make very, very small changes that are consistent with your big goals without having to understand how you’re going to get to the endgame,” says McGonigal. If you make daily choices that are consistent with your goal over and over again, you will eventually reach it

If your goal is to do one strict pull-up, actionable steps may start with nothing but ring rows for the first 2 months of the year. While doing your ring rows you can constantly challenge yourself, but you have to make a conscious effort to do so. Start your ring rows at a forty-five degree angle to the floor and slowly inch your way closer to parallel  to the floor.

The next step would be to move to banded pull-ups. You may have to work on them on your own time, before or after class. I promise that these guys will not care, as long as you stay out of the way. Everyday that you enter the gym, do not leave until you have done five sets of five pull-ups. Every week or so shoot to decrease the tension of band that you use.

There are many areas in which you can improve towards getting that pull-up. If you need help with it ask a coach to put together a plan with you.

In addition to breaking your goals down into actionable steps, there are other ways to move towards reaching your goals. Maybe your goal is to be able to do a snatch with an empty bar, but you lack the shoulder mobility to do so. Something that you need to improve would be your mobility. Your coach can help you with movements to increase range of motion. Yoga should be a part of everyone’s weekly routine if you lack the discipline to spend adequate time on mobility.

Lastly, just by coming to class consistently our programming will help you in ways that you will only notice when you start tracking your progress. And unless you are a direct descendant of Nostradamus, and you can accurately predict what your fitness level is going to be at any given time, it is mandatory that you enter every score into Beyond the Whiteboard!

It is not too late to get your goals for 2015 sent to us. Email them to goals@twintownfitness.com

What Are Your Goals For 2015?

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Sure, everyone wants to lose weight, drop pant sizes, feel great and just look the best they can overall; but as they say, “the devil is in the details.”

What happens when you do not have specific goals?

When goals aren’t specific, or when they do not have an end date, you are aimlessly moving in a direction which you might feel is the right way, but how do you know for sure? How do you measure progress? Are you actually making progress or are you regressing?

Why did Rocky Balboa always beat the can’t lose, on top of the world champions in the “Rocky” movies? Because he had one specific goal in mind: to dethrone the best. And to do so he would run over broken glass, climb through fire, scratch, claw, never give in, never quit, and go to hell and back to get there. You won’t have to fight Apollo Creed, Mr. T, or the Russian, Ivan Drago, to reach your goals, but you will need to approach them with the same dedication that Rocky had to becoming champion in order to achieve them.

Goals must be specific, so that you know exactly what they are and when you have reached them. I often hear people say, “I’m working out here just to maintain,” or “I’m just trying not to look any older than I already feel.” Maintain what? How you going to achieve feeling younger?

Goals must be meaningful. They must be something that you truly want and will work towards achieving. If need be, you can tie something to these to motivate you. For example, “I will buy myself that new pair of shoes if I can work my way up to getting that first muscle-up.”

Goals must be attainable. If I just started CrossFit and was working on ring rows and banded pull-ups, getting my first strict pull-up by the end of 2015 would be attainable.

Goals must be reasonable. If you just started Olympic lifting, and you have a tough time even supporting the technique bar overhead, your goal should not be to snatch 200 lb by the end of 2015. A reasonable goal would be to support an empty bar overhead with perfect form before the end of 2015.

There is a lot more to goals than just making them. To reach them you must WRITE THEM DOWN! You need to tell someone who will keep you accountable while working towards them. You must have an action plan and not just hope to get there by accident.

We as coaches would like to let you know that we aren’t just here to bark at you guys and expect you to do something we wouldn’t do ourselves. So here’s the deal. We have all come up with three goals that we will work towards achieving in 2015. We will post them on a wall in the gym and we need your help to keep us accountable.

Without further ado, here are the coaches’ goals for 2015:

Kayser

-       Snatch 185 lb
-       String together muscle-ups
-       Pistols on each leg

Lizzie

-       10 unbroken chest-to-deck push-ups
-       Strict pull-up
-       Complete my first WOD with lifting elements at Rx

Teddy

-       Earn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt
-       2k row under 7:00
-       Top 100 in my division/regions in the CrossFit Open

Joe W.

-       20 unbroken muscle-ups
-       Jerk 225 lb
-       Complete “King Kong” at Rx (3 rounds- 1- deadlift 455 lb, 2 cleans 250 lb, 3 muscle-ups, 4 HSPU)

Andy B.

-       Clean & jerk 265 lb
-       Handstand push-ups
-       Better lean body composition, less than 16%

Tracy

-       Legit chest-to-bar pull-ups
-       Deadlift 400 lb
-       Bodyweight clean & jerk

Ashley

-       Do a straddle press to handstand and a pike press to handstand
-       30 consecutive double-unders
-       5 consecutive muscle-ups

Emily

-       10 consecutive kipping pull-ups
-       Transition from firefly to handstand
-       Complete “Jerry” under 20:00

Peter

-       Snatch 200 lb
-       10 unbroken muscle-ups
-       3 consecutive freestanding handstand push-ups

Drew

-       Snatch 200 lb
-       Sub 5:10 mile
-       Back squat 375 lb

Clare

-       3 consecutive strict pull-ups
-       10 unbroken chest-to-deck push-ups
-       Clean & jerk 200 lb

Keela

-       Clean 200 lb
-       Rx WODs with ring muscle ups in them
-       Finish in the top 500 women in the North Central Region

Bobby

-       Sub 6 minute “Fran”
-       String together 3 muscle-ups
-       1 strict HSPU

Martha B.

-       100 unbroken double-unders
-       Pistols on each leg
-       10 minutes of hip and ankle mobility each day

Brock

-       Clean & jerk 315 lb
-       150 unbroken double-unders
-       30 pull-ups, 20 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 10 consecutive muscle-ups

We would like to know what you are working on as well, so we have created an email specifically for you to send us your goals to goals@twintownfitness.com. These will be posted up in the gym for everyone to see so make sure you spend some time thinking about what is important to you. When writing them please make them specific, measurable, attainable and reasonable.

There is more to reaching your goals than just writing them down. Stay tuned for a further breakdown of how to achieve your goals.

We all look forward to helping you work towards what drives you in 2015!

Crushing “Fight Gone Bad”

IMG_9685On Saturday, members of TwinTown Fitness took on the beast known as “Fight Gone Bad”, and you kicked some serious butt. It was awesome to see so many people give this workout everything they had from start to finish. A lot of you achieved personal bests, and a lot of you threw your hat into the ring for the first time. Great job accepting the challenge and rising to the occasion.

Beyond the tremendous athletic achievements of the day, something else stood out to me: all of you, whether before or after your heat, stood on the sidelines supporting your buddies. You cheered one another on and helped each other push through the pain. This show of support reinforced my belief that our community is truly special. We have a group of dedicated athletes who work their tails off and help each other push themselves to be their best. I could not be more proud of all of you.

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As coaches, we are truly fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people. For me, it makes this a dream job because it’s like being on a team again. Camaraderie like this is special because it is rare.

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I appreciate each one of you more than I could ever express here in words. You are an awesome group and I can’t wait to see you dominate our next challenge.

Is Your Butt Winking?

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You’ve probably heard one of your coaches at TwinTown Fitness use the term butt wink before. But what does it mean, and more important, how do you prevent it from happening?

The butt wink is a term used to describe the posterior rotation of an athlete’s pelvis during a squat, i.e., your tailbone tucks underneath your body during the squat.

A butt wink can occur because the range of motion in your hips is limited once you reach a certain depth. It might also happen because you have tight hamstrings.

There is no doubt that a butt wink is bad. Kelly Starrett says that when you butt wink, the whole system is then compromised do to instability. Your core turns off, causing you to get loose in the bottom, which leaves you poorly braced.

This becomes really problematic when you have a loaded barbell on your shoulders because your risk of injury goes up.

How do you fix a butt wink?

First, address your posterior chain and hamstring mobility.

Starrett suggests squeezing your belly and your butt to stabilize your spine at the top of your squat. Then, initiate the squat by pushing your knees out laterally and your hamstrings, not your butt, back. You should drive your knees out as far laterally as possible, and screw your feet into the ground, creating torque as you get deeper in your squat. Imagine that you have a connected sheet of paper towel under both feet and you want to tear it in the middle.

But until you master the awareness to do this while banging out a set of squats, stop your squat where you begin to butt wink.

For some athletes this occurs when their hips are at ninety degrees, for others it doesn’t happen until they get below parallel. If you are unsure of where your tailbone starts to tuck under your body, ask a coach to watch you and place a box or medicine ball to stop your squat right before this point.

Stay there with the box or medicine ball for a while and really feel what your body is and is not doing to this point. Are you tight in the bottom? Is your back rounding? Then remove the object, squat to full depth, and see if it feels different to you. Try to recreate the feeling your body had before you began to butt wink. If you are unable to do this, go back up to the box or medicine ball and don’t go any deeper until you have worked on your mobility and can squat without a butt wink.

Why Molly is Great

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Molly has been a part of the TwinTown community for the past six months. If you have been in a class with her, you probably already know why she’s great. If you haven’t, well then, let me tell you.

The spirit that she brings with her to class is first and foremost – I have just never seen her not happy, and it is contagious in the best way. Molly shows up ready to work, every time. Even before taking on Fran last week (which she clobbered, by the way), she was all smiles and ready to go.

As far as gym-specific progress, Molly is all over it. She is steadily making small tweaks and improvements to her lifts, and watching her numbers go up in the exact, attainable ways we want to see them rise. She is also now just crushing pull-ups without any problem. When she first started she had yet to get them down. After a brief one-on-one with coach Joe, and some persistent practice, Molly is now among the top finishers in our pull-up workouts. Her first swing at Fran as prescribed was in 6:02?! Come on!

Keep up the hard work, Molly. We are all really excited to watch your progress continue!