Create a More Complete Program: for CrossFits, Boot Camps, and everyone else…

 In Workouts

The year was 1995. Forrest Gump answered the question of what stupid is. Pam and Tommy do the same thing by tying an unfortunate knot (and the world watches as he steers a boat with his endowment). Jerry Garcia, of the band The Warlocks, dies.

It is also the year that a new trend in fitness begins to shape up, so to speak. There are these big, inflatable balls that bring fitness to a whole new level. So simple, yet so effective for developing this new rage called your core. The fit ball, or the swiss ball or the resist-a-ball, this instant fitness classic, was the TRX of the times. Showy, fun, but not really the best bang-for-the-buck. Although more circus act than powerhouse (just like the TRX… yeah, not a huge fan), the fit ball in the mid-90’s was about to become the Next Big Thing.

So it isn’t without a slight bit of embarrassment that I admit to a little known fact. I was the first Resist-a-Ball certified trainer in California. But that isn’t the actual story here. To acquire this cert, one of the 14 or so I collected in the early years when I thought such things mattered, I had a delightfully educating trip to the wonderful town of Calrsbad, CA, where I spent a weekend with some of the most entertaining, and in some cases, irritating, biomechanics geeks I’d yet to encounter at that point in my training life. Arguments such as the correct degree of shoulder joint angle to achieve the greatest rear delt recruitment (yeah… at a big, bouncy ball workshop) abounded, all with complete sincerity.

NOT a resist-a-ball

But the favorite little bit of knowledge I walked away with was about the building that housed the workshop… a decent sized fitness studio that was home to Jazzercize HQ. Even 16+ years ago, some of us had to ask if Jazzercise was still around, and apparently it was (is).

(Quick bit o’ facts from the interweb: “In 2009/2010 Jazzercise reported 96 Million in revenue. On the 2011 Entrepreneur Franchise 500 list, Jazzercise ranks as the #1 fitness franchise and #17 overall. In March 2009, MSNBC placed Jazzercise in their top 5 list of proven franchises that provide growth opportunity.”)

I’m not about to research much more on its current business model, but here is how it worked in the mid 90’s, all of which I learned during my stint in Carlsbad. Every year the institution that is Jazzercise created a routine that could be easily taught. That routine was to last the entire year, so if anyone traveled, they could visit a jazzercise studio anywhere and already know the steps.

NOT Jazzercise

 

Let this prelude just be a little story about not only the length of time I’ve been in this industry, but also the lifespan and evolution of certain trends. An interesting irony: despite its almost 1 billion dollar industry chunk, I couldn’t tell you where a local Jazzercise facility is.  In my mind, they’re more underground than olympic lifting gyms, crossfits or kettlebell dens, of which I can point to half a dozen within a couple of miles from me. If being unknown is the litmus for cool, who is hardcore now? Jazzercise… the hipsters of fitness.

So what am I on about then? I’m gonna throw some ideas out there that will help end the potential that is often being wasted in many modern trainers. I’m seeing an amazing network holding itself back. I’m seeing limitless possibility, but only occasional success (and you know who you are). I see a growth of enthusiastic nouveau trainers lacking the true time it takes to understand movement, force development and the human relation to both. As I’ve written before…

With new blood often comes diluted understanding. The new breed of teachers and coaches often haven’t spent the time under the bar, or time at the master’s feet, needed to truly pass on the lessons and traditions that sometimes need a few lifetimes to appreciate. Anything resembling an apprentice process has become a 2-day certification, and now there are too many folks teaching what they, the teachers, barely comprehend. That’s the new trend amongst the popularizing of the once underground Physical Culture. Despite the growing trend of barbells and this pseudo-physical culture that is spreading, most of the new breed of coaches (which seems to be the preferred term over ‘trainer’ these days) are still in proverbial diapers when it comes to introducing force to the body in strange and intense ways. Passion alone doesn’t create a trainer (coach… whatever), nor does a weekend certification or a few initials after your name.

Not only are many of the coaches new to applying movement to other people, but they’re painfully unaware of the many, MANY possible better options for movement, technique and even program design that might be out there. It’s like getting a bachelors degree in a particular subject without even realizing there were other majors, higher levels of degrees or even other colleges.

Here’s an recent example. At a recent fitness convention I met a pair of young women (drinking age would have to be proven) who were raving about their equally young coach, who was with them, and about how brilliant his workouts were. Well, after hearing a bit about his ideas on programming, it was obvious that not only were these workouts a bit short of brilliant, but that none of them knew anything much different. Rule number one of being a trainer (coach… so be it): it is easy to impress an audience who doesn’t know any better. Heck, that’s the entire M.O. of the fitness industry. Be loud, be intense, be enthusiastic, and the general public, who doesn’t know any better, will shout “revolutionary!” That, more so than actual quality, lends to the rise of any fitness trend, no matter how hard we try not to believe that.

Here’s the good news…

A lot of modern ideas aren’t bad ones. Do some quality work using quality movements to create some quality intensity. Keep said quality high and there should be some quality results. That, on paper, is a good absence of bullshit. Simple. Basic. And as is well understood in the iron game, simple is not synonymous with easy, so the workouts will be anything but, since power output, which requires harder work in a shorter period of time, makes the body better.

But…

To create all this quality, you need a bit of lurnin’, a bit of spirit, a bit of passion and a good heaping of free thought. Like any art, craft or skill, some serious study and application needs to happen before ya load up another human being with a barbell and make them move fast. That is where the current execution of the modern trends, certifications and programs falls short.

So what can be done? Well if ya care to read on, I’ve jotted a few ideas here. Keep in mind this very simple premise…

It takes no talent to create a hard workout. A good workout, on the other hand, requires a greater degree of understanding. Do you know the difference? 

 

1) Intensity through Load! Do more by making it harder, but not through volume but rather weight. I recently saw a CF WOD that had 9 exercises done for 30 reps each. 270 reps? That is turning the intensity of sprinting into the slog-fest of jogging, and sloppy jogging at that. That’s diluting true intensity for pure exhaustion.   And if anyone thinks the 30 burpees in the middle of this combo will be of anything resembling quality, then you’ve got a poor grasp of what a quality burpee should actually look like.

So… up the weight, lower the reps. Yeah, 30 reps of OH squats at 75 pounds might be a challenge, but what about 15 reps at twice that weight? Or 5 reps at 200? The attempt alone would kick the metabolism into overdrive and the spirit would have a much greater opportunity to chat with the brain and body.

What about the 21/15/9 protocol?  It doesn’t suck, but why not make it better? Here’s a switch, one that guarantee will trash you on another level. 9/6/3. But at 85%/90%/95% of your one rep max. Keep with the 2 or 3 exercise scheme, just make the load a challenge, where even the first rep makes the brain interpret the bar as pretty darn heavy. Are ya doing a 400m run in there? How about a 50 yard all-out sprint?

Early morning sun lights up a heavy deadlift combo

2) Intensity through Creativity! There are far more movement possibilities than the basic 15 exercises used in most WODs and boot camps. First, ditch the superfluous ones. Ball throws, ball slams and anything that falls into the battling rope category… toss it on the same dust bin we all tossed our fit balls from 15 years ago. Fun, sometimes productive, but more fluff than substance, more noise than results. I know, they sure make building a WOD easy. And they’re safe as can be. Unless ya get hit point blank in the face, you won’t get hurt by those squishy time wasters. They’ve got a playful element to them as well, so perhaps not entirely, utterly useless… just highly overused. No one is truly increasing their athletic prowess by tossing a ball up or swinging a sorta heavy rope around.

Second, increase the awareness of your current tools. You’ve got kettlebells… why are ya only swinging and snatching with them (oh, and the occasional get up)? Same with your sandbags, dumbbells and barbells. Oh, and don’t get me started on bodyweight possibilities. Add some lateral movements, rotational movements and do a few things on one leg. And get creative with tools and movement you already do. Here’s an example of taking two movements and expanding them extensively…

…And here’s another video of taking a basic joy of life, the burpee, and asking the question “where can we go from here?”

The kick through burpee at 3:11 in the video will bring seasoned athletes to places they’ve never gone before, both physically and in their souls.

Guess what? These are a little trickier to teach people. Well… what kind of coach are ya?

Third, crawl. The quickest way to increase the overall effectiveness of a workout is to get folks moving on all fours. Bear crawls, gorillas, crab crawls, inch worms, seals, etc. Let the kid in you take over and get as playful as heck. For adults, these are some of the hardest movements to do for any length of time. Covering distance lower to the ground is simple, yet hugely  difficult.

Odessa playing gorilla games with a weighted vest.

You’re an artist. And, believe it or not, so are your members and clients. A mantra we ask continually in the Bodytribe workshops is Where can we go from here? It is an extension of Dan John’s 9th commandment of lifting… Put a bar on the ground and pick it up a bunch of different ways. Whatever tool you have, any positon you happen to be in, ask yourself… where can you go from here?

 

3) Intensity through Planning! I know CF and bootcamps dig randomness, but random attempts produce random results. Build an actual program. It sure doesn’t have to be a strict linear progression based on formulas, percentages, calculations and stuff written by people with names like Bompa or Verkhoshansky. We’ve found some amazing middle ground in our programming at Bodytribe, with direct measurable progress on everything from mobility to GPP to 1 rep maxes, but with personal inspiration, intuition and feedback that makes the program as organic as it is structured… but that would be another entire post (heck, possibly a book).

 

4) Intensity through Purity! Do it right. Before ya do it more, do it better. This really, truly is number 1. Oh, how many workshop have I taught where simply correcting pushup form reduced everyone’s numbers into low double digits, or even single digits? Oh… and it makes the workout even harder.

Here’s more…

Look… a hard, crappy workout is still a crappy workout. Enduring a tough workout is not life changing. Enduring a GOOD workout is, but it is not always easy to find a modern trainer or coach who knows the difference. The false empowerment of accomplishing a poorly executed workout is currently fueling the nouveau fitness culture, creating the belief that surviving some sort of grueling mishmash of challenging exercises, through any means necessary, is the only goal worth having.

and…

If practice makes permanent, and it does, then the current stopwatch model of ‘do a lot, fast’ is teaching our organic machines slop, therefore making slop permanent. And that breaks machines. Workload is an important factor in fitness, but it is not the ONLY factor by far, nor does it have to be sloppy.  Volume and speed are only two ingredients to an athletic stew, and any true coach worth a damn understands that these ingredients are malleable. More of either or both is not always the best option. Often, BETTER is the most important element to making us better. More technique, not volume or speed, can add an intensity challenge and embodiment quality that has a greater effect on the human body.

Your body needs you to believe that doing something correctly is Job One.

The legendary Tommy Kono speaks to us yet again about how Practice make Permanent.

5) Intensity through Play! Sure, this seems redundant after everything else mentioned here, but how truly playful is your training? Some ideas we’ve included into our Brutal Recess involve everything from freeform flows to parkour to create-a-burpee challenges. Again, this is another post entirely, but an important one.

 

6) Intensity through Embodiment! Most modern practices of embodiment are usually found in the stillness of calm meditation, or body scan practices of folks like Jon Kabat-Zinn. But we’ve found that amalgamating movement and intensity with otherwise passive awareness protocols can create quite a piquant little cocktail of performance and enjoyment. It’s dynamic visualization, turning judgment into observation and not mucking up the body’s ability with the extra gunk the brain brings to the process.  Mind over matter isn’t really accurate when discussing intense movement scenarios. The brain, so full of judgment, bias and all those giant lists of shoulds and shouldn’ts that we bring to every movement we do, tries to command or interupt the body in its sheer mirth of moving. The brain perceives exhaustion before the body. It isn’t listening to the body as it should, it is shoving all of its judgment on the body.

The mind doesn’t  overcome the challenge. To sum up embodiment in a sentence: the mind needs to shut the hell up and let the body do its thing. Turning judgment into observation is the goal,  but, of course, we don’t have the space to wax endlessly about it here. Lets just say that embodiment training is the next step in holistic strength, and a great chunk of my next book is dedicated to this enlightening (but potentially boring, I suppose) conviction.

___

So now what? Well, this incomplete list is my personal reminder as well that intensity, the quasi-tangible fun fest that makes us better at being us, has a great many tools to ensure its potency.  As a trainer you can chose to be a cheerleader with a stopwatch, or a life changer. It’s up to you.

 

Scarlet, our a-little-too-embodied morning mascot.

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Showing 22 comments
  • Jody Woodl and
    Reply

    Hey Chip:

    Copy-edit fail – it’s Jon Kabat-Zinn.

    Also wanted to toss in a quick defence of Crossfit (though I’m not suggesting that you’re attacking them, I get where you’re coming from). Watching the fledgling box develop here in Whitehorse, it’s clear that some of the responsibility for poor form and a lack of interest in true variety lies with crossfit members, not just with their trainers and programmers. The disappointing fact is that a lot of people simply aren’t interested in learning about movement, they just want to get to the workout. In a big enough location or small place with simpatico people, some gyms (I do find “box” tiresome) are better able to enforce on-ramp requirements, movement standards and careful progression of clients. In too many others, they are stuck with responding to client demand that would otherwise drift away to other options.

    Anyway, long way to say that I agree that there is awesome potential unrealized in the Crossfit world, I just don’t think that that is solely the fault of crossfit trainers.

    Cheers,
    Jody

    • Chip
      Reply

      I suppose a school can blame the students, but a true strength dojo doesn’t cater to clients as much as creates a philosophy and prescribes it… or is that more of a perfect world scenario? There are very few gyms that grew from an original philosophy, most are using someone else’s words and ideas. So perhaps catering to a client or member is easier when they’re not really your ideas to begin with…? I dunno, but I do see your point of retention sometimes trumping ideal program design. It is no secret people will pay for having to think and learn less, and sometimes gym survival might mean accepting this. I’d rather close my doors than accept that, but lawd knows I suck at being a businessman.

      • Jody Woodl and
        Reply

        Kinda late getting back to ya on this but wanted to clarify that I’m with you on this. I’m glad you don’t compromise and that you haven’t felt like you had to. As you said, the best dojos are clear about what they’re about and aren’t afraid to part ways with clients or members who don’t really want what the gym offers. I have an idle fantasy about starting a small gym when I retire from my day job and letting like-minded folks work out there. As long as I don’t depend on the income, I’ll be fine!

  • Andy Paulson
    Reply

    Chip

    We met at a brutal recess gathering in St Paul (athlete lab) and I have been an active albeit quite tribe follower from a distance. I was reading along with interest as a reformed hybrid crossfitter but when I read the phrase…”the spirit would have a much greater opportunity to chat with the brain and body.”, I just could not remain silent. Thank you for continuing to be a champion of soulful based physical movement. As a psychologist striving to help clients integrate mind-body-spirit your ongoing consistent respect for body based wisdom has been a welcome resource. Therapeutics focused on mind management have just begun to realize the healing force of well aligned kettlebell. Keep spreading the good word.

    Andy

    • Chip
      Reply

      Andy! I wish we could get a chance to chat sometime. We’ve been exploring embodiment through intensity, rather then the usual passive forms of meditation so common right now. They have their place, but they don’t translate to greater ability, whereas taking those techniques and applying them to actual movement has been producing some valid insights. Tell those Athlete Lab folks its time to come back up there and teach a workshop!

  • Aub
    Reply

    Hi Chip,

    I love your enthusiasm and a lot of what you say resonates with me. However, I’m not sure I’m sold on the high intensity/high weight/few reps principle for all training. Personally, I know that I gain fast twitch, “bulkier” muscle very quickly. Each of us comes into this word with a specific amount of of Type 1 and Type 2 muscle cells. Through training, we can increase their size, but not their number. This can often predispose individuals for certain sports or muscle gains. I often think the “one size fits all” approach to workouts is just as silly as such an approach to nutrition. The overall foundational concepts might be the same (i.e. eat real, whole foods or exercise with intensity), but the execution often does (and should) vary widely.

    I would love to learn more as to why you seem to really emphasize high weight and low reps. It’s my experience that this will certainly build muscle, but I’m looking specifically for long, lean, toned muscle, not as-big-as-I-can-get or as strong as I can possibly be muscle. Think more graceful dancer, less typical female crossfit tournament champ. Perhaps the answer is I will always tend more towards the latter, no matter what type of workouts I perform. I’ve trained with a lot of different coaches (weight lifting, soccer, swimming, track, sailing, crossfit, yoga, etc) and been told many different things, but one thing that seemed to hold true for the majority was the idea that longer, leaner muscle resulted from lower weight and higher reps, while “bigger” muscle came from high weight and low reps. I’d love some guidance and more resources to read so I can learn more myself! Thanks!

  • Gubernatrix
    Reply

    Great article Chip!

    Can I offer some words to Aub too? Aub, I’m afraid you’ve been wrongly informed! High weight and low reps (5 or less) is how to build strength and power without much bulk. That is why, for example, track athletes use this protocol. Using higher reps and lower weight is better for muscle building- which is why bodybuilders train this way. Do you want to train like an athlete or like a bodybuilder?

    Also, muscles cannot get longer and leaner, they can only get bigger or smaller. Length is predetermined, and leanness is dependent on how much body fat you have.

    It’s also worth noting that form follows function to a certain extent. Want a dancer’s body? Become a dancer! But also accept that elite dancers, like elite athletes, are perfectly made for that activity, and the rest of us are more of a mix. Enjoy developing different abilities and physical traits.

    I’m a bit of a hybrid myself, with a tendency towards the type 2 end of the spectrum. I have a weightlifters’ body through doing weightlifting, and I’m proud of it!

    • Aub
      Reply

      Gubernatrix,

      I think I’m a bit confused with some of your response. First of all, after watching the Olympics, I would never consider the majority of track athletes to not be bulky. You suggested that they use the “high weight, low rep” protocol to keep from gaining bulk, but the thighs on those women is the exact thing I’m talking about. That, to me, is absolutely bulk.

      I’m also not sure what you mean when you say muscles can’t get longer and leaner. The act of stretching and increasing flexibility is all about making muscles longer. I’ve seen a LOT of yogis who are what I would consider “long and lean” and who are clearly VERY strong, but they are certainly not “big” or “bulky”. They are also not subscribing to the “high weight, low rep” regimen. If you took the same individual and asked them to do serious lifts, perhaps high intensity crossfit workouts for a year or took the same individual and had them do power yoga for a year, I feel confident in saying that you would get a drastically different result. Both are capable of producing a healthy individual, but the “look” will be very different. I’m not against lifting heavy weights, but if I’m already healthy and am looking to both maintain health and look a certain way, I’m not convinced that high weight low reps is the answer.

      • Chip
        Reply

        Now the truly interesting thing about this line of comments is that the ONE THING some women seem to be taking away from this blog post, which is actually quite long and covers a lot of ideas, is that they’re going to suddenly blow up with muscle, which, apparently, is gross and ugly. I’ve trained hundreds of women, and THIS SIMPLY DOESN’T HAPPEN. Their confidence increases, their abilities increase, their body changes as posture improves and, yes, the muscles begin to say hi. But this fear of turning into some sort of round-ish chunk of beef is utterly unfounded. It is a skewed idea of what a body should, would, and does look like. Check out our picture on the webpage or on our facebook page see the ranges of body shapes and types. They all lift heavy, among other things, and they all continually look and feel better. In fact, take a look at the pictures in the post. I believe every woman pictured here (including Allyson who is in one of the videos) has competed in powerlifting, weightlifting or both. I’m not sure what you see, but none of them really represent a bulky aesthetic in my book.

        Hey, if you’re scared of being strong, then don’t be. If you’re frightened of looking strong, than by all means, avoid it. Folks are free to look frail if that’s the desired aesthetic they’re going for, because that’s what the skinny look is to us folks who actually like to be able to do stuff. Seriously, if you think muscle = bulky, then avoid ’em. By the way, holding Olympic sprinters as a standard of bulky and even thinking for a moment that you’ll get anywhere near that ideal is either a huge pat on your own back (that you have the skill, discipline, nutrition and, uh, possible chemical enhancement that they have), or maybe just a poor comparison. That would be like me saying I’ll have the upper body of an Olympic gymnast if I start playing on the rings or doing handstands.

        By the way, a couple of times there seemed to be made in these comments a comparison between CrossFitters and bulk. The irony being that CrossFit does high reps in the majority of their WODs (sorta my point in the article actually).

        Flexibility is NOT about making muscle look longer (or actually be longer at rest). The only way you can make a resting muscle longer is to chop it off at the attachment and reattach it further down the bone. Flexibility is about increasing range of motion and has nothing to do with the actual look of a muscle. And since all muscle is lean muscle (fat and muscle being two different tissues), then a long, lean muscle is a media term that has no real meaning.

        The yogi argument needs to be reconsidered as well. A yogi is highly skilled. That isn’t directly synonymous with ‘strong.’ Where as you see athletes as big and bulky, those of us who covet strength might view folks who practice nothing but yoga as, well, breakable. Keep in mind, we incorporate a great deal of Yoga, mobility, handbalancing, etc. into our workouts. We’re not anti-yoga, just anti-pure specialization, and that includes JUST lifting heavy things.

        So I’m not sure how this skinny, frail, breakable ideal still continues to exist. Not even the media is as hell bent as it once was on perpetuating it (although it is still quite prevalent). I guess my sheltered life of hanging around folks who are attractive because of their strength and abilities keeps me a bit sequestered from what the rest of the world still thinks is sexy. Well, when the zombie apocalypse comes, guess who will survive?

        • Aub
          Reply

          Chip,

          I totally understand where you’re coming from. And please don’t take my comments as a suggestion that I prefer the idea of being frail – anyone who knows me (or has competed against me) knows that’s far from the truth. However, I have trained in many different arenas, and I can say with confidence that for me, when I lift very heavy, but with low reps, my muscles don’t just become more defined, but they become truly large, as in, biceps won’t fit into dress shirts and thighs won’t fit into jeans that fit around my waist.
          While I value strength, my goal is to feel good, be healthy, and look good. I’m not competing at some elite level, nor am I training to do so, so the aesthetic angle matters a lot more to me, which is something I think many articles disregard. It often seems like women only have 2 choices; be frail and weak, but maybe what society has so far deemed “attractive” or be very strong, and training to always lift more. Why is it not ok for women to just want to look good and be healthy? Looking good without being able to squat your own body weight doesn’t mean you’re not strong.
          With that said, I can bang out 10+ straight pull-ups with little trouble, run my ass off for a full soccer game, run 25+ miles a week and can’t remember ever having done a “modified” push-up in my life (and yes, I keep my elbows by my sides and go down until my chest touches the ground). I’m struggling because the “look” I want to achieve doesn’t seem to be happening, and that look has nothing to do with wanting to be frail or “average”. My goal is definitely more Jessica Biel than Paris Hilton; it’s just been my experience that heavy weights and low reps gets me more like female track sprinters.

          • Chip

            Muscles, and female track sprinters, are hot. Sorry ya don’t think so.

          • BCino

            Aub- I get what you’e saying. I was a soccer player and distance runner for many years and had huge thighs (I actually kinda love them now). But when I want to make my thighs smaller I STOP running long distances and paying soccer. Instead I lift heavy and watch my diet. I’m not saying that this is the solution for everyone, but for myself and most of my clients the lack of extended bouts of cardio combined with heavy lifting and healthy eating creates a much more lean figure. Always keep in mind your bodies appearance relies more on what you consume not how you exercise. Good luck!

  • Blair Lowe
    Reply

    Aub.

    http://www.higher-faster-sports.com/nonfunctionalmyth.html

    Btw, Chip loved the article. Yet another good one.

    I’ve been thinking lately, tinkering around with BW/gymnastics (as that is my primary background in the last 20 years) and DB/KB as conditioning play. No programming. Just some of this and some of that and I feel like doing some of these.

    It’s quite fun and works well given what implements I have at home ( an adjustable DB, a pullup bar around the corner at the neighborhood park, and 2 chairs for dips and L-sits ) and some wall space and floor space.

    I dunno about the crawls though. They are all just tiring and annoying across a 40′ floor. No thanks, though I don’t mind them as warmup drills. They are interesting for a good workout I’ll admit and way tiring.

    • Chip
      Reply

      Crawls help us stay young. That’s why we love ’em (plus the multi-directional movement possibilities, the potential rotational elements, the postural awesomeness of quadrupedal movement, and the mobility/stability considerations of the hips and shoulders).

      But the tinkering your doing can be a groovy part of an otherwise organized program. We have free movement segments in our workouts on occasion, to heart, mind and body playfully intense.

  • Gubernatrix
    Reply

    Hi Aub,

    Chip more or less answered your queries but I just wanted to add that there’s a huge range of physiques in athletics, from 100/200m sprinters (who have bigger muscles generally), to 400m, 800m, hurdles (getting smaller), 1500m, 5000m and 10000m (now we’re getting pretty skinny), not to mention long jumpers, high jumpers and triple jumpers (long and leggy but not big) and heptathletes (a bit of everything!). I sometimes train in a centre used by UK Athletics and I see petite elite athletes doing hang cleans for triples with more than bodyweight. This is how they train – low reps, big weights and lots of power!

  • Blair Lowe
    Reply

    After a couple of years, well nearly 8 of somewhat focused to very focused gymnastics programming and a few years of rec competition training 15 hours a week, I just don’t want to have that focus anymore. It can’t be work or resemble it. But if it’s just play, then it’s alright.

    Crawls are very important, it’s why they tend to be bread and butter in many gymnastic warmups from the toddlers to pros. I think I’ve just gotten used to the fact that after they are done in the warmups, I don’t wan to do anymore. Please don’t make me repeat something across the floor a lot. At least you don’t have to bother counting reps and rounds in the 3 digit number.

    Chip is correct, Aub, in the sense that you cannot make muscles longer without basically some interesting surgery or well, growing longer/taller. Not really gonna happen after your growing period is over.

    Stretching, whatever modality it is, is a lot of just pain tolerance. You are still placing a force on muscle and your muscles aren’t generally took keen about that. Especially in some positions. Oww, oww, oww. In a sense it’s a form of strength work, just very light strength work.

    And Aub, it may be a bit disingenous looking at the elite athletes in various sports and thinking that might happen to us. Wishful thinking. Part of is simply genes, years of training, and of course chemical cocktails that many of us don’t have.

  • Neil
    Reply

    Chip,

    Enjoy your articles. I too have been a silent follower for years. I will continue for years to come.

    Sometimes I become confused at your articles and was hoping you’d sort me out on a couple of your ideas which seem somewhat conflicting to me. I have seen you take a very hardliner stance on what you call “slop” in a workout. I’ve read numerous times here on this site things like,

    “…the current stopwatch model of ‘do a lot, fast’ is teaching our organic machines slop, therefore making slop permanent. And that breaks machines.”

    and,

    “Look… a hard, crappy workout is still a crappy workout.”

    I get these statements. I agree with them, more than less. I have read dozens of others like them on this site which were more even more powerful, poignant, maybe even accusatory. But, then it is not at all uncommon to find recommendations here which appear to be full of, sorry – “slop.” We’ve all seen you bomb down a sandy hill at relatively high speed. Trip over a dog and etc. Virtually every second of those recordings show intense forces being applied to poorly aligned (by exercise standards), joints including ankles, knees, hips, spine, etc. We also see extensive use of momentum and less-than efficient movement standards.

    Not harping on you here. Truly. I’m definitely not disagreeing with your use of these exercises/play. I fully embrace them. My question is, if this is “good” how can it be that simulating movements like these in the gym are wrong? So, in other words, when a CrossFitter uses “slop” to power through a deadlift, or a power clean how can this be much different from a run down a hill? Surely the joint forces wouldn’t be much different between the two.

    Granted, if you want to learn a proper clean you’ll need to learn proper, more efficient form to see gains in strength and technique. There can be no doubt of this. Nor can there be any doubt that there are safer more effective ways of performing ANY exercise. But, doesn’t it seem that if “slop” in play can be valuable, and play translates to strength of health, wit and character, wouldn’t there be room somewhere for a less-than-perfect power clean, DL or etc?

    Where in your mind does one stop and the other begin?

    Please understand. I’m not trying to justify poor programming or coaching. I see as much weakness in it as anyone. It’s not the point of my comment. Just a seeker looking for answers from a Master. (p.s. sorry for the epistle)

    • Chip
      Reply

      Play isn’t inherently sloppy, especially if you train properly. In fact, the case can be made that proper training can keep even sloppy execution safe, but sloppy training lacks the awareness and embodiment needed for when things might be slightly less than perfect. In other words, training sloppy doesn’t prepare you for safely executing sloppy. Quite the opposite, actually. But good training keeps you ready for even when movements become less than ideal.

  • conlin19
    Reply

    I Could not agree more with this blog post. I’m an owner and head coach of Crossfit Legitimus. I spent a lot of time at the feet of two coaches who made me earn my title and who were strict, I worked for free I studied and I shut up unless they told me to cue someone.
    Every weekend CF certs 100’s of people who then coach, lead and teach people about FITNESS, MOVING and LOADING the body….most in my opinion teach it poorly and I get to deal with a shit load of attitude because I’m strict and I don’t think killing ones body 6 days a weak is smart. I coach, Lead and train from my heart and I studied my ass off, I have a deep understanding for form and technic. I believe in Deadhang everything before swinging ones body around this takes me off the cool list and puts me on the “thats not CF list” or at the other CF we can do this or we do it this way..SO i feel this post deeply.
    WERD!
    Jen

    • Chip
      Reply

      Awesome, Jen. Keep the fires burning! As you know, do better before doing more!

  • conlin19
    Reply

    Ha, Right on I say that a lot! I dig the kindred coaching spirit!

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