3 Phases Of Learning New Technique

I was doing some Snatch technique work today with an athlete and started teaching her about the 3 phases of learning, and thought it might interest you all. I’ll keep it brief and to the point.

Phase 1 – Knowing
Phase 2 – Doing
Phase 3 – Being

Phase 1 – Knowing (Mind In Control)

Phase 1 begins when you first become aware of the new ‘thing’ or idea. It is when the Neocortex (conscious mind) portion of the brain gets lit up and starts to comprehend what it is sensing (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting). Let’s use the Snatch for example, you become aware of what you need to do to improve your technique and your brain starts to put all the new bits of information together until you can fully comprehend what you have to ‘DO’.

Phase 2 – Doing (Mind Teaching Body)

Phase 2 begins when you start to DO what you KNOW. This is your mind trying to get your body to follow the instructions and this is where new neural pathways begin to form (literally rewiring your brain). This phase takes lots of energy and can be very frustrating, because you need to concentrate so much on every small portion of the movement. This is the phase where we are building the habit, and it takes hundreds of perfect repetitions to successfully rewire the brain to coordinate the body.

Phase 3 – Being (Body In Control)

Phase 3 is the best, this is when the new movement feels 100% natural. You LITERALLY don’t have to think about it anymore because the motor pattern is now literally hardwired into the unconscious mind. It is at this point that things become effortless and you use very little energy performing the task perfectly.

The Three Phases & Periodisation

I wanted to write this post because NOW is the time of season for most people to be getting into Phase 1 & Phase 2. They are the frustrating, unnatural and potentially unenjoyable parts of the training season when you go right back to learning piece by piece instead of doing metcons and maxing out (you can still max out your foundational movements and energy systems (push/pull/squat/assault bike etc…). As a coach I know how vital this stage of training is, and sometimes this phase can take as long as six months for a CrossFit athlete, but it is the time when CHANGE happens!!

The goal is to find inefficiencies with technique and address them properly over a three to six month period, so that when you hit Phase 3, you are moving better and it is 100% natural! You will lift more and lift for longer without even ‘trying’ because it will just be who you are and how you lift, effortless and perfect.

Doing this is the difference between a true professional and someone that just wants to go hard all year, the second route will not win in the long run. The goal is to be FULLY Phase 3 when it comes into the competitive end of the season so that the mind is silent and the athletes energy and focus is 100% in the present moment, not off worrying about technique.

The Three Phases & Life

If you know me then you know that I am big on life as well as training and I believe it is critical to keep growing in all areas of life. The thing is that the first two phases can be extremely frustrating because nothing seems to ‘come easy’. It is is very unnatural and a lot of people feel like they aren’t being themselves… The truth is that you AREN’T being yourself, if you continue to be yourself you will never grow and change. If you never grow and change then you can’t expect to have a more fulfilling and rewarding life (unless your life is already perfect) because you will be stuck with all the programming that got you into the life you are currently living.

The point is that there will be periods of time when you are confused about what you are doing in life, THAT’S A GOOD THING!!! It means you are growing and changing, and then once you hit Phase 3 you will be an upgraded version of yourself.

So if you want something you’ve never had, then you need to become someone you’ve never been. It starts with conscious awareness and then conscious practice for many repetitions until it becomes natural, and that my friends is how we change behaviour in order to achieve anything we want in life.

 

JT

Boy Wonder

HARRY DEBENHAM (AKA BOY WONDER)

The first time I met Harry was in 2014, I had recently moved to Australia and for the third year in a row qualified to compete at Regionals. I got stuck into Regional prep training at Reebok CrossFit Gold Coast where I was also coaching a few classes a week.

Getting to meet the new members is always fun, you start to dissect and analyse each person so you can find what triggers them and how to coach them more effectively. During my dissections I came across a young boy called Harry. He was a fresh 18 years old kid, built long and lean weighing in at 70kg at a height of 180cm, he went hard with no pacing or strategy and was essentially quite well conditioned to pain…

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I remember watching him build up a heavy deadlift and his little legs would shake like a baby giraffe every time he picked the bar up and as it got heavy the vibrations got worse until his whole body was rattling and his face about to burst a blood vessel. I remember thinking either he’s going to break something or he’s going to get really strong, either way the kid was determined. His nickname for a while became Giraffe Legs or Milkshake.

Throughout his school days Harry could be found skateboarding around the backstreets of the sunshine coast taking pictures and videos of him and his friends doing tricks. He always had a driven nature though, even back then he was aiming high and wanted to be a sponsored and professional skater.

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He did a little bit of cross country running through school and one day a friend suggested that they go and try a CF class at CrossFit Maroochydore. After a few CF classes he threw his skateboarded in the back of his friends’ car and that’s where it stayed, to this day he hasn’t been on a skateboard properly again.

POTENTIAL

As a coach I look at a few different things when it comes to the elusive goal of competing at Regionals. How many times have I heard someone say it? How often do they do it? Less than 0.2% of people in the Open make Regionals in their lifetime… Not 2%, 0.2%. You need to be one seriously dedicated person.

Coming from the military it was exactly the same with the Special Forces. How many soldiers had the goal of becoming Special Forces? How many actually made it? After being involved with running the selection process I can tell you with certainty that only the ones that were ready to commit everything and lose would have a chance, and even then it was never guaranteed.

1) Desire

The first thing I look for is a burning desire, not a hope or a goal. They have to be prepared to push EVERYTHING else aside and focus solely on CF. This also needs to be proven to me that they are true to their goal even when times get tough. They literally need to be prepared to die to get there.

2) Health

Mental and physical health is paramount. If someone is unhealthy then they will not have longevity in the sport. Longevity is crucial to gain wisdom and of course maturity in training (training age).

3) Mobility

Some people just cannot get into the positions required to be a competitive CF athlete. If you majorly lack mobility then you will know what I am talking about.

After watching Harry for a few months I saw this potential in him, he was young, he was healthy (level head), he was f*cking determined and the only mobility issue he had was tight shoulders (that he relentlessly works on to improve).

He had major weaknesses and problems with his competitive CF but all of it was trainable so I asked the owner of the affiliate Jeremy Austin if I could coach Harry one on one because I believed that with a more advanced program he could make it to Regionals in the coming years. Jeremy obliged and we began straight after the 2015 CrossFit Open.

BUILDING BOY WONDER – 2015/2016

Building an athlete is pretty easy, you just need to know the competition, know the athletes current abilities, and you then just have to fill in the gap.

The competition was the 2016 CrossFit Open and we knew the rough requirements. Next we conducted some testing on Harry to find out where his current abilities were lying and where his weaknesses were hiding.

In order:
1) Absolute Strength
2) Size (lean weight)
3) Anaerobic Power
4) Skill/Technical Efficiency (predominantly open chain, barbell cycling)
5) Everything else…

We uncovered without a shadow of a doubt that he needed to gain some weight and some strength, particularly in his upper body. His bodyweight was 70kg, max clean & jerk was 115kg, max snatch was 80kg and max Strict Press was 55kg… We had work to do so I sat down and mapped out a macro-cycle working backwards from the start of the Open.

‘Focus Gets Results’

Putting on lean weight takes a long time, as does building strength, and if Harry wanted to be ready for the 2016 Open then we had to get moving.

I broke the macro-cycle up into 4 to 6 week meso-cycles each with it’s own focus. The length of each cycle was dictated by the length of each month and also when some competitions we wanted to hit fell throughout the year. The first five meso-cycles had a sole focus on size and strength with a secondary on low intensity skill work.

The Monday after the final 2015 Open workout Harry signed up at a globo gym and started a double day split, weightlifting in the morning at Reebok CrossFit Gold Coast and bodybuilding/hypertrophy work in the evening. Weightlifting was conducted five days a week with Thursday and Sunday as rest days, bodybuilding was conducted six days a week with Sunday being a rest day.

Meso-cycle 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – Layers of Training:

1) Weightlifting (Tech/Str), 5 x p/w
2) Hypertrophy, 6 x p/w

No cardio, no conditioning, no WOD’s, just pure gains. Each athlete only has a finite amount of energy each day and we had to spend all of our energy building size and strength. Every other type of training would have been detrimental to the rapid progress we needed. If he wasn’t lifting weights he was eating, sleeping and recovering. Eating became a workout in itself, calorie intake went through the roof and macros were timed to initiate a positive hormone response aiding in growth.

This continued for five months from April to August, along the way competing at Olympic weightlifting competitions to help Harry maintain focus, have small milestones to work towards, gain competition experience and of course add a bit of excitement to the monotony of bicep curls and back squats.

We hardly did any 1 RM testing as we saved the 1 RM’s for the competitions but it was clear that Harry had become a lot stronger. Within five months his stats had shot up significantly. His first Oly comp he missed his first two snatches at 90kg and decided to go up to 95kg PB. He then followed that up with a 130kg PB clean and jerk. From that day on he became known as Boy Wonder.

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The next two meso-cycles we made some tweaks and started to bring in some other priorities which increased the intensity so we also made Thursday a complete rest day.

Double day split with weightlifting in the morning five days a week and CFBB (CrossFit Bodybuilding) in the evening four days a week and anaerobic power three days a week.

On the Power – Endurance continuum Harry was well into the endurance side of things so as the season progressed we started to bring in more fitness. His aerobic power/endurance was pretty good, but anaerobically he was not powerful at all so that became the next thing we started to train.

CFBB is a training term I use that really focuses on hypertrophy using traditional CF movements. Strict Muscle Ups, Strict Ring Dips, Strict Pull Ups, Strict T2B, Strict Press etc done to a tempo for time under tension that works the hypertrophy time domain. It is the first phase of the isolate and integrate theory.

Mesocycle 6, 7 – Layers of Training:

1) Weightlifting (Tech/Str), 5 x p/w
2) CFBB, 4 x p/w
3) Anaerobic Power, 3 x p/w

We decided to do one CF competition through the year, which was the CrossFit Torian Pro. Not to try and win but just to gauge how far away we were from the top guys. We only did one competition because each day was spent training, and any wasted days competing or recovering from max intensity competition were a waste to us. This would be the first time Harry would get to compete at a high level against CrossFit Regional level athletes.

So one month out, we took out all the CFBB, added in a couple of traditional CrossFit workouts and isolated aerobic sessions.

Mesocycle 8 – Layers of Training:

1) Weightlifting (Tech/Str), 5 x p/w
2) CF WOD, 3 x p/w
3) Anaerobic Power, 2 x p/w
4) Aerobic Endurance, 2 x p/w
5) Skill Work, 4 x p/w

Harry finished in 9th place just behind the more known names. The whole weekend everyone in the crowd kept asking “Who’s that kid? He’s doing so well!”

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For the rest of the season leading into the Open that was the split we followed. Of course the lifting became more varied and not so focused on hitting a 1 RM and the closer we got to 16.1 the more traditional things became. For example, all the anaerobic power work we did was primarily on the assault bike for short sprints and long recoveries, but as we got closer to the Open that would turn into CF movements like thrusters and burpees conducted over the same time domain.

By the time the Open came round Harry was peaking.

THE 2016 OPEN

16.1 – A great start to the Open finishing 18th in the Region albeit after three attempts…

16.2 – The strength based workout with heavy squat cleans and ultimately the real test of progress from the previous year where Harry finished 1129th on 15.1a which was a heavy Clean & Jerk. When all the scores came in Boy Wonder was ecstatic with a respectable 57th place finish.

16.3 – A blowout, and I take full responsibility for it. Harry finished 130th in the Region, the lightweight Snatches for high reps were not something we had done a lot of and it showed.

16.4 – Another 18th place finish which significantly helped bring back some hope on qualifying after only 11 months of proper training.

16.5 – Another good placing coming 49th but not quite enough to make it to Regionals.

Harry finished in 42nd place, 37th after team athletes were removed from the leaderboard. If Harry had managed two more reps in 16.3 he would have qualified. He was gutted and I was too but in hindsight it was the best thing that could have happened. Honestly speaking he wasn’t mentally ready to compete at the Regional level and this would give us a fresh 11 months to make even more progress and continue to grow physically and mentally.

BUILDING BOY WONDER – 2016/2017

We started the season exactly the way we started last year, but this time we pushed the weightlifting and hypertrophy work out for an extra month. We used the same strategy of competing at weightlifting competitions during the off-season to keep him focused and firing. Harry also picked up his first sponsor PranaOn which has been a huge help with his recovery and performance.

We also sought more specialized help from the renowned weightlifting coach Miles Wydall at Cougars Weightlifting Club. Miles is the same coach that Tia Claire Toomey, 2nd Fittest Women On Earth has used so we knew we were in safe hands. It didn’t take long before Miles tweaked Harry’s technique and opened up some new personal bests. As a coach I always recommend specialised people when it is out of my league and this was one of those times.

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During this time Harry developed some adductor pain due to the large volume of squatting we were doing so we buttoned off for a solid six weeks. During that time he was set to compete in an Olympic weightlifting competition. He decided to enter regardless but instead he would try and hit new PB’s in the power snatch and power clean and jerk. Did he? Of course he did, he’s Boy Wonder.

Harry continued to add size and strength all the way up to the CrossFit Torian Pro in September. We did very little conditioning or endurance work compared to last year as we knew how long it took him to become conditioned and we still needed to improve his strength going off of the Open placing’s.

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This year the competition grew to include three male CF Games athletes and nine Regional athletes. Harry finished in 24th place, which was disappointing as far as a number goes. He had a blowout on day one with what was set to be his best workout, with three legless rope climbs remaining he was winning his heat beating the overall winner Ricky Garard, but with one climb remaining his muscle endurance failed him one foot from the top… He didn’t finish the event and hit the time cap. He was miserable for the remainder of the competition.

The silver lining of the competition was pretty sweet though. One of the events involved a 1 RM clean and jerk in which he hit 140kg for a equal PB and went on to clean 145kg for a PB. Another event involved multiple snatches at 100kg in which he managed to get through even though a few months ago his max was 100kg.

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The biggest lesson learnt from the weekend was how to overcome disappointment. He (and I) couldn’t believe how badly his blowout had affected his attitude over the weekend. Harry is a levelheaded human and learns quickly, he vowed never to let a blowout even touch his attitude and focus again. This is what I meant earlier about him not being ready for Regionals last year, there were still lessons he had to learn, and this was one of them.

After Torian Pro Harry finished his job at Alphafit and decided to move home so he could train full time. We changed the training split to start our run towards the Open and over the coming months we tweaked each meso-cycle to bring in a little more of what’s expected and remove a little more of the specific weakness work. Things didn’t go well, since moving home to Sunshine Coast there was little to no competition for him and motivation plummeted. He didn’t have to get up and work so he would sleep in, his parents bought him food and made his meals, he had nowhere to be and nothing to do so he started to go crazy and lose his balance.

The goal of every training program should be to add progression. When it came to Harry adding intensity (speed/strength/power) was the progress we wanted to see because he could bang out volume for days (endurance/stamina), but during this timeframe whenever we tried to add intensity he would go flat and his HRV (Heart Rate Variability) would drop. I monitor all of my athletes HRV to make sure what we are doing is working and what sort of state their body is in. Harry’s HRV wasn’t doing great and we couldn’t figure out why, he just said he felt flat. His environment wasn’t conducive to a happy Harry.

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Click here for more info on HRV

In December Harry got the opportunity to coach at CrossFit Mode in Adelaide with CF Games athlete James Newbury. This was the exact ticket he needed, a job coaching his favorite sport, no added stress of study or running a business, and an environment that already plays host to a CF Games athlete. It’s amazing how fast things can change when you fix the actual problem instead of putting a Band-Aid on it. HRV came back to normal, training started climbing again and overall Harry felt fresh and excited.

For the first time EVER I started to see him embody the mind and attitude of a Regional level athlete, I got goose bumps when it hit me, he was fit enough 12 months ago but his mind wasn’t ready, but now he was even fitter and his mindset had matured and become at peace with who he was and his ability levels. I knew he was going to make it.

Fitness and success starts in the mind, and if your mind is in any sort of imbalance the fitness and success will be limited. I spend a lot of time with my athletes working on their mindset, because if that is even slightly astray then you can kiss the whole thing goodbye.

The following two cycles in January and February started to become very traditional with a splash of weakness work. The amount of times we hit ‘Randy’ and other high rep snatch workouts was enough to make you sick. 16.3 wouldn’t trip us up this time. With the addition of intensity there was a drop in volume so we cut the weekly amount of training right down.

Too many people try and add volume to an already intense schedule and go flat, plateau or even worse break themselves. If I can give you any advice it would be to find a way to track training load (stress) v’s recovery and play the long game instead of trying to be an overnight sensation. There are so many people that are fit enough to be at Regionals but they just don’t know how to time their training cycle properly so get in contact with someone that can help you periodise properly.

THE 2017 OPEN

17.1 – 34th after two attempts. The first was a blowout and had Harry panicking a little over the weekend but the maturity came through and bought a good result with it.

17.2 – 41st place but kept Harry outside the top 30… He phoned me and asked what my thoughts were. I had 100% confidence that he would climb into the top 30 and I told him why, he agreed and we moved on.

17.3 – The strength event and on the first attempt he finished with a score that we both knew wasn’t good enough. He felt wrecked going into the event and his HRV confirmed everything. We knew this workout would shake up the leaderboard because the little metcon ninjas from week one and two now had to back it up with a strength based workout. On the second attempt HRV was better and he hit a 96% 1 RM snatch multiple times under fatigue and placed 52nd.

17.4 – The repeat workout. When this was released things felt good, last year he finished 18th in the Region so we knew he would be ok. He beat his last year score and finished 25th with what he said was a really fatigued body.

17.5 – Time to put the nail in the coffin. This was the only one and done workout of the Open going head to head with James Newbury and Kosta Ilic. A 45th place finish in that event and an overall finish in the Open of 25th place.

I will never forget the phone call I received after he had finished that workout; he knew he had done enough to qualify for Regionals and he said the feeling of joy just overtook his whole body. He was definitely high on life, that’s probably why he sent me this message below.

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Two years of focus, sacrifice, dedication, hard work and ups & downs. He deserves every bit of the joy he was feeling. To be in the top 0.2% is no joke and I don’t know many twenty one year olds with no real athletic background finding themselves going to Regionals within a few years of training.

REGIONAL PREP

He knows now the importance of staying grounded. Everything that goes up comes down and excitement and energy levels are no different. Too many newcomers to Regionals (or even old dogs that don’t learn) get a spike of motivation after the Open and start running towards Regionals only to find that their balloon starts to deflate a few weeks away from the main event.

Harry and I Skyped for an hour after the Open finished and discussed the next training cycle leading into Regionals. The focus is on staying grounded, being fresh, being aerobically fit and taking a whole day of training away to insert an extra day of recovery.

If you want some inspiration then just scroll through his Instagram (Harry Instagram) feed, you won’t be disappointed.

See you in the ‘Gong’!!

JT
Head Coach Underground RX
Underground RX – Instagram
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Choosing Your Recovery Method

You know what to do team, today is recovery day so get into your individual recovery based off of HRV.

Going off of the last 28 days:

Healthy
Predominant Incline in HRV and Predominant Decline in HR = Parasympathetic Recovery

Early Fatigue
Predominant Decline in HRV and Predominant Decline in HR = Parasympathetic Recovery

Overreaching – (sympathetic)
Predominant Decline in HRV and Predominant Incline in HR = Parasympathetic Recovery

Overtraining- (parasympathetic)
Predominant Incline in HRV and Predominant Incline in HR = Sympathetic Recovery

Recovery Option

Parasympathetic Recovery
– Light Massage
– Float Tank
– Yoga/Mobility
– Walking/Light Active Recovery (Rock Climbing, Paddle Boarding etc…)
– Bath
– Meditation
– Sleep
– Avoid coffee (stimulants)

Sympathetic Recovery
– Deep Tissue Massage
– Ice Bath/Hot Colds
– Release/Mobility
– Light Active Recovery
– Muscle Stimulation

Video on Common HRV Misconceptions

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Bias Training And The CrossFit Season

Well here we are, about to move into a new year and a new training cycle leading into the CrossFit Open in seven and a half weeks time.

I just wanted to write a small post about how you need to be selecting your Bias Training and how it might change as the season changes.

As all of you know it is my goal to make the URX Athlete Program the best program on the planet for a number of reasons. I want it to be fun, I want it to be safe, I want it to be methodical and above all I want it to produce results. When I say ‘results’ my idea is that each YEAR people have become better CrossFitters as a whole and not just chasing the PB’s with no real reason.

Just following a program means you will get better at things, but not necessarily the right things, and this is where Bias Training comes in to help you improve in the areas you need most!

I can not individually program each persons programming on a daily basis, I don’t have the time and personal programming is expensive, so the next best thing is to give you some options and for you to take responsibility for yourself.

You have to decide how serious you are about becoming better, if you are just here to have a bit of fun to do some friendly competitions and are in no rush to get to Regionals then balance your training with the things that look the most fun and some bits and pieces you know you need to work on. If you are more serious about getting better at competitions then you need to be disciplined and ensure you do the stuff you suck at.

I will never forget preparing 35 year old Kyle Gardiner for the 2015 Open. He was strong and good at gymnastics but had zero cardio. So the first thing he did during each training session was pure CARDIO BIAS!! In 2014 he placed 500+, in 2015 he placed 79th…

So here is my guidelines for you:

March – October

Focus on your weakest area as a priority.
6/6 Bias Training parts targeting your weakness a week.

November – December

Focus on your weakest area with a balance of things you may not have done for a while.
4-5/6 Bias Training parts targeting your weakness a week.

January – February

Mix it up, maybe a touch more cardio.
3/6 Bias Training parts targeting your weakness a week and 1/6 Cardio Bias.

I will also add in here that following the HRV Guidelines is also crucial to making sure you are in OPTIMAL health to perform!

JT

The Elusive Muscle Up…

The elusive Muscle Up…

It’s coming to that time of year where everyone is rushing to get their Muscle Up’s in order for the Open. Like most of my blog posts I’m going to cut straight to the point. CrossFit has been teaching the Muscle Up WRONG for years and it’s no wonder people are struggling to get them or when they do get them they look like shit! For this entire article I am talking about the ‘Kipping’ variation (not strict). Please also bare in mind that a Muscle Up in CrossFit is a different movement to a Muscle Up in gymnastics, AND a Kip in CrossFit is different to a Kip in gymnastics…

Sure, we CrossFitters don’t get points for making it pretty, but let me assure you the prettier it becomes the more efficient it becomes.

Let me illustrate a point here. Back in 2007 Olympic lifters cringed when CrossFitters were trying to Snatch, the movement was heavily bastardised because quite frankly nobody had practiced the movement before. Fast forward to 2016 and CrossFitters are now Snatching AT THE OLYMPICS!!!! Clearly there has been a MASSIVE growth in CrossFitters ability to Olympic lift. The same cannot be said for gymnastics. Muscle Up’s look almost the same now as they did ten years ago!

If you think trying to learn the Olympic lifts is technical then you should try gymnastics. Most programs these days are all about the heavy lifting and it goes to show, CrossFitters are getting f*cking strong. But it is sad to see that the gymnastics side of things has remained nearly the same. I believe it’s because it is too hard, too technical and honestly not as fun as lifting heavy weights.

Because of this technical difficulty, most coaches don’t teach things like Muscle Up’s regularly if at all and if they do teach them it is normally incorrectly.

Let me guess, big swing, pop the hips, turnover… Oh man, your turnover was too slow… People are being setup to fail right from the start so I’m going to break down for you how to do it properly.

Steps:

1) Grip – Unless you are uber flexible then go neutral grip. If you are like spaghetti then use a false grip. The main goal of a good grip is that it allows you to Kip properly and freely with straight arms and allow some internal rotation and abduction from overhead.

2) Kipping – This is where most people go wrong and it is no fault of their own. CrossFit Kipping and Gymnastic Kipping are different and what most CrossFit coaches don’t realise is that the way they have been taught is incorrect.

2a) Hollow Body and Arch Holds on the floor. Core braced correctly, quads, glutes, calves engaged. Solid as a rock.

2b) Hollow Body and Arch Holds on the rings. Same as above, tension is the key.

2c) Dynamic Hollow to Arch swings on the rings. TENSION is the key. It should NOT be a passive swing, it should be an active pulling of the correct muscles. Inertia should NOT be involved.

 

2d) Exaggerated Hollow to Arch with shoulder movement (Lat/Lever movements on Hollow, internal rotation and abduction on Arch). There should be a slight feeling of weightlessness at the top BUT still FULL TENSION through the body to the rings.

This is where people start to go wrong, they do not maintain tension. MAINTAIN TENSION!!!

 

3) The Pull – Exaggerated Hollow to Arch with shoulder and arm movement. I call this drill the Drinking Bird Drill. Exactly the same as above but as you start to feel weightless at the top you begin your pull over the rings. This involves a slight arm bend to pull you towards the ring and simultaneously your feet will change direction and start to move behind you. Instead of transitioning to the dip support just hold the body and go back down to the start position (Like a Kipping Pull Up).

This is where 99% of people go completely wrong… As they start to pull and ‘sit up’ over the top of the ring their Hollow Body position is lost and they end up in an ab crunched position. Their feet do not start to travel behind them. If you maintain a Hollow position, hips as the pivot point, as you pull with your arms your feet should move behind you and ASSIST the head traveling forward through the rings.

Two videos below, one of KFed trying the Drinking Bird and one of myself showing a bit more intensity and strength.

 

4) Transition – Transitioning through should happen almost automatically IF you have kept tension during all the previous parts. That is why it infuriates me when people keep working on their transition when in fact it is everything beforehand that is fucking it up. The one thing I will say here is that if you are in a neutral grip you need to rotate your hands around the ring so that they go from a pulling to a pressing position. That can take a little getting used to but it is something you can practice sitting in a band on low rings.

Below is a little sequence we used to start working on the transition. You can see she goes through the Kip progression with each swing, including a Drinking Bird, then hit’s 3 solid transitions. Focus is on getting the first steps right every rep!

 

5) The Dip – If you have executed Part 2, 3 and 4 properly then the feet will keep traveling up behind you and assist in an upward motion for you to press out with. If you have done the good old CrossFit Muscle Up and you are in a tucked position when you are in the Dip Support then you will probably do the old knee drive and press. I’m not going to harp on about the dip, focus on getting the first parts right and the rest will follow.

For more information on the transition and dip please refer to the blog post below. I haven’t gone into detail in this post because odds are that you aren’t even getting the first parts right yet.

http://undergroundrx.com/010516-how-to-kip-the-dip/

The last thing I will say is that you are far better off building strength to assist with your first Muscle Up rather than using the CrossFit Kip to get your first Muscle Up. Sure you will probably get it sooner, but it is a ton more dangerous and more inefficient. Once again it’s the people that do the boring stuff correctly in the background all year round that will come out on top in the long run! Now go and do some levers and learn how to KEEP TENSION!!!

Good Lat and core drill to help you keep tension (courtesy of Sam Thackway).

Balancing Life – Tasha Christie

Last month I asked Tasha to tell me more about herself. I knew she was a CrossFit enthusiast, had a family and also coached swimming so I became intrigued to find out more, so here it is!!

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Currently, I am a wife to an amazing man (name omitted because he likes to stay out of the spotlight) and a mother of two incredible kids (14 and 12).  I work full time as a Paralegal, have recently become the Head Swim Coach for our local High School Swim Team, train, eat, sleep and cuddle with my family. I’ve played Volleyball, swimming, Track & Field, (shot put and discus), I did all this in college as well, swimming all 4 years.  I love to read , just about anything, and I am always learning and eager to learn.

I try to live the best day possible every day because someone fought very hard for me to live… I was born about 3 months early in an area (Small small town in the mountains of Pennsylvania) and one of the Dr’s, (actually my first babysitters father) would not allow me to die.  He hand bagged oxygen into me (I was the size of my fathers hand) and refused to walk out and tell my father that he lost me.  I technically did not have a heart beat many times, but I believe he worked on me and kept me alive for almost 6 hours awaiting a helicopter to fly me to Buffalo Children’s Hospital in NY.  I always knew I was considered a ‘blue baby’ but not until I turned 40 did my mother share just how horrific my birth was.

I began Crossfit when my son was in Kindergarten (I was a stay at home mother till about 2 years ago). My son shared a class room with the daughter of Crossfit Hanover’s owner Dan Sell and he began to talk to me about this ‘new’ routine called Crossfit.  I (at that time) worked out VERY regularly at our YMCA and grew up an athlete.  I was familiar with the gym life and could not believe that in an hour I could get a workout in and did not think it would be anything special. In fact, I checked out an Open House about a month earlier and I was ‘appalled’ (at the time) at watching people throw up outside, squat without spotters, or racks and the insanity that was a competition style format. HA!  If only I knew, right.

So… I decide to try it out one day and I met Dan who worked me through some movement cues, wanted to see what I was familiar with and began my journey.  We squatted, pressed, and deadlifted (all bar only and minimal weight movements to see my technique).  Then he told me what my workout would be… 12 minutes of 6-10 Deadlifts and a 50′ Bear-Crawl… REALLY???  I remember thinking that this was going to be easy, and I was already planning a trip to the Y to finish out my workout.  Well…. my first round felt amazing (so I thought..) and I even got teased for moving so quickly on the Bear crawls… Then round 2… at some point I remember hearing “You are two minutes in…” WHAT in the WORLD… At that point, I was hooked… I was dying… I was humbled by how unconditioned I really was and I knew I wanted more.

A year later I became CFL1 certified as well as CFK certified and began (with the help of a few others) Crossfit Hanover’s first kids program, which is still running today under new management and superb supervision.  Throughout my Crossfit career, I have competed in local competitions, introduced kids to the benefit of exercise and took time to specialize and compete in Olympic Lifting which I did solely for just over 2 years.  I took a break from competing and even Crossfit while I attended school to become a Paralegal and in 2014, I made my humble way back.

Before turning 40, I wanted to train to compete and hope to make it to Regionals as a master… After turning 40, I realized that my priorities changed… I WANT to compete, I love it, but I also love watching my kids and coaching.  I took a position as Head Swimming coach for our local High School and was reminded of my father coaching youth, age group, and even college.  I grew up in the water, so I felt at home and I love it. My daughter has taken up Crossfit and works out with me.  She wants to compete, so I will absolutely support her.

My son competes at the National level in youth wrestling (which means we travel A LOT).  My husband (who is my biggest supporter, my rock, my everything and a man I admire tremendously), rotates traveling with me.  This upcoming winter season will prove to be a challenge as swimming and Wrestling coincide… however, I am certain we will get through it.  So, I take a back burner as far as what goals I had set for myself.  I became a part of the Underground RX team because it appealed to me.  The idea to attack each day and to be the best version of myself.  Not stressing over getting it all in, one thing in, or all of… the appeal of always having a weakness you can improve.  This just felt like the right fit and I can honestly say, I am having fun!

One other item that defines me is that I lost my father in a freak accident the summer after I graduated College.  He was riding his bike and was hit from behind.  Being the oldest, I moved home to take care of my mother and make sure my younger brother stayed in school.  He was a freshman at college.  These events led me to meeting my husband, creating a kick ass family and striving to be the best I can.  Sometimes I fail…. I’m NOT perfect, but I’m working at it.

Tasha xxx

The Small Things

Hi team,

I wanted to make you aware of some small things that can make a big difference to your overall performance. Virtuosity is something that I place atop the pillar of success and virtuosity is something that many people lack.

Most people are only interested in faster times or bigger numbers, and in all honesty those things are important, very important in  fact because our sport is all about power output and getting the most work done possible regardless of how it gets done.

But you see, it’s a classic case of focusing on the wrong things. You know the one, you are single and looking for a mate and you seem to push them all away, then you eventually find one and all of a sudden everyone wants you. Well the same is true for CrossFit, if you only focus on getting faster and bigger numbers regardless of HOW you achieve those results the you will become very disheartened in a short period of time.

Virtuosity is doing the common uncommonly well. It is practicing not until you get it right, but until you can’t get it wrong.

Here is a list of things that show me you are virtuos:

1) You have a perfect Hollow body position

Tension throughout the entire chain which crosses over to HS Holds/Walks, Pull Ups, Muscle Ups, Levers etc…

2) You can Snatch/Clean/Jerk an empty barbell exactly the same as a loaded one

Most people struggle to lift an empty barbell because there is no resistance for them to get feedback from. If you watch a professional lift an empty barbell it will look the same all the way through to their max. This is a sign that their motor patterns and coordination is on point.

3) You pause during the catch of the Snatch, Power Snatch, Power Clean and Jerk

The ability to pause during a movement shows control, the ability to pause during the catch of an Oly lift shows control and teaches precision. If the bar is slightly off path pausing will be almost impossible. If you are lifting in isolation (not in a WOD) then pausing in the catch shows a level of professionalism.

4) Forefoot running

There is nothing worse than watching someone heavy on their feet during a running workout. True running mechanics involve the forefoot touching the ground first with a slight heel kiss following and minimum contact time on the ground before cycling the next rep.

5) Rowing mechanics

I guess this one isn’t so specific but here is why I can immediately tell someones CrossFit ability by watching them warm up on a rower. Almost every affiliate has rowers, almost every CrossFit athlete uses a rower at least once a week, yet only the virtuos ones row properly. It is such an overlooked thing because most people just get on and pull on the handle.

6) Composure at high HR

This one is my favourite, and it is probably the most important. It is easy to stay composed if you move slowly and don’t push it too far. But can you get your Heart Rate near max and still look perfectly fine and keep a cool head? The ability to have your heart beating through your chest yet look like your doing a crossword is a skill that you only acquire if you repeatedly go deep into the pain-cave with a positive frame of mind.

All of these things matter and will make you a better athlete. If you aren’t doing them then you need to start practicing and becoming aware. Generally the first months of a season are dedicated to this stuff and then as the season progresses you will be more virtuos and when you up the intensity the new movement patters and virtuos markers should be second nature and you will then have better numbers and faster times.

If you do not take the time throughout the season to address these things properly then you will always be missing half of the recipe in building the best athlete possible. These are the things we focus on during the Underground RX High Performance Training Camp, because theses are the things that are overlooked and with little simple adjustments can make you a far more superior athlete.

Learning To Suffer

This is something I believe in 100%.

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“This is the best advice I can give you: learn to suffer. The suffering is the magic ingredient in the success, it’s not your new pair of lifter or the new food supplements that you take because an article you read somewhere assure you, it is indispensable.”

“Suffering is not only during a WOD, it is to do what you need to do, no matter whether it’s boring or not super ‘instagramable’. it’s giving up his ego and devoting time. The painful stuff again and again, instead of going to max 12 times a week.”

“I admit, no one really wants to suffer (myself included) but I’ve accepted that it is a necessity, day after day. Suffer because you decided it’s what you want, it’s not fun either, and it’s not easy. But every time someone asks me how to participate in the Regionals or Games, or any other purpose besides, here’s my answer: learn to suffer.”

-Khan Porter

I learnt to suffer in the Army, we were made to suffer on purpose because it builds you. Once you are pushed so far out of a necessity to survive, then you realise what you are capable of and all other things in life become easier.

The other thing about suffering is that once you know how to suffer, you start to push the boundaries of suffering, and you keep pushing them further and further.

Too many times during training people DO NOT PUSH HARD ENOUGH, and they wonder why they aren’t getting better. Watch someone at the top level train, they will push themselves HARD, and like Khan said, that suffering is the key to making it to the highest level.

There is no magic pill, you need to do the work, and you need to be responsible for your suffering. Being good at CrossFit involves a multitude of things to line up and being able to suffer is one of them.

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You will see a common trend across successful athletes, and if you aren’t mimicking what they do then you are not learning the valuable lessons to become your own champion.

When it comes to CrossFit is about the ability to hold onto the bar down for the extra reps, the ability to pick up the weight before anyone else does no matter how much you hurt, the ability to grind out heavy reps no matter how scared you are of being crushed under the load, it is the relentless pursuit of faster WOD times,  the burning in the chest and lungs, the burning in the muscles, you have to go deep into the pain cave and learn to stay there.

“Become comfortable being uncomfortable”

– Pat Barber

Taking Ownership Of Your Progress

Train smarter, not harder…

When it comes to training, quiet often we think training harder, longer hours in the gym, less rest and shortcuts are going to get us there. The body can only handle so much stress, physically, emotionally and spiritually before it begins to break down.

After a while, small niggles in your body will develop, adrenal fatigue will be on the cards and you will be on the verge of over training. You suddenly realise that training smarter, resting harder and being able to balance your life are the keys to success. You also have to develop discipline in all areas of your life if you want to reach your goals.

I started crossfit (again) in December 2015 after having 2 years off. Straight away my fitness improved, there was a significant improvement to my muscle density and my strength went up, I was hooked again! I signed up to the Open 2016 and after finishing in 550th (a huge jump from 3,000 in previous years) I thought I would approach JT from UndergroundRX and introduce some structure to my training.

Seven months on, four competitions down including Torian Pro one of Australia’s biggest individual competitions, I find myself coming to terms with the minimum standards of a great CrossFitter and a clearer understanding that so much time and consistency must go into everyday choices and training. For me, it all comes down to smart training.

Under the guidance of JT on the Athlete Program I have jumped from Level 3 training (Regionals level) to Level 1. I focus more on quality workouts rather than the quantity or volume of my training, I have scheduled rest days on Thursday and Sunday and no longer feel guilty for taking time off when needed. I have started to change my approach to my training, when it comes to things like Handstand push ups, I no longer use an ab mat, wall balls I always go to the males target or use a 9kg ball. I don’t try and increase the amount of exercise, I just approach my workouts with a more appropriate and challenging method.

The program I follow is amazing, but I don’t just follow it and ‘hope’ that I get better. I must still take responsibility for me growth and development. Nobody can do the work for me, JT can’t be there to tell me to move faster or tweak my movement or make me do one extra rep. That is up to me, just like it is up to you. I remember hearing someone say, “don’t do harder workouts, work harder in the workouts you do”. It’s true, and it is up to you and I to work smarter and harder than the people around us.

I take ownership for my progress. I ask questions when I’m unsure,  I watch youtube videos to help me get better, I do one extra rep before I put the bar down, I UPSCALE OR DOWNSCALE MOVEMENTS EACH DAY TO GET A BETTER QUALITY WORKOUT FOR MY SPECIFIC NEEDS, I make smart choices, and at the end of the day, I will get the rewards that I have worked hard for.

What do I think leads to success? Training smarter and challenge yourself by up scaling movements that normally feel easy. Listen to your body and learn that patience and consistency is better than shortcuts and short term results. And last but not least – how you re-hydrate, re-fuel and rest will determine how you train tomorrow.

One of my favourite quotes…

“Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier

Now go after your dreams!!

Shellz xxx

Neutral Spine Accessory Work

Hey team,

One of the most recent things that I have been learning about is how significant thoracic mobility is when it comes to functional movements. Thoracic tightness causes a chain reaction of things to occur that can hugely compromise your performance.

Without going into detail, there are two main things that will tend to happen.

1) Increased load on the lower back due to excessive lumbar extension to make up for lack of thoracic extension in a Front Rack or Overhead position.

2) Increased load on the knees during squatting due to the hips needing to sit further forward to maintain balance.

Once correct mechanics are lost, one thing leads to another and you can find yourself with all sorts of niggles showing face.

Injuries aside, the other thing is that you will literally lack the range to hit the right positions and your true strength won’t be able to show itself. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you aren’t strong, you are, you’re just in a bad position. So instead of lifting heavier expecting to get better, take 10 minutes a day to work on your position and THEN your strength will show itself!

Below is a small video with some of the stuff I personally do to increase my thoracic mobility and stability!

Enjoy!
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