Friday, January 26, 2018


Wow! Two blog posts in one day, that is a PR.  Whenever I review something, I like to write about it because it solidifies my knowledge on the subject and reminds me that I need to be relentless when coaching that particular movement.  I have been thinking a lot about torque lately, specifically how it relates to the shoulders.  My shoulders are messed up! I believe it is primarily due to poor coaching when I was in high school as it related to push-ups, bench press, or any kind of overhead pressing motion. Go to your local school and watch a kid do a bench press or push-up for that matter and you will be appalled.  If you are coaching, and especially if you are coaching kids, be relentless when it comes to this issue.  Shoulder pain is the worst and fortunately it can be avoided if proper cues are consistently given.  Below is a checklist of cues that seem to work for me when I coach my teen athletes, find the ones that work for you.
If it isn't working, find something that does:

  • Screw your hands into the floor (visual and verbal cues work here).
  • Pull your shoulders back and down (visual and verbal cues seem to work here).
  • Pinch your shoulder blades (tactile cues work here). 
  • Break the bar on the way down and pull the bar apart on the way up (as it relates to pressing especially on the bench).
  • Elbow pits forward (visual and verbal cues here).
  • Elbows in or back (visual and verbal).
Remember that you are saving these young people pain in the future and teaching them to actively engage the proper musculature while preserving the soft tissues in the long run.  Also, if results are motivating, that which is mechanically sound will ultimately lead to greater performance in the long run.  

Healthy Teens are Happy Teens!

What you don't see in this picture is the grueling workout these high school students just completed with our friends over at Snake River CrossFit (shout out to SRCF).  Each round of 2 minutes started with two rounds of Cindy, as a buy-in, followed by a max set of clean and jerks.  They got to rest a whopping 2 minutes and then repeated this cycle another 4 times.  You really wanted to leave a minimum of 30-45 seconds left for the barbell work, which means some blazing fast rounds of Cindy.  What I find fascinating about this generation is that they actually enjoy the work! Yep, I said it, teenagers like to do hard work.  Maybe the problem was never the so called "lazy teen," maybe the problem was the archaic methods that seem to persist in physical education programs, globo-gyms, and other conditioning programs around the world (I feel like I can say this, because I taught PE, did personal training at several gyms, and coached both basketball and football so I am just as guilty). Maybe we just need to re-think things, implement sounds methods of training like CrossFit, and then watch kids have fun and get fit at the same time?  Go ahead, try it, it works, and I couldn't be happier with the results!~

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Is CrossFit a real Sport?

Surprisingly, I don't get asked this question a lot. Rather, someone usually just tells me that CrossFit isn't a sport even if I didn't ask for their opinion. Typically, it is someone who doesn't understand the CrossFit methodology or they have a preconceived notion/misconception about CrossFit, because everyone tends to be an expert in everything nowadays.

Before, I started teaching CrossFit to students at Vision CrossFit, I taught high school science and I still do in addition to coaching two CrossFit classes. As a science teacher, we often ask our students to collect data and then use the patterns they see in the data to make a claim that answers a question about a puzzling phenomenon. Often, what we unfortunately see in the real world is that people will come into an argument with a pre-existing claim that is only supported after they have cherry picked the data that supports the claim they are already espousing. This isn't the best way to arrive at sound conclusions regarding anything in life.

There are lots of definitions for the term "sport." Most of them generally state something similar to The Oxford Dictionary which states that sport is "An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment." Hmmmm, physical exertion, skill, competition? Let's take a look at these criteria more in depth and see if we can arrive at the same conclusion.

1) Is CrossFit and activity? The obvious answer is yes. CrossFit is an activity that combines other activities such as gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, power lifting, and monostructural activities (like running, cycling, rowing, swimming, etc). I find it interesting that if you isolate any of these examples like "gymnastics," you will have a hard time finding someone who doesn't consider gymnastics to be a sport. Even combining some of these activities like swimming, cycling, and running in Triathlon constitutes a sport. Any one watch the "run swim run" or cycling events in the games this year?

2) Does CrossFit involve physical exertion and skill? Once again the obvious answer is yes! If you have any experience at all doing one of the many CrossFit Wods out there, you will probably concur that it requires a tremendous amount of physical exertion. There aren't many things out there that will leave you as physically exhausted as a CrossFit workout in such a time duration. By the way, this is coming from someone who has played organized football, soccer, baseball, basketball, run track, surfed, skated, and was even on the high school golf team. None of these sports even came close to the physical exertion required to do CrossFit. Does it require skill? Ummm, Yes! Have you tried to perfectly execute a full snatch after running a mile, or tried to string together ring muscle ups after rowing a 2K? Skill after skill after skill, constantly honed and constantly in need of improvement. Handstand walks, muscle ups, clean and jerks, etc. It didn't take me long to learn how to catch a football or hit a baseball, it feels like it is going to take a lifetime to perfect the multitude of skills need to be a great CrossFit athlete. By the way, I still can't do muscle ups after 3 years of doing this, more strength and skill required I guess.

3) In CrossFit do individuals compete against each other as individuals or do teams compete against other teams? Sounding kind of redundant here, but Yes! Every day you compete against others at your box writing times and other quantitative objective measurements on the whiteboard. Sometimes you compete using apps like beyond the whiteboard or against others who are posting workouts on CrossFit's main site. There is also a competitive season, there is the world wide open that begins at the end of February, regionals in the Spring and early Summer, and of course the CrossFit Games in August. Too many other competitions all over the world to list, just Google it. You can compete as an individual or in team competition. With the growth that has happened in the past 10 years, take your pick. Bottom line, anyone who does CrossFit knows that it is a competition even if it is only a competition with yourself to improve your times, weights, reps and skills which are quantitative measurements and not subjective.

4) Last, but not least. Do CrossFitters compete for entertainment? I wouldn't necessarily say that CrossFit is fun, it isn't always fun, but I guess it depends on who you ask. I know I typically tune in to watch the CrossFit games every summer. There is something cathartic about seeing people suffer and being able to relate to that suffering. I guess that is why communities form so quickly around CrossFit. I guess that is why when you watch the regional competition, like I had the opportunity to do in Portland this last summer, the crowd cheers even louder for the last person to finish the workout than they did for the person who finished first. Which leads me to my final point. I have never seen sportsmanship like I see in this young sport. It is built around mutual suffering and builds community and a drive to be the best you can be unlike anything I have ever experienced.

In conclusion, is CrossFit a sport? Yes! Will people still argue that it isn't? Yes! Do I care? No! I want to surround myself with positive people who make decisions based on experience, facts, and data. I don't want to be surrounded by negative people who have to drag others down because they are unhappy with their life. I don't usually rant in these blogs, but oh well it needed to be said.