Most of us know that when it comes to changing our body composition, we can’t out train a shitty diet. Although training and finding the right kind of stimulus to support muscular growth is important, nutrition is the foundation for achieving results and getting all the gains! Most of our clients know that hitting their macros in the right quantity and ratio is going to propel them towards their goals faster than anything else. But once you’ve become a macro master, it might be time for you to take things to the next level and consider nutrient timing.
One of the most common questions we get as fitness professionals is, “What should I eat before and after a workout?”, and “How far in advance or how long after should I wait to eat?”.
Segmented Training produces segmented results. Separating cardio, from strength, from gymnastics training doesn’t provide nearly the same type of results as mixed modal workouts under intensity. If you think you can get your cardio in the morning, then do your strength work in the afternoon and truly be prepared for life, you are mistaken. Just think about it, in life is it usually one or the other for all that can be thrown at you? Consider a first responder, athlete, fighter, or military operator…they need to be strong and fast simultaneously. If a fire fighter can pick you up, but is too gassed to take you anywhere that’s not effective, nor is the firefighter who has all the cardio in the world but is not strong enough to lift his victim. Life and sport require multiple skills at once, so segmenting them is not practicing how you play or live. So why do athletes like to segment stuff?…Because it just doesn’t hurt as much or require as much neurological demand. Practicing thrusters then practicing pull-ups will never pack the same punch as the workout “Fran” (21,15,9 thrusters and pull ups). When the skills are mixed, when your are expected to lift heavy and be coordinated under a high heart rate there are adaptations that take place that we don’t understand. But the result is capacity, and a level of fitness and adaptability that is hard to recreate any other way. Consider these three CrossFit name benchmark workouts and the different skills they require. They are fantastic tool for training and evaluation:
4 Rounds for time of:
Run 400 meters
21 Kettlebell swings
Skills Required: Cardiorespiratory endurance, Muscle stamina, Upper body and grip strength, basic gymnastic competency
The jump rope is a great tool for aerobic conditioning. It allows for a potent, sustained cardiovascular effort that will provide a challenge in any workout. Using the jump rope also requires and develops many neurological skills such as coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. That is why fighters love using the jump rope as a tool to practice being coordinated under fatigue. In CrossFit the common use for a jump rope is the “double under” (two revolutions of the rope per jump). This movement takes a slightly higher jump than the single under, and adds increased coordination between the upper and lower body.
The jump rope can be taken anywhere. It is essential equipment for the fit traveler to use for “hotel wods”. Combine this exercise with dumbbells, Push-ups, or burpees for a quick burner after the plane ride. Here are some tips for developing the double under…
Double Under Tips
When starting skipping rope hold the hands at 10 and 2 o’clock at the waist height with the hands slightly in front of the hip. Revolve the rope from the wrists not the shoulders.
Practice single unders until you are smooth and efficient, then try throwing some doubles. Just jump a little higher and whip the wrists twice. Keep the jump smooth and soft on the ground. You can begin with 2 singles into 1 double to acquire the skill.
When picking a rope make sure to start with a length that allows the handles to reach just beneath the armpits with one foot holding the rope to the floor.
Three factors that are in your control can have the most significant impact on the longevity and quality of your life, outside of genetics.
Choosing to be active and train possibly the biggest factor. Building capacity in your younger years can create a buffer and slow down the inevitable decline that comes later in life. It can also help you avoid many diseases that can cut life short. Diabetes, heart disease, and cancers are the three biggest killers in westernized civilizations, all of which can have their risk factors reduced through exercise. People who are active are generally happier, suffering less from depression, sleep, and digestive issues.
How you eat also has a significant impact on your health. Food fuels all of life’s activities and can cure, reduce, or help people completely prevent diseases. Food quality and quantity are the two most significant factors when eating. Whether you are concerned with maximizing your performance or just living a happy and healthy life, food is a widely under looked and under utilized piece of the puzzle. The same way you might approach your training and tracking performance in the gym, tracking nutrition is paramount for success.
Sleep is a widely under looked factor for health and performance. Sleep helps the body recover, reduces stress, and is important for hormonal recovery. Overtraining, work stress, and nutrition all can adversely affect the length and quality of sleep. We recommend 8-10 hours of sleep a night to keep you happy healthy and performing well. Looking at the sleep environment, and understand what you need to go into a steep REM state can help improve the quality of sleep. Creating a sleep log, just like a workout or nutrition log, can help you create a roadmap to success. So spend the extra bucks on that expensive mattress because over the long term it is totally WORTH IT!
There is no substitution for the effectiveness of functional movements. Squatting, pulling, and pressing have proven to produce systemic results that are unparalleled. However, there are some accessory exercises, that when applied as a garnish to your program, can improve both the strength and awareness of the body to perform functional movements better. These exercises can serve to fortify and isolate specific areas and functions of the body that are known to be integral joints, highly stressed and susceptible to injury or break down.
Every high-powered movement you perform utilizes the core as a transmission. By isolating some of the muscles and function of the core and hip, athletes can build proper awareness of how to most effectively use them. This also can help create muscular balance on the front and back of the body. Here are 3 essential core accessory exercises, as well as progressions and variations on them.
This exercise builds strength of the lower back and hips as well as hamstring flexibility. It is also a great way to teach athletes how to keep the back straight and tight while flexing at the hip. In essence, athlete can learn how to properly use their back sides. Also try these variations:
Straight leg good morning
Good morning with bands
Good morning with chains on the bar
GHD Sit up
The GHD sit up is a unique and potent exercise that can develop tremendous strength, range of motion, and power through the front side of the abdominals, the flexors of the hips and obliques. In particular, it has tremendous application to gymnastics movements that involve total body flexion and extension such as kipping. Here are some variations on the GHD sit up:
GHD Sit up to parallel
GHD sit up with a med ball
The back extension isolates the vertebral muscles of the spine, specifically the erectors of the lower back and thoracic muscles of the upper back. In the movement, the athlete rounds the back and then work back up to extension of the spine. This is a great way to teach athletes how to re-claim a proper position as well as a tremendous strength builder of the back muscles. Here are some variations of the back extension:
Ok broseph or brosephina, it’s time to get those spaghetti strings you call arms into gear. Many of us are looking to put on upper body size and strength. Going to the gym and wandering around aimlessly produces no results. You need a good plan. The fastest way to put on good muscle in to lift heavy with a variation of exercises that hit all muscle groups in a variety of movement patterns. This Upper body strength and size progression starts with a major lift at a maximal load to develop pure strength and then introduces volume for hypertrophy and gained muscle size. The exercises target different movement patterns for pushing and pulling. There is some isolation work as well to help target mechanical weaknesses of some of the smaller muscle groups and contribute to the larger movements. Try this program for 5 weeks and expect rapid progress and increased upper body size. Then change the exercises to avoid plateaus. This is a 4-day program with 1 rest day between sessions. The program can be completed with minimal equipment, just a barbell, bench, and dumbbell and rings. Enjoy!
Bench Press 6×2 to a 2 rep Max
Narrow Grip Bench 3×8 reps
Arnold Press 3×12 reps
Skull Crushers on the rings 3×10
DB Chest fly + DB Press 2×10 reps
Banded resisted tricep press downs 3×30 reps
Snatch Grip High Pull 5×5
Weighted pull up 6×2
Bent Over Row 3×8 reps
Hammer Curls 3×10
Dumbbell hang Clean 50 reps at 55/35lbs for time
Barbell in rack inverted row 2x failure
Pin Press 6×2
Strict Press 5×5
Weighted Dips 3×10
Band resisted Push Ups 2x failure
Dumbbell pull -overs 2×20
Chinese Row 5×5
Single Arm Row 3×10
3 rounds for time of : 5 chin-ups, 5 wide grip pull-ups, 5 behind the neck pull ups
Squatting heavy can be one of the most taxing activities on the body. There are few other movements that can load and demand as much coordinative ability as a heavy squat. They are hard and they work! Preparing the body for such a stress is very important for performance and longevity. Getting muscles hot, taking the joints through a range of motion, and activating muscles and the central nervous system can get you squatting well and fast. Here is a 15 minute warm-up complex to get you to peak performance under the bar.
General Warm-up, Part 1
(Heating up the muscles)
Before you ever start squatting, it is important to get the muscle and tendons hot and malleable. You can do this by elevating the heart rate will any general movement.
Start on a bike for 3 minutes. Slowly ramp up the speed so that your heart rate is getting high by the time you finish. You want to pump some blood in your legs and heat up the tissues. You could also do 3 minutes of jumping jacks, or a 500 meter row.
General Warmup, Part 2
(Take the joints through a range of motion)
Taking the joints through a range of motion prepares the muscle for the movement demands of stretching and shortening. Here the focus is on the hips and hamstrings. Try to stretch beyond the range of motion required in a squat.
Lie on the ground with a stretch band around your foot. Stretch and relax the hamstrings by pulling your leg up. Use the band to assist you with some extra range of motion at the top. Perform 15 each leg, 1 second up. 1 second at the top, 1 second down.
Open up the hips by performing 20 mountain climbers with the feet reaching outside the hands. Do 5 at a time fast, then take a second to push the hips towards the floor.
Perform 20 jumping squats developing a full range of the squat as well as getting the muscle to work with elasticity.
Specific Warmup, Part 1:
There are specific muscles you want to stimulate to get the correct pattern of movement happening. Here we focus on the core and hips that will initiate the squat.
Lie on the ground face up and perform 20 hip bridges. With your feet flat on the floor drive your hips up into a bridge and squeeze your glutes for one second at the top. This will activate your back side and the erectors of the lower back.
Perform 20 slow air squats with a light band around the knees. Concentrate on driving the knees out against the band to activate the muscle around the hips and the hamstrings. Focus on strong technique.
Specific warm-up Part 2
(Central Nervous System Activation)
Getting the central nervous system ramped up and firing hard allows for peak performance. This maximizes the ability for the brain to communicate with the body. The greater the weight, and the faster the movement, the higher the demand on the CNS. Ramp up in a few sets and allow enough time once you get to your working sets (2-3 minutes) for the central nervous system to recover.
Begin with an empty barbell and perform 3 squats. Go down slow and tight, drive up fast
Take 5 sets to work up to a starting weight. Only perform 3-5 reps. Make big jumps in weight (50-90lbs) each set. Remember to brace your belly tight and drive up fast, moving the bar with speed.
Millions of people suffer from lower back pain. It can be a debilitating, chronic and disheartening ailment that affects mood, fitness, sex life and overall happiness. Lower back pain can be a mysterious and elusive problem. Generally the problem stems from injuries or ware to or around the vertebral disc columns of the spine. This can include herniated, bulging or cracked discs, spinal stenosis and arthritis, or injuries to the facet joints and ligaments that surround the spine. MRI image work can often uncover underlying causes of back pain, but often times there will be individuals with little of no spinal problems that are in pain, while people with clear spinal irregularities may be pain free? So there is not always a one to one relationship between MRI results and pain. The one overlying theme is that people with strong backs, ones with highly developed musculature around the core and spine, generally suffer less from chronic back pain than people with less developed musculature around the spine. Allowing muscles that surround and support the spine to bear the brunt of the load, limiting the shear and compressive forces on discs may be the key to stopping and avoiding back pain over the long term.
For all the movement the human body can perform, the deadlift serves the greatest efficacy in developing the strength of the back. Not to mention, the tremendous daily utility in being able to have strong capacity in being able to pick things up off the ground. Yet for some crazy reason, this movement to has to ability to save the life of the back, is one that doctors commonly instruct patients with lower back pain to avoid? If it hurts, don’t do it! But where does that leave people over the long term?… Probably, in a situation where the problem only gets worse and unable to rise to the demands of sport and life.
A movement as functional as the deadlift is rehabilitative in nature. People with hurt backs need a return to pain free functionality as a starting point.
This does not mean doing 1 Rep max deadlifts off the bat. It may begin with training basic strength and awareness around the spine, building to the full movement with pain free range of motion and then progressive loading to build strength and musculature. Practicing high rep low weight deadlifts off the bat can speed up the healing process of the back. This training provides 3 major values…
Bringing blood, nutrients, and synovial fluid to the spine to assist in healing discs and tissues
Building musculature (hypertrophy) around the muscles that surround and support the spine
Building strength and awareness of proper positions that will be needed outside the gym
Here is a protocol for athletes rehabbing that back with the deadlift…
Phase 1 (Acute):
-3×30 second hip bridge hold
-3 x 30 second plank hold
4 x 25 reps PVC deadlifts to the knee
3×15 active hip bridges (diving hips up off the ground)
3×1 minute plank hold
4x 25 reps of barbell deadlift to below the knee
GHD face down superman hold 3x 30 seconds
4 x 1 minute each of: plank and side plank
4x 25 reps deadlifts @65 lbs
3x 10 reps GHD Hip Extensions
4×1 minute single leg plank and single leg side planks
4×25 reps 95lb deadlift
Keep in mind this protocol is meant to just get athletes out of “trouble”. One athletes can perform 4×25 reps of a 95lb deadlifts pain free they are mostly “out of the woods” and ready to pursue a more broad training program the should still center around building pain free capacity in the deadlift.
The squat is the king of all exercises. There is no movement more essential or foundational than the squat. It is the basic ability to raise and lower your center of mass and express strength and balance through a range of motion. You will always need to squat. If you are sit down, you must perform a squat. If you go to the bathroom, you must squat. Loosing the ability to do this movement is loosing the ability to live independently i.e.“Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Practicing and developing capacity in the squat is rehabilitative by nature. If you cannot squat well, you are only working at a fraction of your athletic capacity. Long story short…this is a movement we will want to do, and do well our entire lives.
As a community we love and enjoy and celebrate the results of intensity. Whatever it is you may be chasing with your fitness: getting stronger, running faster, looking good naked, getting off your medication, having more energy or going to the CrossFit Games; intensity is your quickest way to acquiring those results. There is a paradigm shift happening in the fitness industry as the previous model of coming into a fitness facility and sitting on a silly machine using less functional movements, or wiggling on an elliptical has been proven in efficient and often ineffective. But people working out with increased intensity correlate to a higher risk of injury. Any drug that is potent requires a calculated and responsible dose. Going heavier or faster usually leads to a degradation of safe and efficient technique at some point. So where is the line where the “juice is worth the squeeze” so to speak. Here are some basic rules of appropriate intensity.
Lay Down a Strong Foundation of Good Movement FIRST!
Spend a good deal of time teaching and refining proper technique, without intensity first. Spend time in the bottom of the air squat, with a pvc pipe or training bar teaching and coaching proper positions. Believe it or not this is very challenging for the athlete neurologically. Practice develops flexibility, timing and awareness of where you are in space. If you put a priority on excellent movement, your athletes will adopt the same values and pride in doing things right, not to mention that you won’t have to police movement standards as much…those reps will count!
Make Sure That Athletes Can Repeat Solid Movement Without Coaching
Doing things right once is good, but as soon as the coach leaves we often see athletes return back to bad habits. People should not move well only when you fix them, but you should be able to glance back across the room and see that those mechanics are still there. Spend some time with the eagle eye, checking back in and being relentless with your demanding cues until it is just muscle memory for the athlete.
Start to Add Load or Speed Until Mechanics Start to Slightly Break Down
Once you have put the work in to drill in those neurological pathways of how to move properly on their own, start to add some intensity to workouts by adding load or speed. When that beautiful squat snatch starts to turn into a rounded back muscle power snatch press out that you cannot recognize as an actual movement, drop the load or decrease the cycling speed and come back to planet earth. You want athletes to find the point where that breakdown happens, slow them down or decrease the weight and then coach them. After that you can push that intensity back up and hopefully that breakdown starts to happen later. Constantly bad movement, gone uncorrected is coaching negligence.
To be fierce is to be both strong & powerful but also fiercely confident in your appearance and your capacity to do anything you set your mind to! If you don’t feel this way now, you will! That’s our promise.