Why we use Olympic Lifting in CrossFit – Part 1

I’ve heard people say “I’m never going to compete in the Olympic Games, why should I bother using Olympic movements when I work out?” There is no question that Olympic lifters are the strongest athletes on the planet. So by borrowing some of their techniques, and filtering these lifts systematically into our program, we can also get stronger, faster and become more accurate. There are 2 Olympic lifts; the snatch, and the clean and jerk.

First, practicing the Olympic lifts teaches us how to “explode”, or propel ourselves in a desired direction. For example, if you are playing an on field sport and you suddenly want to change direction to make a play or be in a better position, it helps us react explosively. These movements will help you reposition yourself as quickly as possible and therefore increase your sport specific skills. In addition to being able to generate this type of force, we also become conditioned to receiving similar external forces. This is extremely helpful in contact sports, combat, and other physical situations like carrying objects.

There are countless other benefits from Olympic lifting, and I’ll touch on them in future posts. Sadly, I’ve never seen any Olympic lifting in the typical “gym scene”. It is thanks to CrossFit that these movements have become more mainstream and many more people are now able to benefit from them.

What is Make Up Day

At CrossFit Thermal, we realize everyone can’t be at the box every single day.

Some days are rest days, others are filled with work or with family obligations. We feel that having the opportunity to make up missed workouts is a valuable thing! So every Sunday, you will have the opportunity to chose the workout that most fits your needs and that you couldn’t attend earlier in the week.

If you missed out on something that you would have really enjoyed, or saw something challenging that you wanted to tackle, this is your chance.

At the 9 and 10 am sessions, you’ll be coached through a full warm-up and through the workout of your choice. If you’re not sure which one to choose, we will be here to help you out!

Drugs vs Exercise

I came across a fascinating post on NYTimes.com the other day (“Exercise as Potent Medicine”, NYTimes Blog Post) . It was really buried on the website but the title caught my eye – “Exercise as Potent Medicine”. The quick summary is that a recently published study compared –

i) how well various drugs succeeded in reducing deaths among people who were diagnosed with several common and serious conditions (such as heart disease and diabetes), versus –

ii) people who didn’t take drugs and just exercised.

The outcome of the study was that the results consistently showed that drugs and exercise produced almost EXACTLY the same results. As with most medical studies, this emphasized the need for further study and larger sample sets but even on a small scale, but the finding is pretty powerful.

We at Crossfit Thermal have been preaching the benefits of exercise as being a life changing process. Every day we get to help people gain strength, increase their lung capacity and even fit into that pair of smaller jeans. One of the other, less obvious benefits is that exercise is a powerful tool in maintaining a level of health that can remove the need for certain medications or even getting people off of existing medications. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly situations where medications have a material and proven benefit. What we provide here is an option or supplement that your doctors should be prescribing as frequently as they prescribe statins.

In today’s world when we are faced with a health problem, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, it’s really easy to just take a pill from our doctor and keep on living life like we always have. Well, sometimes there is an option that will get you the same result as the medicine but will improve your life in countless other ways. Sometimes the easy way isn’t always the best way.

Myth – I'm Too Out of Shape For CrossFit

Some of our new members were a little hesitant to give us a try. We had to explain to them, its not all what you see on ESPN.

The top finishers at the CrossFIt Games are the top one percent of athletes who do CrossFit; the fittest of the fit. Our own needs only vary by degree.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone has potential. No matter what your fitness level or ability, we can get you on the path to your goals. Our classes are structured so that everyone gets the most out of a particular session for them. We ensure this with appropriate scaling and adjusting of workouts on a daily basis.

Here at CrossFit Thermal it’s all about relative intensity. We make sure the workout is appropriate for each individual’s needs. As skill and form improve, we ramp up the intensity and watch the progress soar. Were you a high school football player? A swimmer? Do you do triathlons, or maybe just want to keep up with the kids? We have a program for you, your neighbor, your best friend and your grandmother.

And a year from now, you will have wished you started today!

Sprinting vs. Jogging

Most people who consider themselves runners fall into the category of distance runners. They grind out two to ten miles, a couple days per week and are perfectly content in doing so. Personally, I have enjoyed some time running distances on trails in Wissahickon Park near my home. It had always been a good release, a reason to be outside, and it probably carried some aerobic benefit that has transferred into CrossFit. Jogging was fun, but I wasn’t getting all of the benefits I could have been.

Human beings are wired more for sprinting; short intense bursts of running. Think about our ancestors, and the reasons that they had to run. Whether it was to catch dinner, or to avoid becoming dinner, they generally didn’t do so at a conversational pace. They did so as fast as they could. Modern society makes things a little easier for us, but we should borrow something from our ancestors and implement into our fitness regimen.

Sprinting has an anabolic effect, meaning it can build muscle and burn fat even when you are being inactive. So if you spend 20 minutes doing sprint intervals, then head inside and catch up on reading some blog posts, you’re still benefitting. It also increases your overall output capacity by pushing your systems limits. This is helpful for CrossFit training and some real life events. I don’t know about you, but if I’m ever in a bad situation that I need to get out of, I’m certainly not going to jog, so I might as well train that way.

Running is great, and any kind of running is better than nothing. So if running is your passion, stick with it, at whatever distance you like. But if you’re not training for a marathon, and want to change your body type while preparing for whatever life might throw at you, run as fast as you can once in a while.

CrossFit Training and Mirrors

Some of us made the transition to CrossFit from a typical big box gym. Shiny equipment, treadmills and leg press machines covered the floors while most times mirrors covered the walls. I’m not one to shun the typical gym scene; I have drawn some positive influences from those places. But one of the ideals that didn’t follow me into my CrossFit career was the idea of looking at myself training in the mirror. Ok, I’m not going to lie I have been known to glance at the mirror sometimes, and maybe even do a quick pec dance, but from a practical standpoint the mirrors don’t offer much.

There are 2 problems with mirrors the way I see it. First, when you’re looking in a mirror, you can only see one plane of view, that being the frontal plane. If, for example you are working on your dead-lift technique, you could easily see in the mirror if your knees extended at the top of the lift. However you would never know, unless you’re fully in tune with your body, whether or not your shoulders ended behind the bar, or if your lumbar spine rounded at any point in the lift. Not to mention you would have to be looking up and craning your neck in order see these things, not a great idea from a standpoint of safety. Secondly, mirrors can create background distractions. How much is the guy lifting behind you? Did the girl in the back of the gym just do a set of box jumps in her bare feet? When you’re working out you should be focused on you, and you alone. Feeding off the environment is great, but you can do that with your eyes focused on your own lift.

Mirrors can tell you a little bit about what’s going on, but in order to improve it takes another set of human eyes. Let the coach take the place of the mirror and let’s make some real progress!

What is Kipping and Why Should I do it?

A gymnastics Kip is a technique used by many CrossFitters to simply do more work faster. Kipping can be employed in a variety of movements; pull-ups, muscles ups, toes to bar, handstand push-ups etc…

It allows the athlete to use power generated from the hip joint to achieve the desired range of motion. In doing so, the athlete harnesses more power from his/her entire body, and protects the more limited and smaller muscle groups of the extremities.

An example of when this would be a helpful skill to have would be a workout with 50 pull-ups followed by 5 rope climbs. If an athlete were to do 50 strict pull-ups (that is, with no help from the hips), then attempt to climb a rope immediately after, most athletes would feel an intense sense of fatigue in the arms and shoulders. If the same athlete used an effective kipping pull-up for the set of 50, he/she would be in a better condition for the rope climb. This way the athlete would have less fatigue in his/her arms, shoulders, and back, having saved some crucial strength by using the hip joint during the pull-ups. So there is some reason behind using a kip. It’s simply more effective to get work done.

**Everyone should make sure that they have a stable shoulder and enough strength behind their strict pull-up before attempting kipping pull-ups.

December 2013 Focus – The Squat

As CrossFit Thermal unfolds, we want to start to build a foundation of strength for our members. There is no more appropriate place to start than with the squat. This month you’ll see a heavy emphasis on this movement, including lots of squatting in our workouts. You’ll also notice classes with additional technique work and practice for squatting movements. As we test and re-test our squat, and see improvement, we’ll also see that added strength and mobility translate into common CrossFit movements like thrusters and even burpess! Even if you don’t want to “squat big”, the ability to squat well, will make us able to tackle conditioning workouts with more power and speed.

This month, we’ll fill the daily blog with ideas on how to mobilize for a better squat, and what you can do on rest days or even in the office to put this crucial movement right in your wheelhouse. Stay tuned!

Intimidated by Deadlifts? Why You Shouldn't Be.

You might find it hard to believe, but in the 1800’s the deadlift was actually refered to as the “healthlift”. Many of today’s gyms and trainers have seen the movement ostreasized, dismissed as dangerous, and even banned.

I’m here to officially call a hault to the bashing of this lift and start a movement of embracing it. Well, maybe thats a bit dramatic, but this lift has to be a part of any serious strength and conditioning program, and that is an idea, that is easy to support.

Even if you don’t care how much you can lift, you can’t get through life without picking things up off the ground right? So why not be exceedingly good at that, and at the same time train hundreds of muscles in one motion?

When we deadlift with proper form, we engage our entire posterior chain. As we stand up and the movement reaches its apex we do infact engage our lower backs, this is necessary to complete the movement. Its not a bad thing to use your back as long as it is done safely and you don’t move heavy weights with only your back.

If I asked you to pick up a paperclip, you couldn’t do it safely without engaging some of the same muscle groups. As we get better and better at the deadlift, this skill becomes a motor pattern and before you know it, your body dials up the same pattern everytime you pick something up! Ever hear a co-worker say they threw their back out playing horse shoes at the company picnic?

Anything is possible, but you have a much beter chance of avoiding those injuries if you have deadlifts in your fitness program.
Besides being one of the safest movements when performed properly, deadlifts are great for asthetic benefits as well. Your core muscles must be engaged throughout the lift. So that means, if you want to see those abs, deadlifts are a much smarter choice than crunches. Stay safe, and don’t let the name fool you, deadlift should be a staple in your fitness program.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

Two years ago, I took my first steps into a CrossFit gym. I felt a mixture of emotions, from excitement to anxiety…mostly anxiety. What had I gotten myself into? The workout was something to the tune of “a ton of this lift, a ton of that lift, some box jumps and more pullups than I can even remember”. Needless to say, I was unable to complete the workout “as prescribed”. But for me, doing the workout as prescribed wasn’t the goal. My goal had been met when I took that first step into the gym. My goal had been met when I looked that fear in the eye and said, “I can do this!” And I did it! I may have shed a tear or two (ok, maybe more than two), but I got through that first workout, and countless workouts since then.

It’s true what they say, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better”. I’ve never had a workout that felt easy, but I am getting better. And I look forward to getting better every time I walk into the gym. To me, CrossFit is more than working out. It is surrounding myself with amazing people, all with a similar goal. We may all take different paths to reach that goal, but we always make sure to high five each other no matter which path we’re on.

GET STARTED TODAY!

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