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Prototype Blog

Should You Be Strength Training?

By Joe Black
CF-L2, USAW-SPL1
Joe@CrossFitPrototype.com 
 
Raise your hand if you have ever gone to the gym and spent an hour on the treadmill or elliptical. It was pretty boring, right?
 
What if I told you that there was a way you could get great results and have fun while cutting your workout time in half?
 
If this piques your interest then you should consider strength training.
 
Strength training means that you are using resistance (in the form of dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands and your own bodyweight) to cause your muscles to contract. This leads to increased muscle strength and size.
 
Contrary to popular belief, strength training and lifting weights will not make you bulky. Instead, your body will replace body fat with lean muscle mass, resulting in a more toned and lean look.
 
The best part is that studies show it can be effective with as little as 3, 20-30 minute sessions a week.
 
Strength training carries a whole host of benefits that become especially important as you age.
 

  • Decrease or minimize the risk of osteoporosis by increasing bone density
  • Increase good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of breast cancer by decreasing high estrogen levels
  • Everyday tasks become easier
  • Posture improves
  • Flexibility increases
  • Weight loss due to increased metabolism
  • Improved state of mind – reduce anxiety and stress and boost self-esteem
  • Decrease the likelihood of injury
  • Way more fun than walking on a treadmill (okay, that is my opinion 🙂 )

 
The list goes on.
 
If you want to elevate your life, live longer and be happier, you need to give strength training serious consideration.
 
Here are my recommendations for getting started:
 

  • Reaching out to a coach or trainer is the quickest way for you to begin your journey and see results. A local CrossFit gym or commercial gym is a great place to start (obviously you should train at CrossFit Prototype).
  • If you go about it on your own, ease into it, especially if you haven’t been to the gym in a while. Less is more at first.
  • Make a goal of going to the gym or working out at home 2-3 times/week.
  • Search online for a variety of exercises that work the entire body or certain body parts. Watch YouTube videos for correct form.
  • Select 5-6 exercises per workout, making sure to do different exercises each day you workout.
  • Start off with 2 sets of each exercise for 10-15 reps, keeping the weight light enough that you don’t fail and heavy enough that it feels challenging.
  • Each week, repeat the same exercises, adding either an additional set or more reps or more weight.
  • Every 4-5 weeks, when your body is signaling that it is really tired or fatigued, decrease your sets and reps and lower the weight used by 30-40%.
  • Select new exercises or mix up from the last month and repeat the process.

 
Should you be strength training? The answer is a resounding yes!
 
So what are you waiting for? Get started today!
 
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Prototype Blog

Weightlifting 101 – Segments of the Lifts

By Joe Black
CF-L2, USAW-SPL1
Joe@CrossFitPrototype.com 
 
If you recall the first time you snatched or cleaned a barbell, you probably remember that you had a hundred different thoughts and cues running through your mind.
Grip the bar this way. Keep your chest up. Push your feet into the floor. Keep the bar close. Stay balanced. Fast elbows. Punch up against the bar. Stand up!
It can certainly be overwhelming.
Over time, these cues and the proper mechanics start to become ingrained, so you can spend more time focusing on lifting the weights and less time focusing on how you lift the weight.
It also helps to be exposed to weightlifting terminology, so when you are getting coaching on the lifts, you have a much better understanding of what the mechanical and technical modifications you need to make to clean up the lift.
Today we will review the different segments of the snatch and clean: the first pull, second pull and third pull.
 

The First Pull

 

 
This segment of the snatch and the clean begins when the weight is pulled off the floor (really, we are pushing our feet into the ground, but that is a topic for another blog post) and ends approximately around your mid-thigh.
The first pull is important because it sets you up for a successful second pull.
 

The Second Pull

 

 
The second pull starts where the first pull left off (around mid-thigh). The bar is brought into the hip crease and you explode upwards, driving the bar straight up using a violent extension of your hips, knees and ankles.
 

The Third Pull

 

 
Once you have accelerated the barbell up during the second pull, you have to actively pull your body under the weight – the third pull of the movement.
On the snatch, you pull yourself under the weight and “punch up” against the bar to maintain tension in your overhead squat position.
On the clean, you pull your shoulders to the bar. When timed correctly, the bar doesn’t crash onto your shoulders, dragging you out of position. This is moving your elbows quickly around the barbell into the front rack position.
When you break down complex movements like the snatch and clean into segments like this, it helps you figure out what segments require the most work and you can plan your training accordingly.
Here are examples of weightlifting exercises and derivatives that you could use to improve the three segments of the lift:
 
First pull: halting snatch or clean deadlift, snatch or clean lift-off, pauses below the knee
Second pull: hang movements above the knee, block work set up above the knee
Third pull:  tall snatch or tall clean, hip snatch or hip clean, muscle snatch and muscle clean, snatch balance
 
Pick a couple of variations from above in areas that you want to work on, complete 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps and film all sets. Watch the video after each set and focus on the positive parts of the lift and the parts that need work. Then make adjustments and repeat!

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Prototype Blog

Enjoy the Process

By Joe Black
CF-L2, USAW-SPL1
Joe@CrossFitPrototype.com 


This video is of Jessica Lucero. She is a 58 kg (128#) US Olympic-team hopeful for the 2020 Olympics and current American record holder of ALL of the lifts in her weight class (snatch, clean & jerk and total [snatch + C&J weight]). She has competed on the world’s stage and she has won the US National Championship, the biggest meet of the year in the US, numerous times.
This 2 hours in the life of an elite athlete shows you her preparation for the day. A focused and mindful warm-up, ensuring that she preps her body for the intensity of her workout. Purposeful bar work and movement at lighter weight (on both power clean and push press), ensuring proper sequencing of movements. A determined, confident approaches to the bar. An ability to stay in the movement, be fearless and execute. And celebrating a job well done.
She does this day in and day out. Most days, she is working out in the morning and again at night. In between, she is eating exactly what she needs to in order to fuel her recovery and upcoming training sessions. She needs to monitor her rest and sleep to optimize recovery. This is her day to day life for the next 1,017 days. This is how she will prepare to qualify for the Olympics!
Great Joe, what’s your point?
My point is this. Jessica Lucero’s is one of the best lifters in the country and dedicates every hour of her day to the sport. Most of us have 9-5 jobs, families and other responsibilities that only allow us a few hours a week in the gym. That is why it can’t be understated how awesome it is that people make time in their busy schedules to show up to the gym and better themselves. Better yet, we get to be apart of a community of like minded people trying to accomplish similar goals.
There is no need to beat yourself up if you have only been here a couple weeks or a couple months or a couple years (or more) and you don’t understand how to execute a movement quite like you would like to. Sometimes, in order to get better at something, it just takes time (like a long time) and continual practice. Don’t sell yourself short!
For perspective, an elite athlete like Jessica has been training for over a decade! That is why she makes it look easy. Think about the hours she has put in. How many hours have you put in towards certain movements and goals in the gym? Probably not as many as her and you know what? That is totally okay! Keep working hard and you will get there.
To help change your mindset, instead of fixating on the end goal (getting double unders, setting a 1 rep max squat, PRing Fran), try to enjoy the process of working out. In fact, USA Weightlifting’s Bio on Jessica asks her the best advice she has ever been given. She wrote: “Enjoy the process.” This means showing up ready to put the work in to get better and leaving knowing you did the best you could that day. And while here, do your best to stay present in the moment and have some fun!
If you show up, put in the work, stay present, have fun, celebrate accomplishments and fall in love with that process, I guarantee you will see big improvements in your fitness. Remember, your coaches are here to help you and guide you on your journey. Reach out to us if you want help with anything!
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Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE SNATCH & THE CLEAN

From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game!

By Joe Black (CF-L2, USAW-L1SP)
I can’t rave enough about Olympic Weightlifting. The snatch and clean and jerk are beautiful, athletic movements and seriously fun to do, despite being extremely challenging and in constant need of practice.
The snatch and clean and jerk are the two lifts performed in the sport of Weightlifting. As you are probably well aware, they are also movements that we perform in CrossFit, either with a strength focus or as a conditioning piece.
It takes a LOT of technique practice and training to become proficient in Weightlifting. Besides spending a lot of time with the barbell, and training the full lifts themselves, there are many different movement variations and accessory exercises you can do to help improve your lifts. Probably too many to sift through and figure out so I’ll narrow it down to a few that will be beneficial to CrossFit athletes.
Before we review these, let’s get psyched up and watch two of America’s best lift some weights:
Mattie Rogers – Snatch


CJ Cummings – Clean & Jerk

Accessory Lifts for the Snatch

OHS


The overhead squat requires great ankle and hip mobility in the bottom of the squat, the ability to keep an upright torso throughout the entirety of the movement and upper back and shoulder mobility in order to hold weight overhead.
The overhead squat is tough! And you know what makes you better at overhead squatting?
Overhead squatting.
The overhead squat is the basic receiving position for the snatch. If you want to be proficient in the snatch, you need a good overhead squat.
Always include overhead squats in your snatch warm-up. 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps with an empty barbell. Hang out in the bottom. Work to feel your body open up. Embrace the suck!!
Halting Snatch Deadlift

Snatch technique is about taking the bar from the ground to overhead in an efficient path. This means close to the body and balanced throughout the lift. And starts off the ground.
A weightlifting deadlift is different than a traditional deadlift. A traditional deadlift begins with your hips higher, so you can hinge your hips and knees as you initiate the pull and drive the bar up.
A weightlifting deadlift requires you to actually “push” the weight off the ground, not “pull”. This requires more quad engagement, as you push your legs into the ground and have your hips and shoulders rise at the same time.
To drill this movement, halting snatch deadlifts are a great exercise. With this exercise, you set up like you are going to snatch the weight and stand the weight up by pushing into the ground. The goal is to maintain balance and keep your shoulders over the bar. Pause anywhere at mid- to top-thigh, hold for 2-3 seconds and slowly the weight in a controlled manner.
Work these into your snatch training, with 2-3 sets at 80% and above for 3+ reps. The goal is to move with good technique, not overload the movement.   
Hip Snatch

One of the positions that we are striving to get into during the snatch and clean is the power position, which looks like this:
The hip snatch is a movement where you dip into the power position then snatch the weight. It forces you to aggressively extend (hips, knees and ankles in a straight line) then quickly pull yourself under the barbell. It teaches you the proper balance needed at the power position as well as working your speed under the bar.
This is something you can add to your warmups, stringing together 3-6 reps. It can also be trained with 70-80% of your snatch, for 1-3 sets for 2-3 reps as a technique exercise

Accessory Lifts for the Clean

Front Squat


Just like the overhead squat is the basic receiving position for the snatch, the front squat is the basic receiving position for the clean. To get better at the front squat, you should front squat more often.
A quick tip on the front squat: do your best to wrap your fingers completely around the bar. Even if you have to start with one finger, continue to work towards a full grip on the bar.
This will have tremendous carry over to your clean.
Why is that? There are 3 sections of the snatch and clean: the first pull, second pull and third pull.
The first pull is really a push into the ground. This is when the bar moves from the ground to above your knees. The second pull is when the bar moves from above your knees and into the power position before you aggressively extend your hips, knees and ankles. The third pull is when you actually pull yourself under the bar (overhead for the snatch and onto your shoulders for the clean).
The third pull of the clean will be much more stable (and you can avoid the bar crashing down onto you, making the weight feel even heavier) if you are able to use a full grip.
Halting Clean Deadlift

The clean deadlift is the same as the snatch deadlift, except you grip the bar with a clean grip (hands narrower). The same pushing movement initiates the clean, with hips and shoulders rising at the same time.
The halting clean deadlift is the same thing as the halting snatch deadlift. The goal is to maintain balance and keep your shoulders over the bar. Pause anywhere at mid- to top-thigh, hold for 2-3 seconds and slowly the weight in a controlled manner.
Work these into your clean/clean and jerk training, with 2-3 sets at 80% and above for 3+ reps. The goal is to move with good technique, not overload the movement.
Hang Cleans

Hang cleans are a great exercise to help your full clean because you can work on various parts of the lift without having to worry about taking it off the floor.
If you struggle to bring the bar into your upper thighs to hit the power position, work the hang from mid-thigh and up. If you lose positioning once you break off the floor, work the hang from a lower position (right above the floor). You can even pause in certain hang positions to strengthen that position.
Like most of the accessory lifts above, hang cleans should be trained in the 70-80% range, for 1-3 sets of 1-3 reps. If you want to work more technique, opt for lighter weight but more sets and reps. If you want to focus on strength, opt for heavier weights with lower reps.

Get Better Today!

Olympic weightlifting is one of my passions. There is a lot that you can do to improve your lifting, but that can also make things overwhelming. If you want to work one on one to improve your technique quicker and PR your lifts, get in touch through the form below or message me on Facebook! I would love to help out.
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Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE PUSH JERK

From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.
 

 
By Joe Black (CF-L2, USAW-L1SP)
The push jerk (also referred to as the power jerk) is arguably one of the hardest movements in CrossFit. It requires the coordination of proper timing, sequencing of movement and overhead mobility. Learning the push jerk can certainly be frustrating, yet it is imperative that you learn how to correctly perform this movement. The push jerk is one of the most efficient ways to put heavy weight overhead and can save your shoulders and back during workouts that require stringing together numerous reps overhead.
 

How to Push Jerk

Let’s quickly review the push jerk and the points of performance:
 

  • Start with a hip-width stance
  • Hands are just outside the shoulders with a full grip on the bar
  • Elbows are slightly in front of the bar
  • Torso dips straight down
  • Hips and legs (ankles & knees) extend rapidly, pushing the barbell up
  • Feet move out, arms push under the bar and the bar is received in a partial squat
  • Bar stays over the middle of the feet throughout the entire movement

 


The push jerk has an identical set up to the overhead press and push press. The difference with the push jerk is that once you use your legs to drive the bar up, you need to push yourself under the weight. With this additional step, it should allow you to get under heavier weight!
The funny thing about the push jerk is that when you overthink it, it seems difficult to execute. But under fatigue, most people start to use a push jerk because it ends up being the easiest way to move the weight 🙂
 

Three Accessory Exercises to Improve Your Push Jerk

 
Tall Push (Power) Jerk


You may have done or seen the split variation of this movement before. With the tall power jerk, you stand up on the balls of your feet with the barbell lifted off your shoulders and held in front of your forehead. From this position, you pick up your feet, move them out to the sides and press under the bar, landing in a partial squat. This teaches you to quickly move to the receiving position after you hit full extension (hips, knees and ankles are in a straight line).
Try this for sets of 3-5 reps during your warm-up and increase the weight up to 30% of your jerk. This is a technique primer, not something you do for max weight.
 
Behind the Neck Push (Power) Jerk

One of the more challenging aspects of the push jerk is the dip – the lowering of your torso to load your legs and help drive the weight up overhead. Typically, athletes will have too much of their weight forward during the dip, which makes it extremely difficult to drive the bar straight up. One way to fix this is with behind the neck work. Placing the bar on your back shifts the weight back and allows one to feel what it is like to dip straight down and drive the bar straight up.
Behind the Neck Push Jerks can be included in a warmup for 2-4 sets of 3-5 reps. This is also a great movement to work at heavier loads – establishing a 1-3RM with great technique would have a beneficial carry-over to the traditional push jerk.
 
Push Jerk Progressions: Overhead Press and Push Press
 


 
Sometimes you don’t need to get fancy with accessory movements. Working to improve your overhead press and push press, will have great carry-over to your push jerk. These are progressions for the push jerk. Progressions are movements that build upon one another to help you establish the end movement.
With the overhead press, you are building strength throughout your torso and overhead. With the push press, you are developing explosive leg drive and lock-out strength. If you struggle with the push jerk, work your press and push press with intention, knowing that these are the building blocks to a strong push jerk!

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Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE PULL-UP

From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.

By Joe Black (CF-L2, USAW-L1SP)
The sixth common core exercise at CFP is one of those movements you either love or you hate: the pull-up. The pull-up is a basic bodyweight movement. You can do pull-ups strict, with a kip, butterfly-style, mix-grip, supinated (palms facing you), pronated (palms facing away from you), weighted, with a tempo.
We have written about the pull-up a lot lately on the blog. The Challenge of the Month in May was to add a pull-up a day.
You won’t go 10 days without seeing some type of vertical pulling movement in a CrossFit class. Every year, some form of the pull-up appears in the CrossFit Open.
The. Pull-up. Is. Everywhere.
And it isn’t going away (sorry, not sorry, haters).
The concept of a pull-up seems simple enough. Hang from a bar and pull yourself up until your chin goes over the bar. Yet it doesn’t always work out like that. Pulling practically your entire body weight up over a bar can seem impossible to some.
But don’t let it beat you!
I have put together a two-part series to help you develop pull-up strength:
Part 1
Part 2
There are a lot of accessory movements that I recommended, as well as a 4-week template, designed to help you get your first pull-up. There is a lot of information, so to prevent this from being overwhelming, here are my three favorite pull-up accessory movements:

Dead Hang to Active Hang



The first step to a pull-up is being able to hang from the bar. The dead hang gets you comfortable with hanging from the bar and builds grip strength. The active hang is when you draw your shoulder blades down, lifting your chest up while hanging from the bar. This is how you start the pull-up.
Mix these up. Try doing an active hang for 10 seconds immediately into a dead hang for 10 seconds. Or switch it to dead hang to active hang. You can move between dead hang to active hang, pausing for a second in the active position, which are called scapular pull-ups.

Negatives


Research has shown that overloading the eccentric (lengthening of muscles) portion of a movement leads to an increase in strength and power in the concentric (shortening of muscles) portion of the movement.
A great way to build pulling strength is to jump up with your chin over the bar and slowly, in control, lower yourself back to a dead hang.
Do your best to be strict with this movement by maintaining control of your body on the way down. You can add these in to your warmup. 3 sets of 3-5 negatives would be a great start!

Barbell Assisted Pull-Ups


This pull-up accessory movement is the best! It is similar to a modified push-up, where some of your body weight is removed in order to help you complete a repetition.
This movement lets you simulate the pull-up and get stronger throughout the movement, something that bands won’t do for you.
You can change the difficulty of this movement by placing more (easier) or less (harder) of your legs on the box, which will either decrease or increase your weight.
I recommend 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps, depending on your current skill level.

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Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE FRONT SQUAT

From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.
By Joe Black (CF-L2, USAW-L1SP)
What do cleans, thrusters and wall balls have in common?
They rely on the front squat as the base of their movement. In order to improve your movement efficiency and strength with these movements, it is a great idea to start with the front squat.
If you were looking at your body from the side, the frontal plane is the intersection of your body from your head to your foot. When you front squat, the bar rests on your shoulders, which are in front of the frontal plane. This requires you to have a more upright torso to find your balance.
With a back squat, the bar rests on your shoulder blades and traps, which is in back of the frontal plane. This allows one to hinge slightly at the hip, putting their torso at an angle that allows one to feel balanced.

Front squat bar placement on the left, back squat bar placement on the right.

The back squat tends to feel a bit more natural, and thus easier, whereas the front squat proves to be a bit more challenging. Add in any mobility issues and it can be a real pain!
Let’s review how to properly front squat, look at some great mobility drills for your front rack (where the bar is placed) and discuss accessory exercises to help improve your front squat.

How to Front Squat

  1. Take the bar from a rack with a full grip (if able) that places your hands outside of your shoulders.
  2. Rest the bar on your shoulders (deltoids) and lift your shoulders up to create a solid “rack” or “shelf” for the bar to sit on.
  3. Lift your elbows so that your triceps are parallel to the ground.
  4. Take a deep belly breath and brace your torso like you were preparing for a punch.
  5. Staying balanced through your feet, start your squat by pushing your knees out and sitting your hips down and back.
  6. Fight throughout the movement to keep your elbows in the same position as you started – this will help you maintain an upright torso.
  7. Reach depth and push hard into the floor to rise back up. It may be helpful to think about letting the elbow lead you up.

Front Squat Mobility

I really enjoy this mobility advice from Dave Tilley, as seen on Barbell Shrugged (an awesome podcast I highly recommened!). It helps you diagnose the area or areas you need to work on the most and provides you with simple mobility drills to loosen up prior to front squatting.
These drills are:

  1. Roll out your forearms with a lacrosse ball to improve wrist extension.
  2. Roll out your triceps with a lacrosse ball to improve elbow flexion.
  3. Stretch your back (lats) with a PVC pipe and bench to improve shoulder flexion.
  4. Stretch your shoulders with a PVC pipe to improve external shoulder rotation.


Additionally, this video from T-Nation provides you with great thoracic spine (upper-back) mobility drills to prep for front squatting.

Front Squat Accessory Exercises

Here are a handful of accessory exercises which will help your front squat:
Front Rack Step-Ups


This is a great exercise to develop rigidness in your front rack while working one of the primary movers of the front squat, your quads. Use a box that is slightly above knee height. Start with the bar in the front rack position and one foot on the box. Step up onto the box, driving through your foot and ensuring that your hip and you knee are in a straight line (extension) before the other foot steps onto the box. Step down, in control and repeat. Try 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
Dumbbell Rows

Rows help build a strong upper back. A strong upper back will help you hold your front rack position and prevent your elbows from dropping. Start with your left hand and left knee on a bench, with your right foot on the ground for support and your right hand holding a dumbbell. With the dumbbell directly underneath you, pull up and back. Slowly lower the dumbbell, working full range of motion. Work these in for 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per side.
Flat Back Hip Extensions

Flat back hip extensions target the muscles of the lower back, butt and spine. These muscles work to help you maintain an upright torso when you front squat. Set up a back extensions or GHD machine so that your hips rest on the pads, allowing you to hinge at the hip. Keeping your back in extension (which means that you are actively holding the natural curve of your lower spine), rise up by pushing your hips into the pads and squeezing your butt for 1-2 seconds at the top of the movement. Lower under control, maintaining back extension the entire time. Start with 2 sets of 10-12 reps and add weight over time.
Tempo Front Squats

Nothing will provide you with better mobility in the long term than loading the movement you are working on and doing your best to fight for ideal positions throughout the lift. Tempo front squats will help create awareness of where your body breaks down during the movement and will allow you to move with control through these areas to increase your mobility. Tempo front squats would be performed with a controlled squat down (3-5 seconds), a pause in the bottom (1-5 seconds) and a controlled rise that is quicker than your squat down. In some cases, you might even want to slow down the ascent. Test these with an empty barbell first and do 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps, using a weight that allows you to move well.

Categories
Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE BACK SQUAT

From July until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game.
 


By Joe Black (USAW-L1SP, CF-L2)
The back squat is sometimes referred to as the “King of Exercises” and for good reason. When you squat with a loaded barbell on your back, it is necessary to recruit nearly all of the muscles in your body to support the weight and hold the position of your body as you squat down and stand up.
For the squat being such a common movement in CrossFit, it made me wonder about the history of the squat. And that history is awesome.
Some historians have identified the squat being used as an exercise for quad development as far back as 1894, during a time when Eugene Sandow, known as the first bodybuilder, recommended its use for physical development. At the time, the squat was done with light dumbbells.
It wasn’t until 30+ years later that a German-born strongman and wrestler, Milo Steinborn, figured out a way to heavily load the squat by tilting a loaded barbell onto his back, squat for reps, then tip it back over on its side and off his back. He was able to lift up to 500# this way!
 


Steinborn used the squat for strength training but it was Paul Anderson who took it to the next level. Anderson was the strongest man in the world by most measures of the day. He was clean and jerking 400# at a time when 330# was the world record. At the 1956 Olympics, he clean and jerked 413.5# with an inner-ear infection and a 103 degree fever. Anderson trained the squat in many different ways, using wagon wheels and 55-gallon drums as instruments to load his squat and working different ranges of motion. Most impressively, he had unheard of squat numbers for the time: a 930# official squat in 1965 and a 1,200# training squat!
Anderson is most famous for popularizing the squat as a standalone exercise for strength development. Bodybuilders in the 60s and 70s, most notably Tom Plantz, further popularized the squat for leg development, using it to build massive legs, which influenced generations of fitness enthusiasts for decades to come.
If you’ve been on Facebook or Instagram lately, and follow any fitness professional or business, you have undoubtedly seen some very impressive squat videos. Further proof that the squat really is king.
The squat is a natural movement, something we all did as children when we went to pick something off the ground. Some cultures use the squat as their default rest position. Most adults tend to stop squatting as they get older yet you buck this trend – we squat ALL THE TIME when we CrossFit.
 

How to Back Squat

 


It is beneficial to use a high-bar back squat for CrossFit training because the position of your torso (more upright) translates over to a lot of the squat-related movements done in CrossFit.

  1. Place the barbell on the top of your shoulder blades, then push your traps up against the bar to create a cushion and solid area to hold the weight.
  2. Your elbows are neutral, meaning they are placed directly under the barbell. You can play around with your hand placement to find a comfortable width that allows for neutral elbows.
  3. Look straight ahead or slightly above the horizon. Keep your spine neutral and “brace” your stomach like someone is going to punch you.
  4. Keeping the weight in your mid-foot, start by bending your knees forward and pushing your hips back – at the same time – and control your descent (which loads your quads and glutes) with your knees tracking over your toes. Squat down as far as you can while maintaining good posture.
  5. Rise faster than you descend, only if you are able to maintain good positioning.

 

Accessory Exercises to Improve Your Back Squat

There is no better way to improve your back squat other than back squatting more often. This means that you work on squatting with the goal of improving your technique and positioning and NOT worrying about the weight on the bar! 
These exercises below are great additions to squatting more often:
 

Pause Squats

Pause squats are performed by pausing in the bottom position of your squat. Pausing 3-5 seconds in the bottom of your squat will help strengthen your bottom position and help you get comfortable in that positions while you maintain tightness throughout your body and good posture. Use pause squats while you are warming up for your squats.


 

Bulgarian Split Squats

The quads are one of the main muscle groups used in the squat and the BSS helps directly improve your quad strength. Start with the top of one foot resting on a bench and your other foot out in front of your body, like you are in a lunge. To really target the quads, you want to set up so that your knee goes past your toes at the bottom of the movement. The BBS can be done at bodyweight, with dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides or with a barbell on your back or front rack. Try doing 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps, focusing on driving up with your quads.
 


 

Hip Thrusts

The other major muscle group used in the squat are your glutes and the hip thrust is known as one of the best exercises for gluteal activation. You will put your back on a bench so that the bottom of your shoulder blades becomes the hinge point. Keep your gaze straight ahead the entire time, with your chin and ribs tucked down. Push through the heels and rise to full extension of your hip. Squeeze your butt for a 1-2 second count and slowly lower to the ground. Try doing 2-3 sets of 15 reps at your bodyweight before moving on to loading the movement with a barbell.

Categories
Prototype Blog

ACCESSORY SERIES: THE AIR SQUAT


 
From now until the end of September, CrossFit Prototype will be posting a blog per week as part of our Accessory Series. These blog posts will review 1 of the 13 CFP foundational movements (Air Squat, Back Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Kettlebell Swing, Pull-Up, Overhead Press, Push Press, Push Jerk, Clean, Snatch & Rowing) and provide tips on accessory exercises to help improve that area of your CrossFit game!
 
By Joe Black (USAW-L1SP, CF-L1)
The air squat is one of the most important foundational movements. It shows up in a number of ways as the base for a lot of the movements that we do in CrossFit: back squats, front squats, overhead squats, thrusters, wall balls, Olympic lifts and more.
It is very important to learn how to squat properly, not only for CrossFit, but because of the benefits that a squat provides.
The squat can help you:
 

  • Strengthen your muscles, your bones and your joints
  • Improve your flexibility, balance and coordination
  • Burn fat at a quicker rate
  • Increase strength, power and endurance
  • Improve your fitness
  • And more!

 
The squat is a whole body movement. It works your legs as they bend and straighten, moving your body weight. It works your abs and lower back, stabilizing your core, as your legs move. When the squat is loaded, your upper back, shoulders and arms balance the bar on your back throughout the entire movement. You are using your entire body when you squat!
 

How-To Air Squat


Air Squat Mechanics:

  • Feet shoulder width apart with toes slightly turned out
  • Lower your body by letting your hips descend back and down
  • Knees track over your toes
  • Keep your feet in contact with the ground the entire time
  • Maintain the curve in your lower back by keeping your chest up
  • The crease of your hip falls below your knees
  • Push your feet into the ground to rise

 

Three Accessory Exercises to Improve Your Squat

If you struggle with the squat, here are 3 accessory exercises that can help improve your squat technique as well as carry over to other CrossFit movements:
 
Bottom of Squat Hold: Hold onto something stationary and control yourself down into a full squat. While there, work on activating different muscles. Move your ankles, knees, hips, lower and upper back. Stay in the squat for as long as feels comfortable and then rise. Repeat 2-3 times. 

 
Plate Loaded/Goblet Squat: Using a plate or kettlebell, held in front of you for counterbalance, slowly squat down with control. Pause in the bottom for 3-5 seconds, concentrating on maintaining good form, and then rise. Do 5-7 reps for 2-3 sets with a light weight.

 

Wall Squat: The most challenging of the three. Start facing the wall in a squat stance with your hands overhead. Your ability level will dictate how close you go to the wall – as you progress, you will move your feet closer to the wall. Squat down as low as possible while keeping your hands overhead. Try 3 sets for 3 reps.

Work on these three accessory exercises to help improve your squat. Let your coaches know if you have any questions!

 

Categories
Prototype Blog

The Quickest Way to Improve Your Weightlifting

The Quickest Way to Improve Your Weightlifting
By Joe Black (USAW-L1SP, CF-L1)
Weightlifting is one of the coolest parts of CrossFit. Watching someone effortlessly pick up a loaded barbell and throw it overhead fascinates me. The Olympic lifts (Snatch, Clean, and Jerk) are dynamic and make me feel like an athlete, even at 33 years old!
I started CrossFit in 2011 and I wasn’t too far into my new obsession that I became extremely interested in the lifts. I gradually shifted from CrossFit workouts to weightlifting over the course of the next few years until I made the jump completely in 2015. For the last two years, I have worked remotely with a weightlifting fitness coach, improving my technique, strength, and understanding of the lifts and have competed locally in weightlifting meets. I also work as a fitness coach two female weightlifting athletes at CrossFit Prototype.
Coaching, competing, and training weightlifting is awesome!

What is the Quickest Way to Improve Your Weightlifting?

Over these years, I have recognized some themes regarding weightlifting in a fitness gym.
We are trying to accomplish the following when weightlifting:

  1. Stay balanced throughout the lift. Your balance changes throughout the lift, so understanding where you need to be at each point of the lift and developing awareness of your body in space helps make you that much better.
  2. Keep the bar close to the body. This keeps the weight closer to your center of gravity which in turn makes completing the lift successfully with the desired technique more likely.
  3. Move the weight quickly under control. Controlled speed is your friend as you navigate the lift from the floor to the receiving position.
  4. Maintain focus and mental toughness. Concentrate on limiting distractions and visualize making the lift. You should train your body AND your mind.  

It takes a lot of time, patience, practice, and consistent lifting in a fitness gym like Prototype in order to do all of these things correctly and succinctly so that you can continue to improve your weightlifting.
Yet, when you focus on these areas, you will PR!
So what is the trick?
While there is no magic bullet that will help you lift serious weight overnight there is a trick that will help you get better, faster:
SPEND MORE TIME WITH THE BARBELL
This is the quickest way to improve your weightlifting.
When we are warming up in class on a day with an Olympic lift, go through the warm-up with intention. Focus on how you are moving the barbell.
If you take the weightlifting classes, don’t rush to put weight on the bar. Take 3-5 minutes per exercise to warm-up your movement patterns with an empty barbell.
I have heard folks say (and I definitely used to believe) that by adding weight to a barbell it helps them “feel” the movement better. I no longer believe this to be the case. If you cannot move an empty barbell with correct technique, you will not magically be able to do it under load.

Example of a Snatch Warm-Up

I organize my warm-ups by movement prep and technique prep. Here is an example of my snatch warm-up with video demonstrations:

MOVEMENT PREP

  1. Head Throughs: stretch out your chest, shoulders and back.
  2. Snatch Press: groove your overhead and lock-out.
  3. Overhead Squat: work the foundation of the snatch from top to bottom.
  4. Dip + Muscle Snatch: feel your power position and reinforce the bar’s movement through your upper body.
  5. Snatch Balance: practice speed under the bar and stability in the receiving position.

TECHNIQUE PREP

  1. Hit + Hi-Pull: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up and learn to actively pull your elbows towards the ceiling, keeping the bar close.
  2. Hit + Muscle Snatch: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up and reinforce the bar’s movement through your upper body and overhead position.
  3. Hit + Snatch: helps you find your hips (your power) to drive the bar up while putting together all of the previous prep movements to finish in a full snatch.
  4. Tall Snatch: work your pull under the bar as well as your speed, confidence and aggressiveness in the turnover.
  5. 3-Position Snatch: put everything together and work the full snatch from above the knee, below the knee and mid-shin (where the bar would be when you start your lift from the ground).

I took technical areas of the snatch that I needed work on and added them into my warm-up, allowing me to get the time I need with an empty barbell while at the same time warming up my body for my Snatch exercises that day.
It is a win-win!

Start Getting Better Now

Weightlifting differs from CrossFit in that we are only concerned with three movements: snatch, clean and jerk. These are the movements that are tested in competition.
Through the work done in a CrossFit class, CrossFitters typically start out weightlifting with a lot of strength and mental toughness but lack the technique needed to take their lifting to the next level.
If you want to improve your weightlifting, the solution is easy: SPEND MORE TIME WITH THE BARBELL!
If you need any help or are interested in persoanl training, reach out to me with the contact form below!
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