Thursday, June 9, 2011

11-06-08: Front Squats and Jumping Pull-Ups

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, June 8th

Left pic: Pretty good elbow position. Right pic: GREAT elbow position.  As the original caption to this image says: "Any dropping of the elbows can be the difference between a made or missed lift." (
Jumping Pull-Up: This motion is completely driven by the legs, with the arms basically acting as guides to ensure you pogo in the same spot. Speed, power, and lungs all come into play with a set of 30. Or six sets. (

Strength: 2X

Day two at ECC. If you read this blog (Hi Mom, Hi J!), you know that I've struggled with my grip in the front squat, and today would definitely put it to the test. My best PR on the front squat was 185# for 2, which roughly translated to a theoretical 1 rep max of 205 or 210.  However, coming off a month-long lay-off, we decided to keep me at 185# for this, resulting in the weights shown above. This would be a ton of volume on an exercise that I haven't had to spend a ton of time on.

Side-rant: This raises on thing I almost don't like about CrossFit methodologies: I understand that the goal of constantly switching up the exercises is that you shouldn't get *too* efficient at them (consider how much more of a workout 2 lengths of a swimming pool would be for me, a crappy swimmer, than it is for Michael Phelps. It'll devastate me, creating a HUGE systemic impact, and causing massive amounts of rebuilding, and won't even begin to count as a warm-up for him).  However, it also prevents you from attaining much more than a passing acquaintance with them, unless you've been CrossFitting long enough to see front squats come up 20 times a year. I know all the theories of how it oughtta be done, from my certification as a trainer, but that's not the same as being under the bar actually learning not just the movement, but my body's response to the movement, what to watch out for, what to tweak.)  Meh.  At some point, Zach Even-Esh did a great journal article about introducing high school athletes to the fundamental CrossFit movements, and talked about having them do the same thing for a couple of days straight until he was sure they had it down cold before moving on to the next movement. This makes a ton of sense for ANYONE new to CrossFit, or even us "old hands" who've been doing it for a year or so, but have still only front squatted a few dozen times in our life...

However, the idea about NOT getting too good at a movement is completely logical, and I agree with it wholeheartedly, so take that little rant for what it really is: I was scared to front squat in front of people. (Cue the weepy violins...)  The other way this workout was intimidating was in the sheer number of jumping pull-ups. 180, by the end of the workout, and on ever more worn out legs. Fun fun fun.

Ooh, padded bar, too. Swanky.
I made it through the first few sets, with all the usual grip issues manifesting themselves. I would usually be able to a get a few reps in before fingers started slipping off the bar. My best guess is that I don't have the flexibility to get my elbows high enough AND KEEP THEM THERE, so as they drop, I'm stretching out my wrist and fingers more and more to keep controlling the weight, and eventually, the elbow sag pulls them free. EVERY set involved me switching to the rotten "California" front squat grip, including my final heavy set, performed as the next class was using me (the last guy still going, since we had three of us on our squat rack) as an example, both of what TO do (depth of squat, heels down, torso (pretty-much) upright), and also of what to do when you do something wrong (grip slip, switch to California grip mid-set and bang out the rest of the squats).  So that was cool and terrifying.

My only failure came on the 4th set, the repeat of the 10 rep "light' set. On the 5th or 6th rep, the bar just got away from me and hit the floor. A quick power clean later, I banged out another squat, but ended up dumping the bar again. Worried that I might completely tank the rest of the workout, I ended the set there, did my jumping pull-ups, and did the rest of the workout as Rx'ed, other than the grip issues.

I was also faced with a new question: how do you drive home when your legs and arms are shaking and useless? After spending a bit of time recovering in the ever-warming swampy air, I made my way home nice and carefully. Until Friday...

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