Friday, July 29, 2011

11-07-29: Bench Press

Elm City CrossFit WoD for July 29th, 2011
Bench press. Notice the back arch, and the weight directly over her upper chest (NOT her neck or bottom of the ribs. The bar should travel completely vertically.) Four points of contact: Feet on the floor, hips on the bench, shoulder blades retracted on the bench, hands on the bar, all forming an arch that protects the lower back, and helps channel strength and stability from the feet/hips to the shoulder/bar ends of the body. (CrossFit One World)

Max Strength: 3-3-2-2-1

Bench @ 92%

I do love a nice, straight-forward workout every now and then. Strength focus days really let you dial it in and focus on just one skill, just one thing at a time. Lovely...

After looking back at previous max efforts, I realized that my maxes were already in the 3-5 rep range (ie, no real 1 rep max to calculate from). My previous personal record had been 175# for 3-5 reps, resulting in a calculated 1RM of 192#, so that's where I started my work sets, after warming up extensively.

However, after the first round seemed a bit easy (well, I didn't cry or wet myself, which a "92% for three reps" really CAN trigger), I opted to up the weight to 185# for the remainder of the workout. However, even at that weight, I never felt in danger of missing a rep, so I conceivably could have come up even more. Never (yet) having worked for a real one rep max on the bench, I just really have no good measure yet, so I'm still flying in the dark. My new calculated 1RM is 208# using today's weights. Had I really pushed it today, that C1RM might have been as high as 219#, which would be exciting as far as closing in on a bodyweight bench press. That would be pretty slick. ;)

11-07-27: Barbell and dumbbell complexes

Elm City Crossfit WoD for July 27th, 2011
WoD: 4 Rounds for Time: Barbell Complex
  • 1 Power Clean
  • 5 Jerk @ 80% (95# for entire complex)
  • 7 Front Squats
Sellout: 4 x 10 Dumbbell Complex
  • Stiff-Legged Deadlift
  • Curl
  • Push Press
  • 45 seconds rest between rounds

Though I've been struggling with my olympic lifts a bit lately, I felt pretty good about this workout. If nothing else, I only had to power clean the weight 4 times (provided I didn't dump the bar in the middle of the complex, requiring it to be re-cleaned to the shoulders), so it wouldn't be the limiting factor in any case. Managed the first two rounds unbroken, then had to rest a bit before the third and fourth, respectively. Still, final time was 4:22, which, while not smoking fast by any measure, was a LOT better than I was expecting. I definitely didn't feel the need to suck as much wind between rounds, or dump the bar in the middle, meaning I was doing more work faster...always a good thing!

Oddly, the dumbbell complex was almost harder.  I don't know if my hands were just sore from the barbell, or if the grips on the dumbbell are especially rough, but they were killing my hands. And they were only 20# each! While 45 seconds seemed like forever between the 1st and 2nd rounds, it quickly collapsed into barely enough to catch my breath before stepping up to the weights again. Happily, I wasn't the only one feeling this way, as other people started getting harassed for taking longer than 45 seconds between rounds. In their defense, it actually becomes VERY difficult to quickly run the mental math for when 45 seconds will be over in a fatigued state. Thinking back, that sounds ridiculous, but I've been there often enough to know that when you're fatigued, figuring out adding :45 to x:38 is damn near impossible.

11-07-25: Power snatch, reverse lunge, push jerk triplet

Elm City Crossfit WoD for July 25th, 2011
Spencer Hendel makes at least 185# look easy. If those are 35# on the ends, its 205#. If there are smaller plates on there, its even more. Bastage. (

WOD: 2x 6min AMRAP
  • 2 Power Snatches 95# 85#
  • 2 Overhead Reverse Lunge (or high-bar backsquat position) - each leg
  • 2 Overhead Squat (or push-jerk from the back of the neck position)
1min Rest @ 6min mark

Total score: 11 rounds even.

Way more time spent staring at the bar, trying to make the spots in front of my eyes go away, than I care to admit. First two rounds were as Rx'ed, until I failed on the final overhead squat. After that, I switched to the high-bar back-squat position for the lunges and replaced the overhead squats with push jerks.  All in all, a smoker of a workout. Full body devastation, baby!

Monday, July 25, 2011

11-07-22: Knees-to-Elbows and Handstand Push-ups

Elm City Crossfit WoD for July 22, 2011

WOD: 15 min AMRAP
  • 20 knees-to-elbows/Sit-ups
  • HSPU* – till failure
Rounds plus HSPU = Score

Scalings: K2E/Sit-ups: Started with knees-to-elbows, but after the second round, switched to ab mat sit-ups to avoid tearing my hands.
Handstand Push-ups: Knees on high box, vertical push-ups with hands on weight plates to increase weight of motion.

Total score: 6 rounds plus 61 "handstand" push-ups = 67

11-07-20: Push presses and sit-ups, and burpees, and running

Elm City CrossFit WoD for July 20th, 2011
The push press. It seems so simple, right? Use a slight knee and hip bend to drive a weight from your shoulders to the overhead position.  It seems almost... natural. That does NOT make it "simple!" (CrossFit Infinite)
Sit-up form to try to keep the hip-flexors out a bit more. Note the towel under his back, filling the same function that an abmat would, namely, allowing full extension of the abs and preventing the small of the back from driving into the floor at the start of the movement. Both very good things. I presume he was protecting his junk from monkeys or something in the pic on the right. Safety first. (Simply Natural Supplements)

WOD: 21-21-15-15-9-9
  • Push Press 95/65
  • Reverse Crunch
Sellout: 5x On the minute
  • 2 Burpees
  • 1 Crack Dash

Walking in, my hope was that the rep scheme was an odd way of saying 21 push presses, 21 sit-ups. Nope, rather than the CrossFit regular of 45 reps, we were shooting for 90 today. Great googly-moogly!

Here we see Nicole Carroll showing perfect alignment on the dip phase of the push-press or push-jerk. Hips have closed a bit, knees have closed a bit, and the line between her center of balance, her hips and the bar make a straight line. In other words, she has dipped straight down.

As it turns out, I've been doing it wrong for quite some time.

Here we see Rob showing off several possible positions for the bottom of the dip. The first one is obviously the correct one, the same as Nicole's above. In the middle picture, in leaning forward a little, he's brought the bar in front of his center of balance. When he tries to straighten out of this dip, rather than driving the weight straight up, it will tend to shoot even further out in front, making him do even more work if he's going to rescue the lift.

In the last picture, we see the problem *I've* apparently saddled myself with.  In an attempt to keep from leaning forward, I've failed to actually close the hip, leaving me leaning back. This "felt" like I wasn't leaning forward, which is technically true, but my mental image of what I was doing looked more like the first picture. A LOT more pressure and strain is put on the lower back in this configuration, and the action of the hips reopening is completely omitted, making the lift even harder.

Total Time: uknown (it was nearly a week ago at this point. I'll try to keep up with this better in the future.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

11-07-18: Bench Presses and Ring Push-Ups

Elm City Crossfit WoD for July 18th, 2011
Bench press showing a great lumbar arch. Feet flat on the floor, butt and shoulder blades firmly on the bench, hands on the bar. Not too arched,a la powerlifters, going for the most leverage possible (which isn't bad, its just a style thing). (The Training Geek)  
Ring push-up variations. We did the version on the lower left, just feet on the floor . However, we did it with just one foot on the floor (if we could), or two feet, or on knees, or just holding the planche position if need be. The joys of scaling. (Third Coast Crossfit)

Strength Endurance: 6 rounds
  • Bench Press @ 70% (95#) x 12
  • Max Rep Single Leg Ring Push-ups (scaled as needed)
I won't lie. This one was hard. One of my glaring weaknesses is my strength endurance. I'm pretty strong (depending on the activity), but my ability to maintain that output is rather limited. A workout like this highlights that weakness in the 2nd or 3rd round, then keeps hammering on it. While I wasn't entirely sure of my 1 rep max for bench press going into this workout, I had a good feeling about 95#. I warmed up to 135#, and realized I could only hit that for 3-4 reps, struggling a bit.  Checking out the chart, 70% of that was 95#.  Of course, hitting 3-4 reps in the warm-up implied my 1 rep max would be a bit heavier, but I had no illusions about my strength endurance.

I was starting to get positively buzzed with excitement as the workout started, and thought I might have put the weight too low when I cranked out the first twelve reps with ease. However, when I completed four single-leg ring push-ups (my first attempt ever) and promptly fell flat on my face, I knew I was going to be in trouble over the long haul. I switched legs, got another two reps and that was the end of round one.

Each round, the bench press got slower and seemingly heavier. The push-ups were ever more impossible, until I was finally just planching for a 10 second count, then doing however many standard push-ups brought me to failure, usually 2-3, tops.  The final round, I barely completed the 11th rep of the bench, needing help re-racking it after that, barely held the planche on the rings, and failed on my first push-up attempt. I spent a lot of face time on the floor during those 6 rounds...

Friday, July 15, 2011

11-07-15: Shoulder-2-Overhead, Pull-ups and Push-ups

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Friday, July 15th, 2011
Nikki Hall showing the full extension needed with the bar overhead: legs straight, hips fully open, elbows locked out, shoulders shrugged up towards the ears. It should really look like you're hanging from the bar. Don't actually try that, though. (
Pat Barber demonstrates just some of the muscles used for pull-ups. If you don't have them, you might want to scale. Like me. Hooray for jumping pull-ups! (
The always awesome Annie Sakamoto demonstrates perfect push-up form. (

WoD-10min AMRAP
  • 5 Shoulder to Overhead (Press/Push Press/Push Jerk) 135# 115#
  • 10 Pull-ups - Jumping
  • 15 Push-ups
I felt pretty good going into this one, though after warming up to the Rx'ed 135#, I realized I'd be lucky to make it out of the first round with my shoulders intact, much less try to met-con through MORE rounds after that. Dropping to 115# left it fairly heavy, but heavy enough to be a real chore a few rounds in. I was right.

I scaled the pull-ups to jumping pull-ups, knowing that, like the weight on the bar, even a banded pull-up would limit me to one or two rounds, tops. The struggle of getting in a few pull-ups is (ideally) secondary to the full body (and especially upper-body) infliction of pain and suffering on the metabolic pathways.  That said, the jumping pull-ups were essentially pretty easy in all 4 rounds I completed, so maybe I shouldn't have scaled it down quite *that* much.

Not surprisingly, it was the push-ups that ended up devastating me. After getting 10 unbroken in the first round, I spent the rest of the workout being really impressed with myself every time I gutted out three whole reps in a row. Needless to say, the 15 push-ups were always the part of the round to take the longest, and inevitably set me up to suffer badly on the next set of overhead work.

Total Rounds: 4 + 2 push jerks

Thursday, July 14, 2011

11-07-13: Snatch-grip deadlifts and double-unders

Elm City CrossFit WoD for July 13th, 2011
Snatch-grip deadlift set-up. Chest up! (
You can't tell, because the rope is invisible at this speed, but Josh Bridges is doing these double-unders BACKWARDS! Show-off bastage! (CrossFit Ares)

  • Snatch Grip Deadlift @ 75% (250#)
  • After every set: 1 min of max DU
  • 1 minute recovery

Requiring a wider grip, snatch grip deadlifts bring your torso closer to the ground by a bit, resulting in a different set-up, and an overall different experience. Given that the start of an actual snatch requires a deadlift with an even wider grip (ours was just wide, not full snatch-width), its definitely a skill worth working on. Overall, the lifting was well within my comfort level, other than trying to keep the grip with my hands that far out. A little chalk served to combat the ever-increasing sweat build-up caused by the double-unders.

The double-unders were an ah-ha moment, one of the first big ones since starting to workout with other people around and doing the same thing as me. In other words, with other knowledgeable people seeing what I was doing with a keen eye. Stage fright!! I opted to bring my own jump-rope for this WoD, as I've been totally unsuccessful with any of the ropes at ECC. Not knowing if that was me or the ropes, I figured I'd try to bring in a rope I *know* I can do double-unders with, at least when things are going well.

The first 4 rounds were NOT very good proofs of concept. 11, 13, 11, and 11 double-unders were all done pretty much as singles, followed instantly by whipping my own shoes. However, on the 5th round, it all clicked. 38 double-unders later, I was feeling a bit vindicated. Of course, that utterly smoked my little endurance, making the 6th round of lifting REALLY heavy. I managed to string together another good set of double-unders for that round, but was so gassed going into it that it was hard to recover from any issues, so I only got 20. The final round of lifting, my grip was really starting to fail, but I managed to keep it together, then nailed 30 double-unders before time ran out. That made me feel REALLY freaking good. All in all, a great workout. I wish I could have been cranking out the double-unders like that the whole way through, but I'll take a mid-workout revelation over NOT getting them any day of the week!

11-07-12: Running and rowing

Elm City Crossfit Endurance WoD for Tuesday July 12th, 2011


Endurance WoD: 2x through
  • RUN 1mile
  • ROW 1000m
This sucked. I was really hoping it was only one time through, having misread the website. I wasn't sure I could actually run two miles in the same workout. Given the choice to do either the row or run first, I opted to run first, to get at least the first one out of the way. The first surprise was that I finished the first mile unbroken. Slowly, I'm sure, but I didn't stop, and that felt kind of good. Both rows were unbroken, as well, though I find that much easier to just keep pulling and going. The second mile was a whole lot worse than the first, with me stopping to walk at least three times. I refused to actually stop moving though, so there was that. Yeah.

Oddly, I only got blisters on my left foot, rather than matching ones on both feet. We're planning on recording me running to figure out what the heck I'm doing now! :S

11-07-08: Hang power cleans, front squats, presses, SLDLs, and jump squats

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Friday, July 8th, 2011

1min on: 1min off until 20 Rounds completed
  • 1 Hang Power Clean-Front Squat-Press 95# 85#
    • (As Rx'ed: Hang Power Clean, Front Squat to Sotts Press, THEN stand with bar overhead)
  • 2 Stiff legged Deadlift 95# 85#
  • 3 Squat Jumps
Supine bicycle

I was completely unable to do the Rx'ed version of the workout, as I have NO shoulder mobility in terms of the Sotts press. Even with an empty bar I was failing way forward. Maybe it really reflects limited heel/calf flexibility, and an inability to hit the bottom position of the front squat with a vertical-enough spine, but either way, no Sotts press for me. Yet. Unfortunately, I scaled my weight to try to attempt it, and probably should have just stuck with 95# for the modified version. Damn.

Felt pretty good the whole way through, but was totally frustrated when time ran out in the 11th minute just as I was descending into my final squat jump. I had to wait, and rack up, another whole minute just to jump from a squatting position to finish the workout. Lame.

Total time: 12:01

Thursday, July 7, 2011

11-07-07: Pull-Ups, Floor Presses and Burpees

Elm City Crossfit Wod for July 7th, 2011
Pull-ups. If I could kip, this might not have sucked as much. I can't. It did. (
Floor presses. Bench presses, but without the bench. Pretty straight-forward. Watch you don't destroy your forearm by pinning your elbow into the floor on the way down... just sayin'. (
Burpees. Cardio-strength devastating perfection. Stand, squat, plank with chest to floor (ie, do a push-up), hop back to the squat, jump with hands overhead. The MOST range of motion you can get while staying in place. Awful. Awesome. Terrifying. Terrific. (

10 down: 10 up
  • Pull-ups
  • Floor Press 95#
after each pair down/up complete:
  • 2 Burpees
This results in the following:
  • 10 pull-ups
  • 1 floor presses
  • 2 burpees
  • 9 pull-ups
  • 2 floor presses
  • 2 burpees
  • 8 pull-ups
  • 3 floor presses
  • 2 burpees
  • . . .
  • 2 pull-ups
  • 9 floor presses
  • 2 burpees
  • 1 pull-up
  • 10 floor presses
  • 2 burpees
If you think that looks like fun, I just have NOTHING to say to you.  Honestly, I wasn't too worried about the burpees or the floor presses. 55 pull-ups in a single workout seemed a bit optimistic, though. Remembering how poorly I did on the AMRAP 5 minute pull-ups from last week (which really screwed up my elbows, due to poor form on my part), I made sure to use a much stronger band for my assistance. While I didn't need it as much early on, its the only thing that let me finish this beast.

Though I started out hoping for a few unbroken sets of pull-ups, 6 reps in it was revealed to me just how very overly optimistic I truly was. After that, I was lucky as hell to string 3 pull-ups together, much less finish a set unbroken (the 9th and 10 sets I managed it... when I had to do 2 and 1 rep, respectively. Ooohhh...). On the other hand, I was able to crank through the floor presses until about the 8th round, when massively depleted arm-strength started making that bar feel really freaking heavy.  While I didn't put the bar down, I did allow it to rest with my elbows on the floor towards the end of the final few sets.

The burpees were easy, though I was freaking done with them by the 9th and 10th sets of them. One thing that made today's workout extra difficult/awesome was that I was the only person there for the 5:30 am WoD.  There's an overlapping Crossfit Endurance class that most of them went to instead, leaving me one on one with Vin, who watched me like a hawk, both coaching and cheerleading whenever I needed one or the other.

Though I felt pretty good the whole way through, my inability to do pull-ups in volume really destroyed my time. Especially on those high middle sets (7-5) when I could barely do 2 in a row, and often ended up expending extra energy on attempts that just barely failed to get my chin above the bar. Those really cut into my time, so though I felt like I moved pretty quickly the first 2 rounds, and really tried to cook through the final three rounds or so, I still ended up with a pretty slow time. Still, its actually doing it that will make me faster and stronger, so I'm thankful for the slow times that will eventually be the fuel for my faster times to come. I hope. :S

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

11-07-06: Back squats and jump-rope

Elm City Crossfit WoD for July 6th, 2011
New roller and warm-up - 3 rounds:
  • Roller – rd 1 only
    • VMO & Adductors
    • TFL
    • Gastroc
  • “Core” Movements
    • Supine Bridge
    • Cobra
  • Active and Reactive Movements
    • Banded Hamstring / Biceps Femoris Stretch
    • Banded Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
    • *Hops
    • Power Step-up

Back squat. With WAY more weight than I'm comfortable even counting! (
Double-unders. I USED to be able to do these. Dammit. (

Strength: Back Squat 6 x 3
  • 2 sets @ ea of the following: 80, 85, 87% of 1RM
  • After each set: 17 double-unders or 34 single-bounces
After working through the new warm-up, including some nice targeted foam rolling, yoga-type moves, mobility wod band-assisted stretching, and some plyo moves. If only it included some double-under practice... but more on that later.

After reviewing our back squat techniques and approaches, we got ready to do 6 sets of three reps, two at 80%, two at 85% and two at 87% of our one rep max. Still not having an official 1RM, we (Coach Vin and I) settled on an estimated 1RM of 245#, leading to percentages of 195#, 210#, and 215#. It turns out, sets of three squats at those weights are pretty easy, which means my 1RM might be substantially higher....which would be awesome.

Double-unders. I don't haz them. 204 single-bounces later (in sets of 34 after each set of squats), I tried to work on them after the workout. It was NOT successful. I'm thinking I want to leave my jumprope in the car, since I just couldn't figure out which rope at ECC would actually work for me, which just goes to show how bad I am at double-unders that I would need a single specific rope. Any manufacturers or distributors looking for an unbiased review, let me know. I'd love to try out the options available.