Wednesday, February 29, 2012

12-02-29: Deadlifts, baby!

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
Heather Bergeron deadlifting at last year's games.

Jolie Gentry deadlifting at the '08 CrossFit Games. Or '09? '10? I'm not sure.
Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet deadlifting.

Josh Everett lifting 100#s MORE than today's PR. Read on to see how awesome that makes Josh.

Max: Deadlift
  • 3 attempts/post warm-up
Attempts must be declared

Time once again to try for a one rep max. My last, set on December 28th, was 365#. Two months ago, 365# was brand new and terrifying. Since hitting it, I've been dying to hit 400#. Let's face it, I'm human, I wanted a big-sounding round number.

After a roll-out and warm-up that felt good for the first time in a week since the Leg Catastrophe last Wednesday, we reviewed the basics and standards for the deadlift. After warming up at 185# for 10 reps, I started jumping up in weight. My one big concern was over-warming up and being shot by the time I got to my max attempts, so I did 5 reps at 225#, 4 at 275#, 3 at 315#, then singles on up. After re-confirming that I could, indeed, lift 365# off the ground, it was time to put up or shut up.

One thing about max rep days: We get three attempts, but if you set a new record on the first attempt, you can consider yourself good for the day, if you want. For my first attempt, I went for a 20# PR at 385#. Boom. The weight came up pretty easily, though my form was less than perfect. My butt came up a bit before the bar, meaning I lifted the weight more with my back than I needed to. Lame.

I was more or less willing to let it go with that. A 20# PR is nothing to shake a stick at... but writing 385# in my book, circling it, jotting "1RM PR" next to it, and writing it up on the last page... it felt empty. I wanted that 400#, dammit. After rejiggering the weights on the bar, I declared an attempt at 400#. The only insanely stupid thing was that I was adding another 15# to an already 20# PR... sort of a lot of weight to be adding on at the raggedy edges of my abilities...

10 seconds later, I had an even newer PR to write in the book. 400#, and it came up off the floor smoothly. I *think* my form was better than on the previous attempt, but I'm not entirely sure. All I know is that the lock-out was solid, there were no grip issues, all in all it felt like a great lift. So great, I decided to quit while I was ahead on this one. All in all, I'm going to be whining like a little kid with a stubbed toe the next time we have to do a workout involving percentages of 1RM. I'll have to do reps on a weight that, until about 6am, was my 1 rep max. Ugh.

Monday, February 27, 2012

12-02-27: Squats, Push-Ups, Pull-Ups and Sit-Ups (Oh My!)

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Monday, February 27th, 2012
Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet demonstrating excellent air squat form.

Pull ups from the bottom position (note the *fully* extended arms...

Just about the bottom of the push-up position (chest to the deck).

MOAR push-ups!!

Band-assist pull-ups. Chin well above the bar. Hm, if chest-to-bar pull-ups come up in these games, I'm screwed. File that away for later processing...

Top plank position of the push-up. Notice the utter lack of arch or cav-in in her core. Perfectly straight. (THough there is discussion (over at T-Nation) as to whether its appropriate, or better, to have a little arch to relieve pressure/stress from... something. The article didn't make much sense, and boiled down to their usual "It's easier (read: has less impact), so therefor its better" argument. Not sure if I agree or not. There may well be applications of their logic... I guess.

Huzzah for animated GIFS showing the correct way to use the ab-mat. However, for our purposes, she never comes all the way up to the top (shoulders in FRONT of the hip-crease), so these are all No-Reps... for all eternity. Shame, really...

WOD: 2 x 2min each
  • Squats1 / Sit-Ups 2
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Rest
After nearly 5 days of DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) from last Wednesday's beatdown, which carried over the CrossFit Open burpee challenge on Saturday, it was nice to finally be getting some pain-free movement back into my quads this morning. The muscles are still sore, but actually going up and down stairs, or sitting down in a chair or getting up, are no longer actions that inspire existential dread. The body heals and adapts...

So, obviously, it was time for more squats, and other bodyweight fun times. Simple workout: got through the list of movements twice (first movement changes between sets, squats in the first set, sit-ups in the second), resting between those rounds. As many of us were in the same agony boat I had been in as recently as the day before, we were cautioned to take the squat round easy, and use it as more of a tune-up, getting the blood flowing, rather than going all out and doing more damage, and increasing the possibility of a nice case of rhabdo. This would NOT be a good outcome, so everyone seemed to take the warnings to heart.

After cruising through the squats, it was time to feel weak on the push-ups (again) before feeling WAY weak on the pull-ups (small blue band for the assist) before earning a much needed two minute break. Second time through, it was ab-mat sit-ups instead of squats, then push-ups and pull-ups again (this time with a much stouter green band).  My weakness on pull-ups is definitely from the very bottom of the hole, since once I get going (at least in a band) completing the pull-up isn't that hard... but getting going out of the bottom is just the worst! My best guess at how to target that is to add in pull-ups to every warm-up, dead hang, from the full-on bottom position, NO band assist. Just a few reps at a time, to work those specific muscles. Here's hoping.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

12-02-25: CrossFit Games Open 12.1

CrossFit Games Open Workout 12.1 - February 25th, 2012

The burpee standards: Chest and hips to the floor, touch the target with both hands. Repeat as needed.

A cool solution to not having enough targets around: 2.5# weights suspended from the ceiling. Genius!

WoD: 7 minutes - Burpees
 - As many reps as possible

Official CrossFit workout description:

Burpees. Damn it.

Upshot on the standards: Chest and hips to deck, touch a target suspended 6" over your outstretched hands. Nothing about HOW you get down to the deck, or get back up. Both hands have to touch the target, but other than that, the standards are pretty freaking basic.There would be just one huge problem...

Sadly, after the epic leg catastrophe that was Wednesday's workout, my legs were still at about 40% by the time Saturday morning rolled around. (You should have seen me limping around on Thursday and Friday!) After commiserating with everyone else who went through the Leg Catastrophe while trying to roll the agony out of my legs, it was time for the rest of the warm-up. It did NOT go well.

After going over the pretty damn simple standards, as well as how to accurately count and no-rep another athlete while they perform the workout, it was time to find a station to suffer in. After quickly ruling out any of the pull-up stations (a preferred choice, since the target for the jump can't be set swinging with an ugly touch), since apparently I'm just too damn tall, it was time to settle for some Olympic rings set far off the ground. Well, 6" above my outstretched hands... but by mid-workout (and in hindsight) they may as well have been 20 feet off the ground.

I was lucky enough to have one of the Elm City coaches as my counter, and not just that, but one who takes the concept of official efforts and no-repping a failed attempt seriously: Bobby "Wheels" Wheeler. And what luck, he was in a bad mood from being crippled by one of his own recent workouts. Heh.

Finally it was time for the workout to start: 7 minutes of hell. w00t!

About 10 reps in, the little bit of breakfast I had had a few hours earlier immediately made its presence known, and would be a constant reminder for the rest of the workout. You be damn sure that slowed me down a little bit, but not so much as the legs of stone and lungs of fire. I had a few missed reps, where I jumped and missed the rings, usually more because of having migrated too far from the rings to reach out for them on the jump. Lame, but at least I didn't have to hit the deck again to restart the rep. I just had to jump again. Bah.

At about the three minute mark, I had 30 reps, but I was hurting, badly. Whereas I went into the workout with the hopes of hitting at least 70 reps (10 a minute), or even better, 77 reps. At that point in the workout, I just wanted to double my score, at least 60 reps. I'm proud to say I hit my goal with 2 seconds to spare. All in all (and compared to the leaderboards on the games website) its a shitty score... but for me, and where I was when I first showed up at ECC 8 months ago, its actually shockingly good progress. Its hard to remember to track your OWN accomplishments, and compare against yourself in the heat of competition. Yeah, a college lacrosse player and wrestler who never let himself get out of shape may have doubled my output... but with those credits, why the hell shouldn't he?! 60 is damn good for me, and though I wanted more, I'm totally proud of them. ;)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

12-02-22: Air squats and wall ball shots

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wall balls. Start in a full-depth squat (hip-crease below the top of the knee) and explode up to full extension, propelling the ball up to the target.
A better look at the starting position. Looks fun, right?

The air squat, as demonstrated by internet traffic generator Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet. These are super simple and easy, once you get the form right... but as with anything else, can start to suck massively at higher rep counts. Like, say, 50.

  • WoD: 2 x 6min with 3min recovery
  • Sellout:
    • 2x Max Rep Weighted Pull-up 25/10
"Leg catastrophe." I believe that's how Coach Vin referred to this workout. Boy, was he ever right. You can tell when you're getting experienced at the sport of exercise: You distrust that feeling of "hm, this isn't so bad" in your first set, because you just KNOW how bad its going to get down the line. Case in point, boy, that first round of squats and wallballs really wasn't all *that* bad. But transferring back into air squats, it felt like my quads were made out of concrete, and they weren't really all that excited about repeatedly squatting. I felt like I did pretty good in the first 6 minute round, slowing a bit towards the end, but trying to work straight through.

3 minutes of rest was... heavenly. And far too short, but it was awesome.

The second 6 minutes was... ugly. Seriously, just ugly. About 15 seconds in, the concrete in my legs turned into thick molten lava. Then my lungs caught on fire. Work slowed a bit after that, but I tried to keep from just sucking air, taking a few breaths and moving on. That was always the intention. I get the feeling (in hindsight) that I may not have been that awesome at it. Boo.

Total rounds/reps = 3 rounds + 34 squats

In other news, I signed up for the CrossFit Open tonight. Dammit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

12-02-20: Bench press and push-ups

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Monday, February 20th, 2012
Floor press - We did these with an empty bar as part of our warm-ups.
Rip! Mark Rippetoe coaches Eva T. on the finer aspects of the bench press.

Stop smiling and go for another rep already!

Push-ups. You know you hate them.

Push-ups. He knows you hate them, too. That's why he's punishing you with them. 

  • Strength: Max Rep - Bench
    • 85% = 175#
    • 87% = 180#
    • 90% = 185#
    • 92% = 195#
  • Sellout: 2min
    • Max Rep Push-ups
After a new warm-up, including workout-specific bits (floor presses, shoulder pass-throughs), we reviewed the finer points of the bench press. Scapula should be retracted together, providing a firm stable base on the bench, there should be a small arch in the lower back, but the butt has to stay on the floor.  The goal in the work sets was to work to failure on each round, trying for the maximum number of reps. Rest two minutes, then do it again with a little more weight.

I felt really good about every set. There's something nice about sets with a competent spotter (Thanks Woody!), where you can really go to failure and not be *too* concerned about dropping the bar on your face. 

Bench %WeightReps

After all the benching, it was time to do as many push-ups as possible in 2 minutes. Thought we had the option to do scaled after failing out on strict, I opted to go strict the whole way through. This was motivated by a somewhat recent workout when my push-ups were embarrassingly non-existent. As such, it was time to do some real work. After banging out 10 reps (which felt pretty good), I had to break things up into smaller bites.Total reps? 23.

Friday, February 17, 2012

12-02-17: Deadlifts

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Friday, February 17th, 2012
Deadlift. Why I love this picture: Note the abs and core working overtime to stabilize the massive load hanging from the arms.

Heather Bergeron rocking deadlifts in the 2011 CrossFit Games.
Jolie Gentry banging out deadlifts at the 2008 CrossFit Games (I think...)

The Terminator lifts more weight in one lift than I've probably lifted in my entire life combined. Jerk.
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, either deadlifting or setting up for a clean of some kind. All I know is that every time I include a picture and reference to Camille, my traffic quadruples. So, thanks for being awesome, Camille, and thanks to everyone googling for pics of you!
Back extensions. They seem easy until they start sucking. Usually on the 3rd or 4th rep.

I'm not going to lie... warming up to work weight on the deadlift was an almost depressing experience. Having recently increased my 1 rep max substantially, all of my scaled work is a lot harder than it used to be. Obviously, this is good in almost every regard except for the one where one of my warm-up sets just feels so freaking heavy... because it used to BE my one-rep max. So hooray progress, booo stupid heavy bar! 

After going over the movements, standards, and safety, we started warming up to our work weights. 135# is officially my starting weight, followed by 225# and 275#. As I said, even 275# felt heavy (of course it is... it just didn't need to FEEL it.), and moving up to 315# felt like I was going to be seriously in trouble to complete the workout. In the moment, it actually kind of felt like a victory just slapping on the additional 5# plates on each side to get me up to my working weight of 325#. 1.5x bodyweight for the workout. Neat! From 275# on, I used the alternating grip (most obviously in the Ahnold picture up there), changing which hand was supine on each set.

For the most part, the deadlifts ended up being pretty uneventful. Having gotten caught starting one of my warm-ups with a stripper pole move (start the lift by raising the butt without moving the bar off the floor at all...), I tried to keep my form in check. The only  issue came at the start of the 4th round, when the bar completely failed to come off the floor. After taking a quick breath, I swapped my grip to supinate the right hand (which has always felt a little stronger) and whoo-pah! that bar came right off the floor. I finished out the fifth round with the same grip, no problems.

The sell-out was ok, though targeting the lower back with the hip & back extensions right after deadlifts meant that the extensions were kind of a pain in the ass... well, in the back, I guess. The kettlebell calf raises were very uneventful... after a career of doing super-heavy machine squats and calf raises, doing them with two kettlebells was downright easy. Of course, since it worked my grip some more, all the muscles used to support the weight hanging off the frame, and involved the core to maintain balance and whatnot, the reduced weights are more than made up for by the massively increased music demand across the entire body.

Ooh yeah, feel the burn, baby!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

12-02-15: Presses and snatch balances

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
Overhead press. Note the utter LACK of knee bends or leg action. The ONLY thing moving the weight is the upper body. Everything from the nipples down is locked into total support for the moving weight. Everything.

Snatch Balance. A slight dip (pic. 2) and re-extension of the legs drives the bar up, allowing time to redirect the body under the bar, catching the bar with arms fully extended. Fun fun fun...

Push presses... you know, I don't think I've done these since June. That was my last PR at least, so I think that was the last time I did them at any sort of weight. Given another 7 months of work, I decided to up my work weight a bit from the original 85% of 115#, which would have been 100#. 110# instead, which was nice in that I then got to work in with Woody, a recovering distance junky. Between the work he's doing, and my making my way back from soccer and frisbee imbalances (upper body strength? Schwa?!), we both ended up at 110#.

I think I picked well, since the first two rounds felt like I had "one or two left in the tank," as 85% of 1RM should come out to a 6-7 reps. By the third or fourth rounds, fatigue was building up and I started struggling to finish the rounds. By the final two, the supposedly "easiest" ones (if you're naive), I was barely finishing. w00t! However, I was happy to make it through without failing any of them.

After that, it was on to working on the snatch skill set. I chose the snatch balance, since dropping into the bottom position is one of the biggest issues still facing my performance on the full movement. After several reps at 45#, I moved up to 65#, and instantly the struggles began. One of my big struggles is getting all the way down cleanly and quickly, compared to catching the bar most of the way down and "riding the elevator" the rest of the way down. I think I started to see some success, or rather, more success... still some work to do.

 Best song of the workout:

12-02-13: Bodyweight devastation!

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Monday, February 13th, 2012
Double-unders. Rope goes under the feet twice per jump. Keeping the body rigid and not mule-kicking on every jump increases your efficiency drastically. 
Push-ups. Suck-tacular today.

An animated GIF! AWESOME!!! (ab mat sit-ups, btw...)

Mountain climbers. So awful, even the US military uses them. (

WoD: 30-20-10

  • Double-Unders
  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Mountain Climbers (2-count)
Brutality. Nothing else can explain how much this one sucked. While it was fairly fast, for some reason I had ZERO push-ups, and for the second and third rounds, resorted to doing scaled push-ups from my knees (though still with a fully rigid torso and abdomen, so not cheater push-ups!). I struggled a bit with the double-unders, but they were far from "the problem" on this workout. I just got *smoked* on the push-ups. I managed to keep all the sit-ups unbroken, got a little mulched on the mountain climbers... but man, did those push-ups eff me up. Argh.

Note: Writing this post two days later. What's sore? My upper thighs, most likely from the combination of mountain climbers and sit-ups. Argh argh argh indeed! :(

Total time: 12:00 
Place: Last.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

12-02-08: Bodyweight Squats

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Karianne Dickson works backsquats with Louie Simmons and the rest of the Westside Barbell crew. In other words, there is much awesomeness in this pic.

More back squat awesomeness.

Box jumps. Der!

Strength: 5x
  • Max Rep Back Squat @ Bodyweight (185# (Ideal BW))
  • 3 Box Jumps
  • 2 minute recovery
 A good simple strength workout. As many reps of back squats as possible (capped at 15), followed by three quick box jumps. Slow powerful movement followed by explosive movement. Awesome. The first round, I was glad for the rep cap, though I'm not really sure how many more reps I could have done... I just wanted to max out at least one round. The three box jumps after that were  murder, but they were nothing compared to the squats that followed! I managed to gut out 10 reps in the 2nd and 3rd and rounds, but everything kind of caught up in the 4th: 6 whole squats before I nearly fell over coming out of the bottom.

Its funny how the body recovers, though. Having only done 6 reps meant that I had less to recover from during the two minutes of rest, letting me jump back up to 10 reps for the final round. The only thing that kept me going was that I wanted more than "the next big round number," in this case 9 reps, which would have brought me to just 50. I'm a sucker for a big round number, so getting past it before crapping out was kind of a small victory. I'll take it!
Reps: 15/10/10/6/10 = 51

12-02-06: Body-weight Beatdown

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Monday, February 6th, 2012

Burpees. If you don't know them by now, you will never, ever know them...

Pull-ups. Doesn't count if you chin doesn't go over the bar.

Camille Leblanc-Bazinet demos a perfect air-squat. Hip crease below kneecaps, arms up to help keep the chest upright. Down up, down up, repeat.

Knees to elbows. Kind of like sit-ups with massive grip and lat requirements. So, a much better sit-up. Curse the inventor...

American-style kettlebell swings: Up overhead, w00t!

This was exactly as awful as I would have expected. Started sucking in the first 5 minutes, and did NOT let up at ANY point. I don't know how much detail I need to go into on this. 5 minutes of burpees is just awful. The only sort of high-light of the workout was the wardrobe malfunction I had in the middle of the pull-ups. To quote Coach Vin: "Funny, Dustin isn't usually the kind of guy to strip down in the middle of a workout!" Turns out that band-assist pull-ups are even worse when the band is catching on your copious chest hair. Maybe, one day, when I have a chiseled set of abs and pecs, THEN I'll be able to shave/wax/whatever my chest, strip down and not have the band catch on my all-natural sweater. Meh.

Total reps: 
  • 55 burpees
  • 26 pull-ups
  • 69 squats
  • 16 k2e
  • 14 kettlebell swings

Sunday, February 5, 2012

12-02-03: Press, Overhead Squats and/or Snatches

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Robb Wolf coaching the overhead squat (or the snatch... probably the OHS on a plyo box)... and then the CHUDS attacked.
Overhead squat form. Note the two overhead pictures a the top, and how the bar doesn't deviate from its position directly over her traps.
Sage Burgener demos a perfect snatch, with a nice deep catch.
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet snatches in competition at the CrossFit Games.

Strength: Pick 2
Ah, a workout designed to work more than one goat at a time... sweet! Though I haven't worked presses in a while, I decided to shoot for the OHS and Snatch, since both involve both strength and skill, and I *need* to work on those skills.  After a good warm-up and pvc bar review of all three techniques, we went to work.

First up was overhead squats, which I tried to warm-up extensively with the empty bar (45#). As always, I find the empty bar very difficult to do, as it doesn't seem to provide enough of a counter-balance, but that's probably just my not-quite-supple enough body mechanics, where I need heavier weight pressing down and back to counteract my inability to fully open up my trunk and hips in the front. Maybe. I'm still tinkering with it. After some more warm-up sets at heavier weights, I moved up to my work sets at 110#. Best coaching tip I've ever had directed at me: "That's the best overhead squat I've seen you do here. How did that feel?" It felt freaking amazeballs!! ;)

After three sets of two (interspersed with helping Larry reset his far heavier bar in the rack after it hit the floor after his reps), I moved onto the snatches. After a few reps with the empty bar and a few at 65#, I started working up in weight to 110#. My goal was to perform all full "squat snatches" (as always, a full snatch IS a squat snatch, so squat snatch is actually redundant), rather than the allowable power snatches, which require a bit less skill, and don't work the part of the lift where you actually get under the bar, the most critical part of the Olympic lift known as Snatch.

I hit the first rep fairly easily, and felt good catching it at the bottom, but then I failed on the second. In that instant, I resolved that I would NOT count any misses towards my three rounds. Good thing. I hit the third attempt, bombed out on the fourth (crap technique put the bar too far out in front), and nailed the fifth. So, there was that. ;)

In hindsight (writing this a few days later), any workout that makes all your core and stabilizing muscles sore as crap for a few days is absolutely a great workout. This one looked easy on the whiteboard, but definitely was a bit of a ball-buster!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

12-02-01: Floor press, plank holds, and rope climbs

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Floor press. Surprising how much these can tend to suck...
They still suck.
Googling "plank exercise" will come up with lots of people doing them on their elbows. While still a good core exercise, it doesn't translate over to functional fitness nearly as well, as part of the point is to be able to translate that core strength out to the extremities. Just sayin'.

Tell me there's a single muscle she's not using. Seriously.

Heeeeeey, more upper body destruction! Awesometastic! (As a middle-aged former soccer player, I actually kinda like knocking the ever living crap out of my weak upper-body!) 70% of a one rep max should be good for 12 reps, so 10 is easy enough. And it was... it was the first 60 second plank that truly kicked the ever-living crap out of me. Then, to immediately turn around and start banging out more reps of the floor press... argh. Argh argh argh....

Total time: 7:47

For the sell-out, it was time to hit the ropes a few times. Twice, we had to make 3 ascents in a row, or at least try. I am now more or less proficient at making it all the way up to the ceiling, pretty awesome. The first set, I ended up crapping out halfway up the rope on my third ascent, so call it 2.5 ascents. For the second set, I couldn't even get the third attempt going. Call that one two and the thought did NOT count!

12-01-30: Upperbody Destromination!

Elm City CrossFit WoD for Monday, January 20th, 2012

Burpees. Stand, squat, plank, squat, stand, jump. Doesn't sound awful, but it really, REALLY is. Really. (CrossFit Games)

Bear crawls. Kids make it look easy. Kids are jerks.

But then again, is this a dude you argue with? *I* wanna be strong like this guy!

WoD: 6 Rounds for Time
How did I put it when I posted my results on the ECC page? Oh, right, "Unholy f'ing EFF!" Yeah, the burpees, though they did indeed creep up on me, weren't nearly the worst bit. Bear crawls around the gym are just one of the worst things ever invented. Nothing like having to put your body-weight on your upper-body just when the burpees have started to smoke your lungs. Just awful. Now repeat the experience half a dozen times.

Total time: 11:44