Monthly Archives: January 2012
Jan 30th, 2012

NorCal 40s is a Wrap!


Lance, Christopher, and Marc representing CFO today at the NorCal 40s

What a day at the NorCal 40s!

Lance, Christopher (CPeak), and Marc all brought their A games today.  It was a pleasure watching them leave it all out there on the floor.  They each had to get through 7 grueling workouts, learn how to manage weaknesses, and take advantage of their strengths over the course of the day’s competition.

Leading up to the NorCal 40s, Lance, Marc, and CPeak put in some serious hours, and it was inspiring to see all the discipline and hard work pay off.  Each had their moments today.


Lance had a great second workout:  30 snatches for time @ 125 lbs.  There was a 10-minute cut-off on this workout and the vast majority of the competitors didn’t finish before the cut-off.  Lance managed to get through 25 reps, a huge accomplishment considering he had to stop two times during the workout and gut his way through 20 double-unders (each time you missed a snatch you had to stop and do 20 double-unders).  

When it was all said and done, he finished 17th place out of the 64 men who did the workout.  In fact, he finished ahead of the gentleman who took 3rd place overall in the event.  Strong work, Lance!


CPeak had a huge performance in the third WOD, a triplet of 7 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 10 dumbbell push presses @ 40#, and 10 kettlebell swings @ 53#.  Competitors did those three exercises for as many reps and rounds as they could over a 7-minute period.  When it was all said and done, CPeak finished in 12th place out of the 64 men who did the workout.

Even more than one particular workout or moment, though, CPeak improved across the board in comparison to last year (he was the only person of the three from CFO who competed last year).  In last year’s competition, he finished 19th place out of 22 men.  This year, with a much bigger and more competitive field, he finished 33rd place out of 64 and was the highest placing finisher from CFO.  Can’t wait for next year!


Marc had huge breakthroughs today.  Going into the competition, which was his first ever CF competition outside of the Sectionals, his 1-rep max PR in the bench press was 200 lbs.  So what did he do today?  He crushed his old PR and added 5 pounds, topping out at 205#.  Nice!  Additionally, he shared with me that during his rowing workout (3 rounds of 250m rows with 45 seconds of rest in between rounds), he PR’d on his rowing splits as well.  He’d never been able to hold his 500m target pace time before today.  And finally, he put in a strong performance in the burpee workout (max burpees in 4 minutes, going over a 6-ft wall after each burpee) with 27 burpees, good for 21st place out of the 64 men who did the workout.  Strong work!

One thing that all three men wanted to pass along was their huge thank-you to all of you CFOers who showed up to yell, cheer, coach, advise, and support them throughout the day.  You were a huge help!

I couldn’t be prouder of these three…they really put it on the line today and each of them had a big moment, and in some cases, several big moments.  Way to go, you three!

NorCal 40s Full Leaderboard

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Jan 29th, 2012


Abbie Watson can squat 60 kg (132.28 lb), bench 35 kg (77.16 lb) and deadlift 72.50 kg (159.83 lb) and she is 13 years old.  She holds eight powerlifing world records for her weight class (105 lb).  It doesn’t surprise me to find out that she works out at a crossfit gym–one that her father took her to when she was in the sixth grade.  (I hope my kids want to work out!)


She trains three mornings a week before school–and if you watch the video, you can find out what motivates her on the days she doesn’t feel like working out.  

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Jan 28th, 2012

Straight Arms in the Clean

Zach - Jumping Position

Zach in the jumping position during a Starting Strength Pulling Camp.

To understand why straight arms are an important part of a successful clean, it helps to understand what a clean is. Since I like succinct explanations, we’ll use this one: A clean is a jump while holding a barbell. Upon completion of the movement, the bar is racked across the front of the shoulders. While there are some differences between a standing vertical jump and a clean, this definition works remarkably well to instill a good fundamental movement pattern for the lift. Note that in the definition above, no mention is made of pulling or rowing the bar to the shoulders. This is important. The function of the arms in the clean is to efficiently transfer force to the barbell.

When we perform a jump with the barbell, the work of propelling the weight upwards is done by the legs and the hips. The arms can be thought of as ropes or chains that attach to the bar. When visualizing that scenario, we can see how a taught rope directly produces force against the resistance. If the arms are bent, we effectively inserted a spring into the system. As the jump occurs, the bent arms absorb some of the energy as the muscles struggle to maintain the flexion in the elbows.  If the arms bend at any time before the jump happens, you are very successfully siphoning power out of the system.

Let’s look at the picture of Zach at the top of this post as he performs a power clean. This is the jumping position. Note how straight the arms are. The bar is in contact with his thigh, his knees are bent, his shoulders are in front of the bar, his feet are flat on the ground, and his arms are in full extension and ready to transmit the power generated by the jump to the bar. He’s not trying to row the bar. He is trying to jump the bar upwards.

Zach - Full Extension

Zach after completing the jump

The picture above this sentence represents the next frame in the series. The knees and hips and hips are extended and the arms are almost completely straight. Had I managed to click the shutter a few milliseconds sooner his arms would probably be more fully extended. This picture probably represents the beginnings of the transition from the jump to the rack and we see the arms bend slightly. However, you get the point. He is not pulling the bar up using his arms. Zach is powering the bar up with the force generated by the lower body. In order for this to happen effectively, straight arms are required.

So, keep your arms straight as you jump in the clean. The bar will move more quickly. More weight will be lifted. You will be happier. Your coaches will be happier. The world will be a brighter place for it.

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Category: Fitness
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Jan 27th, 2012

Lance, Marc, and CPeak Competing This Sunday!


As I mentioned in last week’s post on the NorCal 40s, Lance, Marc, and CPeak are going to be competing this Sunday, January 29th.  Even better, the venue is just up the freeway in Richmond.  No bridge-crossing required.

The competition is taking place at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond.

Here’s a Google Map for directions:  1414 Harbor Way South in Richmond

The competition will be running from 8am to 5pm, so there will be plenty of opportunities for you to come out and cheer on these three CFOers.  The workouts are tough, too (click here to watch a video on the workout and movement standards).  It will be great to see these guys brining their A game and having to dig deep.

Let’s show some support for these 40-year-olds, both here on the blog and in person on Sunday!

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Jan 26th, 2012

Next CFO Strength & Conditioning Boot Camp Announced!


The inaugural session of the CFO Strength & Conditioning Boot Camp is well underway and the 10 or so participants are working hard, getting fit and having a blast.  If you did not get in on this first 6-week session (Jan 3 – Feb 9, 2012)-  you need not worry:  Coach Arnold plans to run another 6-week course immediately following the current session.  This one will run from Feb 14 – Mar 23, 2012 on Tuesdays & Thursdays @ 9am.  You can sign up here and feel free to email us with any questions or concerns.

Here are some specifics:

– This program is offered as a stand-alone program and will require pre-enrollment through our online system (much like our On-Ramp program).  The first session can be found in Mind Body Online under the tab Boot Camp.

– The S&C Boot Camp will be run out of the CFO gym on Tues/Thurs at 9am and will cost $199 for each 6-week session.  You must be enrolled in the Boot Camp program to attend those class times.  The gym will remain closed to regular CrossFit group classes during Boot Camp.

– This program includes barbell work mainly for the lower body (squats, dead lifts) and gymnastics for upper-body strength (pull-ups, push-ups) and lots of fun conditioning work utilizing slam balls, kettle bells, box jumps, etc.  There will be no high-level gymnastics movements or Olympic Lifting.

– There is no On-Ramp requirement for the S&C Boot Camp.  All fitness levels are welcome.

– This program mainly targets non-CFO members who are looking for more of a Boot Camp experience, but CFO members are more than welcome to enroll as well.  If you are a member and want to do Boot Camp in addition to your CrossFit membership, please send us an email and we will give you a special "add-on" rate.

"CFO Strength and Conditioning Boot Camp is a great way to get in shape and feel great! Our functional fitness program will get you stronger, faster and leaner. We incorporate barbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, body-weight movements and much more into this 6-week high intensity strength and conditioning program. Workouts will be fun, challenging and never the same. CFO S&C Boot Camp athletes will achieve improved stamina, strength, endurance and mental toughness. CFO S&C Boot Camp can be used as a stand-alone training program or as a complement to your current sport-specific training regimen. Classes are an hour long and are taught in a small group setting by a certified CrossFit instructor. Classes meet 2x per week, Tuesday and Thursday at 9am."

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Jan 25th, 2012

Boxes of Beef, Anyone?



The folks at Prather Ranch have been in touch recently and are wondering if we’re ready for another order of beef.  For those of you who are new to the process, we order 40-lb boxes of beef, which are usually a combination of half ground beef (~20 lbs) and half of various cuts (tenderloin, NY steak, tri-tip, etc.).  Boxes can be split between two, three, or four people if you don’t want to jump in whole hog (sorry, bad pun).  The two-person split is the most common split scenario.  The boxes are dropped off at CFO for you to then take home.

The 40-lb boxes usually come out to around $250 (around $6/lb), but I haven’t checked on price yet so I can’t guarantee this is what the price will be.

If there’s interest in putting together an order, I’ll circle back with Prather Ranch and get a price quote.

If you’re interested in ordering a box of beef, either say so in comments or email us.  We usually need an order of about 20 boxes to make it worthwhile.

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Jan 24th, 2012

The 411 on Protein Powders


Deciding which protein powder to use can be a very intimidating and confusing process. Last night, as I perused the protein powder selection at our local Whole Foods, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of various brands and types of powders. I can see why a lot of people come to me with questions about which ones are best, when to use, what to look for, etc.  

How to Incorporate Protein Powders Into Your Diet 
In my opinion, powders should be used to supplement your already healthy diet.  A high-quality protein powder can provide an additional boost of amino acids, vitamins, and essential fats but it’s not to replace eating REAL food.  All protein powders are processed and are therefore somewhat denatured making them suboptimal sources of proteins and nutrients when compared to a whole foods like a steak and fish. I’m a huge advocate of eating real food, and whenever possible, I think it’s better to meet your protein needs by chowing down on some real, honest to goodness animal meat. Sorry, folks, you just can’t outsmart mother nature.

Who Should Use Them
If you’re already eating a healthy diet, then you probably don’t need to bother with protein powders. However, I have found them to be particularly helpful in the case of:

  • athletes
  • individuals with compromised digestion
  • individuals recovering from a serious illness
  • individuals under tremendous amounts of stress

For athletes, the best time to use them is immediately following a workout–preferably within 10 min and certainly within 30 min of calling "time!"  This brief window of time is when the body can better absorb the food you ingest, making it ideal for replenishing vital nutrients and energy stores.  This is key in improving recovery time post workout and priming your body for your next trip to the gym. 

Also, because too much stress (in any form) puts a huge strain on the body, a protein supplement may be incredibly helpful in speeding up recovery and supporting a healthy immune system, particularly for those with compromised health or poor digestion. 

What to Avoid
As most of you know already, the list of ingredients on a food label are listed according to how much of that ingredient is in the food.  In other words, the ingredient that makes up the majority of the food will be at the top of the list, and the one in the least amount is listed last. Therefore, if the first ingredient is sugar (a word ending in the suffix ose), then you know you are mostly getting a glass full of sugar.  Sugar/carbs a great post workout but don’t waste your money on expensive protein powders when you could just as easily have some fresh OJ. 

Next, avoid protein powders with a long list of ingredients. This is true for any food that you eat.  You should also be on the look out for ingredients that you can’t pronounce or that you don’t recognize as food. I would also caution you on products containing "natural and artificial flavorings" which are chemical additives that are made in laboratories, and not necessarily safe or "natural."

Lastly, avoid powders with vegetable oils as these are likely to be genetically modified and/or trans fats.  Again, ingredients should be easily identify as FOOD and don’t need to be "hydrolized, "hydrogenated" or undergo any other processing to make it edible.

What to Look For
High quality protein powders are going to be more expensive.  There’s no way around it, if you want a good product without a lot of fillers, you have to be willing to shell out a little more money.  As long as you can tolerate dairy, I’d say whey is the way to go (no pun intended).  I like that it’s easily digestible and absorbable and has a plethora of health benefits.  If you’re going to use whey, be sure that the milk is from grass-fed cows.  Also, choose whey that is "undenatured" as this means that it is processed at very low temps, preventing the fragile fats and proteins from becoming damaged. Whey protein powders typically come in "concentrate" form or as "protein isolates" and there’s a lot of controversy over which one is better. The concentrates are not as processed, so I tend to prefer these over the isolates, even though these tend to be higher in protein. I don’t get any money from this company but I think "Designs for Health Whey Cool" is one of the best retail powders I’ve seen.  It’s made using 100% grass-fed whey and has been very minimally processed. 

Non-Dairy/Non-Gluten Sources
This post is getting too long so I’m just going to list some of my favorites:  rice, pea, and hempseed.  Rice is kinda chalky, but has a milder flavor and tends for be the least problematic for people with food allergies or sensitivities.

Final Word
Mix it up. You should rotate between a few powders so that you’re getting a nice variety of nutrients and so that you don’t develop an allergy.  Also, whatever you’re using, it should go into the blender LAST and you should really only pulse it in a few times to keep all the good stuff intact.

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Jan 23rd, 2012

Reebok CrossFit Commercial

The Reebok CrossFit commercial that ran during the previous weekend’s NFL games

I’m still reeling over the 49ers loss this evening (And to the Giants of all teams!  Brings back memories of childhood and Bill Parcells-coached Giants teams squaring off against the 49ers).  

One interesting thing that came out of the playoff season this year was Reebok’s foray into a national CrossFit commercial, seen above, during last week’s playoff game.  I wonder if Reebok has anything planned for the Super Bowl.

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Jan 22nd, 2012

Hamstring Flexibility and Low Back Issues

2011-11-26 at 11-05-38.jpg 

Tight hamstrings can pull on the pelvis and rotate the hips back so that the natural curve of the lower back is lost.  The bones of the spine have discs between them that act as shock absorbers.  When the natural curves of the spine are disrupted, the discs do not sit evenly between the bones and when stressed can be injured (i.e. herniated disc, bulging disc, etc..).

Do you have tight hamstrings?  An easy way to test is by lying on the floor with your legs straight and toes pointing toward the ceiling.  Keeping one leg on the ground, lift the other leg off of the ground and raise it up as far as you can without bending the knee or contorting your body (twisting your hips, flattening your back or whatever strange things you might do).  See how far you can lift that leg–90 degrees or better is optimal.  If you aren’t able to lift that leg very high, it is time to work on your hamstring flexibility.

Here is Kelly Starrett with some great ways to treat your tight hamstrings:

If you don’t want to watch the video, here is a great article from the Crossfit Journal by Mr. Starrett with some really good reasons as to why you should treat your tight hamstrings (hint: having flexible hamstrings will make you bigger, stronger AND faster!)  

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Jan 21st, 2012

Training While on the Road


Finding a place to deadlift while away is not always an easy thing.

I had the opportunity over the past year to do a bit of traveling, mostly for work. During those trips, I often attempted to train with decidedly mixed results. I figured it might be time to recount what worked and what didn’t and how to integrate travel with training. If someone is going on a big vacation through areas where gyms aren’t available then the best advice is not to worry about training at all. Enjoy the trip instead. This article is geared towards more routine and less exotic travel.

One of the first things to determine is whether there will be time to engage in structured workouts. If not, there’s no need to pack the lifting shoes. Instead, some pushups and stretching may be the best that can be managed. Provided time is available to go to a gym, it is wise to be conservative. In most cases while I am travelling, my attempts to set personal records have ended in disappointment. You may be different and, if so, I salute you. However the vagaries of a disrupted schedule combined with limited control over food and sleep will often conspire to limit peak athletic performance. So, what to do? Work to your capacity at the time and realize that a maximal effort on the road is likely below what could be accomplished at home.

The primary goal of training while away may be the avoidance of detraining. Using a trip as an opportunity to back off from normal intensity can be a valuable thing, particularly if aches and pains are beginning to make themselves felt. Developing strength is long term process where consistency is rewarded. Even if training sessions on the road resemble punching the clock more than inspiring vignettes from a Rocky movie, they beat doing nothing.

In the event that long car rides or plane trips are involved, be aware of how your back responds to being seated and largely immobile for hours at a time. Back injuries are even less fun when you are away from home and are best avoided. Being sensible about loading after stepping out of a multi-hour trip in a car is a good choice.

None of this deviates from common sense, but I need to remind myself of these ideas when I am on the road. I have had some good training sessions while traveling, but they tend to be exceptions. Provided workouts are approached intelligently, it is usually a simple matter to pick up where you left off upon your triumphant return.

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Category: Fitness
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