Monthly Archives: February 2013
Feb 28th, 2013

Uptown 411


T.Holmes ready to rumble at Uptown

CrossFit Oakland Uptown is opening its doors next week!  Here are some things to keep in mind.  Please feel free to send any questions or concerns to

Sunday March 3rd 2pm-5pm: Join us for an Open House at Uptown.  Grab a drink and a snack and demo some of our beautiful new equipment or just say congrats to Miss T. Address is 310 41st Street (at Broadway) in Oakland.

Monday March 4th:  Classes begin!  Check the schedule by clicking on the link at the top of this page.  In addition to regular group classes, Open Gym will be offered at various times. You will find these on the schedule as well as our Uptown Facebook Page.  Classes will be limited as we get started, but we anticipate adding to the schedule over the next few months.

Membership: Current CFO members have the option to try out both locations over the next 60 days, to determine which location works best. At the end of that time, you may declare your ‘home gym’.  

Uptown Girl: To get to know the new owner and Head Coach of CFO Uptown a little better, we have decided to bring back the Athlete Profile.

Name: Tamara Holmes

Height: 5’9"

Weight: 79kg

Age: 38 years old 

How long have you been a member at CFO? Going on 6 years

What is your day job? Oakland Firefighter

What is your athletic background? Highschool: Basketball/Volleyball, College: Volleyball, USA Women’s Baseball

What is your favorite strength move? Power clean

What is your favorite met-con? Anything under 5 minutes

Proudest achievement (CF)? Getting to the gym consistently

Most desired goal (CF)? Getting to the gym consistently

Spirit Animal: Crickets (The sound you hear when you’re asking me weird questions like this)

Stats: 100…The amount of times I beat Mike in any athletic endeavor. Favorite stat is my 10-minute mile.

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Feb 26th, 2013

Handstand Push-Up Progression, Part 2

Carl breaking down the handstand push-up

In case you missed it, Part 1 of Carl’s handstand push-up progression video is here.  Please watch it before you jump ahead to Part 2 above.

Carl’s progressions are rock-solid.  Anyone who’s watched his videos or had the opportunity to train with him live and in-person knows his penchant for getting people into mechanically sound positions, whether it’s something a little more advanced like the handstand push-up, or whether it’s a building block move like the push-up or ring row.

The video above is ideal for anyone working on getting that first handstand push-up, or refining the handstand push-up further.

But the video above is really just part of a larger conversation.

The bigger point is this (and one I’m going to flesh out a little more in tomorrow’s post):  CrossFit training requires practice.  If you’re not committing to refining your movement (over and over and over again), you’re missing the point (and benefit) of our program.  Yes, we want you to track (and chase) some strength numbers and some conditioning numbers.  But if you’re broken, or going to be broken in the future, it’s all for naught.  The numbers don’t matter if you’re not able to get into mechanically sound positions (and eat right, for that matter).  More on this tomorrow.

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Feb 23rd, 2013

More About Belts


Back in the fall of 2010, I wrote an article on the use of weightlifting belts. I would encourage those interested in the topic to read it when you get a chance. I won’t repeat the entire article today, but will remind readers of a few points.

The belt is an external aid to lifting weights that increases the rigidity of the torso. It does this by providing the abdominals an external resistance against which they can contract. When combined with a strongly held breath using the Valsalva maneuver, your torso can more efficiently communicate the force generated by the lower body to the bar. The second sentence in this paragraph is important and bears repeating. The primary purpose of the belt is to provide your abdominals something against which they can brace. A belt is not designed to support the back, at least not directly. If a trainee cannot keep their spine from overextending, flexing, or otherwise wiggling around, a belt will not save them. A trainee must be able to lift properly before introducing a belt into the proceedings.

When a trainee first begins lifting, most of their energies are spent on learning the gross motor patterns of the movement. There is plenty to keep track of and any additional variables, such as a belt, serve as a distraction instead of an aid. As training progresses and technique begins to solidify, the musculature is forced to adapt to handle heavier loads. During this time a belt is still probably best left out so that a trainee can learn to effectively engage the trunk musculature and hold the spine in proper extension throughout the movements. If a trainee is just learning the movements, or has not started to handle heavier weights, it is best lift without a belt.

What are heavier weights? That varies based on age and bodyweight, but some generalities can be made. Realize that these numbers are not set in stone. If you are a woman and your work sets on the squat are around 150 pounds, or if you are a man and your work sets are somewhere near 300 pounds, then a belt would not be out of place. These numbers get revised downward the older a trainee is, the lighter they are, or if they have a back injury.

Above I wrote that a belt is not designed to directly support the back, yet I suggested that those who suffered a back injury may want to lift with a belt. A belt doesn’t prop anyone up and it will not substitute for proper form. However, if a trainee can use their abdominals properly in a squat, the belt will amplify their ability to utilize the trunk musculature to keep the spine from moving under a load. The spinal erectors in conjunction with the abdominals keep the train on the tracks. The belt provides an extra layer of support to hold everything in place. If you hurt your back, this is a good thing.

Belts are wonderful. They are a popular and essential piece of gear in the strength training arsenal. They should not be used in the early phases of a trainee’s career because they will primarily get in the way. After getting some experience and strength and once proper form has been established, then a belt can be considered.

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Feb 21st, 2013

The Perfect Pull-Up: Is it Only a Dream?


"Luke, I have a pull-up"

Anyone ever dreamed about doing pull-ups?  Perfect, efficient, gorgeous pull-ups all day long?  I know I have. Barring extreme injury, the perfect pull-up does not need to remain in your dreams.  Here are a couple of steps to help you on your way.  Ultimately, this is a commitment to a goal.  If you make it, we will help you get there.

Step One: As will all of the movements we perform in the gym (and in life), body positioning in the pull-up is key to not only performing the movement, but performing it safely and efficiently.  Watch this video from Carl Paoli.  Watch it 5 times (or 10).  The information is that valuable — and Carl is pretty easy on the eyes, so it really is a no-brainer.

Step Two: Familiarize yourself with the muscles of the shoulders and upper back and how they work. In the case of the pull-up, you are primarily using the lats or latissimus dorsi. You engage this muscle by squeezing your armpits and ‘packing’ the shoulder – focus on keeping your shoulders back and down and in the socket. If your shoulders are shrugged up into your ears, you are using your upper trapezius muscle or traps, which is not what you want. Beware of the upper traps — they can be very strong and override neighboring muscles. Keep them down in the pull-up. 

Step Two: Have a coach check your body position in your dead-hang pull-up.  We can look for faults or ‘breaks’ in your body as you move through the range of motion and give you tips to correct them.

Step Three:  Commit to correcting faults — even if it makes the movement more difficult at first.  This is the equivalent to dropping weight in the back squat in order to gain full depth or the deadlift to gain hamstring engagement. This practice takes patience and focus, but will always benefit you in the long run.  Embrace it.

Step Four: Practice, practice, practice.  On certain days, programming allows time for skill work. Use it. You can also practice before or after class or during Open Gym or on rest days.

Practice Ideas:

1. For those of you still seeking that elusive first strict pull-up, check out this video from Primal Blueprint Fitness and this one from Global Bodyweight Fitness.  There are many different ways to work toward that pull-up.  Remember, body positioning is KEY to success with these progressions.  So make sure you watch Carl’s video a couple more times. And ask your coach for help with these.

You can also work to strengthen the lats and other muscles involved in the pull-up by doing strict ring-rows and also single-arm dumbbell rows. Please ask us how to do these properly. 

2.  For those who already have a pull-up and want to make it better – work on that body positioning.  Get a coach to sign-off so you know you’ve got it locked in.  Once you are confident in your mechanics – add some weight!  Build strength in that range of motion – stronger is better.

Side note to the ladies: Contrary to some of the stuff you read out there, women CAN do pull-ups.  Keep in mind that the musculature of the female shoulder is anatomically different that that of a man, so perhaps it does not happen as quickly for us.  But be assured that with hard work, you can get strong enough to pull yourself up – and them some.

Hope this helps you on the road to that perfect, dreamy pull-up!

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Feb 19th, 2013

Mune Competes in the USAPL

115 kg squat

Mune performing a textbook low bar back squat with 115 kg (253.5 lbs)

Mune and I traveled to sunny Southern California this weekend to compete in the 2013 USA Powerlifting (USAPL) California State Championships. Mune went down there to lift and I was there as her coach. The USAPL is one of the largest powerlifting organizations in the country and it is affiliated with the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), one of the largest powerlifting organizations in the world. There are plenty of powerlifting events available locally, but successfully competing in this meet meant that Mune would be eligible to compete in the 2013 USAPL Raw Nationals which will take place in Florida in July. "Successfully competing" in this case meant that Mune needed at least one successful attempt at a squat, bench press, and deadlift.

Before we continue, I should provide a little context. Powerlifting meets are judged events where participants attempt to lift the maximum amount of weight in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. Competitors are given three tries at each lift. The sum of the highest successful attempt for each lift is calculated to produce a total. That total is often further manipulated via various equations to allow for lifters of different bodyweights to be more directly compared. In a meet, you can never call for less weight to be put on the bar. That is, you must declare an opening weight for the lift. If you miss that lift, you have two options – stay at the same weight, or add weight to the bar. If you cannot make at least one of your three attempts for the contested lifts, you are disqualified from the meet. Therefore, some strategy is involved in picking appropriate weights. You want to successfully complete your opening lifts because it won’t get any easier going forward.

The evening before the meet, Mune and I came up with a plan for each of her three attempts on the lifts. She masterfully executed that plan and made eight of her nine attempts. Her best lifts were as follows:

Squat:  115 kg (253.5 lb)
Bench:  52.5 kg (115.7 lb)
Dead:  115 kg (253.5 lb)
Total:  282.5 kg (622.8 lb) 

Mune weighed in at 109 lbs and competed in the 52 kg (114 lb) weight class. She bench pressed 6 pounds over her bodyweight and squatted and deadlifted 2.32 times her bodyweight. Her opening attempt on her squat exceeded the third attempts of everyone in her flight up through the 60 kg (132 lb) weight class, or the two weight classes above her. That’s pretty damn cool. Mune won her weight class and came very close to taking the best lifter award. The results from the meet have yet to be published, but I suspect she came in second or third overall. It was an impressive performance.

Having successfully totaled in this meet, Mune can now go on to compete in Orlando, FL at the Raw Nationals. Jennifer Thompson, who I wrote about earlier, has been a participant in that contest in years past. Best of luck to Mune as she prepares for that meet.

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Feb 18th, 2013

The Open is Nigh!


Katie on her way to the top of the box during last year’s Open

(Warning:  Long post, but important.  Make sure you read it all if you’re doing the Open or are on the fence about doing the Open.)

The first stage of the CrossFit Games, the Open, is a little over two weeks away.  The first workout gets released on Wednesday, March 6th.  Can’t wait! 

If you’re interested in doing the Open, the process is simple.  You simply go to the Games site and register.  Make sure you register for Team CFO when you do it.  It will cost you $20.  If you registered for the Open last year, you’ll use the same profile (and login credentials) that you used last year.  This is the best deal around for CF competition.  Most competitions will cost you at least $50, and more often than not, $100.

It would be great if we could get more of you registered for the Open.  We currently have 36 people, which is great, but last year we had more than 50 participate.  If you talk to any of the 50, too, they’ll tell you what a great experience it was.

In the past, we charged an additional $50 fee that went toward paying trainers to validate scores for people who did the workout on days other than Saturday, as well as have them work a lot of shifts on Saturdays.  This year, to make the Open more affordable, we’re doing away with the $50 CFO charge, but as a result, we can no longer have y’all doing the workouts outside of the scheduled times (more on this below). 

We’ve also added one other twist to the competition, just to keep the CFO vs. CF Sweat Shop fire alive (more on this below, too).

So here’s how the Open is going down.

Open Schedule

There will be two options for doing the Open workouts.  The primary option (and the one that all of you should want to do) is doing the workout on Saturday with the rest of your fellow CFOers.  The first heat will kick off at 10am each Saturday.  Please note that Saturday group classes will only be running at 8am and 9am during the five weeks of the Open.  Everyone will be assigned a heat on Saturday, and the heat schedule will be published on Thursday night right here on this blog.

The other option for doing the Open workout is Thursday during two specific time slots:  6am-8am and 5pm-7pm.  If you need to do the workout on Thursday, you’ll need to email us in advance so that we can make arrangements for judging.

Trust us, though, you’re gonna want to do the workout on Saturday.  The atmosphere is electric, and so many people get PRs and firsts (pull-up, shoulder-to-overhead, etc.) with all the other CFOers around cheering them on.


Everyone who participates in the Open will judge one time, and only one time, each Saturday.  The judging schedule will be published along with the workout heat schedule each Thursday night right here on the blog.

As an aside, for the performances of CFOers that we think will count toward the team score (you know who you are), only CFO trainers and/or experienced competitors will be used as judges.  No exceptions.

Don’t Forget About CF Sweat Shop

Nabil, the owner of CrossFit Sweat Shop, and I have been having some behind-the-scenes talks about putting a little gym pride on the line during the Open this year (and I don’t want you guys to forget about what happened during the CrossTown Throwdown last year).  So we’ve added a little twist to the Open.

The first three workouts at CFO will be just like how we’ve done it in the past:  CFOers doing the workouts at CFO on Saturday.

The fourth workout will take place at CFO, but we’re going to have CF Sweat Shop here as well, and we’ll be running mixed CFO/CFSS heats.

The fifth and final workout will take place at CF Sweat Shop, and we’ll get to compete in their recently expanded gym (I can’t wait to see it).  Just like the week before, we’ll be running mixed heats.

Additionally, we’ll be taking the scores of the top men and women (most likely the top 5, but we’re still working out the details on this) from each gym and comparing them each week.  First team to win three workouts wins the contest as best CrossTown Gym in the Open.

Cant’ wait for it all to go down…this is gonna be the best Open season yet!

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Feb 14th, 2013

SAVE THE DATE: CFO Uptown Open House Sunday March 3rd!


Making CFO Uptown pretty for her coming out party

CrossFit Oakland Uptown plans to open its doors to the public this March!  In celebration, we will be holding an Open House on Sunday March 3rd from 2-5pm.  Please take this opportunity to come by to check out this awesome space and say hi and congrats to new Gym Owner/Head Coach, Tamara (Boss) Holmes.

Food and drink will be served and toys available for fun and games!  Friends and family welcome!

You can find CFO Uptown at 310 41st Street in Oakland.

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Feb 12th, 2013

CrossFit Kenya Initiative


Eric resting between work sets during the CF Total

This Saturday, we’ll be running all of you through the CrossFit Kenya Fundraiser Workout:

Max Rounds Plus Reps in 12 Minutes:
50 Squats
30 Push-Ups
15 Pull-Ups

This is a great cause.  All of the money that CrossFit raises will go toward building school infrastructure and getting clean water and food to the 250 square mile area surrounding Mombasa, Kenya.

You can read about the entire CrossFit Kenya Initiative here:  Hope for Kenya

You can also learn more here and read through the FAQs for more information.

For our part, we’re asking that you bring $20 with you to donate when you do your group class on Saturday.  We’ll take all the money donated, and add to it with our own donation, and send it along to the CrossFit Kenya Initiative folks.

If you’d like to make a donation directly, you can also do that here.

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Feb 11th, 2013

Dr. OZ on Cholesterol


It’s not often that I bring you videos from America’s favorite doc, Dr. Oz, but this clip from a recent episode is definitely worth watching. I don’t have anything against him, I just find that his show caters to a more mainstream approach to health.  In this video clip, he talks to Stephen Sinatra and Johnny Bowden, authors of The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease-And the Statin-Free Plan That Will, a controversial new book that challenges everything we thought we knew about cholesterol. 

In this episode, Dr Oz, Dr. Sinatra and Johnny Bowden, PhD, discuss:

  • How previous research on cholesterol may have been flawed
  • The various types of cholesterol and their role in the body 
  • What you should know about your cholesterol numbers 
  • Some of the negative effects of Statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs)
  • How high sugar intake can impact cardiovascular health
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Feb 9th, 2013

Spealler Does Angie in 10:11

Spealler taking on Angie

Here’s a little inspiration for those of you who are doing the CFO WOD today:  Chris Spealler doing Angie in 10:11.  Starting the workout off with 70 consecutive pull-ups doesn’t hurt, I’m sure.

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