Fitness
Jan 15th, 2011

Coming Back from a Layoff in Training

Tami Deadlifting at CrossFit Pleasanton

Want to be strong like Tami? Patience is the key.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes breaks in training will occur. Coming back from these breaks needs to be handled conservatively to ensure a successful return to demanding physical activity. Getting injured or becoming catastrophically sore serve as further impediments to doing what needs to be done – training regularly with purpose and drive.

There are sometimes good reasons to take planned, generally brief, rests from strenuous activity. We are not concerned with such episodes here as such breaks are generally last less than a week and allow for more or less uninterrupted training and progress. The question of how to come back from multiple weeks, or months of inactivity is our focus. On these intermediate time scales, strength and endurance are lost and the muscles become detrained. The nervous system adaptations that resulted from the previous training efforts, however, ebb more slowly. When a layoff occurs, the nervous system retains the ability to fire the muscles with greater force and frequency than what the muscles can handle. If a trainee returns to a hard workout after a layoff, massive soreness is often the result.

Here are some ideas to allow for a swift and productive return to training:

On the first workout back, go very easy. Scale weights and repetitions to the point that your pride is insulted. That will be the correct starting point. Some soreness will still result and that is fine. The object is to avoid crippling soreness that serves to discourage another return to the gym. Also, going very easy at first allows momentum to build for rapid improvement. Scale difficulty upwards within reason thereafter.

Avoid training seven days in a row when the previous three months involved nothing more strenuous than a brisk walk. People do this. A lot. Once again, soreness and potential injury await when such a path is followed. Strength and conditioning are built gradually through smart programming and proper recovery. Work out, rest, and then workout again. Patience is important.

Dan John, who recently moved to The Bay Area, has often noted that there is nothing more conducive to making progress in the gym than sleep and food. Trainees do not become stronger or faster from exercise. They reap these adaptations by recovering from exercise. Upon a return to the gym, remember to match food and rest to increased demands of training.

Welcome back.

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Jan 8th, 2011

Great-Grandmother Strength

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There are numerous reasons for not working out. For those that need some encouragement, I would like to introduce you to Ms. Winifred Pristell. Ms. Pristell is the world record holder for the bench press and deadlift in the World Association of Benchers and Deadlifters (WABDL), one of several powerlifting federations. She is also 72 years old and suffers from arthritis. I got a chance to talk to talk to Ms. Pristell in mid-December, a few days before her birthday. Her nickname is "Heavy Metal" and she lifts more than some men half her age can manage. If inspiration for getting strong is in short supply, keep reading.

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Dec 4th, 2010

Eating to Grow – Part Three

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If you haven’t read parts one and two on this subject already, I encourage you to do so before embarking upon this article. We have two topics to discuss. We’ll start by looking at the necessary motivations for putting on muscular bodyweight and then we’ll move on to some general eating guidelines to complement training to get stronger.

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Nov 27th, 2010

Eating to Grow – Part Deux

MJJ Shoulder Press

MJJ in the midst of a 5-repetition set of 200 pound shoulder presses

In the previous article I advanced the argument that putting on bodyweight, particularly muscular bodyweight, can provide for athletic performance improvement. We laid some groundwork and discussed basic physiology in that article. Today we’ll expand on those ideas and discuss some other points of interest.

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Nov 20th, 2010

Eating to Grow – Part One

Chris Riley 315 Pound Bench Press

Chris Riley from Wichita Falls Athletic Club bench pressing 315 pounds

When most people discuss diet there is one goal that tops the list and that is weight loss. Today we are going to touch on the rather taboo subject of weight gain. Specifically, we’ll explore some ideas regarding muscular bodyweight. America is a terribly overweight society and the idea that people should willingly increase their bodyweight is a seemingly ridiculous notion. Given the right set of circumstances, however, upping the weight on the scale could be a wise choice. Why would anyone embark upon such a fool’s errand? The most obvious reason is strength. Read on and this will make more sense.

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Nov 6th, 2010

The Front Squat

Vencelas Dabaya front squatting 200 kg for five repetitions while making it look easy

After discussing the high bar back squat, we’ll move on to the front squat this week. The front squat is the movement used to stand up after receiving a clean in Olympic weightlifting and derivatives of this lift are found throughout CrossFit workouts. The widely feared and despised thruster is a hybrid between a front squat and a push press while wall ball shots also share some of the same movement cues. Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the details.

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Oct 30th, 2010

CFO Rolls into the Weekend Warrior Playoffs

Justin Push Press

Justin performing one of many push presses at a recent competition

I am going to interrupt our regularly scheduled discussion about the front squat to briefly talk about Team CFO and the Weekend Warrior Playoffs going on this Saturday, October 30th. For those that don’t know, Mike, Lydia, Manwell, Candace, Brandon, and Justin spent a few Saturdays over the past two months competing against other gyms in Northern California. They have quietly propelled themselves to the top slot in Northern California. Tomorrow they will face off against the other top ranked teams for two, or possibly three workouts to decide who gets to claim victory in the series. Things kick off early on Saturday at San Carlos CrossFit. Details can be found on the Weekend Warrior page. I wish the best of luck to our competitors this weekend.

Since I am nothing if not repetitive, I would urge all of CFO’s members to find some athletic endeavor in which to compete. If there is some doubt about what to choose, pick a CrossFit event. There will be more of them coming up in months ahead. If last year is any guide, Sectionals for the CrossFit Games will start in February or March. Now is the time to work on weaknesses and engage in some smart, dedicated training. Getting to compete is an enriching experience. Participate early and often.

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Oct 23rd, 2010

High Bar Back Squat

Audra High Bar Back Squat

Audra from Catalyst Athletics performing a high bar back squat

We previously discussed the importance of the barbell squat in most serious training programs as well as the necessity to perform the squat to the proper depth. We are going to expand on those ideas and examine a few of the major squat variants and their characteristics.

When you put a bar across your back for the purpose of doing a squat, the most common location to set the bar is right on top of the trapezius muscles. This position is known as high bar placement and the decision to keep the bar there will directly influence how the squat will be performed. A high bar back squat is often referred to as an Olympic squat and, in keeping with its name, is the preferred squatting style for many who practice Olympic weightlifting.

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Oct 9th, 2010

Compete

Candace Split Jerk Weekend Warrior

Candace landing a heavy split jerk during last week’s contest. More pictures from the event are available on Zenfolio.

Before we delve into more discussions regarding the squat, I wanted to touch on the idea of competition. The act of competing is a powerful stimulus and one that has been recently underutilized by many at CrossFit Oakland. I realize that we train against the clock in almost every workout, but an organized competition against others, either singly, or as part of a team is something that everyone should experience, and preferably experience on a regular basis.

Several people mentioned that they wanted to be part of the recent Weekend Warrior Series, yet did not sign up. This is unfortunate. There is nothing that provides the motivation to train hard and meet goals like a competition. Having a date where you need to step up to the bar and put forth a maximal effort is uniquely powerful. Even those that do not think of themselves as competitive by nature feel butterflies in their stomachs before the starting buzzer sounds. When things start to hurt, the knowledge that others are counting on you to bring the suffering to a speedier end is highly motivating.

Many are reluctant to compete because they feel inadequate to the task, or that their fitness levels do not warrant display in public. This is a weak argument. While it is cliché to suggest that doing your best is all that matters, it is also true. The benefits that accrue from competition come primarily from besting yourself, not besting your opponent.

If you have not availed yourself of an athletic competition, it is time to set a goal. Whether you want to try your hand at CrossFit, Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Running, or whatever other sport you can think of, choosing to compete will result in increased focus during training and provide unusual satisfaction and enjoyment.

CrossFit Oakland has a history of bringing large groups of people to competitions. Ask any of the participants if they enjoyed the experience and the answer will be, almost without exception, "yes." It is time to further that tradition. There will be competitions in the coming months. Make plans to be a part of them and reap the benefits.
 

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