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


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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Sep 25th, 2010

The Squat and Depth

Daniel Squat

Daniel performing a squat to the proper depth

There is one exercise that, much like Tyrannosaurus Rex during the Late Cretaceous, occupies the niche of the apex predator. That exercise is the barbell squat. This movement is so fundamental and so much a part of almost any athletic endeavor that if you do not have it as part of your fitness program, it probably should not be called a fitness program. Over the next couple of weeks, we will investigate several aspects of the squat and the major squat types. Today, however, we are going to discuss the features that every properly done squat shares.

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Sep 18th, 2010

Weightlifting Shoes

Thrusters at Sactown Throwdown

Barbells and weightlifting shoes go well together

Weightlifting shoes are valuable additions to the arsenal of any trainee using barbells. Today we are going to look at how proper footwear can positively impact your lifts. Then we’ll wrap things up with a discussion of how this applies to a CrossFit environment.

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Sep 11th, 2010

Barbell Warmups Revisited

Reminder: CFO will be working out on Sun 9/19 at the Connector Trail in the Berkeley Hills and performing a workout at the Piedmont High track on Sun 9/26.

Kelly at 2010 Sectionals

Kelly is happy because she warmed up correctly

Although I recently discussed warming up before lifting, I want to revisit the concept since there is still some confusion about the topic and how to appropriately implement warm ups into strength lifts and conditioning workouts that use heavier weights. If you have not read the initial warm up article, I encourage you to do so. We will provide some specific examples to make things clearer.

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Sep 4th, 2010

On the Use of Belts

Reminder: A weekend schedule is in place for Monday (Labor Day) – 8 AM and 9 AM classes with a 10 AM open gym only.

Marcus of TJ's Gym Cleaning at Sectionals

Marcus of TJ’s Gym sticking a clean during the NorCal Sectionals while belted.

A topic that tends to stir some controversy is the usage of belts during lifting. Many argue that the belt is an artificial external aid that prevents a trainee from becoming stronger. Some also suggest that if the use of a belt is required then the weight being lifted is too heavy. I fall squarely on the other side of this debate and recommend the use of a belt provided certain conditions are met. A belt does not lift the weight for the trainee, but it might just enable them to get stronger than they would without it.

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Aug 28th, 2010

Novices and Linear Progressions

Rita of CrossFit One World

Rita of CrossFit One World cleaning well over bodyweight at the NorCal Sectionals.

Many people have some experience lifting weights and might have even been members of gyms for many years. Not surprisingly when asked to rate themselves as novice, intermediate, or advanced strength athletes, a great number would choose intermediate or advanced as appropriate descriptors. However, these terms have more specific definitions when applied to strength training. The fact is that the vast majority of trainees are novices, including many that regularly work out in CrossFit gyms. Being a novice is not something to be upset about, however. It simply reflects how quickly a trainee can recover from a bout of training. With that in mind, let’s further discuss why being a novice is a good thing.

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Aug 21st, 2010

Have a Plan

Manwell Kettlebell Swing

Manwell, much like Hannibal Smith, loves it when a plan comes together.

Jim Wendler, a well known powerlifter, writer, and strength coach, frequently urges trainees to have some sort of a plan for their training. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Wendler, you are missing out. Google can help you two get acquainted. Wendler is a strong advocate for simplicity, observation, and hard work to achieve gains in the gym. He also loves profanity and is very strong. Today we are going to look at how approaching your workouts with a plan will help with training advancement.

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Aug 14th, 2010

Warming up for Lifting Weights

Ian of CrossFit Centurion

The warm ups that the trainers provide before every workout do a very good job of raising core body temperature, preparing tissues for more intense efforts, and providing some skill practice. However, once the general systemic warm up is done, specific preparation targeted toward the prescribed movement is still required. Mike’s workouts often start with a strength lift. Choosing the correct weights, sets, and repetitions to prepare the body for heavy efforts will make for a better workout and better performance.

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