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Workout Of The Day

The Workout of the Day or WOD is custom-programmed for the CrossFit Oakland community and is taught in our regular group classes under the close supervision of our highly trained coaching staff.

Feb 4th, 2012

Do Personal Records Have Expiration Dates?


Aisha contemplating the true nature of the PR before attempting to set one herself.

I was speaking with lovely and talented Dave Sally this evening when he suggested writing about the concept of the personal record, or PR for short. Specifically, should you refer to your lifetime PR when selecting training weights? When a trainee sets a personal record and does not improve upon that record for a period of time, does it still count? For the purposes of talking about accomplishments, if you did it then you did it. Nothing will ever erase that. However, for the purposes of making training decisions, PRs are perishable commodities.

Early in a trainee’s lifting career, PRs come easily. This is symptomatic of what Mark Rippetoe has deemed The Novice Effect. When a lifter is still new to barbell work, gains are rapid and can be made under less than ideal conditions. Once the easy gains have been made and progress slows, then more effort must be expended to continue improvement. The heavier the weights become, the more careful a trainee must be about recovery. PRs start requiring more than just showing up the gym. They require a little bit of thought and maybe even some planning.

Let’s look at a hypothetical situation involving my favorite lift – the squat. The workout calls for three sets of five repetitions (3×5) for sets across (meaning the weight stays the same for all the sets) – also a good choice. Our hypothetical trainee squatted 225 pounds for a five repetition maximum effort (5RM) four months ago. Our lifter is not on a fixed lifting schedule, but is engaged in a program that includes significant doses of variety with every workout, a la CrossFit.

How relevant is that 5RM for the workout today when the lifter is interested in performing a 3×5? The answer is, "It depends." Obviously, a 5RM does not directly translate into a weight for a 3×5, but such data is useful nonetheless. If recent attempts at a 5RM were below that 225 mark, then that PR has probably expired and more recent 5RMs should be used as a guide when selecting a working weight. If the trainee has not done much, if any, squatting in those four months, then it is also wise to be conservative and also consider the 225 to be expired. If the lifter trained their squats regularly, although hasn’t attempted any 5RMs during that time, then maybe that number is just fine, or even too conservative. Determining the proper number is dependent upon recent training. "What have you done for me lately?" is the order of the day.

To recap, PRs live forever in our hearts. If they were set months (or years) in the past, they may not be useful for guiding today’s workout. Recent training history and how a lifter feels on a given day need to be taken into account. Here’s to the recognizing when a PR is relevant and to setting new ones.

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Feb 3rd, 2012

Bob Harper Talks CrossFit


Between national TV commercials, the CrossFit Games airing on ESPN2, and celebrity endorsements, CrossFit is definitely getting a lot of publicity these days.

The video above is the latest celebrity endorsement of CrossFit.  This is from Bob Harper, one of the biggest celebrity trainers out there.  He plies his craft on the hit NBC show, the Biggest Loser.  Turns out he trains at CrossFit Burn, a CF gym down in Hollywood.

Although skeptics may yell "cheese" at the sight of this video, the stuff Bob talks about (the community aspect of CrossFit, the workouts, the intensity, etc.) are the things that draw most people to CF.  As long as this kind of publicity leads to people embracing a lifestyle that promotes health and fitness, I’m all for it.

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Feb 2nd, 2012

February’s Rest Day Challenge!


January Challenge Results

January’s Rest Day Challenge is in the books.  Thanks to everyone who had the courage to take on the challenge of Max Reps of Bench Press @ Body Weight for men and 2/3 BW for women

Best Male: Daniel H with 28 reps @ 175#

Best Female: Tamara with 20 reps @120#

February’s Rest Day Challenge is…. Max Double-Unders in 3 minutes!  Rope must pass twice under the feet.  Performance must be validated by a CFO trainer.  Good luck!

And just ‘cuz we’re so proud of you – check out the overflowing January PR Board – Nice work everyone!


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Feb 1st, 2012

The Parking Situation

DSC_0440 (800x536).jpg

Marc feeling the CFO love after finishing up his last workout at the NorCal 40s

We’re psyched to have lots of bodies in the gym again, breaking in the new space and putting it to the test.  And we’re looking forward to getting things like ropes up in the near future to make the space even better.

But we have to talk about the parking.  We have really, really cool neighbors who place very few demands on us.  We share the parking lot with three other businesses, though, and one of them, in particular, has asked that we provide a clear line from the entrance of the lot to the back of the lot.  They drive large trucks and vans, and as such, they need a 3-car width swath going from the front of the parking lot to the back of the lot.

So with that in mind, where’s the best place to park?

  • On the street in front of the building
  • In the lot against the fence
  • In the lot against the Berkeley Communications building (the building directly across from us in the lot, near the front fence)
  • Alongside our building, but not more than one car width from it.

What we can’t do is line our cars from one side of the lot to the other.  The vans and trucks are too wide to be able to negotiate tight turns.  In fact, a couple of times last week we were blocking them from being able to get into and out of the parking lot.  Let’s not have that happen again.

Just remember:  we need to have a line 3 car widths going from the entrance of the lot to the back of the lot.

And as always, if you have any questions about the parking situation, just ask, either in person or via email.

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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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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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