Knowledge Bomb


This month we have started the open, with that comes us pushing ourselves to new limits to do as best as we can, and setting PR’s! Unfortunately, it is also a time where athletes can hurt pushing themselves too hard. That is why we are going to focus on technique to keep ourselves healthy as possible as we surpass our limits.  

BRACING. We all think we do it, but in reality it is something you need to consciously think about. Bracing the core or midsection is actually natural to us, and it is something we do when we first learn to move.The muscles of the pelvic floor internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, multifidus, transvers abdominis, transverse abdominis, and the diaphragm are all designed to give our midsection great bracing power. This then gives one of the weakest structural areas of the body great stability and rigidity. 

In addition to improving force transfer to the bar through increased trunk rigidity, intervertebral disc pressure is reduced and the ability to produce muscular force is increased with breath holding. After you take in a deep breath we must then contract and pull the diaphragm down, this is often the que we give when we say “pull your ribs down”.

Maintain enough tension in the trunk to support whatever weight is on you but truly try to focus on staying as rigid as possible. Any loss of tension with weight on you back can cause serious back injury. The only way to maintain the tension is to constantly think about being in the right position. Often when I observe people squatting or doing anything overhead, members lose their core and end up with an anterior pelvic tilt. 

This is one of the worst positions anyone can lift in because it places the full load on the spine and not the muscles needed to complete the lift.  

Finally, a controlled amount of air can be released during the most difficult part of the lift as needed to avoid dizziness, but must be a limited amount so trunk stability is not compromised. Keep pushing yourselves Bears, and remember to focus on the essentials when you are lifting to stay safe. Good luck in the open!

Atlas Stone

The Atlas stone is one strongman’s oldest lifts and the first thing people think about when they think of strongman competition. Although it seems like an easy enough movement just  lifting up a stone, it is more complex than that. Let’s go over the setup as well as how to complete the lift in the safest manner possible.  

First will set up your stance by straddling directly over the top of the stone.

Next, we reach straight down and pinch the stone between your forearms and elbows, with your hands as deep as possible (under the stone) to maximize surface area on the stone.

Then, lift the stone off the ground using technique more like an RDL than a conventional deadlift.

Load the stone into your lap by bringing your feet together and sitting back. Common mis-cue: lifters are often told to bring their knees together to load the stone onto their lap.  This puts unnecessary strain on the knees. Instead: a better cue is to bring the feet together; the knees will automatically follow.

Bring arms over the top of the stone at about 10:00 and 2:00 positions.

Finally, let your hips come up first, then explode bring them through and extend as the stone is pulled up the body (and over any hurdles). Think of the stone “rolling” up your chest.

A stance that is too wide will not allow you to build up the speed needed to lift the stone high enough to load it on to a platform or over a bar. A stance that is too narrow will make you unstable. The perfect stance is generally a little narrower than your jumping stance. When picking the stone off the ground, you do not want to lift it like a conventional or sumo deadlift; it does not give you the best leverage.

Instead, think of it more as a Romanian deadlift (RDL), or a wide stance RDL, to pick the stone effectively. Your hips should be high with a slight bend in the knees. When the stone is in your lap and you are about to load it, you do not want to reach your hands underneath it; this places unnecessary strain on the biceps. By placing your hands under the stone and exerting the muscles in your shoulders and biceps, you are not only far less effective, but also at great risk of injury. Your shoulders are much weaker than the larger muscles of your back. Instead, place your hands at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions on the stone so that the load is placed on the larger muscles of the back as you pull the stone up your torso to load it. You are far less likely to injure yourself, and will be utilizing muscles much larger and stronger to load the stone.

These are the absolute basics to this movement! If you want more come to Strongman Sundays!! Coach Reuben would love to help! Also good luck to all the Bears competing this weekend in Durango!

Knowledge Bomb: Assault Bike

Hey Bears! I hope the holidays were good to you, the new year is rolling in and with that we usually kick up the fitness to another level.  This month we are going to talk about the best way to approach one of the worst machines ever created.  The. Assault. Bike. 

 Yes, the bike is terrible nothing will change that but hopefully we can make you a little more efficient.  

-The first thing you will want to do is adjust the settings of the bike, by that I mean making sure your seat is at proper height.  

-For the correct height, stand next to the bike seat, with your feet next to each other.  The seat should be slightly above your hip, when sitting put the ball of your foot on the pedal extend a leg.  The leg should be almost fully locked out, meaning you should have a slight bend in your knee. 

Next we will want to look at what muscle groups we want to be using most. The assault bike allows us to push/pull, however, those are not our primary movers. The bike is a leg endurance exercise and should ALWAYS be treated as such, many of the athletes in the gym use arms far more than they should. By using too much arm movement (which is a small muscle group) you will fatigue overall much faster.  You are constantly using energy in your arms you run out of energy which is meant to feed the rest of your body, this is why people often feel a big crash after getting off the bike.  

-Next, we will want to focus on what your legs are supposed to be doing.  We walk everyday so our legs have higher energy stores than anywhere else in the body, we want to build these energy stores which will improve us as athletes.  As we continue to use the assault bike(A/B) for prolonged period fatigue will set in which is natural, the one thing we want to do is avoid any insufficient movements.  This is where things really fall apart for most athletes, because their bike isn’t set to the proper height setting we will see athletes flare out their knees at the top of the bike revolution.  Nothing can be more inefficient for cycling, or energy conservation.  When cycling we want to maintain small circles throughout the movement. The smaller the circle the more efficient we are on the A/B.  Keep the knees tucked close to the bike press using the legs while pulling with the arms to lessen the workload on both. Drive using only the ball of the foot and nothing else, this means hills or toes should never be pressing on the pedals.  

-Finally, we will want to make sure our airway is open at all times. This means, keep your head up, eyes forward when you begin to drop your head to look at your screen you limit the amount of air you can inhale each breath, this too will decrease your work capacity.  

Here are some examples of what wattage you could use.

For Men:

Easy: 200 – 350 Watt- longer workouts (at least 30-60minutes on a bike)
Hard: 350 – 600 Watt- moderate length on the bike 30+ calories
Sprint: 600 – 1000 Watt- quick burst workouts; sprints

For Women:

Easy: 100 – 250 Watt
Hard: 250 – 500 Watt
Sprint: 500 – 700 Watt


Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell Swings

With winter approaching we are going to spend more time indoors than outdoors.  Sitting inside watching TV, getting nice and warmed up in front of that fire place drinking a warm drink this is great and all, but all these things have one thing in common, sitting.  In today’s world we spend a lot of our time doing things in front of us with terrible posture (unless of course you are coach Rob who has the greatest posture this world has ever seen).  We plant ourselves in front of keyboards with our shoulders collapsing, we are seated, constantly shortening our hip flexors.  Most of our jobs have us sit for hours on end not moving and having a nice hunched over position, and we go home and melt on the couch and exacerbate the problem further.  As I write this article I find myself doing all of the above.  Now is the time to fix it. 

Anterior dominance or the overuse of our muscles in the front of our bodies needs to be addressed.  By having one side of our bodies used much more often than the other we will run into more problems than benefits.  It leads to imbalances and poor performance in CrossFit WODs, we remain in this hunched over position when standing and while trying to perform our workouts.  So how do we fix it? It’s easy, by doing a core strengthening, purely posterior chain exercise; the kettlebell swing, and we do it correctly.  Today I am going to try my best to explain on how to get the most out of your kettlebell swing.  

I have been coaching CrossFit for a while now and I have found the best ques for teaching proper technique goes as follows: the first step is the hike.  The hike is exactly what it sounds like, you are hiking the kettlebell just as you see the center on a football team hike a football.  We want to make sure our first swing starts in this hike position as opposed to a standing position.  We want to get a Lat stretch and find a rhythm as we begin to build momentum as each swing continues. It is always a good idea to set your kettlebell up about a foot in front of you, keeping your hips high with knees slightly bent, from there retract your shoulder blades and let your Lats contract, this is the start of the movement as you hike the KB through the legs. 

Next we have the hinge, this is where people seem to get a little lost on the movement, unlike a squat which is more knee dominant, the hinge should be nothing but the hips, this will help to make sure our posterior chain will be doing all the work.  We want to stress the hamstrings and glutes as much as possible to generate as much power as possible.  If you are unable to hinge properly you ARE inefficient in your actual swing.  

Third we have the root, or the reflex that occurs when we get the posterior stretch from the hinge.  Our muscles snap back like a rubber band putting us in an upright position with all core muscles engaged and our feet deeply planted into the ground.  Remember to stay on our heels at this crucial stage this helps us maintain proper balance.  As the reflex occurs we also want to make sure we are squeezing the glutes as much as possible this is where all of our power occurs and it will help us get the most bang for our buck.  Keep your shoulders back and down to help get the full posterior chain experience.  

The final position is the float, or the zero gravity that occurs from all your hard work.  It is when acceleration has occurred you have followed through with post-chain explosiveness and now the kettlebell is reaching its peak before making its way back down, it is also a brief rest period.  If you have never experienced this, you have never done a kettlebell swing correctly.   Your hands are there to just guide the bell back into the hike position to start the movement all over.  

The best way to learn this movement and its efficiency is to keep practicing, you should feel all the posterior muscles engage as I explained above, in fact, that should be your goal with every swing.  Kettlebells are an absolute foundation when it comes to kinesthetic awareness (I sound smart) or knowing where and what your body is doing at all times.  The better you get at feeling what is supposed to be done the better your posture will become, as well as the quicker you will grow as an athlete and a proficient CrossFitter!  Good Luck Bears and Happy Holidays!

September: Barbell Cycling cont..

Hey Bears!  This month we are picking up where we left off, we will continue learning the most efficient way to move a barbell.  In last month’s article we discussed the weight shift that needs to occur when cleaning, snatching and shoulder-to-overhead.  This month we will talk about the finer details of barbell cycling specifically how and when to breath for each given movement.  

We can start our way from the top and make our way down.  When working shoulder to overhead we want to remember to sit back, keep your torso upright, punching the barbell overhead, and re-loading the barbell by pulling down to the bottom of your dip so the instant the barbell touches the shoulders, you can immediately go into the next rep.  Two of the finer details to remember are breathing and your hand position.  Always remember when cycling to breath, try to exhale as the barbell is punched overhead and inhale as the barbell descends back to the shoulders.  As for hand positioning, the wider a person can be with the front rack position and still be able to maintain a high power output the better.  This means less range-of-motion the bar needs to travel to become overhead. 

Next we will look at the snatch. The main tips from last month for this one are as the bar ascends keep the bar as close as possible, be aggressive on the turn over to ensure a proper lockout overhead, and the slight weight shift to the heals to reach a quicker power or squat position. Looking at the descent shoot the hips back, get the elbows over the top of the bar as quick as possible, again stay on the heels.  The main points of the descent are where the bar should hit and the breathing involved when cycling.  The number of touch points on the descent always depends on the weight, if an athlete is comfortable going straight down while maintaining good positioning and mechanics, this should be the go-to option.  However, as weight gets heavier it is not a good idea because it will change the rhythm of the overall movement.  If you are one of the athletes who makes, contact in the hip on the way up you should try to recreate that as you descend with heavier weight this again will help slow the bar.  As for the breathing you want to inhale during the ascent, and exhale overhead and on the way down. 

Finally, for the clean position all the same rules apply as the snatch.  You want to focus on the same key points, the fastest way a barbell can move is straight up and down with no contact points if the weight allows it.  If not hit the same contact point coming down as you would on the way up.  Breathing is also exactly the same. 

Continue to practice these skills discussed over the past two months and you will find that you will shave off time of all your WODs, Keep up the good work bears!

Barbell Cycling

In rolls August and with the change of the month comes the CrossFit Games.  Today marks the day when the top CrossFitters from around the world start the first day of the world’s largest CrossFit competition.  You will get to see feats of what appears to be superhuman strength and endurance all in the name of fitness.  With this month’s knowledge bomb we will look at the most fundamental skill needed to compete effectively in CrossFit, this skill is barbell cycling.  Barbell cycling is being able to successfully master high reps, at a fast pace, all while being energy efficient.  Sound complicated? It kinda is… but with practice and understanding body mechanics it can shave off valuable time in AMRAPs and WODs for time.  

The Weight Shift

Now it is time to talk about the movements and how we are supposed to break them down.  The best way that was explained to me is when completing a ground-to-shoulder or ground-to-overhead, and I really had success with was when I am barbell cycling I am doing two movements for each rep that I do. Stick with me on this, the reason for thinking each repetition has two movements is because of what my feet are going to have to do when completing each rep.  Anytime you are weightlifting you HAVE to be on your heels, however, when lowering the barbell that weight will begin a weight shift from your heels to your toes.  When you make it back to your starting positon you are rocking back on your heels to start your rep all over again.  This will help with momentum of the bar traveling up however, we will have another key point to focus on with each shift of weight.  

The Bar Path

The bar path is extremely important when cycling, any small mistake can lead to missed reps or energy inefficiency.  When lowering the bar (from shoulders or overhead), you want to avoid any kind of pausing when descending the bar as this will kill any of the momentum we have generated throughout the movement.  We want to keep the bar as close as possible when going up, and more importantly when coming down, this means setting your hips back and using them to slow the bar down is a good thing, as long as it isn’t a pause.  

Shoulder-to-overhead is for the most part treated the same way, we still want to focus on the weight shift from toes-to-heels but we use less emphasis on the heels-to-toes because we stop the bar at the shoulders instead of taking it all the way to the floor.  The main focus of shoulders-to-overhead movement is start in a slightly wider stance.  This allows for a wider base, making it easy to maintain a straight and consistent bar path.

High repetition barbell movements are a cornerstone in CrossFit. They have been since the start and will always be around, it is important that if you have any interest in competing or competing at a high level you need to master this successfully before you can ever move to that next step.  I realize this is not a very detailed article and I did this so you can talk to your coach how to approach it IN CLASS! I also skipped over the breathing that needs to take place when completing each rep but that’s a whole other can of worms.  Keep practicing and always strive to get better.  Do not ever be scared to ask a coach for help, this is much more of a hands on skill so go give it a try, perfect PRACTICE makes perfect, don’t be ashamed when a coach gives feedback! Good luck Bears!