WOD: July 31 On Burpees and gas masks.

31 Jul


Fun filled and early. The skill/strength portion of the day was the push jerk and the split jerk. Like all other skills I get to inflict on my classes, we started at the simplest step. I admit, there’s something satisfying about watching a whole class perform a technical move in unison. It’s hypnotic. There’s also a pattern recognition thing at work that makes spotting a mistake a little simpler, but that’s just weird neuroscience talk.

The WOD:

15 min AMRAP

4 pull ups

8 Burpees

16 KB Swings

Let’s be clear.

I hated this workout. I hated this more then I hated the last workout I hated. Round 1 was fine. Round 2 and up? Sucked.

There was a bit of schadenfreude when everyone else suffered through it. It really was just a horrible beast to grind through and everyone shared the same sentiment. We did all survive and slog through it. We’re one step closer to being comfortable with misery, and that makes us better individuals. ūüėõ

See everyone Tuesday.

Arbitrary Awards:

“How the mighty have fallen.” To Simon. Big welcome back to Simon from his vacation, eating good food and relaxing. As he put it: I’ve got no more work capacity.” Which is relative, although he might not have his previous levels that let him crush everyone, he still has enough to beat me.

“Huge, HUGE Bells!” To Ludwig, Ben and Kat. Instead of using the “light” and appropriate scaling on the Kettelbell swings, these three decided that scaling up would be a good idea. (we actually ran out of 24KG KB’s but details) Ludwig and Ben with a 32KG and Kat with a 24KG. Why not?

“Oxygen is for other people.” To Cameron. Breathing during a workout can be hard. Burpee’s and kettlebell swings? Not much time to breath in that. Obviously the best idea is to put on a gas mask halfway through and test capacity like that.


Immoral Shoulders: too forward for their own good?

31 Jul


There seems to be a ¬†developing debate between ‚Äėshoulders shrugged‚Äô and ‚Äėshoulders down with external arm rotation‚Äô when overhead squatting, or hanging from a bar. As happens, too often. a therapist decides that their simplistic view of the world is “king” and attempts to foist it on others. The explanations they give often seem credible as they have quite good anatomical knowledge .

Here are some ideas and observations: I dont claim to be right. I do claim to be inspired by Greg Glassman and all those who teach the level 1 certification. The ¬†Crossfit gift is ¬†it’s¬†encouragement ¬†to think.

At first glance the debate seems to be about the elevation of the shoulder; and that,  by implication is wrong and bad (sorry, I have  a very childlike view of the world; wrong and bad, nice and good!
)So when I heard the advice ‚Äėshoulders down‚Äô, I panicked (I do this ¬†a lot; I‚Äôm 50 and already practising to be a bewildered OAP)In a real world, a pull up from the ground begins with shoulders elevated (especially if you are small and the bar/branch is high). We train the pull up because it is functional. It lifts us up from unfriendly places towards, hopefully, friendlier places; out of rivers onto the bank, from the ground into trees. The hang is a totally natural move and part of our physiology. An elevated shoulder girdle is, surely, part of the reaching-up process.

The shrug has also been part of physical training for many years. Paul Kelso produces an excellent book (Kelso’s Shrug book) which details (too) many types of shrugs.

But Jeff Martone ¬†said in his Kettlebell Certification, ‚ÄúPull your shoulder down when Turkish get-upping”, er, people‚ÄĚ (he does that a lot). This didn‚Äôt make sense to me. If something is bearing down on me, I naturally push back (this is probably a psychological thing that ¬†few years in therapy could sort out. ¬†Its also the basis of an anti- welsh sheep joke)

I though about Olympic lifting, and as a result of an hour watching You Tube (and bearing in mind different camera angles and musculature) I‚Äôd subjectively say 80% had ‚Äėactive shoulders‚Äô while attempting to shove their shoulders up.

However, on the cover of Kono’s book,” Weightlifting, Olympic style (a world champion)”, Kono‚Äôs shoulders appear to be down and packed. However the text states he ‚Äėuses traps violently in his pulls‚Äô and suggests you ‚Äėshould be fighting against the compressive force that the arms and body are subjected to by exerting a counter force to stretch as tall as possible and at the same time, pushing the bar as high as possible‚Äô.

Greg Everett was in his book  olympic weightlifting, is anti packing ( see page 61, 62), so well and truely on the side of the shruggers.

Then I saw an article by Craig Liebenson ‚Äú Y exercise for correcting the most common faulty movement pattern of the shoulder/neck region‚ÄĚ (J body work 2011 15, 391-394)

‚Äúin the upper back . shoulder girdle ¬†or neck area ¬†the key faulty movement is an abnormal ¬†scapulohumeral rhythm. this causes the shoulder girdle to shrug up towards the ears and results in increased neck/shoulder muscle tension, rounded shoulders and forward head posture. these are the hall marks of dysfunction which predispose to either pain or loss of athletic performance‚ÄĚ

His ¬†key solution is to learn how to ‚Äúpack the shoulder‚ÄĚ:

Then I started thinking. Up to now my thinking (above) had been ¬†that of a ¬†tearful 4 year old, ‚Äúhe said, then ¬†she said ¬†then he said…sob‚ÄĚ

If you have been taught   how to squat properly its the same shoulder position as for the deadlift and the front squat: Shoulders back and  down ( not pinched!) There’s a natural place for them which make  you look as if you have  a noble posture and are worth procreating with ( probably what the therapists mean by packed)

Noble, shoulders down..good breeding stock...

If  from this position you shrug, or overhead squat, when you shrug your shoulders, they elevate nicely, they dont roll over. and here  I think is the main cause of the confusion.

unless the set up is correct, and especially if the trainee has rounded shoulders( and a forward head posture)

dont stoop.. and dont carry this into your physical training

The upward driving shrug becomes  a functionally misconceived  and misdirected forward roll of the scaplua,  no doubt lured by a tight and cheeky  pec minor( along with its tight chest cronies, the pec major, the subclavicular, and tight intercostals  under some  locked down fascia) thus changing the direction of the glenoid fossa into  in a sub optimal position could probably result in injury.

the immoral shoulder.. shoulder too forward

In short, there is nothing wrong with the core crossfit cue ¬†of ‚Äútry to get your shoulders into your ears‚ÄĚ ¬†Firstly Remember cues are quick ¬†‚Äúfun‚ÄĚ summaries. After all ‚Äúhips, hips hips‚ÄĚ ¬†or the often heard ‚Äúiipsipsipsips‚ÄĚ doesn‚Äôt really summarized hip extension, so shoulders in ears isnt ¬†the whole story.

i wonder if the better advise is to set the shoulders back and down, and then, as long as the movement is in that plan, its ok to shrug?

At Crossfit London we have always been lucky, We have always had the coaching point ‚Äúkittens‚ÄĚ to guide our training and shrugging: You want to bounce the (2) ¬†sleeping kittems (the ones on your shoulder) straight up and off, not off to the front. For the overhead squat, raise those kittens as high as possible gets properly set shoulders to ¬†engage and brace against the weight to come in the overhead squat and snatch: Up is, by the way, up there, not towards me… good job!

Feedback much appreciated.

Some Extra Research Observations

While researching this, I came across some interesting articles and observations

1) Median nerve and Overactive traps

There is much concern about the constant elevated positioning of the shoulder girdle., this can be due to the  preconditioning  of the median  nerve . the upper trap becomes over active to reduce tension in the median nerve, by elevating the shoulder girdle.

2) Perhaps Depression Not so Good

According to “Influence of scapular position on the pressure pain threshold of the upper trapezius muscle region “ 2008 (European journal of pain)  a position of scapula depression ( could that be scapula packing) will maintain the upper trapezius muscle region in a lengthened position, causing excessive strain. Hmm, Put that in your theraputic pipe, but don’t smoke , it as it will ruin your karma..

3) Single arms

interestingly, many commentators on ¬†shoulder function, were ¬†based on open chain activity, tennis, swimming, dumbbell where the movement has instability,,, unlike a pull up, bar, which is locked…..Im not sure if this means anything, but thought i mention it.

4) The Upper tarpezius Does not elevate the shoulder !!!
check out ¬†“Anatomy and Actions of the Trapezius Muscle,” by Johnson and Bogduk, et al., nicely reviewed by Warren hammer. The Upper Traps, dont elevate.

Who Knew


Saturday Sunshine

31 Jul

30th July 2011


The sun is back and it felt good.  I am enjoying my little extra time in bed too.  The over head squat. Yep, I know, more of them.  But they are good for you so pinch your nose, screw your eyes shut and swallow the wholesome medicine that they are.

2×5 and 1×5+

We started with some PVC drills, dislocates, round the worlds to open the shoulders up. Then some reinforcement drills focussing on actively driving the shoulders up and locking the bar in place by trying to pull it apart.


A short little blast of three rounds for time of 15 sumo dead lift high pulls (50/35kg) and ring dips.  I wanted you to feel the need to have to break these sets up. So I set a heavy weight and suggested a very light band for the dips.  I wanted to see some good gurning action and we did.


Exercise-related transient abdominal pain” Opps, I’ve got a running stitch

31 Jul

For those of you who enjoy a bit of science while suffering should read  MORTON, D. P., and R. CALLISTER. Characteristics and Etiology of exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 432-438. Is as good a place as any to begin to get up to date with what causes the stitch. Obviously you need to clarify what you are talking about . Its that sharp abdominal pain that some people get while being active. Not an aspect of needle work. (BTW ETP=  exercise-related transient abdominal pain)

This study issued a questionnaire to different types of sports people and asked them about the stitch.¬†¬†ETAP appears to be most prevalent in activities that involve repetitive torso movement, whether ” vertical translation or longitudinal rotation”. Its normally ¬†a local pain ¬†mostly experienced in lumbar regions of the abdomen. Some ¬†unlikely people also also experience “shoulder tip pain” (STP) too, famously known as the ¬†diaphragmatic-referral ¬†site, suggesting a miffed diaphragm

Note. No one has actually done anything in this report. They havent got runers, held them down and cut them open, or ultra sounded them, or poked them with sharp sticks. All they did was to ask some people if they have had it.  Thats not being a scientist, that being a pollster and a gossip

Conclusions: ¬† This gives “perspective” to suggested etiologies of ETAP, which include diaphragmatic ischemia and stress on the visceral ligaments, and suggest we should be looking at other causes ¬†such as cramp of the “musculature and irritation of the parietal peritoneum” ( who knew)

Interesting to note that the condition that is mostly associated with runners, is suffered through all sports. Its merely that runners whine more.

And the cure, after all this science?…. “factors that provoke and techniques that relieve ETAP, are not well understood” ( All that money, all those surveys, for this. Fu@%ers)

Several causes “theories” ¬†make the rounds in gyms ;ischemia of the diaphragm and ¬† stress on the visceral ligaments ¬†have gained the most credibility. Im surprised my theory about irritated pixies hasn’t got more coverage. “Further examination of the characteristics of ETAP and the stimuli that provoke it may be beneficial for evaluating the integrity of these and other theories”. Oh, and guess what, more studies, funded by the tax payer is some secret roundabout sort of way, is needed. Oh yeh!

With my Therapist and Crossfit hat on, it was interesting to note that rotational movement through the torso played a part. ¬†A lot of what we try and achieve ¬†at Crossfit is to maintain a solid “core” which acts as an anchor for the limb to swirl about. We train you to use your legs to Deadlift, while keeping your ¬†torso “locked down” Clinically we have noticed a tendency among aerobic athletes, when they come to us, to be unable to initiate a leg movement without a body movement. ( If they swing a leg it begins from the lower back, not the hip. load is lifted from the back, not the hip) in short, if every time you move you have to wiggle your core.

Thats a lot of additional movement for a biological box with lots of other stuff to do

A running Opportunity

29 Jul

Hi All, an interesting running opportunity

My name is Rose and I am writing from a charity called Elephant Family, the UK’s leading fundraiser for the Asian elephant. I am writing with an opportunity that may interest your fitness centre as a target to work towards. We are recruiting runners for the Royal Parks Half Marathon and it would be great if it would be possible to circulate this email with the attached poster to the leaders of the groups if possible. It may be a great way for the group to get together and as a team, achieve something incredible and take part in London’s most beautiful run.

Elephant Family would not be able to do the work we do without the dedication of our supporters – especially our fantastic fundraising runners! For the past few years we’ve had supporters run for Elephant Family in the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon (www.royalparkshalf.com) which has been great fundraising success. There are no longer places open to the public , the only way to take park is by running on behalf of a charity and so it is a great opportunity for keen runners. The Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon is a fantastic event and famous for being the most beautiful half marathon in the UK. Last year was a truly magical event and everyone, including the sunshine, was beaming by the end of the race – check out our video from the day to see for yourself,¬†www.youtube.com/elephantfamily.

Here are a few of the key details, but if you are interested and would like some more information, please let me know.

Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

  • ¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Date ‚ÄstSunday 9th¬†October
  • ¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Location ‚Äď ¬†Central London Royal Parks and the Embankment ‚Ästhttp://www.royalparkshalf.com/runners/race-details/route-map/
  • ¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Distance ‚Äst13.1miles (21km)
  • ¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Registration ‚Äst¬£45
  • ¬∑¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Minimum Sponsorship –¬†¬£100

Everyone that signs up will get –

*    An Elephant Family running vest and sweat band
*    A cheerleading squad to spot you and cheer you on!
*    Vital training tips and free training sessions for half marathon runners
*    A race support hotline
*    Helpful ideas for fundraising
*    A runners information blog

I have attached a poster that you could print off and put up if you think it might be of interests to the staff and customers at your centre. If you would like more information or if you would like a place please contact tim@elephantfamily.org or telephone us on 020 7251 5099.

Kind regards,
Rose Timmis Challenge Events Fundraiser

Elephant Family
020 7251 5099

www.elephantfamily.org | First Floor, 17-18 Haywards Place, London, EC1R 0EQ

WOD 28th July Welcome the Beast

29 Jul

After so many days of rain the warmth of Thursday was welcomed. The summer has been a long time coming!

Let’s hope it lasts a bit!

Weather aside it was time to work hard and I didn’t want to disappoint after the fun of Monday’s class.

Work started with stretching out tight hamstrings. This also gave opportunity to practise the swing technique as I had you stretching against the toilet blocks, hinging from the hips.

3 lots of hamstring stretch 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds.

Stretching over and technique sorted I explained the warm up.

Swings and push ups.

The swings were to be completed at one end of the gym and then push ups were at the other end of the gym.

Reps went as follows.

Swings 15-12-9

Push ups 9-12-15

When the last push ups was squished out, equipment away, it was time to lift heavy.

Strength today was Deadlifts. 4 warm up sets of 5 and one HEAVY working set of 5.

Before starting the sets I wanted everyone to practise a move that Andrew showed me called the camel.

Basically it where you are on all 4’s and practise humping the back like a camel and then pulling the shoulders back and bracing the lumbar spine lifting the head.

What this does is give some perception as to where the body is in the deadlift. I have found this has worked well with memebrs who have struggled with their back in a deadlift.

Within the breaks in the last sets I got you to fit some weighted chins while I struggled to get a decent photo!

Nice one Ben
Nice one Ben

The icing on the cake for tonight’s session was a variation of one of my¬†favorite WOD’s The Bear.

Look up You tube for videos of the Bear. It’s awesome!

Anyways my variation was going to be just as fun!

It went like this….

AMRAP 10 Minutes

First round…

1 Squat Clean

1 Front Squat

1 Thruster

1 Push Press

1 Back Squat

(Bar to floor)

A blurry Jeana prepares to clean
A blurry Jeana prepares to clean

With each round to follow add 1 rep to each move.

The Rules are that the Squat Clean can not count as a Front Squat but that the thruster can drive out of the last front squat.

For a 10 minute workout this certainly lived up to it’s name the Beast!!!

Well Done Crew Nicely done all round.

After a little stretch I sent you home tired but happy!



Checking your kittens bottom…..

27 Jul

The functional  value of the medicine ball clean has not always been clear to its critics. The attacks on this movement do no harm. It merely shows up the critics for the kitten-less, pet-less fiends they are.

Anyone who has ever had to trap a kitten, ¬†then lift it up to inspect its bottom ¬†uses “Medball Clean” technology. You get over the kitten, deadlift it up. If now, you reverse curl it, it goes upside down and either pukes or scratches its way out of your hands: If however, you shrug, leave the kitten in mid air while you re-catch it in a warming soft friendly ¬†front squat, then lift it up to the light, while peering at its bottom: everyone is happy. Including the kitten.

Voila, Crossfit London, functional skill for  a pet owning economy.

After this fun, and ¬†a mini medball clean, pushup.(burpee for some)sprint warm up WOD. ¬†Then it was, hey ho, hey ho, its off to jerk we go… a snuggle up strength work out mixing jerks and split jerks.

Look at Phil.


After that it was “Fractured Fran” 4 Thrusters, 4 strict pull ups, amrap 12 minutes ( top prizes go to Trevor for ¬†13 rounds) Top girl prize goes to Katarina for managing 6 rounds before going to a band ( well I never, a girl who can do 24 strict pull ups).

Most people also got a quick go at a handstand hold.

Lovely evening, lovely people: Insane trainer. Top prize goes to me for the Longest most obscure coaching point ever with ” Cicero suggested that wisdom without elegance was without profit… so give me elegant thrusters” . Perhaps a bit obscure if you are not on top of your medieval rhetoric.

WOD 25th July They thought this would be easy!

27 Jul

No WOD should be easy they all have something that they bring to the table so when I heard Phil saying how easy this WOD would be I had a little chuckle inside as I knew he was in for a shock!!!

Having already put myself through this workout I knew that it may look unsuspecting but deep down it was a monster!!!

The workout included a run so my initial warm up was a 400m jog to familiarize everyone with the route.

That out of the way a bit of skill was on the cards.

Hip extension and Squat cleans.

The emphasis was on landing low and getting full hip action.

The problem with this is that often the athlete moves too slowly or without commitment resulting in a high finish that looks more like a power clean then a squat clean.

To practise speed and direction change we drilled the squat clean without a bar and simply went through the motions of the move, hip extension, shrug, high elbows and then the drop.

Without the bar for some beginners it can be the first time they are getting a real sense for the move and what it entails to change direction quickly and commit to a low stable landing.

After working these drills bars were set up and a few sets of increasing weight were performed, trying to keep technique at the fore-front.

Having done this workout myself I knew 30 minutes would be needed.

We didn’t waste too much time in setting up bars to deadlift.

55-65Kg for men 35-45Kg for girls.

The wod went like this….

5 Rounds of

400m run/row

20 Deadlifts

20 Push ups

10 Deadlifts

10 Push ups

Kat is hardcore!
Kat is hardcore!

In total this is 150 Deadlifts. The idea is not to ruin your back with heavy weight and poor technique but to use a weight that would challenge but still be possible to maintain the back.

For some I gave scales of rowing, box jumps, swings instead of running. This depended on the injury the athlete might have and equipment availability.

For beginners or athlete returning from a break the round were knocked down to 3.

The standard for the push ups was as follows…..

Chest to floor, hand release.

If full push ups were limited i.e girls then the only subs would be dropping the number and pushing through with full push ups or off a box.

Funnily enough I was right and Phil was eating his words at the end of the WOD.

Well Done Crew

To see how I got on with this WOD check out  http://sallydixey.com/2011/07/wod-25th-july-a-long-one/

Foot position when squatting

27 Jul

How should your feet be placed for the squat?

Probably before you got to CrossFit you’d keep them fairly close and toes forward. Then we got you to place them shoulder width apart and turn the toes out.

However, this is now in question, thanks to a few videos posted to www.mobilitywod.com. CrossFit mobility man, Kelly Starrett, threw a spanner in the works and suggested that toes should, instead, be facing forwards to reduce the chance of valgus knee movement (knock knees or damage to the outside of the knee) and to build tension and maximise torque in the hip during squatting.

His opinion disagrees with so many notable names:

Mark Rippetoe would have your ‚Äútoes point out 30 degrees. Feet at shoulder width‚ÄĚ.

Gray Cook believes ‚Äúthe best and strongest foot position in a regular squat is with an out turn‚ÄĚ.

Powerlifters like Louie Simmons would get you to turn your toes out, as would record breaker Andy Bolton who suggests the toes should be ‚Äúturned out 10 to 40 degrees‚ÄĚ.

With so much unsubstantiated hearsay in strength training, it’s worth highlighting exactly why so many prefer the toes-out position.

By widening your stance and turning your toes out you open up the hip allowing the femur to move more freely and thus allowing for greater depth. In addition we want to keep the knee safe, as coach Greg Everett states:

“We squat toes out to match the direction of the thighs to ensure the knee is hinging not twisting”

He also argues that the only real threat of valgus knee movement will come when the stance is too wide. Otherwise the knee remains ‚Äúsupported by the lower leg vertically‚ÄĚ.

So what’s a confused CrossFitter to do? What’s the answer? Where the hell should my feet be?

Well as you might guess, it depends.

If you struggle with flexibility then a toes forward position may not allow for sufficient depth. Inflexible ankles, tight hamstrings or hips will all benefit more from a wider stance with toes out. At least to begin with.

Suffering from a groin injury? Then the toes forward narrow stance may allow you to continue squatting through your injury.

But with each of these scenarios as flexibility and squat strength improves, the athlete may benefit from experimenting with foot stance and position. It all becomes a matter of trial and error on what works best for you given your personal fitness and any limitations you have.

If you switch up your position from time to time you can switch up the muscle emphasis to some degree. In other words hitting different muscles around the hip and making your overall squat stronger. Toes out will involve the adductors (groin muscles) to a greater degree, toes in will recruit more of the lateral musculature ‚Äď those of the outside of the leg.

Whatever position you choose or prefer bear in mind the following standards:

  • Ensure the thigh and foot are aligned to ensure safe hinging of the knee
  • Ensure that your foot position does not compromise safe posture such as forcing a rounded back or collapsed chest
  • Always make sure you are squatting as deep as you can with good form. We aim for a full range of motion at the hip, like all movements

What’s right for you could be less than ideal or even unsafe for the athlete next to you. Different limb lengths or limitations mean that foot position is not a one-size-fits all matter.

WOD July 26: Fun with numbers.

26 Jul

It’s Tuesday, so it must be time for my particular brand of humour again.

As today’s strength portion was the Overhead squat, each and every class had the (quite dubious) pleasure of running through each warm up drills:

Overhead hold to very controlled squatting.

Increase the weight marginally.


In addition, each class was subject to my rant about not widening their hands once the weight is overhead. Everyone always scoffs when I repeat it but I’ve seen it done too often. To their credit, not a single person in any class did it yesterday. As impressed as I may be, rest assured:

I will still repeat my rant at the beginning of every overhead squat practice session.

After the squats, it was off to the WOD.


21 pull up buy in



Ring Dips

Box Jumps

KB Swings

This was a fun workout. Who doesn’t like number oddities? That’s why sesame street was invented! This was such a fun workout, that the athletes who helped me test it on Sunday were here again for another crack at it. Depending on where one’s weaknesses were, this workout was either going to crush arms or legs. If you were decent at both ring dips and the KB Swing, box jump combo, switching between both meant that you had some rest in specific area’s

Arbitrary Awards:

“Gold Star”: To Kat. For giving out more stickers post WOD then a school teacher on a field trip. She also gets issued a gold star for doing the whole WOD with a 24 KG kettlebell. Impressive performance.

“Moving on up” To Natasha. Natasha wins a huge arbitrary award for her performance yesterday. Over the past few months she’s worked hard and made huge gains in all her lifts and movements. Keep up the good work.

“Why do less?” To Asif. I’m not sure if there was a communication break down, or if Asif really loves his pull ups. After working his way through the buy in, he went back to the pull up bar and racked up a few more reps. Impressive dedication. ūüėõ

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