Coaches Corner

The case for getting STRONG!

Fuller bringing down the house with some heavy weights at FNL.

 

The Case for Getting STRONG

By Pat B

 

I want you to get strong. You should want to be strong.

The word strong has so many connotations. To lift heavy weights. To perform a specified action very well and efficiently. To posess the skills and qualities that create the likelihood of success. And, there is so much more.

The way I’m using strong is to lift heavy weights.

To lift heavy weights means two things. First, you have a good amount of muscle. This is a good thing. More muscle means more health. It also means you won’t die as easily…Seriously. Second, you move efficiently. Well, it is possible that you are just a brute and move like shit but can still lift a lot of weight. But, I’d still take that over dying easily any day.

I really do want people to respect lifting weights more.

People should be measuring themselves on their back squat, deadlift, and press instead of the scale. The scale only says how much you weigh. What does ‘life’ care that you weigh 150 vs. 135? The only place I can think of where it matters how much you weigh is a child’s car seat (you need to weigh __ lbs. or more), and some carnival rides (weight limit cannot exceed ___ lbs.) where your weight really matters. But, those are extremes. However, I can think of tons of instances where it would matter how much you could back squat, deadlift, or press.

Let’s go through the list of benefits one would have if they improved their back squat, deadlift, and press, each by 25%.

– Increased muscle density
– Improved metabolic rate (burn more calories in resting)
– Improved bone density
– Improved hormone function
– Improved posture and reduction of back pain
– Improved ability and efficiency in other physical activities outside of the gym
– Improved quality of life!!!

I could go on and on with tons of specific examples. And, with making the assumption that one could pretty easily see this improvement while eating healthy, they would see a huge improvement in body composition. So, clothes would fit better and they would have the aesthetic benefits as well.

Greg Glassman had it correct when he said “Form follows function.” Meaning, focus on your functional capacity – the squat, the deadlift, the press, and all the other stuff we train in the gym. Improve those things and your body will follow suit. I promise, you won’t be dissapointed!

So, get a logbook and start tracking your lifts!!! Back squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, clean, snatch, press, push press, jerk, pullups, Fran, Diane, Filthy 50, Grace, Jackie, Murph…You need to know this stuff! These measurements are going to give you the life (and body) that you’ve always wanted.

Remember though, we follow a rule – Mechanics (proper and safe technique), Consistency (1st rep looks like 100th rep), and then (relative) Intensity. Rome wasn’t built in a day and changes aren’t going to happen overnight. So, take your time and practice good form and play the long game. It isn’t helpful to the big picture if you push too fast and get injured right away!

Good luck. We’ll see you on the strong side!

PB

3 Upcoming Weightlifting Clinics!

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Join me, Coach Meriah, for a my last three clinics at MBS before joining my coach and team in Arizona. In pursuit of lifting bigger and heavier weights as a national level weightlifter.  I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to meet and coach you all over the last two years, I hope you join me one last time (ok well three times) and come learn more about the Olympic lifts.  All three clinics will be at MBS II in Arvada.  Below are the dates, and descriptions of each clinic. Working out immediately before hand is not encouraged.  There will be a lot of holding postures, and if you are too beat up from your workout to hold a PVC (or lightweights) in the correct positions, may thwart efforts towards your technique improving.

Clinic #1:  Intro to Olympic Weightlifting
Sunday, September 25th at MBS II from 9:30am-11:30am for an intro to Olympic Weightlifting.  This 2 hour session will cover the snatch and then the clean and jerk.  This a great for beginners for even as a refresher to the more intermediate athlete.  There will be a ton of dills with PVC and minimal weights.  You can RSVP with Meriah at meriah@mbscrossfit.com or sign up and pay at this link here.  $20 for the session.

Clinic #2:  Clean & Jerk
Tuesday, September 27th 6:30pm-8pm at MBS II.  This clinic will build off of Sunday’s clinic a quick review of positions and then more work with drills with light to medium weights.  This clinic will be slightly more advanced than Sundays, but will be great reinforcement from Sunday’s work.  You can RSVP with Meriah at meriah@mbscrossfit.com, cost is $20

Clinic #2:  Snatch
Thursday, September 29th 6:30-8pm at MBS II.  Like tuesday’s C & J clinic days earlier, this too will be a continuation off of Sunday’s work.  More drills and more practice with weights. You can RSVP with Meriah at meriah@mbscrossfit.com, cost is $20

Put It In the Bank

Zach doing the deadlift in the team series workouts last week.

Zach doing the deadlift in the team series workouts last week.

 

Put it in the bank

I was explaining to class the other day about my philosophy about training. I told the class that out of 10 days of work at the gym, 9 of them are dedicated to “training”, while the other session is dedicated to “competition.”

“Training” refers to the purpose of the session, where in this case, it would be to prioritize what you will get out of the work or how it feels, vs any PR’s you get or leader-board status from the workout (trying to come in first in class). When “training”, you are “putting it in the bank” and the work you are putting in will have it’s pay off down the road. Even if the workout calls for intensity, or for you to find a heavy single, your priority will be to hit the single with good technique and, if during the session, something takes a turn and you feel you should work some finer points of the lift or movement, you adjust the session accordingly. “Training” is to delay gratification and be more focused on the process than the end result. Good process will bear good results.

The other session is “competition” and whether it be a lifting session, a workout of the day, or just a hard ass 5k you do out your back door, the purpose is to see where you are at. You want to see where you’re at individually, and also against other people. I think it’s in our nature (establishing dominance or something) as humans to want to see where we rank among our peers…Competition is in all of us!

The reason I think “competition” should be done about 10% of the time is because you can’t take the money out the bank (trying to set records everyday) everyday and expect it to be there for long. You’ll either burn yourself out, stomp your confidence, or end up hurting yourself.

Train 9 days. Compete 1 day. Not an exact science. But, let that stir around in your head and see if it helps you.

PB

I was once a beginner, too.

Meriah Snatches from Meriah on Vimeo.

Check out this chick. First off, those pants were totally see through and not Lululemon. Second that girl might be 2009 strong, but her technique needs some serious work! Welcome to the days where the snatch was my least favorite lift, I hated coaching it and I hated doing it.  Even though I loved the overhead squat, the snatch was awkward, slow, heavy and just plain HARD! I had been CrossFitting for about a year at this point, and while I didn’t know any other women snatching this weight, I had zero confidence in this lift. However, I kept at it, not everyday at this point, but I didn’t avoid it. I knew I was supposed to make contact at the hip, but I didn’t understand how the heck that was going to happen. It was almost another 2 years later, a lot of classes, a few clinics, and somehow 40 more pounds on the bar before I started to ‘get it’. My point isn’t to brag about my accomplishments or how awesome my technique is now, because I’m still working on bad habits daily both in my physical and between the ears training. My point is that it took A LOT of patience with myself, and several swift kicks to the ego to get where I’m at, even now I’m still learning and improving.  Some days you’ll be far from a PR and some days so dang close, but just not connecting.

Keep practicing, be patient with yourself and keep learning.  Learn how to do it right with sub max weights, and do it! Then do it again, and again and again, until good form is your default! Then add weight (small jumps) until you go back to old habits or it’s too heavy, go back to where you do it correctly and do it over and over and over and over…. Keep in mind new/improve technique does necessarily equate to an immediate PR.  However improving your consistency especially at higher weights will pave the road to success!  Happy Training!  Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming Olympic Lifting Clinics happening in September at our Arvada location!

 

Mobility for the overhead squat

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“I hate the snatch”, “I skipped the overhead squats yesterday”, “My mobility sucks”, “Why is the OHS so hard?!”  I hear a lot of this and more when it’s overhead squat day and especially when there is a squat snatch.  While it isn’t everyone’s favorite, is MY FAVORITE, so it must be important :). Actually, it is probably because it always came easy to me so it was fun to push this lift.  Getting into the bottom of a squat with a barbell overhead has never really been a problem for me.  However, that is not the case for many other people. Bing bendy comes pretty naturally to me, so what if it doesn’t for you?  How do you get better?  Well you may need to get more mobile. Not necessary flexible, but mobile. Men’s Health Magazine describes the differences between the two is “A person with great mobility is able to perform functional movement patterns with no restrictions in the range of motion (ROM) of those movements. A flexible person may or may not have the core strength, balance, or coordination to perform the same functional movements as the person with great mobility.”  There are a ton of great articles, videos and experts out there in the great big world (especially the internet hole) to help you.  It’s not going to change everything overnight, in a week, and while a year you can make significant improvements it may not solve everything.  Often people think it’s all in the shoulders, however a quick check list can prove that it may not be the shoulders, or it least it may not be the only thing.  Here is a quick check list of what to check.  Shoulders are the obvious on so we are going to save that for last and look at it from the ground up.  starting with the ankles, then the hops and hip flexors,  lower back and hammies, upper back/thoracic and shoulders.  As I said there is a TON of great info out there, but you have to find what YOUR issue is. There maybe a large group of you that struggle with the overhead squat type movements, but it doesn’t mean you all have the exact same problem.  Here are a couple of links to help get you started.

If you are looking for other research for mobility in general, be it the overhead squat, the front rack, overhead and handstand pushups, bench, squatting, deadlift, running and more!  Check out these movement guys (there are tons more out there too just look!)

You also have some great sources for body work in and outside of the gym,.  At MBS alone you have access to care like physical therapy, yoga, chiropractic and massage!  If that doesn’t work, for you,  I’ve seen my fair share of “Voo-Doo” (ok not REAL voo-doo, but weird stuff that has/hasn’t worked) from local providers (find me on FaceBook or email me at meriah@mbscrossfit.com).  I am fortunate to never have had to deal with surgeons and other specialists, but there are always an option too.  I just prefer to have them as a last resort.  Every problem has a solution, it’s how much effort you put into the solution that determines the final outcome.

Back vs Legs

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Check out these side by side comparisons of Coach Ben and Olympian Chad Vaughn in the snatch. What do you see? In the top row both guys are just about to hit triple extension, right as the bar meets the hip (and yes, yes there should be contact). Now look at Ben’s feet vs Chad’s and look at the differences in back angle. Ben’s currently using a lot more back (and smaller muscles) to give his bar momentum up, which Chad’s whole food is still rooted into the ground which will allow him to get a strong drive through his legs (big muscles). Because Ben has shifted his weight forward early to make up for the weight pulling forward he really has to lean back. While Chad’s torso is much more vertical. What’s going to happen next is triple extension, here they look really similar, both leaned back so the bar can stay in close making it easier to catch, but because of what happened in the pictures before, Ben’s going to have to work a little harder to keep is bar in close, resulting in either hopping forward, having to chase or step forward in the stand up or missing. Not to mention sometimes catching it out front doesn’t always feel great on the shoulders. Luckily Ben is super fast and strong and was able to make this lift, however if this habit continues it will limit the amount of weight he’ll be able to do and consistently.The good news is it’s an easy fix, it just requires a little patience. Take the weights down, and focus on doing it right. Pause snatches (at the knee), block snatches and high hang or hip snatch are all great drills that can help. Be sure to keep your shoulders over the bar in the first two drills (see my earlier blog post). When in doubt video yourself so you can SEE what your are doing and relate it to how it feels, also then your videos are easily sendable to your coach for some extra help. Stay tuned for more information on another intro to Olympic Weightlifting at our Arvada location later this month with me, Coach Meriah!  Be sure to join our MBS Strength group on FaceBook for the next update!

Frog Stance

kayleefroggerKaylee rocking the Frog Stance in weightlifting class (6:15am & 5:15pm Tuesdays and Thursdays) at our Broomfield location.

After getting tired of yelling (lovingly) at Kaylee to move her feet in her lifts, I decided to take a new approach. Since my gentle reminder wasn’t working I recommended the Frog Stance leg technique. Which brings your heels in and you point your toes out. This position helps you get your knees out of the way, and is almost a guarantee you’ll move your feet! The inventor, Yoshinobu Miyake, was the first man to snatch double body weight 118k/260# at 59k/130# in 1962. You might say he’s pretty good.

I first learned about this from my coach back in Montana, Mike Karchut (8x national champion and 2x Olympian), and in my experience I didn’t care for it for me.  However when I feel like my feet are glued to the floor, I’ll warm up with a less extreme version of this stance. Once I feel like my feet are back in the game I go back to my normal stance.  So is this stance for you?  Well, you’ll never know until you give it a try, but generally this frog stance is good for long torsos, and short femurs. My recommendation, give it a shot, if it works great (Kaylee is loving it!)! Happy lifting! If not, no problem, it may not be for you! When learning remember to start light and high (high hang) and work your way down to the floor. I would also recommend using this for weightlifting sessions or max out days, and not as much for your lighter weights for high reps, like you find often in CrossFit workouts.

For a little more on the history of the Frog Stance click the link to an article from 1969 Strength & Health magazine and if you really want to geek out on weightlifting talk check out this Podcast by My Weightlifting Coach interviewing Jim Schmitz (former US Olympic team coach). If you don’t have time to listen it all be sure to listen to 8:26-about 15:15 to the about the frog stance and it’s history. They’ll also talk the upcoming Olympics, did you know the ENTIRE Russian Weightlifting team has been banned for drug use, so this year will be very exciting to watch as it is anyone’s game!

Weightlifting and Expecting Moms


This is Angela Candage-Parra at the 2013 Alaska Weightlifting Championship. In this video she is 8 months pregnant snatching up to 66kg and clean and jerking 100kg. Angela had long been an elite lifter, including time as athlete in residence at the US Olympic Training Center. I do not know Angela personally nor have I met her, but from what I could find, mom and baby are (and were) happy and healthy!

In case you haven’t noticed there is a small baby boom at MBS (at both our Broomfield and Arvada locations!), with at least 7 moms and dads to be! In my 8 years as a coach I have worked with over a dozen expectant moms over the years. First borns, second and third babies; moms in their 20s others in their 30s. Some just starting CrossFit while others quite experienced. Planned pregnancies, some not so much, and some I knew before they told me. As a coach I often get asked, “what should I do?”, “what shouldn’t I do?”. My answer is always different because every one and every pregnancy is different. I’ve seen women hit total exhaustion 3 minutes into light warmup in first trimester, and 50# squat PRs in the third trimester. I’ve seen them do handstands, box jumps, pullups, deadlifts, snatches and even muscle ups (bar and ring!) at all stages of pregnancy. While we coaches often talk about good movement is good, and poor movement is poor movement and eventually run into a problem. Pregnant movement isn’t bad, it’s just different. There are hormones that stretch things, baby’s sitting and doing back flips on your innards, you have a whole other body (alien?) growing and doing it’s own thing independent of you and out of your control! Especially when you have fast changes like pants fitting on Monday that don’t fit on Tuesday. I bet there is going to be a least one movement that will be impact by growth spurt that changes your pant size over night!

My whole point of this post isn’t to tell you what to do, or make you feel like you should be like Angela. I am NOT a doctor, and I am NOT you. People have a lot of opinions for women and their bodies. What it should look like, what they should do with it, both while pregnant and while not pregnant. Not to mention all the uninvited belly touching from strangers, YIKES!  My advice (and yes, I know you didn’t exactly ask) is to educate yourself, talk to you doctor that you trust, and make the best decision for you and this pregnancy. For all the moms that choose to CrossFit all through their pregnancy, I support you. For all the moms that had to take a break at any point (or do something else), I support you. Whatever you decide I support you! As your coach, I may offer my opinion based on my experiences with other baby mommas. I hope you see it coming from a place of support and care. You are carrying precious cargo, and we want to see you all healthy for many years to come!

If you’d like to hear more crazy stories about some of the pregnant women, I’ve coached feel free to email me, Coach Meriah, at meriah@mbscrossfit.com.

PS. Postpartum recovery is a whole other animal of various experiences. Just remember it’s called LABOR for a reason. And while Getting your core put back together properly may take time, will be worth it in the long run! I highly recommending getting a good PT or medical professional that specializes in this type of recovery!

Jay’s Clean

In the video is comparing a few of Jay’s cleans (squat cleans) in a work out from last week.  In the first repetition you’ll see him getting pulled forward by his weight especially right about the knee.  If the first still you’ll see he is getting pulled forward, then as he transitions to his second pull to give the bar momentum with his legs, he was to use more of his back.  He throws his hips and hops forward. In the second rep I gave him the cue jump UP and move his feet OUT. You’ll see at the knee he is no longer getting pulled forward, and he has a solid connection between his feet and the ground. Because of this he is able to shift his weight, pull his knees more under the bar for a strong more powerful leg drive, and much less of a hop forward. While it’s hard to tell if this made the lift easier or faster for this workout. Making these changes to his technique will reward him in the long run with heavier weights. Jay will be a lot more efficient in his metcons that require a heavier % of his 1 rep max, and when it comes to a max effort he’ll be ready for big weight!

High Hang Snatch by Ilian

In this video Ilian demonstrates a couple of snatches from the high hang. First you’ll see him use his back not his leg resulting in him hopping forward and kicking/looping the bar out making it hard to catch. The second lift he has a strong leg drive and vertical finish allowing him to keep the bar in close for an efficient lift. The high hangs are great for learning to drop under the bar, but also teach you to have a strong drive through the legs. If you have a habit of kicking the bar out you’re going to find yourself missing easy weights, and having to chase all your lifts.

Want more weightlifting? Check out the strength classes at 6:15am and 5:15pm Tuesdays and Thursdays at our Broomfeild location. And remember to join Me, coach Meriah, Saturday’s at 9am at the hangar (& often out of the tarmac!) for more technique work and weightlifting practice. Remember to find the MBS Strength group on Facebook for the latest on class updates, videos, articles and more!