Monday, September 15, 2014

Slowed Down in Crossfit, Travis Mash Front Squat Tips

Photo credit: Southern CrossFit / Foter /CC BY-NC-ND
     Should everything be done as fast as possible all the time? While the increased intensity in Crossfit can be beneficial for many people, it really depends what your aim is.  For those seeking strength gains and one rep max gains after their first year of Crossfit, some lower intensity days may be in order.  Try 60% to 80% effort for most days, depending on how you are feeling,  and 100% on special test days (1-2x a month).

Some other positives in addition to better strength gains:
  • Less frequent immune system weakening from continuous 100% max effort sessions.  
  • Better able to focus on  technique when you are not at 100% effort all the time
  • Fuller recovery between sessions, especially for older people who do not recover as fast
Renato Canova, one of the most successful distance running coaches (I almost said couches :-) of all time, advises his athletes to always finish feeling like they want to do more.  So despite this blog being called "DeathByWorkout", I want to emphasize that is just a name, and not a recommendation.  I could have a blog called "DoWhatYourCoachTellsYou", but that is not as catchy.  Or how about "WorkoutUsingYourBrain"?

As always there are some exceptions:
  • Younger people (who recover faster) might be able to have more max effort sessions
  • People that want to work on their endurance and are using lighter loads
On another topic, I heard a neat tip on a podcast interview with Travis Mash, for those trying to improve their front squats.  He recommends front squats with a five second or so hold at bottom,  and a ten second or so hold at top (in front rack position).  Try and let me know how that goes!  For more info, please see

Friday, September 12, 2014

Is it Worthwhile to Compete in a Crossfit Competition?

Kbell snatch in the competition [Photo by J.  Gold]
Recently I completed the Summer Slammer Competition in McMinneville, my second competition of 2014.  So here I want to share my thoughts about the competitive Crossfit scene.

First, I am wondering where exactly are all the master's level competitors?  As I am less than three years shy of my fourth decade, I want to know that this sport has a place for me in the future.  I want to know that this is a worthwhile long-term pursuit.  When you don't see anyone in your age bracket, it's a bit disappointing.  Hopefully more competitions will offer master's categories even if masters level makes up a small portion of the total number of competitors.

I also wonder if Crossfit competitions are about showing off?  With fancy shoes, fancy socks, bright colors, and gals in sports bras (not that I'm complaining :-) ) what's really going on here?  The competitions seem a bit like a place for vane, middle class folks to hang out and validate eachother.

On the other I hand, I do like the idea of testing myself, and seeing where I'm at.  And the competitions certainly provide an opportunity to determine your exact current level of fitness.  I also like team events, in which you get to work together with one or more partners to complete a workout.   So if you have being doing Crossfit for more than a year, I recommend finding a partner and signing up for a team competition.  You will find out what people in other gyms are doing and the techniques they use for certain exercises. Perhaps you will see butterfly pull-ups for the first time, and resolve to learn them for yourself.

David & Goliath competition [Photo by J. Gold]
If you are hoping to place high in a competition, my subjective observations are as follows.  The person with the highest clean and jerk max is going do well.  That's been the case in the last two competitions I have seen (in fact in both those two people won the events).  The top men are going to be between 190 and 215 pounds. The top women I couldn't say, as I'm haven't been paying quite as much attention to the women's competitions, as that is not my category obviously.

So if you have the free spending money to compete, and you are looking for a way to stay motivated in your day-to-day regimen, I recommend it.  Train smart, don't get injured, and have fun!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Handstands = Long Term Commitment

Making serious Russian faces for the camera at a seminar.
At one time or another, you may perhaps be interested to practice your handstands.  What you don't realize is the seriousness of this undertaking, the level of long-term dedication required to reach a modest ten second handstand.  For some body types with excellent shoulder mobility and a reasonable strength to weight ratio, you may do well.  For the rest of us, however, handstands are a tremendously larger endeavor than you can imagine.  Such is my realization after handstand classes, seminars and a few months of practice.

Another piece that people often don't realize, is that there are a large number of prerequisites before the handstand.  If you cannot hold a crow position or a headstand for ten seconds, for example than the more advanced position of a handstand is probably too ambitious for you at this time. I hardly mean to discourage anyone, but rather to encourage practice in a logical sequence of steps of gradually increasing difficulty.

Probably your best odds at mastering the position would include a healthy level of obsession, and one or two equally minded practice partners.  There are dozens upon dozens of drills that can be practiced that work on one or more aspects of the handstand.  If you can find out, and practice these drills, you can alleviate the inevitable boredom that many beginners face by only working on the end goal, which is the handstand itself.

It may seem quite strange to spend hours upon hours of practice to gain a few additional seconds upside-down.  And I cannot argue with that!  I am sometimes wondering to myself whether the time spent is worthwhile.  I think that definitely depends on the alternatives you have to spend your time, and is unique for each individual.

On the bright side, there are several aspects as well.  Once you have mastered turning out ninety degrees to prevent toppling over on your back, you can practice almost anywhere, without a spotter.  There is no equipment required. Handstand contests can be fun to do with people of similar abilities.  There are probably a few obvious health benefits as well, which I am not going to speculate too much on here, but I will leave to yourself to form your own opinion.

Enjoy your practice.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Crossfit Magnus Competition Results

 Yesterday thirteen brave souls competed in the 2014 Crossfit Magnus Affiliate Beast Box RX Beatdown Inferno Hopper Throwdown Gauntlet Open Invitational Challenge Gamez!  To kick off the competion, there was a clean and jerk max effort event. We then  had the pleasure of flipping tractor tires, carrying kegs, and doing a farmer's carry with 200 pounds.  The final event consisted of a twelve minute AMRAP (As Many Reps As Possible) that involved a barbell lift, running, kettlebell swings and lateral burpees.  FYI lateral burpees are like regular burpees except you hop over a barbell laterally (sideways) in between each rep.

I missed both my attempts at 175 pounds (79 kilos) in the clean and jerk unfortunately, a weight I easily surpassed a month ago.  This made it difficult to push through the other events, since I was effectively out of the competition.  Hopefully this will make me more disciplined and more dedicated in the long term.

Every sport is specialized.  If I want to be more competitive, I would need to focus in that area and give up some of my other recreational endeavors.  Since I enjoy rock climbing too much, as well as the occasional mountain bike ride and surf session, I will just have to let the cards fall where they may.  It's all just for "funsies," but I can't much help being a competitive person.

Anyhow I apologize for the crummy photos from my ancient ancient iPhone.  Anyone wishing to donate to my upgrade fund for a newer iPhone (which have better cameras) is certainly welcome :-)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sinclair Coefficient in Weightlifting

Hello once again everyone,
Saturday I will be competing in the 2014 Crossfit Magnus Affiliate Beast Box RX Beatdown Inferno Hopper Throwdown Gauntlet Open Invitational Challenge Gamez!  It's an in-house competition that was not heavily publicized, so there are only five male competitors and eight female competitors.  The proprietors of Crossfit Magnus have organized the event in order to raise money to build a shower in the facility, and for everyone to have a grand ol' time throwin' around some iron.

This evening I ate my "pre-competition" meal at Food Not Bombs at Colonel Summers Park, and spent some time working on circus tricks.  This is probably not the recommended routine the day before a competition, but it was tremendous fun socializing with people.  We met a couple visiting from France and did some balancing with them, as well as some attempts at unicycling.  There was also a couple that hitchhiked and rode freight trains all the way from Virginia to Oregon.  I enjoy Food Not Bombs because it is grass-roots and community-oriented help-each other all-around goodness.  I suppose I should attend more often.

Anyhow, the competition tomorrow will consist of three events.  The first event is clean and jerk max, and will be judged according to these standards.  The scoring is based on something I haven't heard before, called the Sinclair Coefficient.  Essentially, the Sinclair coefficient is a formula based on current world records in each weight class, that allows us to compare athletes in different weight classes.  This is an added advantage for me, as normally in Crossfit there are no weight classes, and I am a 35 to 45 pounds lighter than ideal weight for this sport. 

The other two events are secret, and we can only speculate at this point.  Well I best be resting up for tomorrow.  Adieu for now.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Most Prescribed Drug of All Time

Sovaldi, the newly-launched, $1000 a pill Hepatitis C drug, may be one of the most expensive drugs around.  But what is the most prescribed drug of all time? I had to look that one up.  Hydrocodone combined with acetaminophen.  Not to be combined with other drugs that contain acetaminophen (which are many), due to liver toxicity.

Now if there was a prescription drug that had practically zero negative side effects, and countless positive side effects, was inexpensive, and could help with everything from high blood pressure, depression, life expectancy and libido, would you take it?  It's widely known in medical research that this drug already exists, and it's called... e-x-e-r-c-i-s-e.

Well, sorry to deflate your hopes there!  If exercise were in a convenient pill form that you could get pick-up at the pharmacy during your grocery shopping, everyone would be taking it every day.

Unfortunately curriculum regarding exercise (and nutrition) are nearly non-existent in pretty much any medical school in the country focusing on Western medicine. I had a rough idea that this was the case, but at a recent holiday gathering, I was conversing with a semi-retired heart doctor, who was complaining in regards to the fifteen pounds of belly fat he deemed impossible to lose.  If doctors can't figure out how to regulate their weight, what hope do the rest of us have? It should be no surprise that you cannot wait for Western medicine to include preventative medicine in its curriculum.  If you are willing to take the initiative, you have hope.  Otherwise, you're out of luck.

Further Reading on the subject:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Crossfit Games 2014 Quick Update

Annie Thorisdottir
Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi / Foter / CC BY-SA
     Hello from SE Portland once again.  Here's a quick update of the 2014 Crossfit Open. We have the familiar faces of Samantha Briggs (2013 World Champion) and Rich Froning (Champion for as long as I can remember!) standing far atop the men's and women's leaderboards respectively.  In second place for the women is Annie Thorisdottir of Iceland, multiple World Champ attempting to come back after missing last year's competitions due to injury. Well it looks like Annie is back!  The competition, however, is stronger now, and has become stiffer with each successive year.

     Can the defending champions hold on, or will prior champions such as Jason Khalipa and Thorisdottir reclaim the their titles?  Or perhaps we will see someone new altogether?  It's far too early to tell, as the Open is the only the first of the rounds of competitions, and typically entails more human-scale workouts than the other competitions.  The succeeding rounds of competition will see the weightier weights and semi-masochistic requirements formulated by the mastermind madman himself, Dave Castro.  Last year Castro commanded competitors in the finals row a half-marathon as part of one of the competitions.  What sick and twisted routines we will see in 2014?
Rich Froning
Photo credit: TonyFelgueiras / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

     Competitors around the Pacific Northwest can rest easy, however, in the knowledge that I am not competing :).  After trying out three gyms in the last nine months though, I am fortunate to have found and joined a Crossfit gym that I think is going to work out (no pun intended) quite well.