Learn and Grow

old_6amBack when the gym was small, Matt trained at 6am, and we still programmed sumo deadlift high pulls.

I was recently reflecting on the programming at our gym and how we can continue to improve it to suit the needs of all of our members.  Aside from now being so much more focused on improving strength and skills, we’ve also come to understand the importance of controlling how much volume we program on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  I found this workout that I had programmed from nearly 7 years ago that made me cringe a bit in regards to total volume.

“By seeking and blundering, we learn.”

Blown Up From Box Jumps!

sweatshop_boxSweat Shop Sunset

Unfortunately, I am a victim of sore/tight calves the next day after doing box jumps. If you’re like me, tight calves can play a big factor in how we move. Sometimes my calves are so tight my squat depth suffers, walking/running is difficult, and doing double unders are certainly out of the question. Healthy calves help absorb impact from a majority of the dynamic movements we perform at the Sweat Shop. Without our “shock absorbers”, force from impacts resulting from box jumps, double unders, or running gets absorbed by our joints, tendons, or even our bones. OUCH! Overtime, the wear and tear adds up and may lead to a serious injury. Whenever you come into the gym next spend some time helping those calves recover, even if they aren’t sore or tight. Give them some love regardless!

For me, this morning my calves were especially sore from the week so I scanned the internet for some effective calf remedies in order to relieve my problem. I stumbled upon this video from Kelly Starrett where he speaks a little about how dehydration can play a role in helping your calves recover and goes into some helpful mobility/smashing methods. If you see me doing some of these before a workout at the gym, come join me and we can talk calves!

Check out this video from Kelly Starrett here!


Decision Fatigue

weightsTo clamp or not clamp… or just avoid the decision all together

In my recent quest to become more efficient throughout the day, and have greater mental clarity, I’ve recently been reading on a topic referred to as decision fatigue.  Once just a theory, it appears now to have been proven multiple times in various studies.  Research has shown that we have a finite amount of energy each day, or during given bouts of time, to expend on decision making.  Whether these decisions are big or small, they deplete that energy.  Once we’ve depleted all of that mental energy that is used for decision making we either make very poor decisions, or simply avoid making any decision at all.  One example that comes to my mind is when I take my daughter, Giana, to the candy store in Walnut Creek and tell her she can pick two things.  The place is filled with literally hundreds of candies, many of which she doesn’t really care for, but nonetheless, they are there requiring her to make decision after decision as she strolls back and forth.  Often times, the longer she is in the store, the less sure she becomes of what she should pick.  After deliberating for some time, she occasionally leaves the store and regrets, or questions whether she made the best choice.

While we are bound to face many decisions throughout the day, the more things we can have predetermined or set, the more mental energy we can maintain for later in the day.  Deciding the night before what you are going to wear the next day, what you are going to make for breakfast, what time you are going to exercise, can all help reduce mental fatigue.  Also, having a few “if _______, then______”  formulas to use as backup plans or for unforeseen decisions that come up.  For example, having a set strategy such as “if I’m going to have to work late on Mondays and may not be able to make it to the gym after work, then I will get a quick jog in the morning before work”.

Check out an excerpt from a NY Times article about the findings of a study done on decision fatigue and how it effects our self control.  Then read more below as I relate it to CrossFit.

The symptoms sounded familiar to them too, and gave them an idea. A nearby department store was holding a going-out-of-business sale, so researchers from the lab went off to fill their car trunks with simple products — not exactly wedding-quality gifts, but sufficiently appealing to interest college students. When they came to the lab, the students were told they would get to keep one item at the end of the experiment, but first they had to make a series of choices. Would they prefer a pen or a candle? A vanilla-scented candle or an almond-scented one? A candle or a T-shirt? A black T-shirt or a red T-shirt? A control group, meanwhile — let’s call them the nondeciders — spent an equally long period contemplating all these same products without having to make any choices. They were asked just to give their opinion of each product and report how often they had used such a product in the last six months.

Afterward, all the participants were given one of the classic tests of self-control: holding your hand in ice water for as long as you can. The impulse is to pull your hand out, so self-discipline is needed to keep the hand underwater. The deciders gave up much faster; they lasted 28 seconds, less than half the 67-second average of the nondeciders. Making all those choices had apparently sapped their willpower, and it wasn’t an isolated effect. It was confirmed in other experiments testing students after they went through exercises like choosing courses from the college catalog.

Read full article here.

The findings from this study immediately had me thinking about how it relates to CrossFit.  I think about the challenges that many people, including myself, sometimes face when it comes to getting to the gym after a long day at work.  Many of us may not have physically demanding jobs, but can certainly feel drained towards the end of the day.  A day filled with decision making, no matter how important or trivial, can leave us with our will-power or self-discipline on empty.  The decision of going to the gym could quickly get shot down by a brain that is tired of making decisions.  Even more interesting is that the study used how long someone could hold their hand in ice water before removing, which is apparently a classic way to test will-power or self-control.  While it surely takes some self-control to hold your hand in ice water, despite the discomfort, it pales in comparison to the discomfort one experiences as they try to push through a difficult metabolic conditioning workout.  And while I’m certainly not advocating the Rich Froning can go through a workout virtually free of rest breaks because he didn’t have to make an decisions earlier that day, I can say that whenever I’ve gone into a workout with a clearer head, mentally energized, and overall in a good mood, the workout always seems less like a daunting threat, and more like a fun challenge.

Shoulder Gainz

Grayson demonstrating a solid overhead position.

Tight shoulders have plagued us all at one point or another. Exacerbated by exercise, tight shoulders can often be painful and pesky to loosen. One thing I’ve learned about shoulder mobility is you have to be relentless. Spending time smashing, stretching and strengthening your shoulder complex and surrounding muscles can improve your shoulder mobility and hopefully alleviate shoulder pain. Smashing your shoulder using a Lacrosse ball or foam roller as well as the surrounding muscles can help loosen the complex. I’ve found getting tissue work is a great supplement. Check out breaking muscle’s article on the dynamic duo of shoulder impingement.

The problem is that once your upper trap becomes short it pulls your shoulder out of a good position. When your upper trap is tight and your shoulders are elevated it becomes increasingly difficult to fire the middle and lower traps, which means they are no longer capable of stabilizing your shoulder or assisting in scapular motion. This means that all of the demand gets re-routed to the upper trap and the vicious cycle continues.

Nor Cal Masters Recap

This weekend we had Brandon, Adam, Joel, Jen M, Jacqueline, Jim D, and Chief Banks compete at the NorCal Masters. These Sweat Shop athletes put on an awesome display of skill, strength, and conditioning throughout the weekend and represented very well! With a ton of emphasis and media coverage on the “youth” in CrossFit and at local conpetitions, it’s great to see a competition that soley highlights the Masters athletes. I think for most of the general population, it’s common to just “slow it down” once you reach your 40′s. Not for our gym! All of them had their own feats to overcome and it was inspiring and sweet to see it play out in competition. Whether it was seeing our most veteran Chief Banks beat out some younger masters in the Airdyne, JD blowing out his field in the row/run event, or Joel executing his game plan on the double under workout and taking top 10, and Jen M holding her own in heavyweight events and getting massive 45# lb weighted pullup. Or Adam going big hitting 6 consecutive hang squat cleans at 255 because the ending weight wasn’t heavy enough, or seeing Brandon do what he always does best at the shop, killing barbell metcons and selling it all out on the run/row. And seeing Jacqueline after two tough workouts fight her way back to the finals and taking 4th! This is what it’s all about! I hope to be able to achieve what all these athletes are doing later down the road.

Great job to you all! We are proud of you.

You can see some photos from the event on our FB page here: https://m.facebook.com/crossfit.shop/albums/1766247983605061/

Row’d Royalty!

art jeffArt and Jeff crushing the final Row’d Royalty workout.

Big ups to Art and Jeff G for finishing up the 4-week Row’d Royalty online competition! They both did awesome and deserve huge props in doing some of the nastiest rowing workouts I’ve seen programmed. These guys came in each week and executed their plan perfectly. In watching them get after the workouts, it reminded me of the fun and usefulness of these types of competitions. Besides the fun of being able to compete amongst those in the world, this rowing competition can help supplement anyone’s CrossFit game. These workouts require smart, taciful pacing and strategy which is very useful in improving your rowing.  I hope to see more do this one on the next go around!

While scores are still being validated for the final workout, Art goes into the final event in the top 7 in his age group and Jeff sits in the top 100 out of 300+ competitors.

Check out the final results here. Impressive work, Gents!



Also, don’t forget to come by the Craneway Pavillion this weekend to watch our Masters athletes showdown in the NorCal Masters!

Check out this post for more deets and heat times for our Sweat Shoppers!

Hollow Body Recap

class_hollowholdHollow Body Practice!

Yesterday many of us had the opportunity to practice a fundamental movement known as the hollow position, so I just wanted to take a moment to review the importance behind mastering the skill. When we do workouts at the Sweat Shop, we always want to make sure our midline is stable for a few reasons.

One of the main reasons we focus on the hollow body position is to create stability. The way we move is based upon how well we can move our extremities around a stable core. Without a stable core, our extremities would have no base of support to work off of. If you can imagine it, when we are in the hollow body position, our spine is stacked into a straight line instead of it’s natural curved state. In doing so, we create a rigid lever for our limbs to work off of.

Secondly, with a solid midline, this allows us to efficiently transfer power through our body. Our power is primarily generated through our hips and is sent to our extremities through our midline. Think of a soft pillow, if we throw a ball into a soft pillow, most of the time the force will just be absorbed and the ball will most likely just stop dead in it’s tracks. Now think of throwing a ball into the cement, the cement will not absorb the force and the energy will be transferred right back into the ball and most likely cause it to bounce back up. So when we do perform our lifts such as the clean & jerk, snatch, pull ups, ring dips, handstands, wall balls, etc. without a solid midline for energy to pass through, we are unable to maximize our power output.

Lastly, the hollow body position allows us to maximize mobility/flexibility and help with injury prevention. When we lack the ability to create a solid midline, our bodies will react by restricting us to move in such a manner that places to much load and tension on our back in order to prevent injury. By learning how to properly recruit the muscles required to perform the hollow body position, our midline will be able to properly absorb a significant amount of force that would otherwise be placed on other tissues leading to injury.

I hope this helps shed some additional light on why we spent a great deal of class practicing the hollow body position and how it transfers to skills such as the ring dip or pull up. I hope to see some of you guys getting your hollow on in the future!

NorCal Masters This Weekend!


Good luck to all our masters athletes competing this weekend at the NorCal Masters! The Sweat Shop will have a big showing at the annual competition this year, so if you can make it, come down to Craneway Pavilion in Richmond to cheer them on. This is a two-day event so you can catch action on Saturday and/or Sunday. Here are the Sweat Shoppers competing in their respective age groups:

Chief Banks: 60+
Jacqueline: 50-54
Jim Dick: 50-54
Jen M: 45-49
Joel: 45-59
Adam R: 40-44
Brandon B: 40-44

Heat Schedules for Saturday
Heat Schedules for Sunday

For more info on the event check the event page here. Crush it everyone!

Hook Grip Is Your Friend

Adam utilizing the hook grip on touch and go deadlifts

When I was first converting to the hook grip, I didn’t think it was every going to feel right. Now, I can’t imagine lifting without it. Not only is the hook grip beneficial for heavy olympic lifting, it also saves your grip in lighter touch and go lifts in metcons. It might take some time to get used to the hook grip, but once you do, you’ll never look back. Check out this article from Ironmind for a more in depth look at the hook grip.

It takes about two weeks for one to grow accustomed to and comfortable with the hook grip.  Everyone I teach tells me it feels unnatural and weird and I have to remind them to hook on all lifts—snatch, clean, and pulls.  There is usually resistance when I tell them to use the hook all the time.  As I’ve said, it takes generally two weeks to grow accustomed to it, but my gym record is six weeks.  I was training a javelin thrower, Nicole Carole (1996 national champion and Olympian), and she had been doing Olympic lifting in her training for years and could do pretty good snatches and cleans with the thumb outside the fingers.  When I showed her the hook grip in 2001, she didn’t like the way it felt and was very resistant to doing it.  I had to make a bet with her that she had to try it for four weeks and if she didn’t like it, she could go back to her old grip.  After four weeks she still didn’t like it, but because she saw all the other lifters in my gym—especially the women who weighed less than her and lifted more—doing it, she said she would give it two more weeks.  At the end of the additional two weeks (for a total trial period of six weeks) she said it felt good and she felt it was a better way to grip the bar.  

The Open Is Upon Us!

melia_openMelia gettin’ to work as she always does during the CrossFit Open!

Tis the season for the CrossFit Open!  5 weeks of workouts, with a new workout released each week, starting February 25th.  Seasoned competitor, recreational competitor, or just a little curious competitor can all enjoy the CrossFit Open.  We’ll be posting more info about the Open including logistics, but for those looking to going ahead and getting signed up you can follow the link below.  If you still need some time to think it over, no problem, you have until the first week of the Open to sign up.

Go here to register for the Open, cost is $20.  Be sure and select CrossFit Sweat Shop as your affiliate and then we can add you to our team!

Also, for anyone interested in being a certified judge during the Open, you can take the online course here.  While it’s not required to be certified to participate in the Open, or to judge other participants in the Open, it is required that anyone that may qualify as an individual or team member for Regionals, or our masters athletes who may move on to the 2nd level which is the Master’s Qualifier, be judged by someone that has completed the online course.  Therefore it’s always helpful if in addition to myself and the other coaches, that we have a few others at our gym that have also completed the online course.  It’s also helpful for someone who may just be getting into local CrossFit competitions, as it gives you a really good understanding of what the proper movement standards are.  Cost of the online certification is $10.

We’re going down! Pull Up!


Jen’s Pull Up!

I wanted to spend some time talking about different methods to help those of you get your first strict pull up, or for those of you who have the movement in the bag, being able to increase the number of strict pull ups you can do in any given set. First off, let me preface this post by reminding all of you that strict pull ups are a foundational movement and should be mastered before moving onto any other sort of advanced pulling gymnastic movements (i.e. kipping pull ups, butterfly pull ups, or muscle ups). Secondly, you can do all the kipping or butterfly pull ups you want, but that WILL NOT translate into developing your pull up foundation. With that being said, here is a a few exercises to help build your STRICT pull up swag.

1) Grip Strength

Being able to do 1, 5, or even 10+ strict pull ups in a row means you’re holding onto the bar for a long period of time. Practice some dead hangs (hopping up onto a pull up bar and literally just hanging there) and see if you can increase your time holding onto the bar. Have a friend join you and try making it a game to see who can hold on the longest!

2) Ring Rows

For those of you who are trying to progress from a band to a thinner band, or even to no band at all, throw in some ring rows after class to help continue to build your overall pulling strength. It may be easier than banded pull ups, but try focusing on your mechanics here. As always remember to keep those shoulder blades peeled back, resist the urge to break at the hips by maintaining a tight midline, and pull till those rings are touching the sides of your chest.

3) Negatives

Pull up negatives are a great way to quickly build strength. Simply jump up, from the ground or a box, and get your chin over the bar. From here, simply control and let yourself down as SLOW as possible until you reach full extension in your arms. Hop back up and repeat for a few sets. Here, we are using the eccentric (downwards motion) of the pull up to help build strength.

4) Weighted Strict Pull Ups

If strict pull ups are your jam, it’s always a good idea to try and increase the number of pull ups you can do in any given set. Throw some load by using a dumbbell, kettlebell, or plate to build your overall pulling strength. Treat it as if you were doing sets across for back squats, ascending sets, or even try to incorporate some drop sets in there!

Remember, strict pull ups are a foundational movement and should be mastered before moving onto more advanced skills. Don’t be in a hurry to learn those advanced movements just because you see someone else performing them or to get a faster time on a WOD. Taking the time to learn how to move well now, will just mean bigger gainz in the future!

How Not To Squat 855 Pounds

Sweat Shop media specialist Brandon B. found this gem today, conveniently on squat day. While you’ll get a good laugh at the entirety of the video, there are some good lessons here about back squats that we may or may not have had to pleasure to go over in class. Great job on squats today everyone!

1.) Never use a pad THAT BIG for squats or anything.
2.) If you can’t take two steps with the weight on your back, your chances of getting out of a parallel squat are very unlikely (1:20).
3.) After such failed steps, simply shaking the legs out will not help but prolong the inevitable (1:33).
4.) Don’t congratulate your buddy BEFORE such attempts (1:40).
5.) If the plates are sliding off without anyone touching the bar, the chances of them slipping off during the squat is very likely (1:48).
7.) When someone is in contact with bar, you shouldn’t be casually adjusting weights (2:01).
8.) If you cant fit a clip on the bar, it’s probably not a good idea.

However, the two good things the guy did was, 1) graciously tell people to get out of the way and 2.) after the failed attempt, he had the know it all to “call it off” (2:27).


Resolve to Make This Your Best CrossFit Year

helen_splitHelen visualizing herself smashing on 2016 even more so than she did 2015

There’s no shortage of “lists” on the internet these days, especially when it comes to health and fitness.  But I like this one b/c it makes a few points that aren’t often addressed.  As far as terminology of olympic lifts goes, don’t sweat the little things.


Learn about pacing, and know not every WOD is designed to be performed at 100 percent. Base your pace on the length of the workout, and understand that once you redline (take yourself to your limit), you’re pretty much done for. At the “3, 2, 1, go,” your classmate may take off like a hare, and you may feel more like a tortoise. That’s fine. Rich Froning rarely comes out of the gate in the lead, but he frequently finishes first.

Assess the best strategy for each workout. Play with pacing and rep schemes. If you’re doing “Karen” (150 wall balls), opening up with a huge first set of fifty wall balls may not be the best strategy. Sometimes, on chest-to-bar pull ups, singles may be the fastest way to knock out reps. Learn how to work yourself into a pace that allows you to keep moving and always keeps you just short of being over and grabbing your knees.

Read full list here.

Paleo On A Budget

Brain gets his strength from cake scraps components of P.S. I Cake You

Eating healthy doesn’t need to break the bank. While I enjoy Wholepaycheck as much as the next person, I know leaving with 2 bags totaling over $100 can be a little disheartening. Luckily, we have options. I’ve been seeing some great organic produce and grass fed meats make their way into larger grocery stores such as Safeway. Also, Costco has really upped their organic section, and even carry pastured eggs from time to time. Pastured eggs will run you $8.49 a dozen at whole foods, at costco it will cost you $5.99. You can’t afford not to! Check out this list below from Stupid Easy Paleo for more cost saving tips:

15 Tips For Eating Paleo On A Budget

  • Buy seasonal produce.
  • Shop at a farmer’s market.
  • Learn how to make homemade goods, such as fermented veggieskombuchaalmond milk and ghee.
  • Grow your own produce, even if it’s fresh herbs on the windowsill of your apartment.
  • Look for sales—even stores such as Whole Foods put meat on sale from time to time.
  • For meats, if you can only afford grain-fed, buy lean cuts and trim the fat before cooking.
  • Use a vacuum sealer to prevent foods from losing freshness or getting freezer burned.
  • Limit Paleo baking or speciality ingredients. Nobody *needs* coconut aminos to survive.
  • Buy in bulk at stores such as Costco. I’ve even spotted big tubs of coconut oil there.
  • Limit how much you go out to eat.
  • Buy from the bulk bins at the health food market.
  • Purchase spices in bulk and make your own blends. It’s cheaper that way.
  • Join your local CSA—community supported agriculture—group.
  • Join a cow- or pig-share. You chip in to buy a large quantity of meat, and the price is often cheaper per pound than the grocery store. You’ll need a large amount of freezer space.
  • If you absolutely cannot get by without staple foods, steer clear of gluten and dairy but perhaps add in less problematic foods such as white rice or white potato. I don’t recommend this from an optimal-nutrition standpoint, but if you’re struggling financially, it’s an option.

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