Physiology related

5 Way Shoulder Mobility WOD


From time to time I like to check out Kelly Starret’s mobility WOD for some new mobility drills during class. There are now hundreds of videos of exercises for each joint. If you have pain or tightness resulting from something tissue related, and have yet to check out his videos, please do! This is where we get lot of our pre-wod mobility stuff. You can basically type “Mobility WOD” on youtube and you will find them all. While there are hundreds of them, every now and then I find a diamond in the rough, that hits several drills for one specific issue as opposed to the longer videos going over a bunch. Also, these are the ones doable BEFORE AND AFTER the WOD each day. As we’ve said before, the five minutes of mobility we do before class will not cure you of years of tight joints. It must be specific to the areas of tightness and be done everyday. Here is a good video which goes over a few we do in class. Add this to your everyday shoulder routine, and I guarantee you’ll start feeling some success!

Keeping Strength In The Strength Program

15502138639_cd1ccc5082_zThe epitome of strength: Emily “Ditka” Plurkowski

During my Thursday night lecture at JFKU, the importance of strength training came up. As I do every time giving this lecture, I ask the students to tell me what they believe is the most important factor when it comes to athletic performance. Almost every time, strength is never the first thing any of the students choose. This semester was no different. Most say cardiovascular endurance, more say speed and coordination, and a few even said mental strength. Most folks seem to get the general idea behind things like endurance and speed, but strength is typically the most misunderstood. Most times, people think of strength and associate it with big muscles. Many also associate strength as being an olympic weightlifter, bodybuilder, or one of those heavy power lifters. But as many of you may now have realized throughout your training with us, being stronger is more than just lifting weights and big muscles. Check out this older article written by Bill Star on understanding strength and why it is important to keep in your program.

From the article:

Strength is a much sought after attribute in the athletic community and for good reason. Greater strength gives every athlete a definite edge in any sport, if for no other reason than it allows him to practice the skills necessary for success longer and with more precision. Being strong also helps athletes to avoid serious injury. Sure, they’re still going to get hurt because there’s no possible way to avoid bone-jarring collisions in high-impact sports like football, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and even baseball. But if the athletes involved in such situations are extremely strong, they can walk away rather than being carried off the field. In their book, Kinesiology and Applied Anatomy, Drs. Rasch and Burke state: “Muscular strength is perhaps the most important of all factors in athletic performance.” Increase an athlete’s strength by 40% while keeping all the other attributes constant and he will be able to perform at a much higher level. Even if his technique has not improved to any great extent, he will become more proficient in his chosen sport. I’ve seen this happen countless times in Olympic and powerlifting. As the athlete gains strength, his numbers climb, yet his form stays constant. Strength is the difference.

Read full article here.

Understanding Mobile and Stable Joints

Last month, Dr. Rob and I attended the Selective Functional Movement Assessment Seminar. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it’s  a seminar put on by the governing body on all things “functional movement” and is run by the big names in the pre-hab, diagnostic, and rehabilitative realm of corrective exercise. They have created a pretty awesome diagnostic flowchart and system of assessing all sources of pain throughout the body. Out of the many seminars I’ve attended on exercise physiology, performance enhancement, and as a matter of fact, all of my undergraduate and graduate studies in Kinesiology, this one really took my understanding of the human body, through exercise and sport, to another level. While there were a ton of concepts I have taken home with me and have started applying to training and programming, I thought I’d share a really cool one that ALL of you who have had some sort of nagging pain or injury can relate to: The Stable/Mobile joint Approach.

This approach was put together by Functional Movement coaches and therapists Gray Cook and Mike Boyle.

If you look at the big joint structures of the body (see above), there is a recurring pattern….Whether you start from the top-down or vice versa, the body follows an alternating pattern of:

Stable Joints and Mobile Joints

For instance, the ankle, which requires a lot of movement in all planes of motion at the foot is considered a MOBILE joint. Right above it, we have the knee, a joint that provides stability for the leg, which is considered a STABLE joint. You are probably familiar with the hip as a MOBILE joint, and right above it, the lumbar spine, which is our spine’s source of support, is considered a STABLE joint. The same goes for shoulder girdle (STABLE joint) while the shoulder joint is a MOBILE joint and so on and so forth.

In a perfect body, this pattern stays consistent and is a blueprint of how we were meant to use our joints functionally. However, in life, especially in the lives of those who love to move, we run the risk of messing with this beautiful pattern. We start to run into problems when our daily activities, or lack there of, can alter the anatomically pre-determined job of the joints. Think about sitting for long periods. Our hip, which is supposed to be a mobile joint, is glued to a seat. What happens over time? Tight hips. When the hip, which is supposed to be a mobile joint, turns into a stable body, the next joint up has to compensate and start moving….hello Mr. Low Back Pain. Now the low back has gone from what is supposed to be a stable joint to now having to do excess motion to make up for the tight hips. Here is the start of the vicious cycle. If we just did a hardcore shoulder workout and the shoulder joint gets tight or “immobile”, the shoulder girdle, where our shoulder stabilizers reside, take on more movement. Hello shoulder issues.

So, why do I want you all to know this? To be honest, I think it’s really cool stuff to know. When you extrapolate this to the entire body, you can start to see the importance of moving correctly! You can back track and maybe find where most pain comes from and in my realization at this seminar, how one tight joint can effect all the others. As coaches, we always want you guys to better understand the “why’s” and “how’s” of treating yourself. Most of us just grab a foam roller or lax ball and start going to town on where we feel pain. This is obviously better than nothing, however, finding the source of the pain or tightness will help you get to the problem quicker. I know a majority of you are not EXPERTS in anatomy, but as with things like exercise and diet, I’m sure the lack of clinical expertise has not stopped you from going about day to day behavior changes. Also, this is where we come in! One of the biggest values of a clinician, therapist, or coach, is to assess and diagnose movement correctly. We’ve been around movement a lot, and take pride in our knowledge of the body so don’t be afraid to communicate any nagging issues with us. If it is beyond something movement-based, then of course, go see a doc. A good diagnosis cuts to the chase. If you can get a better diagnosis, you know where to start treatment and be able to cut down the treatment time. When you cut treatment time down, you get back to doing what you love: MOVING!

Strength and Conditioning in the Aging Athlete

theresa_ropeAt age 63, Theresa strikes the perfect balance between making her workouts challenging and fun, while still keeping the risk for injury low, and maintaining her primary goal of improving overall health and fitness.

While I can honestly say at age 37, I am stronger and feel more fit than I did 10 years ago, I have definitely noticed some less than ideal changes over the years.  First and foremost, recovering from tough workouts can sometimes take several days.  Whereas years ago I could jump into a workout with little or no warmup, these days that’s almost a guaranteed way to tack on several additional post workout aches and pains, on top of those expected from a workout.  But don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to claim someone who is 21 years old has an “unfair advantage” to someone in their mid to late 30′s,…. it just means I have to be a little more diligent in warmups, training, and my recovery.

Here is a helpful post from Robb Wolf’s website that addresses some important points for the aging exerciser.  Big thanks to Lisa for the heads up on this article!  :)

Sports Should Be Child’s Play

8125933804_b47a56675c_bGiana smoking me!

Recently, there has been an outcry over the “hyper-specialization” in youth sports today. With the added pressure to be successful on the field growing higher….and the age of dealing with these pressures getting younger, many researchers believe that it is more dangerous and counter-productive in the long run. This topic is always of interest to me as I’ve always been a prononent of kids “playing” as many sports or extra curricular activities as they’d like. Sure, the physiology makes sense. Over-specialization may cause overuse injuries down the road especially in repetitive movement sports (throwing, running etc.). Personally, I just remember that I really wanted to play EVERYTHING! Any chance to play or use my body put me in my happy place as a really young athlete, and when I grew older, was a way to escape from the worries of life. It never really sat well when my football coaches would tell me skip playing soccer, baseball, and running track during the off-season… which is why I never really listened to them. But nowadays, “PLAYING” has definitely taken a back seat to “TRAINING/COMPETING/WINNING. This was pretty nice article posted last week in the New York Times on this issue and how sports should be “Child’s Play”….I would go far as to say that this applies to adults as well. Maybe this is why I love the variety of CrossFit so much.

From the article:

THE national furor over concussions misses the primary scourge that is harming kids and damaging youth sports in America.

The heightened pressure on child athletes to be, essentially, adult athletes has fostered an epidemic of hyper-specialization that is both dangerous and counterproductive.

One New York City soccer club proudly advertises its development pipeline for kids under age 6, known as U6. The coach-picked stars, “poised for elite level soccer,” graduate to the U7 “pre-travel” program. Parents, visions of scholarships dancing in their heads, enable this by paying for private coaching and year-round travel.

Children are playing sports in too structured a manner too early in life on adult-size fields — i.e., too large for optimal skill development — and spending too much time in one sport. It can lead to serious injuries and, a growing body of sports science shows, a lesser ultimate level of athletic success.

We should urge kids to avoid hyper-specialization and instead sample a variety of sports through at least
age 12.

Read full article here.


Wednesday’s WOD:

Split Jerk

10 Minute AMRAP:
5 Ground to Overhead 115/75, 135/95, 165/115
12 Box Jump Overs
1 Rope Climb (ADV: Legless)

Spinal Cues

photo (2)Handstand walking requires a strong and stable midline.

I know we’ve posted several items about midline stabilization. You’re probably exhausted hearing the “squeeze your belly and your butt cue”, however, ensuring a stable spine is really THE MOST important aspect of moving the body. If you think about all our cues, there are NONE MORE important than the one’s directly related to the spine. Since we are such a “get things done, whatever the cost” society, we neglect these until we get hurt. But there are two simple reasons for taking initiative when stabilizing the spine.

For one, unlike most movement errors in the extremities, the cues for the spine are to protect the most important aspect of the moving body: your central nervous system. If you fail to lock your elbows, forget to extend the hips, or you let your knees save in, you will still survive, you’ll just tear a muscle or ligament, or maybe break a bone. However, failing to stabilize your spine can result in more debilitating injuries like herniated discs, being paralyzed, or worse.

Two, you are much stronger in a stable spine. PR’s typically don’t happen with crappy spine stabilization… if they do, an injury is probably creeping right behind you.

Check out this article from 70′s strong which goes over this concept in detail.

I was being coached on rack pulls and was told to arch my back as hard as I could. I did so, started pulling the weight, and YANK; there went something in my lower back. Severe sharp pain indicated the end of my lifting session as well as the next week or two of training. I didn’t know as much as I did now, but the injury — and time away from training — all could have been avoided with a better spinal cue.

There are two basic types of incorrect spinal position in lifting: over extension and over flexion.

Get full article here.


Tuesday’s WOD:

A.) Back Squat 
5 x 3 Across

21 Clean and Jerks 115/75, 135/95
21 Bar Facing Burpees
15 Squat Cleans
15 Bar Facing Burpees
9 Thrusters
9 Bar facing Burpees

How To Make Stress Your Friend

**No 6:30pm Class this Thursday April 17th**

By now most people have heard that stress, especially chronic stress, is not good for your health.  It is one of the top risk factors for a number of illnesses, including heart disease.  This video address two points, the first about the perception of stress, the second about coping with stress.  While both are important, the first point about changing how we perceive stress can not only be important to our health, but certainly help us when it comes to our athletic performances as well.

Fresh off the CrossFit Open it was interesting to see how different people react under the increased pressure (stress) of doing workouts in a competitive environment.  Just about everyone has some pre-competition nerves, little to moderate amount is good, too much is bad, that’s no secret.  Any Exercise Physiologist/Psychologist is familiar with the Yerkes Dodson bell curve for arousal and athletic performance, which illustrates for difficult/complex activities (think snatch, clean & jerk, double unders, muscle ups etc., ) there is an increased performance with increased arousal levels, to a certain point, then performance levels dramatically decrease as arousal levels continue to rise.  The dotted line on the curve illustrates that for very simple tasks, performance does not drop off as a result of being too aroused (think deadlift, there is pretty much no such thing as being too psyched up going into a heavy deadlift).  Aside from the aforementioned 1 rep max deadlift, going into a CrossFit workout too aroused (i.e. stress, anxiety, nervous, amped up), almost always results in a less than optimal performance.  But as the video suggests, rather than getting more nervous when you feel your palms sweat, your heart increase, and your breathing increase, all before the workout has even begun, recognize that this is your body preparing itself for the challenge that lie ahead.  Get excited (confident) that your body is working as it should, blood is moving away from your stomach to deliver oxygen to your muscles and to shuttle out carbon dioxide and other exercise by-products.  Your body isn’t nervous, it isn’t feeling inadequate or uncertain, it’s just getting ready to be awesome.  Recognize this, and accept it as the necessary pre-cursor to awesome!


Specialization in Sports & CrossFit

kids_sprint2Some of our youth athletes that not only enjoy different sports year round, but also mix in some age appropriate strength and conditioning work as well

Specialization in sports is a topic I’ve been very familiar with since working at Velocity Sports Performance.  These days it’s very common to see 12 year old kids (or younger) that train and compete year-round for just one sport.  Many parents are convinced that this is the only way for their kid to truly excel at their sport, make the varsity squad, and land a college scholarship, preferably Division 1.  However, aside from the physical beating these kids’ bodies take from doing the same sport year round, many of them become mentally burned out on the sport entirely by their high school years.

The same is true for adults.  While most adults are no longer involved in competitive sports, many of them still enjoy exercise on a daily basis.  While running is a sport that is totally free, and accessible to just about everyone, those that specialize by only running, and don’t include anything else in their exercise regimen, are at huge risks for developing some pretty nasty overuse injuries in the feet, knees, and hips.  While CrossFit is great because it’s a constantly varied combination of strength training, olympic lifting, cardiovascular training, and plyometrics, it’s still good to get outside of the gym and simply enjoy life.  Go for swim, trail run, bike, surf, yoga …. whatever!  Aside from giving your body a break from what we do at the gym, it’s also really nice to enjoy exercise without the pressure of the clock and the whiteboard.

Going back to kids, and specialization of youth sports, this excerpt from a recent article in the SF Gate sums it up great!

“I see sports as an opportunity to help my son become a healthier, better-adjusted citizen in the world,” Walsh said. “He has a .0001 percent chance of getting a football scholarship. There’s a lot more academic money out there than athletic money.”

What should parents have their kids do? Walsh has an idea that might sound strange coming from a very successful football coach:

“Let a kid be a kid. Let him climb a tree or sit out in the backyard and talk.”

I highly recommend this article, especially to any parents that have kids in sports.  Read full article here. (thanks to Dr. Rob for the heads up on this article!)

Rest Periods

578118_714557854905_917737010_nOne of my favorite “active rest” sites.

Through trial and error, most people who play sports or avidly train year-round understand the importance of a rest period. However, many addicted exercisers find themselves NEEDING to be at the gym as much as possible. But hey, there’s no fault in that. You’re doing it to stay healthy. You’re getting stronger. You’ve discovered something new, fun, and exciting, and you’re driven. Driven to see gains on the regular. However, when we start to see our physical gains diminish, the natural instinct is to train more. When going overboard, this can lead to overtraining in which our work we put in actually makes our performance suffer. Enter, the rest period.

When I say rest period, I don’t mean a specific time. I don’t mean avoid the gym with anguish or remorse, nor do I mean being a couch potato and neglecting your health or exercise. This is a period, however long you need, to let your body and mind to recover from the physical and mental work you put on it day in day out. Most people forget that most of the physical and mental gains COME FROM REST PERIODS. You do not need to be an Exercise Physiologist to understand this simple process. Physically, in a training session, your muscles tear, hormones secrete, heart pumps and bones are stressed. But during REST, is when muscles rebuild, hormones are activated, and the heart and bones are stronger and ready for the next session. Sometimes the body needs more than just one or two days a week of rest if you are grinding every week of the year (like most Crossfitters do). Sometimes a nasty training month for a competition yields a week to recover physically.

Mentally, taking rest periods does two important things. For one, it relieves you of the unintended pressure you put on yourself of whatever fitness or competitive goal you have (i.e. doing anything to get first in a comp, working off the food you ate last night, and quite popular, needing to PR or NEEDING to workout or you will lose everything!). Secondly, it gives you time to refocus and re-evaluate your purpose. This little reflection can help remind you why you are training and allows you to step back and appreciate the progress you’ve made. When all you do is grind, you may loose sight of these. When you do recover mentally, you get a little boost of energy and usually you come back to training with a new excitement and eagerness to not only get better, but having fun with it.

If you’ve been aching physically or have been on the emotional roller coster with your training, I challenge you to try a rest week. What you do with it is up to you. It needs to be fun, and it can’t be something where you are going to be pouting in sadness until you can start doing the amazing burpees again. My favorites are getting completely away from my routine, playing another sport, hike, travel. If you can’t get away from the gym setting, check out this example from CrossFit Invictus of a pretty sweet recovery day WOD.


Friday’s WOD:

30 Deadlifts 225/155
50 Wall Balls
30 Burpees
*Accumulate 1600m of running and (3) rope climbs before finishing
*Divide up ONLY the run and rope climbs
Thursday’s WOD:

A.) Push Press
3 Rounds
403m Run
7 Bar Muscle Ups
14 Overhead Squats 95/65 115/85

Illustrated Timeline of Heart Disease


I found this article on the CFO facebook page. I thought it showed a great representation and perpective of how some of the popular health myths about cardiovascular disease came to be. If you attended the SMC Colloquium, this topic was brought up several times.

Check it out here.


Wednesday’s WOD:

5 Rounds
5 Deadlifts 275/155 (315/185)
10 Burpees
Immediately followed by:
403m Run
50 Air Squats
40 Situps
30 Overhead Walking Lunges 45/25
20 Pushups
10 Burpee Pullups (ADV: Bar Muscle Ups)

The de-Volution of Health and Exericse


The Kinesiology Department at Saint Mary’s College is hosting an awesome colloquium this year. This four-day series of presentations explores how our wellness habits have ‘over-evolved’ into into making us sick and how ‘dE-Volving’ will help reverse this trend. Topics to be discussed include:

* Myths about nutrition and fat loss
* How advancements in technology are adding dangerous toxins to our food, environment, and personal care products
* How to restore optimal hormonal balance through lifestyle modification
* Differences in Western versus Eastern stress management techniques
* How the fitness industry has strayed away from real-world functional movements

CrossFit folks will especially like this is line-up. Our buddy Nathan Brammeier will be speaking about how to maintain optimal hormonal balance, C.J. Martin out of CrossFit Invictus will be talking about Functional Training, and Sean Croxton, author of the book “Dark Side of Fat Loss” will be headlining. (You’ve probably seen the book in and around the Sweat Shop.)

The event is FREE!

Date:  June 10th~13th, 2013

Time:  4pm – 7pm (-8pm on Mon)

Location:  June 10th & 12th in Hagerty Lounge
June 11th & 13th in Galileo Room 201

Check out more event and speaker details here.


Wednesday’s WOD:

50 Double Unders (ADV:100)
25 HSPU (ADV: 50)
25 Toes to Bar (ADV:40)
25 Shoulder to overhead (135/95) (ADV:30 @150)
25 Walking Lunge Steps in place

Midline Stabilization

8672196401_59f776c507_bNabil going over the hollow-rock position

This has been a topic of a previous post, however, it is something that can never be over-emphasized. In order to be more efficient in all your movements as well as maintaining healthy joints, you MUST have flawless Midline Stability. Echoing our “suck your belly in” and “squeeze your butt” yells, here’s a great post from CrossFit South Bay on the importance of having good midline stabilization.

From the post:

There’s a lot of talk about midline stabilization in CrossFit. I have a few old posts on it here andhere, so I don’t want to go into too much of WHY it’s important. I want to focus more on HOW to work on improving your midline stabilization. You were drilled the importance of it in On-Ramp. The coaches sound like broken records, constantly telling you to keep a good back position with your abs tight. And there’s a good reason for all of this! A stabile midline allows us to have a strong base to move our legs and arms, as well as protecting all of the important structures such as the spinal cord, spine, organs, etc. Yes we need mobility of the spine, but we need the balance between mobility and stability (broken record again).

So back to the HOW to improve your midline stabilization. The first step is learning to activate it. Kelly has an excellent midline stabilization series of videos here. If you don’t have a lot of time, focus on Part 1 and Part 3. These videos will help explain the anatomy behind the “core” and hold to find what a lot of people call “neutral spine.”

Main points:

  • Don’t overextend your lumbar spine (low back)
  • Pull your belly button in towards your spine.
  • Pull up on sphincter (like you’re stopping your pee midstream)
  • Try not to over analyze a good back position. Everyone’s back looks different, with different size curves. If you’re having trouble staying out of an overextended position, stretch your hip flexors!! (mainly your psoas)
  • Cody has some more tips here if you’re struggling to find a good position.
  • Once you have a good position, practice being able breathe into your belly while maintaining this tight midline position.



Wednesday’s WOD:

A.) 2 Hang squat snatches on the minute for 12 minutes

50 Double Unders (Adv: 100)
20 Wall Balls 20/14

50 Double Unders
20 Ring Dips

50 Double Unders
20 Wall Balls

Playing Big and Mobility

Mike Tyson: fighter, lover, poet, lyrical genius, dreamer.

Playing Big.What does that mean? Playing big is a choice. You can choose to limit yourself or you can choose to believe that the audacious is possible. Do you play big in all aspects of life? Work, health, goals, family…etc. When are you telling yourself “I can’t”? When are you settling? When are you saying “I would like to” or “someday”? Wouldn’t it be amazing if rather than playing yourself small, you choose to play big? I say play BIG.

I’m a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds.

Mike Tyson

On a totally related note: Mobility Tomorrow at 4:30! The ball and socket joint such as the hip and shoulder are fully mobile under the control of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. When we are mobile, the ball and socket joint provides swinging and rotating movements. However, when we are tight within our muscles surrounding our joint, we are likely to experience limited range of motion and discomfort. Play BIG!



10 Overhead Squats 135/95 (ADV:155/105)
10 Box Jump Overs
10 Thrusters    135/95  (ADV:155/105)
10 Power Cleans 155/95 (ADV:205/125)
10 Toes to Bar

10 Burpee Pullups (ADV: Burpee muscle Ups)

10 Toes to bar
10 Power Cleans
10 Thrusters
10 Box Jump Overs
10 Overhead Squats

Rest: 2:00

Max Burpees or Pullups in 1 minutes

The Squat: Knees In Front Of Toes?

8329696057_e395f624a0_bMayumi in solid overhead squat position.

Saturday morning CFO heat schedule here.

Along with a legit photo from Tom C., he also writes a great post on a commonly voiced concern- the knees should not be allowed to travel in from of the toes while squatting.

From the post:

People often suggest that squatting is bad for the knees. I am not, however, going to address that assertion in much detail this evening. Suffice to say that I disagree and I would sincerely enjoy hearing an explanation for how a properly executed, full depth squat is dangerous to knee health. Said explanation should involve a thorough treatment of knee anatomy and a look at the forces encountered by the knee during a squat. Enough about that.

Instead, we’ll take a brief look at where the knee should end up during the squat, particularly with respect to the toes. When I talk about knee position, think about a plumb bob (I like that word) tied to a string hanging off the front of the knee. The position of that plumb bob above the ground is that in which we are interested.

Let’s address a commonly voiced concern – the knees should not be allowed to travel in front of the toes while squatting. Due to varying segment lengths among trainees, the position of the knee will not be the same for everyone. However, for a large majority of lifters, the knee can and probably should travel in front of the toes by the time they are about half way down in the squat. The biggest reason for this is balance. Try this for yourself – squat with as vertical a shin angle as you can. Not very easy is it? You have to lean pretty far forward to counteract the vertical shin, if you can even maintain such a configuration. Allowing the knees to come forward in front of the toes allows a trainee to keep their center of mass, which closely approximates the barbell at heavy weights, over the middle of the foot, which is also the point of balance for human beings.

Read full post here.


Wednesday’s WOD:

A.) Back Squat

C.) 12 Minute AMRAP
6 Handstand Push Ups
9 Kettlebell Swings
12 Front Rack Walking Lunges


Thursday’s WOD:

AMRAP in 6 minutes:
9 Thruster 95/65
9 Pullups


AMRAP in 8 minutes:
8 Toes to bar
10 Pushups
12 Power Cleans 95/65 (ADV: 115/75)

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