Thursday 150409

Power clean

Front squat

Squat clean

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Mia fighting to maintain good position during a high volume of light weight overhead squats.

Mia fighting to maintain good position during a high volume of light weight overhead squats.


We have to learn to crawl before we can walk. We have to be pretty legit walkers before we can run. By Courtney “stands on soap box often” Shepherd

I don’t know about you but I have a soft spot in my heart for watching compilation videos of epic kid fails. You know, the ones that are videoed evidence that kids are basically like drunk adults. And when I say a soft spot in my heart, I most definitely mean I laugh hysterically out loud. Maybe this is because I don’t have kids. . . that can’t be true, I’m certain some of you parents out there find your kid’s fails pretty hilarious, otherwise who else is video taping it and posting it? My favorite though, is the kid that just learned to walk. They are still unsteady on their feet and they begin to try and walk faster. All of a sudden it’s as though they are no longer in control of their feet and they do some sort of epic face plant. I think we can all agree that if those kids would just not worry about trying to go so fast too soon but rather spent some time focusing on mastering the technique of simply walking, there would be far fewer kid fail youtube videos out there. 

But kids don’t think like that. Kids are not aware of the consequences of their actions but as adults, we are. Most of the time. I bring up the learning to walk before we run example because although kids will never put mechanics before intensity, you know, cause they don’t know any better, we can. And more importantly, we should. Yesterday’s workout had chest to bar pull-ups. When I put the programming into our trainer shared google doc, I specifically wrote that there would be no kipping banded pull-ups. If an athlete needed bands for pull-ups, they would have to be done strict. Why? Because we need to learn to support our body weight for a full range of motion pull-up before we add a dynamic kip. We need to crawl before we can walk. 

Here is a common evolution of pull-ups I see in the gym:

1) Do banded pull-ups.
2) Get tired of banded pull-ups, I should be strong enough by now.
3) Try kipping pull-ups.
4) Have managed to link a couple shady kipping pull-ups together, will now attempt to RX a pull-up workout. In doing so I will produce a huge, not fully in control of what I’m doing kip, and possibly do these in singles. 
5) Discover that I could do more of these shady pull-ups and faster if I just learn how to butterfly instead. 
6) Begin practicing butterfly pull-ups with poor mechanics and completely abandon kipping pull-ups. 
7) When asked about injuries or issues before the workout, will tell the coach my shoulder has been bothering me. 

This is real life. There is a misconception out there about how to progress through something like the pull-up and it produces one of the most common injuries I hear about in the gym, the shoulder injury. This evolution exactly describes the main issue that is: we rush to add a high volume of a dynamic movement to a structure that does not yet have the capacity to mange that volume. In the Level 1 seminars they devote a whole break out group to going through a progression for teaching the kipping pull-up to athletes. Spoiler alert, Verve coaches are pretty notorious for using this progression on Verve athletes regularly. During the seminar it is addressed that there is a certain point in the progression that some athletes may be asked not to continue forward. These athletes are those that do not have a strict body weight pull-up. The point in the progression is when full a kipping pull-up is attempted. Again, why? Because CrossFit wants to encourage individuals to avoid practicing kipping pull-ups until they have demonstrated the strength to perform a strict pull-up. Having the strength to support our own body weight for a full range of motion pull-up helps provides a  buffer of stability at the shoulder joint to handle a higher volume of dynamic movement. We want to have the basic understanding of how to activate our shoulders and keep them so during the dynamic kip. To swing from a pull-up bar without active shoulders, without a solid muscular base of support around the shoulder, it is not merely a matter of if but rather when we will begin to experience shoulder issues. 

If I were to have asked athletes yesterday to give me chest to bar pull-ups for the workout and they could use bands to do it, what would that look like? For a newer, more de-conditioned athlete that might look like grabbing 2-3 bands of high resistance. Again adding any possible kip needed to huck their body into the pull-up rig in an effort to make their chest touch it. This athlete is not gaining strength in the pulling department and they are not gaining any technical proficiency in the chest to bar/ kipping pull-up arena. And to me, neither is acceptable. Why add technical complexity to something that has yet to be mastered at a basic level. Which leads me into the talk about butterfly pull-ups. These pull-ups are a great tool to have in one’s tool box, they provide an amazing competitive advantage. . . but that competitive advantage needs to be earned. My favorite argument I have ever heard from someone trying to convince me they needed to learn butterfly pull-ups was that their limiting factor in pull-ups was their grip. They simply could not hold on long enough to do a high volume of kipping pull-ups but if they did butterfly, then they would get more pull-ups done in that small time they could hold on to the bar, henceforthly creating an overall better pull-up situation. Riiiiggggghhhhht. To prove my point I did the workout “Fran” twice in two weeks. The first time I did it with kipping pull-ups, the second with butterfly. My butterfly “Fran” beat my kipping “Fran” by 2 seconds. That’s it. I did everything the same. I broke my pull-ups once in the round of 15’s for both. The point is that it is possible to have a tight enough and fast enough kip to move dang near as fast as some butterfliers. If your grip is the imitating factor, if you can’t stay on the pull-up bar for very long, beyond working on strengthening your grip, work on perfecting your kip. 

So how would the ideal evolution look? 

1) Do strict banded pull-ups to build strength. When a class covers the pull-up progression, warm-up everything leading up to the actual kipping pull-up. (Practicing a tight, shoulder driven kip will help build shoulder strength)
2) Build to a strict body weight pull-up. 
3) Take the strength from my strict pull-up and the mechanics of the kip I’ve been practicing and attempt to put them together.
4) Right now my kip is rather dramatic, my goal is to fine tune my kip, maximize the power from my hips, and attempt to build a solid volume of linked kipping pull-ups.
5) When I find my ability to hang on to the bar and sustain several sets of high volume unbroken pull-ups exists, I will begin to find that added competitive advantage.

I could just as easily sub out the word “pull-ups” in this post for the word “muscle-ups”. What a sexy, coveted CrossFit movement. When I ask people about their goals, and inevitably one of them always revolves around getting a muscle-up, my follow up question is “Do you have a strict dip and a strict pull-up?” If the answer is “no”, then we need new goals. Rings are stable, we are not. If we are not able to support and stabilize ourselves on low rings, why would we attempt to throw ourselves up onto high rings? I said this earlier but I feel so strongly about it that I believe it is worth repeating:

Do not be in a rush to add a high volume of dynamic movement to a structure that does not yet have the strength and capacity to support it. This journey is our own and no one else’s. Find the path that builds the strength and comfort you need before you rush to have the moves you want. 

[drops the mic]

*Our apologies for any inconvenience but Verve will be closed this weekend. We will only be having 1 morning class at 7am on Saturday and Sunday. This is a change from MBO, where we originally had 2 classes listed. Please double check the schedule.



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