How Do You Compare

I will be the first to admit that during the 2017 Crossfit Games I was living under a rock and somehow missed the entire thing. . . . yea I know I know. Sometimes life gets a bit crazy but that’s ok! Just it’s way of keeping things interesting for us. With the 2018 Crossfit Games right around the corner I decided it was time to play a bit of catchup and watch a few of the Crossfit documentaries available on Netflix. The most recent one I watch was “The Redeemed and the Dominant” (very well done and I highly recommend the watch if you have not seen it). Naturally after watching it I felt the need to go crush some weights in attempts to convince myself that I am as strong as the women at the games. Then I quickly realized yea. . . .not so much. LOL Maybe someday but not now. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and be happy as a clam.

Then I started to get curious as to how heavy some of the games athletes actually are and found this little nugget from Box Life Magazine. See how you compare to the other games athletes from 2017!

How do you compare_2017_4

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The 4 You Need To Succeed

The 4 People You Need to Succeed in Crossfit – BoxLife Magazine

CrossFit, for the most part, is an individual sport. Yes you can have the occasional partner workout, and your gym might give you the option to compete on a team, but by and large you complete daily workouts as an individual, and your progress in CrossFit rests squarely on your shoulders.

Or so it would seem.

The reality is that we can’t achieve success in this sport on our own. Even elite Games-level athletes have a support team around them that they lean on. Log onto games.crossfit.com to watch the Regionals and you’ll likely see athletes conversing with coaches, family, and even other competitors before and after events. Yes, the Games-caliber athlete may have loftier goals than you and I, but all CrossFit athletes need a core group of people to push them, guide them and support them in the pursuit of their fitness ambitions.

  1. Your coach A great coach is one that knows you as an athlete, and can cater their instruction in such a way that you are best able to understand the information he or she is giving to you. They know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and always know the right words to say when you need an extra push in a workout. They are always available to talk when you need advice on technique, nutrition, recovery, mobility or any other issue that may arise with your fitness. They can dip into their bag of tricks to help you break through a plateau, and, if they’re really special, even write personalized programming for you to follow during open gym hours. They know what your goals are and are completely invested in helping you achieve them—and will give you a measure of accountability when it comes to sticking to your training plan and diet. Your coach arguably holds the biggest influence over whether or not you will achieve your goals, which makes it all the more crucial to find a gym that has the right one for you
  2. Your workout buddy Your workout partner is your trusty companion—your Samwise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins, your Ron Weasley to your Harry Potter. He or she is the one who makes sure you turn up to class when you say you will—and sends you a passive aggressive text to remind you in case you’re running late. Like your coach, they know what your strengths and weaknesses are, and can tailor their support in just the right way to propel you to work harder. They’re also a similar caliber athlete to you, which means they will give you an additional push during those tough workouts (which you might have avoided if you weren’t safe in the knowledge that your buddy would be there to suffer alongside you). Your workout partner is someone you can share your goals with, and rely upon to give you a helping hand when things get tough. They’re always willing to work out with you at Open gym, and keep you in check when you’re considering binge eating. Your buddy keeps you on track—without them, your experience with CrossFit would be far less enjoyable, and you’d struggle to see consistent progress on a regular basis.
  3. Your CrossFit rival You may loathe their very existence, but you can’t deny how powerful it can be to have a rival as part of your ‘entourage’. In fact, you probably won’t find a greater source of motivation than that which your rival provides. You’re 100 times more likely to endure the harshest workout if it means beating your rival by 1 second. The fact that you can’t stand losing to this athlete means that you will instinctively find another gear during the WOD, and that can’t be a bad thing. Unlike your workout buddy, your rival isn’t there to encourage you, and they somehow magically always turn up to the class on the same days and times as you. They bring a competitive element to workouts that can sometimes be hard to generate on your own. Simply put, you’re never going to push as hard in your training without a rival—so make sure you find one!
  4. Your role model Equally important as having a rival is making sure you have a role model in this sport. They may be an exceptional athlete at your gym, or someone who has already attained the same goals you hope to achieve and can provide you with a blueprint to follow. They might even be a Games competitor whose story resonates with you. There are so many wonderful tales of trial and victory against the odds in our sport. Many Games athletes started their CrossFit journeys as complete novices, but through sheer will, work ethic and an unrelenting commitment to their goals managed to work their way up to the highest level of competition in our sport. Take Chris Spealler for example. Despite being undersized relative to other male competitors in CrossFit (Spealler is 5’5” and 147lbs), he has qualified and competed at 7 CrossFit Games. When growing up children look to role models for inspiration, utilizing their success as a blueprint for how they should behave when they’re older. Mark Thomas of Health Guidance writes that this is a survival function, “designed to help us mimic the traits of those successful members of our society and thereby help us to be successful too.” Obviously we’re not children anymore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be motivated to work harder through the dedication and performances of other people!

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Quick Fix: 3 Common Rowing Mistakes To Avoid

Anyone else happen to notice the increase in cardio lately? Most obviously with the addition of the Assault Bikes we’ve been doing plenty of cal work on those but don’t be too quick to forget about the dreaded row (let’s be honest here no one likes any of the cardio, can’t we just lift all the time?!). Here are the 3 most common mistakes made on the row and the quick fixes for each one. *Original article can be found here*

Mistake 1: Pulling early

This is by far the most common error and one that hurts efficiency of movement, power production, and time. During the initial drive (work) phase of the rowing stroke, the seat and the handle should move together. Unfortunately, many athletes will begin the drive with either their back or their arms. This is evidenced out of the catch (the transition point between the recovery and work phases where your body is closest to the monitor) as the handle moves first while the seat remains in place. Instead, aim to initiate power out of the catch (and into the drive) with your legs—pushing into the foot straps and extending your legs. During the initial drive, your arms should remain straight. Once your legs are straight (and have done their job in the drive) your arms will finish with a powerful pull of the handle toward your torso.

Mistake 2: Trying to create length

In case you haven’t noticed, taller athletes have a natural advantage on the rower as they are able to drive (work) for a longer distance on each stroke. In an attempt to create length, many (shorter) athletes compromise their form by hunching their back or opening their legs and flaring their knees out in order to get the handle closer to the cage. For the same reason, athletes may sometimes be tempted to lean far back. Each of these attempts at creating length causes you to sacrifice proper form, increasing an athlete’s risk of injury and decreasing their maximal force production.

Tip: If you want to increase your stroke length without sacrificing form, try increasing your ankle and hip mobility. Tight hips and ankles are usually the culprits keeping you from returning the handle closer to the cage.

Mistake 2: Resting during transitions

There are two transition points during the row: the catch and the beginning of the recovery phase. The catch is where an athlete transitions from the recovery to the drive and happens at the front of the rower. The beginning of the recovery phase is where you transition from the drive to the recovery. This transition happens at the back of the stroke with the handle near your torso. Many athletes assume that these are stop and pause points. However, any lag time during these transitions can slow the flywheel resulting in a loss of power.

At the beginning of the recovery phase think of an immediate push back—as soon as you finish the stroke near your chest, snap your hands toward your feet as quickly as possible to begin the recovery. At the catch, aim for a quick and explosive drive with your legs once you reach the end of the recovery phase.

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Building Confidence

Lately I’m not sure if the workouts are getting more difficult or if we are all just getting stronger and pushing ourselves harder. As much as the success of athletes at Factory Square has been widespread, there have been times where the struggle to finish has been wide spread. In a WOD a few weeks ago I wasn’t even through the first few rounds and I already failed at the weight. Instead of simply giving up or taking weight off the bar, I took a few seconds to take a deep breath and calm myself.  Just like that I picked the bar back up and chipped away at the rest. Instead of continually getting ahead of myself, I focused on eat rep one at a time – listened to the coach, finished my pulls, and avoided what could’ve felt like a disaster. From time to time everyone struggles a bit like this.

It’s moments like these that make me think back to when I first started Crossfit. Back then I would have just given up or immediately dropped in weight. Everyone would tell me that I could do it but I didn’t believe them, I didn’t believe in myself. I let myself get into my head so easily. Now I refuse to let myself think that I cannot do something when I know I can. Yes I may have had an “off” day but that sure as heck didn’t mean I wasn’t going to stop trying.

There are times in everyone’s Crossfit journey when you witness this, not only on an individual level but as a community. We all support each other to the finish our workouts. It’s almost as if no workout is completed till the last person finishes. The difference between now and when we all first started is the knowledge we’ve acquired about ourselves and what we are capable of. It’s the confidence to know we can do anything we put our minds and bodies to. We are committed to succeed. Just look at all of the PR’s and successes athlete’s at Factory Square have been having lately! It’s insane!

The more confidence people gain in themselves, the more potential for growth you have. (Not to mention it’s contagious!) Believe in yourself that you can and in time you will. Sometimes all you ever need to do is take a few extra seconds to take a deep breath and then get right back to it. It never gets any easier; we only get stronger, better, faster.

Everyone keep up the good work! Happy Lifting!

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Summer Heat

summer-heat

 – Despite mother nature attempting to play tricks on us, summer is quickly approaching! Also means that the summer heat we’ve already been having will be more consistent. That being said, here’s a re-post about working out in the Summer Heat. –

There are some people who would agree that there is nothing more satisfying than walking away from a hard workout like that in the summer heat. Sure you may look like you just ran through the rain and then rolled on the ground (just me?? I’m always filthy after every workout) but who cares. You are the walking mark of satisfaction. Doesn’t matter if you’re in those short shorts, the shirt comes off in less than 5 seconds, or if you forever wear long pants – you are there and see immediate results of even the slightest effort put into whatever it is you have to do. Maybe I’m crazy but I enjoy that.

It takes your body approximately two weeks to adjust to a climate change. With that in mind, here are some quick tips to help make it through the most brutal summer workouts –

1. Drink Plenty of Water – There are so many important and essential functions of water for our bodies, one of which includes regulating body temperature. If you are not a water drinker, try to make sure you take in those few extra glasses a day to help keep cool. Or at least drink Gatorade if you’re a heavy sweater. I promise your body will thank you for it.

2. Bring a Towel – Nothing is worse than mid workout and your eyes begin to burn from the sweat dripping straight down into your eyes, or the sweat dripping down your forearms and into your hands. That’s something that no amount of chalk would be able to fix. Therefore, don’t be afraid to rock out those head bands or even have a towel handy if you sweat like you are in the Sahara Desert. That shirt you were just wearing a few minutes ago works too.

3. Extra Clothing – Ever finish a workout and have to run to the store on your way home? What happens? You end up freezing your butt off in the store! It’s amazing what a difference something as simple as a dry shirt can do after a workout to have you feeling refreshed.

4. Know Your Limits – Number 1 priority is your health, that’s why you Crossfit in the first place. If for any reason you ever feel like the heat it too much and you need a water break, or need to put a cold towel on the back of your neck, then do it. The heat of summer can be oppressive sometimes and there’s no point in giving yourself heat exhaustion. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t always mean that you should. Be smart and know your body’s limits in the heat.

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Going To The Games

At Crossfit Factory Square, in Southington, Connecticut, our goal is to enable you to perform at your best. For some, this may mean having more sustained energy throughout the day, losing body fat and/or life long health. For others, this may be important for athletic purposes and performance enhancement. Our programming is based on CrossFit methodology. This means we follow a program consisting of constantly varied, functional movements (like squatting, pushing, pulling,running), executed at high-intensity.

Contact us today to get started!

37 West Center St. (Suite 114)
Southington, CT 06489
860.426.1010

vargoteam@att.net

CrossFit Factory Square

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The Hook Grip: Why & How to Do It Correctly

Here’s an awesome post on the hook grip from Catalyst Athletics. Happy Reading! 

The hook grip is a pronated (palms facing the lifter) grip in which the thumb is trapped between the bar and usually the first and second fingers, depending on hand size. For the pull of both the snatch and the clean, this method of gripping is an eventual necessity to maintain control of the barbell during the violent explosion of the second pull.

It’s important to understand that the thumb is itself wrapped around the barinside the fingers and not simply pinned parallel to the bar. With the thumb wrapped over the fingers as it would be in a conventional overhand grip, it will typically reach only the index finger and have a weak purchase on it due to being only partially flexed.

The fingers then grab onto the thumb to pull it farther around the bar. This is very important—you do not simply smash the thumb flat against the bar; you grab it with the fingers and try to pull it around the bar. This mistake of just pinching the thumb against the bar is usually what causes new lifters to believe the hook grip makes no sense—it’s just uncomfortable and doesn’t feel strong.

The thumb also creates a ridge for the fingers to dig into. Rather than just wrapping around the bar, which is smooth and has no real points of purchase, and squeezing, the fingers now have a protrusion to hook onto—not only does this make gripping something easier, but because it’s your own thumb, it’s actually naturally reinforcing your grip security.

By wrapping the thumb around the bar directly, we create a powerful hook on the bar, which can then be reinforced by the grip of both the index and middle fingers. This allows the thumb to reach around the bar enough to significantly contribute to grip integrity without limiting the ability of the fingers to wrap around the bar adequately to grip it as well.


With the hook grip, the thumb is able to wrap farther around the bar than in a regular overhand grip, while the fingers are still able to wrap considerably, allowing more overall contribution to grip security. 

The hook grip also creates a system that balances the tendency of the bar to roll. In a standard overhand grip, the bar is supported by the fingers, which all open in the same direction, creating a tendency for the bar to roll backward out of the hand. The mixed grip—one pronated and one supinated hand—is commonly employed in the deadlift by powerlifters because the backward rolling tendency on the pronated side is countered by a forward rolling tendency on the supinated side, thereby stabilizing the bar.

The hook grip creates a similar system of countering this tendency of the bar to roll while allowing the necessary movement and position of the hands and arms during the snatch and clean that a mixed grip precludes. The bar will try to roll out of the thumb in one direction, and out of the fingers in the opposite, eliminating to a great degree the spinning element of grip loss.


Setting the hook grip: Press the webbing of the hand between the thumb and index finger against the bar; wrap the thumb about the bar as far a possible; grab the thumb with the index and middle fingers; use these first two fingers to pull the thumb farther around the bar; grip the bar with the remaining fingers. 

Finally, because of the increased security created by the hook grip for the reasons described above, the athlete can rely on lower levels of grip tension during a lift. This reduction in finger and wrist flexor tension allows a reduction in elbow tension during the pulling phases of the snatch and clean that improves the transmission of leg and hip power to the bar and the speed and fluidity of the transition between the second and third pulls. In short, the hook grip optimizes the anatomy of the hands for this application.

The more relaxed the athlete can keep the hands during a lift, the more relaxed the arms will remain, and the better the transmission of force from the legs to the bar will be. However, the hands can only relax so much before the grip begins slipping with the violence of the body’s extension. Depending on grip strength and hand size and shape, athletes will be able to maintain different levels of gripping effort, but all should make it a goal to grip only as tightly as necessary.

The wrist can be flexed somewhat so that the back of the hand is in approximately straight alignment with the forearm, which will relieve the thumb of some pressure and shift it more into the fingers. For most lifters, this will increase the comfort and security of the grip both by reducing the discomfort of the thumb and by allowing the shorter fingers to wrap farther around the bar. However, this is a minimal degree of wrist flexion—it is certainly not significant. Excessive wrist flexion in the pull will be similar in effect to partially flexed elbows; that is, it’s a weak point in the system that can extend during the explosive final extension of the snatch or clean and create a loss of force transfer to the bar.

Typically the hook grip will be uncomfortable if not considerably painful initially. Consistent use will condition the offending structures appropriately over time and the grip will ultimately offer no trouble. It will, in fact, become more comfortable than a conventional overhand grip with experience. Covering the thumbs with flexible athletic tape can reduce the discomfort and, for some, improve the feeling of grip security by increasing friction. Lifters can submerge the hands in ice water for 5-10 minutes after training to help reduce pain and speed the adaptation.

If taping the thumb (or other fingers) across a joint, it’s important to use elastic tape rather than conventional athletic tape. Non-elastic tape will limit the motion of the taped joint and create potential for sprains in the next joint up the chain. If elastic tape isn’t available, non-elastic tape can be used if wrapped and/or cut in a manner that prevents it from covering the back of the joint.

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Weight Belts

Weight belts are an important piece of equipment in your training repertoire. Find out how and why to use them!

In the dark corner of my local gym, I recently spied a guy doing sit-ups … while wearing a weight belt. The sight was like a swift punch to the crotch! While it’s not the worst gym offense, or even an incredibly rare event, I realized that many trainees don’t know what a lifting belt does, when to wear one, and why someone should.

Wearing a belt during sit-ups, for example, is actually contrary to the function of the belt. The whole point of a weight belt is to prevent spinal flexion; the whole point of doing a sit-up is to flex your spine by contracting your abs. See the problem here? I’ve also seen people belt up for biceps curls, lat pull-downs, and leg extensions. Clearly, some instruction on this common accessory is needed.

Belt-Ology In Action

Most people think that weight belts support the back and can help prevent injury. That’s generally true, but a better understanding of the mechanics will change how many people use their equipment. Even some weight belt manufacturers don’t understand how a belt is supposed to work, which is revealed when they make the back of the belt wider than the front.

To talk about belts, we first have to talk about breathing. Most people are taught to inhale on the eccentric (negative) part of an exercise and to exhale during the concentric (positive). While you should definitely breathe, this isn’t the method that works best when you need to produce a large amount of force. In the everyday world when you need to move something heavy—a couch or an Atlas stone—you take a big breath, push or pull while holding your breath, and only exhale after completing the movement.

We use this technique—known as the Valsalva Maneuver—when we’re performing certain exercises at near-maximal effort. Holding your breath against a closed glottis while increasing you thoracic abdominal pressure braces you, and allows you to lift more weight. You’d never see a powerlifter squatting 600 pounds while slowly breathing out.

When you inhale, pressure increases in your thoracic cavity; this pressure is further increased when you flex your abs. In this regard, the muscles of your abdomen serve chiefly to apply pressure to the anterior side of your spine, attempting to balance the forces produced by the extensors on the backside. In other words, this pressure keeps you from being crushed by the weight when you squat.

The back muscles apply force, position and support to the spine from the back while the abdominal wall and increased abdominal pressure from a deep breath support it from the front. A weight belt’s main function is to add support from the front by increasing abdominal pressure.

Belt It Real Good

In a nutshell, a lifting belt provides a wall for your abs to push against. The added force with limited space means increased anterior pressure for the spine, helping to stabilize it. This gives you a more rigid torso with better transmission of force from the hips to the bar, plus a more stable foundation for overhead lifts. The width in the back of the belt has absolutely nothing to do with a belt’s function, as many people think.

Ideally, a belt between three-and-four-inches wide, all the way around, is sufficient. If it’s much smaller than that, it won’t provide much support. If it’s much larger than that, it may not fit well between your ribs and hips. The material should be firm, typically leather/suede or something that won’t stretch.

To Belt Or Not To Belt

There is no need to wear a belt all the time. There is a lot of discussion in the fitness community about whether you should wear a belt at all. Some people believe you should only rely on your own abilities to stabilize heavy loads. I don’t intend to delve into that debate here, but I will say two things: first, under a heavy load, a belt can help reduce your odds of getting an orthopedic injury. Second, a belt will definitely aid in lifting performance.

In my opinion, a weight belt is only necessary during near the max attempts on compound lifts, definitely not when you’re on a bicycle. You shouldn’t wear a belt with loads that you can easily support—below 90% of your one rep max on big, barbell lifts.

Wear It Right

When wearing the belt, it should be positioned and tightened correctly. Many times I’ve seen lifters move the belt to a more comfortable position under their gut, even though that is contrary to what they’ve learned about belt usage. Obviously, the belt shouldn’t be too loose, although many make the mistake of making it too tight. A belt so tight that you can’t properly contract your abdominal wall will actually work against you. Take a breath (hold it), place the belt in position and brace the abdominal wall. Draw the belt just tight enough to slightly restrict your braced abdominal position to achieve maximum benefit.

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Relationship With The Barbell

Rocky

Throughout our lives, everywhere we go or look, we are involved in relationships. Friends, family, work, home, fur babies, even lifting. When it’s such a big part of our lives, it’s hard not to consider lifting as one of those relationships. It can be just like any other one . . . when things are good they’re great and when things become challenging we get into our “ruts”. The ultimate goal is finding a happy medium between the two. A lot of times the reason why we are able to succeed is because of the drive and dedication behind what we do.  We create ourselves a foundation to build and strengthen said relationships.

I feel like somewhere along the line we are programmed to believe that to be the best we have to hit a new PR, that we have to constantly be moving forward. The thing is though, this isn’t necessarily the case. On any given day, whether you hit a new PR or not, it doesn’t directly reflect who you are as an athlete. You don’t need to shave time off of your WOD, add 20 lbs to your lift, or come in first place every single time you workout to be considered great. Sure these big events definitely help motivate us in our training, but it’s the little things that show who you really are. It is the extra work you put in before and/or after classes. It’s the early morning workouts, or squeezing a quick run in because that’s all you can manage for the day. Variety is the spice of life, and of training.

Your relationship that you have with the barbell (or even Crossfit in general) is what you make out of it. One workout doesn’t define you, the hard work that you put in is what does. Embrace the good that comes from the barbell, work through the ruts even when you don’t want to, and, by building up this foundation, great things will come!

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Cherry Picking

 

cherry picking

Found this online and couldn’t help myself . . . it’s brilliant.

Cherry picking you say? What? Have I gone off my rocker?? Most certainly not. When I refer to cherry picking I am definitely not referring to those delicious little nuggets of fruit that grow on trees. I’m referring to the term that no one likes to hear or even admit that they tend to do. Let me explain. . . . Like when going to pick cherries, or anything else for that matter, you always look for the best ones. The pieces that appeal most to you and that you know you will enjoy better than the other not so fortunate ones left behind. Some are easy to find, others may be hidden gems. However no matter what any of them may actually look like, in the end each one picked still holds the same value. One magically isn’t going to give you super powers and the other one won’t suddenly turn into a completely different fruit. (If this does happen to you and you gain super powers, let me know because we need to talk!)

Take the same premise explained for cherry picking – now apply it to your workouts. Yea I know I’m the big meanie that just went there. In all seriousness, REALLY think about it. From time to time we all have a tendency to cherry pick our workouts. Now you’re probably going to say, “But Jen, I never cherry pick. I simply don’t go to class when my body tells me it needs a rest day.” That’s great! You should be doing that to keep yourself safe and give your body time to recover. I’m more so referring to looking at the programmed WOD, seeing something that you HATE doing (or one of your weaknesses) and suddenly deciding that you’re not going to go just because. THAT is cherry picking.

The reason why I bring this up is because every so often I catch myself wanting to cherry pick. I know I cannot be the only person who is guilty of this. If I’m going to pep talk myself out of this, might as well for everyone else too right?? One good way to help prevent this is to pick a schedule and stick with it. Most of us have a pretty good idea of what our bodies are capable of and know when we need rest days. Use that when picking a schedule. If you can only go 3 days a week, select those 3 days and be consistent. Even something like switching around your days because of what you see is programmed is still considered to be cherry picking. Not going to class on heavy cardio days will never make cardio any easier. OR only going on heavy lifting days won’t help us when gymnastics are programmed.

Like cherries, every one (workout) still holds the same value as the rest. Just because we may not like how one “looks” it doesn’t mean it’s not as beneficial as the rest. For those who participated in The Opens, you didn’t have the option to cherry pick a programmed WOD. If Dave Castro says you are going to do burpees, guess what . . . you do the burpees (he’s evil I know).

If we only ever do the WODs that we like, we will never get any better at the WODs that we hate.

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