Sunday 8.25.13

Weaknesses......I'm not using another name.  I hear people call them "Goats", or some other word doesn't carry a negative connotation and make us all feel bad.  I'll call it what it is.  A weakness, something that would be in your best interest to turn into a strength.

In the CrossFit world a weakness could be so many things.   Gymnastics movements, running, strength, rowing, simply landing in an athletic position due to inflexible ankles, etc.  Whatever it is, we all have them.

Jenna got her kipping muscle ups a while ago and has always worked to improved them.  But knowing that you should always work to improve and fix your weaknesses, she began working on her strict muscle ups.  This week, she finally got one:

If she were to do a "cash out" of 20 Strict Muscle Ups, how fast do you think these will degrade to kipping?  Then she hasn't really improved what she is trying to work on.

Founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman stated, "Cardiorespiratory endurance, stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, agility, accuracy, balance, and coordination: you’re as good as your weakest link.”  I've always tried to follow this advice, but admittedly I still like to throw heavy weight around more than gymnastics movements.  But I'm getting better!

The other day on Facebook page, I saw this quote:  "Getting better at what you’re bad at is as crucial as learning where the brake pedal is in your car; without it, the gas is suicide."

I could not agree with this statement more.  With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and all the other hoopla out there that the crazy kids use, people throw their latest and greatest achievements out there for everyone to see.  As impressive as many of them are, I see many hardcore CrossFitters (no Compound members, mind you) out there throwing up videos with heavier and heavier weight or faster times, but their technique does not seem to be improving with their "fitness increases".

I saw one video of a Split Jerk with some impressive weight, but lacking several basic techniques.  The back foot was turned out exposing the knee.  The lower back was completely over-arched.   The Jerk became more of a Press very quickly.  All three of these points lead to inefficiency.  But, the first two especially, are extremely dangerous and prone to injury to this athlete.

One of the reasons I wanted to change up our Weightlifting class, was too many people were coming to class and just trying to PR every time (again, mostly not Compounders).  Trying to constantly PR with a new weight, when your last weight you PR'ed on was with not-so-great form, usually means your form will degrade even more as the weight gets heavier.  This will result in one of two things; you will either (1) stop progressing or (2) injure yourself.....whichever comes first.

Raphael Ruiz, a strength and conditiong coach who taught at the CrossFit Football certification I attended, has a great trick for spotting a bio-marker for potential ACL injury in athletes, the Navicular Drop.   Briefly, the navicular bone is the bone at the arch of you feet.  The more you allow it to drop and perform Squats or other movements with flat feet or feet turned out too much, the more you are risking injury up the leg, especially with the knee.  When your coach instructs you to get your knees out, not only is this a stronger position in which to generate power and strength, but it will protect your ACL’s!  Not bad eh?  The most efficient movements ARE the safest!

Back to the basics

It's also the stuff that should be basic movements that people tend to overlook.  Basic is boring to most people.  Why perfect a push up, when you already have one?  Why try to improve you Rowing skills, when you get a good sweaty workout when you Row already?

This week, my SWAT team got to train with some former Army Rangers and Delta Force.  They were here to teach us more advanced tactics for high risk situations.  They had some great tactics, but there were areas that our SWAT team lacked in basic movements.  Those weaknesses as a team stopped us from getting more out of the class instruction.  We had to stop several of the advanced techniques to review and improve the basic movements.  We got a lot out of the class, but we definitely could have gotten a lot more out of it if we were better prepared.

Tomorrow's WOD has a movement I am not good at!

There are generally two ways I see people in our gym attack weakness:

- The most common way is avoidance.  We look at the WOD beforehand and and if it says, "Handstand Push Ups" and we can't even kick our selves into a Handstand, we find an excuse not to show up that day.  We will not get better at Handstands by constantly skipping the workouts.

- The other way is Too much volume!  We say to ourselves, we need to work on Handstand Push Ups.  So we do a cash out of 50 Handstand Push ups, after an intense strength session and WOD.   This can quickly lead to doing the movements without full range of motion just to finish the set.  Our bodies end up spending significant amounts of time in the healing process, limiting our ability to build strength, coordination, etc. of the new movement.

A better way: 

Here is a suggestion:  A key concept to remember is you should work at a sub-maximal effort. Allow yourself the time to practice the movement with "near-perfect" form, not to create a significant metabolic-conditioning response or to reach muscle failure.  Check out the chart below (it is not new, it is based on the Marine Corp Pull Up program they've used for years and they probably took it from a Bulgarian style of weightlifting.....point is, nothing is new in exercise, everyone steals from everyone if it works):

Minutes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Total
Reps 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 25
Reps 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 33
Reps 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 40
Reps 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 45
Reps 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 50
This is a 5 training session example for one exercise. It makes it doable to do 50 "near-perfect" Push Ups, Pull Ups, etc, if you try it like this! 

Here's another suggestion: In between strength sets, several Compound coaches like to work a rep or two of a skill they struggle in. If they are Deadlifting, they may do some upper body pulls on the rings to work on getting a No-false grip Muscle Up. Or in between sets of Shoulder Press, they may do a few lower body pistols.

That method is a good way to keep the body warmed up for the next strength set AND work a "near-perfect" rep or two of a weakness.

Fight to improve those weaknesses

When we first start CrossFit, it's amazing the amount of improvement EVERYONE makes.  From those who have been training or playing sports their entire lives, to people who never worked out before.  The benefits of CrossFit is amazing.  But those constant improvements do not and can't last.  Every time you hit a plateau in your training, the best way to raise your fitness level is to pick a weakness, focus on it and improve it.  I guarantee if you do, you will improve an aspect of your body, strength, fitness, etc. that you have been neglecting and you will see those amazing improvements again..


  1. I would have to say my biggest weakness if my mind. I know that i could do most things if i could get out of my own way, and i know ill never improve on the things i need to if i cant get out of my own way and get "cant" out of my head.

  2. Great post! I think sometimes the pressure to go faster makes people (aka myself) break down in form. It's important to remember how important it is to do things right before just trying to do them fast.

  3. nice post bro. Gymnastic skills are the hardest to get better at, and require the most practice for me.

  4. I agree, great post.

    Jenna- nice work on the muscle up!