Friday, 30 October 2009

Uncommon Training Methods

You probably know this, but variation is important.  You've also probably got a good amount of variation in your training.  But is your training as varied as it could or should be?  How often do you try something completely new?  We've assembled here five training formats that we think are somewhat underused, and that provide a stimulus different from anything else.  We hope you'll add your own to our list.

1) Litvinovs.  More commonly known as Litvis, Litvinovs are one of my favorite things ever.  I think they should be an Olympic sport.  Litvis are as simple and primal as it gets: Lift something heavy, run really fast, time the entire effort.  Litvis are metabolically devastating, and the format can be manipulated to elicit any number of effects.  A few we've used at CrossFit Monterey:

3 clean & jerks, 185lbs/135lbs
Sprint 200m

8 thrusters, 155lbs/105lbs
1oom sprint

7 power snatches, 45lb dumbbells/25lb dumbbells
50m sand dune sprint

3 power cleans, 205lbs/115lbs
100m sprint

You can add resistance to the sprint (drag a tire, sled, moderately sized person, etc), or do it up a hill for variation.  We've also used "sprints" that aren't a run.  Rowing, box jumps, double unders, bike sprints...anything can work, as long as it's metabolic hell.

Always recover fully between rounds.

2) Lullaby Style.  I first saw this done by Blair Morrison, but I believe it originally comes from CrossFit Coronado.  At the top of the minute, perform a set number of reps of exercise A.  For the rest of the minute, perform as many reps as possible of exercise B.  Repeat this process at the top of every minute until you've completed a set number of reps for exercise B.  For example:

At the top of the minute, perform 5 power snatches with 95lbs.
For the rest of the minute, do burpees.
Repeat at the top of every minute, until you have completed 100 burpees.  Record your total time.

3) Sprint Start.  As obvious as it seems, we don't see this done enough: rather than ending with a sprint (like in the Litvi), start with one.  For example:

3 rounds:
400m sprint (SPRINT)
Max ring dips
Max pullups
Full recovery between rounds.

Russ and I did this with 20lb vests.  It was awful.  I thought I was going to die.  Something about running an all out sprint and then having to keep working left us wrecked like few things ever have: Russ was resting close to 30 minutes between rounds, and after the second round I was shocked at myself for even considering a third.  Try it.  You'll like it.

4) Reps Over Time. How many reps of Exercise A can you complete over alloted Time X.  That's it.  This SUCKS.  For example:  How many 225lb back squats can you do in 20 minutes?  How many muscle-ups can you do in 10 minutes?  For a more multimodal stimulus, how about 10 minutes of handstand pushups, 5 minutes of air squats, 2 minutes of pullups, 1 minute of pushups, with no rest between?  We're talking some serious metcon and muscular endurance.

5) Max Rep Supersets.  Max reps of Exercise A followed immediately by max reps of Exercise B.  Rest.  Repeat.  Plenty of CrossFitters have done the WOD "Lynne," but apart from that, I don't see this format as much as I'd like to.  Try these on for size:

"Monterey"
5 rounds:
Max reps, press 135lbs/95lbs
Max reps L-Pullups

3 rounds:
Max reps, overhead squat 95lbs/65lbs
Max reps pullups

5 rounds:
Max reps, front squat 135lbs/95lbs
Max reps, pushups

Got some uncommon training methods you've used successfully?  Post thoughts to comments.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Resting for Fitness.

The box Pete is sitting on has magical powers: It can make you stronger and faster.

Most CrossFitters don’t like to rest.  They don’t like to rest on Rest Days, in between sets of heavy lifting, or in between sprints. 

These athletes would be fitter if they learned to rest.

This article will focus on resting during workouts.  If you want to apply near-maximal power output multiple times in a workout, you will have to take substantial rest periods in between efforts. 

I’m sure you’ve seen guys doing “heavy” squats taking 30 second rests in between each set. When you see a workout that says something like Deadlift 3-3-3-3-3 or Snatch 1-1-1-1-1 you should not be rushing the rest periods.  It’s not a metcon workout.

Hit each set with as much load as you possibly can, then sit down.  Don’t get up for a few minutes.  You’re not trying to improve your endurance here; you’re trying to get stronger. 

If you still want to get some metcon, because it is a weak point or because you just like it, then do some double-unders when you’re done with the heavy sets.  After 200 or so you may regret that decision.

Rest periods are vital for effective sprint workouts as well.  I see too many people running 100m sprints with 30 second rest periods in a mistaken effort to get faster.  While such workouts are great for improving conditioning, they are not going to allow you run quickly enough to make progress in your speed or power.  If you want to run fast, you need to rest for a while in between efforts.  A smarter alternative would be to run five sets of 100m with 3-5 minute rests in between each set. 

I think a lot of CrossFitters don’t understand what fast running is.  I keep hearing that a 60 second 400m is fast.  While certainly respectable, it’s not a fast time.  The sad thing is that it’s not these athletes’ lack of general fitness which prevents them from running fast, but rather their lack of appreciation for sprinting as a discipline.  They don’t know how fast it is possible to run, or how much faster they would run if they took long rest periods and approached each set with full intensity.  A 400m sprint shouldn’t leave you mildly out of breath; it should leave you barely alive just like "Fran" or "Grace."

The key principle here is that rest periods allow for higher intensity.  By resting between efforts, you’re not being weak, you’re training smart. Your reward will be greater strength, power and speed.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Running: More than just metabolic conditioning.

Russ is good at running.  I hate him.

There is something you should know about me, EYF readers.  Something that is a central and defining character trait.  It has affected the way I train, the way I program, and the way I think about fitness.

I hate running.

I know, I know. Everyone hates running, right?  WRONG.  Not like this.  I hate running with a passion most people reserve for the leaders of a genocide against their race.  I hate running like Newton hated Leibniz (man, I'm a nerd.)

Unfortunately, I also suck at running.  A lot.  And because of this, I have to run.  A lot.  I don't like it.

But running is far, far, far too valuable a skill to ignore.

In the article "A Theoretical Template for CrossFit's Programming" Greg Glassman states "...metabolic conditioning is monostructrual activities commonly referred to as 'cardio,' the purpose of which is primarily to improve cardiorespiratory capacity and stamina."  I disagree with this statement.  The main purpose of any activity we undertake is to improve our ability to perform at that activity.  The biological changes that occur (such as an improvement in cardiorespiratory capacity) are part of the process of getting better at those activities.

In other words, what I'm saying is this:  The primary reason we run isn't to improve our metcon, it's to get better at covering distances on foot quickly.

This is an important concept to grasp.  We don't deadlift because it makes us stronger, we deadlift because we were built to pick things up off the ground, and getting stronger is part of the process of getting better at that.  The same holds for running.

Too many CrossFitters treat running as if it were merely an annoying impediment between rounds of swings and pullups during "Helen."  When was the last time you did max effort 100m or 200m sprints?  How seriously do you take it when the CrossFit.com WOD is 4x400m run, 4x800m run, or a 5k?  Have you ever analyzed your running form with the same level of criticalness you apply to your clean & jerk?

If the answers to these questions are "not recently," "not seriously," and "no," it may be time to rethink the way you treat running.

Even if it is the most God awful exercise known to man.

A secret...

Dear EYFers,

I have a secret for you.

You can always do one more air squat.  You just don't want to, because it hurts.

That is all.

Love,
BullFrog.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Discussion Question: Where is this all going?

A group of beginners at CrossFit Monterey goes through their first "Helen."

How many of you started Crossfit within the past six months?”

 The majority of people at Crossfit Level 1 certifications raise their hand when the presenter asks them this question.  We all know what this rate of growth means for Crossfit right now.  The number of affiliates is approaching 1500, and apparently growing at one percent per day. 

What percentage of the people who will be doing Crossfit ten years from now, are Crossfitters now?  Such talk of the future is surely guesswork, but let’s give it a shot.  Almost certainly, the vast majority of people who will be Crossfitters in 2019 are not Crossfitters now. Many future Crossfitters have not even heard the name Crossfit before. 

This trend has important implications for the way that we, as current Crossfitters, interact with people who haven’t yet kipped a pullup or squat cleaned a barbell.  Many people have noted that the longer you do Crossfit, the harder it is to relate to normal people.  I certainly have been guilty of only interacting with people remarkably similar to myself.  This insularity is a problem if we are to expand Crossfit into the vast population of people who have never done it, and in many cases do not regularly exercise at all. 

Sure, I have encouraged you to build your badass inner circle.  This does not mean, however, that you should cut yourself off from the less intensely Crossfit world.  Such isolation will greatly limit your ability to be a part of the Crossfit expansion.  The people who really need to train more are the ones who are the least likely to be currently interested in it.  The people you most need to reach out to are the ones you’re least likely to think of as the “Crossfit type.”

One of our athletes at Crossfit Monterey, Tom Hickey, gave Jacob and I some good advice last week.  Tom told us that we have been Crossfitting so long that we have forgotten what it’s like to walk into a Crossfit gym for the first time.  This is true, for myself at least.

In my time at Crossfit Monterey, I’ve realized that I cannot tell who is going to flourish as a Crossfitter and who is going to drop out or take the program less seriously.  A middle school teacher currently taking Body Pump classes may start Crossfit, train hard five days a week and double her strength in a few months.  On the other hand, I’ve seen more experienced athletes fail to thrive.  We expose their weaknesses and sometimes they find that they’d rather not struggle at the movements they suck at. 

You don’t know who is going to make an awesome Crossfitter either.  So how do you make future Crossfitters?  What has worked for you?  What hasn’t?

Post thoughts to comments.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

What We Believe.

Lisbeth Darsh, CrossFit HQ Affiliate Program Manager and owner of CrossFit Watertown posted a request for affiliates to write a blog about 10 things they believe.  So here it is:  In no particular order, 10 things that we at Evolve Your Fitness and CrossFit Monterey believe.

1) Quality over quantity.  
I don't want to train everyone.  Don't get me wrong: I believe that absolutely anyone, from any background, in any kind of physical condition can do CrossFit, from a physical standpoint.  But not everyone will have the dedication, the heart, or the strength of character to train at the level of intensity (I remind you that intensity is relative to physiological capacity) which I expect from my athletes.

2) Don't judge anyone based on where they are on day one.  The other day I had a girl run a 1:36 400m; 4 months ago she couldn't even run 400m without stopping to walk.  4 months ago she also couldn't do a full range-of-motion pushup on her knees; yesterday, she did 70 full range-of-motion pushups on her feet.  On the other hand, the most gifted athlete I've ever trained is still struggling to develop the kind of discipline and mental strength that will allow her to access her potential.  What someone walks in with on day one, at least physically, says almost nothing about where they'll be in 3 months or 3 years.  Treat everyone with respect, believe in everyone, and make sure they know you believe in them.

3) Genetics mean nothing.  No, really.  I know, I know: the genetic freaks will eventually dominate as CrossFit gets bigger, yadda yadda yadda.  Okay, genetics don't mean nothing.  But they're secondary.  I've watched this over and over again, and will continue to see it.  I call this Natural Athletes Syndrome: sometimes, natural athletes are so used to everything coming easy to them, that when they come up against the things they suck at, as everyone will in CrossFit, they just can't find it in them to persevere.  "I have bad genetics" is not an excuse we accept at CrossFit Monterey.

4) Challenge, challenge, challenge.  Never let your athletes rest on their laurels.  It doesn't matter if they want to be elite CrossFitters or not.  Continuously encourage your athletes to challenge themselves in as many ways as possible:  Master the handstand.  Go strict Zone/Paleo for a month.  Try a new sport.  Run a 10k race.  Enter a CrossFit competition.  It doesn't matter what they do, so long as your athletes understand the importance of getting out of their comfort zone.

5) Be a technique nerd.  I don't mean that you have to insist that your athletes clean & jerk form is perfect during every rep of "Grace."  I mean that you need to be dedicating a significant amount of your athletes training time to developing technical capacity in everything we do.  I promise, this will pay serious dividends.  While you're at it, turn your athletes into technique nerds too: they should understand what makes a good squat, why it's important, and how to develop it.

6) Stick to the basics.  From the article "Virtuosity" by Greg Glassman: "What will inevitably doom a physical training program and dilute a coach's efficacy is a lack of commitment to fundamentals."  How many of your athletes have perfect deadlift form?  How many of them are as good at air squats as they should be?  Many, many, many affiliates have programming made up primarily of burpees, ball slams, and tire flips.  These are all great things to throw in once in a while, but they should be occasional additions to the bulk of your training.  Squat, press, deadlift, clean & jerk, snatch, run, pullup, pushup, situp, dip, handstand, muscle-up: these are the movements (not quite all of them, but you get the point) that should make up the bread and butter of what you program for your athletes.  Master executing these movements at high intensity, and burpees will come easy.

7) Remain a student.  There is always more to learn.  Read, research, debate.  Seek out new resources, and be as critical as possible of all information that comes your way.  This love for learning will make you a better coach.  Constantly encourage your athletes to mimic this behavior.

8) Obsess over your athletes successes.  It's a big deal: act like it.  One of your girls just got her first pullup?  Jump up and down with excitement.  One of your guys deadlifted 400lbs? Post it on your Facebook status.  Take lots of pictures and videos.  Act like a proud parent.  Make sure your athletes know that you LOVE seeing them succeed.

9) Measure, observe, repeat.  Quantify everything.  Get composition books (you can get two for $1.50 at Staples) and make your athletes log everything: skill work, new PRs, WODs, and notes.  The more detail you have, the better.  Looking over these logs 6 months, 1 year, 2 years later is like mining for gold.

10) Every CrossFit trainer and affiliate has the power to change – even save – someone's life.  It happened to me.  I've watched it happen to others.  Even CrossFit gyms with bad programming and mediocre coaching are helping people every day.  Forget work capacity across broad time and modal domains: CrossFit makes people happier.  I've seen people overcome depression, anxiety, and insecurity.  When you get to work each day, remind yourself: I can change the world. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Build A Badass Inner Circle.


What did each of your three best friends have for dinner tonight? Did they go out for pizza and beer?  Or did they sit down for a meal of chicken breast, almonds, and broccoli? 

 If you are trying to get fitter and healthier, you’d better hope the answer is closer to the latter than the former.

 Feel defensive?  What do your friends’ habits have to do with you?  You’ve read all about Zone proportions and Paleo food quality.  You train pretty hard five times a week, and you just PR’d your deadlift and Fight gone bad score.  Pretty good, right?

 If your inner circle isn’t training hard and eating well, then you’re not making the progress that you could be.  You’re literally throwing PR’s away. 

 Sure, those carboholic sluggards are your friends.  And if they want to poison themselves with sugar and alcohol, that’s their prerogative.  But their attitudes and habits are inevitably going to harm your training and nutrition.  If you would prefer to keep your current friends, you’ll be fine. You’re probably already doing most things right.  I don’t see diabetes or obesity in your future.

 Judging by the fact that you’re reading this blog, I doubt you’re satisfied with mediocrity. Haven’t you seen performances that made you re-evaluate your self-esteem?  9 minutes doesn’t seem so great on Helen when other guys are hitting 6:45.  A muscle-up doesn’t seem as impressive of an accomplishment when some athletes are hitting them with one arm and then pressing into a handstand.  What the hell are those guys doing? 

It’s exactly what you don’t want to hear.  Near always, the true animals are working harder than you are and eating better.  And a large part of that, is the environment they put themselves in.

Ask the guys at OPT or CrossFit Central or from the old Crossfit HQ.  They’ll tell you, that competing against and hanging out with some of the fittest and most disciplined athletes in the world is indescribably beneficial for their performance. 

On the other hand, when I see CrossFitters put themselves in toxic environments, I always see that no amount of personal discipline or motivation is going to make up for roommates that keep them up until 4 AM or friends that insist they drink beer every week end. 

 No matter who you are, your friends are going to affect your performance.  If you want to perform at an elite level, you need to make sure that your friends' effect on you is positive.  Start building your badass inner circle now.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A Post For Dutch

Dutch denies that one can make improvements in all aspects of fitness at once.

Improving all aspects of fitness at once is CrossFit’s goal and claimed effect.  By arguing against the efficacy of non-specific fitness training, Dutch must come to face with the ever growing body of evidence of the success of non-specific CrossFit training, as best exemplified by Crossfit.com. 

Every person I have known since 2003 who has followed CrossFit.com programming and nutritional recommendations has made impressive progress in many different aspects of fitness. 

Furthermore, beyond the main page programming, Dutch’s statement would imply that gyms which aim to improve all aspects of GPP at once will fail. 

Let us consider some data points specific to the experience of EYF’s authors.  We have trained one athlete, Toren, who exemplifies the efficacy of general fitness training.  Over the course of two years of CrossFit programming, coming in with no background in serious strength training, Toren raised his deadlift to 565 lbs., can do 300 jump rope rotations in 1:03 and did Nasty Girls (3 rounds of 50 squats, 7 muscle-ups, 10 hang power cleans at 135 lbs.) with bar muscleups in 6:50.  At 225 lbs. Toren can do 16 consecutive bar muscleups, more than some experienced gymnasts have achieved, as witnessed by EYF's authors.  He made this improvement with no strength or power focus in his training and despite a knee injury which prevented him from performing many of CrossFit’s most effective exercises.  

On the female side, Kari is a former semi-pro soccer player who started CrossFit in March of 2008.  When she started CrossFit, she had a max deadlift of 125lbs, a max back squat of 100lbs, and a max press of 40lbs.  After a year and a half of CrossFitting, and at a bodyweight of 128lbs, she deadlifts 270lbs, back squats 210lbs, and presses 82lbs.  Those are some pretty (read: very) significant strength increases.  She has also taken her 5k from over 25 minutes to slightly over 22 minutes, as well as decreasing her times in running at all distances (she is now faster than she was while playing semi-pro soccer.)  These improvements, on opposite ends of the power/duration spectrum, seem to indicate that Kari has successfully improved all aspects of her GPP over the last year and a half. 

At Evolve Your Fitness’s headquarters, CrossFit Monterey, our athletes are regularly making the very progress that Dutch denies is possible.  Our muscle-up club board has 19 members.  We have guys deadlifting above 400 and often much more within the first year of consistent training without specialization.  In the first week of October, six separate athletes got their first bar muscleups.  Again, if Dutch was right, these broad improvements in fitness would not be happening.

However, we do not bring up this data to show that EYF is unique in its application of effective general fitness programming.  We have found general fitness programming to be effective anywhere coaches and their athletes have pursued it intensely and intelligently. 

For example, a good friend of EYF, Serge Sarkissian, started training CrossFit in August of 2008, but his first reliable stats come from October of 2008:  
No pull up
135 Clean
500m Row 1:50
Couldn't run a mile
FGB 161

 

After a little over a year of training, primarily on his own in a globo-gym environment, Serge is a dramatically fitter man, in as general a sense as is possible:

 

15 CTB Pull Ups
235 Clean and Jerk
500m 1:32
25 min 5k
FGB 275

None of the athletes we have mentioned are finished products, but it should be obvious from this data that it is possible to improve many different, seemingly contradictory, aspects of fitness at once.

Dutch advises to focus training on weak points.  This is good advice, however, there is not necessarily a contradiction between this goal and a general fitness program.  As we have covered previously, one can perform consistent skill work on weaknesses while also performing more varied and intense WOD's.  This option allows an athlete to shore up weak points while still making dramatic improvements in all aspects of fitness.  If this impossible, then we at EYF must be hallucinating our results.

Though we don’t deny that specially programming WODs can be effective, we disagree that it is necessary for progress.  Generalized CrossFit programming coupled with targeted and consistent skill work will be sufficient.  We also disagree that the currently available performance data so far has demonstrated specialized training’s superiority to standard CrossFit programming.  General CrossFit programming works exceptionally well. We will keep applying and refining this method of programming until the data indicates that we should change course.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

95% and 5%

Before I start this post, a disclaimer:  I'm using Dutch as an example because a) we (Russ and I) have had some fairly public debates with him and b) we have a post coming up specifically addressing that debate.   There are countless other people we feel the same about.
Dutch Lowy is NOTHING like this guy.

In case you haven't noticed, we at EYF are pretty sure we're right.  That's not to say we don't think we can learn: we are constantly learning, and we don't mind being proven wrong.  But for the most part, we're strongly convinced that the way we go about achieving CrossFit's definition of fitness is the right way.  To the extent of our ability to interpret the data correctly, which we obviously think is pretty good, that data seems to indicate that we're doing the right thing.

On top of that, we're pretty confrontational.  We like to argue.  We like to question those who disagree with us (and we appreciate it when they treat us the same way.)  As I said in a previous post, we're going to do our best to take those folks to task.

However.

We also realize something: we disagree with Dutch about 5% of the time.  The 95% we agree on, we tend to take for granted.  When surrounded most of the time by CrossFitters, Olympic lifters, powerlifters, gymnasts, and the like, it's easy to forget that most people out there still think fitness is about how long you can jog and how your abs look.  When I remember this, I am suddenly very thankful that Dutch holds the views on training that he does, even if they differ very slightly from ours. 

So Dutch, consider this post a peace offering.  We know we're assholes who are completely convinced that we're doing the right thing, and we're going to act like it sometimes.  But we know that you know your shit, you're helping people, and on top of that, you're a good guy.  We like you.  We really do.

As a reminder of what the rest of the world is like, I present a few choice comments posted by Complete Moron on a video one of my athletes posted of her power clean.  I have changed his name to a) protect his privacy and b) more accurately reflect his nature.  My notes are in red, but there aren't many: he pretty much saved me the trouble of making it clear what an idiot he is.

Complete Moron says: "Sigh... is your goal to move weight or train and develop your muscles? Hate to say this but your using momentum and technique more than your muscle."

Complete Moron says: "I am familiar (with the Olympic lifts)  but whats the point your throwing the weight then trying to get under it as quickly as possible and catching it. Your spending more time trying to perfect your"cheating" technique and physiological adaptation than actually training the muscles as in breaking down tissue. Does it make you tired? Yes. Are you using a little bit of everything? Yes. Is it an overly complicated movement? Yes. Does it train your muscles in the most effective way? No not at all. Is it a good thing for someone to incorporate into their training who doesn't actually want to look like they lift weights but may want a to develop reaction time and or speed possibly. Is it really a good use of training time for the average person who wants to improve there body composition? No. Most of your gains(and when I say gains I mean in weight "lifted"(but in this case really moved is a more accurate term)) on this are going to come from technique and CNS adaptation not muscular development. Its just really not an effective way to train."

Complete Moron says: "Obviously I train explosively but I think there is a difference between explosive movements and momentum based movements (I've been trying for days to figure out where the momentum in the clean is coming from, if not the athletes muscles). There is a reason olympic style lifting fell out of favor with serious weight lifters decades ago. I also understand why it is back and it is the same reason people now train "core" training and plyometrics. Making things complicated and different or new or throwback and lets trainers justify their jobs. Dragging chains bouncing medicine balls and using kettle balls is not effective. The truth is basic simple movements are the most effective.  The idea that what works to build muscle for "bodybuilders" isnt what works for everyone else makes no sense. We are all the same. Our goals are all the same to increase or strength and yes strength is correlated to size. At the same time increased muscle increases your metabolic rate and hence reduces your bodyfat. When people say they don't want to improve their body composition it is simply not true. And to say someone has big muscles but isnt strong is beyond dumb. The reason this is frustrating is because I love (person who posted video) and she is killing herself with this kind of training. The truth is if she spent 1/3rd of the time doing a traditional weight lifting program she would be walking around 365 days a year looking like a fitness cover model. Athletic capacity? Thats a really nice way of saying lets use subjective criteria (as opposed to appearance, apparently). To put things in perspective I have seen how you guys train and so called 100 set pullups. The strongest women I have ever met was 140lbs and used 75lb dumbelss for sets of 10 on incline. She could do 12 proper pullups. I will post a pic from today as in now not dieting down not after a workout but how I look 365 days a year and have looked for over a decade at 225lbs. I train 3-4 days a week for 45min using a traditional weight training program. But please keep telling people they need to play with kettle balls."

Complete Moron says: "rule one in training if you look like shit you don't know shit."

Complete Moron says: "In training weights are tools that should be used to train the muscles. Muscles moving the weights is really not the point. Although yes in athletic contest that is what you are trying to do however to train for that you should train the muscles. So called "isolation" lol. When your doing a clean your doing a shrug then your dropping underneath the bar without resistance then squatting up with resistance. You are not hitting any muscle group optimally you would be better off doing shrugs and squats separately. Especially for beginner weight lifters the movement is too complicated its like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Your trying to show your strength before you have developed it."

Complete Moron says: "Olympic style lifting is a great way to show how big and strong you are. It is not a great way to get big and strong."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Gymnastics: Why strength isn't just about barbells.



This guy is strong.

No, seriously. Before you read any further, go find a pair of gymnastics rings and try something relatively easy, say a press-to-handstand. In fact, just try getting into the bottom position of the press-to-handstand.

After you've tried that, consider the fact that Chen Yibing thinks that is a complete joke. Chen Yibing can do that as easily as you can walk, talk, or breathe. Chen Yibing doesn't sleepwalk, he sleep press-to-handstands.

In short, Chen Yibing is strong like bull. Without the use of a barbell.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't use barbells. Hell no. I LOVE barbells. They are amongst my top five things in the world, along with food, and CrossFit women. But also on that list are gymnastics rings (don't ask what number five is, you smart asses.) Sadly, a lot, probably most CrossFitters neglect training gymnastics beyond the things we see in WODs: various pullups, pushups, ring dips, situps, handstand pushups, etc.

These are all great movements. But we shouldn't treat our gymnastics training any differently from our weightlifting. We do high rep clean & jerks with 135#, and we also clean & jerk 1 rep maxes. The increase in loading creates a very different kind of stress which produces a very different result. But there's a correlation: Improving your 1RM clean & jerk is a big part of getting better at doing a lot of light clean & jerks very quickly. Gymnastics is no different: master the press-to-handstand on the rings, and your handstand pushups will suddenly get better.

Resources on gymnastics aren't that hard to find:  The CrossFit Journal is full of great articles from Jeff Tucker, Tyler Hass, Roger Harrell, and others.  Roger has a great website called Drills and Skills, and Jim Bathurst runs a page called Beast Skills.  Both are full of outstanding drills and techniques to up your gymnastics game.

It's right there in World Class Fitness in 100 words – "Master the basics of gymnastics: pullups, dips, rope climb, pushups, situps, press-to-handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds."

If you try really hard, Chen Yiping might not laugh at you.