Bringing Sisu Back…

In the military people are berated for putting their hands on their hips. Possibly because this posture makes an individual appear bigger and the act of putting your hands on your hips could be seen as provoking a confrontation or assuming a position of authority that is inconsistent with rank. But is there more to it than that?
Mikko Salo said when he was asked why he didn’t lie down after a tough workout, “I once read an article about it: when animals surrender they go lying on their back. From then on I decided I would never go lying on my back. It’s a sign of weakness and surrendering. I’m never lying on my back.” I know a few if us were inspired to not lay down after watching that documentary but is there more to standing tall post WOD than just psychology?

I propose that a 200m walk at the end of a really hard workout is a great “core stability(CS)” accessory exercises you can do if CS is something you are working on. The act of lying down removes the need to stabilise your spine and if you put your hands on your hips you are making standing easier by reducing the unstable load at the shoulders ( by connecting it to the hips). So those of us that struggle to brace at any point while working out should resist the urge to lie or lean or sit and instead stand tall or walk it off in an effort to improve the endurance of the core.

Somebody at one of the courses I was at said the hardest thing they have ever done is a long duration standing meditation, I know in parade practice soldiers are considered “better” if they can stand unwavering in place for hours on end. I could never do it and all the fidgeting could be put down to finding rests for the core musculature as it fatigues.

Planks might be the answer, Pilates might be the answer but in all things awareness is the first step. If you find yourself eager to collapse on the ground, rest your head in your hands or your hands on your hips don’t. Posture up and walk it off. See if you can walk 200 before you rest.


So you think you can coach?

Grassroots CrossFit is all about friends helping each other in the garage and sharing any knowledge or experience they might have. This is cool and if that is how you experience CrossFit then you will know that sometimes you need a little help from someone with some more tricks up their sleeve, someone who coaches for a living.
Enter the CrossFit Box. There are paid staff of different competency levels who are not only paid to solve your problems they are insured against the unlikely but possible situation where their solutions hurt someone. Every non employee is not covered. But aside from the obvious litigation issues all coaches on staff at your local box have complete access to the more experienced coaches at your box and they are hopefully pursuing further coaching knowledge via a number of mediums – if you don’t think this is the case train somewhere else.

Visiting Coaches/pseudo coaches
Just because you are a personal trainer or a level 1 CrossFit coach does not give you a pass to coach at someone else’s gym. There are literally thousands of people with these qualifications a fraction of those people are employed in the industry and a fraction of those people are good at what they do. I coach from the class at a number of gyms that I visit because I have a relationship with the box owner that enables me to do so. They are comfortable enough with my experience and delivery style that they do not perceive any problem – I coach away from my place of employment with full awareness that I am directly liable for all advice and coaching I give and I am ok with that.
If you are visiting somewhere and want to help out – clear it with the most senior person in charge first.

What is really frustrating to owners of boxes or gyms is that people have the audacity to turn up to the gym as an athlete or client and then try to coach others. Imagine the response you would get if you started giving out neck rubs in the waiting room of the masseuse or if you jumped the counter at the coffee shop and pulled your new friend a cappuccino – “it’s ok I did a course”.
These people that you are imposing upon by trying to help are flat out trying to making ends meet (gyms don’t really make money) and you want to take away the best part of their day which is helping someone achieve a physical milestone – shame on you.

When someone is butterfly ing with ease or muscling up like you could only dream remember a few things – 1. That took hard work and if you haven’t worked hard at the pieces that have been given to you then a trick isn’t going to shortcut the hard work process.
2. Kipping anything – burpee, HSPU, Muscle up, Pull up you name it – is for one reason only, to do more work in less time. It most certainly is not to make the workout easier or to help CrossFitters avoid the tedium of extensive practice.

Please master the basics before you try to innovate or copy games level athlete’s innovations. How are your strict push-ups to a 2 second cadence? can you do 10 ring rows with shoulder control? Hollow rock for 1 min?2mins? No to any of the above? Hold off on the extra Muscle up work and attack those basics.

Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you can teach it or that other people should do it your way. One of the negative influences the sport of CF has on the practice of everyday CF is this paradigm of task completion regardless of method – just get it done. Not only is this ok in competition but it should be encouraged when there are cash prizes or team pride on the line. But when we are training we are aspiring towards an orthopaedic ideal movement ( which will vary from person to person) done with as much speed and as little rest as possible. Trust me, just because you can do MU doesn’t mean you can help someone achieve their orthopaedic ideal movement.

And after all that – I really do want you to help each other. Practice seeing if a back is flat or if knees are caving in, if shoulders are internally rotating and learn how to enthusiastically praise someone for their effort while suggesting that there is something in the movement that needs the attention of the coaches.

Really want to help coach your friends – encourage depth in the squat with a flat strong back and discourage rest when the workout gets hard.

Oh you want to coach the sexy stuff like muscle ups and Kipping HSPU – do a level 1, intern at a box near you and you are on your way.


It is all about precision and accuracy…..

I have had heaps going on lately with taking on a full time coaching role at CrossFit Brisbane, every week I am lucky enough to be challenged on concepts that I use day to day and it is one of those concepts that I want to write about.

I was also prodded into action again by a post that I really enjoyed by Jacob Tsypkin – The not-so-evils of high rep weightlifting.

I will often read one of the anti CF or anti high rep articles or discussions on the net and and get frustrated at the repetition of the obvious statement which is basically:

“Poorly executed movement carries with it a higher risk of injury and this risk is further exacerbated the more times the movements are executed.”

JT opens this article with three statements that could be rewritten around the most commonly performed physical activity – running, try these on for size:

“Running should not be done for distances greater than 1-5 hundred meters.”

“Running further than 500m is dangerous.”

“There are safer ways for novices to achieve a conditioning effect than longer duration running.”

These statements are ludicrous because everyone can run more than 500m. It is running and the lack of uproar ( at least in the circles I frequent) around prescription of high volume of running to non runners that sparked more thought on the matter.

I have witnessed hundreds of runners participate in 5km, 10km half and full marathons where the technique or form with which they run could quite easily be part 2 of the diamond dave youtube series. Valgus knees, collapsed arches, overextended torsos they are all there. Some of those runners may get injured but many of them will survive some will even achieve personal best results or win the day over runners with better form. 

In the last month my perspective on coaching changed, I am, as those who know me can tell you, biased toward technical coaching – biomechanics and human physiology dictate most of my coaching behaviours. I have a tendency to believe that athleticism is all about precision and accuracy but there is much more to it than that.

If we consider that technique just one aspect of a good athlete then the ability to teach and communicate technique it is just one aspect of a good coach.

Good athletes also display tremendous effort and have the capacity for intuitive learning or self adaptation. A coach/coaching team needs to be balanced in their ability to monitor technique, inspire effort and encourage adaptation. 


There are more than just three qualities of a good athlete and by extension a good coach so the trick is to continually expand your tool kit without letting yourself be deluded that anyone tool is better than the others.



Basics of Rowing for CrossFitters


Image above is from

Below is my viewee twoee guide to rowing for CrossFit:


I want maximum carry over to the other movements of the program so:

“Chest up and heels down” is my usual catch cry on position.

If your athletes row in a similar position to that which you want them to dead lift then you are getting valuable practice in.


This is a great opportunity to practice the unchanging element that is core to extremity.

From the front, Legs, Hips, Arms, Arms, Hips, Legs”

The start position should be similar to a dead lift set position and then the row stroke occurs by straightening the knees and driving through the heels while keeping the back angle.

When the knees are straight then the hips open to bring the shoulders behind the hips and finally the arms pull the handle in to the sternum.

Almost instantly the handle should be pressed away until the arms are straight and then the hips can close before the knees re bend.


The drive is faster than the recovery – Explode, reload”. Don’t allow or encourage athletes that are new to the rower to “row it like they stole it”. A lower stroke rate will be more sustainable for the longer distances. A fast stroke rate may have a 1:2 explode, reload ratio while a slower stroke rate may have 1:3 or 1:4.

The explode, drive or fast bit should include legs, hips, arms and arms of the above sequence (that is right as soon as the arms have pulled straighten them back out so they can rest). The reload, recovery or slower bit should include hips and legs of the above sequence.

So there you have it this method may differ from what actual rowers teach but a) we are unlikely to take our skills to a real boat and b) teach people to row in positions that are as similar as possible to dead lift, power clean etc.


A rose by any other name…

Dead lift as the name of a task is clear. Pick up something from a dead state – 0% potential energy 100% inertia.Image

As a training tool the exercise is inspired by the task but there are lots of variations, prompting discussion of “the correct technique or the best technique” With so many variants available there cannot be a best way or a correct way to execute the movement.
There is a correct way to perform pieces of the intended lift such as the hip hinge. When a hip hinge is prescribed only hip movement (flexion and extension about the acetabulum and greater trochanter), not trunk or intervertebral movement, is expected and change in shoulder altitude should be due to the amount the hip is open or closed rather than how much the knee is.  
A dead lift may have greater or lesser amounts of hip hinge depending on the style – stiff legged has the most and perhaps sumo has the least. 

A Kettle bell swing as a task is simply the utilisation of a pendulum action about the shoulder to take a Kettle bell from a predetermined start point through an arbitrary range of motion to a predetermined finish position. 

As an exercise this too has many different expressions inspired by the task so when coaching the exercise ask yourself if the desired goal is to just do work or is it to create a specific capacity in a certain positions, those required by the hip hinge for example.

There are many interpretations of named exercises so rather than being concerned whether your gym’s or training system’s Kettlebell swing or dead lift technique is more “correct” than that taught at another ensure it does what you want it to do and don’t accept variations in your gym that dodge the intended stimulus.


Redo the damn workout!


I have read some aggressive disagreement with the concept of redoing the workouts and the rationale are varied but include:

– You cannot redo the workouts at regionals (train like game day)

– It goes against unknown and unknowable ethic of CrossFit

– Redos interrupt your training week

Valid points but here is why I think you should redo the open workouts:

Because you can!

You get to you don’t got to and you should be excited about that opportunity.

For most people doing the CrossFit Games the open is their CrossFit Games!

Have as many attempts as your body can handle to express your fitness in a score you can be proud of.

Will it interrupt your training? yes but I bet you get some higher than usual intensity workouts in.

Won’t I be just getting better due to a learning affect? Sure but Better is better.

Isn’t it cheating the original ethic of CrossFit?

Cheating is posting a score you didn’t get or counting a rep that was after the buzzer or that failed to hit the required ROM. How can it be cheating if it acceptable within the rules.

If CrossFit want only one attempt then A) the online process wouldn’t allow multiple entries and B) they would have restricted the window to say 48hrs.

I know there will be people out there saying “Well I’m only going to do it once because that is true CrossFit” or something similar. I call this insurance. “You beat me in the WOD but I only did it once.” That dude probably had to do the workout in KG with the sun in his eyes with no chalk – probably would have got another three rounds if the moons were in alignment.

There is the negative of planning a redo and that is not going hard enough on the first go. Plan to hit it so hard that you cannot beat your first effort despite changing strategies and tweaking variables and then you will know you are in touch with your capacities.

Get out there and have fun but remember every time you dead lift with a round back a kitten dies.


Ages and Stages

Oliver Wilson (Fry) could be onto something. Thanks to Australian CrossFit Memes for the pic.

These guys are legit coaches with some brilliant strategies for 13.1 CLICK HERE for MWOD and CrossFit San Fran super coach team tips.

There are a number of ways to add efficiency to your workout as the video shows some examples are:

  • Snake your burpees on the up and the down.
  • Don’t move your feet when you muscle snatch the light reps.
  • Pace the workout

These are advanced concepts that are misplaced if in the hand of beginners.

I love to muscle snatch light weights and heavier weights too if I have it in the tank. As my muscle snatch disappears I move into a power snatch and as the fatigue sets in or the weight gets heavier I am forced to squat snatch.

The above strategy works because of technical capacity across 3 similar but different movements. The athlete that can only do muscle snatches is forced to alter their position to receive the muscle snatches that cannot be popped up high enough. That positional change is usually a hyper extension of the spine and will most likely be rapidly coupled with a press out from a slight limbo position.

How do I know if I am a beginner?

Can you overhead squat? Muscle Snatch? Power Snatch? Snatch? missing capacity in these requires more practice in these movements not a search for a method that lets the task get completed via a loop hole.

Can you do 40 strict burpees? If yes then you probably have the capacity to experiment with the competitive advantage associated with a snaked burpee.

40 snaked burpees are significantly easier than 40 strict burpees – no question. Unfortunately the snaked burpee is not going to give you capacity in the strict burpee or have athletic transfer to anything else in life or CrossFit (except possibly breakdancing). In addition by using the advanced technique without proficiency in the basic you may be setting yourself up for injuries that probably will not appear until you have turned that snaked burpee into your default and it is incredibly hard to rewrite that pattern.

Have a vocabulary of movements.

Pacing I can get behind but again it is an advanced concept that requires a practiced awareness of where your boundaries are. Let your new athletes push themselves a little too hard so they need to rest every so often help them get comfortable with being uncomfortable via exposure. They may pace themselves and never get uncomfortable and in doing so miss out on some of the available intensity.

To quote Danny Mellor from CrossFit Noosa (and butcher his analogy):

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

You can run from your house wearing nothing but your underwear and it is a reasonable strategy if your dwelling is a raging inferno threatening your life. Not such a great strategy if you are just bringing the rubbish bin in from the curb.

Have Fun on 13.1 but please stay safe. I hate hearing about people getting injured trying to snatch more than they have ever jerked or overhead squatted.