Yesterday, we ran through a 2 hour powerlifting workshop geared towards the Crossfit community and other relative novices to the sport. We went over everything from the setup on a bench press to how to properly wrap your knees. I figured that in 2 hours I could either cover 1 thing really well or multiple things poorly. Fortunately, I think everyone walked away with something that they can use in their day to day training and a better understanding of strength and why we train for it.
This was my first time speaking in front of a group and I was nervous to say the least. Everyone at Crossfit Chino Hills was incredibly eager and engaged. Thanks Kevin Penner for initiating this and to everyone else who was there for making my segue into public speaking a smooth one.
Part of the discussion gravitated toward proper elbow position on the bench press. I contend that the hard elbow tuck that is preached by powerlifting gurus is a remnant of the bench shirt and wisdom surrounding geared powerlifting in the 1990's. While there are certainly successful benchers who exploit a low bar placement and hard elbow tuck (a la Brian Siders), it seems self -evident that the reason most world champion raw benchers use a significant elbow flare is because it puts them in a stronger position.
Certainly, benching with tucked elbows and a narrow grip is beneficial when considering carry over to overhead pressing and other upper body movements, and to an athlete who has to be good at a variety of athletic movements(i.e. Crossfitters) with only so many hours in the day to train, this is crucial. But you can't deny the benefit of overload. Whatever setup allows you to handle the most weight safely will be the one that pays the biggest dividends in strength development and other athletic endeavors.
Since raw lifters don't have the benefit of a bench shirt to take care of the first 6 inches off the chest, it is up to the pectorals to handle this burden. A tight elbow tuck may alter the bar path in a way that is mechanically advantageous to certain lifters and will contribute to the use of the lats in creating tension at the bottom of the lift. However, it limits the use of the pecs, the biggest pressing muscles, in the part of the lift where they are most dominant. This is like taking your hamstrings out of the bottom of a squat.
Of course there are always exceptions, and no matter what technical principles you follow, you will always excel at what you train. But if I were to choose a style of pressing for the average strength enthusiast, one that would carry over to other athletic activities while providing the foundation necessary for competitive success, it would be one that is efficient while making the most use of the biggest muscles. Get the big arch, keep your shoulder blades pinched, tense your lats, and bring the bar down in a way that is going to facilitate the most powerful drive off of your chest. This means letting your damn elbows flare out.
The bigger lifts start about a minute in. Notice how every big presser uses their pecs to blast the weight out of the hole.
This Week in Training
push press 305x6 275x11
squat 365x10 315x15
Weening myself off of the belt. Wore it loose on my work sets. Not hard, but it makes me nervous.
bench 225x29 PR 225x15,15,11,6,7
(Tied for 2nd in the Raw Fitness Combine bench challenge)
I used to get mad when people brought up how short my arms were. Then I watched this video of myself.
I apologize to no one.
40 high hang pulls - 135lbs
30 klokov presses - 95lbs
20 bent rows - 225lbs
kentplex - 5 each clean, push press, front squat, jerk, back squat, clean
I got this idea from Jacob Tsypkin. He challenged one of his guys to complete this at 100kg in a few months time. I thought I could knock it out, then realized that 75lbs was disappointingly hard. I didn't know until today that Oly lifting uses your quads and only your quads.
deadlift 575x1 495x6
Beltless up to 475. If I can stay healthy, I should be back over 700lbs before my next contest.
stiff leg deadlift 335x3x10
The Fit Expo, the Arnold Classic's little cousin, is this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center. I have been to the Arnie twice, and each was like a young man's first time at a strip club. Imagine Disneyworld for lifting nerds. 420,000 square feet filled with bodybuilders, physique competitors, Oly lifters, Powerlifters, Strongmen, MMA fighters, gymnasts, ping-pong players, archers, arm wresters..... the list goes on. The Fit-Expo, while not nearly as big in scale, still offers a lot of exposure to otherwise obscure sports. Headliners like Gillian Michaels, Tito Ortiz, and a handful of Olympia winners bring in big crowds, which brings in lots of vendors and sponsors, which brings in top level athletes to hold seminars and compete for our amusement.
I will be there in full force representing the Strongman Tour seminars and pushing our upcoming powerlifting and strongman events with Legendary Competitor
. LC hosts Crossfit-style competitions seperate from HQ to satisfy the growing need for sanctioned events in the community. These upcoming strength events will provide much needed exposure to heavier sports and serve as a stepping stone for budding Crosfitters and gym rats to higher competitive fields.
February 8, a few short weeks after the Fit Expo, We will be hosting it's first Strongman Throwdown
. This will be a true-blue strongman contest, with 2 divisions available to the men and women, each with appropriately scaled weights. The novice divisions are fantastic for first timers, as they offer weights that are managable by most seasoned Crossfitters and gym rats. Competition is the best part of training, so if you live in Southern California (or have the means to get here), don't let this opportunity pass you by. Strongman contests, along with most other strength sports, are absurdly scarce in Southern California, and that is something we are trying to fix.
What really excites me is the opportunity to promote my new label "Red Giant Strength Athletics". Long story short, Red Giant is my pet strength project. It will be focused on optimizing the development of strength and muscular size necessary for competitive performance, all in the context of regular Crossfit-ish conditioning. We are swinging for the fences on this one. The end result should look something like if Mariusz Pudzianowski, Brian Urlacher, and Rich Froning all got into the teleportation pod in the fly. A bit grandiose, to be sure, but I fully expect to pull some valuable new training insight out of this endeavor. I will be posting workouts starting this week along with discussion of each piece of the workout. Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RedGiantTraining
Here's the video of my attempt at the Raw Fitness Combine Challenge from this Tuesday.
Bench Press 10-8-6-4-2 225-245-265-285-305
Squat- no belt 10-8-6-4-2 225-275-315-345-365
This is the first week of this split, so I low balled the numbers to acclimate to the volume. My abs are week so I'm weening myself off of the belt. When I was 20 I squatted 455 ass to grass with no belt. 8 years and 150lbs later, this is a feat I would not try again.
125lbs 4 minute AMRAP
4 Rounds = 72
125lbs 6 minute AMRAP
5 Rounds + 3P 4T = 97
Raw Fitness Combine Challenge....... very unassuming. This is a workout I would do again in between heavy workouts. Quick lung burner with a fair amount of general fatigue, but no soreness. 120 reps won this.
Push Press 10-8-6-4-2 225-245-265-285-305
Deadlift 555x1 475x8
Still easing into the strength piece. I haven't pulled from the floor in a few months. CNS needs to be dialed in.
Fat Gripz Strict Pullups x 5
Upright Row 145lbs x 5
10 rounds for time
Kept my heart rate up the whole time. Not overly difficult, but the pullups had to be done one at a time. Mainly hard on my biceps.
So, this week Richard Sherman acted like a dick. Some people laughed. Some people got angry. Everyone was entertained.
The Seahawks corner railed against Michael Crabtree minutes after his NFC Championship win against the 49ers. In a later news conference, he proceeded to give a kind-of apology.
"I was making sure everyone knew Crabtree was a mediocre receiver. And when you try the best corner in the game with a mediocre receiver, that's what happens. I appreciate that he knows that now. There has been a lot of talk from him running his mouth about me."
Apparently this holy wrath from Richard Sherman was retribution for the answer Crabtree gave to the question of Sherman being the best corner in the league: "Uh, no, I don't think so."
Click here to support Kevin and his family.
I am somewhat hesitant in writing this. Every time there is a tragedy that seems to 'prove' a point of view about one thing or another, there is an asshole or two that has no problem parading it around as a grand 'I told you so', and to even engage in an argument against said assholery can add fuel to the fire. But we all knew this blowback was inevitable. "Crossfit causes injury" they said. And here we are, at the beginning of the new year with a fantastic athlete who may never walk again. They sure told us so.
For those who haven't heard(which is no one at this point), Kevin Ogar was competing at the Orange County Throwdown last week when he failed a snatch attempt and severed his spine. Reports are that he is now paralyzed from the waist down. Initial news was that the bar hit him on the way down and it was this impact that caused the injury.
This became extremely low hanging fruit for the anti-Crossfit crowd. Their reasoning goes like this (warning: straw man ahead)
1.) I lift weights on a barbell 2.) Crossfit repurposes barbell movements for conditioning purposes 3.) This isn't what I do
4.) It must be inherently bad/unsafe 5.) Kevin was injured doing this 6.) Therefore, Crossfit tried to kill Kevin.
There are two main points I want the hypocritical advocates of 'only-doing-what-has-been-done-before' to consider, and then I will let this soon to be dead horse alone.
1.) Kevin, it appears, did not sustain his injury from the impact of the barbell. This link
offers a very concise description(along with a video) of what most likely took place. The fact is that he was an experienced weight lifter who had certainly attempted and failed many attempts over his career, and he was moving a sub maximal weight. Athletes who have spent any amount of time flinging weights over their head, as one tends to do in a snatch, know how to safely bail when an attempt goes wrong. In the video, he finishes the pull, secures the bar safely over his head, and damn near completes the attempt before his entire body appears to seize up. The assesment of a pre-existing injury/weakness being exploited at this point seems to be the most likely. That means that this injury could have happened on any playing field and was not the result of any mish-mash of conditioning and weightlifting. Would the end result have been different on a football field or Olympic lifting platform? Certainly not.
Dont' do anything ever. You might get injured.
2.) That I need to even point this out is absurd. EVERY PHYSICAL SPORT HAS AN INHERENT RISK OF INJURY. There is a long goddamn list of sports that will eat your body up that people still do, competitively and recreationally, out of love. We discovered over the last couple of years that running into someone full speed with your head down may result in a concussion, and doing this over and over isn't good for you. Yet football is a wildly popular sport that we follow in our stadiums, backyards, and (gasp) even our schools. Students have died playing school sports, yet there is no group advocating the dismemberment of intermural sports programs.
Gymanstics has yielded more than a few torn ligaments and fractured bones. Strongman, Powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting are known to be degenerative over a long period of time and have each resulted in horrible accidents(you haven't seen shit until you've seen someone drop an atlas stone on their foot). Where is the online movement against the X-Games, where every activity has potential to yield massive head trauma or even death? There is no safety net against physical trauma other than to not do anything ever. And that is unacceptable.
The fact is that Crossfit has done more to fix the broken state of physical fitness in America than Zumba, 24 Hour Fitness, and Muscle and Fitness combined. People who otherwise would have spent large sums of money on garbage personal trainers that count reps on the adductor machine are instead being taught how to perform compound movements that have long been known to be the keys to progress. Middle aged couch potatoes are taking an interest in physical activities, attending seminars on weightlifting, and actually watching what they eat.
Is this the problem? These sacred barbell movements were passed down from Mount Fucking Olympus to the chosen few and they shouldn't be utilized by the masses? Everyone is a novice at some point, and to advocate that these movements be secreted away from the 'less elite' (for their own stupid good of course) is to relegate them to a life of stagnation and mediocrity. How about we notice, for just one goddamn second, the housewives and accountants and hopelessly unfit who signed up, took the hard lessons and came out the other side lean, capable, and inspired. How about we remember what setting the bar high looks like and acknowledge that there is no other system that is doing that on this large of a scale. For god's sake, kids are being taught these movements at an early age, just like they would be taught to dribble a basketball or throw a spiral. We may just medal in weightlifting at the Olympics sometime ever.
Oh, and to all of those active in other, less known strength sports, the Crossfit community has raised $250,000 at this point and time for the huge medical bills that Kevin will have. There. Is. Not. One. Other. Sport. That. Would. Do. That. For. You. To see the success of Crossfit with a.) the obvious physical and psychological changes that take place in members b.) the competitive atmosphere that keeps otherwise hopeless cases engaged and coming back c.) creating community in the fucking community d.) improving popularity of less known sports like Oly lifting and strongman and e.) the re-ignition of struggle and accomplishment as virtues to be valued by society, it boggles my fucking mind that so many people shit on the whole construct because they don't like snatching after running. People for a perfect world. "If one thing isn't right, burn it all down."
I've long held that competition is an extremely imporant step for any trainee, regardless of skill level or goals. Learning how to compete against others gives direction to training, improves motivation in reaching short term goals, connects you to a network of knowledgable people with similar goals, and is really damn fun. Having been in a few dozen strongmen contests myself, I know that it can also be a giant pain in the ass. For those of you who find it difficult to locate contests, take time off of work, or pay for entry fees, here is a new platform that takes the competition to you.
This is from my second place finish at a "Crossfit Strongman" event hosted by Legendary Competitor. It felt good having my wife and family there.... until everyone pointed out how the winner looks like Leonidas. His beard was fucking unreal.
A lot of people train. In fact, a shit ton of people train, workout, exercise, and WOD these days. But very few people compete.
Competition is an element that is vital to success because it sets a minimum standard that must be met. Every human being has in them a driving force that pushes them to be better than the person standing next to them, and though it may have been stamped out by their bland 'boy in the bubble' upbringing, it can still surface to be the most motivating factor in any grand plan. In the aftermath of the 'trophy' generation where every kid is commended for showing up, getting trainees to understand what losing feels like (bad) and how to overcome it (work harder) is more important than ever before.
Let's talk about what competition does.
I look skinny in this picture. I don't like it.
The goal of this site, besides obvious shameless self promotion, is to build an ethos for life and training which moves away from vague abstract principles and provides concrete results in the real world. The development of an ethos, in any aspect of life, is best accomplished by constructing a productive world-view, unclouded by petty biases or lingering half-truths. Your world-view acts as a barrier to any interaction you will ever have with the outside world. It is a filter that is always there, skewing how you prioritize responsibility in every situation. It creates your preconceived notions which filter information on a sub-conscious level, spoon feeding you your opinions about people, religion, and politics before the conscious you can even consider the actual consequences.
You see, everyone is biased. Everyone. The more vocal a person is on their lack of bias, the more guilty they are of being full of shit. And biased.
A few weeks ago, I decided to break out of my comfort zone and try something new. This is what happened.
We officially have a new YouTube channel, which will provide a much needed source of inspiration for content on this site. Topics will primarily be geared towards Strongman and Strongman related stuffs, but since Strongman is a
patchwork of all other strength sports anyways, I can guarantee that we will be operating outside of that bubble on a regular basis. Videos will range from training clips with commentary, contest and training montages set to face-melting metal, and close-ups of my round ginger face as I attempt to establish credibility and answer your questions.
Among all of the topics ever covered by a book or seminar on how to fix your life, erasing the fear of failure is at the top. What occurs in most people as they set their sites to the next big task is that they start to anticipate what could go wrong. With big life plans, this can be a poison to growth and development. As a person thinks about potential pitfalls, obstacles, disasters, and embarrassment, the air is slowly let out of the sails until there is nothing left to push the boat.