|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on August 6, 2014 at 10:10 AM||comments (1)|
What it means to be a competitor...
A competitor is not something that others claim you to be. I've heard
so much upset around a competitors program vs. the general program
lately. Every gym has the need to cater to different clients,
those who want to be fit, and those who want to compete.
These different clients choose to come to a gym and be what they are.
The client makes the decision. Everyone, at one point or another
competes, whether it be within the gym with a friend or in Carson, CA
against a litany of fit people. The difference is your goal.
If your goal is to go to a competition, then by definition you are a
competitor. No matter if it's in the scaled, junior, or rookie
category, you are a competitor.
I think the confusion comes in when
people's goals are shaded by other people's assessments or by other
people's perceived assessment. IF someone can string together muscle
ups and back squat 500lbs people may think and assume that that person
is a competitor and will usually treat them as such, without any
knowledge of what that persons specific goal is. They just may want to
move some weight and have fun. On another note, if a person is 65,
cannot overhead squat a pvc pipe, and can barely squat body weight,
some may assume that he/she just wants to be in better shape, when in
reality this person has been competing their whole life and does not intend
to stop now. They are a competitor, it's in their blood, and you can't stop
that, why would you want to?Just because you can't do a muscle up does
not mean you cannot be a competitor, it probably means you need some
work before you can handle a heavier work load. On the same coin, if
you are trying to lose weight, doing more will not always be better.
Just because you feel wrecked after 300 Squats does not mean your body
can handle it, it'll catch up, I promise.
A competitor is something you see yourself as, while being identified
as elite is something much different. I think these two terms overlap
more than intended and thus it leads more to an exclusive club rather
than an inclusive family. I typically see this quote “the only way you
can do a competitors program is if you can do a strict muscle up.”
While this statement may be justified for the prescribed workout, it
does not make it true. This is the confusion I think between an elite
program and a competitors program. The quote previously mentioned is
probably an elite program in nature and everything is scalable so that
even the rookies can do competitor type workouts without compromising
If we really get down to brass tacks, the difference between
a competitors program and a more basic program, is the overall workload.
Most people I know with a competitive mindset will have no problem
with more work. Besides, competitor programs are typically designed
with a specific competition in mind so the ends typically justifies
the means. I suppose my true point is that of semantics, and these
semantics can put people in very small boxes that they don't
necessarily fit into. Ask your friends what their goals are, and don't
assume that they are what you perceive them to be. Seriously ask, have
the conversation, I am sure that no matter the answer, your gym will
Olympic Weightlifting Coach
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on June 26, 2014 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
5 Things Holding the Average CrossFitter Back...
1. Trying to RX every WOD.
So you just started CrossFit and you go in for your daily workout and you see in the workout 20# wall balls, 225# deadlifts, and chest to bar pull-ups. Oh snap, I guess I have to do that today…this is going to suck. You start working out, wall balls are so heavy you can’t even squat down all the way and hit the 10ft target, back is so round your cartilage is about to shoot across the room and take somebody’s eye out and your chin isn’t even getting to your elbows on pull-ups??? Sound familiar to anybody?? This may not be you, maybe somebody you know but you get the point. The biggest problem I see is people trying to do too much too soon. I don’t know about your gym but in my gym I program for the more “elite” or higher level CrossFit athlete. From there we scale down everybody else’s workout. In my mind this gives people something to strive for. RX a workout is something you earn, not something that anybody can walk into the gym and accomplish. Take your time and be patient with your progress. Rushing into it will only set you up for failure in the long run.
2. Sacrificing form and range of motion for more weight on the bar.
This drives me insane!!! Literally! If you have the ability to squat all the way down then do it, EVERY SINGLE REP! I can’t count how many times I’ll watch somebody warm up for a movement and as soon as they start getting tired or the weight gets too heavy they start half repping the weight. This is not how you get better at something. If you are doing squats and you hit 135 full depth and them jump to 185 and barely get close to parallel you are only stalling your progress. You would be much better off doing some reps and sets at a weight you can achieve full range of motion rather than half repping a weight you probably shouldn’t have even loaded on the bar in the first place.
I cannot say this enough. NEVER SACRIFICE RANGE OF MOTION AND TECHNIQUE IN ORDER TO LIFT MORE WEIGHT! If the workout calls for snatches or cleans (meaning hitting the full squat, and no, there is NO SUCH THING as a squat snatch or a squat clean) don’t power snatch the weight, especially if you are solely working on strength that day. The hardest part of snatches and cleans is getting under the bar quickly in that full squat. If you skip the squat and just power everything you are never going to move big weights and when the time comes to finally get under the bar you are going to be crushed.
3. Not changing your lifestyle/food choices outside the gym.
I used to be a personal trainer and got this shit all the time. “Well, I’ve been training with you for a month now and I haven’t lost any weight. I feel like I’m wasting my money and getting no results.” My response…”Well, , I only train you once a week for an hour. Have you been doing any of the workouts I’ve written for you to do the rest of the week? What’s your diet like? Are you getting enough sleep? There are so many other things that I can’t control for you when I only see you once a week for an hour.” …Shocked and confused looks come followed by many excuses as to why she/he hasn’t been back to the gym since our last session and how they’ve been trying to cut back but there was this work party with cake and pizza etc.
News flash guys and gals, I only see you for an hour a few times a week for class. I have no control of what you do outside the gym. I can talk your ear off about how important nutrition is, stress management, sleeping, etc but unless you make some extra effort to follow through on these things then you simply get what you put in. If you want to see results you have to work hard everyday inside and outside the gym.
4. Not stretching enough…or ever…
Let’s get real for a minute. Class only last an hour. By the time we do a good warm up, strength/skill work, the WOD and put away equipment there really isn’t much time for me to line you all up and make you stretch out everyday. This is something you need to do but there is only so much time in class. If I could keep you there for 2-3 hours I would but that’s just not how classes are set up. Do some research, ask questions so you know what to do at the end of your workout. Work on your weaknesses. If you can’t squat below parallel spend some time stretching those hips after the workout. If you can’t lock out your elbows overhead because your shoulders are so stiff from all the years of bench press spend some time opening those shoulders up. The point is you can’t come in and beat your body to hell and back doing CrossFit then grab your gym back and go home. That’s probably the worst thing you can do if you ever want to gain any more flexibility. There are tons of resources online where you can look up your problem areas and get some good stretches aka mobility work to do pre and post workout. If you are unmotivated to do it on your own go check out a yoga class or ask your gym if they can bring one in once a week to help everybody work on flexibility. Having limited flexibility is probably one of the biggest causes of injury in CrossFit or any sport for that matter. If your body cannot move properly you are setting yourself up to get hurt.
5. Worrying about what everybody else is doing…or not doing.
You came to CrossFit to better yourself, right? So why are you worried that Sally Sue only did 10 box jumps instead of 15!?! Do your workout, do your reps, lift your weights. Don’t worry about what the guy or girl is doing next to you. It’s not a race, it’s not a competition, you are here to get in shape and become stronger and more physically conditioned. So what does it matter what somebody else is doing???
Another thing I see that drives me crazy as a coach and I have to get onto people all the time. If you are working in with somebody doing squats and they jump 70lbs that doesn’t mean you have to as well. Go at your own pace, it’s ok to take weights on and off the bar. You might not be able to squat as much as the person you are sharing a rack with. Take smaller jumps, if you make it you can always add more weight. It’s a lot safer than taking a weight you have no clue you can make and getting hurt because you were too scared to ask Billy if you can drop the weight back down to 140lbs for your next set. Sometimes we have to share equipment in CrossFit. Get over it! Not every gym has enough equipment for everybody to have his or her own squat rack, bar, jump rope, or whatever piece of equipment it is. Learn to share, after all we are working out as a group so is it really that hard to jump in on a set with somebody who already has the bar loaded instead of dragging out more racks, more bars, and more weights??
Now that i've got all that off my chest...
Keep in mind these are just my points of view after coaching CrossFit for a couple years. Everywhere you go you will meet different people with different styles of doing things but for the most part we are all on the same journey. That journey hopefully involves us being just a little bit better than we were yesterday. So take some time, be patient, and pay attention and you just might surprise yourself with what you can do in the gym.
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on May 10, 2014 at 10:40 PM||comments (2)|
Everybody probably has their favorite bar to lift on in the gym, especially if you go to a real weightlifting gym with multiple bar options. When I was training at the OTC and LSUS I lifted on Eleikos, Werksan, Eusaka, York, and even DHS bars at a few competitions I’ve been involved with.
My first gym was my high school gym where we lifted on the cheapest bars money could buy. They had no spin, hardly any knurling, most of the bars were bent from irresponsible football players doing quarter squats in the power racks with 500lbs then dropping it on the safety pins because it was too heavy.
After I graduated high school I moved on to the garage gym with my good friend from high school, Jonathan Garcia (56kg National Level lifter). We had an old beat up bar that had the collars bolted together. That’s how you know it’s not a good bar to be doing snatches and cleans with. Eventually we got a descent old York bar (shout out to Rich Lansky for letting us “borrow” it) with the collars that spin. I’m talking old school, bare steal finish. It looked more brown than metallic. That was the closest thing to a competition bar we got to train on until we got to the actual competitions.
Finally in 2006 I saved up enough money washing dishes in this seafood restaurant to buy a nice used bar. I found out another lifter in Florida was selling all of his old Eleiko equipment. I picked up a squat rack, Eleiko training bar, some 10kg, 5kg, and 2.5kg plates from him for about $800. That was the most money I had ever spent on anything in my entire life but I knew I needed a good bar to train on. It had great spin but I honestly wasn’t too pleased with the knurling. It would literally rip my hands open weekly it was so damn rough. I kept that bar all the way up until 2013 when I was in a financial crunch and needed to scrounge together some cash to move out of Colorado Springs.
So, now that I’m settled in coaching at a nice CrossFit gym I decided enough with training on these 28.5mm beater bars with no spin that CrossFit gyms usually have. I needed a nice 28mm bar with bearings that had some good whip. The only problem is I was on a budget. I was looking for something in that 500-600$ range.
After doing some research I narrowed it down to 3 choices…
Pendlay Needle Bearing bar $449.00 free shipping
Rogue Olympic WL bar - $525.00-$635.00 depending on finish plus free shipping
DHS training bar $539+ $60 shipping.
I took a few polls and asked around and most people said go with the Pendlay or the DHS. Well, I’ve lifted on the Pendlay bushing bars and wasn’t too thrilled with the knurling. It’s not bad but not what I wanted. The whip was pretty nice and the zinc finish was pretty easy to maintain so for $449.00 I consider this a pretty damn good bargain. As for the DHS I didn’t know if I wanted to get a bar that would be chipping chrome, which is what I read about the collars on a few different reviews. I loved the knurling on the DHS bars but at the same time I really wanted to support some American barbell companies with my money so it came down to the Rogue Olympic WL bar and the Pendlay Nexgen Bearing bar for me.
I hadn’t really heard any really solid information on the Rogue bar but something was drawing me to it. I ended up pulling the trigger on the Polished Chrome Olympic WL bar from Rogue and couldn’t be happier.
So after a few days of patiently waiting my new bar finally arrived. After opening the bar and taking it out I couldn’t wait to get it to the gym the next day and test it out. Out of the box the first thing you notice is the chrome finish. It looks pretty good and the end caps add a nice touch compared to your normal cheap looking snap rings. Still getting used to not seeing that center knurling like on competition bars but honestly I don’t think it really makes a difference when lifting.
First day getting the bar to the gym I decided to do some snatches to test it out. The first thing I noticed was the diameter of the bar. Wow, it’s nice to finally be back on a 28mm bar. It’s amazing how big of a difference it is going from 28.5mm to 28mm especially when you have smaller hands. The next thing I noticed is the knurling on this bar is pretty much top notch. After chalking up and setting my hookgrip I felt like I was glued to the bar. I’ve lifted on a pretty wide variety of bars including the newest Eleiko training bars and I have to say this bar is probably better in terms of grip. I never felt like the bar was going to slip out of my hands and it held chalk pretty well to. Normally I would have to rechalk every set but there were time when I would just keep lifting without chalking up because it was that good. After snatching up to 225# (102kg) I called it a day and moved on to some heavy pulls up to 125kg for 3s.
The next workout I did with this bar involved some clean and jerks. Once again, the knurling on this bar is spectacular compared to most other bars I have trained on. Not too rough but not too passive either. Just a really nice bite to it but not so much that it shreds your hands. I ended up clean and jerking up to 300#’s (136kg), which was 1kg more than I did at Nationals before my shoulder surgery. I felt like the bar was just getting up to a weight where it would actually whip a little bit which really helped me get a solid drive on the jerks. After hitting some reps around 125-130kg I moved on to squats and said what the hell lets load it up. I ended up only squatting up to 365# but it felt a lot more controlled than when I would do heavy squats on the pendlay bar. I remember when I would put anything over 182kg on the pendlay bar the whip would actually mess up my bounce at the bottom but that could have been due to the fact I was lifting with the big 45# bumpers so the weight was out more towards the end of the collar rather than closer when using real training/competition style weightlifting plates that aren’t as wide.
(sorry for the picture being upsidedown, not really sure why it won't let me upload it correctly...)
I’ve only had this bar a week so I can’t really say anything on durability as of yet but will definitely do a follow up review as time goes on and see if anything changes the more lifting I get in on this beautiful bar. If you are in the market for a new bar I would highly recommend checking out the Rogue Olympic WL bar. If the pendlay bearing bar had a polished chrome option I might have gone that route but unfortunately they don’t so I had to go with Rogue. So far I am beyond pleased with this purchase and look forward to getting some nice bumpers to go with it soon.
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on March 26, 2014 at 10:00 PM||comments (8)|
So as I was searching the Internet to find some information as to why most coaches tend to program strength work before metabolic conditioning but couldn’t really find a well written article. Most discussions were written in threads on CrossFit and other Strength Training forum but I couldn’t really find a definitive answer to my question. So, I figured I’d take a stab at it and explain my reasoning behind performing Strength/Power movements before Metabolic Conditioning.
So first we need to define Strength/Power training and Metcons…
Metabolic conditioning (metcon) is a form of workout which exhausts the body's muscles as well as energy pathways. Generally, metcon exercises are performed in a row one right after the other to exhaust the body fairly quickly. A workout done for time to push the participant to go through it as quickly as possible with as little breaks as possible can be considered metcon. Circuit training is a form of metcon. The CrossFit program utilizes many metcon exercises in its WOD.
These are two basic definitions pulled from a Google search but are both pretty accurate of what most people mean when they refer to Strength Training and Metabolic Conditioning.
Some examples of Metcons: A typical WOD would look something like 20 minute AMRAP or 5 Rounds for time of the following: 400m run, 30 Burpees, 20 Pull Ups, and 10 Box Jumps. These workouts are intended to increase metabolic conditioning and overall work capacity or simply put the ability to perform as much work as possible in the shortest amount of time.
So what are some examples of strength training? Strength Training involves pretty much any exercise in which you are attempting to lift heavy weight in sets of anywhere from 1-20 reps with proper form and technique. EX: Squats, cleans, deadlifts, snatches, bench press, overhead squats, front squats, push press, presses, etc. Depending on what type of movement you are performing will usually determine the rep scheme you should be working in.
From my experience any movements involving power and explosiveness usually stay under 5 repetitions for the purpose of increasing overall 1RM (rep max) of these exercise. For example: snatches, cleans, jerks, etc. The reason for this is that we are focusing on maximum power output so we don’t want to fatigue the CNS (central nervous system) by burning it out with too many repetitions. The first thing that happens when your CNS becomes fatigued is that form tends to break down which is counterproductive to what the original exercise is trying to achieve. These movements are very technical and require focus and proper execution of correct technique in order to achieve good results. Performing an exhausting metcon before doing these lifts is not the smartest or safest way to approach your training.
For other strength movements that are usually performed slower and more controlled than the previously stated “power” movements, reps are usually performed from a range of 1-20 repetitions but more frequently 10 or less depending on what the training goals are. These strength movements I’m referring to are things like squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc. These movements tend to provide the foundation for our overall strength that carries over into our power movements to a certain extent. Once again, these exercises are more beneficial when performed fresh rather than after a WOD where your body is tired and weak.
Because these movements are very high skilled and the overall goal is to increase our 1 rep max by performing these movements in sets of 1-20 repetitions we need to prepare our bodies to do this safely and effectively. This is where we run into a problem in CrossFit style training and programming.
CrossFit is based on the principals of metabolic conditioning which most of you recognize as the WOD or Workout of the Day. These WODS or Metcons are usually pretty intense and grueling and by the time you get done you are literally laying on the floor in a puddle of sweat trying to catch your breath and clear your head before you try to pick yourself up and drive home. The last thing you probably want to do after doing a 20 minute AMRAP is load up a bar and try to hit a 3 rep max hang clean or a heavy double in the backsquat when your legs feel like jello from the 50 burpee box jumps and the mile run you just did.
This is exactly why most effective CrossFit programming includes strength and power movements before the “WOD” or Metcon. When we are performing these highly skilled and usually heavy movements we want our muscles and CNS to be fresh so we can lift efficiently and with proper technique. With the limited time factor of most CrossFit classes, usually 1 hour classes, it makes it pretty much impossible for you to do more than 1-2 strength exercises before the WOD/Metcon. This is why you’ll usually see CrossFit programs having a warm up followed by a short lifting session of 20-30 minutes, followed by the Workout of the Day. From my personal experience coaching at other CrossFit gyms this seems to be the most effective training protocol for your everyday CrossFit athlete who attends regular one hour classes.
I’m not saying that doing this will get you strong enough to get to the Games or even Regionals but it is definitely a step in the right direction for the everyday CrossFitter improving their overall fitness levels.
So you may be asking yourself now…”Why do I need to do strength at all???” Well the answer to that question is relatively simple. The stronger you get, the easier the WODs will be. For example, lets look at Fran, 21-15-9 thrusters and pull ups. For a lot of people I’ve seen over the last few years who have only been doing CrossFit for a short while, strength is usually the limiting factor in achieving a fast time on this workout. Most people who have been doing CrossFit for a while have plenty of conditioning to perform 90 repetitions in a short period of time but lack the strength to even get a sub 10 minute Fran. But why is this?!?
Think about it this way…You are going to have a hell of a time doing 45 thrusters with 95lbs if your best front squat is 185lbs and best push press is 135lbs vs. an athlete with the same conditioning who can front squat 225lbs and push press 185s. Lifter A is lifting at a way higher percentage of their 1RM (RM=Rep Max) than lifter B therefore the PE (perceived exertion) will be greater for lifter A. Same thing for pull ups. If you struggle to do 1-2 body weight pull ups, once again you are going to hit a huge wall on a workout like Fran. Believe it or not, pull ups are considered a strength movement. If you are wasting your time flailing around doing kipping and butterfly pull ups when you can’t do 10 strict pull ups to save your life, you are setting yourself up for failure(stalling progress or even injury!). Take some time and work on your weaknesses. Work on strict pull ups, weighted pull ups, ring rows, bent rows, and negative pull ups. I guarantee you a person who can do 20 strict pull ups vs. somebody who can only do 2-3 strict pull ups will crush a WOD like Fran assuming both athletes are at the same conditioning and skill level.
So lets go ahead and stop here and summarize the point I was trying to get across…Why do we perform Strength/Power exercises before Metcons???
Because the point of doing strength/power exercises is to increase our overall strength.
What happens when we get stronger and our 1RM increase?
Our perceived exertion during metcons drops because the weights we are working with will be lighter relative to our overall strength. The lighter the weight feels the easier it will be to move those weights faster and more efficiently. Moving faster and more efficiently also leads us to work safer and safety is an important part of any training program. It’s hard to continuing training and improving if you are always injured.
The reason we usually don’t perform Strength/Power training after a Metcon/WOD is because the body is already in a state of fatigue and exhaustion so this puts us at higher risk of injury and failure. Therefore it is best to perform Strength before the WOD during CrossFit classes to ensure overall safety and overall progress.
Thanks for reading and happy CrossFitting!!!
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on March 24, 2014 at 10:30 PM||comments (2)|
So I recently acquired a pair of WodLIFTS shoe inserts from the lovely people at wodlifts.com. Basically they are a solid plastic molded heal insert you put in your shoes to help achieve a better ankle position in the bottom of the squat while lifting and performing movements in CrossFit that involve a squat. It’s a lightweight plastic insole that can either fit on top of or under your thin insole that comes in your shoes. (I would definitely recommend only using these in low profile flat soled shoes like the Reebok nano line or inov-8 CrossFit style shoes. Haven’t really tried them in other shoes because the only other shoes I own are Nike Romaleos and flip flops.) If you are like me, and struggle to perform most squat movements efficiently because of lack of ankle flexibility, then keep reading.
Let me start off by saying these will NOT replace your Weightlifting shoes so don’t get on eBay and start selling your shoes yet. These were not intended to replace Weightlifting shoes but the do a hell of a job increasing mobility and putting you into a better overall bottom position for any movements involving a squat similar to how a Weightlifting shoe works but it leaves you the mobility and flexibility of your standard CrossFit shoe so you can run, box jump, lunge etc without the added weight or stiffness of a standard lifting shoe. I’ve used them for pretty much every type of lift over the last couple months and can honestly say they do the job they were built for. You could say…they were BUILTFORTHIS lol…
I’ve done a few WODS with a wide variety of lifts including front squats, back squats, overhead squats, thrusters, wall balls, and obviously snatches and cleans. Normally I have a lot of trouble getting into a good squat position in these movements while maintaining a nice upright position but the additional heal height from the WodLift insole was just enough to get me into a better position to perform these movements more efficiently and comfortably. Not as good as I would be able to do in my Romaleos but much better than if I was just wearing my nanos. When I first put them in I thought, wow this feels kind of strange. After about 5 minutes of walking around in them I forgot I had them on.
I know a lot of you would read this and say, why not just wear weightlifting shoes for these lifts??? If only CrossFit was that simple right? How many times have we all seen a WOD with Running and Overhead squats? Or Box jumps and cleans? The last thing I want to do is run in my heavy ass Nike Romaleos, or try to jump on a box with these stiff, flat bricks attached to my feet. This is where the WodLIFTS really shine. They make it to where you can keep the light and flexible shoes while still having that extra heal height to put you into a better position for those nasty squat movements. I haven’t done too much running in these since I love by my motto “I don’t run unless I’m being chased”, but I can honestly say you will be fine on a few 400m runs if your used to running in your shoes to begin with. They are honestly that unnoticeable after you get used to them. The good thing is you can easily slip them out if you don’t need them for a different WOD but if a workout pops up with squat snatch, double unders, and running you’ll be good to go!
So, the question you’re left with now is, “should I buy a pair’? My answer would be…”Do you CrossFit?” If yes, then yes. Buy a pair. They retail for 39.95 plus free shipping and returns. When you order you have the choice between small, medium, and large. I wear a size 7US lifting shoe and order a small and they are a perfect fit for my shoes and I felt like the heel lined up perfectly. Have fun WODing and hit some PR’s with some WodLIFTS!
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on February 27, 2014 at 2:00 PM||comments (0)|
Straps are a great tool we use when training for the sport of Weightlifting. People use them all the time for a variety of exercises but I’m here to talk about when it is appropriate to use them in training.
If you are training for Weightlifting, powerlifting, or crossfit, straps can be a great tool for increasing your deadlift especially if you are trying to get this strength to transfer into other lifts like the snatch and clean. I prefer using straps on all my heavy deadlifts so I can focus on my form and position and not my grip. Yes, at some point you have to lose the straps but for the majority of my training I use straps on all my heavy deadlifts. I’ve seen little to no loss on my 1RM with and without straps. My best strapped deadlift is 430lbs and best without straps using an alternating grip is 405lbs. As a weightlifter I rarely test my 1RM but it’s nice to know that when I am performing sets of 10, 5, and 3 that I don’t have to worry about my grip slipping when I have my straps on.
Snatch and Clean:
When it comes to training the Olympic lifts I am a huge advocate of using straps, especially with advanced lifters. I do have a rule for them though. NO straps 1 month before a competition on any lifts. At this point you should have already hit tons of heavy lifts for multiple reps and need to start focusing on lifting without straps just as you would during a competition. I’ve seen so many lifters who can hit crazy weights with straps in training then it comes time to do it in competition and they usually never get anywhere close to their gym strap PR’s. The closer you get to competition the more specific you should focus your training and it doesn’t get anymore specific than snatching with the hookgrip rather than using straps. My best snatch with straps is 117kg and best competition snatch is 116kg. In theory you should be able to lift the same or close to it with or without straps.
My newest rule thanks to Zach Krych is NO STRAPS ON CLEANS, EVER! I used to use straps on cleans all the time until I saw the video of Zach’s injury while doing heavy cleans with straps.
To me it’s just not worth the extra grip. I use straps on pulls, deadlifts, and snatches but not anymore on cleans. It’s better to know that I can just let go of the bar and bail out if needed. For snatches, especially doing higher reps from the hang or blocks there is pretty much no other option than to use straps. My only exception to this is when teaching newer lifters. I usually have them hookgrip everything until the reach a more advanced level of training then we can slowly add strap work into their programming. Once again it goes back to what we are trying to focus on. For the snatch we are focusing on speed and technique. It’s hard to focus on hitting a heavy set of 3 from the knee when you are worried about your grip coming undone. I’m not saying never snatch without straps from the hang or blocks but it makes it a hell of a lot easier to get the reps in with straps and it also saves your hands so when it’s time to go heavy from the floor your hands aren’t beat to shit.
Snatch and clean pulls:
Same thing as deadlifts here. Straps are great for training these movements so we can focus on the movement and not worrying about whether or not our hands are going to slip off the bar mid pull.
Another great use of straps is for weighted pull ups. I use them when I am going for heavy weighted pull ups so I don’t have to worry about hanging onto the bar and I can just focus on performing the exercise efficiently. If I was worried about grip strength I would probably do them without straps but luckily in Weightlifting we get to hookgrip the bar so we get plenty of grip strength work from doing snatches and cleans from the floor and other positions.
What kind of straps should I use?
My favorite style straps for Weightlifting are the tear drop style straps that are made for Weightlifting. They are usually a little bit longer than your hand and are shaped in a tear drop. They wrap around the bar once and are great for using with snatches, pulls and deadlifts because you can still use the hookgrip if desired and they offer quick release ability unlike the tradition “Powerlifting” style straps which wrap around the bar multiple times. This can be dangerous if performing snatches and you miss a lift and are literally stuck to the bar. Talk about a dangerous situation to be in.
So what I can summarize from this is that straps are a great addition to any Weightlifters gym bag. They are a cheap and effective tool so you can focus on performing the proper pulling movement with good speed without worrying about losing your grip. There is definitely a time and a place for straps in your training and I don’t recommend using them all the time, especially the closer you get to a competition where you need to be able to hookgrip the weight efficiently from the floor. Try to find a nice balance of when to use them and when not to use them because you don’t want all of your training PR’s to be reliant on whether or not you had on straps for the lift. With that said check out my custom hand sewn BUILTFORTHIS Weightlifting style straps
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on January 28, 2014 at 11:55 AM||comments (0)|
So now that we have identified stressors and how they can affect us we can talk about how to counteract these stressors and help improve recovery to balance out all the stress in our lives. If you think about stress your body literally has a daily limit of what it can recover from and be prepared to take on a new day. So think about all the things that stress you throughout the day, the week, the month, and the year and how much they add up. We have jobs to go to, school work to perform, kids to take care of, bills to pay, loved ones to care for, and so many other things that put stress on our body. Combine that with the daily torture of training we put our body through and you are looking at a recipe for disaster if you can’t balance those things together.
When I say balance I mean sometimes you will have to do less in your training to counter balance the other stressors in your life. I remember when I was in school Kyle (Kyle Pierce, Coach of LSUS and Kendrick Farris) used to have this huge web graph on PowerPoint to show all the different stressors in your life that can affect your recovery. A key point I remember is finals week. He always told us to back down our training intensity during finals. I’m sure for a few lifters he told them to just stay out of the gym completely because he knew how worked up they got from studying for finals. This is something that you have to really consider when training and dealing with life. You can’t skip work for training, you can’t just ignore the kids crying, it’s not that simple. Let’s face it, for the majority of you out there training doesn’t come first. Hell it might not even come top 5 but at least it’s on the list, which is a good start.
So what can I do with training to counterbalance my life stressors??? My advice would be to first lower intensity and volume. You’ll get more out of an exercise by making it lighter and doing a few less sets than you would be completely eliminating that exercise. You can also try removing unnecessary movements and sticking to the core exercises so you can cut down on your total time in the gym. If all else fails try simply taking the day off. I had to do that earlier this week. Snow storm hit Baltimore, MD, I got caught out in the snow coming home from the gym and ended up crashing at a friends house. Parked in the wrong spot, car got towed, spent the afternoon getting money together to go get my car and the last thing I wanted to do was even think about lifting a weight. My body and mind were completely stressed. Luckily my roommate is a yoga instructor so I caught a ride with her to class that evening and got a nice relaxing yoga session in. I could definitely feel the difference in my stress levels afterwards and I felt much more relaxed. I couldn’t imagine if I would have tried to lift that day. It would have been miserable.
So what if you don’t feel like touching the weights that day??? How about some alternatives to training heavy? My favorite thing Kyle used to have us do was Active Recovery. This was a time to pick a leisure activity that we could partake in that didn’t put a lot of stress on our bodies but still got us moving around. A favorite past time of mine was playing Disc Golf at Clyde Fant Parkway in Shreveport, LA. It was just a nice and relaxing experience. Throw a Frisbee, walk, throw a Frisbee walk. It was simple as that. Plenty of time to just relax and enjoy life, maybe even talk about other things besides weightlifting. Another more intense activity we would do is play racquetball. It definitely got your heart rate up but still nowhere near as stressful as being in the weight room lifting heavy shit. Some other things you can do for active rest would be something like yoga, swimming, running, playing at the park, take your dog for a walk, get a game of basketball or volleyball going with some friends, maybe even just hitting up the mall and walking around for a bit. Do something to get the blood flowing but without the stress that comes with being in the weightroom and going balls to the wall lifting weights.
Another thing I like to talk about is what I call pampering yourself. Don’t be afraid to book a massage every couple weeks to work out all those knots and sore muscles. If you are looking for something else to aid in recovery look into the Marc Pro Recovery Unit and Normatec Recovery boots. Shoot me an email at email@example.com for information on how to get a discount on these 2 awesome recovery tools. If you have a significant other who is interesting consider taking a massage lesson from a professional. It might cost anywhere from $50-$200/hr but it will be well worth it and even a nice surprise for that favorite athlete in your life. Take a pottery class, learn to meditate, try some yoga, or a number of other things that can take you away from life and all of its stress. Sometimes you just need an escape. Take up a hobby like building models, playing an instrument, or something that you can just get completely caught up in and forget all your problems.
Another simple stress reliever is just going out and socializing. It's just another way to escape from reality and get some time to unwind. Whether you like going out to the club dancing or sitting at the bar with some buddies throwing back a couple ice cold brews socializing can be a great stress relief for some people. I used to love going up to Buffalo Wild Wings in College and just eating wings, drinking a couple beers, and watching whatever game happened to be on TV. It was a nice opportunity to just shut everything off. No worrying about training, school work, or anything just living in the moment and being happy to hang out with good friends. Once again we're talking about balance. I'm not saying go out for drinks every night but once a week having a couple drinks with friends and staying out until midnight won't kill you. If anything you'll probably sleep better that night and feel rested up and ready to get back in the gym.
Last but not least lets talk about time off from training. I’m not talking about skipping a workout. I’m talking about taking anywhere from a week to a few months of from training, especially after a big competition. Even if you’re just an everyday gym goer you could probably use some time off once or twice a year to let your body reset and relax. If you are worried about losing gains then worry no more. I remember one of my professors in college gave me a simple formula to remember. He said, “It takes half as much time to lose it as it took to gain it”. Pretty simple right? So if you’ve been training for 2 years it would take over a year before you would be back at ground zero. So taking a week or 2 off every 6 months isn’t going to kill your training. If anything it might reignite that spark to get back in the gym and start crushing PR’s. I just had a guy come in the gym last night who is going through some life difficulties. It was his first time in the gym in a few weeks and his previous best clean was 185lbs and last night we got him to work all the way up to 210lbs for a 25lb lifetime PR. This was after not touching a bar for almost a month!!! I’m not saying everybody who takes time off is going to hit a PR but you never know. Sometimes your body just needs a nice break.
Well I guess I’ve rambled on enough at this point and I hope you can take something from this blog and apply it to your life to help relieve some stress. Just remember, everyday you set foot in the gym is a PR, every time you wake up and get out of bed it’s a PR! Be thankful you are even able to lift period and just have fun because when it comes down to it we do it because we love it not because we have to. If anything being in the gym should be a stress relieve from the daily grind so just enjoy your time and make the best of it and try not to take things too seriously.
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on January 27, 2014 at 10:50 AM||comments (0)|
We’ll start off this weeks blog on stress with a little insight from 3x National Champion, Aaron Adams.
“When I was 15 I was at a weightlifting meet at Lost Battalion Hall Weightlifting Club in the bottom of a gym somewhere in NYC. While lifting, during my session, a very dear friend of mine Lou Mangiaracina dropped about double body weight onto his head during the clean and jerk portion of the meet. My next attempt was at that weight to qualify for Senior Nationals. While medical people rushed the platform to see if he was ok, I was sitting in the on deck chairs wondering WTF to do. Should I worry about my friend? Stay focused on the meet? Lose my shit right there and leave? What was I supposed to do at 15? My mom, a short fire like woman hustled her ass over to me past all the judges and asked me “How are you gonna tell this story?” In my head I thought what in the hell is she talking about? I got it once I took another warm up in the back a few seconds later. “if I worry about Lou” I thought “not a damn thing is gonna change about his head.” 5 minutes later he woke up and watched me qualify for nationals.
Stressors can occur at any time, maybe. As you can see from my example, it happened in the middle of a meet, a make or break moment. But what I said about the situation, the story I made up about it directly affected my mind, and thus my body. There is a ton of research out in the internets documenting the fight or flight response against perceived threats. Basically, it's bad. If I were to perceive a threat, my hormone production would drop, my inflammatory response would skyrocket (waiting to be hurt), and most of my energy would go into my sensory organs and my immune system. That means, I'm not digesting and I am not repairing muscle fiber, and for that matter I am not sleeping cause I'm ready for battle! *The issue becomes what we as humans perceive as threats. It comes down to what you choose to believe is a threat.
Most people who lift weights, at one point or another, suck for a day. You can't hit 80% to save your life, or every jerk is forward or 40kg feels like an entire house. It happens, most likely because your body is going through a serious recovery period at this time. You are probably feeling like you know absolutely nothing about what you are doing and that you are becoming weaker. This is normal, and the choice you make after this point is crucial. If you choose, like I did at one point, to think that you suck and you are never going to get any better and you are going to be embarrassed at your next meet... you have perceived a threat. Seriously! The physiological response is the same, some may feel a spike in heart rate, or feel a little adrenaline rush, pupils will dilate brain function increases, digestion slows, muscle repair stops, cortisol levels rise, melatonin stays low, you don't sleep, you don't process food, you don't heal. I did it for 3 months when I still couldn't snatch my nemesis weight! Finally Dave Miller convinced me that my suffering wasn't worth it and after 3 months of getting back on board, I snatched that mug.*
What I am doing my best to convey is, stressors can be anything in life, if you choose it. If the kids are being crazy, or you boss is being rather unpleasant, or your mom kicked you out at 48 years old, once the situation has happened, you can't do a damn thing to change it. Just like a workout or a specific exercise, once it's completed, it cannot be changed. So what has you worry about it? All too often I see people angry, frustrated or too tired in the gym. It's hard, trust me I know, but I usually will ask them “Did you wake up today” and I will usually get a “yea” and I'll say “Sweet, you PR'd for days alive!” I mean think about it, you woke up had a day, and went to the gym. You did more and probably lifted more than 80% of the American population! You Rock at Life! So your kids are crazy, SO WERE YOU! Don't you miss that? And your boss is being irrational. That's their issue, why take on their mood?
Performance athletes are constantly bombarded by a slew of situations that they can make a choice about. The direct effect of this choice is either an inflammatory response or no response. When training is over and done, healing must take place. Anything that might detract from that could be harmful, or helpful. There are two kinds of stress Eustress and Distress. Now I'm doing my best to quote my coach on this, Dr. Kyle Pierce so if I get some of it a bit off I'm sorry. “Eustress, or true stress, is actually a positive stress on the body or mind,” it comes in a variety of flavors. They can be the actual training session, active recovery, compression, massage, acupuncture, electro-stim, mild alcohol consumption among others. Distress is the more negative of the two stressors. “It was once thought that stress on the mind did't effect the body's ability to heal, but that was found to be completely wrong.” Kyle told me. This is the perceived stress I was talking about. Road rage is a great example of our primal instincts of threats coming through. When we are driving our brain understands we are going fast, it may get used to it but inside your hindbrain is going “holy shit this is dangerous dude seriously.” Most of us are cool with that and can kind of not worry about it. However, if you perceive someone as being dangerous to your safety you will have a total change of chemistry and you will tell yourself “ THIS M %&&^*+#@.” At this point you have activated the fight or flight response, your shoulders will tense, heart rate increases, muscles receive a boat load of blood and on and on. This stress, which may have occurred after a training session, is unneeded. If we would have simply said “O that guy sucks at driving,” changed lanes and bounced away from him, the situation is averted and you are well on your way to properly digesting that post-workout 5 patty no bun with bacon burger, extra bacon. Stop wasting energy by being pissed off. It's not helping you heal, and it's probably more of a pain in the ass than you think. “
I hope everyone who comes across this article takes just a small look at how their mindset is affecting their performance. A few small seeds can add up to a very large bounty, and the same is true in life. Sean is going to chime in here with some ways to help athletes counteract the stress and recover more effectively and efficiently.
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on January 22, 2014 at 3:50 PM||comments (0)|
Alright, so I talked to you guys a little bit about my diet and what it was like when I was training in college. The point of the blog was to show you that diet isn’t the overall factor in determining your success as an athlete. Now I’m not telling you guys to run out to McDonald’s and eat a big Mac but the point I’m trying to make is that it’s not going to kill you to indulge every once in a while and something that’s considered “unhealthy”. Think about it like this…One day in the gym isn’t going to make you a beast just like taking one day off isn’t going to make you a weakling. Eating “bad” food every once in a while isn’t going to make you unhealthy just like eating one healthy meal isn’t going to make you healthy.
I am a huge advocate of balance in life. Balance in training, nutrition, personal life, stress, etc. Everything has to be balanced. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying, “to much of anything is a bad thing”. Water is good for you but if you drink too much of it you can die. So now that we’ve gotten that clear I’ll give you a little run down of what my diet looks like now.
When I go to the grocery store the first thing I do is stock up on breakfast food. My go to foods for the morning are first and foremost, coffee. I start of pretty much everyday with coffee. Sometimes I put coconut oil in it to get some extra “healthy” fats but mostly I just drink it black with sugar. Next on the list is the food. My go to breakfast is usually 2 eggs over easy, 3-5 strips of bacon, and 2 slices of toast buttered with organic salted cream butter. Usually I’ll chase that down with a glass of Organic whole milk or orange juice. I usually let my body tell me what I’m in the mood for so I switch it up depending on what I’m craving.
Lunch is usually kind of weird because I train in the afternoon and then coach Weightlifting after so I’ll usually eat a late breakfast, then train, then snack until I get home to make dinner. Snacks usually consist of a nice protein shake post workout, granola bars, fruit, juice, or pretty much anything I can fit in my bag that doesn’t require heating up. The only reason I don’t like bringing food to heat up is that most places use microwaves and I’m not a huge fan of making my food taste disgusting by heating it up in one. I’d rather eat cold food then ruin it by putting it in the microwave, but that’s another story on it’s own. If you feel like doing your own research Google how microwaves affect the quality of your food you put in it.
Dinner is where you will see more variety in my diet. My basic outline for dinner will be some source of protein, some source of carbs, and some veggies and greens. So protein can be any type of meat like chicken, steak, fish, deer, or whatever type of protein might be on hand. I usually stick to cooking in the cast iron on the stove or baking stuff in the oven. For carbs I like pasta, rice, or some other type of grain. I know I know, not even close to being paleo but it works for me as an athlete and it doesn’t upset my stomach like some people so I eat it. I try to always get some veggies whether fresh or frozen I always try to buy organic to avoid pesticides and all that other stuff that we don’t want in our bodies. Recently I’ve tried to add more greens in my diet so I started buying that organic spring mix and other salad mixes to have with dinner. I’m not a huge fan of salads and dressing, so I usually just throw some dried cranberries in the salad and just eat it raw.
I usually try to eat mostly home made meals but if I’m in a crunch for time I’m not going to sweat picking up food or swinging through a drive through on the way home. Eating chicken sandwich from Wendy’s is probably better than starving any day of the week. I’m also a big fan of local places and we have an awesome Greek place down the street I’ll usually stop by once every week or so and get a Lamb and Beef gyro. Soooooo delicious and it’s so satisfying. I’ve always believed that food is more than just nutrition and that you should enjoy what you eat. Don’t be afraid to spoil yourself every now and again just don’t let it get out of hand.
Well now you’ve seen how I used to eat and how I currently eat. The main difference I can see is the quality of foods I eat. I don’t buy precooked foods that come in a bag or a box. I try to buy organic and natural products whenever possible and cook most of my meals at home. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than going out to eat and it usually taste 10x’s better. If you aren’t a very good cook I suggest try following simple recipes you can find online or from friends. Once you learn how to cook for yourself you will really start to appreciate the food you put into your body. If you don’t have time to cook and can afford it there are tons of places out there that will prepare meals for you weekly and deliver them. It’s a little pricey but worth it if you are trying to eat healthy but don’t have time to cook everyday.
I hope this puts things into a little better perspective for those that were questioning my sanity as an athlete in my last blog post. On that note I’m going to finish these Krispy Kreme donuts with my coffee and enjoy the rest of my day off from training!
|Posted by Sean Hutchinson on January 17, 2014 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
So, I woke up today in a pretty good mood and decided to write about something that has been bugging the hell out of me for some time now. I’m talking about diet and athletic performance. Please don’t confuse this with somebody who is just trying to get in shape and lose weight by eating right and working out a few days a week. I’m talking about competitive athletes, Weightlifters and CrossFitters specifically, who are trying to reach the highest level of their sport. Ever since I started working with CrossFit athletes I feel like I’ve been surrounded by super strict dieting machines. All I hear is paleo this, zone that, and gluten free blah blah blah. I think it’s time we get back to the basics on this whole eating thing. You guys are making this way to complicated and I have a theory as to why being to strict on your diet can actually inhibit progress aka PR’s in the gym.
Back when I first got serious about lifting it was late 2006 when I moved out to Shreveport, LA to train under Dr. Kyle Pierce at LSUS. It was a huge change for me, new place to live, new friends to make, new training to adapt to, etc. I showed up weighing in at a measly 58kg, or roughly 128lbs. I didn’t really follow much of a diet at all and didn’t really plan on adapting to a new one either. I ate what I wanted to and let my body tell me when and what I wanted to eat. My first training cycle I literally gained 6lbs of muscle during our first 12 week training cycle at LSUS. How do I know it was all muscle??? Well, we use the BODPOD system and Hydrostatic Weighing (under water weighing) to measure body composition. I was roughly 61kg and 7% body fat. This is where things start to get a little crazy, maybe even unbelievable.
So let’s take look at my diet, the diet of a college Weightlifter. For breakfast, if I even got up early enough to call it breakfast, consisted of a bowl of cereal and milk, or maybe some Eggo waffles with sugary delicious syrup, and a glass of chocolate milk. If anybody knows me well enough they know I drank tons of milk throughout my life. I’d say I average 2-3 gallons a week depending on how hard I was training. Another note about breakfast is that I never really ate traditional breakfast foods up until about 2 years ago. My breakfasts were mostly high carb foods like cereals, breads, etc. Lunch and dinner was another story. Lunch was all about protein. I remember buying these huge bags of chicken strips from Wal-Mart. I would probably eat 5-6 for lunch chased down by…wait for it…more chocolate milk. Lots of carbs lots of fats, lots of protein. Let’s keep in mind I had no clue how to cook so another staple in my diet were those skillet meals. I would go through bags of those every week. Simple enough and supplied me with enough fuel to recovery from my training. I’d also like to mention that I never really took any supplements the first 3 years of training either. I hated the taste of protein shakes and I tried to take creatine but was way to inconsistent with my daily regiment. Half the time I would forget to take it, which defeats the point of taking creatine in the first place.
Another important element to look at is alcohol consumption. Let’s get real about this. We were COLLEGE Athletes. Just because we were athletes didn’t mean we didn’t like to enjoy our days off. If anything we probably drank more because we were athletes and it was a good way to release some of the stressors from school and training. Since we were training Mon-Thurs and Saturday morning you can bet your ass Thursday and Saturday nights were drinking nights. I’d say for the first 3 years of training and school at LSUS those 2 days were always drinking days. It doesn’t mean we got shit faced all the time but we did partake in a lot of alcohol consumption, which seemed to have little negative effects on our training. I still remember days showing up to the gym hungover after being out until 3 or 4am and coming in an hitting lifetime PR snatches and clean and jerks. Please don’t try this, i'm just making a point that you can still enjoy the occasional drink without worrying about ruining your training progress.
Now lets look at the hard facts. Yes diet is important for an athlete but how important? We pretty much ate whatever we wanted, drank at least once a week, and somehow still won National Championships, made international teams, set PR’s and made steady progress throughout our time training at LSUS. I’m not saying you should try to recreate this but my point is diet is only a small part in the process of becoming a champion. There are so many other factors that play into it. If anything I feel like so many new athletes, especially CrossFit athletes rely too much on their diets and literally stress themselves out constantly thinking about it when they should just learn to enjoy food and relax. Stress plays a huge role in recovery and if you are constantly stressing about what you put in your body you are hindering your progress more than if you just gave into those cravings in the first place. My coach used to tell me to focus on 3 things when I was in school. He would tell us to get our studies done, train hard in the gym, and have fun outside the gym. It sounds simple enough because it is literally that simple. When it comes down to it we do this sport because we love it.
So lets get down to the point of this post. My point that I’m trying to get through to you is that as an athlete there are bigger things to worry about than your diet alone. You can have the most perfect diet in the world but if you aren’t training hard, sleeping enough, eating enough, and having enough fun in your life than you will NOT see the results you want in the gym. Being an athlete is so much more than what you put in your body. I’m not saying go out and eat McDonald’s everyday or eat a tub of ice cream every week but it’s ok to cut loose and indulge in life. Don’t sweat the small stuff so much.
I’ll leave you with a few examples of some amazing athletes who did not follow a strict diet to be successful. I remember reading an article the other day about Usain Bolt leading up to breaking the world records his diet consisted of Chicken McNuggets from McDonalds, tropical skittles, and occasionally he would eat pasta. I remember training with Kendrick Farris at LSUS, 2x Olympian and he would eat ham and cheese sandwiches all the time. Another great lifter out there, Cody Gibbs, would eat McDonalds all the time. I remember going through the drive through with him as he proceeded to purchase 5 McChicken sandwiches and 5 Double cheeseburgers and glass of water. This is the same guy that would go in the gym and snatch 160kgx5 from the power position as a 105kg lifter. Jared Fleming, another great lifter, was always eating at the Chinese buffet after training. This is the same guy who snatched 170kg as a 94kg lifter in training. Let’s not forget about the CrossFit Champion Rich Froning. I’m sure everybody has seen videos of him eating spoonfuls of peanut butter in between training. I know for a fact he has spoken about how he doesn’t follow a strict diet at all and pretty much eats whatever he wants. It just goes to show diet only plays a small role in our athletic performance when it comes down to it. These are just a few examples of some amazing athletes who have been successful without following a strict diet plan and eat whatever they want.
Well that about wraps it up for this one. Thanks for reading my rant and stay tuned for the next blog, I’m going to be talking about how outside stressors affect your training and recovery with special guest Aaron Adams (3x National Champion, Jr. American Record Holder, and World, Pan Am, and Jr. World Team Member for Team USA) chiming in.