The process of improvement [part 1]

In my 15+ years as strength and conditioning coach, I have found people who have the most consistent results (performance or aesthetics) are also the ones who do not skip the small things. They are typically the most disciplined, show up on time, stay later to finish, eat a balanced diet, and do not mind following the correct order of skill and strength improvement.

The answer to improvement isn’t just, “do it and do it more”. In the next four post, I am going to outline the process to improve at a skill or strength.

I’ll start this off with an analogy (imagine that). If M/C/I/V were a part of a meal they would have the following roles. Mechanics fruit, consistency veggies; intensity is the alcohol; volume is dessert.

Fruits and veggies sound great until we have to clean our plate. I don’t know anyone who turns down booze and brownies. 🙂

Mechanics, or technique, should be the focal point of everything we do in CrossFit. The steadfast attention to moving with the absolute best form (regardless of load, volume, or intensity) possible while striving towards the perfect position over time has to be our focus.

Early on this is most people’s goal because they want to avoid getting hurt. After only a few weeks, mechanics is moved to the back burner because of the damn (yes, damn) whiteboard. This feeling of being judged by others, fuels the desire to move past the mechanics, skip consistency and get straight to dessert with wine. When this happens, athletes usually travel down one of the following paths; 1). Injury 2.) Plateau. Both of these can be avoided if we don’t skip mechanics and consistency.

Working on mechanics demands daily attention for EVERYONE from a seasoned CF games competitor to you. Dynamic stretching, foam rolling, static stretching, and static position holds are some of the ways to work on mechanics. These improve your mobility which leads to better positions.

Let’s look at a front squat the help explain.

Mechanical: squat – depth, torso position. Front rack – keeping elbows up and bar on shoulders and be pain free.

Consistency: Demonstrating the mechanical needs in multiple movements and not changing after a couple reps. Squat, wall ball, thruster, front squat, clean, all look the same and stay the same with a non-elevated heart and be demonstrated for multiple reps for multiple sets and a sub maximal load/reps (less than 60% of max)

Intensity: The mechanics and consistency (90% perfect reps) are not compromised during loads of more than 60% or during a conditioning workout. Squat depth isn’t compromised, torso position (rounding of the upper back) isn’t compromised, no short cuts are taken for sake of time or load.

Volume: Now that an athlete has mastered the mechanical needs consistently and under intensity; volume can be added for additional benefits. If an athlete has skipped previous steps, volume will be crushing. Volume when added to poor technique will transfer stress to muscle groups or joints which aren’t designed to hand the given task. Due to the nature of volume, the side effects when applied correctly are fantastic, but when applied out of order it can be devastating. This step is reserved for the most seasoned CF athlete, who has mastered basic (air squat, wall ball, thrusters) and intermediate task (RX’d weights and reps for all workouts regardless of demand), and has movement proficiency in most advance movements (muscle-ups, handstand push-ups/walks, squat clean and jerk 1.5 body weight (body weight for women), snatch body weight (3/4 for women))

I dreaded October 31, 1992 for six months and still remember that day like it was yesterday. A long stroll from the parking lot to Dr. Morrow’s office to receive what I thought was a social death sentence as a sixth grader… braces.

For a year or so, I watched a fellow sixth graders be transformed into metal toothed social outcast and I had the same fate. I heard all the promises from the doctors and my parents but the social sting was looming. Three years of physical pain and be social outcast, could not out weight the presented benefits. These would be the longest three years of my life. Visions of head gear and the echoes of “brace face” were in my future!

The social insecurities of a 12 year-old coupled with how near sighted and immature my thinking was back then makes me laugh. Braces weren’t the worst thing to ever happen to me; heck they aren’t even in the top-20. But in the moment I couldn’t see that. I just didn’t want to be different from everyone else.

I believe that my view of braces is very similar to most athlete’s view of mechanics and consistency; “can’t we just skip this?”

Following the order of mechanics, consistency, intensity, and then volume will allow an athlete to properly progress to advance movements and decrease the risk of a performance injury.

As we wrap up part one, don’t be 12 year old David afraid of braces. Seek to improve your movement mechanics, to set yourself up for better long term results. Can we skip the attention to mechanics and consistency and have results? Yes, but are we sacrificing more in the long run? Yes. Master the boring stuff, so you can better enjoy the fun stuff.

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Lock and Load 2015

After taking several months off of all exercise, in February I began to train with my focus being weightlifting. My first meet in over 3 years was May 9th. As a coach, I always am looking for lessons to learn and boy did I learn some lessons on May 9th.

My goals for the meet were not met. I was hoping my body would respond better to my training, but it didn’t. This year I turn 35 and my adaptation to training had slowed dramatically. I was hoping to total 217 kg (98/119) but ended up only making 196 kg (85/111). I was pleasantly pleased with the 85 kg snatch, and was inches away from 90 kg. On the clean and jerk I hit 113 in training around 10-12 times, and for some reason psyched myself out the day of the meet.

After all the dust had settled, I won my age and weight division (however I was the only lifter, LOL) and my total was enough to qualify for the Master’s World Cup in August. I am excited about this!

Lesson 1 – I can’t have a super easy, low volume (than normal) week of training before a meet.

Typically the week leading up to a meet a lifter will have a easier week of lifting, I took it too easy and felt really rusty the day of the meet. I don’t think anything else really payed into this feeling. The three weeks prior, my training was heavy and hard so I was afraid of not being rested enough, boy was that a bad plan. I have never responded too well taking lots of rest, but now I know not to do this next time.

Lesson 2 – Warm-up, warm-up, warm-up

Lifting meets are interesting, they follow an order but are unpredictable from a time aspect. I did not spend enough time getting my body ready for heavy lifting, thus a had a slight tweak in my “bad” knee. during the snatch portion. That tweak stayed in the back of my mind all day and probably cost me a heavier clean and jerk. Moving forward I am going to do a better job of blocking out other lifters and just doing my own thing.

Lesson 3 – Cutting 13 pounds was hard, but was optimal

Two weeks out I weighted 182 lbs and I had to cut to 169.4 for the meet. This wasn’t super hard, but it did cause some unneeded stress. I have decided to keep closer to paleo and avoid the temptation to eat poor carbohydrates on heavy squat days. For example, heavy squat days make me SUPER hungry, so a few times per week I would eat and apple (not a bad choice) dipped in peanut butter mixed with cream cheese cake icing (poor choice). This was super delicious and satisfying but probably attributed to a few extra pounds I don’t need.

Lesson 4 – I am a masters lifter, so be a masters lifter

In life and sport comparing is a common thread. I feel that comparing yourself to others in life leads you down a dark road with little reward at the end, and comparing in sports can render a similar experience. Some competitors need the push of their opponent to keep them going, but I found that I need to compare my performance with other 35-39, -77kg, beginner lifters. I have a bad habit of seeing other lifters numbers and then turning into Eeyore (from Winnie the Pooh).

Looking back I should have been more pleased with how the meet went, but I know now I will be much better prepared.

I do want to thank Chase Durham and Barry Durham for their help in counting places for me and loading my warm-up bar. This helped tremendously. It was also really cool to have my son there to watch me lift. I could hear him a few times saying “dada” while I was about to lift.

March 25 & 26

body was beat up after the last two days. Really had to force work Wednesday and Thursday. 

Wednesday 2:00 pm

  • 2 position clean 4 x 1 @ 92kg
  • Push-jerk + jerk 3 x 1 @ 96 kg, 2 x 1 @ 98 kg (footwork and torso felt great) 
  • Front squats 5 x 4 @ 98kg ( really pushing better torso and bottom position. These were a fight for the perfect rep) 
  • Strict pull-ups 3 x 8 chest to bar

Thursday 3:00 pm

  •  2-position snatch 3 x 1 @ 68 kg, 2 x 1 @ 70 kg (these were awesome! Smoked them and was happy as could be) 
  • Snatch pulls 5 x 4 @ 94 kg
  • Bench press 5 x 7 @ 91 kg
  • Good mornings 3 x 6 @ 44kg 
  • Pendlay rows 3 x 6 @ 66 kg (ran out of time for all 5 sets )

Really happy with progress being made. Lindsey has really helped me with my quad and hamstring mobility the past few days. Without out Wednesday nights mobility session I don’t think I could have squated Thursday. Ready for a rest day tomorrow. 

Excited for Saturday’s lifting, haven’t clean and jerked in a few weeks and can’t wait to see how it feels put back together. 

I also have begun looking into adding in a few more carbohydrates on my heavier days. Not sure of my weight but want to keep it in a good range. I feel really light right now, not sure if that is accurate or not. I will hop on a scale Saturday at CF Lewisville. 

March 24th – Training

8:30

  • Cleans from blocks (mid thigh) 4 x 2 98 kg. really happy with how these felt.
  • Push-press 4 x 5 @ 83 kg
  • GHD sit-ups 3 x 12
  • L-pullups 3 x 6

3:00

  • Bench press 3 x 5 @ 98 kg, 2 x 3 @ 100kg
  • Front rack walking lunges 4 x 12 @ 62 kg
  • Back extensions 4 x 15 @ 30 lbs.

Food is good today. have been super hungry because of yesterday’s back squats.

Training – March 23, 2015

Monday’s are a bit hectic for me so my training schedule is very non-traditional.

6:30 AM

  • Snatch off blocks (mid-thigh) 5 x 3 @ 62kg. , all about working on some speed here. They felt great, no misses.
  • Clean Pulls 5 x 3 @ 125 kg. really working on holding my torso position here.

10:00 am

  • Jerk (split) 2 x 3 @ 94 kg, 3 x 2 @ 98 kg., focus on torso position and short quick dip.
  • Pendlay rows 4 x 8 @ 62 kg.
  • weighted sit-ups 4 x 20 @ 16 kg.

5:00 pm

  • Back squat 5 x 4 @ 118 kg. squatting is my nemisis now, and these were tough, but I was able to knock them out.
  • Strict handstand push-ups 5 x 5
  • FLR 4 x :40

Food was great today! Felt full of energy for workouts and never super hungry until now.

March 23, 2015

I haven’t blogged in a long time so it is time to hit the keyboard. Lots going on in my life and I want to share it. Here is a quick on the 4 F’s, family, faith, food, fitness. Enjoy

Family- is fantastic! My son is a little over a year old and such a sweetheart! He is pure joy, so glad I get to live life with him. My wife, Lindsey ( her blog here ) is rocking like she always does. She is the most amazing mom ever! Dawson is so lucky to have her.

Faith – Lindsey and I lead a home group at The Village Church. Our group is going through a study of James right now, along with the church. The men’s group is working through Ben Stuart’s “This Changes Everything” and the ladies are working a Jen Wilkin’s study. We both have been really encouraged by the growth of our group both spiritually and in numbers. We are hoping the Lord multiplies our group and creates several homegroup leaders from our group.

Food – I have really decided I am going to write recipe book. I have a deep passion for cooking and want to share that with others. I often have people ask me how to cook what I made, and I cant really tell them because I make most of the stuff up. So I have decided I am going to make a book of recipes for people. I recently made a paleo orange chicken and it was DELISH. cant wait to make it again.

Fitness – I have currently “retired” (whatever that means) from competitive CrossFit, and I am currently pursuing weightlifting, commonly known as olympic weightlifting. I spend the better part of September 2014 – Jan 2015 not doing much. I got really bogged down with hunting season and putting more emphasis on personal training at work. This combination led to me not making time for myself. In Feb 2015, I decided to make move to weightlifting because I have always really liked it and wanted to do it full-time. I figured no better day then now. I am currently 7 weeks into my first 12 week cycle from Catalyis Athletics. I have made a few adjustments to the program to address some weakness of mine and to let my body acclimate to training 5 days per week again. In May, I will participate in my first weightlifting meet since 2012, and my third ever. Lock and Load is in Van Aylste, Texas. I have competed in two meets 2011 – 80/110/190 and 2012 85/112/197. I am looking to go 98/119/217.

Here are few pictures of my son.

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Barbell Camp Session 1

Last night I finished up coaching my first weightlifting class. I’ve done lots of private coaching and a few split sessions but never a group. It was such a joy to work with these athletes and I was really excited to see the progress they made. I’m working on uploading their 1rm attempts from last night so you can see their progress.

The class has consistently asked to continue on for another 8 weeks and so we are. Something cool is in 8 weeks a local weightlifting meet will be happening, so we are all going to train for that meet. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me now. Uniforms for everyone, USAW memberships, meet preparation, etc.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought this would be happening! I am so blessed to have this opportunity. Haven’t people who want to learn the lifts, get better at the small things and put what they’re learning on display (compete); those things haven’t been around in a long time.

Sitting and things about this reminds me of 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verses 26 – 31. Why does this fit? Because as a coach it is easy to just start taking credit and bragging and making it all about yourself, when it isn’t, it’s all about Jesus and using what He has given us (skills, talents, opportunity, resources) for His Glory and His righteousness.

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV)

This is one of our youngest littered who now clean and jerks more that his body weight at 14 years old (155 lbs.)

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