Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Scientific Method of Programming: Regional Caliber Athlete Analysis

By Michael Reynolds

As stated in The Scientific Method of Programming: Case Study, long gone are the days of being able to follow a "Strength Biased" program or programs with heavy olympic lifts+short metcons.

Hell, I'd even go on to say that the days of being able to reach Regionals without a coach taking care of all the assessing, planning, and programming are gone as well.

You will always have a few people who defy that logic but at what cost? Are they rolling the dice and training as much as their body can take because they see Froning training all day?

Or are they taking a scientific based approach?

In other words, are you training smart?

A common misconception of "training smart" is not training hard or lower volume which for a lot of individuals is not the case.

Training Smart is abiding by proven training principals, accounting for every aspect of competition, accounting for every aspect of the athletes make-up both physiologically and psychologically, calculated testing, planning, as well as calculated re-testing and planning.

Nothing goes overlooked.

If during the Opens you have 4 workouts where you excel and 1 where you place 300 spots worse than all the others, you might not be "Training Smart."

***Note- All data, training splits, etc are for a regional caliber athlete. That being said, the program mentioned below is based off their INDIVIDUAL needs, strengths/weaknesses, recovery capabilities, lifestyle etc. You are free to steal any and all of it if you please. Just know their needs may not be the same as yours. 

Observations & Inferences: The Initial Testing Phase
The first, and possibly most important, step in programming for an athlete is the assessment. In this phase, we put the athlete through a battery of tests designed to assess their structural balance, movement deficiencies, strengths/ weaknesses in terms of both movements and energy systems, Essence, Neuromuscular Efficiency, ATP-CP Battery etc.
Note- Before initial testing we consult with our athletes about their training history, lifestyle (work, hobbies, stress etc), nutrition and so on.

CP (Strength) Testing: All weights in Kilos
Upper Body
CGBP- 125kg
Seated BTN Press- 80kg
Seated DB Press-Withheld
WTD PU- 50kg
WTD Dip- Withheld
Strict Press- 85kg
Powell Raise- 8kg
Trap 3 Raise- Withheld
DB Ext Rot- Withheld

CGBP:BTN Press- Balanced
CGBP:DB Ext Rot- Priority (Accumulation)
CBGP:Rhomboid- Priority (Accumulation)
CGBP:Trap 3- Priority (Accumulation)
Dip: Med-High
Strict Press:WTD PU- Balanced

CP (Strength) Testing: All Weights in Kilos
Lower Body
Back Squat- 175kg
Front Squat- withheld
Deadlift- 215kg
Power Clean- withheld
Power Snatch-95kg
Jerk- 130kg
CGBP- 125kg

BS:FS- BS Priority, FS speed priority
BS:DL- DL Short term priority
BS:PC-  PC Priority
BS:PS-  PS Priority
BS:Jerk- Jerk Priority
BS:CGBP- Med-High

Gymnastic Density & ATP/CP-Battery Testing
50 HSPU For Time: 5:20
30 Muscle Ups For Time: 4:22
5x20 UB CTB PU For Time: 10:20
100 CTB PU For Time- Withheld
8 Min AMRAP PC@90%- 17 reps
20 Snatch@77%- Withheld

-UB Pressing Endurance is a priority
-UB Pulling Capacity is a priority
-Pacing is a Priority
-CP-Battery is a major priority 
-Proficient with MU but would like to see improvement

Cyclical Energy System Testing
60 Second Airdyne For Cals
60 Second Airdyne For Cals rest 12m x2
500m Row
500m Row rest 90 x2
2k Row
30 Min Row for Max Meters
60 Min Row for Max Meters

-No Red Flags
-Athlete has near Elite Anaerobic & Aerobic Numbers
-Athlete's work will move away from Rower Specific over time
-Cyclical:Mixed, Mixed priority

Mixed Modal Energy System Testing (Tests and Scores Withheld)
-Athlete needs to be more comfortable with going there
-Athlete needs to improve anxiety relieving approaches 
-Athletes Cyclical work better than Mixed, Mixed Priority 

Athletes Essence 
-Athlete is stronger than they are fast
-Athlete is more enduring than they are powerful (still powerful)
-Athlete has a low Neuromuscular Efficiency(LB Pull,LB Push,UB Push,Pull)
-Athletes CP-Battery is under developed

This info is what tells me what types of protocols to use on this athlete in order to improve what they are lacking. For example....

If I had a High Neuromuscular efficient athlete I would NOT program them 10-12 rep Back Squats, Squat Clusters, Drop Sets etc. 

If I had an athlete who was faster than they are strong I would NOT program them speed work or lower % EMOM's.

However, neither of these situations are the case for this athlete, so I will program accordingly (the same type of principals apply to energy system training as well. Different athletes respond to different methods and part of the coaches job is to know how to progress with them correctly).

Lifestyle Factors
-Athlete works 1 on 1 with a Nutritionist 
-Athlete has a low stress level
-Athlete places high importance on recovery protocol
-Athlete is a "fast adapter"

Athlete-Coach Dynamic
-Athlete and coach speak daily
-Athlete provides detailed notes and descriptions of training 
-Athlete is a Masculine Male
-Athlete provides frequent video for coach
-Athlete has on-site coaches working with him 

-Athlete has a clear path and vision of direction
-Coach-Athlete work to set clear goals moving ahead
-Coach often prescribes weights and metric goals
-Athlete has group of individuals in his corner

Lifestyle Factors and Athlete Coach Dynamic help build training split and the planned approach. 

Training Split
When designing the training split there are a few things to think about including...
1. Adaptation- What are you looking to accomplish?
2. Interference- Don’t send mixed signals (in regards to cell signaling).
3. Purpose- What is the specific goal of each session?
4. Direction- How will this progress over time?
5. For more check out the article on Concurrent Training Optimization. 

-Improve Snatch Max
-Improve SL+DL Squat
-Improve UB Pull

PM: Short Grinder
-Improve Snatch Battery
-Improve Clean Battery
UB Push CP Piece
UB Push Density
Mixed MAP Low Effort
Slow Grinding MAP
-Improve Jerk
-Improve Single Arm balance
-Improve Hamstring CP
-Improve Bench
-Improve Front Squat
-Improve Aero Capacity
Improve Musclular Endurance
Snatch Mod-Int
Single Leg/UB Pull CP
PM: Slow Grinding MAP High Effort
PS Battery
PC Battery
UB Push (Tricep Dominant)
UB Push Density
Mixed Map (5-12min)
Slow Grinding MAP
Jerk Volume
SA Press--Press
RDL/Bench Structural
FS Speed--Moderate
Cyclical MAP(Short--Long)
IWT or Gymn-Aero piece
A. Build to a Max Triple Snatch
B1. RFESS @21x1; 6-8; rest 60 btw legs/60 btw sets
B2. WTD CTB.CTB; [5.3]; rest 10/2 mins x3
C. Back Squat; 10 reps; rest 2 mins x3

Notes- Up wt on RFESS, WTD CTB, BS
A. 2 Hang Power Snatch OTM for 12 Mins
B. 3 PC OTM for 10 mins@above 95
2-3 Deficit(4") HSPU Negative(3s) OTM for 5 mins
5 HSPU OTM for 8-10m
All @85%
3 RFT:
200m Run
60m Bear Crawl
15 Heavy KB Swings
3 RFT:
Row 500m
60m KB Front Rack Carry
rest 10 mins
3 RFT:
5 Burpee Muscle Ups
7/7 KB Snatches @1.5
3 Rounds:
:60 Row
:60 Run
A. 3 Fast Push Jerk OTM for 10m @88-93
B. SA KB Press 20x0 5-7 reps x3 sets rest 60 btw arms
C1. Bench Press @21x1; 6-8; rest 90-120
C2. RDL @3111; 6-8; rest 2 mins x3
D. 3 Fast FS OTM for 10m @112
Based on Results of Last weeks tester
Run 400m@90%
rest 2 mins x3
*Note: Overall Volume is low due to competiton just passing as well as competition coming up, and current athlete time constraints(2 weeks). Within 3-4 weeks, there will be another 1-3 sessions in the microcycle. 

Going Forward:The training split shown above is for part one of the accumulation phases. After this phase/cycle ends the athlete will go through another testing, or retesting, phase. The purpose being to see how the athlete improved on the parameters we were working on (highlighted in blue).
Based on the results of the second testing phase we will then begin a new cycle with a new focus, which will be influenced both by the athletes current needs and the time of year relative to competition.

Peak Athletic Development Exclusive Coaching: For information about our exclusive coaching program email us at, or check out our  Exclusive Coaching Page (Link)

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Scientific Method of Programming: A Case Study

By Evan Peikon

With the level of competition in the sport of fitness growing each year the demands placed on both coaches and athletes are growing exponentially.
The days when we could follow “Crossfit Strength Biased” programs or run a “Black-Box” style program in which we combined a tried and true strength program, like Westside, with metcons are over.

So.... where does that leave us?
The answer isn’t black or white and will depend on a myriad of factors. But, in general it means that an Athlete should be following a well periodized strength & conditioning program that is tailored to their goals AND that factors in their individual makeup (I feel like i’m beating a dead horse by even having to mention this again....).

So, now we have a new question... What goes into writing the aforementioned program and how do we at Peak Athletic Development go about carrying it out?

The answer isn’t simple, but through the following case study of an athlete i’m currently working with the process should become quite clear.

***Note- All data, training splits, etc are for a regional level athlete i’m currently working with. That being said, the program mentioned below is based off their INDIVIDUAL needs, strengths/weaknesses, recovery capabilities, lifestyle etc. You are free to steal any and all of it if you please. Just know their needs may not be the same as yours. 

Observations & Inferences: The Initial Testing Phase
The first, and possible most important, step in programming for an athlete is the assessment. In this phase, we put the athlete through a battery of tests designed to assess their structural balance, movement deficiencies, strengths/ weaknesses in terms of both movements and energy systems, Essence, Neuromuscular Efficiency, ATP-CP Battery etc.
Note- Before initial testing we consult with our athletes about their training history, lifestyle (work, hobbies, stress etc), nutrition and so on.

Below I will provide the results of this athletes initial testing phase and explain the take aways (some numbers/ reference points have been omitted both to protect the athletes identity and our intellectual property)

CP (Strength) Testing:
Back Squat- 385 (AMRAP @85% 1RM  @tempo- score =7)
Front Squat- Withheld
Deadlift- 405
Clean- 275
Snatch- withheld
Bench Press- withheld
Press- withheld
Wtd. Prone Pullup- 108
Wtd. Bar Dip- 92
Structural Testing- exercises/ #‘s withheld

BS:DL- Deadlift priority
BS:FS- In Balance
BS:Clean- Clean priority
BS:Snatch- Snatch priority
-Athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-Athlete has Low Neuromuscular efficiency
-UB Pressing In a HUGE priority
-Athlete is deficient is scapular strength
-Athletes Glute Medius doesnt fire properly

Gymnastic Density & ATP-CP Battery:
50 HSPU For Time- 10:09
30 MU For Time- 4:30
8 Min AMRAP Power Clean @90%- 29 reps
20 Snatch @77% 1RM- With Held
20 Sets of 5 Unbroken C2B Pullup For Time- withheld

-Upper body pressing endurance is a priority
-Proficient with snatching at moderate loads (for reps)
-ATP-CP Battery is good, but not great.
-Proficient with both MU and C2B Pullups, but would like to see improvement on both.

Cyclical Energy System Testing (scores withheld):
10 Minute Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals
60 Second Airdyne for Cals/ rest 12m/ 60 second airdyne for cals
60 Minute Row for Max Distance
2,000m Row
500m Row
500m Row/ Rest 90s/ 500m Row

-Aerobic work is a priority over anaerobic.
-Athlete needs speed development in off season.

Mixed Energy System Testing (Tests and Score Withheld)
-Athlete is comfortable with “going there”.
-Athlete has strong scores on anaerobic tests, but needs work on aerobic.
-Athletes mixed aerobic work is better compared to their cyclical aerobic.

Training Split (Accumulation Phase for This Athlete)
Now is the fun part of the article where we analyze the athletes current training split, the logic behind it, and get a glimpse of what an actual training week looks like...
But, first we must discuss this athlete’s essence (term coined by OPT).

Athlete Essence
-This athlete is stronger than they are fast.
-This athlete is slightly more powerful than they are enduring (not much though).
-This athlete has a low Neuromuscular efficiency.
-This athletes CP-Battery is well developed, but not at an elite level.

This info is what tells me what types of protocols to use on this athlete in order to improve what they are lacking. For example....
If I had a High Neuromuscular efficient athlete I would NOT program them 10-12 rep Back Squats, Squat Clusters, Drop Sets etc.
If I had an Athlete with a low CP Battery I would NOT program they high rep Olympic lifts with a HIGH % of their 1RM.
However, neither of these situations are the case for this athlete, so I will program accordingly (the same type of principals apply to energy system training as well. Different athletes respond to different methods and part of the coaches job is to know how to progress with them correctly).

When designing the training split there are a few things to think about including...
1. Adaptation- What are you looking to accomplish?
2. Interference- Don’t send mixed signals (in regards to cell signaling).
3. Purpose- What is the specific goal of each session?
4. Direction- How will this progress over time?
5. For more check out the article on Concurrent Training Optimization.

The Training Split (For this SPECIFIC phase):
In the diagram below we include...
1. The goal for each day (ie- what parameter we are trying to improve upon)
2. The Type of Session/ Training Split Skelton
3. An example of a training week.

Tying it All Togeather
Life Style Factors & The Athlete-Coach Dynamic
While not as sexy as talking about training, the external factors imposed on an athlete play a large part in how they respond to training, how they recover, and how they feel on a day to day basis. These external factors, much like training, have an effect on physiological adaptation (this is going to be an article in and of itself very soon) which is why they must be addressed.
When working with an athlete I always make sure to address these factors and to ensure they work in out favor instead of against it. Knowing the in’s and out’s of an athletes life also allow me (the coach) to modulate certain factors in training (such as volume/intensity) so that they athlete keeps progressing as needed.

These include but are not limited to...
1. Quality and Quantity of Sleep
2. Nutrition- Quality, Quantity, Macros etc.
3. Stress (work stress/ life stress etc.)
4. Commitments, Priorities and values.

Going Forward:
As previously mentioned, the training split shown above is for part one of the accumulation phases. After this phase/cycle ends the athlete will go through another testing, or retesting, phase. The purpose being to see how the athlete improved on the parameters we were working on (highlighted in blue).
Based on the results of the second testing phase we will then begin a new cycle with a new focus, which will be influenced both by the athletes current needs and the time of year relative to competition.

Part II
In the next installment of the "Case Study" article series I'm going to break down a case study for a facility program design and the ideas surround it. Stay Tuned!

Peak Athletic Development Exclusive Coaching: For information about our exclusive coaching program email us at, or check out our  Exclusive Coaching Page (Link)

Other Article You Will Enjoy:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Leaderboard Pre-Conceived Set-Points, Perception, and Anxiety

Open season is easily the most stressful time of the year for the majority of CrossFit athletes. It is exceptionally stressful for anyone trying to make regionals or anyone trying to get within a certain range. Most of this stress is self created.

There is the stress to perform as best as possible, to outperform last year's performance, to outperform your training partners, to outperform that guy who beat you in the local competition, to make regionals, to make it back to regionals, and so on and so forth. There are a lot of stressors that can potentially lead to a negative performance, you know what your stressors are better than I do.

Don't think for a second that these stressors do not effect the top tier athletes like Froning, Khalipa, Bailey, Briggs, etc. Everyone is subject to these stressors but the only difference from individual to individual is how/if you choose to let it effect you as well as how you deal with the stressors.

A major downfall I see many athletes doing is creating a Preconceived Set-Point or notion. Let me give you a quick scenario: First, you watch the live Open announcement followed by watching the workout done by two of the top athletes in the sport based mostly on last years performance. When the workout is over the results are Top Athlete A scored 305 reps and Top Athlete B scored 284. Based off Athlete A and B's performance, you begin to determine how you may perform on the given workout.

To give you a better picture, last week for example we watched Camille Leblanc-Bazinet put up 267 reps on 14.2 and Talayna Fortunato racked up 320 reps. Since they are Games athletes it is only natural to set their scores as a ceiling for yourself. "I am not as good as Camille so I will not be scoring this high" is what many of you probably thought to yourselves. This may very well be true and you may have no shot at scoring anywhere near 267 reps on that workout but there are people that can. A few days later though we see Camille post 404 reps for 14.2, now if she would have scored a 404 the first time around don't you think your expectations/ceilings/pre-conceived set-points would have been a little different? Maybe 267 would have seemed like a realistic score for yourself.

With high scores in mind you begin to go into a self-evaluation of what you think you'll score on the workout based off those numbers+how you stack up against Athlete A or B. You may figure well if the males/females who placed 5th and 6th at the games last year scored X, I will probably get X reps less than that or "If they got this, I will get this" type thought process (Preconceived Set-Point). I know this is how a lot of people take on these workouts psychologically.

The problem lies in the fact that you are comparing yourself to other athletes not knowing anything behind their situation. You don't know how well they prepared all year long, how they felt psychologically+physically going into the workout, sleep, fueling, environment, did they get no-repped, and so on and so forth.

More so I have seen a few top athletes post early on (fri-early sat) then repost a much higher score by monday night. Whether this is intentionally to throw people off or not, this can negatively effect your perception of how you may score on the workout. Especially, if you are the type to set preconceived set-points.

Even if you know a few factors such as X person has performed well on CTB workouts in the past, this is still not enough information to use as an example to compare to yourself or anyone else to. Especially when each workout is very different. A thruster/CTB Pullup couplet is not the same as an OHS/CTB pullup workout. Think of the scapular endurance demand of holding a bar overhead for close to a minute or more than doing CTB's.

The last part that I want to touch on is the potential building of anxiety leading into the Open workout. Another factor that can negatively effect performance, is when you put pressure on yourself or athletes to score within a certain range. This goes right along with the above examples, you are trying to make regionals and you know to post a regional level score you need to have above X reps. You have now set yourself a performance floor or a score you cannot score below.

For some people, setting a Performance Ceiling or Floor can be beneficial if the athlete knows how to channel pressure, anxiety, and fear. If not, the athlete may very well perform poorly.

The big question in there is, does the athlete know how to channel anxiety/fear?

Characteristics of athletes who know how to channel this energy are those that exceed performance levels in a competition setting. Energy is grounded and they are calm before, during, and after competition/testing. Breathing is deep/diaphragmatic and slow before competition. They may seem to have a flow about their process warming up and during competition.

Characteristics of athletes who do not know how to channel this energy are those that under perform their fitness levels in a competition setting. Energy is very high, meaning they are in their own heads doing a lot of over thinking. Breathing is very chesty and is non-diaphragmatic. A lot of questioning of strategy or training may be going on.

Am I saying don't look at the leaderboard, no? Just know that checking compulsively may be effecting you in a very negative manner. Start noticing how you perform under pressure situations. Notice if you perform better if you have a number to shoot for or if that only begins to build too much anxiety/pressure for you to conquer. Do you have techniques to handle anxiety/fear/negative self talk? Do your techniques have a high rate of effectiveness?

Stay tuned for several articles that expand upon this topic and may help you better deal with the aforementioned.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Fixing the First Pull

As you may have read in the first part of the series "Fixing the Starting Position," there are some simple yet deceiving problems that can present themselves in the quick lifts.

Although seemingly elusive at times, once you know what to look for you can begin to tame the beast.

Below are some nuances I have come across that have the potential to take your lifting to the next level. As well as some other considerations that may serve you along your journey.

As always these are just ideas that withhold potential for some and may be old news to others. Let's dive in shall we?

Breaking Down the First Pull

The First Pull

1) Hips and shoulders must rise in unison/at the same speed
-Bar is raised mostly by a leg drive
-Bar is moving back into the body
2)Back angle remains the same as bar moves off the floor
3) Shoulders are over the bar as the bar reaches the top of the knee
-Shins are mostly vertical if executed correctly

Apti Aukhadov clearing his knees beautifully

Overlooked Problems on the First Pull
1) Leg Drive
When starting your pull, it is vital to positioning to start your first pull with a leg drive. Something I say a lot during my classes is that you must start your pulls with a push and you start a push with a pull. What I mean by that is when you start a lower body exercise where your are pulling off the ground you want to first actively push away from the floor and on the opposite side if your are doing a pushing exercise such as a back squat you want to start by activating your abductors and glute medius as well as actively pull yourself down in the squat by keeping that tension all the way down and all the way up. This is why any degree of knee valgus can be detrimental to performance because of the energy leak but I digress.

When you pull yourself down to set up, it is best to "spread the ground with your feet" by pushing your feet to the outsides of your shoes, this will activate your abductors and glute medius. Second, you should drive your feet into the ground to push yourself away from the floor doing so will mostly activate your quads.

The point is to start with as much tension as possible. A parallel example of this is when you setup for a strict press, do you unrack the bar and simply press? Or do you walk the bar out, isometrically flex and activate your whole lower body, your whole core, pull your chin in and then press? Which do you think will elicit a more stable and powerful movement? The point is to have as much energy as possible going into the bar.

You want to be moving the bar off the floor mostly through the act of pushing away from the floor as opposed to pulling off the floor. 

A clear sign that someone is missing leg drive is if the butt shoots up on the start of the first pull. Consequentially, if the butt is shooting up the back angle is changing as well. When starting the first pull that is one thing that could create inconsistency. 

2) Consistent Back Angle
If you have a proper starting position, you are using leg drive to push yourself and the bar away from the ground as opposed to simply "pulling" the bar off the ground. Your back angle off the ground and into the first pull should remain the same or be very consistent i.e. not much change. If there is a noticeable difference in back angle this can easily be fixed by cueing the athlete to keep his or her back angle the same from their setup till about 1-2 inches off the floor.

For those of you who like to fix everything with exercises the snatch and clean deadlift can be a great way to isolate the problem and open the door for a more controlled environment. An advanced version or progression would be snatch and clean deadlift from a deficit. You can easily cue and fix the above problems with those two exercises. Another detail those two lifts could expose is a muscular weakness somewhere in the kinetic chain which you could then further isolate.

3) Clearing the Knees
One of the more important pieces of finishing the first pull is clearing the knees. You must move your body around the bar and not move the bar around your body. When I started looking at weightlifting in that manner I started becoming more consistent and in turn more confident. Obviously, to some degree you are doing a bit of both. What I mean by moving your body around the bar is that when the bar is approaching your knees there must be an active attempt to push your knees out to the side. If you break down this video or any video of Apti Aukhadov, pictured above, you will understand what I mean a little better. Watch how he clears his knees by pushing them out to the side:

He starts with a bit of a wider stance than some which allows him to clear the knees and scoop the bar into the hip with ease. Anatomical differences as well as preferences have to be considered but I simply suggest to play around with clearing the knees in this fashion and see how it serves you. There are plenty of lifters who do not clear the knees in this way and may even "move the bar around there body." This is simply something I have found that best serves me and most of the people I coach but as with everything it all depends on the individual.

Helpful Exercises
The exercises I recommend for potentially correcting the above problems are very similar to the exercises listed in Fixing the Starting Position. The mental or verbal cueing for these exercises is to attempt to move the barbell mainly by pushing the bar and the body away from the ground, whilst maintaining a consistent back angle. As the bar is approaching the knees there should be an active effort to clear the knees out to the side clearing a path for the bar to be scooped in to the body and into the hips. 

1) Snatch/Clean Deadlift from a Deficit 
-Can be done from ground to hip, ground to knees, with a pause, with a pull at the top, or any other combination you can think of 
2) Chair Pulls
-Seated pull to knee height without leaving the seated position
3) Pause Snatch/Cleans off the floor+below knee

Thoughts on Consistency
Creating consistency on each and every lift is paramount to a lifter's success. Often when a new lifter or someone who is struggling with the lifts is practicing or attempting to refine their technique there is a great deal of inconsistency from one lift to the next. This could be a good thing if the lifter is kinesthetically intelligent. Those with natural athletic ability will begin to play with their movement and go through a natural process of trial and error. The only problem I see with this is it can be a waste of time and energy. If a coach can simply correct minor issues that have a major pay off then why let the athlete figure it out themselves. On the other hand, those who are less kinesthetically intelligent will go through a continuous and vicious cycle of inconsistent trial and error. Only leading to frustration, bad lifts, and will inhibit further athletic growth. Hopefully some of this information helps to prevent that from happening to you or your athletes.

If possible get yourself a weightlifting coach to keep a watchful eye on your lifting. If this is not possible your best bet would be to video a majority of your lifting. Begin to study yourself position by position. Compare your lifting to top lifters and try to notice the differences. When you are having a day where everything is going right, try to video everything and notice why everything is going right. This also comes in handy when you are having bad days because you can reference your videos from the "on days" to compare and contrast.

If you are not sure what you are looking at or what is going wrong, send your videos my way and I'll be happy to have a look. 

Other Considerations
For beginners, I have found the best combo to teaching the lifts is the "Pendlay Step 3" also known as "hi-hang, hang, low hang/from the ground" combined with the snatch and clean deadlift. They are all simple enough by themselves and together they encompass all the basics that a lifter should begin their career with. Nothing should be overcomplicated. In the beginning, you are looking for proficiency and consistency. Over time coaches and athletes should be seeking excellence and consistent improvements in performance. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fixing the Starting Position

Position!  Position!  Position!

Aesthetically, most notice the difference between good lifts and bad lifts but few can put their finger on what makes the lift different for better or worse.

As a Weightlifting and CrossFit coach for the past few years, I have watched and coached thousands and thousands of reps.  As a CrossFitter converted into a Weightlifter I have had my fair share of frustrating, "I can't make a rep kind of days," on and off for many months.

I am happy to tell you that those days do not happen anymore.  Even better than that I would love to help you not have those days anymore either!

There are a few things that I have noticed in my experiences that can easily get you out of proper position.

Breaking Down the Starting Position 
Setup and positioning will differ slightly due to height, limb lengths, and preferences. These are guidelines but there are always exceptions to the rule when it comes to anything. Kendrick Farris dynamically starts with his arms bent and goes right into his first pull as he is straightening out his arms in a yanking fashion. This clearly works for him and if this works for you or some other different method by all means do it. Here are some general rules of thumb.

Starting Position
1) Bar is over the 2nd joint of the foot or mid foot
2) Bar is lightly in contact with the shins or very close
3) Shoulders are above or slightly in front of the bar
4) Back is in complete extension
5) Arms are extended, relaxed, and vertical
6) Eyes and head facing straight forward

Here is a picture of Diane Fu showing proper setup:

Overlooked Problems with the Starting Position
1) Mobility
The biggest issues I have seen with people in Weightlifting and CrossFit is mobility. This one is kind of obvious but I feel too many people disregard this when it is often the easiest way to make improvements. If you are one of those people the easiest way to free yourself from frustration is taking 20-30 minutes out of your day, maybe more, to stretch and mobilize.  This is also the easiest way to add kilos to the bar without every touching one.

More specifically, you should be working on your problem areas. For example, if it is too difficult for you to set your back in complete extension on your setup then get the hell off the bar and start working on thoracic mobility. If you are training while in bad positions you will be strengthening up those bad positions, as well as possibly not being able to get into the right positions which will usually lead to inconsistency. Mobilize for improvement in all positions.

Functional Movement Screenings are great for pre-screening individuals to see where they are or are not limited although it is not necessary. Any experienced coach will be able to spot movement limitations right away. By assessing posture most of the time you can predetermine where some issues lie whether it is a muscular imbalance and/or inflexibility but we should all hold ourselves to a higher standard and test before we guess.

I encourage you to hold yourself to that higher standard and not allow for people with bad movement patterns or restrictions to perform exercises outside of their capacities. It may take you saying "Hey Bill, today instead of overhead squats we are going to work on our scapular mobility and some overhead stability exercises." At first they may not appreciate doing something different than the group but in the long run you are doing them a great service. Fitness and athletics should be achieved over time, it is not a overnight, quick fix deal. New gyms, gyms in competition with one another, lazy coaches, and some without a long term goal may not try to "fix" someone's restrictions in lieu of getting results now. This is a big mistake and will only come back to haunt you in the end.

2) Complete Back Extension
The importance of completely extending your back and setting it tight is so that you can easily transfer energy from your lower body into your upper body. When "setting your back" you want to extend the lumbar(low back), thoracic(mid back), and cervical(neck) spine and maintain a slight torso lean with shoulders above the bar or slightly in front of. If you are not in extension there will be a leak or lack of energy transfer. The shoulders/scapula must be set back as well to reach complete extension, most do this naturally but you may have to cue yourself or your athletes to get their "shoulders back."

3) Vertical Arms
From what I have seen not too many people think about setting up with their arms vertical. I have found some people are not aware their arms should be vertical while others think they are vertical. Lastly, some people allow their dynamic start to take precedence over proper setup. Regardless, this is a quick and easy fix that will create consistency.

Just before pulling off the ground, make sure your arms are vertical or completely upright. I cue my athletes to picture their arms as uprights just like the uprights of a squat rack. Once that is in place plus a straight gaze ahead and you are that much closer to being consistently consistent with your setup.

Some tell tale signs of bad thoracic mobility is if someone has a hard time starting with their arms and/or back completely extended. You cue them, they know but they just can't. First, see what kind of positive change you can create with some T-spine mobility if you do not get the desired result check their hip flexor mobility and see if that is lacking. If so, the death or couch stretch for two minutes each side will improve positioning as they squat down to setup as well as allow for better hip extension.

Notice the completely extended back and vertical arms. 
Other Considerations
Corrective Protocol
Simple cueing and a focused approach to fixing the problem should fix most issues. If it does not here are some things that may help.

1) Corrective Mobility 
The number one thing that has helped my setup positioning is a ton of "Cat-backs" also known as "Cat-camels." I program these quite frequently in warm-ups for 20-50 reps to increase thoracic mobility.
A. Thoracic Flexion B. Thoracic extension
I encourage you to not count your reps but simply focus on your movement and your breathing while performing this exercise. I also would perform this exercise in two different positions. The first is as pictured above and the second is with the hands about 4-6 inches away from your knees. This will concentrate the stretch in the lower thoracic region. Regardless of hand position, ensure the arms and legs are perpendicular to the ground.

Studies on wild cats have shown that on average they perform 43 cat-backs per day. This is how they warm up, you are not a cat and hopefully don't walk on all fours all day long so don't think 43 cat-backs will suffice as a warm up. That is a disclaimer for all those who take the Paleolithic thing way too seriously. If your thoracic mobility is a big issue, thoracic rotation exercises can also improve overall thoracic mobility. These exercises can be performed periodically throughout the day and/or before your training session. 

Thoracic mobility is not the only mobility issue that I have seen effect starting position it is just one of the most common ones. There are a ton of others that could be effecting starting positioning such as lack of flexibility/mobility in the ankles, hamstrings, hip flexors, and/or the glutes. Lack of flexibility/mobility does not only effect olympic lifting but all of the seven movement patterns: squat, lunge, push, pull, bend, twist, and gait.
2) Corrective Lifts
If starting position and/or the first pull are problematic for you or your athletes there are a few exercises I like to prescribe that help reinforce patterns and strengthen weak areas. Here is a short list:

A) Segmented Snatch/Clean Deadlifts (Break floor then lower and ground to below knee, above knee) 
B) Seated Segmented Snatch/Clean Deadlift (Personal Favorite) 
C) Deficit Snatch/Clean Deadlifts (Good mobility needed)
D) Snatch/Clean from a Deficit (Good mobility needed)

The intent of these exercises is to either isolate the portion of the lift that is weak or problematic and focus on that aspect only. Over the weeks building strength and confidence in hopes that it will transfer over to the full lifts. In my experiences, there has been a big pay off in the full lifts when utilizing these exercises.

Stay tuned for the next piece of the segment "Fixing the First Pull" for more insights and tips. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Preparing For the Opens: Managing Training Volume &Intensity, Periodization and Recovery

by Evan Peikon

As the title of the article suggests, the purpose of this piece is to help shed some light on how to prepare for the opens in terms of managing training intensity/load prior to and during the opens. I’ll also cover the ideas surrounding the topic in order to give context and help elaborate on the points I will later present. However, before I get started I want to throw out the caveat that these are general guidelines and they will differ from athlete to athlete depending on training age, individual physiology, speed of adaptation, etc. With these recommendations, it is also assumed that the athlete has also followed a properly periodized training plan leading up to tis point (in terms of both training priority and volume/intensity).
This article also assumes the athlete's focus is the Open. If the athlete's focus is on regionals or the games they would approach this in a different manner.
**Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules discussed in this article. However, we do so for a specific reason at a specific time. When first starting to implement them follow these best practices. Once you know how a given athletes body works/reacts you can begin to deviate/ tinker.

Periodization Part I (Phases of Training)
For a more detailed explanation of how i’d break up the year in terms of phases check out the following article Click HERE.

For the sake of this article, the following breakdown of phases should be sufficient....
Training Phase
~Start and End Dates
Accumulation Phase I
May --> August 
Accumulation Phase II
August --> November 
Transition Phase/ Intensification Part I
November --> January 
Intensification Part II/ Pre-Competition Phase
January --> March
~March --> ~April
Post-Open Testing Phase/ De-load 
April --> May

As you can see, I break the intensification phase into two parts.
The first part stars in mid-october and ends in mid-december to mid-january. This phase is dedicated to increasing intensity of both Energy System and ATP-CP work following the accumulation phase where an aerobic base was built and structural integrity was made. This phase also serves as a transition to the max effort and high intensity work that will come shortly. This phase also differs from Intensification Part II in the sense that I would continue to build volume in this phase (of both sub maximal and near maximal work) while I tend to either wave load or maintain volume during the second Intensification Phase.  
The Second half of the Intensification Phase starts mid-december to mid-january and ends between the middle of february and the beginning of march depending on where the athlete is standing relative to the opens. The purpose of this phase is to maximize all Energy systems such that the athlete is set up to peak during the opens.

Periodization Part II (Volume, Intensity and Focus)
As a general rule an increase in Intensity means a decrease in volume (Note that there are times when we intentionally break the rules. The purpose here is to provide a general guideline). Though there is a lot of grey area in that statement (Ie- As I previously mentioned I build volume and Intensity during Intensification P1), I tend to follow it more closely during Intensification Phase II.
 One of the reasons for a more moderate approach to volume during the second half of intensification is that the higher effort work being done (specifically longer anaerobic work) is damaging to the nervous system.
However, we still want sufficient volume to elicit a stimulus and keep the athlete improving. There are myriads of ways to accomplish this but i’ll discuss my two preferred methods...
The first method is to wave load training volume. In this instance the period of each wave is athlete dependent. But, in general terms we want to make it long enough that the athlete makes steady progress and short enough that the athlete doesn't redline their body. The best way to decide the length of each wave is to take a daily HRV measurement and manually figure out how much stress is on the athletes system and where their “readiness” to train lies. For more info of HRV, and its relation to training click HERE.
The second method is to keep volume fairly constant. In this instance you would still take HRV measurement, and based off the results you can titrate volume up and down as needed to match the athletes speed of adaptation.
In regards to volume during the actual opens I recommend lower volume relative to intensification to ensure full recovery. However, we still want a few intense sessions each week (2-3), but the other training days will be lower intensity energy system/CP based work for maintenance.

There are a few ways to approach the opens in terms of training splits, but for all intents and purposes i’ll discuss that of a balanced athlete (and how to modify it)....
To start i’d make monday and friday off days. Since the Open workout is released Wednesday night. This allows the athlete to do a run through on thursday (which is often an off day in most programs), take friday off, and then hit the Open workout again on saturday. Though this same concept can be applied with doing the run through on friday and adjusting the days as needed, I prefer to not leave the open workout for sunday.

Next ill cover the training focuses on the remaining days of the week. Instead of explaining it in written form i’ll write out three general training splits. One for a balanced athlete, Powerful athlete, and enduring athlete (Which are extremely general terms... Also note that these don’t take the human factor or grey areas into account so they are just to get you thinking).

M- Off
T- Moderate Volume Intense Strength/Oly + Short Density Piece
W- Open Based Skills (TnG work, MU’s etc) +Moderate Intensity Cyclical  ES work to prime system
Th- Open Run Through
F- Off
Sa- Opens
Su- Moderate Intensity Strength/Oly +Longer Low effort aerobic work for recovery (depends entirely on what the workout is)

If the athlete in question was more powerful than enduring and more advanced in terms of strength then CP/Oly volume would be lower on tuesday/ sunday. Instead more attention would be put on energy system work. On the other hand if the athlete was weaker then average then more attention would be put on strength and olympic lifting work. Obviously those are general/blanket statements, but it gives an idea of how to skin the cat differently.

**Side Note: the run-through can either be prep work, a portion of the workout, or the actual workout depending on the athlete.

The last point i’m going to make is about recovery work.
Leading up to the opens and during the opens I recommend that athletes spend at least 20 minutes dedicated to mobility work and stretching in the evening. This will both put you in a relaxed state and calm the nervous system which will help with recovery. If you have time adding in a 20 minute recovery spin early in the morning will help too. And depending on how serious you are with competing getting a weekly or bi-weekly massage would be wise.

For other, more detailed, tips on recovery check out the following articles:
Parasympathetic Vs. Sympathetic Overtraining
Rest & Recovery

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*If you have any questions about the article feel free to email me at !