Benefit of Isolation Movements
February 7, 2014

Benefit of Isolation Movements

As some of you may or may not know I was a very successful body builder, seven gold medals and numerous Mr. Costa Rica titles, before I was injured playing basket ball and retired very despondent and depressed after three surgeries. Then I found CROSSFIT . Why do I mention this? Well mostly so that you can have the advantage of not wasting your time discovering what it took me one year to go full circle and discover. I love weightlifting. I’m selfish when it comes to training I think of what I have to do to win. I rarely let family, girl friends or nieces and nephews get in the way. I’m ok with that. I prefer to lift weights then get bitched at about not cuddling or not ever going to dinner. I’m probably going to be a lonely old man some day but I don’t regret my decision. Believe me when I tell you I have probably forgotten more about weightlifting than most people know. I have done everything from powerlifting to body building and now Olympic weightlifting. Simply put I know what I’m talking about when it comes to strength training. Now, I’m here to discuss the benefit of isolation exercises as it applies to making you better at Crossfit, and why I think CROSSFIT is wrong with ignoring “gyms”.


When I first started CROSSFIT I never had any tendon or ligament problems…ever. Now I suffer from tendinitis in my elbow and some pain in my right shoulder. My push-up and dip strength have dropped considerably. Don’t get me wrong I love CROSSFIT now, I’m in much better cardio and overall conditioning then when I was a bodybuilder. I weigh 190lbs now instead of the 215lbs I used to weigh, but I never had joint problems until CROSSFIT. Why? I think I finally figured it out. It is the randomness of CROSSFIT WODs that got me and CF almost snobbish view that isolation exercises are unnecessary. Let me explain.


CROSSFIT preaches functional movements as the pinnacle for strength, power and speed. I agree with them on this point. They also make fun of isolation movements like bicep curls, giggling derisively about looking foolish doing them. I disagree with them on this point. Isolation movements are corrective movements and while a direct result of an isolation movement may be specific muscle growth, that doesn’t take away form the effectiveness of isolation movements to strengthen the ligaments and tendons that run through a joint. CROSSFIT puts such a strenuous demand on your body and ligaments that I believe corrective exercises are absolutely necessary to strengthen the joints and ligaments to help prevent tendinitis and joint injuries. I know that cf says that push ups takes care of the triceps and pull-ups takes care of the biceps and that’s true, however cf random pairing of exercises makes getting steady work on those muscles with those specific exercises in a WOD unrealistic. Therefore you must do separate work on those joints outside of the WOD to benefit you in the long run. Mixing your cf gymnastic movements with isolation weight training exercises will help you strengthen the ligaments and tendons and almost eliminate tendinitis in the joints.


Let me put it another way, as a bodybuilder I dedicated two days a week to just chest, biceps, shoulders and triceps. While I wasn’t CROSSFIT ready with this kind of weightlifting I could knock out ring dips, push-ups and muscle ups all day with no pain whatsoever in the elbow joint and had insane strength for those movements. As I went away from that I started having trouble with my elbow and my shoulders and triceps got weaker. So what to do? I don’t have time to do CROSSFIT and be a bodybuilder so what now? Well a few weeks ago I went back to doing chest and arms once a week and my tendinitis and shoulder pain are not only diminishing but my strength in the tendons for the gymnastics movements like the dips and muscle ups is returning as well. This led me to the conclusion that isolation movements as a form of corrective exercise is crucial to CROSSFIT and that CROSSFIT is making a huge mistake ignoring them. I researched and found out that plenty of Olympic weight lifters do isolation exercises to better their Olympic lifts, as well as gymnasts to better their gymnastic movements. C’mon you have all seen the gymnastics guys with sick arm development, that’s because what they do on the ring requires tremendous tendon and ligament strength through the elbow joint. They get that strength through isolation exercises for the arms such as bicep curls etc hence the huge biceps on men gymnasts.So if Oly lifters and gymnasts do isolation exercises for strength and to help with their sports, why does CROSSFIT which incorporates movements from both disciplines ignore it? It doesn’t make sense.


A lot of it has to do , I think, with lack of knowledge on cf certified coaches. Most of them have absolutely no fitness or exercise physiology back ground. They drink the kool aid, pay for a weekend certification and can then immediately start coaching and use their limited knowledge to preach anything they perceive as anti CROSSFIT and speak against isolation movements simply out of ignorance. Another part that comes into play is most Boxes are just that, boxes. Even if they admitted to the necessity for certain isolation movements these boxes don’t have equipment for it. So why admit to something your members can’t do at their own box? Ha! Enter the hybrid gym. Where we not only have a CROSSFIT box but a gym side as well where isolation movements can be done to better improve your CROSSFIT. Win-Win. On the days you aren’t WODng or doing USAW then add one day for corrective exercises, I think you will benefit greatly and your CROSSFIT will benefit greatly from it. Take advantage of your hybrid gym and I think you will see improvement in your skill set for CROSSFIT. Don’t be surprised if you see more hybrid gyms popping up in the future. Let me reiterate that I love CROSSFIT very much but I don’t understand the myopic view this community has a lot of times with disregarding other disciplines. I will defend CROSSFIT to anyone and CROSSFIT is fantastic but it’s not the end all be all that some people make it seem. We need to embrace a wider span of ideas and principles in order to keep CROSSFIT moving forward and ensuring that it doesn’t become just a fad. That’s all I’m saying. Well that and start doing isolation movements as a corrective exercises to stay healthy.

Box Squats

7If you want to develop a strong back squat that will in turn translate into greater strength
for your Olympic Weightlifting then please read on. If not, well then stay weak and
frustrated, and continue to wonder why you are stuck and cannot seem to make any
progress. This article has information that I gathered and researched heavily from the
gurus at West Side Barbell, based in Ohio, a source deeply respected by the
Powerlifting community. Let me point out that you can only learn so much by watching
someone do a lift, if you watch but do not ask questions your education and knowledge
will be insufficient to help you make progress and could lead to injury. One of the reason
I am writing this article is because countless trainers have improperly taught this
movement for what they thought were the right reasons. If you have ever seen a
personal trainer do a box squat with a client the chances are that that trainer was doing
it to teach squat depth. This only a part of what the box squat does, there are more
intricacies involved than this. It must be taught and more importantly fully understood to
reap the benefits of this great movement. As with any movement if not taught properly
and understood it can lead to injury.
According to Westside Barbell ” Box squatting is the most effective method to produce a
first rate squat”. Please keep in mind the members at West Side frequently back squat
anywhere from 700 lbs to over 1,000 lbs, and according to them it is all due to Box
squats. Please feel free to re-read the next sentence several times it is not a typo. By
doing sets of just two reps for anywhere between eight to twelve sets with short rest
periods you will get about a 200 lb. carry over to your regular squat. That’s a bold
statement. Before we get into the “meat” of the movement there are several advantages
to box squatting. “There is recuperation, you can train more frequently at box squats
than regular back squats. Secondly it is regularly accepted that you should keep your
shins perpendicular to the floor when squatting. With box squats you can go past this
point which places all the stress on the major squatting muscles- the hips, glutes, lower
back and hamstrings. This is a huge advantage. Lastly you do not have to ask anyone if
you we’re parallel. Once you establish a below parallel height, all of your squats will be
just that- below parallel”. You guys know what I’m referring to you have seen it in gyms
all over as the weight gets heavier the squats get higher. This cannot happen with box
• If your hips are weak, use a below parallel box and a wide stance.
• If you need low back power, use a close stance below parallel.
• If your quads are weak work on a parallel box.
As an added bonus box squats will build the deadlift as well by overloading the hips
and lower back muscles. Your ability to increase off the floor will increase dramatically.




OK so how do you do a box squat? They have the same mechanics we use in the air
squat. The hips move back not down. Place your legs in a wide sumo stance then fill
your abdomen with air and push out against your belt, push the glutes rearward as far
as possible. With a tightly arched back and your knees apart to maximally activate the
hips squat back until you completely sit on the box. Every muscle is kept tight (core)
while on the box with the exception of the hip flexors. By releasing then contracting the
hip flexors and arching the upper back, you will jump off the box, building tremendous
starting strength. In other words, push the traps into the bar first engaging the back
muscles then the hips and the glutes, and finally the legs then, forcefully flex the abs,
hips and glutes and “explode” off the box. Your hamstrings will be strengthened to a
great degree which is crucial as the hamstrings are hip extensors. Now remember that
when sitting on the box, the shins should be straight up and down or even past
perpendicular. This places all the work on the hamstrings, glutes, hips and lower back.










“These are the precise muscle groups that do a very large percent of the back squat”.
Other benefits of the box squats are the following. Box squatting with a slow count is a
“form of propriceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)”. This type of stretch involves a
maximum per-contraction of the muscle groups to undergo elongation. A box squat can
become a safe ballistic stretch method. This will not only increase your range of motion
in the muscle groups but also increases joint mobility”. Box squatting increases pulling
power. It closely simulates the motion of pulling off the floor first by relaxing on the box
after lowering onto it and then exploding upward. “This is very close to the movement
known as the modified dive.




A box squat also combines two very important methods. One is the static dynamic
method. It combines two muscle activities. “Static work occurs while on the box, then by
flexing off the box, the dynamic sequence occurs”. The second method that is used
when box squatting is the relaxed overcome by dynamic work. “This occurs by sitting on
the box with the hips rolling in a relaxed fashion, then switching to an explosive, or
dynamic, concentric phase. Both of the above mentioned methods build explosive
strength as well as absolute strength”.
The development of power is important and of course box squats help with this as well.
Power is defined as work done divided by the time used to do work ( sound familiar
crossfitters). When you do a regular squat you must do three things. The first is the
eccentric phase, where the muscles lengthen. Secondly, when the eccentric phase
stops, a static phase begins where the muscles are not lengthening or shortening but
muscle energy is decreasing. Thirdly, to raise concentrically, you must start a load while
the muscles are held statically, even to a brief extent. In a regular squat, you must
produce power during all three phases, but a box squat breaks up the eccentric and
concentric phases because some of the muscles are relaxing while others are held
statically by movements in the hip joints. “Here is where force an be redirected very
strongly. Because a heavy squat uses a large amount of energy, it makes sense to
break the work into separate parts. While box squatting is not plyometrics it does build
tremendous reversal strength”.
We all know that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It is the same for your
posterior chain. If your hamstrings are weak squatting heavier makes no sense. You
must strengthen the hamstrings first, you can do this through RDLs or various other
exercises. My point is that the supplemental or accessory lifts as they are known must
be used to get the overall movement stronger. I hope this makes sense. If you have a
weak lower back then strengthen it by doing hyper extensions so that eventually your
entire posterior chain is equally strong. Box squats help accomplish this. It will develop
and strengthen your posterior chain an will increase your back squat dramatically which
in turn will increase your dead lift which in turn increases your power clean and so forth.
The devil is in the details. I just want to make sure it is very clear to you that over all
strength in your Olympic lifts does not come through doing the classic lifts over and over
but by doing the little lifts ( accessory lifts) that will strengthen the classic one. Do your
box squats two times a week or at least once, eight to twelve sets for two reps of
50-60% of your one rep max with one minute or so in between sets, every time exactly
like this. Listen to the gurus at Westside Barbell. If you don’t squat then you really don’t
know squat about getting stronger.

How to Prepare for a CF Competition

Picture-1231Periodization and how to apply it to Prepare for a CrossFit Competition


Periodization is the process of structuring training into phases. The purpose of periodization is to cause the muscle to continually adapt to new conditions of overload and to allow the muscles to recover from the stress of training. Training should be organized and planned in advance of a competition or performance. Having said that the following is written based on having two CrossFit competitions in a 12-month Macro cycle. Where the first competition is a “tune-up” for the main competition of the year. Please also note that every CrossFit athlete is unique and recovers at different rates, also that all athletes may be able to achieve higher sustained levels of intensity, different stress levels and weight loads on the body than you. So for that reason this article is written as a general guideline on how to use periodization to build up to a CrossFit competition and as such can be tailored to the individuals needs. The overall phases however would remain the same.

The Macro-cycle


A macro-cycle refers to an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal or main competition of the year. There are three phases in the macro-cycle: preparationcompetitive, and transition.


The entire preparation phase should be around 2/3 to 3/4 of the macro-cycle. That would be between 8 and 9 months of the year for the preparation phase. For our purposes of a “tune up” CrossFit competition leading to a main competition the prep phase of the 1st competition would differ from the prep phase of the 2nd competition because the 2nd competition is the main goal and objective. The preparation phase is further broken up into general and specific preparation of which general preparation takes over half. An example of general preparation for CrossFit would be building an aerobic base as well as a strength base. We also have specific preparation, which would be to work on the proper form (i.e. gymnastic and Olympic Weightlifting movements) and perfect skills such as pull-ups, muscle ups, burpees etc in order to be more efficient for the final format of the sport, the WOD.


The competitive phase can be any number of competitions, but they all lead up to the main competition with specific tests. For purposes of this article and ease of explanation we will consider only one competition leading to the main competition. Testing might include any of the following: performance level, new shoes or gear, a new WOD tactic might be employed, pre-WOD meals, ways to reduce anxiety before a competition, or the length needed for the taper. When the pre-competitions are of a higher priority there is definite taper stages while lower priority might simply be integrated in as training. For us our pre-competition or 1st competition will be integrated as part of the training. The competitive phase ends with the taper and the competition. Note- In the context of sports, tapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition.Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as the marathon, athletics and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance. The tapering period frequently lasts as much as a week or more.


The transition phase is important for mind and body, a year of training means a vacation is in order. A beginning CrossFit athlete might take a month while a more seasoned athlete might take as little as two weeks of recovery time after the main competition.

The Meso-cycle


A meso-cycle represents a phase of training with duration between 2 and 6 weeks dependent on the sporting discipline. Each week will be considered a micro cycle. For CrossFit we will begin with 8 micro-cycles. During the preparatory phase, a meso-cycle commonly consists of 4 – 6 micro-cycles, again we will be implementing 8 micro-cycles, while during the competitive phase it will usually consist of 2 – 4 micro-cycles depending on the competition’s calendar. For our CrossFit template we will begin with acompetitive phase of 4 micro-cycles.


The goal of the director is to fit the meso-cycles into the overall plan, in the form of a timeline, to make each meso-cycle end on one of the phases. He then determines the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given meso-cycle falls. In other words for that specific meso-cycle, make sure that your Olympic lifting and your WODs are programmed properly to fit the goal of that training period which should be strength and endurance, as well as necessary skills such as gymnastics and body-weight exercises depending where you are in the year or which Meso-Cycle you are in. The goal in mind is to make sure the body peaks for the high priority competitions by improving each cycle along the way.

The Micro-cycle


A micro-cycle is typically a week because of the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the monthly calendar. Each micro-cycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macro-cycle.

To Review-

The Annual Plan


The annual plan is important in that it directs and guides athletic training over a year. It is based on the concept of periodization and the principles of training. The objective of training is to reach the highest level of performance as possible (peak performance). To do so, the athlete has to develop skills, bio-motor abilities and psychological traits in a methodical manner.

Preparatory Phase


This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases.

Competitive Phase


This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competition and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.

Transition Phase


This phase is used to facilitate psychological and physiological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions.


We are going to attempt to give you a general outline of how to best prepare for a CrossFit Competition. The following template will be a constant work in progress as everyone is different and things may have to be changed to fit the athlete’s needs.


Months 1,2 and 3 (Meso-Cycle 1 0f 4 each Meso-Cycle consisting of 12 micro-cycles)



General Preparation- OK the first thing to consider is building a solid cardio and strength base. This foundation is crucial. The amount of cardio and strength work you do will be a constantly changing through the year leading up to the major CrossFit competition, but the foundation must be set. Well so how do we do this? Let’s start with the cardio base. Long distance running comes to mind right away but guess what we are not runners we are Cross Fitters and we don’t have the same goals as long distance runners. We are not fringe athletes. However cardio base can come form any form of exercises or combinations of exercises that elevates your heart rate to your specific VO2 max percentage, usually in the 65% or higher range, in CF that % is usually way higher as it is a sport and monitoring your heart rate during a sport is very hard. When was the last time you saw Dwayne Wade stop playing in a game to check his heart rate? What is VO2 max? VO2 max (also maximal oxygen consumptionmaximal oxygen uptakepeak oxygen uptake or maximal aerobic capacity) is the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise, which reflects the physical fitness of the individual. The name is derived from V – volume, O2 – oxygen, max – maximum. VO2 max is expressed either as an absolute rate in liters of oxygen per minute (l/min) or as a relative rate in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of bodyweight per minute (ml/kg/min). The latter expression is often used to compare the performance of endurance sports athletes.


To set a good cardio base I suggest doing WOD’s 4-6 times a week (short metcon WODs) or as much as your body allows you to and then supplement your days that you do not WOD with running, rowing, biking, swimming or interval sprints etc At least one rest day a week through this Meso Cycle more if your body tells you to. So for example you could do four WODs in a week and two cardio days of a 3-mile run and one rest day in a week etc. Please take notice though that heart rate % is different in the case of cardio by itself as opposed to heart rate during the WOD. Allow me to elaborate on this. When you go and do cardio on your own most people stay in their “target heart rate” which is defined as being within the range of 65%-80% of your maximum heart rate. So in this type of “traditional” cardio you are maintaining a set or steady pace throughout the entire cardio session and staying within the 65%-80% of your maximum heart rate.


When you WOD, the most important thing is to have intensity. Let us consider a WOD of 5 rounds for time of 5 power cleans at (135/95) 10 KB swings (53/35) and 15 burpees. If take your time and with each of the different exercises you may slightly elevate your heart rate but not enough to reach the target heart rate zone and therefore not truly achieving cardiovascular training. In order to significantly elevate your heart rate, you must approach and execute the movements in the WOD with high intensity. High intensity means non-stop, “balls to the wall” pace. That, of course, will then elevate your heart rate to a level that may be out of your comfort zone. In order for your WODs to be used as cardio training, you have to bring the intensity, WODing at 65% heart rate is pointless and you will achieve only minimal results, much less establish a cardio base for a competition. So the two ways of developing a cardio base are- sustained exercise that keeps you in the 65%-80% zone or WODs that are high intensity, to be clear a WOD that is not intense is NOT CARDIO.


Now, lets tackle the strength base you will need to prepare for a CrossFit competition. In one word it isUSAW. USAW is the governing body for the USA Olympic Weightlifting team. The first step to developing a solid strength base is to become proficient at the Olympic Lifts. This means practice, practice, and more practice. You have got to be perfect on your form especially if you intend to do CrossFit. “Never compromise form for speed”, and I mean NEVER. If you practice and perfect your form the amount of time you MAY lose will be negligible. Make sure you set up properly or you will injure yourself…that is a certainty over time. The amount of times you see an Olympic Lift in a WOD is not enough to build a strength base. Doing CF 5-5-5-5-5 or 3-3-3-3-3 sets for the Olympic Lifts before a WOD is also not enough to build a rock solid strength base. You must follow a strength-training program independent from your CrossFit to develop the strength necessary to excel in a competitive setting. That program, in my opinion, is a USAW program (12 week) that uses progressive over load principlesperiodization,conjugate method, and dynamic method as well as follow Prilepins Chart for the proper percentages and repetition schemes for your lifts. You must also incorporate lifts that “assist” your Olympic Lifts, such as clean pulls, jerk balance, snatch balance, dead lifts and split squats to name a few. This means you must work on your Olympic lifts separately from the WODs, you have to find the time to do this if you want the strength necessary for a CF competition. For CF competitions purpose and for time constraints you may hybrid your USAW program to fit the needs of CrossFit. Make no mistake though your USAW Olympic Lifts are the only way to get the strength necessary to compete successfully in a CF competition. For the 1st Meso-Cycle you are looking at a 12-week program, lifting twice a week, to establish the proper mechanics and familiarity with the Olympic Lifts. If you already have lifting experience you are probably looking at a three times a week intermediate program for the 1st Meso-Cycle. If you are already rock solid and proficient in the lifts you will probably do a three to four times a week advanced USAW program for the 1st Meso-Cycle. Remember you may adjust how long your USAW takes for time constraints.


(Via Danny Camargo) Lets introduce some basic steps for your Olympic lifting programming you should follow. First follow these 4 steps-


Step 1- Positions- includes your posture; grip, back angle and assuring all levers are tight. In other words learn how to properly perform each lift in all of the different positions of that lift. I.E. For Clean and Clean Related Exercises positions are as follows-Power Position, Hang Above the knee, hang below the knee, “lift off” and floor. Then power clean plus front squat. For Snatch and Snatch Related Exercises positions are as follows- Power position, hang above the knee, hang below the knee, “lift off” and floor. Then power snatch plus overhead squat. On the Jerk and Jerk related exercises the positions you must learn the press, push press, power jerk, footwork drill and split jerk.


Step 2Movements- connecting all the positions to perform the actual lift.


Step 3Speed- turning the movements into quick, explosive, controlled technique.


Step 4Load- once the technique is mastered, load it up and go heavy.


Secondly, have the following considerations in your Olympic Weightlifting programming.

1.      Complex Movements come first.

2.      Alternate between pushing and pulling exercises.

3.      Always include a Snatch and/or Clean and Jerk, or their power variations.

4.      New athletes should incorporate a variety of exercises.

5.      Experienced lifters, over a year, should focus on fewer exercises.

6.      Squat three to four times a week, any less isn’t enough.

7.      Always consider your program as a guideline that can be modified and is flexible.


Below is an example of one USAW day for a beginner and for an intermediate CF athlete taken from the program I developed for our members at CF Thump.


Week 1- 65% of estimated 1 RM for all lifts


Day 1


Exercises                                            Sets                 Reps


Hang Clean (Above the Knee)      4                      8

Clean Pulls from the floor              4                      8

Strict Press                                           4                      8

Front Squat                                          4                      8

Butterfly Abs                                       3                      25

Hyper Extensions                              3                      15

Intermediate as follows-


Week 2


Weekly Repetitions- 210

Distribution of Repetitions- Classical 20%, Accessory 80%


Day 1


Snatch                          80% 3r, 85% 2r, 80% 3r

Power Clean                80% 3r, 85% 2r x 3s, 75% 3r x 4s

Jerk from Rack            80% 3r, 85% 2r, 80% 2r

Front Squat                  80% 3r, 90% 2r, 85% 2r, 80% 3r x 3s

RDL                             80% 3r, 85% 2r, 80% 3r, 80% 2r x 2s


So basically do your tailored for CrossFit USAW program independently from your WODs for months one, two and three to develop your strength base. Now lets move on to months 4 and 5 and 6.



Months 4,5 and 6 (Meso-Cycle 2 0f 4 each Meso-Cycle consisting of 12 micro-cycles)


During the 2nd meso-cycle your cardio or endurance base stays the same for months 4 and 5.  Meaning you stay at 3-4 WODs a week (high intensity) and one or two sustained cardio days where you can mix it up and do sprint intervals or run 3 miles etc


For your USAW strength base you will now begin your 2nd 12-week program. Of course you have to set new goals, otherwise your progress will stall. How do you do that? Well if your squat clean 1RM is 265 you set a realistic goal, lets say 280lbs and base your percentages (using Prilipen’s Chart) to that goal. In other words your percentages are based on what you want your new one rep max to be. Remember make it an achievable goal you cannot make a huge jump in weight for your goal. In the above example if you set a goal of 300lbs, that’s an increase of 35lbs the weight you would be lifting at your 80% to 95% would be unachievable. You wouldn’t even be able to do the lifts, so that’s useless. To get stronger and to continue to get stronger you have to make small jumps in weight so that the %’s continue to work for you.


Now because our first competition is in month 6, which means it is in this Meso-Cycle, we tweak only the two weeks prior to the competition. This will be different from the main competition preparation. So the 2 weeks prior you cut down to 3 WODs a week, and NO sustained cardio days for the 1 week prior to competition and for your USAW program you do no weightlifting the 3 days prior to the competition. That’s it. For the major competition that preparation will change.


Now I want to introduce what I consider skill work, which will begin in month 5 and carry through month 6, ending only a few days before the 1st competition. Even though CrossFit is the sport of fitness and as such the WODs are unknowable, I believe there is a “skill set” of exercises that you must master in order to be a great Games competitor. In my opinion these include wall-balls, HSPU, muscle ups, thrusters, burpees, kettle bell swings, box jumps, pull-ups, double unders and toes-to-bar. Obviously CrossFit has numerous exercises but these specifically seem to always pop up in one form or another. We do not include any weightlifting ones because you are doing USAW already and should have mastered all the Olympic Lifts. You must master this core group of skill work, why? Something called neural adaptation conditioning (NAC). NAC is a change over time in responsiveness of the sensory system to a constant stimulus. It is usually experienced as a change in the stimulus. In other words the more you do something the more neural adaptation you get or the easier it becomes. You want to be very good at that core group of exercises. The skill work should be at least twice a week starting at the beginning of the 5thmonth for those exercises you have trouble with or done as AMRAPs after your USAW and continuing until just 2 days prior to the competition.


Why do we do this? Well it seems, that based on my reading and discussing this with various friends whose opinions I respect, that after your strength-training program (USAW) you hit a quick 7-10 minute AMRAP of these CF core exercises. This really “greases the wheels” so to speak when it comes to your neural adaptation conditioning. These AMRAP’s are done within minutes of finishing your USAW and you go high intensity for it. You do these AMRAPs month 5 through 6 straight through after your USAW program up to just 2 days before the 1st competition. Remember the first competition we are working straight through it, as it is just a tune up competition for the 2nd one of the year.  Also please note that the days you do not do your USAW you may do longer AMRAP’s or longer WOD’s so long as your body has plenty of recovery time. Everyone is different, do not be stubborn and pretend you do not need the rest, it is very easy to over train in CF and the last thing we want is to be sidelined by injuries.


Let us reviewCardio is the same in month 4, 5 and then in month 6 the sustained cardio stops 1 week before the 1st competition. For the strength training, or USAW, that stays the same at 3 times a week through month 4, 5, and 6 stopping entirely 3 days prior to the competition. For your skill work you start that core skill set at the beginning of month 5 and carry it through month 6 stopping it just 2 days before the competition in the form of short AMRAP’s as soon as you finish your USAW lifts.


Months 7, 8 and 9 (Meso-Cycle 3 0f 4 each Meso-Cycle consisting of 12 micro-cycles)


You have just finished your 1st competition. The 1st week of the 7th month is a recovery week. You rest on the Cardio and the USAW, period. This Meso-Cycle has no competition in it so we go back to the basics on the cardio and strength training. Cardio goes back to 3-4 WODs a week (high intensity) and one or two sustained cardio days where you can mix it up. Strength goes back to your 3 days a week of USAW, but no AMRAPs afterwards. If you want to do that occasionally by all means do so. Skill, at this point you would only work on a skill that you are particularly bad at. Sorry but that’s the truth of it no one is perfect so admit it and resolve it and get better. The rest of the skill work in this meso-cycle would be whatever comes up in the WODs.


Months 10, 11 and 12 (Meso-Cycle 4 0f 4 each Meso-Cycle has 12 micro-cycles)


This Meso-Cycle includes the primary competition you have been training all year for so keeping that in mind, Cardio stays at 3-4 WODs a week (high intensity) and one or two sustained cardio days where you can mix it up for months 10 and 11. Strength goes back to your 3 days a week of USAW, but no AMRAPs afterwards for month 10 but the AMRAP’s at the end of your USAW sessions start up in month 11 and continues through month 12 stopping 2 days before the competition. For your skill work you start that core skill set at the beginning of month 10 and carry it through month 12 stopping it just 2 days before the competition. After the competition your recovery phase will be 2 weeks of rest. Do absolutely nothing.


Be aware that not everything is going to be as cut and dry as this template makes it out to be. However I do feel that this template, with honest feedback from yourself as to how you feel and how things are working for you, along side realistic goals for your USAW and where you hope to finish in the competition will help you begin to have a pattern of work and recovery. Hopefully this template with notes and tweaks from you will best help you prepare you for the unknowable of a CF competition. Best of luck.

Why Weightlifting Shoes?

It is common knowledge that an athlete’s apparel varies according to the sport. This is especially true for shoes. In his book The Dialectics of Nature, the Marxist philosopher Engels observed the harmony between form and function in nature. The need for harmony between the form and function of the athletic shoe is absolutely imperative in sport.

For instance, in Track and Field, the design and function of the athlete’s shoes for each event vary according to the specifics of the activity. A distance runner would not wear a sprinter’s shoes for the 10,000 meter event and vice versa; yet both are running events.

In many cases there is not a great deal of versatility in terms of what would appear to be similar athletic shoes. The spiked shoes designed for baseball are not appropriate for football even though both sports require a shoe that provides traction for running short distances.

So, it should come as no surprise that there is a special shoe made for weightlifting. The weightlifting shoe is rather unique in the world of sports because it features a raised heel. The form of the shoe has evolved over the 100+ years of international weightlifting competitions. Today the form of the top model of weightlifting shoe is in harmony with its function in the modern competition program.

The history of the design and the function of the modern weightlifting shoe is traceable in the history of the evolution of the technique of the weightlifting exercises.

The Evolution of Weightlifting Technique:
The Form and Function of the Modern Weightlifting Shoe Evolves

Two fundamental elements of weightlifting technique have had the greatest impact for the creation of a specialized weightlifting shoe. Ultimately, they were the driving forces behind the evolution in the design of the footwear: 1) the method by which the weightlifter moved his body under barbell; 2) the disposition of the weightlifter’s principle “kinematic links” (the trunk, thigh and shin) in the starting posture to lift the barbell.

Beginning in 1929, the International Weightlifting Federation reduced the competition protocol from five exercises to three. The new program consisted of one strength exercise, the press, and two speed strength exercises which are the snatch and the clean and jerk.

The press originally was intended to be a relatively simple test of the strength of the muscles of the arms and shoulder girdle. The snatch and clean jerk exercises, also known as the “quick lifts”, are exceptionally more complex. Essentially, the two “quick lifts” are a test of the explosive strength of the musculature of the lower extremities and trunk.

The method of lifting the barbell to the chest for the press did not require intricate technical elements (the early press was a very strict movement of the barbell from the chest to arms length overhead). Even a maximum weight for the press in the early days (pre 1950) was well within the strength of the weightlifter’s lifting muscles for the clean i.e., the legs, trunk, arms, and shoulder girdle. The weightlifter would typically lift the barbell to the chest with a small knee bend to receive it at the chest. So, in this exercise the “descent” under the barbell was minimal and required little technical proficiency. Likewise it required less “technique” to lift it from the floor to the chest.

The “descent” under the barbell for the snatch and the clean for the clean and jerk, on the other hand, is more complex because of the heavier the weight one attempts to lift, and, consequently, the greater the distance the lifter “drops” under the barbell.

The Descent Under the Barbell

The evolution of the “descent” under the barbell is connected with the effort to lower the trunk as far as possible. The ability to descend lower translated into bigger weights lifted in the snatch and the clean and jerk, i.e., the lower the “descent” under the barbell, the less height needed to lift the weight, the bigger the weight one could lift.

The weightlifter’s search for a low stable, positioning of the body under the barbell for the snatch and the clean and jerk meant bending the knee, ankle, and hip joints as much as possible in order to effectively lower the trunk as far as possible.

One early method of bending the lower extremities involved a slight knee bend and an asymmetrical shifting of the feet. It was called the “splot” (see figure).

Splot method of descending under barbell. F. Verkovsky, 1963

The “splot” method of slightly bending both knees and shifting one foot backwards (so the athlete partially scissored the legs and squatted at the same time, hence the name) was made obsolete by the “split” style.

The “split” method involved shifting one foot forward in a straight line from its starting position and likewise the other foot rearward. A sufficiently large shifting of both feet into the “split” position lowers the trunk significantly further than the either a one quarter squat or a “splot”. Consequently, a weightlifter could expect to snatch and clean more weight with the “split style” of descending under the barbell.

However, in each of the aforementioned cases (1/4 knee bend, “splot” and split style), the weightlifter’s shoes did not have to be of a special design because the ankle joints were not called upon to bend significantly with the performance of these methods.

For instance, in the split style, the shin of the front foot typically would remain vertical in the lowest position; this helped maintain balance and kept the trunk in a vertical position. Lifters of the 20s and 40s and into the 50s wore sneakers. Many wore boxing shoes. Of the three main joints involved in lowering the weightlifter’s body (the ankle, knee, and hip), most of the bend in the split style came from the knee and hip joints.

Before going any further, one should point out the obvious to the non weightlifter that in order to snatch or clean a big weight by means of lowering the body under the bar, the lifter has to keep the trunk pretty much in a vertical disposition. It is all but impossible to hold a weight on the chest for a clean or overhead in a snatch with the trunk tilted significantly forward from the vertical. So, the flexing of the hip and knee in the split position and the disposition of the feet fore and aft has to be such that it allows the athlete to preserve a vertical position of the trunk.

R. Plukfelder (USSR). Photo European Weightlifting Federation.
Plukfelder clean final

The above figure of a split clean shows the low position with a vertical trunk and relatively vertical shin of the front leg.

The weightlifter’s feet bend and straighten quickly in performing the weightlifting exercises. Some storage of elastic energy occurs. This is facilitated with flexible footwear. Furthermore, the weightlifter’s footwear needs to flex to perform the split style because the foot shifted backwards should rest on the ball of the foot and the toes with the heel raised off the floor (Figure 5 see rear foot). Conversely the front foot needs to rest flat on the floor. However, it is not too difficult to keep the front foot flat if the shin is vertical.

So, for the just described technique a boxing shoe or sneakers would suffice.

The Relevance of the Ankle Joint and Shin to Technique and the Design of Weightlifting Shoes

The appearance in the international arena of “splitters” John Davis (USA), Norbert Schemansky (USA), Rudolf Plukfelder (USSR) and Ireneusz Palinski (POL) demonstrated to the weightlifting world it was possible to lower the body to as maximum as possible by means of the “deep “split” position under the barbell. The lifter accomplished this by noticeably bending the ankle joint of the leg placed forward. This requires tilting the shin forward significantly away from the vertical. The lifter could descend lower under the barbell.

However, it was difficult to rest the front foot flat on the floor with the shin tilted way forward. (figure of Plukfelder snatch) Nevertheless, the ankle joint has to bend (dorsiflex) significantly in order to effectively tilt the shin forward, and the lifter must flex the knee of the forward leg significantly to achieve the deepest position possible.

R. Plukfelder (USSR). European Weightlifting Federation picture.
Plukfelder Snatch Final

The above picutre shows Soviet great Rudolph Plukfelder attempting to descend under the barbell in a snatch into a “deep split” position. Note the athlete is wearing sneakers and the heel of the front foot has raised which will cause a loss of balance.

With the advent of this technical innovation (the positioning of the feet in the “deepest” split position), weightlifters realized a shoe with a raised heel to allow the “flat footed” tilting of the shin was required. A shoe with a raised heel had to permit the back foot to flex so that the heel could be raised and at the same time the ankle joint of the front foot to bend.

The raised heel facilitates the “flat footed” bending of the ankle joint and at the same time a fuller activation of the muscles of the lower extremities. (pictures of Lopatin)

S. Lopatin (USSR). European Weightlifting Federation picture.
Lopatin snacth

The picture of Lopatin in a deep split position shows a flat footed front foot and a significant tilting of the shin of the front leg. The higher heels of the Soviet shoes of this time permited this low position which would be precarious at best if attempted in sneakers or boxing shoes.

Weightlifters realized high laced boxing shoes or sneakers which were commonly worn up to the 50s were not appropriate for the just described “deep split” technique. You could flex your feet to raise your heels in the pulling part of the lifts and the rear heel in the split position, but there was no raised heel and the lacing inhibited the movement of the ankle joint if the athlete went to tilt the shin forward.

The Final Evolution of Weightlifting Technique: the Ankle joint and Shin are the Keys

Another innovation in weightlifting technique of the late 40s and early 50s helped to transform the weightlifting shoe forever. This was the squat style. The George brothers (Pete and Jim, USA) are credited with convincing the weightlifting world that this technique of descending under the barbell was superior to all other methods.

The weightlifter simply moves his feet to the side and fully bends the knees, hips, and ankles to squat down under and “receive” the barbell at the chest for the clean or overhead for the snatch for the squat style technique. It was necessary (and difficult) to keep the front foot flat on the floor in the “deep split” style of descending under the barbell; however, it was absolutely imperative to rest both feet flat on the floor in the deep squat style technique. The weightlifter can lose balance very easily if the heels rise from the floor in the deep squat position.

A weightlifting shoe with a raised heel was actually more important for the squat style of lifting than it was for the “deep split” style, i.e., the area of balance is smaller in the squat position. A shoe with a raised heel allows the weightlifter to squat down with a reasonably vertical disposition of the trunk which requires fully bending the knees and tilting the shins forward; with the feet resting flat on the floor , i.e., the lowest, stable position to support the barbell became possible.

A. Klescznovskaya (POL). Charniga picture
Deep squat position 3

The figure dipicts the squat style technique with vertical trunk, fully flexed knees, hips and ankle joints. Note significant tilting of the shins which permits the lowest possible depth and improves mechanical leverage.

V. Popova (RUS) Charniga photo
Untitled-1erect descent 2

An erect positioning of the trunk in the squat is necessary for balance. An erect trunk during the descent is the most effective method of descending under the barbell efficiently. The weightlifting shoes with a raised heel facilitates the descent into and the maintenance of the squat position.

K. Szramiak (POL) Charniga photo
Snatch with very low squat 2

Depiction of squat style snatch with a relatively vertical trunk, fully felexed knees, hips and ankles and shins tilted well forward.

As the squat style began to catch on as the preferred technique, the search for appropriate shoes led lifters to try work boots and the like. These shoes (actually boots) had the raised heel but were also “high tops” in that the form of the shoes extended up past the ankle joint and were laced up past the aforementioned joint. These boots offered better stability than the boxing shoes or ordinary sneakers, but they still restricted ankle mobility. They were also generally stiff and heavy.

Furthermore, in the early years of the evolution of weightlifting technique from the split to the squat style, the significance of joint mobility as a means to facilitate lifting bigger weights was not as accepted it as it is today. So, lifters sought shoes with higher heels (more than 2.5 cm) so that they could squat down and maintain balance. However, the built up heels were a poor substitute for knee and hip mobility and, especially, ankle mobility.

V. Lukanin (RUS) Charniga photo.
ankle stretch with bar

A common ankle joint mobility exercise for weightliftiers involves stretching the muscles and tendons in the above depicted manner.

V. Lukanin (RUS) Charniga photo

Shoes with heels and ankle mobility cannot make up for an overall lack of mobility in shoilders and hips. The athlete should be able to perfom this movment even with an empty bar with a more upright posture.

Early manufactured versions of a specialty weightlifting shoe from the Soviet Union and Europe featured a high top design with little or no heel, but, eventually, a higher heel (upwards of 2.5 cm) emerged.

The fundamental flaw from the era with no specialty shoe persisted into the design of the specialty shoe, the “high top”, style shoe. These “weightlifting boots” (and this name persists to the present day) laced up past the ankle joint were assumed to provide support for the ankle joint. However, this type of shoe restricted, not facilitated, ankle mobility, especially concurrent with the bending of the knee; lo and behold, the ankle joints did not need support in the first place.


The Starting Position for the Lift from the Floor (the Pull), the Press, and the Jerk

As the technique of descending under the barbell evolved, weightlifters continued to search for more effective techniques of lifting the barbell as high as possible. This search found its expression in the starting position for lifting the barbell from the platform and in the starting position for the press and the jerk from the chest.

Weightlifters instinctively realized that in order to accelerate a moving object you need to increase the distance over which force is applied to it and, at the same, time use the body’s strongest muscles to the maximum.

In many cases, weightlifting’s old timers barely bent their knees in the starting position to lift the barbell from the platform. (see figure or video of Schemansky and Medvedyev). Consequently, the body’s strongest muscles (the extensors of the legs) were not fully utilized to raise the barbell. The extensors of the trunk and the flexors of the arms and shoulders did most of the work of raising the barbell to the chest or overhead in the snatch. It is obvious from the physiques of most of the lifters of that era which muscles bore the brunt of lifting the barbell.



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However, lifters and coaches eventually came to the realization (with some assistance from a new sports scientist, the biomechanist) to lift the biggest weights you need to fully utilize the potential of the muscles of the lower extremities. The knees had to bend to a greater degree in the starting position of the pull phase of the snatch and the clean. This of course meant the shins should tilt forward with the bending of the knees, which, in turn, “pushed” the barbell forward away from the lifter in the starting position.

By beginning the lifts with more bending of the lower extremities, the best weightlifters could realize fully the strength of the body’s strongest muscles to lift the biggest weights. This “lower” starting position mechanically offered more possibilities. Some Asian lifters popularized a method of lifting which involved placing the heels together so that they could bend and, consequently, use their legs even more. It was known as the “frog style.”

Thongsuk (THA). Charniga photo
Thongsuk form side at start

Starting position of the snatch depicting almost fully flexed knees, hips and ankles. Note significant forward tilt of the shin, which the athlete’s shoes with raised heels permits. The greater flexion in the lower extremities with this “low” start places a greater load on the these, the strongest muscles for weightlifting.

Fully utilizing the strength of the legs allowed the lifter to keep the arms straight for as long as possible before bringing these muscles into play during the lifts. The weightlifter was able to lift bigger weights than ever before with the combination of greater lifting efficiency from the strongest muscles and the ability to descend lower and more efficiently than ever before.

The jerk portion of the clean and jerk, and eventually the “Olympic Press” of the 60s and early 70s, required footwear to permit the lifter to bend flat footed. This flat footed bending of the lower extremities was facilitated by a shoe with a raised heel and an unrestricted ankle joint. Lifters who wore the “high top” Soviet made shoes did not bother to lace them up all the way (below the ankle joints) so that their shins could move unrestricted even though the movement of the ankle joint and shins during the half squat for the jerk and starting bend in the “Olympic Press” was rather small. (see photos of bottom of jerk and press slump).

V. Kolotov (USSR). T. Kono photo
Kolotov Slump

Depiction of the bending of the legs and trunk for the “olympic” press. Note the shins tilting forward and the “high top” Soviet shoes which have not been laced up past the cross strap.

Zhang Ping (CHN) Charniga photo
Half squat for jerk small

Depiction of the half squat for the jerk. Note the modern lifting shoes with ankle joints “exposed”. The heels facilitate the tilting of the shins and the “exposed” ankle joints are free to bend without “artificial” restriction, both of which are necessary to generate the power to lift the barbell to arms length over head.

The need for a specialized weightlifting shoe and ultimately its form and function evolved along with the evolution of weightlifting technique. Early versions featured a “high top” shoe with very little heel. The designers of the early models of weightlifting shoes, assisted by input from coaches and athletes, assumed, apparently, that the ankle joints of the weightlifter needed to be supported. As already mentioned the laced up “high top” shoe restricted ankle movement and no raised heel or a very low heel did not facilitate ankle mobility sufficiently.


The Evolution in the Design of a Specialized Weightlifting Shoe

Of the early efforts to find a shoe for weightlifting such as a boxing shoe or a work boot, both types of shoes proved to be inadequate. One type (the boxing shoe) had no heel to facilitate ankle mobility, and ankle mobility was further restricted by the lacing over the joint. The other type (the work boot) had a heel which facilitated ankle movement, but the form of the shoe (called a “high top”) extended above the ankle joint. It was also stiff and heavy, both of which were counterproductive.

One of the early designs developed and manufactured specifically for weightlifting, featured the “high top” design, a very low heel, leather soles and heels (Russian model). Typically, the heels were fastened to the shoe with nails.

The first specialized shoes for weightlifting incorporated two features found in the types of shoes weightlifters tried when there were no specialized shoes for weightlifting, a “high top” and a heel. The raised heel was designed for ankle mobility and (flat footed) balance, and, the perceived necessity of “supporting” the ankle joint with a “high top” carried over into the design of the first specialized weightlifting shoes.

It is appropriate to point out during this discussion of the design of the specialized weightlifting shoe, the following fact: ankle joint injuries, per se, are virtually unknown in weightlifting. (See addendum Weightlifting Injuries)

Eventually the “high top” design was displaced by the modern “low cut” shoe. The designers of the “low cut” made no effort to “artificially” support ankle movement. Anyways, lifters had long since quit lacing the high top models past the ankle joint.

The Soviet made shoes with “leather heels, soles and nails” were ultimately displaced with the introduction of wood heels and crepe soles. The Soviet design was not just flawed but dangerous. The use of resin on the sole of the shoes by the weightlifter, especially before stepping onto the competition platform, in all probability was due to the propensity for weightlifters to slip and slide (especially while scissoring the legs under the barbell) in their Soviet made weightlifting shoes. (see picture)

V. Kanygin (USSR) Photo by T. Kono
Kanygin Slipping

The leather soles and heels of the Soviet made weightlifting shoes predisposed the lifter to slip or otherwise slide on the wood surface of the weightlifting platform. If the head of the nails fastening the heels were exposed the risk of slipping was even greater not to mentione the posssibility of an exposed nail “catching” a crack in the surface of the platform.

Without question, the principal attraction to the Soviet style shoes within the weightlifting community had virtually every thing to do with the fact the Soviets were the best lifters; the best lifters wore those shoes, and this had nothing to do with any advantages offered by its design.

adidas of Germany has been the world’s only true designer/manufacturer of weightlifting shoes for more than 40 years. The evolution of the adidas design reflects some of the Soviet influence. The early adidas models featured a “high top” and their roots in sneakers, i.e., the shoes had rubber soles with very low heels. (picture of me) Furthermore, over the years adidas has spent considerable the time and effort to work hand in hand with the weightlifters and coaches to develop and improve the design of the shoe. (see Tommy Kono’s meeting with Adi Dassler in addendum #2)

Even the Soviets eventually abandoned their arguably dangerous design and introduced a low cut shoe. Soviet weightlifters wearing the “high top” model began the “creative destruction” of the design long before the introduction of a Soviet made low cut by not lacing the “high top” shoes above the ankle joint (see pictures). The lifters and the coaches realized a laced up “high top” shoe was a hindrance to effective weightlifting technique.

D. Rigert (USSR) Photo T. Kono
Rigert in Slump

Soviet lifter bending for the press with shoes not fully laced

S. Lopatin (USSR) European Weightlifting Federation photo
Lopatin Snatch with old shoes final

Soviet lifter wearing early models of the Soviet made weightlifting shoes. Note: the “deep split” position.

Lopatin’s shin and shoe

This close up of the picture above reveals the shoes have not been laced up all the way and the athlete has fashioned a rudimentary “tarsal strap” by running the lacing underneath the shoes. Notice also the moderate heel and the significant tilting of the shin.

The adidas models, redesigned/refined every four years now, reflect the current state of the art in the long search for harmony between the form and function of the specialized weightlifting shoe: a “low cut” design, a fixed height wood heel, flexible crepe sole, upper portion of leather and synthetic construction.



The modern weightlifting shoe, designed without leather soles, nails fastening the heels to the shoe and no artificial “laced support” of the ankle joint, allows the foot and ankle joint to bend and straighten without artificial restraint, along with the knee and hip joint. And, despite this “lack of support” from the shoes and arguably the greatest stress placed on the ankle joints and the fifty two bones which make up the feet in all of sport, injuries to the weightlifter’s ankle joints and feet are rare.

The search for a shoe for weightlifting and the ultimate design of a specialized shoe which emerged can be traced to the gradual evolution of weightlifting technique and the accompanying gradual realization among weightlifters, coaches, sport scientists, and shoe manufacturers that the body’s strongest muscles are in the lower extremities. These joints need to bend and straighten freely and through as large an amplitude as possible in order to fully realize the potential of the human body to lift maximum weights in weightlifting.

The efforts to find a weightlifting shoe (off the store shelf) and, later on, in the early designs of a specialized shoe proved to be misguided by false assumptions, since the ankle joint need not be “protected” by a “high top” shoe. Eventually it became widely recognized that a heel of some moderate height was necessary, but a heavy work type shoe with a built up heel was not; nails fastening a leather heel of the shoe and leather soles proved to be dangerous.

D. Rigert (USSR) Photo T. Kono
Rigeret Bare foot snatch

The above photo of David Rigert (one of the greatest lifters in weightlifting history) shows him “playing” around in the gym, snatching a 130 kg barbell in his bare feet, the day after winning the European Weightlifting Championships. Rigert wore Soviet style weightlifting shoes in the competition the day before.

Addendum # 1

Weightlifting Injuries and the Specialized Weightlifting Shoe

According to A. N. Vorobeyev and others (1,2) the most common injury in weightlifting is a back injury. Lumbar pain, and or, injury to the inter vertebral discs of the spine (especially in the lumbar area) are connected primarily with two exercises, the back squat and the clean pull. The reason these two exercises are most likely the culprit of back pain, or a back injury, is because the weightlifter lifts the biggest weights in these exercises.

The second most common injury in weightlifting is a shoulder injury, and with the introduction of the biathlon program after the elimination of the press, elbow injuries have become more commonplace.

What about ankle injuries? According to Vorobeyev (1) ankles can be injured in weightlifting if the nails on the bottom of the weightlifting shoes (fastening the heel of the Russian models) are “protruding and catch on the platform when the lifter moves the feet during the lifting,” likewise, (2) if the lifter’s shoes “catch” on ruts, splinters, or nails protruding in the weightlifting platform. Furthermore, the weightlifter can be injured (ankles included) by slipping if resin is not applied to the leather sole of the shoes (Russian design).

Therefore, according to the Soviet experts, ankle injuries in weightlifting are connected principally with the early (Soviet) design of the specialized weightlifting shoe itself and not the actual stress on these joints from lifting a barbell. The production of the Soviet designed weightlifting shoe which consisted of a “high top” with leather soles and heels fastened with nails persisted into the 1980s.

Considering the fact that the design of the specialized shoe itself was the culprit in the few ankle injuries reported in weightlifting, it, is curious to say the least, when you take into account the colossal loading these joints are subject to the act of lifting.

It is common knowledge that the weightlifter literally jumps from the floor in the descent phase of the weightlifting exercises, i.e., both feet are raised from the floor at the same time, or one after the other.

A. Kolokolsev (UKR) Charniga photo
Body & Barbell of the gound

Superheavyweight lifter “jumping from” the platform to descend under a light weight.

For instance, a select few weightlifters have lifted more than three times bodyweight in the clean and jerk. The weightlifter first cleans the weight and, in so doing, lifts both feet from the floor and “actively” returns them to the platform along with the barbell, i.e., the ankle joints sustain almost four times the weight of the weightlifter’s body plus the acceleration of gravity and the additional force of the weightlifter “forcefully reestablishing” his base of support. This same process is repeated in the second half of the exercise when the weightlifter first “tears” his feet from the platform and likewise explosively returns them to the platform in the jerk, one at a time.

A. Klescznovskaya (POL) Charniga photo
Jerk both feet in air final 1

The weightlifter jumps away from the platform in the jerk and returns the feet forcefully to the platform in a fraction of a second, subjecting the lower extremities to a massive loading.

So, the stress on the weightlifter’s ankle joints, relatively speaking, is enormous. And yet, ankle joint injuries are virtually unheard of in weightlifting despite the fact that the weightlifter’s ankles are subjected to what is, arguably, the most stress on these joints to be found in all of sport.

Addendum # 2

Tommy Kono’s Meeting with Adi Dassler

At the time this meeting took place Tommy Kono (USA), the two time Olympic Champion, Olympic silver medallist, and eight time world champion, was the national weightlifting coach of West Germany. Kono was well known in Europe even before his tenure as national coach, as most of his titles were won on the continent of Europe.

Adi Dassler was the founder of the adidas company which still bears a combination of first and last name.(Ed)

“I don’t know if I ever told you or Bud the story of my meeting with Adi Dassler back in either 1970 or 1971. Because I had sat in for a couple of hours signing autographs at one of the large department stores in Manheim (they had a life size picture of me in their display window announcing the “autograph” hours). I was given a couple of kids” bikes (my daughter and son) and a pair of shoes. It was adidas’ first try at copying the Finn’s Karhu lifting shoes.

I noted that the strap was too high on the shoes and it restricted the ankle movement. I wrote to the adidas firm with a drawing to go with it to correct it. They wrote back an appreciative letter and followed up by sending me another pair of their shoes with the straps lower but not low enough.

Anyway, when I wrote another letter explaining it was much improved but still not correct, they phoned me and asked if I might drop over to their factory outside Nurnberg.

One Saturday morning I was free so I drove to their factory with both pairs of shoes. The staff at the factory were extremely nice to me, showed me around, and I had lunch with Mr. Adi Dassler. I left the two pairs of shoes with them with a promise from them that they will correct it and send me a new pair that should be to my satisfaction. And, in parting they gave me a check for $200.00 (in Deutsch mark) for my time. This was totally unexpected but extremely professional of them. As the National Coach, I wanted to be certain that I could help the sport from every angle.

L. Espinosa photo
1973 shoes feet only

adidas model weighlifting shoes circa 1972 of the type with “high top” desigin and low rubber heel.

Addendum # 3

The Technical Rules of the International Weightlifting Federation Regarding Weightlifting Footwear

In light of what has been said about the evolution of the specialized weightlifting shoe, it is of interesting to review the technical rules regarding its use and design.

First, the rules (3) stipulate that “competitors must wear sport footwear (called weightlifting shoes, boots) to protect their feet and to give them stability and a firm stance on the platform.” The obvious inference here is that the specialized weightlifting shoe performs such a special function that the wearing of weightlifting shoes in competition is mandatory for safety.

Second, according to the rules the design of the shoes must be such that they “do not give the athlete an unfair advantage or additional support.” How a special design would offer an unfair advantage is not specified.

Third, several rules are out of date or simply do not take into account how the shoe evolved in the first place.

For instance, the adidas shoe has three straps crossing the instep down to the toes. The rules specify that a single strap is permitted.

The rules state, “The maximum height permitted on the upper part of the footwear measured from the top of the sole, is 130 mm” i.e., the height of the shoe covering the ankle joint is restricted. Well, the manufacturers, athletes, and coaches had already decided that a “high top” shoe was inappropriate for weightlifting and the “high top” design has pretty much long since disappeared, so the rule is moot.

The necessity of free movement of joints in weightlifting can be inferred from the rule 4.4.5 on the length of the bandages allowed over the knees and wrist. There is no length restriction, i.e., more bandage means less joint movement or at least slowing the speed of movement. In either case, unlike powerlifting, “extra” support is a hindrance in weightlifting.

Progressive Overload Principle

423205_10150519608501044_628206043_9237805_1696918358_nA common goal for any strength-training program is to increase or at least maintain the user’s physical strength or muscle mass. In order to achieve new results, as opposed to maintaining the current strength capacity, the muscles need to be overloaded, which stimulates the natural adaptive processes of the human body, which develops to cope with the new demands placed on it.

Progressive overload not only stimulates muscle hypertrophy, it also stimulates the development of stronger and denser bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Progressive overload also incrementally increases blood flow to the region of the body. Furthermore, progressive overload stimulates the development of more responsive nerve connection between the brain and the muscles involved.

In order to minimize injury and maximize results, the novice begins at a comfortable level of muscular intensity and advances towards overload of the muscles over the course of the exercise program. Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows:

  • Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
  • Intensity is the percent value of maximal functional capacity, or expressed as percent repetition maximum.

This technique results in greater gains in physical strength and muscular growth, but there are limits. An excess of training stimuli can lead to the problem of over training.

  • Over training is the decline in training performance over the course of a training program, often resulting increases the risk of illness or injury or decreased desire to exercise. In order to help avoid this problem, the technique of periodization is applied.
  • Periodization in the context of fitness or strength training programs is the scheduling of provisions for adequate recovery time between training sessions, variety over the course of a long-term program and motivation – avoiding monotony when repeating identical exercise routines. (Not a problem in CrossFit)
  • · Remember that Strength and speed are separate concepts requiring weight training with different percentages of maximum as follows:
  • 80 – 95 percent of max — speed and strength developed together
  • 50 – 80 percent of max — speed is developed more than strength
  • 95 percent and higher — only strength is developed

According to Soviet theory, while speed is King, strength is the basic component of fitness in all sports. It forms the basis for acquiring all other fitness aspects, and the strength requirements of each sport are unique.

Eccentric training never caught on in the Soviet Union, according to Dr. Verkoshansky, because it does not force adaptation in ligaments and tendons — only speed-strength training (lifting the weight fast — max effort, accelerating the weight with inertia assisting) can do that.

As your competition draws nearer and nearer, your training objectives change, and therefore your training methods change commensurably.

Having listed these recovery and training facts, it’s clear as to why you must divide your training into periods. Here then are some of the important basics regarding the theory behind the need to periodize your training:

  • Planned training must bring you to peak form at a pre-determined date (e.g., a competition).
  • Planning should make the process and end result of your training less haphazard and more predictable.
  • The training methods you employ must be systematically ordered such that each “period” of training gets your body and mind ready for the next period — a foundational approach.
  • As your competition draws nearer and nearer, your training objectives change, and therefore your training methods change commensurably. For example, it is wise to establish a foundation of limit strength first so that your speed training can be accomplished safely.

So the above information is relevant because at the end of the day CrossFit is a sport you prepare for, and while you may not know what the WOD will contain, you do know that Olympic Weightlifting is part of CrossFit. To become a better CrossFit athlete you must do Olympic Weightlifting and to get better and stronger at Olympic lifting the principles of progressive overload, periodizaton and Prilipen’s chart are absolutely necessary. The off-season and in-season training programs for your CrossFit competitions must be charted and must be planned very carefully. It is necessary and doable with the above principles even if you have to hybrid the lifting program to fit CrossFits demand of being prepared for the unknowable. Again the CrossFit competitions WODs may be unknowable but your Olympic Weightlifting training for CrossFit competitions doesn’t have to be and honestly shouldn’t be.

The Best Crossfit Shoes

There are many shoes in this world.  There are many CrossFit-eers, but not so many that all the shoes in this world are CrossFit shoes.  There are also heel-strike runners in this world, and there are globo-gym dwellers too.  They also need shoes, and they want different shoes than you want (you are a CrossFit-eer, aren’t you?).
Sometimes you need a little help, a little guidance, someone to lift up a shoe out of the polluted marketplace, to hold it in front of you and say “This is it, the shoe you want.”  I will do this for you.  I will show you the CrossFit sneakers that you want, recently released by thoughtful shoe companies.
I am skipping over the older CrossFit shoes, such as the Adidas Samba, Onitasuka Tiger, Converse All-Stars, and even Vibram Five Fingers, because we already know about them, don’t we?  You can read my article, The Best Shoes for CrossFit, if you don’t.

Traits of a good Shoe for CrossFit

The ideal CrossFit shoe will have a protective rubber outsole that can be used to run on both trails and pavement.  It will have a neutral or nearly-neutral drop between heel and toe.  It will be lightweight and breathable.  It will be stable and durable.  Here are three that fit this criteria:

Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove


Don’t be alarmed by the adjective “Barefoot” or by the noun “Glove”!  These are real, full-featured shoes, from a top-quality shoe company.  They have these great features:

  • Zero heel-toe drop
  • 12mm padding
  • Vibrams outsole
  • Comfy inner-lining
  • Breathable air-mesh upper
  • Wide toe box
  • Rubber toe guard

These shoes provide many of the advantages of using just bare feet.  From heel to toe, they are perfectly flat.  This is advantageous both for promoting proper non-heel-strike running form (see the POSE method) and for general balance while lifting weights or double-undering or box jumps.  The wide toe box allows the toes to splay apart on impact, which is one of the ways feet naturally absorb shock.  You can even wear them without socks, since the lining is very smooth and comfortable, and the mesh upper allows for drafty air flow.  These shoes really feel like they are just an extension of your bare feet.



You may have noticed the word “Trail” in the name of this shoe.  That word is placed there to indicate these shoes can be used for running on outdoor trails, specifically dirt trails.  These shoes have several features that protect the foot from the abuses of the trail, as well as from gravel and asphalt.  There are a total of 12 millimeters of padding between the wearer’s foot and the ground, both in the heal and the toe, meaning that the concrete won’t seem so hard nor the small rock so sharp.  There is a protective band around the toes of the shoes, which slows the impact of any sticks or rocks the wearer may attempt to kick.  The outsole of the shoe is made by Vibrams, the trusted toe-shoe company.  It is a dense shock absorbing rubber that is also very sticky and provides excellent grip.
I don’t own a pair of Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves myself because I’m still waiting for my Puma Repli-Cat III‘s to wear out, but everyone I know who owns them loves them very deeply and sincerely, and is ready to praise their comfort and function at the slightest provocation.  Go to the Merrell Trail Glove page at Zappos to see more pictures and a video about them.

New Balance Minimus Trail

My favorite shoe brand, before I succumbed to the glamour of Puma, used to be New Balance.  Back when I wore high-healed cross-trainers I found that New Balance shoes, especially those numbered over 800, were well crafted better for lightness, function, and comfort, than other brands like Nike, Reebok, L.A. Gear, or Aasics.  New Balance has devoted the skill of their craftsmanship to create a minimalistic shoe that is well-loved by CrossFit-eers and not-quite-barefoot runners alike.
The New Balance Minimus Trail is very similar to the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove.  They even look very similar, and often times I have witnessed people confusing them, saying “Doesn’t Jimmy wear Minimas?” when Jimmy really wears Merrells.  To save my own time, which is so precious to me, and to save your time (which you are perhaps currently wasting?), instead of re-listing all of the features of the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove in the Minimus section, I’ll just list what is different about the Minimus:

  • 4mm Heel-to-Toe drop
  • Divided Vibrams Outsole

That’s right, these shoes have a 4mm heel-to-toe drop.  I don’t think anyone quite knows why they left in the 4mm heel-to-toe drop.  To whom were they trying to market the shoe?  Every barefoot-type person I know wishes there were a zero millimeter drop.  But still people buy the shoe, and they buy it in droves, and praise it, though they all can’t wait until Spring of 2012 when the Minimus Zero is released, with a zero millimeter drop.


Like the Merrell, the outsole is made by Vibrams.  The outsole of the Merrells is one solid piece of rubber, but the outsole of the Minimas is broken up into 5-ish sections, strategically plating parts of the foot: either side of the toes, the ball, the heel, and the arch.  This allows protection of those parts of the foot from the rigors of the trail while still allowing independence of movement.


Despite the 4mm heel-to-toe drop, the New Balance Minimus Trails are well-loved by CrossFit Shoe enthusiasts and perform very well in the CrossFit environment.  I myself was recently creamed in a WOD by a person who was wearing the Minimus, by almost 9 minutes!  What a loser I appeared, standing there in my old Puma Repli-Cat III’s at 19:10, looking on the whiteboard at the 10:28 time of the man with the stylish orange Minimus Trails!
I recommend the Minimus Trail page at Zappos, where you’ll see more pictures and a video of them, and you can even buy them.

Inov-8 F-Lite 195

The Lesser-mentioned Inov-8 F-Lite 195.  A minimalistic shoe with a humble 3mm drop.I know, the Inov-8 F-Lite 195′s are fairly old CrossFit shoes, and everybody has heard about them.  Are you sure, reader, that you’ve heard of the 195′s?  I ask because whenever I hear mentioned Inov-8 shoes on discussion boards or see them in my CrossFit gym, it’s almost always the 230′s or the 220′s.  They are the model numbers that are being tossed around so genially, and it seems that the 195 is never mentioned.
I am here to put an end to this madness, this censorship of greatness.  The Merrell and Minimus are both minimal in that they offer a thin rubber protection and a little padding to keep the feet safe, but mostly allow the feet to operate as bare-feet.  The Inov-8 F-Lite series is still mostly minimal, but is a little more like a regular shoe in that the sole is designed to aid the foot in running.  Here are the F-Lite 195′s features:

  • 3mm Heel-to-Toe drop
  • Fast-Drying Mesh Upper
  • Sticky, Aggressive Traction
  • Fascia-Band Sole
  • Metatarsal Groove

You see that this shoe is still not completely neutral like the Merrell, but 3mm is a very small drop and might not be noticeable unless you are really picky.  The 230′s and 220′s have a 6mm drop, which is why I recommend the 195′s.  The mesh upper looks very stylish and allows fresh wind to pass through to cool the feet.
The sole of this shoe is very well designed.  It has very aggressive (pointy) rubber traction that uses some of the technology from climbing shoes to give it extra grip.  The metatarsal groove is just a thinner spot in the outsole right beneath the ball of the foot, so that when the wearer bends his foot the shoe’s outsole will not resist.  The fascia band refers to the somewhat elastic bands of rubber that connect the heel to the ball of the foot on the outsole, in imitation of the foot’s own fascia muscles.  These bands, in both the foot and the F-Lite’s outsole, are stretched out with every step, and snap back on release.  Supposedly the extra fascia band in the outsole will give the wearer an extra spring in his step.
The Inov-8 F-Lite 195′s are excellent CrossFit shoes and are highly recommended for those who want something less minimal than the Merrells or Minimus.  Again, I recommend the F-Lite 195 page at Zapposfor more pictures and info, and to purchase.

Conclusion and Predictions

In summary, if you have about $100 to spend on CrossFit shoes, you ought to buy a pair of Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves for about $110.  Or, if you aren’t the barefoot type, you should buy the Inov-8 F-Lite 195′s.  If you don’t mind a 4mm heel drop, the Minimus Trail might be for you; it’s ten to twenty dollars cheaper than the others, and they are popular enough that you will likely be able to try them on first at your local sporting goods store.
If you want to wait until Spring 2012, you could buy a pair of New Balance Minimus Zeros, which will finally have a zero mm drop.  Reebok, who hosted the 2011 CrossFit Games, is coming out with a shoespecifically for CrossFit that you might like, though it’s rather expensive.  Also, Inov-8 will be coming out with a pair of zero millimeter drop CrossFit shoes sometime soon as well.

Skinny Fat

Disclaimer: I have been getting a ton of questions about this topic from both inside and outside the gym, from lots of different people, so this isn’t directed at anyone in particular.  Although, if this topic resonates with you, take the time to read it.  This post is more a psychological and analytical approach to body image, Sean has the scientific approach in the comments.  Lastly, this applies to any weightlifting regimen, not just CrossFit.

One of the most difficult things to fight as a coach is the thought that “Lifting weights is going to make me ‘bulk up’” from women.  My first response is to shake my head and contemplate shoving my hand in a toaster to cure the frustration… Yet, when I stop and think about it, I honestly like the way CrossFit makes my body look.  And I know there are many of us in the gym that wouldn’t be as enamored with CrossFit if we didn’t see aesthetic results in combination with fitness results, so I do think it is a valuable question that needs to be answered. 150 148 94 48 23 

The first thing you need to do is look around the gym at girls that have been CrossFitting for a long time. If we created “bulky bodies”, you would see them at CFSB.  All the above are CrossFitters that have been with us a long time… Strong, not bulky, don’t you agree?? (Sorry for not including all our awesome girls, but I only went back three pages on flickr).

Definitions and Misconceptions:

To begin, we need to address some misconceptions about how the body works…

  • You cannot “tone” a certain portion of your body.  Your body will not lose fat in one spot at a time, it will only lose fat.  Thus, you must reduce your overall body fat percentage to see results in the area you want.  This is why the “ab-(insert attention-grabbing verb)” you see on TV won’t work to help you get a better midsection.
  • Lean – having little to no surplus fat - Thus, to look “lean”, you need to have low levels of body fat.
  • Toned – seeing muscle definition on a human body - Thus, to look “toned”, you need to have low levels of body fat combined with having enough muscular development that you can see the shape of the muscle under the skin.  This is usually accomplished at below 20% body fat on women, and below 10% on men.
  • You will never “bulk up” overnight, except from maybe an ice cream and beer binge (guilty).  You will never wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and realize that you just built bulky muscles in your sleep.

First, I want to establish that having muscle doesn’t mean being bulky…

The first thing you need to do is compare these two women:

For reference, the girl on the left is a runway model and the girl on the right is an elite CrossFit athlete.  Both have approximately 12-15% body fat.  Both are doing something they love, and the bodies they have created help them do that.

On the left, we have a runway model who has almost zero muscular development while also having almost zero fat deposits.  She has enough essential muscle to not fall over walking, but not much more.  If you want to look like the woman on the left, sorry, but we cannot help you get there.  Although, if you have an apple and a cigarette a day for about a year, you could get close (it supposedly worked for Christian Bale in the Machinist).  However, CrossFit South Bay will not help you create that type of body.

The female on the right has spent years developing her strength and muscle.  She has battled heavy weights and pushed herself to the limit to squat, deadlift, and lunge heavier weights every time she comes into the gym.  She weighs approximately 35-40 lbs more than the runway model due to the large amount of muscle that she has acquired.  She is likely approaching her genetic limits in the amount of muscle she can develop without going on a bodybuilding routine.  Between her and the runway model, there is likelyvery little difference genetically, yet there is a huge difference in training and diet (more on this shortly).

Same elite CrossFitter, now dressed up, still bulky??

Thus, you can have a large amount of muscle without ever looking “bulky”.  Don’t you agree??

Now that we know that muscle doesn’t make you “bulky”, what does??

Well, the answer is fat.  Excess adipose tissue will result in less than satisfactory aesthetics.  This is regardless of the amount of muscle you have.  This is easily seen in the image below:

The image at left shows a female figure that has a large amount of fat, while having a very small amount of muscle.  This is described in the fitness community as “skinny fat”.  While not overly “bulky” she  doesn’t have the aesthetics that most of us work so hard to attain.  The woman in this image is likely at a level close to 30% body fat and likely has a similar amount of muscle as the runway model.  So even though she may look fine wearing a sweater, it is a different story at the beach.

The trick is how to fix this.  Well, option 1 is to eat less and do tons of cardio, surviving on a diet heavy with running and light on food, and you will end up looking more like the runway model above.  Option 2 is to develop muscle to burn away the excess fat while doing cardio, resulting in looking more like the elite CrossFitter above.

Ok, so we have started to establish that building muscle isn’t a bad thing, right??  Yet, you are afraid that by squatting and deadlifting, you are making your legs and butt bigger, thus getting more “bulky”, correct??

Here is the kicker, the reason your legs (and shoulders and arms and back) are getting a little bigger is that you have now started to add some muscle to them.  Now, that muscle will burn more calories, starting to help whittle away at the amount of fat you have on your body, even while you sleep.  You now are able to achieve that “lean” and “toned” look, as your body fat levels have decreased, and your muscle is starting to show, giving the “toned” look.

Additionally, you cannot have a “toned” look without muscle.  This is because that “toned” look that you are going for is the result of seeing muscle that is underneath a layer of fat.  If you have too much body fat, it acts as a shielding layer.  For those of us that require a visual, imagine your muscle as an apple sitting on a hard surface.  Now cover the apple; what you cover it with is representative of your body fat.  A wet paper towel=very low body fat.  A dish towel = low body fat.  A comforter = high body fat.  As the covering gets thicker, it becomes harder to see the apple, which is exactly what happens as you gain body fat.  Now, more muscle makes the object bigger, imagine the apple is now a grapefruit.  Less muscle makes the object smaller, imagine changing the apple to a cherry.  Even with all the objects being similar in size, it is the covering that determines how “bulky” they look; same with body fat.

BAD cardio

Bad cardio and worse cardio…

Some people keep saying to be leaner they just need more cardio and less strength.  Well, yes, if you just do “more cardio”, you will lose more fat, but you would also lose muscle because without anaerobic and strength training, your body burns muscle as well as fat.  So, instead of looking more like a Victoria Secret model, you start to look more like a runway model.  Then, once you stop doing “more cardio” you will gain fat even faster now that you don’t have the muscle to burn the extra calories, resulting in the “skinny fat” look.  You can see this in ex-athletes that have tried to “get leaner” by doing “more cardio” only to result in having more fat with less muscle.








This can also happens as we age, as the muscle we built by running, jumping, and playing in our childhood and teens atrophies due to under-use with a more sedentary life, so people in their early twenties are seen as having “high metabolisms”, supposedly not having to work to maintain lean body shapes.  This “high metabolism” is because the muscle they built in their teen years is burning excess calories and fat, and with the low body fat levels, you can see their “toned” muscle underneath.  However, as they take day jobs and do not stimulate their bodies, their muscles atrophy, burning less calories and thereby lowering their “high metabolism” and leading to increased body fat as they age. Usually, people try to do “more cardio” to regain their lean, toned bodies that they had when they were younger. However, since they do nothing to build new muscle or maintain their current muscle, they slowly transition to a thin, but “skinny fat”, look as they age. 112 18 47 133 135

Train like an athlete…. Look like an athlete…

Most people can agree that they want to get “toned” and “lean”, but have you ever asked someone that was “toned” and “lean” what they have done to get that way??  You should, because almost every athlete I know that looks “toned” and “lean” has spent years working to develop strength, power, speed, endurance, and stamina for a sport.  They move HEAVY weights quickly.

Lastly, you will never be able to create muscles like a man lifting weights.

A WOMEN THAT LOOKS LIKE SHE HAS MUSCLES LIKE A MAN HAS LIKELY TAKEN STEROIDS!!  This is the defined truth, a woman’s muscle development is much different than a man’s.  Unless a woman has a very different genetic make-up (a very, very small portion of the population), it is almost impossible to build muscle like a man.  (And, as much as you might think it is true, you only have a 1 in a million chance of being the 1 in a million that has the different genetics, so stop saying, and believing, it)

This is because males have 20-30 times the testosterone of women, resulting in deeper voices, more body hair, and more muscle development.  Women just physically cannot build muscle like men can, sorry but it is a scientific fact.  Some of the maximal amounts of muscle you can put on a female frame with CrossFit training can be seen below.  These are women that built their bodies using sports and strength training.

An extremely high level of muscle on a female will look like the pictures above, but again, only with many YEARS of weights training and a focus on a clean diet.

So, lastly, just to clarify, “bulky” means fat.  Which does not happen when you work hard at CrossFit South Bay!!

Workout of the Day 5/9/2011

Deload Day 1 All workouts are untimed at low intensity. Concentrate on form and technique.

A. 4 rounds (untimed)
3 tire flips or partner tire flips
6 sledge hammer (each side)
10 kb clean and jerk (each side)

B. 2 Rounds (untimed)
The Big Wheel
Each exercise is performed for 3 repetitions.  Alternate sit-up throws between these six exercises:  2-arm thrusts, L & R 1-arm thrusts, overheads, L & R rotations.

Inside The Cult of Crossfit

Picture-1322The world’s hottest new workout system is also the most controversial. Are you ready to join the WOD squad?

This wasn’t a late-night infomercial. It was the ardent opinion of my former girlfriend. I had mentioned that I was thinking of trying CrossFit, and Becky, to my surprise, told me she was already a year into it, and that it had given her a “new lease on life” and a “whole new family.” On every other subject she sounded like the same levelheaded girl I used to live with. But when she talked about CrossFit, she sounded like a lunatic.

Then she directed me to YouTube videos that showed her busting out pullups by the dozen and sporting the strong, sinewy physique of a martial artist. If that was madness, I wanted some. I scheduled a free demo session as soon as I hung up the phone.

THE APPEAL OF CROSSFIT—A CONDITIONING program that mixes Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, sprints, plyometrics, and a few hard-to-categorize exercises like rope climbing—is that the workouts are short, intense, and constantly changing. So they were nothing like the long, monotonous, and unsatisfying workouts I’d been doing for most of my adult life.

And CrossFit is everywhere now. I counted 10 affiliates near my apartment in downtown Vancouver. I decided to try CrossFit Westside, which is within walking distance.

Like the CrossFit facilities I’d seen in videos, this one didn’t look anything like a traditional gym. No mirrors, no machines to isolate muscles, no stationary bikes, no display cases full of expensive powders and bars. The box, as they call each of their gyms, was mostly open space, with a rubber floor, high ceiling, and equipment—barbells and plates, kettlebells, medicine balls, jump ropes, rowing machines—stacked neatly around the perimeter. The walls were bare, save for stenciled quotations attributed to Greg Glassman, CrossFit’s founder and frontman. “No, it doesn’t get any easier,” read one. “You wouldn’t want it to either.”

My initial assessment included a timed run through a typical CrossFit sequence during which I rowed, jumped, and did pushups and body-weight squats. The streams of sweat pouring off me left no doubt that I hadn’t been bringing my A game to my self-designed workouts. The assessment was followed by a series of “elements” classes, during which my fellow rookies and I learned the basic exercises. Then it was time to try the real thing.

The highlight of each class was the workout of the day, or WOD. (A lot of these have been given women’s names—anybody up for a Cindy? How about a Fran?) My first WOD consisted of 12 “chest to deck” pushups, 9 deadlifts with 225 pounds, and 15 jumps onto a 24-inch box. That was one round; the challenge was to complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes. The clock started, house music blared, barbells clanked, and my fellow CrossFitters grunted, groaned, and screamed encouragement at one another. Sweat flecked the gym floor.

“Back to pushups! Chest to deck, let’s go!” screamed our trainer, Jenika Gordon, who also owned the gym. “Five minutes gone, so you’re a third of the way through!”

I was oxygen-starved and confused after three rounds, and I still had 10 minutes to go. And I wasn’t the only one suffering. Pushups around the room became increasingly bendy, jumps turned wobbly, deadlifts turned ugly. And even though some CrossFit crazies think vomiting during a workout is a badge of honor, I hoped I wouldn’t erupt my first time out.

In my quarter-hour initiation, I’d made it through the three-exercise circuit—a “triplet” in CF-speak—just shy of six times. We called out our scores and Gordon posted them on a chalkboard. I was near the bottom of the class of a dozen men and women, some of whom outweighed me by at least 50 pounds. One of the biggest surprises in this and subsequent classes was the range of body shapes, which didn’t seem in any way predictive of who would end up with the highest score. On any given day the doughy endomorph might outpace the cantaloupe-butt Amazon or the wiry guy with the anatomy-chart muscles.

We limped off as another group stepped up.

“How was the WOD?” someone asked.

“Fifteen minutes of sheer hell,” I wheezed.

“Awesome!” he said, without sarcasm.