Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wednesday 04/30/2008

10 rounds of 3 reps each:
Deadlift (1.5x BW)
Deadhang Pullup
Knees to Elbows

"What we usually pray to God is not that His will be done, but that He approve ours."
- Helga Bergold Gross

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Power Wheel (Lifeline USA)

I'm always interested in new implements that can be integrated into CrossFit training (up on my list are slosh pipes and tires, and I spied a sledgehammer in my friend's garage... haha), and surfing the Internet often leads me to websites and blogs where people have recorded their experiences using new training tools. Of course, I mainly peruse blogs that are concerned with performance training, so I can safely say that you will never see me endorsing the Hawaii Chair or even the Bowflex Revolution, or other exorbitantly-priced pieces of junk. I like equipment that is easily portable and versatile in terms of use, does not lock you into fixed planes of movement, and has proven to be effective in achieving any or all of the ten foundational elements of fitness that form the rationale for the CrossFit training methodology.

After reading Zach Even-Esh's blog , as well as the Ice Chamber Athletic Performance Training blog, I noticed that both made plenty of use of the Power Wheel in their training. For the record, Zach is the owner of CrossFit Underground in Edison, NJ, and Ice Chamber is a strength and conditioning training facility (no current affiliation with CrossFit, however) in Albany, CA.
The Power Wheel by Lifeline USA

Before you dismiss the Power Wheel as merely a jazzed-up version of the five-dollar plastic ab wheel you can purchase at most sports stores, or superstores like Target and Walmart, you might want to read this. The main feature that differentiates the Power Wheel from a generic ab wheel is that it comes with footbeds, bands and straps attached to the handle, which allows you to strap your feet into the wheel, thereby greatly increasing the range of exercises you can perform with the wheel.

Order Process/Customer Service/Shipping:
I ordered a Power Wheel (manufactured by Lifeline USA) from Perform Better's online store. At that time, Perform Better had the Power Wheel on sale for only USD $39.95, which definitely was a major factor in my decision to buy it. However, I can't seem to find the Power Wheel in Perform Better's store any longer - I'm guessing it probably sold out, what with the temporary price reduction and all. I had zero problems with shipping and the package arrived in approximately 3 days.

Design and Specifications:
The Power Wheel came disassembled, with accompanying instructions for assembly. Two Allen Keys are provided in the box and there is no need for additional tools. Assembly is pretty quick and intuitive (you can pretty much figure out how to put it together, just by looking at pictures of the wheel).
Closeup of the wheel and footbed

The handlebar is made out of steel and comes with rubber grips that you can slip over the handles for a superior grip. The footbeds are made out of strong plastic, while the attached straps are around an inch and a half in width, pretty thick, and have velcro attachments. The straps hold the toes of the foot in place.
Closeup of the footbed, velcro strap, and band

Two elastic bands come in the package, and they can be looped over the rear of the footbeds and used to hold the user's heels in place. The wheel itself is made out of heavy-duty rubber, with aggressive tread marks that make it suitable for outside use on uneven, rugged surfaces. The spokes on the wheel are fashioned out of plastic and hold up well. All in all, it looks to be a durable, sturdy piece of equipment that is relatively light, easily transported in the back of a vehicle, and quickly disassembled should you want to transport it in a flat box. I have never owned an ab wheel but I've heard that some are shoddily constructed out of cheap, flimsy plastic, and break in no time at all. I can't speak for those wheels but in my opinion the Power Wheel will last for a long time yet.

Training/General Observations:
To get a sense of what the Power Wheel can be used for, watch this video (courtesy of Ice Chamber), which features its owner Steven performing a series of some extremely challenging movements. The Power Wheel is featured approximately 1:24 into the video. (An aside: That video is pretty darn hardcore. Man, that's what I'm talking about when I mean performance training!)

Of course, you probably wouldn't want to start with the "Clap Roll Bridge Series" right away. The Power Wheel I ordered came with an instruction leaflet which, besides detailing its assembly, also provided a short list of movements. Perhaps most intuitive would be to use the Power Wheel as an ab wheel and perform ab wheel rollouts. I won't go into detail on how to do those as you can do a simple Google search which will yield many sources. For the average person, performing a complete rollout (ending with your nose to the ground), even while kneeling, is already considerably challenging. The first time I tried the Power Wheel I did 3 sets of 15 reps of ab rollouts from a kneeling position, and felt it very distinctly the next day. My training buddies have lovingly christened it the "Wheel of Pain".

As I mentioned earlier, the main feature that distinguishes the Power Wheel from a generic ab wheel is that it comes with footbeds, straps, and elastic bands that hold your heels in place. This allows you to perform an entire host of other exercises, most of which are also targeted at core strengthening and balancing, and also some which help you work on hamstring strength and flexibility. You can perform lying leg curls with hips elevated, which really fries the hamstrings. On his blog, Zach suggested something called the 15/15 workout, which involves 15 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, performed with pike-ups and leg curls. Just four minutes and your hams and abs, not to mention your shoulders (and probably the rest of you) are pretty much toast. You can also strap your feet into the footbeds and perform pushups (or clapping pushups), or go for a walk on your hands.

A particularly lethal combination is as follows: Begin parallel to the ground, feet strapped into the wheel, palms on the ground and elbows locked out. Perform a pike-up by rolling the wheel in towards your hands, roll back out, perform a pushup, and then walk two steps forward, using your hands. Rinse and repeat for the length of a basketball court. A guaranteed doozy!
View of the underside of the footbeds

Simply put, the Power Wheel allows you to do fun things on your hands. Alright, maybe not "fun things" in the usual sense of the word, but movements that recruit major muscle groups, demand high levels of core stability, concentration, and coordination (because the likelihood of an unglamorous faceplant is significantly heightened when your feet is on something resembling rollers and you lose control). One of the things I've noticed with the Power Wheel is that it's also a great way to strengthen the smaller stabilizer muscles in the shoulder (think about wheel rollouts, hand-walking) because those muscles are extensively recruited in a lot of the movements. It sure beats doing mundane rotator-cuff exercises with light dumbbells!

Purchasing Options:
I did a quick search on Google and as of this time, there appear to be three options for purchasing the Power Wheel. The first is through the Lifeline USA website (link above), where it retails for USD $59.95 plus S&H, and comes with a video that details how the Power Wheel can be used for training. The other option is to order via Lifestyle Sports on Amazon, where the Wheel retails for $46.95 (free shipping). Another alternative is to order via Allegro Medical on Amazon, where the Wheel retails for $39.00 (but shipping costs $8.95). While I can't recall what I paid for shipping, I'm guessing that the latter two options result in a total cost that approximates what I paid for my Power Wheel. The Power Wheel I ordered didn't come with the training video either. I believe you can only get the video if you order directly through the Lifeline USA website.

Other Considerations:
If you're just looking for a wheel for simple rollouts, pikes, and movements that don't involve strapping your feet in, you can get the same workout with any generic ab wheel. Alternatively, you can use a barbell or dumbbell with round plates to perform rollouts. A variation of the ab rollout, known as the jackknife, can also be performed using a pair of rings mounted low to the ground, where you begin in a pushup position on the rings with your feet on the ground and proceed to push your arms out away in front of you, keeping your elbows locked out, till you come as close to being parallel to the ground with your arms outstretched. I only recommend the Power Wheel if you're pretty sure that you intend to use it for the hamstring and hand-walking work I detailed above. If you plan to incorporate these movements into your workout arsenal, the Power Wheel by Lifeline USA is the best device around (as far as I know, there aren't any other wheels currently on the market, that allow you to strap your feet in and attempt such exercises).

I find the Power Wheel to be a useful tool and a worthwhile training device for any CrossFitter or fitness enthusiast, as it heavily targets the core stabilization muscles. However, I wouldn't consider it an absolutely essential acquisition, especially if you're just starting out and wondering what to buy to set up your first home gym. If that's the case, grab a cheaper ab wheel instead and buy the Power Wheel if you have some spare cash left over after purchasing the basic pieces of equipment (Olympic weight set, rings, dumbbells, kettlebells, jump rope, plyo boxes, pullup bar).

For me, I generally work out in a globo gym where I have access to a weight set, pullup station, and dumbbells. I have a couple of kettlebells, rings, a jump rope which I bring with me to the gym, but no plyo box (but that will be remedied soon). So the Power Wheel is a good option for me since it's easily portable. I can bring it to a playground and put together a firebreather of a workout with only the equipment I have in the back of my car.

So in terms of straightforward priorities, the Power Wheel ranks lower down on the list of immediate need. However, I definitely think it's worth the price I paid (USD $39.95) because there's a myriad of non-traditional exercises that can be performed using it, and after all, variety is the essence of CrossFit.

In my opinion, the Power Wheel gets a 8 out of 10.

Tuesday 04/29/2008

10-15-20-25-20-15-10 reps of:
Jumping Squats
Jumping Lunges
Donkey Kicks
Double Unders

"A lie has speed, but truth has endurance."
- Edgar J. Mohn

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday 04/28/2008

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
BW Back Squat
Decline Pushups
Knees to Elbows
DB Overhead Swing (Heavy)

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday 04/27/2008

30-20-10 reps of:
KB Burpee/High Pull/Goblet Squat
KB American Swing
KB 1-Arm Overhead Walking Lunge
KB H2H Swing
Double Under (... of course)

Run 600 m at the end of each round.

"The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after."
- Newton D. Baker

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday 04/26/2008

"Saturday's Sweaty Sixteen"
50 Burpees
50 Walking Lunges
50 DB Overhead Swings
50 Mountain Climbers
50 3-Point Pushups*
50 Decline Situps
50 DB Goblet Squats
50 Double Unders

Perform 50 single rope turns between exercises.

*How to perform 3-Point Pushups: While you are in pushup position, only one foot will be in contact with the ground. The other foot may simply be placed on the heel of the other, or elevated off the ground (more difficult), so that your body is positioned on three points.

"You never leave someone behind. You take a part of them with you - and leave a part of yourself behind."
- Author Unknown

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday 04/25/2008

"Friday Fryer"
21-15-9-15-21 reps of:
Barbell Jumping Squats
Weighted Decline Situps (25#)
Overhead Barbell Walking Lunges

"A man's health can be judged by which he takes two at a time - pills or stairs."
- Joan Welsh

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday 04/24/2008

With a pair of DBs, perform 5 rounds of 10 reps each:
Renegade Rows
1-Arm Overhead Swings (R, then L)
Hang Squat Cleans

21-15-9 reps of:
DB Overhead Swings
Jumping Squats
DB Push Presses
Jumping Lunges

"[A] final comfort that is small, but not cold: The heart is the only broken instrument that works."
- T.E. Kalem

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Review: Rogue Rings (Rogue Fitness)

Rogue Rings

So here's the review of the Rogue Rings (USD $72.00) which I ordered from Rogue Fitness some time ago. For those of you who might prefer a brief overview of the product, the rings were of very impressive quality, finely crafted, a cinch to set up, and looked to be extremely durable. Not to mention, they're highly aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Black powder-coated steel rings hanging from black straps emblazoned with the red and white Rogue Fitness logo set against a gray background do indeed make for a pretty aggressive setup. I highly recommend them to anyone who's looking to purchase their first set of rings. Click on the accompanying images to enlarge them.

Order Process/Customer Service/Shipping:
I placed my order through the Rogue Fitness website (linked above). The order process was smooth and painless, and it was easy to navigate the website. I also signed up for a customer account with Rogue Fitness since it was my first time placing an order with the company. As was typical of online orders, I made my payment using my credit card information on a secure portal.

The Rogue Rings were shipped via UPS ground service from Ohio, to my place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I received my rings almost two weeks after I'd placed my order. I initially thought that I'd receive them earlier, as my expectations were based on how most of the equipment I've ordered online from other athletic companies have generally reached my doorstep in less than a week or so. I received an email from Rogue a couple of days after I'd placed my order, informing me that the next batch of Rogue Rings were to be shipped out altogether the following week.

If I'm not mistaken, I understand that these rings are carefully crafted and personally inspected, batch by batch, by the good people at Rogue Fitness and so I wouldn't hold the somewhat delayed processing time against them. I also received emails from Rogue Fitness regarding the status of my order as well as shipping information, which were definitely appreciated.

Texture and Grip:
The Rogue Rings are crafted out of black, heavy-gauge steel, with an aggressive texture. The powder coating allows for a secure grip on the rings, and holds chalk very well. Personally, I wound black athletic tape around the rings (but that was purely a personal preference - I have unbelievably sweaty palms and grip is a huge factor when it comes to equipment considerations), and that worked awesome too. That being said, it wouldn't have been a problem for me to use the rings straight up without the tape, just chalk.
Closeup of my taped rings

For those of you who are fortunate enough not to be afflicted by excessively sweaty paws, I believe the texture of the rings is aggressive enough for you to maintain a strong grip, even in the absence of chalk. In my opinion, the rings are not too textured to the point of being abrasive, which is good particularly if you don't want to rip the skin off your wrists when performing muscle-ups using the false grip.

Design and Specifications:
The rings are sturdily constructed, with no discernible welding seams. If I'm not mistaken, each ring is made from a single piece of metal and machined down to exact specifications, which explains the lack of seams. The circumference of the rings forms a perfect circle, and the thickness of the rings will accommodate any trainee's grip. I didn't perform exact measurements but I estimate the thickness of the rings to fall somewhere between 1" and 1.5", which makes for a comfortable, secure grip.

As mentioned earlier, the rings are constructed out of steel. This makes them somewhat heavier (2 lbs per ring), but you can rest in the secure (ha ha, pun!) knowledge that they will be able to tolerate great amounts of stress.

As perhaps the best testimony to the strength of the mounting straps that come with the rings, Bill Henninger, the owner of Rogue Fitness, actually used a Rogue Ring strap to drag one of his client's vehicles which was stuck after heavy snowfall. You can see the video here. Attaching the strap between the vehicles, he pulled his client's car about 600 m without the strap giving out. If that doesn't tell you enough about the strength and durability of the mounting straps, I don't know what will.
Closeup of the buckle and strap on the Rogue Rings

The straps (1.5 inches in width) are fashioned out of a strong, relatively stiff material that isn't too harsh on the arms either. Most people new to rings will naturally lean on the straps for support when performing exercises like dips, and these straps don't dig into your skin. Granted, a little redness is to be expected where the straps come into contact with your arms, but nothing abrasive, thanks to the smoothness of the straps. The ends of the straps are cut to a point and tapered for easy insertion into the buckles. The buckles are made out of steel and the catch on the buckle can be depressed enough to allow for easy insertion of the straps. The mouth of the buckle is knurled (presumably to allow for friction and stability once the catch is closed). I was extremely pleased with how easy it was to insert the straps into the buckle, as that was one of my fundamental considerations when it came to purchasing a pair of rings.

Numerous experiences with rings of other brands that featured flimsy, frayed straps and buckles that would hardly yield to pressure had left me with a certain aversion to mounting rings. The frustration that comes with trying unsuccessfully to mount rings at 6:00 am in the morning is hardly welcome. I remember taking up to ten minutes to mount one ring, and then needing another ten to set up the other. Hardly an efficacious use of time, considering I could probably have completed the workout in the time it had taken to set the rings up.

I had no such problem with the Rogue Rings (which even comes with an instruction sheet for the handiness-impaired) - I threw the straps over the mounting point (which can be a pullup bar, a tree branch, almost anything at all that you deem strong and stable enough to hold your weight - since if anything gives out it'll be the mounting structure, not the rings) - ran the tapered ends of the straps through the rings, ran them through the buckle, and completed the setup in around one to two minutes. There is a velcro loop attached near the buckle in the event you want to roll up the excess strap length to prevent it from getting in the way. Although I didn't make use of the velcro attachments, it definitely is a nice option to have.

Training/General Observations:
I tried out my rings by performing dips, pushups, muscle-up progressions, skin-the-cats and other gymnastic moves, and they held my weight superbly without budging. The Rogue Rings arrived in a 5x10x10 box - a compact tool, easy to transport around and bring to playgrounds or fitness corners where you can pretty much construct an entire workout around them. Throw a jump rope, a kettlebell, and a power wheel in the back of your car together with the rings, and you have unlimited workout options at your disposal.
Rings on a ring set!

The rings alone are sufficient to keep you occupied for hours as it's amazing how much they can add to your workout regimen. The added element of instability that comes from using the rings adds valuable difficulty to any workout - for instance, performing ring dips and pushups instead of regular dips and pushups enables you to fully engage your stabilizer muscles and strengthen your midline. Ring rows are also an excellent progression for those who are working towards unassisted pullups. Not to mention the plethora of gymnastic moves - front and back levers, L-sits, planches, (and the king of all - the iron cross) that you can attempt or work towards by using a set of rings.

Other Considerations:
The only conceivable drawback as to the Rogue Rings which I can think of now is that the steel rings will be very cold in winter, which might have an adverse effect on grip. Of course, you can easily solve that problem by storing your rings indoors in an insulated environment, instead of outside or in an uninsulated garage. Also, the Rogue Rings are slightly heavier than the Elite Rings and the Xtreme Rings (the other two options for rings in the market), which might have a slight effect on portability, but the durability of the Rogue Rings is uncompromised and CrossFitters typically enjoy carrying around heavy things anyway, so I don't think that'll be much of a factor. It remains to be seen if the quality of the buckle and straps remain strong over time for easy ring setup to take place.

All in all, I find the Rogue Rings at USD $72.00 to be a worthwhile investment for any CrossFitter who is serious about acquiring valuable skills that can only be honed with ring practice. As an aside, Rogue Fitness is fast establishing itself as a major player in the CrossFit equipment market, recently releasing its own line of Do-Win weightlifting shoes, coming up with a reasonably-priced Olympic bar for barbell movements, and also home to a host of package options for CrossFitters looking for good equipment deals.

In my opinion, these rings get a solid 9 out of 10.

Wednesday 04/23/2008

Using an empty barbell for the weighted movements, perform 30-20-10 reps of:
DB Overhead Swings
Overhead Squats
Push Presses
Situps on Decline Bench
Overhead Walking Lunges
Double Unders

"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."
- Ambrose Bierce

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tuesday 04/22/2008

10 rounds of:
3 Hang Power Cleans (95#)
6 Front Squats (95#)
9 Pushups
12 Double Unders

"The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down their friends, side-stepping responsibility, and pushing their luck."
- Author Unknown

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday 04/21/2008

50-40-30-20-10 reps of:
Situps on Decline Bench
Air Squats
Back Extensions
Double Unders

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction."
- E.F. Schumacker

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday 04/20/2008

With a KB, perform 24-20-16-12-8-4 reps of:
1-Arm Snatch (1/2 R, 1/2 L)
Goblet Squat
1-Arm Clean and Press (1/2 R, 1/2 L)
American Swing
1-Arm Overhead Squat (1/2 R, 1/2 L)
H2H Swing

Run 200 m between rounds

"Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."
- George Jean Nathan

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saturday 04/19/2008

4 Rounds of:
30 American KB Swings
Bear Crawl
20 Jumping Squats
Traveling Burpees
10 Pushups
Walking Lunges
200 m Run

Note: Bear Crawl, Traveling Burpees and Walking Lunges are performed across the width of a basketball court and back.

"Who is more foolish - the child afraid of the dark, or the man afraid of the light?"
- Maurice Freehill

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday 04/18/2008

Sharon L. holding a beautiful support position on the rings. We'll work towards turning the rings out!

Everyone starts at a station of their choice.
Spend 7:00 at each station performing as many rounds of the exercises as possible, with 1:00 rest to move between stations.

Station #1
5 "Wheel of Pain" Rollouts
10 DB Thrusters
15 Jumping Lunges

Station #2
5 Ring Dips (or Jumping Negatives if you're still working up to Rx'd dips)
10 Burpees
15 Double Unders

Station #3
5 DB Squat Cleans
10 Weighted Decline Situps
15 Overhead DB Swings

Station #4
5 DB Renegade Rows
10 DB Snatches (5R/5L)
15 Pushups

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That's why we call it the present."
- Babatunde Olatunji

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Something to chomp on...

Well, so I was thinking (something I occasionally like to do, of course I try to minimize the times at which it happens - haha), about nutrition, and I thought I'd share some of my feelings regarding this iffy issue.

I think we probably all are aware of just how much of a role diet and nutrition play in our daily lives. You don't have to be an expert to know that if you eat too much of the wrong foods, you will probably experience some or all of the following characteristics:

1. Balloon to extreme proportions;
2. Elevate your risk of suffering from illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and a long list of other depressing ailments; and
3. Generally feel crappy all the time (though you might be so used to feeling that way such that you don't even know what feeling good feels like anymore, which is quite a sobering thought, really).

The evidence speaks for itself. The obesity rate in this country is simply startling. The incidence of diseases resulting from engaging in unhealthy vices has skyrocketed. Fast food corporations are making a killing from marketing their Monster Thickburgers, McSkillet Burritos, and other greasy, calorie-laden offerings.

1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat make the Hardee's Monster Thickburger a legit heavyweight.

Wanton overconsumption is glamorized in the ads that leave impressionable youths with the misguided idea that it's macho to be able to down a couple pounds' worth of hamburger meat with bun and trimmings (perhaps in the form of a Carl Jr's Double Six Dollar Burger - boasting 1520 calories and 111 g of fat), as well as a Coke and supersized fries liberally sprinkled with salt and doused with Cheez-Whiz, all in one sitting. Well, if your idea of machismo is legitimized by the fact that you're willing to put yourself at greater risk (for blocked arteries, high cholestrol and central adiposity), that's probably alright. Otherwise, it's not.

I know it isn't fair to lump everyone into the "I-don't-give-a-flying-s*&$#-what-I-stuff-into-my-pie-hole-as-long-as-it-tastes-good" category, as I truly believe that most people are genuinely aware of what foods are beneficial and which are best to be avoided. In today's society, however, an overwhelming number of people are preoccupied first and foremost with immediate gratification. If it tastes good, I'll eat it, and worry about the consequences later. If it's readily available (in the form of a McDonald's drive-thru), even better!

And very naturally, they then fall into a vicious cycle of justifying their choices. Well, it's just a burger, right? Hamburger meat... hmmm, that's basically ground beef and that's protein, isn't it? I suppose I'll get an energy boost from the carbs in the sesame bun? I know that limp, wilted sliver of lettuce doesn't look like much, but with the lone tomato slice I figure that might be a serving of vegetables. Cheese for strong bones, and mayo for a good old-fashioned dose of healthy lipids! And with a puff of smoke, the deconstructed Double Whopper magically morphs into a meal Jack LaLanne would wholeheartedly endorse!

Hey, Mom, could I have the rest of your McNuggets?

Sadly, most people don't realize how the consequences of their choices accumulate until they visit the doctor for their periodic checkup and are solemnly informed that their blood work has revealed some frightening figures. Or maybe it hits them when they wake up one morning, look down to tie their shoelaces and realize they can't even see the tips of their shoes beyond their bellies (and it's not because they misplaced their glasses).

I'm not even going into the specifics of nutrition where the debate takes the importance of healthy eating as a given, and instead focuses on the types of foods that will help to achieve optimal health (I'll probably do that in a subsequent post). I'm just trying to highlight here how crucial it is to understand the risks associated with the widespread persistence in making patently bad food choices.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the future fades into oblivion when it comes to choosing between options, and in this nation where instant gratification is routinely preferred over calculated decision-making (much like how certain political choices appear to have been made), the eventual outcomes don't bode well at all.

Images courtesy of Brand Autopsy and Foodfacts.

Thursday 04/17/2008

Escalating Density Training (EDT)
Perform the bracketed number of reps in the following 15-second intervals:
1-16: DB Squat Clean into Thruster* (1)
17-32: Ring Rows (4)
33-48: Burpees (2; 3 if possible)
49-64: DB Front Squats* (2)
65-80: Double Unders (5)
81-96: Ring Dips (2)

*Go heavier on both DB exercises - at least 10 pounds above the total weight of the DBs you would typically use for DB-centric workouts.

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say, 'Thank you?'"
- William A. Ward

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday 04/16/2008

6 rounds of 10 reps each:
KB Complex (Swing/Snatch/Clean/Press/Overhead Squat) - alternating R/L
Plyometric Pushups
Double Unders
Decline Weighted Situps with 35# plate

"You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him."
- James D. Miles

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday 04/15/2008

21-15-9 reps of:
Air Squats
Jumping Squats
Overhead DB Swings
Jumping Lunges
Donkey Kicks

"If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want."
- Oscar Wilde

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why We Do CrossFit

I thought this captioned photo from the CrossFit Affiliate Blog said it all...

CrossFit Hickory's Rev. Jerome tells Kent that his penance for drinking beer and eating like crap according to the CrossFit commandments is "Fran", rest 2 minutes, and a 5000m row.


Why do we do CrossFit? For most of us CrossFitters, I don't think it's anything to do with atonement for nutritional indiscretions. Then again, maybe sometimes. But that shouldn't be the case for the bulk of the time!

Just last Saturday, a guy approached us in the gym while we were in the midst of our Painstorm XXIX workout. Not the best of times, really, considering we were all sweaty and dishevelled, hands covered in chalk dust, doubled over at the waist and panting, as we valiantly tried to banish to the back of our minds the depressing fact that we had only about a hundred and fifty deadlifts, pushups, and cleans to go before we could sink to the ground and surrender our souls to heaven.

Well, anyway, this guy thought it the most opportune of times to come over to us and chirp merrily, "So, what are you guys training for?".

"Life," I immediately replied in between sharply-drawn breaths, as I dusted my hands and approached the bar for my next set of 13 deadlifts.

He looked slightly confused at my answer and so I said "We do CrossFit. Check out".

He sat and stared in wonderment for a while as we continued plugging away at the Painstorm, knocking out clean after clean, deadlift after deadlift, and burpee after burpee.

"There, take that," I thrust the scrap of paper on which I had scrawled the WOD, into his hands. He looked at it, and out of the corner of my eye I could see the wheels beginning to turn in his head.

20,19,18,17... whaaat... 3,2,1... holy crap, that's a shitload of deadlifts and pushups and cleans! Where's the decline dumbbell flyes, you know, to fry the pecs? How about the wide-grip lat pulldowns to give me some good ol' back thickness? And what on earth is up with the volume?? This is pure insanity! I couldn't possibl... erm, I wouldn't train this way!

Well, anyway, suffice it to say he didn't hang around for long. But I wonder if he did in fact check out the CrossFit website!

The reason why I do CrossFit is to be prepared for whatever life has in store for me. That might sound too profound for something like fitness, which most people are apt to construe as an accompaniment to, not a core constituent of, their daily lives. But the CrossFit pedagogy goes above and beyond the daily WOD posted on the main page of the site, something I think most people who are new to the concept have yet to grasp. CrossFit is far more than the sum of its parts - it's a lifestyle that revolves around working towards and then maintaining your body in a superior state - ready for all of life's curveballs.

The benefits derived from doing the WODs are buttressed by good nutritional protocols and a focus on rest and recovery wherever necessary. Going one step further, there are, undoubtedly, psychic benefits that arise from engaging in CrossFit. The increased sense of community and camaraderie that result from training alongside people is simply priceless. Friendly competition boosts the results of everyone in the team and serves to motivate all. Improved levels of fitness have been shown to increase productivity and be soundly beneficial with regards to school, work, and life in general. CrossFit has taught me to step out of my comfort zone (this happens all too easily whenever I do a WOD) and I think I've become a better person for it.

The blurb on the "What is CrossFit?" portion of the Mothership's website says it best. It pretty much helps to explain why you see people of all ages, body types, and backgrounds in CrossFit gyms. All CrossFitters' goals differ in specific terms, but everyone is united by a desire to attack life with renewed vigor, and in the process, accomplish things they never thought possible.

... Our program delivers a fitness that is, by design, broad, general, and inclusive. Our specialty is not specializing. Combat, survival, many sports, and life reward this kind of fitness and, on average, punish the specialist. The CrossFit program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience... The needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree, not kind. Our terrorist hunters, skiers, mountain bike riders and housewives have found their best fitness from the same regimen.

-What is CrossFit?, from

Monday 04/14/2008

Every minute, on the minute, for a total of 20 minutes:
3 Burpees
2 DB Renegade Rows (2 Pushups + 2 x 1R/1L Rows)
3 DB Thrusters

"There are so many things that we wish we had done yesterday, so few that we feel like doing today."
- Mignon McLaughlin

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mmmm, tasty!

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hannich, at

Fond of a good ol' dollop of Cool Whip on your slice of cake? After all, you don't do dessert very often, do you? Just a little indulgence on the weekends to make up for the monklike asceticism with which you ascribe to your dietary regime on weekdays. And in a further attempt at righteousness, it's "whipped topping", not whipped cream - there's only 25 calories in each nine-gram serving. Who needs cows and butterfat any longer? Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Before you go out and grab another tub from your local grocery store to replenish your supply of creamy goodness, read this.

(God forbid you ever get hemorrhoids, but if you do, you know where you can find immediate relief at only 41 cents per ounce...)

Sunday 04/13/2008

10 rounds of 5 reps each:
Bench Press (3/4 BW)
Knees to Elbows
Bar Dips
Double Unders

Note: Light day after yesterday's sooperdooperpooperscooper Painstorm which took me an hour and seven minutes to complete, with 135# for the deadlift and two 30# DBs for the DB cleans... my traps are really, really feeling it. Hoo boy.

"Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
- William Jennings Bryan

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday 04/12/2008

Painstorm XXIX
20-19-18-17-16-15-14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
Deadlift (Bodyweight)
Squat Clean (1/2 Bodyweight)

Alice came to a fork in the road. "Which road do I take?" she asked.
"Where do you want to go?" responded the Cheshire cat.
"I don't know," Alice answered.
"Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday 04/11/2008

"Sharon F's Swimsuit Shenanigan"
Everyone starts at a station of their choice.
Spend 7:00 at each station performing as many rounds of the exercises as possible, with 1:00 rest to move between stations.

Station #1
5 Burpees
10 Donkey Kicks
15 Mountain Climbers

Station #2
5 Ring Dips (or Jumping Negatives if you're still working up to Rx'd dips)
10 DB Push Presses
15 Pushups

Station #3
5 DB Man Makers*
10 Situps on Decline Bench
15 Jumping Lunges

Station #4
5 DB Front Squats
10 Jumping Squats
15 Double Unders

* For the uninitiated, here's what Man Makers are (contrary to common belief, they do not result in a reduction in IQ - unless, of course, you decide it might be fun to let go of the dumbbells upon completing the overhead portion of the thruster):
Start in a standing position with DBs at your side.
Squat down, place DBs on ground, and thrust your legs backwards all the while holding onto the DBs.
Perform a pushup, and then do a DB row with each arm.
Return your feet to the squat position (make sure your back isn't rounded - maintain a good arch).
Perform a full DB squat clean.
As you power out of the squat, go straight into a DB thruster.
That's one rep of a Man Maker. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

"Keep doing what you've always done, and you'll always be what you've always been."
- Author Unknown

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taking it Above the Bar

This is a topic that has been just about beaten to death on the CrossFit forums as well as other fitness and athletic discussion boards -- is the kipping pullup cheating?

Well, the author of this article seems to think so. Granted, she doesn't explicitly refer to the kipping pullup in her article, but this photo (quite plainly borrowed from CrossFit Santa Cruz), along with its caption, conveys her message loud and clear.
Cheating will only cheat yourself out of your victory.

Most CrossFitters utilize the kipping motion in their workouts whenever the WOD calls for the pullup, unless otherwise stipulated (for instance, the L-pullup). This is due to a variety of reasons. Without getting into the hard science of biomechanics and movement patterns, just by watching someone who kips, it's easy to see that kipping is efficient. Basically, you make use of the posterior chain to propel yourself upwards and over the bar, instead of just relying purely on back and arm strength. By utilizing major muscle groups, you fatigue less quickly and are thus able to knock out more pullups, and at a faster rate. This is particularly germane given the nature of CrossFit WODs, where the basic goal is to do more work in less time.

Here's what the good folks over at CrossFit HQ have to say about the kipping pullup. You know it's worth something when it gets its very own blurb on the CrossFit FAQ section! Read the threads mentioned for an in-depth analysis and critique of the kipping pullup, and why it takes pride of place as the de facto CrossFit pullup.

Personally, I treat the kipping pullup and the dead hang pullup as two discrete exercises. Sure, there's definitely considerable skill transfer between the two, but being able to knock out 30 kipping pullups in a row doesn't necessarily mean you'll be similarly good at dead hangs.

In fact, it's pretty common to be able to kip till the cows come home (since a big part of the kipping pullup revolves around mastering the rhythm of the kip), yet struggle to bust out even two or three strict pullups. I've also seen people (usually the military kinds) who are excellent at dead hangs but somehow always manage to bungle up the kipping motion and end up preferring to rely wholly on their lats to see them through a brutal pullup workout. On that note, I don't have a particularly good kip myself - for the longest time ever, I somehow managed to lose my rhythm and ended up having to take an extra swing every five or six reps in order to restart my kip. This frustrated me to no end because it didn't do anything to help my focus during a balls-to-the-wall workout. Simply, the kipping pullup is more about practice and mechanics, than it is about raw strength.

In all honesty, I haven't been working my kip as much as I'd like to, primarily because the gym where I work out isn't equipped with the minimalist pullup bar structure that will allow me to do kipping pullups. (Jeez, just think how much money and space they'd save if they skipped the fancy-schmancy Cybex and Hammer Strength leg adductor and rotating oblique machines with butt cushions and seatbelts in favor of a bulletproof monkey bar structure. But that's another rant altogether).

It's all Nautilus Power Towers here (where the grips on the bar are excessively thick and too widely spaced apart, and I can't launch myself into a swing for fear of banging my knees into the back pad for knee raises). There's a lone power cage with a straight pullup bar across the top beams, but it doesn't look as though it's sturdy enough to handle kips either. So I've mainly been working my dead hang pullup, while using a wider and thicker grip. I'm thinking that will definitely translate into some gains with regards to my dead hangs on the standard-width 1" pullup bar.

I was at the Black Box (CrossFit NYC's sweet digs in the middle of Manhattan) last week and was overjoyed to see one of those no-frills pullup structures. I immediately tried a couple kipping pullups to see how they felt and was kind of surprised to see that I could easily knock out ten or so before my rhythm got wonky and I had to swing in between. So that was nice.

Anyway, I think there's value in working all sorts of pullups. Strict dead hangs, kipping, weighted, L-pullups, the list goes on. I respectfully disagree with the people who condemn kipping pullups as "cheating" pullups, because it really all depends on what your goal is. If you want to isolate your lats and build back strength, do strict pullups. Even better, do weighted and L-pullups (the latter are particularly challenging). The military is pretty firm on their no-kipping rule during fitness tests so there is definite value in working on strict pullups.

However, if you're looking for maximum power output in as short a time as possible, kip as though your life depends on it. From a CrossFitter's perspective, just do whatever the hell it takes to get above the bar if you're racing against the clock. Nobody's going to question your kip if it gets you a two- or three- minute "Fran" like the best of the CrossFit beasts.

Both forms of pullups have their merits and I don't see why any athlete ought to eschew one in favor of the other. Taken together, I daresay the benefits you'll get from working on both will be pretty darn amazing.

Thursday 04/10/2008

"Sharon's Shoulder Sizzler, fo shizzle!"
10-15-20-25-25-20-15-10 reps of:
Situps on Decline Bench
Overhead Walking Lunge with Barbell

(I added 2 sets of 5 reps and 1 set of 30 reps at the end of the WOD to kind of make it like a pyramid from 5 to 30 reps and back down... I know, I'm weird like that.)

Note: Kudos to Sharon L. for an excellent workout! This one hits your shoulders and works on your overall stability as well.

"It is a mistake to suppose that people succeed through success; they often succeed through failures."

- Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

This is not cool.

Picture courtesy of the New York Times.

The obesity epidemic in the U.S. is, quite frankly, appalling. I remember touching down in Detroit Metropolitan Airport when I first came to the U.S. to study, and thinking to myself that I'd never seen so many people with such expansive girths. I mean, there definitely were fat people where I came from, but the sheer number and size of the grossly overweight people here was simply mind-boggling.

I wasn't quite sure whether to feel amused at the sight of numerous chubbies waddling around, their elastic-waisted sweatpants scarcely keeping their bellies in check, or whether to feel a twinge of pity at what their obesity portended for their health and general well-being.

I don't think enough is being done in this country (or others that are experiencing obesity epidemics, for that matter) to halt this worrying trend as well as prevent people from becoming obese. I think everyone is aware of some of the factors that have caused this alarming trend.

Fast food/processed food made with dubious ingredients mixed with preservatives and subsequently dunked in oil, artificially flavored to jazz up your tastebuds and then smothered in a toasty yummy golden brown coloring (or fluorescent green, if you like Jell-O), is so easily obtainable and typically cheaper than natural, nutritious foods. This common perception is often flawed - healthy, yet inexpensive food sources are readily available if you make the effort to learn about healthy eating and food preparation.

The sedentary nature of the average person is another major factor. Heck, even cajoling a co-worker into taking the stairs instead of the elevator to your office on the fifth floor is far more painful than pulling teeth! It's hardly surprising, considering how with cars and all the fancy thingamajigs designed to eliminate any form of extraneous movement beyond what it takes to bend down and tie your shoelaces nowadays. People pretty much tumble out of the driver's seat, into the elevator, and into their office chairs where they remain for the entire day except for brief sojourns to the bathroom (and perhaps longer visits to the pantry, where they are more than wont to linger for a while, but that's another whole factor in itself).

I could go on and on about everything that's caused the obesity epidemic to become what it is now -- weighty, pardon the pun, but I shan't. Anyway, this article from the New York Times details one of the lesser-known consequences of this hefty situation.

Wednesday 04/09/2008

8 rounds of:
5 DB Overhead Swings (50#)
10 Pushups
15 Situps on Incline Bench
20 Back Extensions
25 Double Unders

(I think I miscounted and did 10 rounds - that's what doing too many double unders does to you)

"The purpose of life is a life of purpose."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesday 04/08/2008

12 rounds of 5 reps each:
BB Front Squat (115#)
Overhead DB Swing (50#)
Ring Dip
Double Under

"Some men see things as they are and say, "Why?". I dream of things that never were and say, "Why not?"."
- John F. Kennedy

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday 04/07/2008

With a weighted barbell of your choice, perform 4 rounds of:
25 Back Squats
20 Pushups
15 Front Squats
10 Dead Hang Pullups
5 Overhead Squats

Note: Use the overhead squat to determine the amount of weight you will use for the entire workout. The weight should be heavy enough for 5 reps of the OHS to be sufficiently challenging, but not so heavy that it limits your range of motion or causes your form to break down (bear in mind that the overhead squats are the last exercise in each round so expect to be fatigued by then). You get to choose whether you want to use a rack for this workout. I didn't have that option this morning, so I cleaned the weight from the floor each time it came to the squats.

"The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps - we must step up the stairs."
- Vance Havner

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday 04/06/2008

Deadlifts (Bodyweight): 15-12-9-6-3
DB Overhead Swings: 30-24-18-12-6
Burpees: 15-12-9-6-3
Double Unders: 30-24-18-12-6

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."
- Judy Garland

Saturday 04/05/2008

With a single DB, perform 5 rounds of the following single-arm movements:
5 Snatches
5 Swings
5 Shoulder Presses
5 Overhead Squats

Perform all exercises with one arm before switching sides, to complete a round.

Perform 5 DB Burpee-Squat Clean-Thruster combos and 10 double unders between rounds.

This WOD is similar to Wednesday 02/20/2008's WOD.

"CrossFit Total"
Back squat, 1 rep
Shoulder Press, 1 rep
Deadlift, 1 rep

Post-Workout Workout
5 rounds of 10 reps each:
Pullups (Kipping)
Box Jumps (24")
Double Unders

"Be excellent and success is inevitable."
- Alwyn Cosgrove


Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday 04/04/2008

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
Dead Hang Pullup
1-Arm DB Swing (R)
DB Renegade Row
1-Arm DB Swing (L)
DB Front Squat
Double Under

Clean & Jerk 15-12- and 9 reps

Touch and go at floor only. Even a re-grip off the floor is a foul. No dumping. Use same load for each set. Rest as needed between sets.

"He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away."
- Raymond Hull

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Thursday 04/03/2008

5 rounds of 10 reps each:
BB Power Clean
BB Thruster
BB Sumo Deadlift High Pull
BB Push Press
BB Front Squat

"If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life."
- Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wednesday 04/02/2008

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of:
DB Snatch (R)
DB Snatch (L)
DB Swing (R)
Double Under
DB Swing (L)

"Does my fat ass make my ass look fat??"
- Button in Sharon F's car that always cracks me up

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tuesday 04/01/2008

10 rounds of:
DB Snatches (4R/4L)
4 Dead Hang Pullups
1-Arm DB Swings (4R/4L)
4 Ring Dips


"April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four."
- Mark Twain