The kipping pull-up has become famous thanks to CrossFit. While many people outside of the CrossFit community look at it as “cheating” where an athlete flails his or her body around aimlessly, trying to pull themselves above a pull-up bar, we know that this isn´t completely true. Only Joe P. flails around aimlessly.
The kipping pull-up is a combination of strength and technique, allowing an athlete to demonstrate his/her coordination in conjunction with strength to perform a more efficient movement that allows for higher volume training. Just like a push jerk being the application of technique and coordination to a pressing movement to be able to lift more weight overhead, the “kip” allows us to do a variety of gymnastics movements more efficiently.
HOWEVER….there is a time and place to do kipping pull-ups. Not everybody should be doing them, and my general rule of thumb is this: if you cannot do 3 strict dead hang pull-ups, you should NOT try to kip. Here´s why:
These are two images of your shoulder. I'm no doctor- but the picture on the left shows the shoulder joint with a bunch of its connective tissue, bursa and ligaments. I have no idea what I´m looking at, but even I can tell it’s complicated. The picture on the right is your labrum, I´m vaguely more familiar with the labrum, having ripped it once.
Around your shoulder joint, and all of this connective tissue and ligaments, you have your rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a series of 4 muscles that help keep everything in place and moving as it should. Doctors, correct me if I´m wrong, but I´m pretty sure that the shoulder joint has the most range of motion out of any joint in the human body. Lots of range of motion + lots of ligaments and there are plenty of things that can go wrong. So we need the rotator cuff muscles to be strong in order to keep everything in place when we competitively exercise.
So back to my point about pull-ups. I have seen SO MANY ATHLETES knocking out kipping pull-ups, but when I ask them to do a strict pull-up, they simply can´t do it. This is a huge problem. These athletes’ muscles that surround their shoulders aren´t strong enough to handle pulling their bodyweight above the pull-up bar. Fast forward to an athlete using their hips to get them above the bar. No harm done. What about on the way down? The downward phase is where things go wrong! You have your entire bodyweight moving quickly downwards, and now we are adding in gravity and the downward momentum of our bodies…what do we expect is going to bring us to a halt?? If the musculature isn’t there to even get you up in the first place, then it is your shoulder joint that is going to take the beating, trying to stop your body’s momentum to get ready for the next big kip.
Anyway, like I mentioned above, the kip that we use in CrossFit is not all bad. There is definitely a time and place for it, but we need to make sure we are strong enough to handle it. If you cannot do 3 dead hang pull-ups, you need to start working on strict banded pull-ups, negatives, and ring rows until you are strong enough.
Once you have 3 strict pull-ups, learn how to kip. Once you have 20 unbroken kipping pull-ups, learn how to butterfly. Once you have 3 chest to bar pull-ups and 3 strict ring dips, learn how to do a muscle-up.
Note: the same logic is mostly true for toes to bar as well. Don´t kip your toes to bar unless you can do a few dead hang pull-ups, and you are capable of holding an “active” position in a dead hang for at least 20-30 seconds.
If you are familiar with the CrossFit style of training (all of you at Triumph should be!), you know that what we do is pretty dang intense. Intensity, hands down, yields the best results for fitness because intensity is a measure of fitness. But doing intense workouts day in and day out without a rest day is not smart, and can lead to injuries and overtraining (feeling burned out, strength numbers take a dive, etc etc).
CrossFit.com promotes and uses a 3 on 1 off structure for training, meaning that they program 3 days of workouts and then schedule a rest day on the 4th day. While this is great, and probably the best way to train, it doesnt fit a 7 day week nor does it fit the average members schedule nicely.
At Triumph Fitness, we program for 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday. If you are completely new to CrossFit, I highly recommend starting with just 3 days a week. For example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Do this for a couple weeks and let your body adjust to the volume and intensity that we pursue. Once you feel more comfortable, start working in a 4th day. This could be something like: Monday/Tuesday/Rest/Thursday/Friday and on the weekend get outside and go for a walk or play some sports.
Once you feel ready for it, you can bump your training up to 5 days per week, and a lot of people will train on a schedule like: Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Rest/Friday/Saturday/Rest. Again, I recommend letting your body get used to 4 days a week for at least 3 weeks to a month before trying out this 5 day model.
How will you know when you need a rest day? It´s pretty simple. Listen to your body. On the 3rd or 4th day of training, do you still feel strong? Is your conditioning fatiguing more quickly than it did earlier on in the week? These would be great indicators that a rest day is needed. Again, listen to your body and avoid training more than 3 days in a row.
What if you come in feeling good, but quickly realize you should´ve taken a rest day? Don´t leave! Go ahead and do some mobility and light rowing, or ask a coach to modify the workout down to something less intense and let us know that you aren't feeling great that day. Moving your body around a little, getting your blood moving is a great way to break up some lactic acid and help your body recover for the next day!
What should you do on your rest days? I absolutely insist that you take at least one day per week and do NOTHING fitness related. As CrossFitters, we tend to get pretty addicted to staying active, but it is ok to take a day off and read a book, go to a movie, clean the house, grab coffee with a friend etc, etc. On the other rest day that you have scheduled, enjoy your fitness. Go out to the dog park and run around, explore Rock Bridge State Park, ride a bike, do your weekly meal prep, go to a yoga class, swim, etc.
Again, we treat our bodies like machines here in the gym, but they aren´t! We need rest, we need to recover. Our muscles break down and need to rebuild. Even our minds break down and get tired and so we need those days to just press the reset button and let ourselves reboot.
Finally, what you do outside of the gym can affect your training also. Remember to eat right, sleep good and keep your stress levels down. Combine too many training days/weeks in a row with poor nutrition, bad sleep and high stress and you can become a victim of overtraining. Symptoms include a lack of appetite, insomnia, decrease in strength and energy and a noticeable change in mood. It really is simple to avoid overtraining if you just listen to your body and follow the general rules I talked about above!
Then, you'll be ready to outrun that hippo!
How about this, I’m going to tell you that the first five minutes of your day will determine whether it will be successful or not. You might be thinking, This is BS; I’m not a morning person, my mornings are always horrible, and I get to throw down my workouts at 5PM after work and that is when I feel accomplished and successful. I’m sure I could list another fifty situations or events that are preconceptions of when your day is allowed to be successful or not. But that would be ridiculous and who wants to be so negative!?
THIS IS WHAT I’M GOING TO TELL YOU: LIFE IS SHORT!It is absolutely necessary for us to make a decision every day, every morning (hence the first five minutes) to set ourselves up for success and to be successful. There is no negotiating! Do you really think you should waste a single hour of a single day?
We aren’t going to tell you how to set your alarm clock or when you should press the snooze button. We are all mature enough to realize we actually need to wake up to start the day! However, once you are awake, we have a script for the first five minutes. It is a combination of yoga, meditation, exercise, and task accomplishment. Don’t fall off the wagon or shy away just because it is out of the normal. Do it every morning for two weeks; you will get in the flow, have a sense of accomplishment every day, and maximize your success. It is a win, win, win!
THE FIRST MINUTE: THE MERGEWhen the alarm goes off or you wake up, stay in bed, but roll onto your stomach, pull your knees to your chest, and position yourself in Child’s Pose.
Child’s Pose – In the kneeling position, pull your chest down to your thighs and place your forehead on the bed. Reach with your arms over your head and place them on the bed. Slowly inhale through your nose and as you exhale, allow your butt to move closer to your heels. Take 7 breaths: 4-second inhale, 1-second pause, 4-second exhale. As you are breathing, do a body scan. Start at your feet and work up to the top of your head. How is everything feeling?
The intent is to encourage mindful breathing, introduce simple, gentle movement, and figure out how you feel. You are merging, relaxing, and focusing on the day ahead.
MINUTE ONE – TWO: ACCOMPLISHMENT 1You are getting out of bed now! We’ve had a brief moment extending relaxation, now let’s accomplish something! MAKE YOUR DAMN BED! Yes, growing up our parents told us a million times to make our beds. Why – who knows – but it was probably because they thought it was the right thing to do. Turns out they were correct! When you make your bed first thing in the morning, you start the accomplishment thought process, and you start setting yourself up for success! If everything in your day falls to pieces after minute 2, you can get home and see your bed made. You’ll know you started this day right and now you are going to finish it right. It seems ridiculous but it works! After minute 2 is up, you will have already accomplished a task.
MINUTE TWO – THREE: GETTING BIGWe’ve merged into the day, accomplished a task, and now it’s time to get big. We are going to do a Standing Forward Bend.
Standing Forward Bend – Start with your feet under your hips and slightly bent knees. Hinge forward at the hip, allowing your arms and upper body to hang. Relax the head and neck. As you inhale, think about your spine and back, then as you exhale, slowly move your head closer to your feet. If you are lacking tension in your lower back and hamstrings, you can begin to straighten your legs. Use the same breathing scheme as your first minute. Take 7 breaths: 4-second inhale, 1-second pause, 4-second exhale. While breathing, start focusing on the day ahead. What does it bring?
The Standing Forward Bend is lengthening muscles and your spine. It feels slightly awkward and your hamstrings will not be happy. The amazing thing is after the movement when you stand up, you will feel taller! Physically you didn’t just grow an inch, but mentally you are bigger and that means a lot! Another accomplishment notch to start the day!
MINUTE THREE – FOUR: DECISION TIMEThis involves a little prep from the night before. You need a notebook and pen next to your bed! Organization is a trained skill, not an inherited gift. During the last minute you started thinking about what the day will bring, and in this minute you are going to write down three things. This is a rapid organization of your day. Wow, three minutes out of bed and you’re already being decisive. Yes, absolutely!
MINUTE FOUR – FIVE: SHOT OUT OF A CANNONIt is workout time! You read correctly: it is time to do the world’s shortest WOD!
1 Minute – As Many Reps as Possible:
2 – Air Squats
2 – Push-Ups
A simple one-minute workout is guaranteed to shake off the overnight lag, increase blood flow, and provide a quick shot of energy to start the day. You did a 4-minute warm-up, and after this minute it is like being shot out of a cannon.
Five minutes is up and you are set up and ready for the day! The last thing you need to do is smile and say to yourself:
I’m going to control my day, my mindset, and my success! Today will be a good day and I’m thankful for everything I have and the opportunities in front of me.
Well, that is a big explanation and script for the first five minutes of your day. Like we said, it is a blend of quite a few things in five minutes, but the end result is helping you to be a better person! Try it and let us know how you feel!
No, I don´t mean that there´s an easy way out of having to eat a healthy diet. There are no magic diet pills and no rational diet that allows you to eat Twinkies and ice cream and still lose weight and feel great.
I mean there´s an easy way to make your CrossFit workouts feel not so bad, have great results, and feel more energetic day after day, and its called good nutrition! Ever wonder what the secret is to a sub-3 minute “Fran” where you finish the workout and not feel wrecked for 20 minutes? Or how to squat 300 pounds multiple times and not feel like a train ran over your legs the next day?
Here´s how to do it, the easy way:
Step 1 – admit it. Think you eat pretty clean? Go look in your fridge or closet and count all the “food” you have with more than 5 ingredients in them. How many cans and jars and bottles and packages do you have in there? Don´t feel bad about it, and before you go nuts and throw everything in your pantry away, read step 2.
Step 2 – baby steps. If you did Oregon's Best Boot Camp with me, I teach two things when it comes to nutrition and dieting: quality of food and quantity of food. Until you get the quality under control, don´t worry too much about the quantity. I can almost guarantee that if you just eat healthier, you will have great results without worrying how much you are eating. Start by changing just one of your meals per day, for example breakfast. Eat a perfect breakfast for two weeks but continue eating the same for the rest of the day. When your body is ready, change your lunch. Pretty soon, you´ll be eating 3 healthy meals plus snacks per day.
Step 3 – understand what we mean by “healthy.”
Step 4 – understand WHY you should eat clean. Whatever you put in your body will affect you. Bananas, Tylenol, drugs, alcohol, peanut butter, everything goes into your body, gets broken down and triggers the release of hormones. Calories don´t matter as much as you think, hormones do. Ever wonder why it’s so hard to resist all the sugary, delicious treats in the bakery? Because you are addicted to sugar. Just like an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. Think about the way you would LIKE to feel during the day – tons of energy, happy, attentive, focused, alert. Our hormones control all of these feelings – so if you put the right food into your body, you will feel this way. Put the wrong things into your body and you know what will happen – slow, sluggish, depressed, tired, bored, etc.
Step 5 – lastly, if you are working out with a high intensity program like CrossFit, you should have some sort of supplements. Whey protein, casein protein, branched chain amino acids, glucosamine, omega-3, etc. If you are just working out recreationally or 3-4 times a week, I wouldn´t overdo the supplements. Take them for sure, but in moderation. If you are competitive or working out 5+ times a week, you NEED to be consistent with your intake of supplements. You should have a protein shake on hand twice a day, a recovery mix (amino acids) after your workout, and lots of fish oil and glucosamine.
There are a ton of supplement companies out there, so choose wisely. I have always been cautious when it comes to supplements.
Injuries, inside or outside the gym…I´m sure we have all had at least one in our lives. Injuries are normally viewed as limitations to what you can do physically from that point on until you have recovered. I´m here to tell you that injuries are actually opportunities. An injury is an opportunity to become an expert in a different area of your training.
Most people would agree with this statement, and most people would think that I´m not even saying anything new…but how many people actually take the opportunity that an injury gives them to become a specialist in a different aspect of the gym?
Here are my tips on what to do here at Triumph Fitness, when/if you get injured.
1. Identify the injury…,.by talking to a doctor
None of the trainers here at Triumph Fitness are doctors and we cannot diagnose injuries. First thing is first, go to a doctor and figure out what it wrong. Work with a physical therapist to determine what to do about the SPECIFIC injury.
2. Identify everything you are able to work with and make a list
Identify every part of your body that you can work on that isn´t related to the injury. For example if you have a shoulder injury, working out your core, hips and legs shouldn´t be an issue. For a lower body injury, doing upper body movements shouldn´t be an issue.
3. Focus on the mobility and health of your muscles and joints.
Mobility is a huge aspect of our fitness and usually overlooked. Ignoring mobility can be a cause of many minor and major injuries, so taking the time to focus on the parts of your body that are not yet injured, and doing some extra mobility can help prevent future injuries.
4. Make strength and strict movements your priority
Again, working around the injured body part, begin working on strengthening every other muscle that you can think of. A shoulder injury is the perfect opportunity to start a strict squat cycle. A leg injury is the perfect opportunity to master strict/weighted pull-ups, shoulder presses, handstand pushups, etc.
5. Make it your goal to become a specialist
Triumph teaches that specializing is the enemy, and that is normally true. However, if you have a broken leg and you cannot squat, run, jump, etc, why not specialize in gymnastics? Master the muscle up, practice L-sits everyday, learn how to walk on your hands! Use the GHD everyday until you have an 8 pack of steel!
Again, injuries are not limitations. They are disguised as opportunities to learn something new, and to become a specialist around the gym. Make sure you work with a coach to determine appropriate scaling and modifications, and always refer back to your doctor when it comes to the actual injury itself.
I saw a video the other day of a younger Julie Foucher (CrossFit Games athlete and M.D.) doing foundations back in 2009.
Watching this video popped this idea into my head, and I wanted to share it with you all.
Julie Foucher started doing CrossFit just like the rest of us – not as a stellar athlete – but just pretty regular.
She struggled with the same exact movements that we all struggle with. Years later, with an unwavering determination, she is known as one of the best female CrossFit athletes of all time.
What if you had started CrossFit many years ago and trained and ate like a champion – giving everything your all, 100% effort day in and day out? Where would you be today?
Now what if I tell you that today is Day 1… and you have the rest of your life ahead of you. How are you going to use it?
People like Julie Foucher start on Day 1 and give whatever they are doing their all. They don’t make excuses, complain or get down on themselves. They know that the journey will be long but they are willing to put in the work. There will be bad days, probably more so than good days, but in the end it will be worth it.
So whatever you are doing – CrossFit related or not – work your tail off every single day to get better at it.
It’s your responsibility.
The Triumph Fitness & CrossFit community is unique. It seems like every CrossFit affiliate I have ever been to (while all have their differences) are similar in that they all foster a positive community, where people talk to each other, are welcoming to newbies, cheer each other on and in the end become friends. In the typical “globo gym” (a CrossFitters term for the conventional gym) members don´t communicate, except for the occasional “can I get a spot” or “are you still using that bench.” In a CrossFit gym, however, as soon as you walk in you are bombarded with people trying to get to know you. Where are you from? What do you do? How long have you been CrossFitting?
So why does a CrossFit gym experience this unique characteristic of community? And why is it important?
First, the why. The workout of the day is the same for everybody, no matter what skill level. When you do the same thing as the person next to you, you know exactly how they are suffering. When you suffer together, there is a natural bond. Whoever finishes first in the workout knows exactly what everybody else is going through and the type of encouragement they will need to get through it.
With the coach-led, group classes, participation and attention levels are higher than at a globo gym. Athletes at a CrossFit gym can´t put in headphones and zone out, otherwise they will miss the entire purpose of having a coach. When you are “forced” to pay attention and participate during class, you tend to be more aware of the people around you!
And finally – people who work out a CrossFit gym tend to have similar interests and/or personalities. Let´s face it, CrossFit isn´t for everybody. The people that stick around a CrossFit gym have a lot more in common than they may realize it, which is why it makes it so easy to talk to each other, go out for beers on the weekend, etc, etc.
Why is the community aspect of CrossFit important?
It provides support. It provides support during a workout, after a workout and throughout your entire journey into becoming a more fit human being. We link fitness to intensity. Without people cheering you on while you finish a workout, you probably wouldn´t finish the workout as strongly as you started it. Your intensity would decrease and you wouldn´t get as much out of the workout as possible. After the workout, having people come up to you and give you a high five along with some encouraging words reinforces that what you just went through was really worth it, and tomorrow will be just as satisfying. And finally, when you feel part of a community, you tend to stick to that community a lot longer. Fitness isn´t something you can just find in a month and then revisit every once in a while. It is a lifelong journey of changing habits to become as healthy as possible, and we all need a support system to help us through it.
I´ll challenge everybody out there to remember the following when in a CrossFit gym:
1. When you walk in to the gym each day, say hi to as many people as possible, especially the new people! We were all new at one point and scared out of our minds. Go share some CrossFit stories with someone you don´t know!
2. If you get done first, you should be the first one cheering everybody else on. Clap, yell, help countdown the final reps.
3. Do not put away your equipment until everybody is done! You may not realize it while doing it, but think about how deflating that can be to someone still trying to finish the workout.
4. At the end of class, go give everybody a high five, even the coaches!
Our needs, in terms of fitness, vary by degree, not by kind. The entire gym can be on the same program and both the best athletes and the most novice can get the same results. Having the entire gym on one program is also very beneficial to the community aspect of a gym, and one of the many things that separates us from your typical “Globo” gym. When you suffer together, you tend to bond.
So, in order to satisfy the needs of all of our athletes, I started creating a program that had different levels to it. I sat down for a few hours and studied a few different gyms that were doing the same thing. CrossFit Invictus has three levels called fitness, performance and competition. OPT has 3 levels called function, being and will. Outlaw CrossFit has their normal program and then the Outlaw Way. And the list went on. I decided that Triumph Fitness was ready for different levels – so we got Fitness, RX and Competitor. We might rename the levels in the future to show a little more creativity. =)
There are basically three parts to a class at Triumph: warm-up, skill/strength/core/technique and then the WOD.
In this blog I talk about the differences between Fitness and RX for the strength, gymnastics skills, and the WOD. Here is another clip from my excel that shows the first “half” of class, or the things we do before the Metcon:
The main differences in Fitness and RX for the strength or gymnastics sessions are the following:
We encourage ALL athletes to try both levels every once in a while. There is no requirement to do the RX strength on any given day, as long as you know how to calculate your percentages (if necessary) and you know what the movement looks like. If you are completely unsure of what level to try, I recommend just sticking to Level Fitness for a month until you become more comfortable with the movements that we do regularly in CrossFit.
For the Metcon section of class (the WOD), the differences between Fitness and RX are easy to distinguish. Level RX will get:
How to use the FITNESS and RX system to your advantage:So going back to why we do this and how to use our levels to your best advantage. We don´t do different levels to make our athletes feel separated from the rest of class. In fact, I program very carefully so that everyone can continue to work together. We do these different levels to push our athletes towards very tangible goals, and then to continue pushing them so that they always feel challenged. Step one is to just show up and do your best! Step two is to try and complete workouts as prescribed for Fitness. And of course, Step 3 would be to try and complete workouts as prescribed for RX. RX programming (if you haven’t noticed already) is extremely challenging. I program it so that competitive athletes at Triumph can follow it and feel challenged. Fitness, in my opinion, is still a very challenging program to follow as prescribed.
In short, if you are in your first 3 months with us, I recommend sticking to the Fitness program daily. It will help you build basic strength and body awareness, and it will give you a great challenge. Push yourself every day to try a slightly heavier weight (remember we have 2.5 pound plates!) or a slightly more advanced gymnastics progression. Once you are able to CONSISTENTLY do the Fitness program as prescribed, it is time to scale up to RX.
Everyone in the gym should aspire to be able to hit the workouts as prescribed one day, not to show off and feel superior, but rather to continually strive for new challenges. If you are always looking for a new way to push yourself, you´ll soon realize that you are doing things that you were never able to do before!