CrossFit: How To Avoid Burning Out

BurnOut

Everyone at some point gets into a funk, motivation is lacking, energy is non-existent, you may even be questioning why you’re training.  Burnout is no fun, and I have some ways to help you get out of that funk and feeling great at the box again!

GOALS!

Goals, you need them, and they need to be very clear and measurable. A quick way to lose motivation is to not have a clear goal as to why you are training. You can speak with your coach if you need help making a goal but ultimately you need to put time aside to ask yourself a few things.

  1. What do you want to accomplish
  2. Break the larger goal into smaller goals that can be checkpoints on your way to your primary goal
  3. What do you need to do to accomplish this goal (This is not “what do I need to sacrifice to accomplish this goal,” this is “what do I need to decide to do to accomplish this goal”)
  4. What is the timeline to accomplish this goal

Once you have a clear goal set know that there will be challenges you face, it’s not impossible it’s just going to be hard, but no goal worth having comes easy. As you progress towards your goal do not look at the summit (your goal), instead, focus on the process to get to the summit (your goal). Focusing on the process allows you to hit all of your mini goals along the way, if you concentrate on the main goal you lose sight of what needs to be done to accomplish your goal.

It’s About You – Don’t Strive For Perfection

Don’t focus on others and where they are at, focus on you. Being envious of others and their accomplishments can imply you don’t feel you can accomplish what they have, which is not true. Focusing on yourself and what you can control is a great way to change your mindset so you can work towards your goal.

Don’t aim for perfection as you progress towards your goal, it will never be perfect, and that’s ok. If you focus on making everything perfect, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, and you will paralyze your progress. All you will think about is how what you’re doing isn’t perfect when the focus should be celebrating and enjoying the progress you’ve made towards reaching your goal. Enjoy the process!

Change It Up

If all you’ve been doing is class and nothing else, give something else a try. If your gym offers other types of classes this could be a way for you to find a new interest, you might actually enjoy putting more focus into Olympic lifting, strongman, powerlifting, etc. all of which will continue to improve your fitness within CrossFit.

Try a competition! This is something to train for and enjoy the process of preparing for. Preparing for a competition takes time, and this is a perfect way for you to create a goal and focus on the process of completing that goal.

Put In The Work

Now that you have a clear goal in mind it is time to get to work! As I said before, there will be challenges but accomplishing them will only make you better. A key point to remember as you enjoy the process of reaching your goal is this “There are no naturals, and there are no grinders.” Simply put, no one is going to naturally be great at something, and if you put in the work, you will get better. Saying someone is just a natural discredits all of the work they have put towards reaching their goal, and if you have grit and continually work towards your goal you will get better, and you will reach your goal.

Good Luck!

 

 

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Individualized Accessory Gainz Programming

The accessory gainz individualized programming was created to help any level of athlete fine tune their motor skills, decrease muscular imbalances and improve the athlete’s overall fitness level.

The program will be 3 days per week and will contain a variety of movements all of which are personalized for you to eliminate your weaknesses. The movements will focus on specific muscular activation, increasing joint mobility/stability, creating healthy joint movement patterns, increase posterior chain strength, plyometrics, improved proprioception, and learning to control your breathing and pelvic girdle/thoracic spine position. You can find some sample programming here.

If you have any questions email ironknowledgegainz@gmail.com

Squatting: Athletes with knee issues

Things to look at when assessing an athlete’s knee issues:

Can they control the sagittal plan?

Can they resist valgus/varus forces and control the frontal plan?

Is there any patellar tracking that could be from tight quadriceps muscles?

Is there a rotation at the femur or the patella when the athlete is standing?

When they squat what moves first; hip or knees?

Are there any muscular imbalances?

Is there a loss of core stability at any point throughout the squat

These are some of the things you need to look at and assess when you have an athlete with knee pain or has returned after rehab on their knee

The Box Squat / Low bar squat

The box squat and low bar squat (when performed correctly) are great ways to squat for athletes with knee issues. The first reason is the levers the body has while performing these squats. During the low bar and box squat, the athlete’s hips are much further back versus someone performing a high bar/front squat, and this creates a greater hip moment arm and smaller knee moment arm which just means more work is being done by the hip extensors compared to the knee extensors. With a larger hip moment arm, the degree of flexion at the knee is also decreased which prevents excessive pressure in the knee joint. These squats will help build lots of strength in the athlete’s core, back, and hip extensors, these muscles can contribute to relieving stress at the knee as well as improve the athlete’s stability while moving through space. The result can be a healthier knee.

Additional Things to Help the Knee

If the quadriceps are tight and pull on the knee, this can cause excess stress on the patellar and quadriceps tendon all of which affect the knee cap. When the muscles and tendons are pulling on the patella, this can cause patellar tracking disorder or patellofemoral syndrome. When the patella does not sit correctly in the patellofemoral groove, this can wear down the cartilage under the knee which leads to patellofemoral syndrome. To correct this, you can have the athlete stretch the quads by performing the couch stretch and by foam rolling the area. It should be noted that if the quadriceps are very tight, it can cause the knee to buckle while moving which could result in a knee injury, that is why stretching the quads is also important.

Banded glute activations is another great activity for athletes with knee pain. If the stabilizing muscles of the hip are not active, this can affect an athlete’s ability to handle varus or valgus forces at the knee. Performing different banded glute activation can improve this stability as well as aid in correcting any lateral shift the athlete may have in the squat which would affect the health of their knee.

Single leg step ups and step downs onto or from an elevated surface can help the athlete control the movement of their knee. When this drill is done correctly, the athlete will have to monitor the ascent and descent while preventing any unwanted lateral or medial tracking of the knee joint. When athletes master one height, you can increase the elevation to increase the difficulty for the athlete.

Core activation is also essential if the core is not active the pelvis may not be set up for optimal squatting technique. And when the pelvis is not set up correctly then this affects the hip joint which affects the knee joint which then affects the ankle joint. It starts with an active set up when an athlete has good core activation they are setting themselves up for success.

What’s The Goal?

Obviously, we want the athlete’s knee pain to subside, but there are a few things that we want beside pain-free squats, and they relate directly back to what we look for when an athlete is squatting. The technique is important, and we want to see control of the joints. This includes eliminating any undesired spinal flexion or overextension, a lateral shift in the pelvis, and valgus fault at the knee. Bottom line, we want the optimal movement pattern for the athlete, and optimal movement will produce pain-free movement.

 

Ring Muscle Ups: Fixing Common Errors

Strict Muscle Up Pull: Staying Hollow

First thing is positioning, in the strict muscle up it’s important to maintain a solid hollow body position throughout the pull. Overextension in this position leads to a loss of power and result in a less efficient pull.

 

Along with this loss of power comes poor positioning, this poor positioning makes it much harder to pull yourself above the rings. Practicing hollow body pull ups on the rings is a good drill to help correct this error!

Kipping Pull

This is the most common error I see when people  perform muscle ups. Strict and kipping muscle ups DO NOT have the same pull, despite common practice, the pulls are completely different. The strict muscle up is a close pull to the lower chest (while leaning back) so the athlete can turn over the rings and land in the dip position. However, this is different for the kipping muscle up. When you pull on a kipping muscle up you cannot pull down to the lower chest, instead you should pull back on the rings (this keeps tension on the rings)  putting you in a better position to pull over the rings. To correct this issue practice your swing keeping tension in the rings and every time you go to attempt a muscle up pull back on rings. 

Pulling this way will allow your upper body to turn over the rings rather than get stuck behind the rings. You will also notice that keeping tension on the rings will also prevent your legs from working against your turnover. When you pull to the hip the legs tend to raise to high (keeping the hip closed) which prevents your upper body from turning over the rings. This can make sets of multiple muscle ups very difficult. 

Lastly, the swing must involve the legs (when keeping tension on the rings this will prevent the legs from raising too high which we mentioned earlier) so you remain in a solid hollow through the pull. If the hollow is broken and you lead up with the knees and not the toes you will have a less efficient swing which leads to failed repetitions. Basically, if you lead with the knees your swing will be less efficient and your hip will remain closed which will affect your turnover!

 

If you have any confusion with the full swing check out this video from Power Monkey Fitness.

 

Poor False Grip Position in Strict Muscle Ups

The false grip is a key part to completing a successful strict muscle up. Many times, people try to complete the false grip on the inside of the ring rather than in the middle of the rings. This can increase the difficulty turning over the rings and completing the dip because the hand is too far up the side of the rings.  

When I teach athletes the false grip, I tell them to karate chop just off center (just to the left for left hand and just to the right for right hand) then grip down on the ring. This puts the hands in the correct spot. 

 Recap:

Problem: Losing hollow on the strict muscle up pull

      Fix: Hollow body ring pull ups

Problem: Pulling the kipping muscle up like a strict muscle up

      Fix: Perform kipping muscle up swings with a focus on pull back on the rings to keep tension when in the hollow body position

Problem: Not following through with the feet

      Fix: Perform kipping swings and make sure when you’re in the hollow position you can see your toes

Problem: Poor false grip

      Fix: Focus on placing the wrist just off center then grabbing straight down.

Improving Shoulder Mobility

In weightlifting, many movements demand a great deal of shoulder mobility. We spend hours stretching or smashing tight areas with mobility tools only to see little gains in range of motion, and while stretching and using mobility tools are great there are probably a few things you are missing. You could be missing key areas that deal with shoulder range of motion (ROM) and you could be missing the huge benefits of being under tension in a range of motion.

When it comes to stretching and activation, there is more to the shoulder than you may think. And while flexibility is a great tool you need to be able to control your range of motion and if you never work on correct muscle activation or being under tension in your full ROM then you won’t be able to support load overhead in the position you need.

The Whole Shoulder

Before we dive into anything else it’s important we understand exactly what the whole shoulder is. The shoulder is not just the ball in socket joint (where the head of the humerus fits into the glenoid socket), but rather a combination of that and the shoulder girdle which is the collarbone and scapula. We cannot underestimate the importance of the shoulder girdle because without it there is no way you could raise your arms any higher than shoulder height. The collarbone and scapula (shoulder blade) meet at the acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) and opposite that end is the sternoclavicular joint (SCJ) where the clavicle and the top of the sternum (manubrium) meet. All of these work together (ACJ,SCJ, and glenohumeral joint) to give your arm the huge ROM it is capable of. It’s important that all the drills we do improve how all these pieces function together. Using a lacrosse ball or other mobility tool to dig in around these areas may release some of the tissue and help free up the shoulder. Do not forget the areas around the collar bone, if the tissue is restricted it can affect your overhead ROM.

Flexibility vs Mobility

Flexibility and mobility go hand in hand but are not the same thing. Flexibility is a passive ROM which does not require coordination, core strength, or stability. Mobility, on the other hand, is a person’s ability to actively move a joint through its ROM, for example, the ability to control the shoulder through its full ROM in a functional movement like an overhead press. This is why solely stretching without drills to control the joint in the ROM could potentially hold back your overhead gains.

Activation & Stability Drills

There are a number of drills that can reinforce correct shoulder movement patterns and improve a person’s mobility. Here are a few of my favorite drills.

I, T, & Y Drill

The goal of this drill is to improve how the shoulder blade moves. In proper movement, the low trap will help the scapula rotate upwardly, freeing up area for the humerus to move overhead and avoid pinching the supraspinatus (rotator cuff muscle)under the acromion (part of the scapula). If you feel a pinching in your shoulder when you lift overhead this could be the cause.

This drill should be done with no weight and as you progress light weights may be added. Start by lying face down on a box or bench; you will complete the following drills with the thumb pointed to the sky and arms locked out. For the “I” the arm will be straight overhead, for the “Y” the arm will be slightly out to the side, and for the “T” the arm will be to the side. To perform each drill simple lower the arm to the floor and raise it in the directions just mentioned above. You can perform 2-3 sets of 10 per arm.

The left picture is the correct position for the T drill / The right picture is incorrect due to the trap being overactive and the shoulder is elevated.

It is important you do not feel the upper trap during this exercise because this means the upper trap may be overactive and is creating a faulty movement pattern for the shoulder blade. Instead, the athlete should feel the middle and lower fibers of the trap working. Think of it like this, the fibers are attached to the upper and side portions of the scapula so they can pull it down, upwardly rotating the scapula. The upper trap can help with upward rotation but is mainly used for elevation of the scapula.

scapulae-upward-rotation (t-nation)Scapular Rotation (Mike Roberson, T-nation. “Push-ups, Face pulls and Shrugs”.T-nation.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 25 Aug. 2016)

Bicep/Tricep Opener

The biceps and triceps originate from different parts of the scapula, so if your biceps and triceps are not flexible they may not be active in a full ROM, affecting the overhead position. The bicep and triceps opener drills are a fantastic way to increase your strength and stability through bigger ROM and comes from the great mind of Julien Pineau. In the triceps opener video, Pineau also talks about the importance of the latissimus dorsi (lat) in overhead ROM.
Julien Pineau describes both exercises in the videos below:

Biceps OpenerTriceps Opener

In the videos, Pineau describes the importance of being able to be active in the full ROM Things worth noting in the bicep opener video is the importance of the short head of the bicep and its role with shoulder mobility. Pineau gives the example of an elite level gymnast performing an iron cross and how the humerus is slightly internally rotated, allowing the short head of the bicep to aid in overall strength and stability in the shoulder joint. He states the principle is that a weak muscle is a short muscle and that if the short head of the bicep is weak, and therefore short, it will impede overhead ROM. In the triceps opener video, Pineau talks about the hindrance that a tight lat can have on the overhead ROM and how the triceps opener drill will open the lat, allowing the athlete to reach full ROM under tension.

Bottoms up KB walk with a protracted scapula

This drill will help the shoulder blade stay hugged to the ribcage preventing a winged scapula when you move overhead. To perform the drill take a light kettlebell and hold it with elbow at shoulder height and the bottom of the KB facing the ceiling. Next, push the shoulder forward (protracted) and begin your walk. You may feel the outside of the shoulder working which is good to strengthen your external rotators and you may also feel more under the armpit towards where the serratus anterior (commonly known as the boxer muscle) is located.The serratus anterior muscle is what helps hold the scapula close to the rib cage. It’s important that when you lift overhead your scapula does not lift from the rib cage because this can lead to injury. I would recommend 3x50ft per arm in your warmup.

The left photo is good position / The right photo is a winged scapula.

The left picture is the correct position / The right picture is the incorrect position because the shoulder is retracted

Get After It!

These were just a few of my favorite drills to improve shoulder mobility. Even though many other things contribute to shoulder health such as core stability, hip flexor tightness, and spinal erector tightness, these drills are a smart place to start. If there is speculation of a serious injury, seek health care professional. I hope you all find as much success with these drills as I have!

#bringingthegainztothepeople

#IRONKNOWLEDGEGAINZ

 

Prep before lifting

Prepping isn’t anything, it’s everything. What you do before you lift is just as important as what you do while you are lifting. To be successful and healthy for the long term, here are FIVE easy ways to prepare for Olympic Lifting.

ONE: Activation! In order to move weight properly, your muscles must activate properly. You have to wake them up before the barbell goes up. Main areas of focus can include glutes, shoulders, and core.

To get those glutes ready to lift, take a small resistance band and place it around your ankles. While standing with feet shoulder width apart and knees bent, take 10 steps to the left and right. Don’t bring your feet completely together! Keep that band taught. If you don’t feel your buns on fire, bend your knees more and squeeze those glutes hard!

For shoulders, core, and glutes you want to take a longer resistance band and step on it. Next, grab the other end of the band and lift it so you are in a pressing position. Finally, press overhead while keeping your belly tight and your glutes squeezed. Three sets of eight will get you ready to move weight overhead.

While holding a longer resistance band at one end with both hands, step on the other end of the band with both feet. Next twist the band so it looks like an “x”. Now pull your hands to collar bone level with your hands placed shoulder-width apart. Make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart and your knees are bent. Take 10 steps forward and 10 backwards, 10 to the left and 10 to the right. End this warm up with 10 air squats while holding the band in the same position.

Another thing you can add in is some 90/90 breathing work, to really get your core, glutes, and other muscles ready to lift. Start by placing your feet against the wall making a 90 degree angle.20160824_140958

From here squeeze the glutes so the hips barely raise off the floor. During the next parts of exercise, it’s important to keep your ribs down (think belly tight) and make sure every time ou breath in it is a belly breath and a forceful exhale.

Next, there are many different ways we can go, single leg internal rotation while breathing out is great to open the hip for any full squat. Or for example, while breathing out and squeezing your belly you can raise your hands overhead getting as close to the floor as possible. This will improve shoulder and t-spine mobility.

20160824_14101020160824_141018

TWO: It’s important to open up your hips, t-spine, ankles, and shoulders. Having a good range of motion will help you complete efficient, effective and safe olympic lifts.

To open up your upper back area, take 2 lacrosse balls and tape them together. Lay on the lacrosse balls so that 1 ball is on either side of your spine. With your hips off the floor, press the part of your back with the lacrosse ball underneath down into the ground. Be careful to ease into this. Drop your hips, shove your lower back down and repeat.

Make sure your shoulders are loose by hanging from the pull-up rig with your hands touching each other. While hanging, drive your head forward and squeeze your belly hard. You should feel stretching from your shoulder all the way down your side. Try doing three 30-second holds.

To open the hips, sit in the bottom of a squat and with your elbows inside your knees, place your palms together. Use your elbows to drive your knees outward. Hold this position for 30-seconds and complete it for 3 sets.

For the ankles, face the wall and place your foot against the wall with your heel as close as possible to the wall. Lean forward while keeping the leg straight. You will feel the stretch at the top of your calf. To stretch the lower part of your calf, simply place your heal close to the wall and drive your knee towards the wall.

THREE: Hit your problem areas. Tight shoulder? Creaking hip? Hammies like rocks? If you know you are tight or lack range of motion in any specific area, then it’s important for you to mobilize that area.

To attack a problem area, it’s always good to try and roll out the area with high pressure. Be sure to roll slowly and get a light stretch. If your hamstrings feel like steel cables, take a lacrosse ball and find a sitting position where your feet can hang. Sit on top of the lacrosse ball and start at an area that feels the most tight. Apply as much pressure and you can and then roll slowly.

If you have a tight hip flexor (right at the top of your thigh), try the “couch stretch.” Start in a lunge position with your knee on the floor, facing away from a couch. The leg you DO NOT WANT TO STRETCH should be out in front. Place your back foot on the couch. Then move your knee close to the couch. Next squeeze your glutes and you will feel a stretch down your leg.

FOUR: Use an empty barbell to get your heart rate up and really get a sweat going. Completing a dynamic warm up is important, but when prepping to lift, it’s good to use a barbell to get in a grove before your session even starts. Use the progressions of the movement to not only work on technique but also as a tool for your warm up.

Start by going through a couple reps at each progression to get your heart rate up. For both the snatch and clean, start with some pulls starting at above and below knee making sure your shrugging at the top and extending both your hip knees and ankles. Next, add in the high pull where you rip your elbows backwards like you’re elbowing someone in the face you don’t like! (Think about getting your arms in the same position of a hanging scarecrow.) Then you can go through some power cleans and or power snatches. End with full squat clean and squat snatch.

FIVE: Always, always, always go through progressions of each lift before doing the actual lift. Jumping right into snatching or cleaning is a sure way to limit your potential. Going through proper progressions each and every time will train your body on how to move correctly. This will enable you to move more weight and also prevent injury from bad form. Once you’ve finished your progressions, go through the full movement. First with just the bar and then with light weight.

“I’m glad I skipped my prep. It helped me PR!” said no one, ever. Friends don’t let friends skip prepping! Warm up with a buddy today.

Training Through Injury

Many of us have experienced the moment. You feel the pain of an injury and panic runs through your head. Surprisingly the first thought that comes to you is, “Will I be able to train?”

I’m here living proof that you will be able to train, whether you have a sore joint, nagging injury or while recovering from surgery. Just because something hurts doesn’t mean you need to skip going to the box. BUT PLEASE NOTE: it is extremely important that you let your coach know about your injury so that they can scale workouts so you can still get your WOD on!

I played football in high school and suffered a torn flexor tendon in my left ring finger and a broken scaphoid bone in my right wrist my senior year. I needed surgery on both. Once physical therapy was done for my finger, I went right into my wrist surgery. Training during this time was difficult due to both hands being unable to lift. Things like squatting, running, and sled pulling were my go-to activities. It’s important to focus on the things you can do and avoid the things you cannot do. There is almost always something you can do regardless of your injury.

When your injury involves something like a sore joint or strained muscle, it is important first that you try and stretch out and mobilize that area so that it feels less restricted and to aid in recovery because if you leave it unattended it can get worse. Surprisingly, one of the best ways to train through this kind of injury is to simply not do the movements that cause pain. A good way to find out what movements you should steer clear from is to ask your coach. Once you know what you can and cannot do, you are on your way to training while your injury heals.

Training after a surgery can be a little more complicated. It’s important not to rush through what your physical therapist has you doing, but this doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Being careful with the affected area is important, pushing to quickly may result in accidental re-injury. Do not train the body part that received the surgery on until your physical therapist clears you to do so. For example, if you injure your knee and are in a brace from upper thigh to foot you will have to focus on protecting that healing leg while switching your training to be more upper body focused. Unfortunately, you can quickly run out of ideas of what movements are safe. This is where talking to a coach is again important. They can come up with different ideas to keep you sane during your time of recovery.

Do not let the adversity defeat you. Dealing with a nagging injury or a surgery can take not only a toll on one’s body but also their morale. It’s easy to tell yourself you don’t need to go to the box or gym and that there is nothing you can do because you are hurt. This is when you need to force yourself to go.

Dealing with a burden is easier when you share it with a community of fellow athletes at the box. I can promise you that just going in and doing a WOD, even when you need it to be scaled, will result in you feeling better and accomplished. Your friends and coaches will always be there to help you physically and emotionally. You are never alone when you enter the box.