Monthly Archives: August 2012

Pre Labor Day Labors

My lust for coffee, Old Miss Brown Eyes as Mr. North would say, made me think of this this morning…

With all of the kiddies away more than likely floundering around on some broad swath of beach and surf today, not much to write about from a coaching standpoint.  With that being said, I’ll share my day’s trials and tribulations.

Started off with trying to stick a new one rep max for the front squat.  If you have been following the programming here at The Movement Program, you might have noticed that this had been programmed last week.  Too close together some might say.  With the coming 12 week Hatch Squat Cycle rapidly approaching, I was not satisfied with last week’s effort.  So, down the rabbit hole I went again.  After a bit of reflection, the main reason why I missed 245# (I know, I am weak – 18 years of distance running I guess does that to you…) was that I went down too slow with the weight.  Going down too slow is counterproductive.  A longer eccentric phase of a lift limits the body’s ability to utilize its stretch reflex, allowing a little extra force to applied to a load during the upward drive of the lift.  I made no such mistake today, not taking nearly as long as I did last week to get to the bottom of the hole.  PR.

While a clean warmup was employed to wake up today, there was no Oly lifting today (Tears falling…).  That was on purpose as tomorrow will be a weightlifting bonanza!  I instead chose to swallow a bitter pill of max effort work.  Max effort work can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it.  You can always stop when you think you are getting tired, but this misses the point of this type of work domain.  Max effort means you keep performing that movement until you are no longer able to complete another successful rep.  Lots of opportunities to puss out.  Ask yourself this:  how much are you willing to endure before you reach failure?

I chose some really technical movements, two of which I hadn’t done in a while and it showed.  The Oly lifting focus has definitely inflicted its toll on some the high level gymnastics movements.   Might have to address that in the next three months as accessory lifts…  Anywho, solid day’s work.

Happy Labor Day!  Enjoy friends, family, coffee, and coffee.  Make sure you have some coffee this weekend, too!



Clean focus


Front Squat


Establish new 1 RM.  Rest 2 minutes between attempts.


3 Rounds

ME Muscle Ups (kipping allowed)

ME HSPUs (kipping allowed)

ME Double Unders

Rest approximately 2 minutes between each round.

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Into the Wild

We took a break from our normally scheduled programming, stepping away from the gym and the barbell, and headed to a very special place.  Today, we rode out to the Wissahickon Valley.  This place is hands down the most beautiful place in all of Philadelphia.  This is FACT.  One could spend hours throughout the woods and trails and still be within the city limits!  It is my Fortress of Solitude.  It is where I go to clear my mind.  Seldom will you hear anything other than birds singing, water running, and bugs humming.  If you ever need a place within Philly to make some big decisions about life, lace up your shoes, bring some water, (find a way to get there, of course), and head out on those trails!  Reconnect.

Here are a couple of photos of our hike out in paradise!



I love seeing mistakes.  At this point in our weightlifing evolution, I’d rather see more mistakes than makes.  Why?  Because when I see more mistakes, I see more potential for growth.  What makes me even happier is when athletes catch their own mistakes.  To me that means that an athlete is struggling to internalize a new skill.  This is quite different from understanding a new skill.  While nuanced in meaning, to me an athlete who struggles to internalize a skill understands the movement’s nature, but is failing to execute it properly.  An athlete who fails to understand the movement cannot mentally grasp what is asked of him or her from a certain movement; he or she cannot even visualize how to move.  The latter is more common in chronically sedentary folks rather than active individuals…

Long story short, good to see you all catching your own mistakes.  And boy were there a lot of mistakes exposed today.  Who knew that halting snatches could cause such chaos?!  Halting snatches are great for targeting weaknesses in the second pull.  Can you maintain each of your positions from the ground throughout the course of a snatch attempt?  Good.  Can you maintain the same mechanics when you disrupt the movement from the ground with a pause at position two?  It would seem that some of us cannot.  Fret not, my children, for as previously stated mistakes help you get better!

We finished off the day with 10s of situps, front squats, toes to bar, and kettlebell racked lunges.

Hike is tomorrow.  Be at the courts by 9:00 am!


Barbell Work

Halting Snatches

Start from the ground and move to position 2.  Pause for 2-4 seconds then complete a full snatch.

2 sets of 3 reps – Weight should be heavy but the athlete should be able to make every rep.

3 sets of 2 reps – Weight should be heavier than first two sets and the athlete should be able to make every rep

2 sets of 2 reps – Weight should be heaviest possible that will allow the athlete to make each rep.


10 Min AMRAP

10 Situps

10 Front Squats (75/55)

10 Toes to Bar

20 Racked KB Lunge Steps (20/12)

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No, I’m not talking about Navin R. Johnson… know, this Jerk?

I’m talking about this Jerk!

I know, I know… Klokov is a juicer…he’s still pretty rad, though…

Morning rain swept out the dirt and freaks from the streets, but it also swept in some work on the Jerk.  A new jerk warmup was introduced to start getting athletes more proficient at this intimidating movement.  Below you’ll find the movements included in the new jerk warmup as well as a brief explanation behind why I chose these movements.

Jerk Warmup
3 Rounds

1.  2 Push Presses – The push press is a great accessory lift to the jerk as it teaches correct movement patterns for the hips and encourages the athlete to explode out of the dip.

2.  2 Push Jerks from behind the neck + 2 Push Jerks- The push jerk is one of the earliest encounters the athlete has with learning to dip the hips, pop the bar up, and push under the bar, all key movements which would be later found in the split jerk.  The push jerk encourages the athlete to focus more on being explosive with the hips and pushing under the bar, while at the same time avoiding the quick reaction of the feet which is most often lacking in the novice lifter.  The jerk behind the neck allows the athlete to focus on good positioning under the bar, without having to move around the bar in the regular push jerk.

3.  2 Jerk Balance from behind the neck + 2 Jerk Balance – In the jerk balance the athlete draws a starting line and then walks three feet forward, toe to heel.  The athlete then draws another line demarcating the tip of their lead leg.  A perpendicularly drawn line connects the previously drawn line of the rear leg (Think the game of Hangman…).  The athlete’s hips straddle that line.  The front and back knees are bent until the front shin is nearly vertical to the ground.  With the bar in the racked or front racked position, the athlete then dips the hips quickly straight down, lifts the lead leg, pushes down away from the bar, and lands forcefully right back in the split position.  Like the push jerk from behind the neck, the jerk balance from behind the neck helps the athlete focus on a quick dip and drive and fast lockout of the arms with out having to maneuver the body around the bar.  This section of the drill is then finished with regular jerk balances with the bar in the front rack position.

4.  2 Split Jerks from behind the neck + 2 Split Jerks – Here’s where everything comes together.  Now, the split is introduced to the feet.  The athlete starts the movements with the feet underneath the hips and the bar racked directly on the upper back.  A quick dip and drive, and then the athlete steps the lead leg AND hips quickly, with lightening precision, in front of the bar.  While the bar is weightless from the drive up, the athlete pushes himself underneath the bar with speed to match the step in front of the bar.  Once the arms have been locked out and the bar is secure overhead, the athlete walks his lead leg back 1/3 of the distance between the split’s total distance and then the back leg comes forward the remainder of the distance.

After completing the warmup, we went into a Jerk Complex for our barbell work, consisting of push presses, push jerks, and split jerks.

We finished off the day with a nice little chipper of pushups and pullups.

Remember, Valley Green and the Wissahickon Valley hiking excursion this Thursday.  Meet at the basketball courts at 9 am.  I have two more spots left.  Email me ASAP if you want to go.


Jerk Warmup

Three Rounds

Barbell Work

Jerk Complex

1 set of 1 push press, 2 push jerks, 3 split jerks @ 60% of 1RM split jerk.

1 set of 2 push press, 3 push jerks, 4 split jerks @ 65% of 1RM split jerk.

1 set of 1 push press, 2 push jerks, 3 split jerks @ 70% of 1 RM split jerk.

90 seconds rest (optimally between sets)


For time:

50 Pushups

21 Kipping Pullups

30 Pushups

15 Kipping Pullups

20 Pushups

9 Kipping Pullups

L1: Sub 40, 30, 20 Jumping Pullups for Kipping Pullups.

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Honor the Gods of Squat


This Thursday, there will no be class at our normal spot.  We will be going out for a long hike out in the woods in Philadelphia’s own, Wissahickon Gorge.  If you are interested, email me by Wednesday 12:00 pm.  I can only fit four in my car, but if there’s more interest I might just rent a van.  Let me know!  If you have never been to this park, I highly recommend you come out for this hike!  It is the most beautiful place in all of Philadelphia.  We would meet at the basketball courts at 9:00 am, get to the trails by 9:30-9:45, and start hiking by 10:00.  Expect the hike to be between ninety minutes to two hours.  Pack water and a lunch, and bring sturdy shoes.  Expect to be back in South Philly by 1-1:30 pm.

Get away from the city and breathe some fresh air for an hour or two…

Back to training.  I had originally planned to start the new 12 week squat cycle, but it appears that today’s participants had not yet established some High Bar Back Squat 1 RM PRs.  Woops.  So after introducing some new technique drills courtesy of the Attitude Nation i.e. “hit and catch”, “Superman Pull”, we tackled some volume cleans.  After the cleans, we went right into establishing new 1RM High Bar Back Squats.(despite the mornings monsoon winds and rain…thank God for being under a bridge….)

We finished the day with some low volume and extremely low height depth jumps.  Expect to see depth jumps more often and from ever increasing heights, particularly at the end of our squat days.

If all else goes as planned we will start our squat cycle next Monday.  Make sure that by next week, you have fresh PRs on front squats and high bar back squats.  You will need this data to calculate your training percentages for the next twelve weeks!


Barbell Work


2 sets of 3 reps @70% 1RM

3 sets of 3 reps @80% 1RM

2 sets of 2 reps @75% 1RM


High Bar Back Squat


Establish new 1RM


Depth Jump Introduction

5 singles from 8″ high platform up straight into the air.

Slammin’ Bars, Drinkin’ Coffee…with a Passion.

While this post recounts my day’s adventures in weightlifting (that’s Olympic Lifting to everyone else), it is not just me grandstanding and spurting out nonsense about how I did this or how I did that.  On the contrary, it is about the important life lessons that were reinforced today by the conductor of the Dark Orchestra, Jon North.

“Attitude Nation, Salute!”

New Recruits for the Attitude Nation’s Armed Forces.

Today, Fearless Athletics in South Philly hosted Jon and Jessica (Jon’s wife) North’s “Attitude Nation” Olympic Weightlifting Seminar.  We spent the day going over drills like the “Hit and Catch” and the vaunted “Superman Pull” that would help us put up bigger numbers on our snatch and clean and jerk.  But this post is not going to be about those drills and the weight that was lifted.  (For the record I walked away with new PRs on the snatch and clean…)  On the contrary, this post will be about an essential truth to life that I again noticed from this all day weightlifting bonanza.  This seminar proved, once again, my belief that the barbell (and all of those associated it with unlocking its secrets) is one of the greatest teachers life can offer.

Where to start?  The start is obvious:  Jon North.  A free bird to put it simply, North marches to the beat of his own coffee-fueled drum and that’s what was awesome about him.  Opening up the seminar with a rant and rave about the current frustrating state of weightlifting in America, you could tell that this guy was passionate about bringing American weightlifters out of the Dark Ages.  North is much like the late Bruce Lee, a challenger of orthodoxy, a questioner who prods and tests the old guard as to why we do the things we do.  The seminar was a culmination of many hours of consulting coaches across the world, observing world class athletes, and then analyzing his hunches with his wife back at the gym into the wee hours of the night, after practice was over and their teammates have snuggled up under the covers.  An intuitive coach, North made the complex simple, yet paradoxically exposed the simplest movements as more complex, demanding the athlete’s attention to minutiae.  We, therefore, spent a tremendous amount of time  breaking down and focusing on each phase of the lifts.

Not only was the coaching excellent, but North was one of the most energetic and humorous coaches with whom I have worked.  North was never to be found physically or mentally still,  always pacing about the room offering words of encouragement to each athlete and ALWAYS quick with a joke and doling out knicknames!  (Apparently I reminded him of Tom Petty…so that was my name for the day!)  I don’t think I have laughed so much at an athletic seminar!   Every athlete got a mouthful from him and every time it was nothing but positive.

So, if the numbers and weights lifted aren’t what’s important, than what the hell is this post really about?  A plug for Jon and Jessica North?  Well, yes, the last point is true.  I do highly recommend every lifter serious about improving his or her weightlifting to attend an Attitude Nation weightlifting seminar.  However, the real take away from this seminar is this:  successful people exude passion.

I don’t care what job you hope to garner when you get done with trade school or college, hell, even high school, but do a job without passion and success is all but NEVER guaranteed.  People are intuitively wired to be drawn towards others who love what they do.  Passion is almost infectious and obsessive.  To most people who are passionate about something it seems like nothing else matters.  (My family can attest to my enthusiasm for all things CrossFit and weightlifting.  It seems to be the jam in my donut these days.)  Passion means focus and focus means a 100% commitment to the activity of your choice.    Why go to a doctor who you sense does not care about you or what it is they are doing?  Why buy a cake from a baker who seemingly hates his job and, subsequently, the world?  (You can taste hatred, by the way…)  Why buy a wedding dress from someone who sews only to make a dollar and not to express a piece of herself?

Long story short:  Be passionate about what you do.  Obviously, we all must do things that we don’t want to do (i.e. school) in order to do the things that we want to do (CrossFit, music, etc), but find something that you truly love to do and makes you happy and then figure out a way how you can share it with the world.  Remember, it’s not “money makes me happy” but rather “happy makes me money.”

I think Jon and Jessica North would agree…


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Friday PR Party!

Hannibal Smith said it best:

One personal record is good, two is better…but five (including the Old Man)?!  Holy schnikes!  There’s nothing like the feeling of owning weight that has dogged you for months!  While a lot of people dread WODs, trying to find a new one rep max for a lift can be just as daunting.  Sure there’s no real grinding pain, but it’s confronting that moment of doubt and apprehension that makes max attempts a great learning tool about ourselves.  Approach that bar with a shred of doubt and the battle is already over.  Walk up to that bar and know that you can get it and, well… at least it sets you up for success.  Just as in life, there are no guarantees in weightlifting.  Your body and mind must be equally up to the task.

And so it seems that we were indeed ready for some new feats of strength.  The videos below demonstrate some big improvements and some junkyard dog tenacity.

Here’s Rich with a PR Clean and Jerk at 155#:

Rich again with a PR Clean at 165#:

Rich has become a lot better at staying back on his heels during the first two pulls.  I’d like to see a better finish on his second pull next time.

Here’s Madison with a PR Clean at 85# (more of a power clean here unfortunately.)  She has the strength, but right now she still lacks the courage and technique to get under that bar fast, in both her clean and jerk.  In due time…

Madison PR Front Squat 95#.  I was exceptionally please with the fight displayed in blasting past that sticky point.

Once all that silly PR’ing was over, hit a short three rounds for time of wall balls, situp and press, and runs with med balls.  (Short, but boy did it suck.)

Have a great weekend.  *IMPORTANT* There will be no evening classes next week.  Morning classes only!  Make the appropriate adjustments!


Barbell Work

15 Minutes to establish a new 1RM Clean and Jerk


Front Squat


Establish a new 1 RM.  Two minutes rest between reps.


3 Rounds for time

20 Wall Balls (16/10)

10 Situp and Press (16/10)

150 meter run with med ball (16/10)


Also, Rich, time to see this movie:

Off to college!

Jeremy Emami, recently featured here on The Movement Program blog, is heading off to Penn State – Berks to begin the next chapter of the Emami Chronicles.  He has been dedicated to training all summer, training four of the five days each week!  That’s commitment, people.  Good luck this year, Jer!  Keep lifting big!

As for the workout today, it’s Thursday and that means no barbell work today (unless you were Jeremy.  Couldn’t let him leave without getting after a new front squat 1 RM.  Sure enough he got it:  215 for a 10# PR in one month!  Congrats!).  We spent fifteen minutes working on double unders and then launched into a couplet chipper of running and double unders.

Here’s some footage of the crew in action today!

Remember to ice any boo-boos!  Tomorrow, we lift much poundage!



15 minutes Double Under practice


For time:

1200 Meter Run

100 Double Unders

800 Meter Run

75 Double Unders

400 Meter Run

50 Double Unders

200 Meter Run

25 Double Unders

Technique and the Terror of Time

Technical.  That’s one word I would use to describe today’s training session.  We started off working on snatches from the high blocks with the bar set in the crease of the hips (pockets position).  This really forces us to focus on driving the heels forcefully into the ground while violently extending the hips.  Some athletes had some problem staying back on the heels; they found themselves chasing the bar out in front of themselves as evidenced by a forward hop as they caught the bar.

A strategy  that I found successful was to cue the athlete to keep the toes off the ground.  This makes the lifter to focus on keeping his weight back on the heels and to drive the feet aggressively into the ground.  Obviously, this is not the type of  foot position in which I would like to have my athletes finish their second pull.  I’d much rather have the weight more in the midfoot to ankle section of the foot, but to help a lifter who continually jumps forward on his catch, this seemed to correct the flaw.

We then had a nice and easy 4 x 3 min AMRAP of overhead squats, single arm alternating kettlebell snatches, and strict pullups….huh?  Did I hear easy?!  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  “Wait, you are only working for three minutes at a time?!….You have a minute rest after each round?!  How hard could it be?”  My athletes know that when they see an interval style AMRAP, they are in for Suck-Sector Seven!  A minute rest means you get to go that much more intense on each round.  Ha, ha!  Fooled you!

“This time machine will not slow down the one minute recovery between rounds?! NOOOOO!”

Despite all of my trickery, we had a good day today.  Oly lifting is really starting to clean itself up.

Until tomorrow!


Barbell Work

Block Snatches from the Pockets

2 sets of 3 reps @60% 1RM

3 sets of 2 reps @65% 1 RM

2 sets of 2 reps @60% 1 RM


4 x 3 min AMRAP

1 min rest after each round

4 Overhead Squats (95/75)

8 Single Arm Alternating KB Snatches (20 kg/16 kg)

6 Strict Pullups

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Morgan’s Farewell

Morgan the Destroyer bids farewell to The Movement Program and begins her first year at Syracuse University.  Watch out for this girl, world.  She will be a force to be reckoned with!  A wonderful young lady who I have been privileged to coach these past eight months.  Good luck, Morgan!  And remember:  STUDY ABROAD!!!!!

We continued the testing party today and a couple of folks walked out with some PRs!  After our clean-focused warmup, the day’s training started off with some thirteen minutes of EMOM action, power cleans and push jerks.  Some key points to remember:

  • During your cleans,  some of you are scooping the bar too early into your lower thighs.  This is causing you to chase the bar with your hips and subsequently jumping forward on the catch.  STOP DOING THAT!   Keep your shoulders over the bar until it is back into Position 1.  Once you have reached this position, the shoulders are now directly over the bar.  From here, think about pushing your feet into the ground, while simultaneously extending the hips in a forceful manner and keeping that bar close to your body.
  • During the jerk’s dip, push your knees out to the sides.  This allows you to get more torque from the ground during the drive and translate into directly upward force into the bar.  Remember, the bar will follow the trajectory set for it by the hips.  Dip down and let your chest fall forward and the bar will be launched out in front of your center of gravity.  Dip straight down and keep that chest up and…well, you get the picture…

Check out the morning crew working hard today!

Once we finished up with our Power Clean/Push Jerk complex, we went hard at the push press to establish a new 1 rep max.  Lauren perfected some of her earlier wonkiness and inefficiencies, while Morgan tied her 1 rep max.  Meanwhile, Jeremy, Rich, and Madison all hit PRs!  (Morgan just needed to be a bit faster on the dip and drive…I’ll guess she’ll have to do it up in Syracuse!)

Here’s Rich K with his PR.

Rich can go much heavier in this lift.  He just needs to work on technique a bit.  As you’ll see in the video, the hips drop forward too much causing him to come up on his toes prematurely and forces the bar out a bit in front of him.  In the end though, Rich is a fighter and makes the lift.  PR!

We concluded the day with some (ugh…) Tabata Pushups.  Remember to pace yourself somewhat on these (I wish I would have taken my own advice…).  Go out too fast and your score average will suffer tremendously.  Go out too slow and you’ll be a cheese eating surrender monkey.

Overall, a great training day.  You continue to make me very proud!  FYI.  WEDNESDAY’S EVENING CLASS WILL BEGIN AT 5:30!


Barbell Work

13 Minute Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM) 1 Power Clean + 1 Push Jerk

85% of Power Clean 1RM


Push Press


Establish a new 1 rep Max

Cash Out

Tabata Pushups

Score is the lowest number of pushups for a round.

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