Monthly Archives: April 2013

Step One: Get a Routine!

Weightlifting is all about making the ordinary extraordinary.  The great weightlifters are able to perform perfect lifts again and again and again and again.  When you see lifters like Olympic champions Illya Illyin or Adrian Zielinski move the weight, every lift appears the same.  Why is that?  The obvious answer is years of lifting!  Even these guys, however, had to start someplace much as you are today.  On top of the years of training, every elite level lifter has a set routine prior to lifting.

Go ahead.  Go to YouTube right now and search out videos of Illyin or Zielinski and you’ll notice that every time they approach the bar, there’s a similar routine.

What’s your routine?  Better yet, why should you have a routine?  The practice of weightlifting is like any other sport:  perform a movement with high levels of proficiency for months, heck, years and the movement pattern becomes engrained and almost automatic.  The importance of a routine prior to every lift allows your mind to access those pre-programmed movement patterns allowing your body to simply lift without the mind getting in the way.  Soooo…back to my original question:  what’s your routine?  Don’t have one, you say?!  You best start making one, if you want consistency (better yet, consistent success) in your lifting!

When I mentioned to my athletes that this week would be heavy, I was surprised AND proud to hear not a single gripe!  These kids aren’t afraid to do some WORK!  We went after some heavy clean and jerks as well as some 1 RM Front Squats.  I think I counted four PRs (Ben Collins, Ben McCool, Xuan, and Gerald…sorry if I forgot anyone else!) with McCool adding a solid 30 pounds to his front squat!  Afraid you weren’t getting stronger, Ben?  You are a silly boy!  Congrats to everyone today for getting after it.  We finished off the day with some fortification work of palloff presses and single leg trunk holds.

Rest up for Wednesday.  Iz gonna be heavy and NAS-TEE!



Myofascial release / Dynamic Warmup

1 Round Clean and Jerk:  Lift off transitions, rack delivery, jerk step throughs, punch and catch progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

Senior Members:  10 x Clean and Jerk @ 90% 1 RM clean

Junior Members:  5 x 3 Cleans + 1 Jerk @ a weight allowing practice of good form.

*2 minutes recovery between attempts


Senior Members:  7 x 1 Front Squat

Junior Members:   3 x 5 Front Squat

*Work up each set and establish a new PR

*2 minutes recovery between attempts


Single Leg Trunk Side Plank Holds

2 x 2 x 10 seconds each side

Palloff Presses

2 x 3 x 10 second holds

4-29-13 MOVE1 4-29-13 MOVE2 4-29-13 MOVE3 4-29-13 Scores


Stand Up!

Ludacris speaks words of wisdom for your weightlifting.  After today, you know why it is important to STAND UP!  Also, remember your mantra to your barbell is, “when I move, you move!”  Bring that bar back into your hips and dance!



Myofascial Release / Dynamic Warmup

1 Round Clean and Jerk Warmup:  Lift off transitions, rack delivery, jerk step throughs, punch and catch progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

Clean with a 2 sec pause above the knee + jerk x 2.

8 total sets.  Rest one minute between attempts.  Work up to no more than 65% of 1 RM.  (Deload week)  Focus is on speed and technique.


3 Rounds for Time

5 Strict Pullups

15 Russian KB Swings (32/24 kg)

10 Lateral over the KB Burpees

20 Box Step Ups (24″/20″)



2 sets of 8 reps in each direction.

4-24-13 MOVE1 4-24-13 MOVE2 4-24-13 MOVE3 4-24-13 MOVE4 4-24-13 MOVE5 4-24-13 Scores

Becoming Bulletproof: Fortification Programming

After a review of a variety of strength training literature and reflecting on my own personal experience as an athlete, I feel that our programming is missing out on a key dimension of strength.  Traditional CrossFit and Weightlifting programming does not address some of the key stabilizers and even some larger yet underrated muscles.  How do we get around that?  I offer you our new Fortification Programming.

Now before you get your panties all up in a bunch, don’t worry!  Weightlifting will still be our bias and we will still be doing conditioning workouts, just expect them to be a bit shorter.  My charge as your coach is to make you strong.  I can’t do this if you are hurt.  If you want to put up big numbers, you must find a way to safely endure the daily grind.  How to do that?  Fortification.

The Fortification Programming cycle will stretch 12 weeks.  By the end of the cycle you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate increases in core strength by training throughout all planes of movement i.e. sagittal, frontal, and transverse.
  2. Move with more efficiency via increases in the mobility of fascia, joint capsules, and muscle tissue.
  3. Lift more weight in the both the front squat and high bar back squat and subsequently the classic lifts i.e. clean and jerk, snatch.

How will it work?  After the conditioning piece of each day’s training, you will have one accessory lift ranging from movements like stir-the-pot, side lunges, and/or landmines.  The Fortification movements are designed to target muscles often overlooked in our traditional training, such as the quadratus lumborum or the adductors.

It’s going to be an exciting 12 weeks.  If you haven’t been already, start keeping track of your workouts each day, noting your reps and loads.  Also include how you felt during training.

Muscle of the Day is the Pectoralis Major!

That's a meaty muscle!

That’s a meaty muscle!

The pec major originates from the anterior surface of the clavicle and sternum to the attachment of the cartilage of the sixth or seventh rib and inserts into the biceptal groove of the humerous (the bone of arm most proximal to the shoulder).  What does this muscle do?  Well, it’s the major movement of meatheads everywhere when they bench for hours upon hours!  More specifically this muscle flexes and extends the humerous, and also adducts and internally rotates the humerous.

Classic CF benchmark workout today:   “Karen.”  It is BORING and it hurts, but it sure gives you some damn good practice to learn how to squat more efficiently with a nice vertical torso!

Fortification of the work targeted the muscles on the inside of the thigh collectively known as the adductors.  Add strength and mobility to these suckers and squat numbers will be going up, up, up!

Rest up and be ready for more on Wednesday!



Myofascial release / Dynamic Warmup

2 Rounds Clean and Jerk Warmup: Lift off transitions, rack delivery, jerk step throughs, punch and catch progressions.



150 Wall Balls for time

-Rest 5 mins then…


2 x 10 Side Lunges

*2 sets in each direction.

*1 min rest between sets.

4-22-13 MOVE24-22-13 MOVE1 4-22-13 Scores


The world gives you what you want only after it has given you what you need….



Myofascial release / dynamic warmup

1 Round Snatch Warmup:  Lift off transitions, drop snatches, punch and catch progressions

Barbell Mechanics

Snatch + Hover Snatch + Hang Snatch

2 sets @70% 1 RM Snatch

3 sets @ 80%

2 sets @ 75%

*2 min recovery between each set.


Group 1:  Snatch Width Grip Push Press

3 sets of 5 reps.  Moderately heavy weight.  Sets Across.  All athletes from Monday’s class will do this option.

Group 2:  High Bar Back Squat

3 sets of 5 reps @ 65% of 1 RM.  Sets Across.  Athletes who missed class on Monday will do this option.

*2 min recovery between sets.


For Time

100 Double Unders

4-16-15 MOVE1 4-17-13 MOVE2 4-17-13 MOVE3 4-17-13 Scores

East Coast Gold Classic- Time to Lift!

*ANNOUNCEMENT*  EAST COAST GOLD CLASSIC WEIGHTLIFTING COMPETITION IS SATURDAY MAY 4 IN LANCASTER, PA!  This could be a really fun event and I suggest you think about competing.  I can fit four athletes in my car. Let me know if you are interested soon!  The total cost of the event would be a $30 dollar registration fee with USA weightlifting and then another $30 to sign up for the event.  See the link to fill out the registration info!

I miss writing.  I miss watching The Movement Program in action even more.  You can watch them work in some of the clips below.  Barbell mechanics encouraged developing an efficient  jerk and so we worked on a clean complex today to induce the necessary fatigue to train good technique when fatigued.

Here’s Snyder and Jay-Rolled in action!

The Muscle of the Day is a collection of muscles known together as the scalenes!


Originating from the transverse processes of the cervical vertebrae, number 2-7, the scalenes insert on the first and second ribs.  The function of this muscle is lateral flexion of the neck and also aids in inspiration (breathing in…not solving for pi or curing cancer).

I’m surprised there wasn’t any lateral flexion in Ms. South Carolina’s neck during her response.  (Why didn’t someone stop her?!)

Conditioning continued to strengthen the posterior chain via the deadlift.  Strange how two gymnastics movements like ring rows and handstand pushups can be so taxing upon one’s ability to lift heavy loads from the floor…



Myofascial release drills, dynamic stretching.

1 Round Clean and Jerk Warmup:  Lift off transitions, rack delivery, jerk step throughs, punch and catch progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

Clean + Front Squat + Jerk

2 sets @ 70% 1 RM Clean

3 sets @ 80%

2 sets @ 75%

*2 minutes recovery between each set.


For Time:

30 Ring Rows

15 Deadlifts (225/155)

10 Handstand Pushups

20 Ring Rows

12 Deadlifts


10 Ring Rows

9 Deadlifts


4-15-13 MOVE1 4-15-13 MOVE2 4-15-13 Scores

Let’s talk about STRESS, baby!

Massive shout out to Dave Mayo of Synergy Health and Wellness for contributing his time and genius to further developing strategies of wellness for all members of The Movement Program at Steelworks CrossFit.  Below you will find Dave’s work on what stress is and just how nasty it is at preventing you from really big squats, explosive second pulls on the snatch, and just plain good living.  The author also provides some really simple, but effective strategies for dealing with stress.

Let’s talk about stress, baby!

Stress is something that every person on the planet has heard of but few people understand.  If I were to list the 2 most important things every person should understand about health, stress would be one of them along with epigenetics.  Stress is so fundamental to life that every animal on the planet has a system to deal with it.  In humans and all vertebrates, the stress response is handled by the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis.  Before we go in to depth on the HPA axis, let’s define stress and what it does.

What is stress and how is it dealt with?

Stress is defined as an organism’s response to an environmental condition or stimulus (1).  When an organism is presented with a change in environment that requires a response, the HPA axis is activated to prepare the organism for that condition.  Probably the most familiar image would be of someone walking through the woods stumbling on to a tiger.  When this person sees the tiger, the Hypothalamus begins secreting CRH (Corticotropin Releasing Hormone) and vasopressin which stimulate the pituitary to secrete ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone).  ACTH then makes it’s way to the adrenal glands to signal them to start producing cortisol, one of your primary stress hormones.  Cortisol is a glucocorticoid, meaning its primary role is to help increase blood glucose by causing the liver to release it’s stored glycogen.  Cortisol then feeds back on the hypothalamus, slowing down it’s secretion of CRH and vasopression, which slows secretion of ACTH from the pituitary, which slows down secretion of cortisol.  While this is good information, it’s not the part about stress that most people should pay attention to, it’s the effects of chronic stimulation of the stress response that it important.

So what does the stress response do?

The entire purpose of the stress response is to partition resources so that you are better equipped to deal with stress when it comes along.  This is done via the autonomic nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system is the master processor of all of your automatic processes such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, immune system function, etc.  The autonomic nervous system has 2 branches, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, seen below.


Taken from:

Looking at the functions of each branch of the autonomic nervous system, you may see a pattern.  The sympathetic nervous system is also referred to as fight or flight and is what activation of the HPA axis is all about.  By increasing heart rate and blood pressure while diverting blood flow from the organs of digestion to the muscles, you are partitioning your resources to get the hell out of there or kill whatever you come in to contact with.  Once you have accomplished that task, the parasympathetic nervous system comes in and shifts you towards what is known as rest and digest.  This helps you recover from the stressor that you were just exposed to.  This is how the stress response evolved, and this is how the stress response works best: a short exposure to stress followed by recovery from that stress.  The problem is, this isn’t how our current environment works.

Physiological or psychological stress: It’s all the same

Your stress response occurs in exactly the same way whether your stress is from seeing a lion or your stress is from wondering how you will make your next mortgage payment.  The amygdala, a portion of your brain responsible for emotional responses, has a direct connection to your hypothalamus and can activate the HPA axis in quick order.  While the stress is handled in the exact same way, the effects of both are not the same.  In the flee from the tiger scenario you are exposed to a stressor, you exert a ton of energy and force to get away, and then the stress is resolved one way another.  Hopefully you made it out alive, but if you died the stress is resolved, regardless.

In the second scenario, you exert no force and the stress is there for as long as it takes for you to figure out how to pay the mortgage.  This is normally a much longer exposure to stress and if you experience it one month you will probably experience it the next.  Chronic stress eventually impairs your ability to recover from stress because you are constantly in a more sympathetic state (More sympathetic nervous system activity) which impairs your ability to recover from this stress.  In addition, since you are activating the sympathetic nervous system more you are activating the parasympathetic nervous system less, meaning you won’t recover because you are not going in to rest and digest mode enough to do so.  This also has a major impact on digestion which can cause problems with nutrient absorption and possibly induce irritable bowel syndrome.  The link between stress and IBS is fairly well established in the research.

Chronic stress and the immune system

As you go further down the hole of chronic stress, your immune system becomes suppressed because in a state of stress immunity isn’t necessary, that’s handled with rest and digest.  Probably the best explanation I have heard about this effect is from Bruce Lipton in his book The Biology of Belief.  In it, he describes the HPA axis as a way of partitioning resources where the stress response is in charge of dealing with invaders in the external environment while the immune response is responsible for dealing with invaders in our internal environment.  You can’t be better suited to deal with both at the same time, so when you are better suited to one you are automatically less well suited to deal with the other.  This is actually a fairly well established fact.  When a transplant patient receives his or her new organ, they are given glucocorticoids to suppress their immune system and prevent it from attacking the new organ.  Anyone who has ever received a cortisone shot knows the anti-inflammatory effects of this wonder drug.  Hydrocortisone is synthetic cortisol and used to suppress inflammation that occurs as a part of the immune response.

Stress is cumulative, deal accordingly

All of your stress in life is cumulative.  Whether it’s stress from your missed mortgage payment or training stress from exercise, it has a cumulative toll on your body and should be managed.  If you are having a lot of stress from school or work, you more than likely need to cut back your gym time or running mileage.  Managing stress begins with good eating and sleeping habits.  A poor diet can induce more stress on your body and sleep is how the body recovers from stress.  As such, getting less than the required amount of sleep will increase stress.  This has been shown empirically in numerous clinical research studies with higher cortisol levels in people who don’t get enough sleep.

Another good stress management tool is mindfulness.  Mindfulness meditation is a good way to begin practicing mindfulness and studies have shown reduced brain activity in the amygdala both during meditation and when not meditating in people who underwent an 8 week mindfulness meditation program (2).  This appears to work by improving information processing in the brain, redirecting information away from the amygdala and toward the neocortex, the part of the brain responsible for conscious thought and rational thinking.


Being aware of stress and managing it is crucial to optimal health.  Whether your stress is mental or physical, your body deals with it in the same way.  Too much stress can wreak havoc on your body by negatively impacting digestion, immunity, and quality of life.  Getting good sleep, eating right, and practicing mindfulness are all great ways to help keep stress levels under control.  It is also important to vary training intensity and volume based on how stressful your life is at the current moment.

dave-mayo-wellness-coach-researcherDave Mayo


I think about squatting every day.  Squatting, after all, makes you strong as bull and who doesn’t have time for that?!  A perfectly executed squat is a thing to behold.  What are some characteristics of a beautiful squat?  Feet about hip width apart?  Check.  Stabilized core?  Check.  Hips breaking parallel? Well…..not so sure about that one now.  Ever since I have started doing CrossFit, I always heard that it was safe to go below parallel.  “If you load your hips first, you won’t destroy your knees.”  Cool, I thought.  I guess the only thing I have to worry about is protecting my knees.  Well, through some reflection and discussion with other health professionals, there’s one more often overlooked dimension to a healthy squat:  lumbar spine stabilization.

Notice that the normal lordotic curvature of the lumbar spine is maintained even under load.  The pelvis is NOT experiencing any posterior tilt.  Safe position i.e. the position we should all strive to maintain.

Notice that the normal lordotic curvature of the lumbar spine is maintained even under load. The pelvis is NOT experiencing any posterior tilt. Safe position i.e. the position we should all strive to maintain.

I have watched many athletes over the last two years and have seen squats in all shapes and sizes, but one thing I have noticed about people who are really effective squatters is the absence of  flexion in their lumbar spine.  Good squatters are strong but they also have a range of motion in muscles and joints that enable them to move through stabile positions, thereby efficiently transferring power through the load being moved.   This means that they have flexible hamstrings and glutes, as well as supple ankle and hip joints.  I notice in my own lifting that my right ankle is holding me back from good positions when I squat and my lower back has to compensate for this.  (I know what I will be doing for the next couple of weeks.  Right ankle!  Meet me outside.  We’ve got some business, you and I!!!)

Moving forward, I think we as coaches need to consider taking a step back from allowing our athletes to squat past parallel if they lack the requisite mobility.  Are we hindering true strength development in the squat by restricting our beginning (heck, even experienced) athletes back from squatting deep or our are we safeguarding their longevity for years to come by holding them back until they have achieved the required mobility for a safe squat?  It’s a fair and open discussion I’d like to have with coaches and athletes.

Today’s Muscle of the Day is the Levator Scapula!



This muscle’s origin is on the transverse processes of the 1-4 cervical vertebrae and it inserts on the spine of the scapula, the long boney ridge felt at the top of the back.  This gem of a muscle is responsible for elevating the shoulder.  So when some asks you what your best snatch is and you shrug and tell them “I don’t know” you can at least tell them which muscle helped shrug your shoulders…

Today was a long day.  We spent some extra time focusing on mobility of the ankle.  My quest for better position in the squat turned me to some drills to increase that pesky ankle mobility.  We spent one minute on each leg for each of the drills.

Arming for battle.

Arming for battle.

After our mobility work, we hit a 10 min EMOM of high bar back squats.  3 reps every minute on the minute.

Our conditioning work took advantage of the beautiful spring day today.  We played with intensity and recovery in this one.  Some athletes liked the minute break while others felt the recovery screwed with their rhythm.  Overall, it looked like a fun and challenging workout.

Michigan basketball game is on tonight.  Better watch it and you better be rooting for the Maize and Blue!


Mobility Work -Warmup

1 minute on each leg.

Posterior load band squat stretches for ankle.

Posterior ankle distraction stretch

Posterior ankle bar mash session

Lacrosse Ball Tack and Stretch throughout lower leg.

1 Round Snatch Warmup:  Lift off transitions, drop snatches, punch and catch progressions.


10 Min EMOM

3 High Bar Back Squats @ 75% 1 RM


3 sets of 2 rounds for time.

10 American KB Swings (32/20 kg)

8 Overhead Squats (115/75 lbs)

150 meter shuttle run

*1 minute recovery between sets.

*Shuttle run is out 25 meters and back followed by 50 meters out and back.

4-8-13 MOVE64-8-13 MOVE54-8-13 MOVE44-8-13 MOVE34-8-13 MOVE24-8-13 MOVE14-8-13 Scores

We Must Dare to be Great.

“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle.  We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.”  -Teddy Roosevelt, 1898.

TR:  Killer 'stache and the greatest American president, EVER.

TR: Killer ‘stache and the greatest American president, EVER.

Lamenting on the state of American manhood in the 1890s, Theodore Roosevelt urged for a return to the strenuous life.  The rapid industrialization of the late 19th century, with all of its relative improvements in life to middle to upper class men (men such as himself), had weakened the character of the American male.  (Sorry, ladies.  Women weren’t considered real people in this era.  Nonetheless, TR’s message does apply to you today, too!)  Roosevelt urged the importance of strife and struggle in life to build one’s character.  Now, in all fairness the issue of manliness was used by Roosevelt and his imperialist supporters to bring the US into the Spanish American War and later the “insurrection” in the Philippines, but the core message of Roosevelt rings true and applies to both men and women today.

The message is clear:  Strife is the building block of character.

Much like in the times of Roosevelt, I feel too that we Americans have become soft.  We find comfort in our technological baubles.  We delude ourselves in a culture of instant gratification.  We disconnect from the real world only to entrench ourselves in a sanitized and digitized world of our own making.  I could launch further into a polemic about the nature of American society, but this is neither the time nor the place.  My purpose is to illuminate the teachings of Roosevelt in our own day and age.

Live the strenuous life.  Live deeply and understand that the picture of one’s character is painted not only in the shades of brightest joy, but also darkest shadow.  Bolster who you are by confronting every obstacle in life with ferocity, bearing every burden with stoicism, and protecting those amongst us weak in mind, spirit, and body.

The Muscle of the Day #2 is the sternocleidomastoid!

This muscle originates in the manubrium sterni, or the broad and upper part of your sternum, and inserts into the mastoid process of the temporal bone, which lies right beneath your ear.  This muscle aids in the flexion and extension of your neck and also helps in breathing.

Today, we worked on the hang snatch with the volume and intensity pretty low and then stretched out a longer than normal conditioning session of running, thrusters, and kettlebell snatches.  Fail to pace yourself in a workout such as this and you’ll be sucking air for a long time.  PACE!  A note on the kettlebell snatches:  just as it is important that we pull ourselves under the bar quickly on the third pull in regular barbell snatches, so too is the case when dealing with kb snatches.  Failure to pull yourself under the bell to full lockout results in pressing the bell out.  Normally, you might be able to get away with this kind of shoddy form, but given the fact that the thrusters soon followed, the importance of learning to snap under the bell quickly becomes evident!

Great work today, everyone!  Also, welcome Harnaik to the Program!  He hit his opening benchmark workout today and seems ready for more!



1 Round Snatch:  Lift off transitions, drop snatches, punch and catch progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

Hang Snatch above the Knee

1 set of 3 @ 60%

2 sets of 3 @ 65%

1 set of 3 @ 70%


17 Min AMRAP

800 meter run

20 Alternating Single Arm KB Snatches (20/12 kg)

30 Thrusters (45/35)

4-3-13 MOVE1 4-3-13 MOVE2 4-3-13 MOVE3 4-3-13 MOVE4 4-3-13 MOVE5 4-3-13 MOVE6 4-3-13 Scores

40 Days. 40 Muscles.

Spring Break is over.  What a restful week!  I spent the week back in Michigan visiting family, relaxing, and gorging on my mom’s amazing cooking!  We are back at it starting today!

I have always been a nerd when it comes to exercise.  In high school, I devoured Tim Noakes’s Lore of Running (I was a competitive distance runner, once upon a time…) and became fascinated with the science of exercise physiology. Discovering CrossFit and Weightlifting has reawakened this dormant desire of sports science nerdery.  Becoming better educated is, however, half the battle for a coach.  Furthering one’s education is not fully realized until the coach begins to share it with his athletes.

This fact, coupled with two weekends ago at a Integrated Embodied Anatomy workshop via Yoga Tune Up in NYC, has inspired 40 Days, 40 Muscles.  For the next forty days, each class will start with the learning of a new muscle.  We will review that muscle’s place of origin (where it starts), its insertion (where it ends), and what the muscle does.  Nothing fancy.  Just plain ole’  hard facts.

Today we start with the masseter.

The Masseter

The Masseter

The masseter aids in mastication, or the chewing of food.  Per square inch, this is the strongest muscle in your body, equaling to 150 pounds of pressure in every bite.  Its origin  is the zygomatic process, the the ridge of your cheekbone.  Its insertion is into your mandible, or jaw bone.  Some gentle massaging of the masseter at the point of origin may help relieve sinus pressure/headaches.

Speaking of chewing, we bit off a nice little bit of strength and conditioning today.  We eased back into it with some lower intensity high bar back squats, keeping the percentage at 65% of the 1 RM.  Conditioning saw a technically challenging workout of plank holds, hang power cleans, and double unders.  I have instituted a “no more substitutions for double unders” and it was great to see that everyone finally got at least one double under by the end of the workout!  Small victories lead to greater glories…  I also feel really inspired to see how much improvement EVERYONE has shown on his or her clean technique.  Keep up the great work!



10 Lateral med ball tosses each side (20#/14#)

1 Round Clean and Jerk warmup:  Lift off transitions, Rack Delivery, Jerk Step Throughs, Punch and Catch Progressions.


High Bar Back Squat

5-5-5-5-5 @ 65% of 1 RM


1 min plank hold


11 Min EMOM

3 Hang Power Cleans (115/75)

Double Unders


1 min plank hold.

*Score is total double unders.

4-1-13 MOVE14-1-13 MOVE34-1-13 MOVE24-1-13 MOVE44-1-13 Scores