At least it’s a dry heat

Ewwwrrrggghhhh.  Sommer kommt!  It was warm and muggy out today, but the school’s cafeteria was like an icebox.  Enjoy it while it lasts, because once the gym opens…it will be as hot as Hephaestus’s forge!  (See how many mythology nerds are out there…)  No AC folks!

Today’s Muscle of the Day was a actually a collection of three muscles known as the erector spinae.


Together these muscles are responsible for extending the spine.  They originate at the spinous processes of the ninth and twelfth thoracic vertebrae and insert up around the first and second thoracic as well as the cervical vertebrae as well.  These are the muscle groups that are a big part in helping keep your chest up as you start the first pulls in your clean or snatches.

Our barbell work was light and quick.  We did some split jerk doubles.  I’m really liking the growing aggression and fierceness I am seeing in lots of my athletes as they throw caution to the wind and dive under that bar.

The conditioning was less barbellcentric today as I am slowly learning the importance of backing off not only on the intensity of our lifts but also backing off on the volume at certain stages of our monthly cycles.  It seemed like most athletes today wished for something heavy and nasty.  They didn’t get that.  Instead, they got the tabata from hell!  Haven’t seen this many “kill me now” faces in a while.  But the Movement Program is filled with soldiers and no quarter was given on this workout.  Well done for everyone really getting into this workout!  Really proud of Ben McCool on the overhead squats.  Ben has been struggling in that bottom position for a while, but he tore it up today.  Awesome job, Ben!

Welcome Maggy Carka to The Movement Program!  She just started her first day of the Foundations course and hit The Movement Program Entry Workout.  Pullups and pushups need some work, but the squats looked excellent!  Congratulate her when you see her!

As for the rest of you, get to bed early tonight and stay hydrated as the weather continues to warmup!



Myofascial Release / Dynamic Warmup

1 Round Jerk Warmup:  5 Push Press, 5 Push Jerk, 5 Jerk Balance, 5 Jerk Step through, 5 Split Jerk.

Barbell Mechanics

Split Jerk

6 sets of 2 @ 65% of 1 RM

*1-2 minutes recovery between each set.


Tabata Protocol

8 Rounds of 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest.  1 minute recovery between movements

Mountain Climbers

American KB Swings (24/16 kg)

Overhead Squats (45/35)


*Score for each movement is lowest rep count per work set.


3 x 10 Banded Side Steps

2 x 2 x 10 seconds Single Leg Bridge Holds

5-22-13 MOVE1 5-22-13 MOVE2 5-22-13 Scores


Balls and Heels

Too often I’m seeing athletes get a little too eager to slide to their power position and finish their second pull in either their cleans or snatches, though I notice it more on the cleans.  Most of the time this early slide results in the athlete jumping forward on his or her pull under the bar.  Continuing this practice when heavy weights are attempted usually results in missed lifts.  Given that most of my athletes have been weightlifting for less than a year, the mistakes are inevitable, but well within the realm of fixing.

So today’s mission was two fold:  learning to extend the first pull more and keep that hamstring tension up and then, two, stopping the early slide forward to meet the bar with excessive horizontal movement of the hips.  To try and eradicate this mistake, we worked a clean complex while trying to keep our weight balanced on the balls of our feet and heels.  The toes in the meantime were lifted off the ground.  The results seemed promising.  While it was not totally fixed, the severity of the jumps forward was noticeably lessened.  By keeping the weight distributed between the balls of the feet and heels, the athlete was discouraged from sliding forward too soon.  Keeping the toes up allowed the athlete to rely more on driving from the hips and less on jumping from the toes.  From my observations, this also helps to teach the athlete to, first, think about driving the shoulders vertically and then punching the hips through the bar.  Results are not complete, but the work today seemed pretty promising for most of my athletes.  A disclaimer:  I would never teach my athletes to lift this way for normal technique, rather this was just an approach I felt would help them kinesthetically recognize an error in their technique.

Today’s Muscle of the Day was the Serratus Anterior!


This muscle originates on the first to eighth ribs and inserts into the anterior side of the medial scapula.  It is responsible for protracting and stabilizing the scapula.  So the next time you find yourself punching someone in the face, thank your serratus anterior for helping you follow through!

After spending some time practicing the barbell drill today, we hit some lighter front squats and then a technically challenging conditioning workout.  Don’t have consistent double unders yet?  Best practice.  It showed on today’s workout.

Rest up and enjoy the day off of school tomorrow!



Myofascial release / Dynamic Warmup

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

Barbell Mechanics

10 minutes of “No Toes” Clean Complex

Clean Deadlift + Clean

*Objective is for the athlete to refrain from using his or her toes during the first two pulls of the clean.  Rather, the athlete’s weight must rest on the balls of the feet and the heels.

*Do not use more than 65% of 1 RM.


Front Squat

3 x 5

*65% 1 RM Sets across.


For Time

10 Clusters (Squat Clean + Thruster) (95/75)

50 Double Unders

8 Clusters

40 Doubles

6 Clusters

30 Doubles

4 Clusters

20 Doubles

2 Clusters

10 Doubles

1 Cluster

*15 Min Time Cap

*No Scaling for Double Unders; singles not allowed.


3 x 8 Stir the Pot

3 x 10 Bird Dogs

5-20-13 MOVE1 5-20-13 MOVE2 5-20-13 MOVE4 5-20-13 MOVE5 5-20-13 MOVE6 5-20-13 MOVE75-20-13 MOVE8 5-20-13 Scores

Make it Yours

The great thing about the sports of weightlifting and CrossFit is that they mean different things to different people.  For some, a workout is a battle full of rage and fury signifying everything; the barbell, pullup bar, and jump rope are weapons of destruction.  For others, training is a temple of peace and serenity, a place where people come to wash themselves clean in pain and suffering.

Therein lies the beauty of both sports:  despite what the mainstream culture of both sports are, you can make them into anything you want.  Get drunk on rageohol?!  Have at!  Become one with the universe?!   Sure.

Make this sport yours.

Today’s Muscle of the Day is the rhomboids.

The rhomboids consist of two muscles, the rhomboid major and minor.  These puppies originate up from the seventh cervicle vertebrae and stretch all the way down to the fifth thoracic vertebrae.  They insert into the medial border of the scapula and when activated are responsible for retracting and rotating the scapula.

As we do most Friday’s, today was our weekly max out session on the snatch and clean and jerk.   Ten minutes on each.  We then went after some heavy, submaximal 5 RM high bar back squats.  The day was finished off with some suitcase carries to wake up those frontal plane stabilizers, (quadratus lumborum, obliques, and glute minimus/medius).

Congratulations to Chris Schillig, Mike Snyder, and Ben Collins for some nice PRs.  Knick almost had 150 on the snatch.  You can see some of their lifts below.

Next week is a deload week.  That means tons of technique work and moving those barbells fast.



Myofascial release / Dynamic Warmup

1 Round Snatch:  Lift off transitions, muscle snatches, angel drops, punch and catch progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

1 RM Attempts

10 min Snatch

10 min Clean and Jerk


3 x 5 High Bar Back Squat

*Increase weight each set but do not work past 90% 5 RM.


3 x 50 m Suitcase Carry each hand.  (24 kg/16kg)

5-17-13 MOVE25-17-13 MOVE15-17-13 Scores


Sensed some frustration amongst my athletes during today’s challenging session.  Here’s some perspective from famous Russian sports physiologist A. S. Medvedyev about the need for years of development in weightlifting:

5-15-13 MOVE1

Stay patient.  Put the work in.  Excellence is a habit.

Speaking of excellence, Mike Snyder has developed a secret new squat technique and today he shares it with the world.

Today’s muscle of the day is the trapezius.  This muscle stretches quite far as it starts from the base of the skull all the way down to the spinous process of the twelfth thoracic vertebrae.  It inserts in the posterior lateral portion of the clavicle, the acromion process, and the spine of the scapula.  What does it do?  The trapezius is responsible for the rotation, retraction, elevation, and depression of the scapula. So, when someone asks you what the trapezius does and you shrug, “I don’t know”, you just answered that person’s question with a visual aid!


We hit a nasty complex during our barbell mechanics today.  Really looking to develop that finish on the second pull today, hence the preponderance of snatches from the hi-hang.

Lots of people (and when I say lots, I mean everyone) did not like today’s conditioning.  Today’s focus was working on muscular stamina and also cardiovascular endurance.  We hit eight rounds not for time of max effort pushups and a run.  With our new rower, “Knick” scaled up and rowed 250 meters after each round of pushups at paces starting at 1:55/500 all the way down to 1:40/500.  It looked painful.  Really painful.  Great job to everyone for getting after this today.  No quarter was given by any athlete. Well done!



1 Round Snatch Warmup:  Lift off Transitions, Muscle Snatches, Angel Drops, Punch and Catch Progressions.

Barbell Mechanics

Hi-Hang Snatch x 2 + Overhead Squat + Snatch

2 @ 75% 1 RM Snatch

3 @ 85%

2  @ 80%


8 Rounds Not for Time

Max Effort Pushups

200 Meter run.

*Score is total pushups.


Speed Skaters

2 x 10 in each direction

5-15-13 MOVE2 5-15-13 MOVE3 5-15-13 MOVE4 5-15-13 MOVE5 5-15-13 MOVE6 5-15-13 MOVE7 5-15-13 MOVE8 5-15-13 Scores

Strong Lats, Strong…Squats?

Gee mister, those lats sure are a big muscle!

Gee mister, those lats sure are a big muscle!

When it see poor squat form, I transform into quite the nag.  Imagine your 80 year old neighbor who crumbles his brow and shakes his fist as he shouts at you to get off his lawn (or for us city folk, stoop)!  Recently, the combined forces of daydreaming and research has got me thinking.

Looking at the picture above, one can see that the latissimus dorsi is quite a meaty muscle.  Stretching all the way from the spinous processes of both the lumbar and thoracic spine, this darling works its way like a weed all the way up to the intertubercular groove of the humerous (the upper arm bone).  It’s responsible for shoulder adduction, internal rotation, and even extension.  Could it be considered a spinal stabilizer?  If we develop strength in our lats, can that transfer to a safer and stronger squat?  I think it might.

If the lats are taught how to become strong AND generate extreme superstiffness prior to a squat, to me it seems like the lats would act like a protective sheath of stability.  Working in concert with the spinal erectors (iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis), lats that are activated can help in producing the superstiffness required to transfer force throughout the body during a heavy lift, like a squat.

Weighted pullups and pendlay rows would be a good start to develop absolute strength/strength endurance, while isometric holds at the top of a pullup/pendlay row would help cultivate superstiffness.

Again these are all simply ideas, confirmed neither by peer reviewed journal articles nor my own testing, but I am hoping to evaluate that idea soon.

What do you think?  Comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

Today, we continued our march towards weightlifting glory!  We hit a nice little complex of clean deadlifts, cleans, front squats, and jerks.  I follow a lot of Glenn Pendlay and Muscle Driver and like how they frequently use complexes in their training.  Complexes build the requisite muscular stamina required to endure longer training sessions and also teach the athlete how to lift efficiently when tired.  Expect to see more of these complexes as our programming continues to evolve.

Once our complexes were finished, we continued our midline stability work with the much underused Turkish Getup.  I know it wasn’t conditioning in the strictest sense, but if those don’t get your heart rate up and the sweat flowing, you are not human.

Rest up, people.  Back in action on Wednesday.



Myofascial release/Dynamic warmup

10 rotating med ball slams (20#/14) each side

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

Barbell Mechanics

Clean Deadlift + Clean + Front Squat + Jerk

2 sets @ 75% 1 RM Clean

3 sets @ 85%

2 sets @ 80%

*2 minutes recovery between sets.


Turkish Getups


*Each arm.

*1 minute recovery between sets.

5-13-13 MOVE1 5-13-13 MOVE2 5-13-13 MOVE3 5-13-13 Scores


I’ve been absent from The Movement Program for a couple of days battling some bronchitis.  The Program, however, is a machine that does not die.  What does it mean to be a part of The Movement Program?  It means dedication.  It means you don’t make excuses.  It means you are willing to go the extra mile.  Athletes organized and ran class in my absence on Friday.  It is awesome to know that this here is a group of young adults who is committed to improving its collective state of being, while their peers return home and vegetate in front of a TV, eat Dorritos, and drink Mountain Dew.  Well done!

Muscle of the Day returns on Monday!  The typical craziness apparently never left…

The Labors of the Day focused on some heavier front squats for the strength portion and then some single arm overhead squats and double unders for the conditioning.  The next four weeks’ focus will be on developing stability in the bottom position of our weightlifting.  Hopefully, the heavier front squats and overhead squats in the conditioning drove this notion home today.



Myofascial Release / Dynamic Warmup

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


Front Squat

5 reps @ 65%, 4 reps @ 75%, 2 x 3 reps @ 80%, 2 reps @85%, 2 x 1 rep @ 90% of 1 RM

*2 mins recovery between sets.


For Time
10 Single Arm Overhead Squat with Kettlebell -Right arm (24/16 kg)
50 Double Unders
10 Single Arm Overhead Squat with Kelttlebell – Left arm
40 Double Unders
10 Single Arm Overhead Squats with Kettlebell – Right arm
30 Double Unders
10 Single Arm Overhead Squats with Kettlebell – Left Arm
20 Double Unders
10 Single Arm Overhead Squats with Kettlebell – Right Arm
10 Double Unders
10 Single Arm Overhead Squats with Kettlebell – Left Arm
3 x 3 x10 sec Pallof Presses in each direction
2 x 5-10 Stir the Pots in each direction
5-10-13 MOVE5 5-10-13 MOVE2 5-10-13 MOVE45-10-13 MOVE3

Bottom Positioning Strength

There are a couple of things that are pretty constant in the world.  The sun will rise, the sun will set, and I will be constantly analyzing training and thinking about how I can make it better.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the athletes who are a part of The Movement Program at Steelworks CrossFit are not very comfortable in the bottom position on the snatch and the clean.  As a result, the next four weeks of programming will be focusing on this deficiency.  A good weightlifter’s total will be limited by his or her ability to get into good positioning in the catch.  This of course involves lots of mobility, but also lots of core stability.  We will continue to address both important factors.

The Muscle of the Day is the subscapularis.


This muscle originates on the lateral border of the scapula and inserts into the lesser tubercule of the humerous.  This muscle is one of the rotator cuffs and is largely responsible for internal rotation of the shoulder.  Why should it matter?  Because a tight subscapularis would prevent you from doing this:

internal rotation

Notice the shoulder internally rotated as Lu Xiaojun pulls himself down during a snatch high pull pull-down.  Strong and mobile!

Today was a long training session.  No sense of resting after this weekend’s awesome competition.  We got after it today, hitting a three position snatch for our barbell mechanics and developing that core stability with some overhead squats for our strength portion.  The thing I like about the three position snatch (or clean for that matter) is that it teaches positions and aggressive finishing on the second and third pulls.  Lots of lights went off on the snatch from the high hang.  When I say “drive through the heels” I mean push those feet through the floor!

Were we done after all of that?  Nope.  A  brief conditioning session and some fortification work helped wrap up a great day of training.  Three rounds of that, while short, did not look fun.  You’re welcome!  Shout out of the day goes to Ben McCool for getting after the RX weight on the conditioning workout!

Mike Snyder’s words of wisdom below:

Ice your nasty bits.  Mobilize any tight areas.



Myofascial Release / Dynamic Warmup

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

Barbell Mechanics

3 Position Snatch (Snatch + Hang Snatch + Hi-Hang Snatch)

2 sets @65%

2 sets @75%

2 sets @70%

*2 mins recovery between lifts.


Overhead Squats


Establish new five rep max.

*2 mins recovery between lifts.

*We will be testing this lift again in four weeks.


3 Rounds for Time

12 Burpees to Weighted Plate Swing (45#/25#)

100 meter run with plate.



2 x 5-8 in each direction

5-6-13 MOVE1 5-6-13 MOVE2 5-6-13 MOVE3 5-6-13 MOVE4 5-6-13 MOVE5 5-6-13 Scores

The First Competition is in the Bag!

What a weekend!  On Saturday and today, athletes from Steelworks CrossFit’s youth team, The Movement Program, competed in the East Coast Gold Weightlifting competition held in the wonderfully smelling town of Lancaster, PA.  This was the first weightlifting competition for each of the athletes and for some, this was the first athletic competition of their lives!

Our goal was simple:  get on the platform, lift some weights, drop some fears, and then go home.  I was not very concerned with the loads lifted (though I was impressed by the weekend’s performances).  Rather, I just wanted to have the athletes experience the competitive arena.

On Saturday, Ben McCool, Mike Snyder, and Christian Schillig competed.  Christian and Ben finished off the weekend with fine starting totals of 107 and 110, respectively.  Once these guys get used to being more comfortable in the bottom of the snatch, expect much bigger weights to rise effortlessly from the floor!  Not to be outdone, Mike finished off with the best total of the day, hoisting a total of 127 kilos.  Ben and Mike both hit PRs on the Clean and Jerk, though Mike’s PR was not recognized due to a slight press out on his jerk.

Here are the boys’ Snatch attempts!

Clean and Jerk attempts

Xuan Troung, however, was the super star of the weekend!  She hit 28 kilos (61.6 pounds) on the Snatch and 38 kilos (83.6 pounds) giving her a 66 kilo total and highest Sinclair point total.  As a result, she received best Female Youth Lifter of the Meet!  Congratulations to Xuan!   She also earned the Best Celebration-Upon-Hearing-She-Had-Won Award for the weekend.  Liza Minnelli would have been proud!

Below you’ll find Xuan’s snatch and clean and jerk attempts

Great weekend all around!  Now back to work!

EAST COAST GOLD1 East Coast Gold4East Coast Gold3East Coast Gold2


A light spirit helps hoist life’s heaviest weights.  

Sometimes we pursue this sport with such passion that we get wrapped up in the percentages, the angles, the makes, and the misses.  Consider this your friendly reminder:  we lift because we enjoy lifting.  Many years ago, I made the mistake to allow collegiate athletics to consume every aspect of my identity.  Bad race?  Failure as a person.  Subpar workout?  Worthless.  Screwed up, I know, but such was the path that I had to walk to bring me to this point.  I lost the joy for a sport (distance running) that was my passion.  I refuse to let that happen again.  I refuse to allow others to make the same mistake.

Celebrate the steel, whether hoisted high or languishing low.  Savor the struggle as much as the success.  Every snatch is a celebration.  Every clean and jerk, a triumph.  Rejoice evermore!

Today’s Muscle of the Day is the Infraspinatus!

Originating on the medial posterior portion of the scapula, this muscle inserts on the greater tubercule of the humerous.  This is one of the muscles of the rotator cuff and is responsible for external rotation at the shoulder joint.

We kept the heavy theme today and did heavy singles on the snatch.  After some Oly accessory work in the form of snatch pulls, we finished off the day with Fortification work.  Today we did the nasty but amazing stir-the-pot and also some birddogs.  Both of the Fortification movements are designed to build not only core stability and low back endurance (especially the birddogs), but they also spare the lumbar spine from any degradation resulting from excessive spinal flexion.

Make sure you ice any junk that seems to be bothering you and stay supple with some good mobility work.  Everyone should be paying special attention to increasing range of motion in their ankles, hips, and shoulders!

Stay tuned if there will be open gym tomorrow!



Myofascial release / Dynamic Warmup

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

Barbell Mechanics


10 x 1 @ 90% 1 RM

*Minimum 2 minutes rest between sets.

Snatch Pulls

2 sets of 3 @ 95%, 105%, 100%

*1 minute rest between sets



2 x 8 each direction


2 x 10 each side.

5-1-13 MOVE1 5-1-13 MOVE2 5-1-13 MOVE3 5-1-13 MOVE4 5-1-13 MOVE5

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