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The Importance of Yoga Complimenting the Humble Beast CrossFit Program

“Yoga is a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote bodily or mental control and well-being.” – Merriam- Webster

“Yoga is a practical aid, not a religion. Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind, and spirit. The continued practice of yoga will lead you to a sense of peace and well-being, and also a feeling of being at one with their environment.” – Yoga.org

“Yoga is a class offered at the end of the physical build week. Aimed to compliment what the body endures on a daily basis and to help build awareness so that self reflection on movement strengths and weaknesses can be made.” –Humble Beast CrossFit

The definitions of yoga vary, but you will generally find a few key components: postures, breathing, meditation, spirit, health, mental clarity, etc. We find it more important to understand balance in terms of a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Correct balance is what makes a complimentary program. Every day, our class starts with stretching and mobility; the remainder of class is an organized strength and conditioning regimen. Thus, our yoga class is complimentary. It will not always be an easy, laid-back stretching routine. In fact, many of you will conclude the class is rather challenging, physically and mentally, but in different ways than the Humble Beast CrossFit program is. 

The placement of the yoga class is at the end of our “load” micro cycle (week) and before the longer Saturday WOD. This was not accidental, it was intentionally so. Taking the Humble Beast CrossFit class after yoga on Saturdays is completely possible. Will it be hard? Yes. Will it still provide balance? Yes. Please do not look to our yoga class to be some sort of out of body experience, meditation or religion, but rather, a physical means to compliment your daily workweek.

Our yoga class starts promptly at 10 a.m. and all access to the class will conclude once class begins. Our instructors are trained and experienced in different disciplines and utilize their knowledge and experience with both yoga and CrossFit to provide a yoga class that compliments our Humble Beast CrossFit program regimen.

October Mobility Application Month – Week 4: Bench Press

Some of you may have been told by other fitness enthusiasts, "benching is great! That is, until you get injured and then it becomes not so great".  Some people who have injured themselves benching may experience shoulder pain, which immediately indicates that mechanically improper benching technique was applied. You may recall a while back, we used to have two mechanical figure drawings on the white board (seen below). We referred to him as Michelle.

Michelle shows the leverage arms used when benching and dead lifting. It is a physical breakdown of the physics the body undergoes when creating leverage forces during these two lifts. It would be much easier to convince people of proper lifting technique if there was a sport created to exacerbate form to maximize range of motion (ROM) work capacity. Meaning, ROM standards were not implemented in order to create a competition of strength (aka Powerlifting). Functional is functional, not limited. Limiting ROM to create “equality” in lifting competitions leads to manipulation of function, which can and will result in inefficiencies/injuries.

Hand Postion

We typically use the reference, “pushing a car”, when trying to help you relate to bench pressing. This analogy usually works because pushing a car is not typically a competitive sport; is a systematically autonomic movement. This means you don’t have to think about doing it, thus the body can derive force effectively and functionally. This thought of autonomy is the final reflection of our monthly position series. If you cannot move the basic lifts and more so, difficult lifts astronomically, you should practice them more and more with lighter loads until your body is ready to exert force safely.

Hips and Feet

Focusing back to the proper bench technique, the muscles involved in the bench press should be the triceps (back of the upper arm) and pectoral (chest) muscles. These are the major movers. Hand position should be equivalent to the placement of pushing a car. The rule of thumb for measurement is that of the front rack. Measure your hands with a thumbs-length distance from the knurling (see right photo). When looking at the majority of the “good” benchers in class and Michelle, you see that their hips are up high, sometimes even off the bench. In the world of Powerlifting (competitive), that would be illegal because it doesn’t allow for a level playing field. The higher the hips, the easier the press is by way of more leverage torque and less ROM. However, it is also the safest for the shoulder.

Shoulders/Shoulder Blades

It’s very hard to explain how to pinch back your scapula (shoulder blades) and externally rotate your humeral heads on the bench. It’s easier to show by demonstration and feel, but the best way we have found is by having the lifter lay on the floor. Using your feet, push your hips straight up and back (by pushing the ground away from you) with your feet. You should feel your upper back slide towards your head and the weight seemingly off your traps/neck region. You have now successfully locked/blocked your shoulder blades into a retracted position and your deltoids (shoulder muscles that get improperly used in push-ups and bench) are now safely out of commission!

Bar Path

When standing to the profile (side view) of the lifter, the bar path should travel vertical, straight down to the lifter's breast plate and straight up vertical. The bar should not move horizontally forward or backwards. The elbows should stay neutral, 45 degrees, from the torso during the entire lift.

Even after reading this, whether you can visualize the lift with proper form or not, always ask a coach to demonstrate a proper bench press; always have a spotter there to watch, cue, and spot you!

October Mobility Application Month - Week 3: Front Rack Position

The front rack is the position we typically see every Tuesday when we work on cleans. This is also the position we need to master for our Monday press series, and anytime we need to get something from the ground to our shoulders, and/or maintain something in the front rack position. The overhead squat (OHS) is where the inefficient position isn’t necessarily comfortable, but is easier due to bicep head/rotator cuff extension, and not proper scapular retraction and range of motion (ROM). The front rack is alternatively an inefficient position, the comfortable position, which is dangerously bad for you.

Too often the front rack position cue is to keep your elbows up. People will think the higher the elbow, the better the front rack by way of it feeling more secure. It is naturally more comfortable. Remember, McDonald's is also tasty and convenient, while not being necessarily good for you! ;)

The front rack position, even for experienced lifters, should be relatively uncomfortable as it is a working, not resting position. Your Serratus anterior muscle (front, off to the side rib-muscles - see image) muscles are extremely active during a proper front rack position. This makes it hard to breathe and move comfortably as your thoracic (chest) is fixed into a load-supporting position. If you find the front rack position easy breezy, you’re probably not doing something right, ask a coach.

Proper Position

Typically the look and feel of a proper front rack position can be found by doing the following:

  1. Stand with your palms facing away from your body on the same frontal plane.
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  3. Try crushing imaginary walnuts under your armpits using just your armpit while keeping your arms completely straight.
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  5. Holding that armpit-walnut crushing position, try to touch your thumbs to your shoulders, STILL on the frontal plane with your hands/fingers spread WIDE open.
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  7. Holding the walnut crushing feeling and with your thumbs driving to your shoulders, lift your elbows forward and away from/off the frontal plane as high as they can go while holding the built tension in your armpit.
  8. Now grip the imaginary bar with you wrist straight.

If you have hyper-mobile shoulders and elbows, the rule of thumb for a front rack position when looking at the wrist to elbow position is that they should make a “W” when looking head on. The wrist can be on the same sagittal plane (see right image), but not more proximal (closer) to the shoulder than the elbow. Meaning, if you were standing in your front position and I were in font of you and stuck a life-sized credit card perpendicularly through your elbow, you hand would fall on that dissection or distal (away from the body) to the card, NOT proximal (closer to the body).

Improper Position

An example of a improper position would be:

  1. Hands and elbows super narrow, almost pinched together.
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  3. Weight resting/stressing the wrists.
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  5. Weight resting on the collar bone.
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  7. Elbows perpendicular to the body (full 90 degrees).
  8. Wrists inside the sagittal plane of the elbow.
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  10. Any fingers OFF the bar.

2016 NOVA Open Recap

This blog post was written by a member of the Humble Beast Barbell Club.

The 2016 NOVA Open was my first time as a competitor (or even a spectator) at a weightlifting competition. The whole experience reaffirmed why I love Humble Beast; the support structure from start to finish helped me overcome my nerves and compete at my best.

I arrived in the morning for weigh-in, dehydrated and nervous about making weight. However thanks to Lindsay’s straightforward nutrition guidelines over the past month, I had nothing to worry about, and came in well under my target weight. During the two hours between weigh-in and my first lift, we feasted and rehydrated. Cutting weight is exhausting so the goal was to recover as much energy as possible before competing.

After a basic warmup, the competition began. I continued practicing until my name was called, at which point Jeff and Colin shuttled me quickly to the platform. They didn’t even tell me what my opening snatch attempt was going to be, which I think actually worked to my advantage! The nerves and adrenaline kicked in and my mind was basically blank when I finally stepped onto the platform. After my opener, which thankfully I made, I returned to the practice platform briefly before being called back up for my second attempt (each lifter is allotted 3 snatch attempts and 3 clean and jerk attempts).

One of the most nerve-racking aspects of a competition is the brief instant when you’ve completed the lift but have to hold the weight steady until the judge signals you to put it down. As soon as you drop the weight, three judges (left, right, center) wave either a white (good lift) or red (no lift) flag. For a successful attempt, you need at least 2/3 white flags. So even if you think you may have pressed out (illegal elbow bend), just smile confidently anyway and you may get lucky!

Under Jeff, Colin, and Ruben’s careful guidance, I performed at a high level throughout the competition, exceeding my own goals for myself. This was only possible because they intentionally removed everything else except the lift from my mind. I didn’t have to worry about the weights (I was never even sure what weight was on the bar) or the other competitors (whose lifts I didn’t watch).

For most of the other athletes at the Nova Open, weightlifting is an individual sport, but with Humble Beast I felt like it was a team sport. The Humble Beast cohesiveness, positivity, spectators, coaches, teammates, and even matching t-shirts combined to create a uniquely strong support structure. This support structure is what will stick with me the most about the 2016 Nova Open.

Do as much as needed, NOT as much as possible.

13427731_494171737454909_7970160742777719370_n As many of you know, our CrossFit program is not the typical program style and format that you would see at the usual CrossFit box. Our goal is simple, safe movement with big results. For those of you who are new to the program and thought that the three-hour lecture at Humble Beginnings was too much to reflect on, please take a moment to brush up on the class structure:

ACTIVATION/MOBILITY: The first 10 minutes of class is activation/mobility, NOT necessarily flexibility. Remember, mobility (MOB) is the movement around a joint, whereas flexibility is the range of motion or elasticity between two joints. Activation will be using intricate movements to activate the muscles that will be supporting the major muscles “in demand” for the days “WOD”.

In terms of movement, we are more concerned with your joints. Again, remember the joints do not get blood as actively as your muscles do (reference the bicep/elbow temperature demonstration). Thus, it is IMPORTANT to mobilize the joints! For those of you early birds... PLEASE REMEMBER to try and come NO EARLIER than 15 mins before the start of the class. This way you do not interfere with the previous class. If you are one of those CrossFitters who needs to do a 15-minute metcon as your warm up, please reconsider (see below description of daily program).

SKILL/STRENGTH: For the next 20-30 minutes of class we apply our skill/strength portion. During this time it is the coach’s job to watch you guys move, make assessments, and fix the problems (major to minor). We all have multiple problems with the way we move. It is absolutely unrealistic to attempt to fix them ALL in one class. We as your coaches will address the most important ones first. For those of you who are not following a strength regimen, this is for two reasons: 1. I have not seen you move enough to determine your strength capacity and projected ability and 2. You may need more work on range of motion (ROM) and MOB before worrying about “strength” and #GAINZ. For those of you working on ROM, make sure you are doing active MOB between all skill/strength sets.

Now, for those of you who insisted on your 15-minute metcon as a “warm-up.” Congratulations, you now have much less energy than you think you have to output for/to accomplish you strength set. We are immediately referencing Tuesday/Thursday when you are supposed to be squatting heavy, doing max effort pull-ups and dips. Then again on Thursdays, with the addition of max effort plyometric activity. If you are not taxed to near exhaustion after your strength portion, you may want to re-evaluate your strength regimen. You are allowed to make adjustments based on your desires, i.e., Hard, heavy reps ^8-12 WILL build strong muscle. Similarly, 18-22 reps will do the opposite, build lesser strength, more “toned” endurance-based muscle. Talk to your coach and explain your goals!

AS FOR MONDAY/WEDNESDAY: I cannot emphasize enough how important a body weight narrow grip over-head squat (OHS) is. If you cannot OHS flawlessly, your body will have issues later on, even with amazingly watchful coaches. Remember, the OHS is a functional movement and tool to test/evaluate your body’s operative ROM. Snatches, yes Wednesday, are THE MOST athletic movement known to a weightlifter. The snatch, the ability to learn and execute will do wonders for your body’s hand eye coordination, neuromuscular control, explosivity, etc. If your learning curve is slow, that should tell you something. Please YouTube, all jokes aside, “Chinese female snatch world championships” and then tell me the movement is useless.

CONDITIONING: Last ^20 minutes. This portion of the class is designed to provide conditioning. Whether we incorporate VO2max (as seen Mondays), Lactate threshold, or a combination of the two, you are the boss of your relative intensity. Remember, an athlete can only perform 7 seconds of absolute power output. I’m giving you ^20 seconds. There are NO EXCUSES to be walking around talking about how hard the WOD was immediately after. Don’t feel like you got in a good work out? Find more will power to dig deeper and explore more of the metabolic pain cave. Stick around one evening and watch me do a metcon. It’s disturbing and you will want to intervene and beg me to stop torturing myself. And afterwards? Want to talk? GET OUT OF MY FACE! But seriously, I don’t need that effort, but know it exists if you want certain results. People who get stronger and look different, they aren’t anomalies, they are dedicated (in their program and especially their diets). They apply themselves, stop making excuses, and they following instruction. REST, CLEAN UP and time allowing, now stretch.

One note about Saturday: Saturday’s WOD will always be a partner/endurance style WOD. The goal should be more of a mental barrier, not so much “physical strength". The WOD is usually designed to last 30+ minutes and on many occasions, intended to end in incompletion. It is important you give it your all even if you doubt the ability to complete it. Trust me, “failure to complete” is successful in many other ways! You will gain great understanding from completing things for effort and intensity and not “completion".

That is our class structure ladies and gents. Communication is open and I expect it back from you. You guys will help dictate the energy in the class. Want louder music? Speak up, turn it up. Yell at each other, push each other. This is your gym, your community and these are your workouts!

- Coach Jeff & the Humble Beast staff

June 25th Gymnastics Workshop Recap

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This past Saturday, Coach-to-be Alex B, taught our second Gymnastics Workshop. During the workshop, we partnered up and rotated around five stations that were designated to work on more detailed aspects of our commonly applied gymnastic techniques. We learned to "forward roll out” of the handstands instead of falling over, transition holds, wall walks, hand stands and applicable mobility.

For the month of July, you will have an opportunity to develop and improve your gymnastics skills at our upcoming workshops on the 9th, 23rd and 30th at 10:00 a.m. We hope to see you there! #morebendlesssnap

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