Due to the fact that I have my Master of Science degree in Human Movement (more specifically, strength and conditioning), I have to call a spade a spade, a lie a lie, and encouragement a mis-direction. I'm all for encouraging people to exercise! Yes, get your friends moving, but do not stop there! Do not simply encourage your friend who does not eat, to eat; take them to McDonald's and drop them off! Not all exercise is created equal, and too often people will reap the benefits of the initial workout regimented lifestyles. They will then become addicted to it and metaphorically overdose on it.
It’s December, and for about 20 of you, that means it’s time to revisit the goal board! Let’s talk about motivation. This time, by way of community. The goal board is there in front of you, with members who have publicly expressed their goals. The questions we ask are: 1.) Have you been asking others how their progress is going? Many of you didn’t even have “performance” related goals, they were simply attendance based. 2.) Who were you reaching out to this past year? Were you building relationships with others to help hold you accountable?
The holiday season is a great time to become passive in attendance, and aggressive in well, less productive “health” related behavior. Let’s look at accountability inside and outside of the gym. You cannot count on your coaches to work miracles when you’re in the gym once a week. I mean, we are good, but “We ain’t that good.” We suggest using the Facebook social group, be positively social with one another, build good relationships, be borderline annoying, and most of all, be persistent. You all have signed contracts with us, expressing your interest in wanting to be stronger, faster, fitter and healthier, so help each other obtain those commitments!
When you’re in the gym, make sure the atmosphere is electric! The coaches aren’t perfect and there are going to be days where we are just off. Motivate us to motivate you! We assure that we usually just need a cup (or three) of coffee, some loud music, and we are good to go! We promise you the coaches truly want you to be the best you can be, if not more than you do, so hold us to that.
As the new year approaches, anticipate attendance to increase for a few reasons: 1.) New Year’s resolutions to increase attendance, 2.) New member enrollment for the new year, and 3.) Our amazing new website! That’s right, our new website will be updated with pictures of you guys (thank you for being cooperative and patient during the photo sessions), our coaches and staff, and tons on information that speaks on behalf of who we are, who you are, and what we strive to accomplish.
Until the new year arrives and we come back with a stellar goals blog post, let’s focus on the month of December and make it the last month of well-rounded motivation!
“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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
The Electromyography (EMG) calibration is used to detect which muscles are being activated during movements. In this case, we will look at the muscles being activated in the different angles of the squat. For starters, let’s talk about what muscles are involved in the squat: quads, hamstrings, and glutes (butt muscles). When studying the squat, the EMG feedback reveals the hip extensor muscles pattern (gluteus maximus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus) EMG activity to be lowest in the early portion of the lift, increased in the middle portions and decreased at the end. The trunk muscle pattern (latissimus dorsi, abdominal obliques, rectus abdominis, and erector spinae) EMG activity, increased in the early portion of the lift, decreased in the middle parts and ended with a slight increase (Vakos et al., 1994). To specify the detail of the squat, the four portions of the lift were divided into quarters. This information identifies the muscles with the most activity, during the quarter squat phase (beginning and end), as muscles that are not required for joint movement in the hip and leg. The highest EMG activity was found in the middle portion, which would relate to the full squat position. Therefore, the majority power of the squat movement comes from the hip extensor muscles and these are the muscles that one needs to strengthen to increase vertical power and explosion.
Squat depth is a commonly debated topic. Benefits have been shown for quarter (120 degrees of knee flexion) and parallel, or full, squats. Hermassi, Chely, Tabka, Shephard, and Chamari (2011) published evidence that showed no changes in the jump performance of well trained power athletes after 24 weeks of heavy squat training, despite large improvements in a one rep max squat strength. They identified the use of loads that resemble the required skill in terms of movement, speed and pattern as the reason for improved jump performance (Hermassi et al., 2011). In general terms, shallow squats will make certain parts of your legs stronger, but since it is deeper than that of a jumping position, and not quite a full squat, it will not benefit explosive power.
Additional research supports the use of full squats, mainly due to the support of basic functional anatomy. Hartman et al. (2012) pointed out that deep joint angles provide neural and morphological stimuli for the hip and knee extensors to positively influence the acceleration process. Therefore, deep squats can help sustain dynamic maximal strength levels and should rarely be excluded from a strength training program (Hartman et al., 2012).
So how do we squat deep? It’s simple. Sit straight down and let your ankles, knees, and hips flex accordingly to their 100% ability. As you find yourself lowering, you may notice body position changes. You will know when to stop when you notice a position change and make corrections.
The above literature is simply to inform you about the absolute advantages to a “full range of motion” squat, versus anything less. Hopefully this will encourage you work on a deep squat rather than obsessing over a bigger squat number. A lighter weight deep squat will generate more work capacity throughout the mechanical chain than a heavier limited range of motion squat.
The above video has a part two, which takes you into an even deeper look at the anthropometric differences of squatters and their body differences. We as your coaches will help you squat properly, it is your job to squat regularly!
Hartman, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (2012). Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, ahead of print, doe: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31824ede62.
Hermassi, S., Chelly, M. S., Tabka, Z., Shephard, R. J., & Chamari, K. (2011). Effects of 8-week in-season upper and lower limb heavy resistance training on the peak power, throwing velocity, and sprint performance of elite male handball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(9), 2424 – 2433.
This month is Mobility Application Month! In August, we gave you daily mobility exercises to incorporate into your morning, work, and evening routines. Now it's time to put those daily practices to use. We will apply the knowledge and efforts gained from August's mobility focus in order to increase position awareness and improve bio mechanical positioning.
Each week we will highlight one of the skill/strength movements that we practice in a more in-depth mechanical level. Understanding the human anatomy will help you understand our cueing, and even more so, appreciate the detail required with proper movement. Practice makes permanent, so it is important to practice as close to a perfect movement as possible!
The Over-Head Squat (OHS)
We have two over-head positions: wide and narrow grip. The differences are structural and muscular. Regardless of which position you choose, you must follow certain guidelines. To understand these guidelines, we will take a look at the over-head anatomy.
The main muscles involved in holding something over-head are the rotator cuff muscles (shown in figure (a)). The wider you spread your hands, the more forces are loaded onto these muscles. This is not an ideal method, as it can produce undesirable outcomes. The more narrow you set your hands, the more the over-head weight will settle structurally over your scapula (or shoulder blades). In general, you should work into a narrow grip and master the narrow grip OHS before worrying about a heavier wide-grip OHS. The narrow grip OHS requires functional range of motion (ROM) of the scapula (show in video (b)). Most of you will want to avoid the narrow grip because "it is hard" and "isn’t cool” to not lift something heavy. This is an unacceptable train of thought! You need scapular ROM, or you will likely have thoracic (upper back) problems.
[huge_it_video_player id="7"] (b) Functional range of motion (ROM) of the scapula.
Once you have mastered the narrow grip OHS position, you can alternate with the wide grip, increasing load and adding more work capacity to your deltoid/shoulder muscles. Regardless of your choice, the one cue you will hear repeatedly from us is external rotation. External rotation can be imagined by turning a doorknob clockwise (with your right hand), or counter clockwise (with you left hand). This essentially turns your humeral head (bicep arm bone) into its humeral labral (shoulder socket) safely and allows compression and load to occur at the shoulder. Also, with a drastically decreased possibility of the humeral bone wobbling, sliding, or damaging the labrum. Motion imaging of external rotation at a muscular and structural level are shown in video (c)- muscular, and (d)- skeletal.
[huge_it_video_player id="2"] (c) External rotation at a muscular level.
[huge_it_video_player id="4"] (d) External rotation at a structural level.