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If you don’t get a pull up, no one will marry you

Once you have a few pull ups, it’s ‘easy’ to keep adding to them. The real hard one is getting that 1st pull up. After too many years hanging around and teaching in gyms, here is my ” how to do it” guide based on an original article  here

I hope it helps.

If you have no pull ups, here are some essential things you must do:

      1. Get a pull up bar at home. I’d say this won’t guarantee success, but not having one at home will guarantee failure. Do not rely on getting to the gym, or to us for that matter. Also it’s a private matter between you and the bar: basically you have bar “issues” and sometimes its best to deal with “issues” in private. This  pull up bar is often recommended  JML Iron Total Gym Upper Body Workout Bar
      2. Understand that a pull up is not a rubbishy exercise like all those silly pilates wiggles and squirms that you do. Pull-ups are a predictive happiness test. If you have no pulls ups  no-one of quality will want to marry you. If you refuse to get that first pull up, stop reading this and go and get some cats. That’s all you will be good for. If you say ” I don’t have a pull up, but Im married” my answer is stark. “You could have done better”!
      3. . Look honestly at your weight. Pull-ups will be harder to get if you are over-weight. That does not mean you wait until you are the “right weight”. Get going now. It will be harder, but as I often say: “you ate it, now hump it”.

(If you are overweight don’t set yourself the task of losing a few pounds before you do anything; start living your life now. If you are overweight, and are miserable because you are lonely and boyfriendless/girlfriendless/ loverless, put your details up on the raunchiest BBW site that your morality can stand, and hold on to your hat! Big girls and boys are always in demand. You can only lose weight if you are happy. Fending off would-be lovers with a stick is a very practical and measurable marker of happiness. Sitting at home feeling fat and ugly, makes you fat and ugly. Sorry, that not really about pull ups is it.)

Let us begin…

  • Objective 1: can you hang from the bar with your palms facing towards you (for those in the know, this is the ‘chin-up’ grip that’s a bit easier to begin with)?
  • Objective 2: can you hang a bit longer?
  • Objective 3: can you hang a bit longer than objective 2? (can you see where this is going?)

To save a lot of time, can you get to hang on your bar for 10 seconds? When you can, shout “woohoo” (loudly so as to annoy your neighbours) and start on working out how to do your first negative.

You’re first what?

Well in highly technical terms, right, there’s the pulling up bit (right?) and then there’s the lowering bit.

Innit?

At the moment you are not strong enough to do the pulling up bit, like, but if you were kind of already up there, maybe you could, er, lower yourself down a bit?

Alright!

Does sort of rather beg the question of “how do i get up there?”…

Well here is the Andrew Stemler “Getting it up guide” (apparently this is a good title that always sells):

      1. Jumping. Grab the pull up bar but instead of trying to pull yourself up, jump up so that your chin is above the bar. This can be easier said than done
      2. By standing on something. Just stand on something that is high enough for you to start out in that already-pulled-up position. A bench, a chair, whatever. Anything you can use as a mini-ladder would be perfect. Perhaps even a mini-ladder?
      3. Stand on something “version 2”.  Grab the bar and make your loser boy- or girlfriend  (perhaps the one you got from the BBW site) grab your ass and push you up

Now, once you’re in that top position, you’re ready to do the negative part of the pull-up. So, lower yourself down as slow and controlled as you possibly can. Focus on keeping really tight. I don’t mean “refuse to lend people money or get drunk”, I mean “have lots of tension in your body”. Squeeze (your own) bottom together. Brace your abs, squeeze your legs together.

Your first lower (we will call it negatives from now on) will either be agonisingly slow and hurt like hell, or you will fall straight through as you discover you have no strength at all.

Once you have lowered yourself, pop off the bar and reflect. Negatives are very taxing. You need rest between each one and you should never do more than 6 to 8 in a session.

So here is you beginner “CHIN-UPS FOR HAPPINESS” programme

Day  1: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg ( 120 secs rest between each negative)

Rest a day ( drink, eat cake, take all sorts of drugs. Smoking is especially good for you these days as it gets you out in the fresh air

Day 2: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (90secs rest between each negative) It’s the same but with less rest!

Rest a day (put your own joke in!)

Day 3: neg, neg, neg, neg, neg (120 secs between each negative)

Rest one day

Day 4: The next workout needs you to get that loser boyfriend/girlfriend again. Basically they are going to try and help you pull yourself up and down. They get behind you, grab you…somewhere….(experiment) then they assist you to do….three sets of as many reps  as you can with 120 seconds between. So they grab you, and haul you up and down as many times as you can. Could be 1, you could do 2 or 6. The set is over when they cannot push you anymore, not when you feel like it. You will want to stop early as it feels as it you are not doing the work: in fact it’s mainly you.

Rest 120 seconds. Do it again 2 more times.

It’s my way of getting your body to see what the actual task is. No, a lat pull down machine is not a good substitution.

But, what if you cannot get anyone to help you? Well thats beyond this article: but ideas could be to go next door and bug your neighbour, call up your ex-wife. Perhaps the guy selling the Big Issue fancies a couple of quid extra. Get creative, and find someone. Join a religious group and offer to host a scripture reading and slip your set in before you start as “movement prayer”

Rest 2 days.

Day 5: neg, neg, neg,neg, neg (90 secs rest)

Rest 2 days.

Now it’s the big test. Get someone to help you do 1-2 easy, supported reps. Rest for 2 minutes. Then do your 1 chin-up (woohoo!) or hang there trying for a full 7 seconds. Then with 120 seconds rest neg, neg, neg.

If you get that pull up come and talk to us about getting more. If not return to the beginning and start again. If you are very weak it could take many passes through to get your first pull up. But this regime works.

Feel free to suggest improvements or funnier/ruder quips to comments.

My Name is Andrew Stemler and I’m a personal trainer  at CFLDN in Bethnal Green E2

Crossfit London: finding a great community.

If you have come to London, and are living near Bethnal Green E2, and you are feeling lonely, that means only one thing.

You haven’t joined Crossfit London yet.

For over a decade, Crossfit London in Bethnal Green E2 has been using community to drive the performance of its athletes. There is something about sharing your training time with motivated and committed athletes that drives your own performance.

You can jog on your own, and do yoga in your lonely bedroom. You can find a dirt cheap gym and have a relationship with a bicep curling machine, or you can decide to let your awesomeness show by training with us.

We will teach you lots and lots of cool stuff. We will  show you how to lift loads safely and effectively while boosting your metabolic capacity (your ability to run, row, bike). We will kick open the doorway to basic gymnastics and teach you how to push up, pull up, dip and handstand. There is a world of cool things in our syllabus that will engage and support you.

We will make you stronger faster and more skilled than you have ever been. You’ll also meet the nicest group of people in the world, who will support and clap and cheer and high five you as you improve. But, there is no such thing as a free lunch: you’ll have to support and cheer and high five others to help them along too.

Unfortunately, at the end of  some of our classes, you may be forced to hold a silly pose.

Oh well!

Crossfit london: The pursuit of physical excellence within a supportive community

Olympic lifting with grunts

Little did Aryna Sabalenka realise that her controversial grunting in the 2018 Australian Tennis Open could assist Olympic weightlifters in Bethnal Green E1. A short yell or kiai has always been part of martial arts, and exertion is sometimes accompanied with a bit of a grunt. But, is it a technique or tactic you should use to improve your snatch and clean and jerk?

Damian Farrow (2018) in  ‘All the Racquet: What science tells us about the pros and cons of grunting in tennis’, put the advantages of a grunt in simple terms.

Ball velocity increases with a grunt.

In fact if you check out  “The effects of grunting on serve and forehand velocities in collegiate tennis players”. You’ll see two impressive figures.

If you grunt, you get: a 3.8% increase in groundstroke-hitting velocity and a 4.9% enhancement in velocity.

According to that report “The velocity, force, and peak muscle activity during tennis serves and forehand strokes are significantly enhanced when athletes are allowed to grunt.”

And, significantly,

“Grunt history, gender, perceived advantages, and disadvantages of grunting, years of experience, highest level of competition, and order of testing did not significantly alter any of these results”

I must confess that the exact science behind this phenomenon slightly eludes me, but  allegedly, increased force on impact lies within the concept of kinetic energy. KE is the energy of motion which is transferred on impact. KE is calculated as one half of the product of mass and velocity squared.

Grunting, so brainy people say, tightens the body core which increases the mass behind the tennis strike, thereby increasing the force on impact resulting in the increased velocity of the tennis ball.

The carry over to Olympic weightlifting at CrossFit London is obvious. If you lift quietly, the chances are you are missing out on some free energy that could move the bar to where you want it.

Try grunting  when you snatch.

by Andrew Stemler

Getting through the team series: Elbow pain + tendonitis rehab protocol

With the team series in full flow now and everyone’s work volume going through the roof the coaches are starting to see a bit of an increase in elbow and wrist pain. The key preventative here is not exceeding the acute to chronic work ratio. In other words if you’re raising the amount of work you’re doing more than 10% over each four week block. For more info on this look at the work of Tim Gabbett.

At CFL the most common manifestation in this is golfers elbow (inflamation of the tendons and other connective tissue around the elbow).

Tendons are a dense type of connective tissue that connect muscle to bone. They are found at each end of the muscle where they attach to the muscle at what is called the Musculotendinous Junction.

Here the muscle fibers start to become intertwined with the tissue of the tendon which ultimately attaches to the bone. The opposite end of the tendon attaches to the bone at what is called the Osteotendinous junction (“osteo” means bone) and this is what allows muscular contraction to exert force on that bone to generate movement. Tendon can become injured in a variety of ways with tendinitis being perhaps the most well known.

This is just inflammation of the tendon (“itis” means inflammation). Tendinitis can occur acutely but is probably most commonly caused by chronic overuse of the tendon that causes it to become chronically inflamed. In recent years this type of chronic inflammation is more commonly called a tendinosis.

The research on fixing tendinitis is very much pointing towards eccentric work:

– Maffulli N, Walley G, Sayana MK, Longo UG, Denaro V. Eccentric calf muscle training in athletic patients with Achilles tendinopathy, Disabil Rehabil. Advance access published 2008
– Sayana MK, Maffulli N. Eccentric calf muscle training in non-athletic patients with Achilles tendinopathy, J Sci Med Sport , 2007, vol. 10 (pg. 52-8)
– Rees JD, Lichtwark GA, Wolman RL, Wilson AM. The mechanism for efficacy of eccentric loading in Achilles tendon injury; an in vivo study in humans, Rheumatology , 2008, vol. 47 (pg. 1493-7)

In fact in a study on soccer players with adductor tendinitis loading was around 13 times better than rest and ultrasound in facilitating return to play.

So to implement a successful (and pain free) RTP we need to find a way to load you without pain. The adaption we are looking for goes like this:

initiation of movement under load -> chemical signalling -> increased protein synthesis.

This works with the cells in the tendon responding to tension, shear, and contraction. The stimulus from this forces creation of at these new tissue:

• Intervertebral disc (Setton, 05)
• Articular cartilage (Knobloch, 08)
• Tendon (Arnockzky, 02)
• Muscle (Durieux, 07)
• Bone (Turner, 1996)

Practically the Rx looks like:

1) Reduce pain (NSAIDs) and protection of injury site
2) Reducing pain through activity
a) Iso-metrics at ROM with no pain
then
b) Iso-metrics at mid range
alongside
c) reduced compressive loading

3) Improve Strength – Heavy Slow resistance in a non-compressive position

4) Build “funtional” strength – as above in more “normal” positions. Here you would address movement patterning issues.

5) Increase Power – Shorter duration lifts.

6) Improve Stretch Shortening Cycle – jump progressions building up to plyometrics or psuedo-plyos

7) Sports or sports specific drills

Sooooo this is A LOT of info but please feel free to ask me to clarify anything that isn’t totally clear

Burn Fat When You Want?! The Magic of Metabolic Flexibility

We love flexibility, and we humans are particularly good at it. Noah el Harari (he wrote Sapiens), credits flexibility and adaptability as the reason we’re still here, and you speak to anyone in the current day and there’s a serious desire to have a flexible life, without rigidity or structure.

It’s defined as the ability to be easily modified, or the willingness to change or compromise – don’t we all want these. But what about flexibility in the body? No, I’m not talking about being able to do a back bend, I’m talking about the ability to shift between fuel sources depending on the situation – this is the modern phenomenon of metabolic flexibility. Yes, this does means that you can burn fat when you want!

So what is it?

Cell defines metabolic flexibility as “the ability of an organism to respond or adapt according to changes in metabolic or energy demand as well as the prevailing conditions or activity.” Goodpaster (2017).

Though the sexier definition comes from Dr Mike T Nelson, who states that “Metabolic Flexibility enables you to (1) transition between fats and carbohydrates so you can burn more fat when you’re not exercising; and (2) use carbohydrates when you are exercising to fuel that activity and perform at a higher level.”

Forget bulletproof coffee, this sounds like the ultimate “biohack.”

Not only does Metabolic Flexibility have huge effects on looking better naked, but it can drastically improve one’s overall heath and quality of life. In fact, our ability to be metabolically flexible has strong links with mitochondrial function, insulin sensitivity and oxygen utilisation (Goodpaster, 2017). It’s not a new concept either, metabolic flexibility has played a crucial role in our survival, as we would have frequent periods of fasting and indulging, forcing the body to go through physiological change to create a more robust human – you could easily argue that we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have metabolic flexibility.

Kelley et al. (2002) sums it up well:
“Due to possible discontinuities in both the supply and demand for energy, humans need a clear capacity to use lipid and carbohydrate fuels and transition between them.(1)” 

So let’s look at someone who’s metabolically flexible. These guys are more likely to be lean, active and can go long periods without food. Part of this is being used to using fat as a fuel source and not having huge peaks and troughs in energy that’s dictated by how log ago their last top up of sugar was. There have been correlations with those who undergo intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet being more metabolically flexible, but then there is solid research on hunter – gatherer communities who live mostly on carbohydrates demonstrating a good level of metabolic flexibility as well. So this topic goes beyond macros and into about lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome.

On the other hand, let’s look at someone who is “metabolically inflexible.” This person is probably overweight, inactive and might kill someone if they don’t have access to a bagel. Why? Well, their energy peaks and slumps throughout the day as they move from each sweet treat to the next…. These folk are “sugar burners” Many of these folk are victims to the modern food system that’s littered with refined carbohydrates, and are supported by it as well (it’s like an abusive relationship). “A little Hungry? Great! Have this delicious cheap sweet thing then come back in two hours for another.”

As we know, this leads to huge blood sugar fluctuations, overconsumption of nutrient poor and calorie rich food, obesity and dietary related disease. These guys have a really tough time burning fat and getting lean, as they’re running on sugar. Once sugar depletes, there’s a serious craving for more sugar.

Okay Steve, I’m sold, how do I become more metabolically flexible?!

How to get more metabolically flexible.

  1. Exercise:

Shocker I know, but if we move our bodies, we become healthier. Which exercises make me more metabolically flexible you ask? Well, it seems that constant movement (not being a desk jockey) with high intense resistance training is a great combo. So go for that morning walk and follow it up with a weights session, and throw SOME higher intensity stuff in there….

 

2. Cut down on refined carbs:

Breads, bagels, pastas, sweets, they’re all going to halt your ability to become a “fat burner.” Why? Well the body is likely going to be using these as fuel first, kind of like paper on a fire, but we’re continuing to top up on paper (or bagels) then your body doesn’t have an opportunity to access fat stores for energy.

3. Sleep:

The most important one on the list, a bad night of sleep is the best way to become sugar dependent – Noticed how good all that junk food looks after a night of bad sleep? The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that ONE night of shortened sleep led to insulin levels that looked like that of a type 2 diabetic in healthy people. Good luck saying “no” to cake at the office in this situation.

 

4. Follow time restricted eating:

The whole intermittent fasting phenomenon follows similar principles of metabolic flexibility. Giving your guts some time between meals and eating in a window (8 hours seems to be opimum) has shown to improve hunger swings, fat burning capacity and metabolic flexibility (Obesity Society). An easy way to do this is having your first meal at 10am and your last meal at 6pm.

5. Chill out

Most of the points above are redundant if we don’t consider the impact of stress on the system. The father of this topic, Dr. Robert Sapolsky has studied the impact of stress and it’s impact on homeostasis at length. His findings show that chronic, prolonged stress alters insulin levels, blood sugar levels, frontal lobe function (responsible for decision making), and has a direct impact on our ability to burn fat.

 

Concluding, the phenomenon of metabolic flexibility is a key health marker and has a significant impact on our ability to not only look better naked, but to build a more resilient body that’s resistant to dietary related diseases. As always, it takes a holistic approach to achieve this level of health, taking into account fitness, nutrition and lifestyle factors.

Want to get more metabolically flexible? Book your free consult today. 

Steve is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. While based in London, he works with clients around the world to restore health using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle protocols.

*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.

 

References:

Donga et al. (2010) A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in healthy subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 95, Issue 6, 1 June 2010, Pages 2963–2968

Freese et al. (2017) The sedentary revolution: Have we lost our metabolic flexibility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710317/

Goodpaster, B., & Sparks, L (2017) Metabolic Flexibility in Health and Disease. Cell Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.015

Kelley, D.E., He, J.,  Menshikova, E.V., Ritov, V.B. (2002) Dysfunction of mitochondria in human skeletal muscle in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 51(10).

Moro. (2016) Effects of eight weeks of time – restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine 

Understanding the Mid-line

Understanding the Mid-line

The much misunderstood “core”. It might be the most misunderstood structure in the body. There is no way that I can make a real dent on the whole subject in one short post but hopefully I can elucidate you in some small way.

When the average person thinks of “core” (which is actually a great term which has unfortunately been bastardised to the extent that it actively annoys me) it’s usually just abs on their mind. Which is fine, abs are cool, they look great and the 100% have a role to play in performance and aesthetics.

BUT,

Abs and core are not synonymous.

You know that the core is way more than that. When I think of what core training involves I block it as everything above mid thigh and everything below the shoulders (abdominals in the front, paraspinals and gluteals in the back, the diaphragm as the roof, and the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom, inside all of this there is 29 separate pairs of muscles that help stabilise the spine and pelvis (2)). Another way to look at is everything that isn’t peripheral. Whilst I like to define it as above (mid-thigh to shoulders) for ease there is a very strong argument, which I wholeheartedly support, to include the muscles of the jaw and neck into the core, the reason why I’ll cover below (way below, I can already tell I’m going to get carried away.)

Before I go any further into it though what the core is we need to define it’s role as best possible within the confines of this article.

THE ROLE OF “THE CORE”

Whilst there is no common consensus on the exact anatomy, physiology, and methods of how to evaluate a clients “core” functionality, the role on the core is undeniable in terms of proper load balance in the kinetic chain, maximising a persons functional range of motion (proximal stability = distal mobility (7)), providing a base of support for maximises force production as well as protecting the joints by decreasing/minimising joint load, shear, compressive, and translational forces throughout the body (1,2).  From a performance point of view it’s easy to see that there is a huge benefit from training “core stability” but one of the most common pathologies we come across as coaches is a client with lower back pain.

Punjabi has described clinical instability (i.e. instability when there isn’t a structural defect cause which may necessitate surgical intervention) as “the loss of the spine’s ability to maintain its patterns of displacement under physiologic loads so there is no initial or additional neurologic deficit, no major deformity, and no incapacitating pain”(3). Clinical lumbar instability in this sense has been cited as a significant cause on lower back pain (4, 5). A meta-analysis of 39 (this is good) randomised trails that investigated treatment of chronic low back pain of non-specific origin with an exercise intervention found a “beneficial effect for strength/resistance and coordination and stabilisation exercise programs over other interventions (6). It’s worth noting in the same meta-analysis that they found little to no benefit from combining the strength/resistance work with “cardio”. From a purely anecdotal point of view with evidence I’d suggest that this is down to people losing pelvo-lumbar control when one hip is in flexion and the other extension (assuming that the cardio prescribed is running, x-trainer, cycling, swimming) and the stability in around the hips and lower back, so as you’re teaching a more stable, controlled lumbar and hip complex with the strength work you’re teaching a less stable/more unstable hip complex at the same time which results in a conflict of adaptation (the adaptation being what any intervention is actually about) and no real change hence no alleviation of lower back pain symptoms. Again, complete conjecture on my part and would need further study.

Riiiiight, I’m aware that this is getting on a little bit. So a really quick round up of this so far:

  • Core means everything which isn’t arms and legs (and even then it’s a little bit of legs).
  • Building a strong core is hugely important for increasing your CrossFit performances.
  • There is a statistically significant benefit on lower back pain from consistently performing core stability exercises.

More than Sit-Ups and the Breathing-Bracing Continuum,

Looking back to developmental movements when, as babies, you first started moving, the first thing that happened was you start wriggling around like a madwomen and learning to, at a very basic level, activate and control all the muscles above. To quote directly from the work of Kobesova and Kolar,

“This allows for basic trunk stabilization, a prerequisite for any phasic movement and for the locomotor function of the extremities.“(9)

So we know that not only is core stability a prerequisite for movement (from crawling, to walking, to gymnastics and lifting) but on top of that recent research into the “mind-muscle connection” shows that by  understanding what muscles we’re trying to activate, including there position and function, can improve the contraction and activation (10,11).

To start to delve into how we might address “core training” we need to move to a slightly more global view of what the core musculature actually does. As noted above above the core consists of:

  • abdominals and accompanying fascial complex in the front,
  • paraspinals (think lats, spinal erectors (lumbar and thoracic ), traps as a whole and rhomboids) and gluteals in the back (personally I’d like to include hamstrings in here as well),
  • the diaphragm as the roof,
  • the pelvic floor and hip girdle musculature as the bottom including
  • internal stabilisers of the spine and pelvis (External and internal obliques and Transverse Abdominus (TvA), Mulitfidus, Quadratus Lumbrum (QL), Psoas, Illiacus (preferably not to be thought of combined with Psoas (8)), and various ligamental structures that I’m not going into right now).

I’m our case we’ll move away from specific muscle action as soon as possible but before that we need to have an idea about what muscles are working and where they are so we can address bracing and core stiffness with some specificity as well as improved performance

*NOTE: It’s our responsibility as coaches to educate our athletes as much as will help them. I’m not saying they need to read something like this but whatever you can do to help them understand why they’re doing something is a big deal and will help create buy in and trust.*

When anybody talks about core stability a huge part of this can be perceived as “bracing”, defined as:

“anything which imparts rigidity or steadiness”

or

“to furnish, fasten, or strengthen with or as if with a brace.”

“to fix firmly; make steady; secure against pressure or impact”

“to make tight; increase the tension of.”(12)

Whilst it isn’t an exact comparison to what we’re talking about it nicely gets across the message that when we talk about bracing and core stability we are really talking about increasing rigidity,pressure, and tension throughout the body.

And here is finally where we can talk about application!!

When you ask most people who lift about bracing you get a lot of big breathes into the stomach, which is okay. It’s like having half the answer and is way better than hollowing which is, frankly, detrimental to sports performance (13). Application for you is tuning up or down the stiffness you’re creating as it’s applicable to you goal. If you’re doing a 2000m swim then maybe you don’t need to create the same tension as you would for a maximal loaded carry.

I know this isn’t super actionable, at least not straight away, but with some practice and consistent employment of the principles you can learn where and when certain levels of bracing is appropriate. More importantly you should now understand what you’re trying to achieve and why.

References:

  1. Kibler, W., Press, J. and Sciascia, A. (2006). The Role of Core Stability in Athletic Function. Sports Medicine, 36(3), pp.189-198.

  2. Akuthota, V., Ferreiro, A., Moore, T. and Fredericson, M. (2008). Core Stability Exercise Principles. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 7(1), pp.39-44.
  3. Panjabi, M. (2003). Clinical spinal instability and low back pain. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, 13(4), pp.371-379.
  4. Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen LR, Whitman JM, Sowa G, Shekelle P, et al. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2012;42(4):A1–57. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.0301.
  5. Long DM, BenDebba M, Torgerson WS, Boyd RJ, Dawson EG, Hardy RW, et al. Persistent back pain and sciatica in the United States: patient characteristics. J Spinal Disord. 1996;9(1):40–58.
  6. Searle, A., Spink, M., Ho, A. and Chuter, V. (2015). Exercise interventions for the treatment of chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Clinical Rehabilitation, 29(12), pp.1155-1167.
  7. Mattacola, C., Kiesel, K., Burton, L. and Cook, G. (2004). Mobility Screening for the Core. Athletic Therapy Today, 9(5), pp.38-41.
  8. McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.78.
  9. Kobesova, A. and Kolar, P. (2014). Developmental kinesiology: Three levels of motor control in the assessment and treatment of the motor system. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 18(1), pp.23-33.
  10. Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. and Andersen, L. (2015). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(3), pp.527-533.
  11. Critchley, D. (2002). Instructing pelvic floor contraction facilitates transversus abdominis thickness increase during low-abdominal hollowing. Physiotherapy Research International, 7(2), pp.65-75.
  12. Collins, W. (2011). Collins dictionary. London: HarperCollins.
  13. McGill, S. (2009). Ultimate back fitness and performance. p.75-76.

CrossFit Hacks

10 Life-Hacks for the CrossFit Addict


If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re already neck-deep in the CrossFit Kool-Aid, so I won’t waste your time explaining the whole ‘CrossFit’ thing to you. But that means you’re all too aware that life can be a struggle for the CrossFitter about town. Tearing your hands. Having to explain what CrossFit is every time you mention it (which is frequently). Getting out of bed after Annie. Walking up stairs after Cindy. Having to turn down an invitation to thirsty Thursday  because it’s Fran tomorrow and you need to beat your PR.

Life is tough.

Here are 10 life-hacks to make your day, inside and outside of the gym, a little bit easier. These aren’t wishy-washy ‘eat clean’, ‘trust the process’, ‘take a rest day’, ‘work on your weaknesses’ type hacks. We all know them, and we know we ignore them. These are real-life, genuinely applicable hacks to make your CrossFit lives easier.


#1 Accessory Successory

More accessories means better CrossFit. You perform better with knee sleeves, wrist wraps and headbands on. You just do. You’re sure of it because of that one winter when your knee hurt a bit and now you need knee sleeves for every WOD. Unfortunately, CrossFit makes you sweat. Sweat breeds bacteria. Bacteria smells like ass. Ergo, your accessories smell like ass.

The solution: don’t put on a special cold-wash cycle for these little things. Take off your knee sleeves, wrist-wraps and other fabric accoutrements in the shower, pour some shower gel on them and give ’em a stomp. They’ll be dry and smelling sweet by the next day ready to wear again.


#2 On your knees

Speaking of knee sleeves, they have another purpose other than smelling like death and protecting from imaginary injuries.

Got a lunging WOD coming up? While the rest of the class bumbles around getting a mat – which they will then repeatedly trip on throughout the workout – slip on a pair of thick, cheap sleeves and your knees will be nice and protected wherever you may lunge.

Rocktape currently has a sale on their KneeCaps (true as at 26th Aug 2018) and are selling them for £12.99 per pair (not per sleeve as is often the case).


#3 Fail to prepare (your nutrition), prepare to fail!

(Get ready! Shameless self-promotion coming up)

Most of us do CrossFit because we want to look good naked. Unfortunately the hard part isn’t the WOD, it’s the other 23 hours of the day. If you’re not fuelling properly, you’re not going to get the results you want.

If only there was some sort of shop, cafe or ‘refuelling bar’ right in the gym. Oh wait, there is!

You can get NOCCO, coffee and various protein-infused treats at SE11 and CFL, or in the Shake It bar at CFL you can pre-order your shakes before the workout and pick them up on your way out (after you’ve taken your knee-sleeves for a shower).

Even if you don’t buy something from the gym, eat something. Anything.


#4 Don’t hang your WOD from the end of your rope

Have you ever been mid-way through a WOD only for the fastener to come off your skipping rope and ruin what was bound to be a white-board-topping time? If not, odds are you’ve seen it happen to someone else and watched them scrabble around on the floor trying to find their little rope screw fastener thingy.

Are you planning on growing any taller? No? Then you don’t need your rope to be adjustable anymore. Superglue down the plastic nubbins at end of your rope and you’ll never have to worry about it coming apart again.


#5 Peeing clearly

We workout, we sweat, we lose fluids, we drink more. But even before you did CrossFit, odds are you weren’t drinking enough water. Now that you are, the likelihood is that your water deficit is even greater.

While you’re at work, have a 2 litre bottle of water sitting on your desk as a constant reminder to drink. That two litre bottle needs to be empty by the end of the day. When it is, fill it back up, pop it in the fridge, and it’ll be ready for tomorrow.

Or better yet, buy our exclusive CFLDN water bottle and be the envy of your friends and super-hydrated at the same time.


#6 Hipster Hair Hack

A few years ago this hack would have been aimed almost exclusively at the ladies, but with the rise of the man-bun, this is no longer the case.

If you have long hair, you’ve likely had your ponytail come loose during a WOD, or got it caught under a bar bringing it down onto your back, or even been stupid enough to trap yourself under a foam roller. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Leave a few spare hairbands around your water bottle, so that you’re never caught short during your next hair-related emergency.

Man-bun don’t look so silly no more, do it?


#7 You call that a knife? This is a knife!

Thick, hard calluses tear.

Thin, soft ones don’t.

Torn hands = no CrossFit.

You do the maths.

‘Corn and callus knife’ available at Boots to shave down those thick bits o’ nasty skin.

Make sure to replace the blade frequently and don’t be too aggressive with it! It’s still a knife.


#8 Double deadlift hack

I heard once that more injuries in the gym come from loading and unloading bars with careless form, than they do from the actual lift. That may or may not be true, but the next time you load a bar consider what your spine looks like vs how it looks when you perform the deadlift.

Love them or hate them, at some point you’re going to have to pick up a heavy thing at the gym. Whenever deadlifts roll around, first thing you should do is pick a spot by the plate stack. Save yourself time shlepping plates back and forth by loading up right next to the stacks.

Next hack: loading and unloading. You only have two hands to lift the bar off the floor and slide new plates on at the same time, which gets tricky as things get heavier. Don’t bother buying a deadlift jack; save yourself some time and money and grab a 0.5kg plate. Roll your loaded bar onto that plate and it will raise the bar a few millimetres off the floor, and enough that a plate will slide on or off with ease.


#9 Get a grip

Are you using a hook grip yet? No? You’re an idiot.

You know those CrossFit fail videos where someone wrenches a bar off the floor, only for their hands to slip and then they fall on their ass? Odds are they weren’t using a hook grip. There’s not an elite-level CrossFitter or Olympic Lifter in the world who doesn’t use this grip. You should be using it too.

If you’re not using it yet, here’s how to start:

Every time you pick up an empty bar and the class starts doing drills, do it with a hook-grip (see picture). Then go back to your normal grip when you add weight. It will hurt, but it won’t hurt forever. Do this for a few weeks and eventually the hook-grip will feel like second nature and your regular grip will feel weird.

But it won’t happen until you do it. Start light. Stick with it.


#10 He ain’t heavy, I do CrossFit

I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve been doing partner-carries all wrong. Forget piggy-backing. Piggy-backs are for babies and pigs (presumably).

Check out this video which explains the Fireman’s carry.

(Recognise the gym? That’s what Malcolm Place looked like in 2011!)


 

How to Juggle Your Hand Modelling Career With CrossFit

Admit it, you’ve Instagrammed a picture of one of your bloody hands after doing a WOD and felt pretty chuffed about it. Apart from making you look hard in front of your friends, ripped hands are not only painful and sore but can bring your training to a halt. They are a terrible plight on any aspiring hand model and also the anti-gainz for all us regular folk. In this blog, I’ll answer questions about hand management ranging from prevention, treatment, and which grips are best.

Rip Prevention

Calluses are your best friend and greatest foe. Rip prevention is about maintaining an even coverage of calluses around the palms of your hands. If you’re new to CrossFit and your hands are only used to typing on a computer, you will need to gradually build up some calluses by handling bars, dumbbells, and swinging about on the rig. Once you start to build up some coverage, you will need to monitor how much you build up. If your hands start to get bumpy with varying thickness of calluses, this is when you will need to start shaving your hands. You rip when one of these raised, rough calluses begin to pull away from the surrounding skin. To prevent this, you will need to buy yourself a callus shaver and a pumice stone or nail file to even out some of the hard to get areas.

I recommend the following:

Shave your hands after a hot shower when they are at their most supple. Be careful not to go to town so make sure you leave some coverage on there. If there are some bumpy areas that you can’t get with the callus remover, smooth them out with a pumice stone or nail file. Doing this the night before a rig based WOD can make ALL the difference. You should try to shave your hands once a week to prevent ripping.

It doesn’t go well with the hard image some of us like to give off but moisturising everyday is key! It has become my ritual to apply cream to my hands every night before bed. Chalk, cold weather and the wear and tear of gym life really gives our hands a battering. It doesn’t matter which brand you use, just make sure you keep those hands moisturised!

Treatment

London life is hectic and you won’t always remember to keep your hands supple and smooth. Eventually, at some point, you will rip. What you do next is key to maximise recovery. Firstly, wash your hands of dirt, chalk, and blood. It’s important to keep the wound clean no matter how much it stings. It will also be important to cut away any overhanging flaps of skin and calluses. DO NOT PULL THEM AWAY!

Once that’s done, you will need to dress your wound and cover it up with a bandage. It’s incredibly important to keep the wound moist and covered as this has been proven to accelerate healing. You can do this with any of the following products:

Keep changing the plaster or bandage with your product of choice at least twice daily. This serves two functions: to ward off infection and promote collagen synthesis. Moist wound healing promotes production of collagen by the fibroblasts. Since collagen is the basis of the new tissue that will heal the wound, this increased production helps the body lay down the matrix for new tissue more quickly so that the cells necessary for healing are attracted.

Hand Grips

Buying yourself a pair of hand grips will also go a long way to preventing rips and keeping your hands from getting too sore. There are several types of guards you can wear ranging from tape, neoprene grips, fabric grips, leather gymnastic grips, and even gloves. My two favourite are the fabric grips and leather gymnastic grips.

Tugasox False Grip

Fabric grips are fantastic because they provide minimal interference but good coverage and protection. The fabric moulds and stretches to your hands so it doesn’t feel like you’re wearing anything at all. I have found that some fabric grips, such as Jaw Grips, tear and rip quite easily. We have been using False Grips at CFLDN for a few years and they are fantastic. So much so that we sell them in the shop!

Hand management should be just as integral to your daily routine as stretching, nutrition, or sleeping. You want to be able to train at your best and perform the programmed movements without painful hands. When you do rip, be prepared and minimise the amount of time your hands are out of action. If you don’t have a pair of grips yet, make your way to the shop and we’ll measure out a pair for you.

If you have any questions, email me.

Coach Nick

Aerobic Capacity is the Key to Intelligent Training

How often do you do your WODS at 120%? How often do your train to your strengths whether its endurance or a short WOD? If you are, then you could be limiting yourself and not reaching your potential as an athlete.

What’s the solution? – Think about training your aerobic capacity.

How does it work? Basically, your body has one energy currency – a chemical called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Energy is released from molecules of ATP when they break apart and form another chemical called adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The snag is that you only have a limited store of ATP in your muscles, so to keep training, your body has to convert ADP back into ATP to keep releasing energy.

Still with me? The body uses three systems to release energy depending on your physical state: Creatine Phosphate (anearobic), Lactate (anearobic) and Aerobic (or oxygen). When you are physically active, the body can use all of these systems together but when you continue with activity, the right one for your physical effort and condition takes over.

So let’s break them down:

  • CP (anearobic) – This process creates energy for maximum exertion (1 RM – snatch or 100 metres sprint) but causes maximum exhaustion after 10 seconds. The system is restored after approx. 5 mins rest.
  • Lactate (anearobic) – This is your body’s energy safety net. It takes over when your CP is near exhaustion and also supports your aerobic work when there isn’t enough oxygen in your cells. But as we all know, depend too much on this and you get a lactic build up in your muscles which causes painful cramps.
  • Aerobic – Your cells actually produce more ATP when they have enough oxygen using carbohydrates, fat and protein in the cells. This process lasts as long as oxygen can be supplied, so using this energy system depends on the strength and efficiency of your heart and circulation.

So your body does this automatically right – like breathing? All you have to do is work your muscles and all three get better? Wrong! Although your body chooses which system to use depending on your state and activity, you can improve the resistance of each system if you train them specifically.

The aerobic capacity is the big daddy – the Don Corleone of the three. If you work on this, then generally you can improve your performance in the other two systems. But if you push too hard, then your cells will exhaust their oxygen supply and you move into the lactate anaerobic system.

Think about it – your aerobic capacity is your ability to sustain a certain level of effort over a period of time without you needing a significant rest. If you have just finished a WOD and you are lying on the floor too exhausted to even think about how you are going to get home, you went beyond your aerobic capacity. To train effectively, you need to train within the aerobic zone. You should only go full out when you are testing or competing.

If you train your aerobic capacity, you will improve your overall resistance, performance and work capacity but you have to stay in the aerobic zone.

Are you ready to train intelligently?

Love from the latino coach.