Category

Mobility

Remembrance weekend 7th/8th November 2020

It is a Crossfit London tradition to stage a special workout on Remembrance day ( this year 8th November)

This year we will be doing something slightly different. Whilst the arrangements are not set in stone, the challenge for that weekend will be to workout every hour, on the hour for 24 hours.

This is inspired by the run 1 mile every hour on the hour for 24 hours challenge.

Whilst there will be lots of detailed arrangements, we thought you’d like an advanced warning of this challenge so you can have some thinking time of how you will do it.

At its most basic level, you can simply, from home, run (walk) one mile (1k, 400m?) every hour, on the hour starting at either 9, 10 or 11 am on Saturday 7th November. This means you will have either 1 or 2 hours after the challenge ends to get breakfast, shower, and get to a memorial near you for the 11 am silence.

If running isn’t for you You may fancy 100 burpees every hour on the hour., or 20 squats, of 10 minutes of cindy, Whatever. Obviously, please don’t disturb your neighbours and make sure its Covid safe!!

In our original plan, we had hoped to open the gym, but with the 2nd lockdown, you’ll do this as a personal thing!

You may fancy 100 burpees every hour on the hour.  Obviously, where ever you do this, don’t disturb your neighbours and make sure its Covid safe!!

 

For now, that’s a date for your diary!

 

How often should you train to get the best results?

The amount of Crossfit training to produce fantastic results was recently studied by Cavedon et al., in the  recent report:

“Different amount of training affects body composition and performance in High-Intensity Functional Training participants”. Click here for the full report

 It concluded ” that, in CF participants, a higher amount of weekly training improves most notably lean body mass and increases performance in association with increased skeletal muscle mass. CF participation is especially effective in reducing fat mass vs. age- and BMI-matched physically active controls”

The real thought provoker was the amount of time you probably need to invest in becoming super Crossfit  gorgeous. Our coaches will tell you that people who come 2-3 times a week, do really well.  Crossfit, at Crossfit London tramples over anything you can do in a park pretending to be a soldier, and certainly puts jogging to shame.  To get fit, you need a skill set, you need to use weights, you need disgusting cardiovascular stimulus and you need our insane programming.

This report looked at less than 10 hours a week as “low training”and more than 10 “High training”. In other words if you want to be a GREAT Crossfitter, you need to spend about 18 hours a week:

EIGHTEEN HOURS A WEEK.

The participants were chosen from people doing 6-18 hours a week. The maths works like this.  If you followed the Crossfit pattern of 3 on 1 off ,  that means 5-6 wod classes a week PLUS supporting classes, such as olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, powerlifting and mobility.

Probably 3 hours a day!

I hate to break it to you, but the super performers are above you because they put the work in. The good thing is, if you come just once or twice a week, the results can be magical. It’s just that at 18 hours a week, it’s more magical.

Make sure you talk to the training team about building in those extra classes if you want more magic, but be delighted with your skill set and fitness if you only come once or twice a week.

Never before has the need to be fit been more obvious! Get fit, get healthy.

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Should you tape up your mouth?

Getting super fit requires lots of mini changes, nudges and tweaks. One of the do anywhere changes you can make  is  playing with your breathing. Y0u cannot always do 10 burpees in a tube train, but you can certainly review and train your breathing pattern from behind your mask.

I’ve written a lot about breathing here and I’d suggest everyone learns a few of the basic breathing techniques Ive detailed. Most of them have been around for years. For those of you too lazy to follow links, a classic breath technique is “the square”.  Breath in for a count of 5, hold for 5, out for 5, hold for 5, repeat. well done, you are now a breathing expert.

One of the interesting things about breathing is the use of your nose, rather than your mouth. Many breath commentators would prefer it that you breath through your nose at it cleans the air, and injects Nitric oxide into the breath taken in, (and this enlarges the “air tube”). Breathing through your nose drives air into your lungs  and maintains pressure in your lungs too. Your nose acts also warms and humidifies the air you are breathing in as well as trapping airborne particles and bacteria!

But I know the question you all want to ask.

Can you do a Crossfit wod with your mouth closed. Actually, let’s make it more  fun and aggressive. Can you do a Crossfit wod with your gob taped shut.

This was the challenge given to 10 Crossfitters back in 2015. They were given some tasks including the wod  “Helen” which is run 400m 21 kettlebell swings, 12 pull ups x 3.  Anyone who knows anything about workouts knows, FOR CERTAIN, that you need at some stage to pant and most of the time breath through your mouth! If you keep your mouth closed and breathed through your nose,  you’d probably die.

The results, almost no difference ( and bear in mind these were people who just had tape whacked over their mouths, many for the first time).  So it’s a bit of a disappointment, no one died, no one had to walk slowly.

The take home proposition is, if breathing through your nose doesn’t reduce performance (that much),  but has a health advantage, maybe you should play with it.

Activity Normal breathing Taped mouth Difference
Push-ups 35,3 38,3 +8%
Box jump 23,7 22,8 -4%
The Plank 2 min 50 sec 2 min 50 sec +-0
Dips 28,5 32,4 +12%
Skipping Rope 140,1 132,5 -6%
“Helen” 11,27 11,40 -13 sec (-2%)

I should say, its probably a better idea to practice the breathing drills that are linked above, first, and I’d play with breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth,  especially if you go for a run outside, otherwise people will think you are really weird!

If you want to chat about breathing,  most of the coaches have an insight!

Muted Hip Function

Effective exercise can generate powerful  huge forces  if they are initiated controlled and dominated by the hip. Many untrained athletes  have a muted hip which  creates postures and mechanics that reduce power output, promotes postures and mechanics that are considered by  many  to be unsound. In simple terms the Muted Hip Function (MHF) results from the legs  compensating for the failed of the hip, in effect using leg extension  to compensate for non existent hip extension. According to the Crossfit Journal the causes and consequences of MHF include but are not limited to: • structurally disadvantaged spinal posture • low glute recruitment • low hamstring recruitment • pelvis abandoning the spine and chasing the legs • centre of gravity shifting dramatically backward • centre of balance shifting toward toes • knee experiencing unsound shear force • leg extension being the only productive effort • hip extension not being possible with low hip angle • pelvis rotating the wrong way The cure is deliberate and focused training.  Thats what Crossfit London is for!

Intensity Versus Volume

It’s something that’s not always recognised, but, Crossfit thrives on intensity, not volume. The secret is “ keep workouts  short and intense” and  “be impressed with intensity, not volume”.

There are those who passionately believe that the core method, and indeed most classes should be just 60 minutes that include a warm up and cool down and one workout.

Crossfit staff seminar trainer James Hobart  discussed his views in the Crossfit Journal,  on the volume v intensity  debate. It’s  an issue often raised on the Crossfit level 1 and 2 trainer course. Clearly volume has a siren call. To be an elite crossfitter you need to be able to do multiple workouts, therefore, so the argument goes, the more the better.

Before you accept this at face value, there are some factors you need to consider:

If an elite athlete adds more volume to their regime, it’s built on rock solid mechanics and ability.  So the argument goes, if you are scaling your workouts, extra workouts are not the answer.  Specific strength  and skill building  solves that. “Increased rehearsal of poor movement patterns and shoddy mechanics is a losers gambit”. The winners get to those extra  skill/strength classes,  : the ones that  fix your issues. Volume is not the cure. Effective coaching and teaching is!

Volume isn’t necessary if the goal is simply getting fitter. On a long term, athletes will  continue to build work capacity across broad times and modal domains with a single  daily dose of “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity”

Never the less, many effective athletes do add volume. Here are their secrets: No matter what extra work or volume you add, you still go “balls to the wall “ in your core Crossfit workout. You  must  still end up on the floor having a physical and mental break down at the end of that  5-20 minute workout. HOWEVER  If you you are doing your workout of the day, and you are reigning back (only say working at 60% intensity)  because you know you have 3 more workouts, a bicep session, some Zumba and a 5k run planned, that’s where it goes wrong.

You don’t need harder workouts, you need to go harder in your workouts,” Games veteran Tommy Hackenbruck quipped on Instagram.

If you really want to boost your performance, here are some  clues. Work your mobility until you move like a supple leopard.  Fix your injuries. Learn how to  eat well.  Get enough sleep, and work with our strength and gymnastic  expert coaches  to get the  skills and strength you need.

Above all, hit the workout hard!

This said, every body at Crossfit London recognises that our met-con classes  fill a need. London life can be super stressful, so for some its great to loose your self among friends in an hours sweat festival. It just happens, thank god,  that our hour sweat festivals are really, really good!

 

The free shoulder flexibility course

Are you worried about your shoulder flexibility? Well, you are in good company! Many people are in the same boat. Too much hunching over computers and way, way too much texting means your chest is tight, your back is weak and your shoulder “don’t look pretty”.

At Crossfit London, we have years of teaching the Olympic Lifts and Adult Gymnastics to normal members of  the public, so we have developed  (and , to be frank, stolen) all the tricks to help you get a better shoulder position.

Whilst we cannot reproduce, in a single blog post, all of our sneaky shoulder flexibility developing drills and skills ( you have to jump into our classes or get a fabulous personal training session) here are some great drills to begin with.

Its our gift to you

Enjoy

Shoulder warm up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jP02Bf7WBU&t=54s

Dislocations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si9uzGEiCic&t=18s

Shoulder stretch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yLWpWSgAaE

Strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REjV2alcRcY

If you find your progress isn’t as great as you had hoped for, or you want help before you start, and on going support,  do book in for a PT, get  a session with one of our therapists or check out our mobility and flexibility classes

Crossfit London is based in Bethnal Green London E2. It was the first ever Crossfit facility in the UK, and remains the biggest Crossfit Gym in London, Its facilities are both gorgeous and stunning

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

The Importance of Mobility in Fitness

The fitness industry is flooded with promises of fast results. The gimmicks, the shakeweights, the instachicks, the slendertones and kale dupe us into thinking that we’re going to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club after doing a few sit-ups. We want the least determining factor of fitness, the six-pack, without getting the foundations, namely our basic body mechanics or mobility right, first. Unfortunately, these foundations for many of us take years to achieve rather than days.

After working in the City for almost 8 years, I have been in a constant battle with the ills of sitting in an office for 10 hours a day. High stress, kyphosis, vending machines, hip stiffness, poor sleep, and holiday chocolates are a few of the words that come to mind when I think about my time at the bank. Add a sporting life that hardly ever included stretching and a horrible list of injuries and surgeries, you get the immovable block that is my body.

So why is mobility important? Everything we do in the gym is driven by the definition of fitness: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. The foundation of increasing our work capacity starts with the efficiency of our movement. Better movement mechanics equals less energy expended per repetition, which in turn translates to our capacity to complete more reps. The three benefits of efficient movement or mobility are better performance, injury prevention and virtuosity (also known as looking like a badass). As CrossFitters, these are all things we should be striving for.

Many of us become mesmerized with metabolic conditioning when we first start CrossFit, usually to the detriment of our mobility and movement efficiency. Instead of working on the air squat, we kill ourselves doing burpees. Instead of hanging from a bar and trying to reverse our kyphosis, we spend our time doing double unders. Not that these aren’t important, but if we spend our time working on our muscle-up when our squat does not break below parallel and our chest is parallel to the floor, I’m sorry to say that our priorities are all wrong. Fast forward several years, and our inefficiency in the air squat has translated to an inefficient snatch, clean, wall-ball, front squat, back squat, thruster, and pistol. That’s a lot of movements to do poorly.

The beauty of the air squat lies equally in its simplicity and complexity. The humble squat is one of the human race’s basic movements, and it’s how we both sat and pooped before chairs and toilets. Nevertheless, the triple flexion of the hips, knees and ankles proves exceptionally hard for the modern homo sapien. It’s also the foundational movement in CrossFit. So put down the barbell and drop that skipping rope and get into your air squat. If you can’t sit comfortably in your paleo chair for more than a short period, find yourself a wall to lean up against until it feels natural. Whatever movement deficiencies you have, spend time rectifying them. Remember, fitness is a journey that you will be on for your whole life and mobility is your passport. Don’t sabotage your journey before it even begins by forgetting your passport at home.

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.