Maybe we overdid it a little

My client LH wanted some ideas for CrossFitting in the non-CF-specializing gym she belongs to. She took me in there today as her guest. Working out in a deluxe place like that is always a treat even though I wouldn’t trade CrossFit Seattle for all the nice views and saunas in town. First we did some deadlifting, and we both worked up to a heavy set of five (for me, 196 lbs). Then we did a CrossFit workout: 21-15-9 dumbbell push-up rows and dumbbell thrusters. I used 15 and 30 pounds. Eleven minutes. Then I had to ride my bike home. I was S-l-o-w coming uphill at the end. I’ve been pretty knocked out ever since.

At the front desk when I was registering as a guest, we talked with a trainer who is going to an event that will have CF trainers and kettlebell trainers, among other things, teaching what they do. I hope he likes it. He was skeptical about CrossFit for average people and said you have to be a high-performance athlete to do it.

That’s not correct, but one would get that impression from watching the videos on, which show elite CrossFitters instead of a real cross-section. Lots of average people do CrossFit, and work harder than they would anywhere else, but within their own safety and ability threshhold. Look at the videos to get an idea what correct form looks like at speed, to get inspired by how intense some people can get, to get ideas on how to build a creative workout, or to see what CrossFit is if taken to its limits, but don’t look at the videos to decide whether or not you can actually do CrossFit yourself. It looks different on everybody.

Almost killed me

I stuck around after working with two clients last night and worked out in Sean’s class. He’s really creative with modified Tabata workouts–short intense bouts of exercise alternating with short rests. These are the exercises and the number of reps I did in each 30 second interval.

Slam ball, 20 pounds, 4 30-second rounds with 30 seconds rest in between:
14, 14, 14, 16
Rest 30 sec and run 400 meters, time: 1:46

Air squats, 4 30-second rounds with 30 seconds rest in between:
19, 21, 21, 23
Rest 30 sec and run 400m: 1:40

Kettlebell swings, 24 kg, 30 sec on 30 off:
18, 18, 18, 18
Rest 30 sec and run 400m: 2:15! My rear was killed by that heavy kettlebell.

Knees to elbows on the pull-up bar, 30 sec on 30 off:
10, 8, 8, 8
Rest then run 400m: 1:42
At the end of that run I thought I was going to throw up!

Testing max lifts

Having completed one cycle of Scott’s program for O-lifting, I needed to test max lifts in order to start the next cycle. (I haven’t tested them all yet.)

Overhead squat: 50 kg (I may be able to do more but I stopped at 50) (previous max was 37)

Back squat: 100 kg (previous max was 85)

Snatch: only 27 kg because I don’t want to count it if I can ONLY power-snatch it (catch it high). Going to a weekend O-lift workshop in June for two days and hope to improve this.

Deadlift (tested for fun, not for O-lifting): 115 kg (previous max was 110)

Clean and jerk: 53 kg if I recall correctly (duh, it was only last Saturday)

Front squat: ? – still need to test

I have to plug these numbers into Scott’s new spreadsheet and then I can start on the next cycle.

To work on overhead squats, I want to do sets of 5. That means using 80 percent of my 1-rep max, or 31 kg. I have my work cut out for me. We have an 18-year-old female athlete who is my same weight and has overhead squatted bodyweight (60 kg). I want to catch up with her. if only for a 1RM. She’s working on overhead squatting bodyweight for 15 reps, a common goal of more accomplished CrossFitters. If I ever do that… well, I guess there’s no real reason to think I never will… but it won’t be as soon as the young lady I’m thinking of does it! She’s incredibly strong and has the fast recovery ability of youth.

I used this calculator for various-rep max weights if you plug in the max lift that you’ve done.


I read an old article in the CrossFit Journal called “The Dumbbell Bear.” It describes a complex (combining several exercises to make one rep or set) done with dumbbells, and that’s always a good tool in a group because we have a lot of them. In last week’s Team Survivor women’s fitness class I decided to use this:

4 2-dumbbell deadlift
4 2-dumbbell cleans
4 2-dumbbell thrusters
Do the above complex each minute on the minute for 20 minutes. (As prescribed, it would be five of each instead of four.)

Most people used dumbbells of 10 or 12 pounds. A few used a 6-pound medicine ball or no weight at all, doing the drills as if holding weights but not. (We had also worked early in the class on perfecting their medicine-ball cleans.)

When I was about to start the workout, people found it a little daunting, so I cut it down to 15 minutes instead of 20. The idea is that the complex takes less that 40 seconds so that you get at least 20 seconds of rest each minute before starting again.

As it turned out, the class could have gone for 20 minutes. At the start, the complex took them 25 seconds. By round 15 they had only slowed by four seconds. Most of the women in the class, although they are cancer survivors and middle aged, are very active and are not beginners to this slightly-scaled-down CrossFit class. So, I was pleased at their work capacity but not too surprised. What I need to do is not negotiate the work downward just because people think it SOUNDS hard!

So I thought I was pretty smart when I used this same complex Thursday night on my kettlebell class (a Kettlebell Bear), doing jerks instead of thrusters. Wow–was it hard! Class that night consisted of three guys (not sure where the other 11 people in the class were that night; was it something I said?). What I had not taken into account was that the kettlebells, even the 8 kg ones, were heavier than the dumbbells the women had used, and that these guys actually ARE beginners.

They liked the workout, gluttons for punishment that they are, even though they said it was the hardest one we’ve done. It’s true; kettlebell jerks are hard and especially after you’ve done deadlifts and cleans with them. I had them do only 10 minutes of this workout and it was taking them about 45 seconds per complex. Very different from Tuesday’s experience!

One person, who is a friend that I’d let come in as a drop-in to that class, said, “I’ve never sweated so much in a workout in my life.” This drives home the belief that mainstream gym workouts with machines are a waste of time. We spent 10 minutes. Why would anyone pay to belong to a place where they “exercise” for an hour and hardly sweat?

I had also started the kettlebell class that night by having them do “Fran” using only PVC, as their warm-up. That’s killer for beginners even though it’s nothing like the real “Fran”!

Fun with barbells

Yesterday’s women’s barbell intro class was fun. It was a great learning experience for me as a trainer and teacher working with a group at various levels of experience and natural athleticism. I was lucky to have two volunteer assistants from the gym, because it would have been a lot harder to manage without them. We taught and practiced (a little) the squat, press, and deadlift, and then ran a totally unofficial CrossFit Total (three attempts at each lift; total the heaviest of each in pounds for the score) so that people could get a taste of the lifts and of one way they can be used as benchmarks and in a competition.

We also made a video clip of each person’s lifts. Some looked better than others and I hope people will use the videos to compare good form with common mistakes. If I do the event again, I might skip the CFT in favor of more teaching, in order to make the common mistakes less common more quickly.

As I expected, it was rewarding to talk with other women about various kinds of weightlifting. They were not much better informed than I was four years or so ago, and they seemed happy to hear about the differences between weightlifting/Olympic lifting, power lifting, body building, and everyday weight training with machines and dumbbells, plus why CrossFitters value some lifts over others and how we use them in workouts. We didn’t have time to do a CrossFit workout, of course, but were able to just touch on it.

Afterward most of us hung out at Hale’s for a while. A good day.

I didn’t complete the CrossFit Total in the interests of time (neither did my helpers) but I did get a PR squat of 100 kg. Allison also hit a couple of PRs. We are still beginners enough to get frequent PRs–a reward to “not” being elite.

Recent max lifts

For reference. Now that I finished the snatch and clean and jerk program Scott gave me, I retested some max lifts in order to start over on a new program.

Snatch: 32 kg
Clean and jerk: 53 kg
Squat: 96 kg

This week I hope to also test the overhead squat and front squat, and try for a higher max on the squat–the 96-kg one was a few weeks ago.

“The Wonder Woman”

I covered the 9 AM CrossFit class today and reused Dave’s workout from 7 AM. With only three people showing up, I did the workout along with them. One person wondered if that was one of the named workouts because it was so hard. It wasn’t, so we decided to call it the Wonder Woman.

50 medicine ball cleans
50 push-ups
50 kettlebell swings (I used 24 kg)
50 jumping squats
50 V-ups
50 4-count lunges
50 jumping pull-ups
50 KB swings

Time: 19:24

Other people’s times from all three classes that used this workout ranged from just over 18 minutes to just over 32 minutes.

Three medium sets

Yesterday: Medium weight to work on technique.

Overhead squats
Warmed up; 3 sets of 5 at 30 kg – not too hard
(1-rep max a while back was 37 kg; need to retest)

Warmed up; 15 singles at 25 kg
Working on full hip extension (without hyperextension) and fast drop

Front squat
Warmed up; 3 sets of 5 at 60 kg

Warmed up; 3 sets of 5 at 32 kg
(1-rep max a couple of weeks ago is 42)

Snatch practice

I completed the 12 weightlifting workouts in the program Scott had given me. We did max testing before we started. Weirdly, my max snatch says it was 40 kg. Hard to believe I got that overhead in one move without dropping it, but I’m sure it was ugly. In the course of the 12 workouts I learned some of what I was doing inadequately. I was catching the bar high, doing power snatches exclusively, because I lacked the nerve and skill and stability to catch it low. Trying to remedy that, I’ve done several workouts where I started with an empty bar and did Sots presses, snatch drops, and snatches from knee height. Sots presses are hard but I started liking them because it was so clear that I could only get better!

Today I made movies of myself practicing Sots presses, drop snatches, and snatches. When I looked at them I was happy that I was getting under the weight and was able to catch it a lot lower than I used to. But I was unhappy to see that I wasn’t extending the hips all the way.

In this video, with 21 kg I do two Sots presses, a heaving snatch drop, a no-heave snatch drop (those are fun, I love the fast feet and the stomp), and two snatches from the knee. My hips stay a little piked (not fully extending) but I do get under the weight reasonably fast compared to how I used to look. Full extension costs a little time, so instead I drop
early in an attempt to be fast. I need both! Full, aggressive
extension/shrug, and a fast drop.

Having discovered the lack of hip extension, in this video also with 21 kg, I practice the hip extension and then do some snatches. Extension is much better. But am I slower? If I am, I can’t tell.

Finally I went up in weight to 25 kg and tried the same thing.

I caught it a little high because it’s heavier. I need more Sots, drop snatch, and snatch practice at weights between 21 and 25 kg to get this weight more solid in a fast, low catch after a full extension. Maybe later this year I’ll get to 40 kg with a lot better technique than when I started.

I did today’s drills with 15 kg, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 25 kg (except no Sots on the 25).