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Gymnastics, as Coach Glassman says, "has no peer among training modalities" for developing the four neurological components of the ten physical skills that comprise real fitness--coordination, accuracy agility, and balance. These skills and the basic body control and complex movement patterns that gymnastics requires and develops are a critical part of full CrossFit programming, but they can seem intimidating or mysterious to those of us without a gymnastics background or specialized equipment. But it doesn't have to be that way: the basic moves are accessible to everyone on even basic equipment, with a bit of instruction, and are well worth learning (and learning to teach to your athletes, if you are a trainer or coach).

This video article, the second in a series of CrossFit oriented basic gymnastics drills on the pull-up bar with Jeff Tucker and Jason Malutich from GSX Athletics, gives hands-on demonstration of some progressions and drills almost anyone can use to work toward front and back levers. Coach Tucker works with some regular CrossFitters (even some big guys--to make the point that the benefits of gymnastics work aren't limited to small body types), starting with beginning inversion on the bar and progressing closer and closer to a full lever. Our coaches give lots of expert information in this video on safety and spotting techniques in as well.

Another fascinating and unique gymnastics resource from is the physical training manual Gymnastics and Tumbling, a fabulous reference book originally published by the U.S. Navy in 1944, available in its entirety here.

Greg Hammond of Concept2 Rowing continues the rowing lesson and troubleshooting he started in video articles in January's and February's Journal issues. In this installment, he works with an audience member on the finer points of an already-strong stroke, focusing on keeping a slow but powerful and consistent stroke rate and cadence, maintaining good head position, moving the handle and seat in sync, avoiding "diving" into the catch, getting the elbows in the best position, and so on. He goes on to answer questions and explain additional points such as the technique for starting from a dead stop to get up to speed quickly and safely and how to determine the damper settings for various kinds of rowing pieces and body types.

Greg Hammond has worked for Concept2 Rowing for 11 years, most recently as a liaison to the CrossFit community and to fire and police departments and moto/action sports groups. He has a bachelor's degree in health science and formerly owned and operated a fitness business called Hammond Corporate Wellness. He was a crash rescue firefighter for the Air National Guard for 8 years and was a longtime rugby player until he took up the safer sport of motocross/enduro riding instead. He has used indoor rowing as part of training for his sports for the past 17 years.

In this video, Hammond mentions a video clip on the CrossFit website in which Angela Hart explains stroke rate in greater detail, using a bicycle wheel to demonstrate. You can find that at

The third in Tony's series of media tips addresses the question of shooting video on a tripod versus filming freehand. Handheld, of course, has the major disadvantage of potentially nausea-inducing camera shake and sway, but it also lets you move around to follow the action and lets you get multiple perspectives on your subject. Shooting from a tripod offers total stability and slightly less concentration and body fatigue for the videographer, and it's excellent for filming something that doesn't move across the ground and where you can--or must--keep the same angle on the action throughout. But it leaves the camera tethered to one spot. For those times when you do want a tripod, Budding also discusses various types of tripods and heads and talks about the points you should keep in mind when selecting one. How you choose to shoot, as with most everything in photography, is ultimately all about the purpose of your video, the subject of it, and the conditions in which you are working.

If you've ever wondered how the incomparable Martin family and staff manage to train so many kids so effectively and with relatively little chaos, this video is for you. It follows Coach Mikki Martin as she and her assistants put a whole CF Kids class through their paces, from the beginning introduction, through warm-up, skill demos, workout circuit, and a follow-up game time, keeping their short little attention spans engaged throughout. Whew!

Mikki Martin and Jeff Martin are the owners and coaches of CrossFit affiliate Brand X Martial Arts in Ramona, California. They also run the CrossFit Kids program and certifications and publish the monthly CrossFit Kids magazine, which is a must- have for anyone who works with kids in a training capacity.

In the second in his series of practical instructional tips on taking good photos and video in workout contexts, Budding gives some guidance on framing your subject to produce more professional, appealing, and useful media. What you see in your mind, or in your mind's eye, doesn't always translate directly into what you end up with on "film." Budding covers a bunch of the small subtleties that are easy to implement but can make an enormous difference in the final effect.

Mike Burgener continues coaching CrossFitter Pat Barber through an Olympic lifting session. Last month, they worked on the snatch, ending with a new personal- record lift for Pat. This month we see how Coach B gets him up to a PR in the clean and jerk as well.

Coach Burgener teaches the snatch, and the clean and jerk and supplemental lifts, at CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars, where you too can get some of what Pat gets here. Just holler, "Yes, Coach!" Watch the "Upcoming CrossFit Events" list on for dates and locations.

Gymnastics coach Jeff Tucker and assistant Jason Malutich take us through the intricacies of the L-pull-up and progressions for developing the strength and skill to execute it. They go over partials, assisted moves, spotting, negatives, and other incremental steps. They also scale it the other direction, showing progressively more difficult variations such as V-ups and weighted versions, for those who have already mastered the basic L.

Jeff Tucker (just "Tucker" to most folks) is a retired 20-year member of the Fort Worth Fire Department, where he served as a firefighter and arson/bomb investigator. He was head coach and director of Texas Christian University's gymnastics/cheerleading programs from 2001 to 2006, and he holds a multitude of degrees and certifications. He currently owns and operates GSX Athletics in Fort Worth, Texas, which specializes in Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, CrossFit, and private athletic instruction.

Training the Pistol

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Adrian Bozman of San Francisco CrossFit covers the basic pistol (one-legged squat), modifications, and assists. He teaches several progressions and tactics for working toward success, for those who aren't yet able to do a full pistol unassisted.

He also presents, and demonstrates, some more challenging weighted variations, for those who are already solid on the fundamental move: single weight in front, asymmetrical load, one weight on each shoulder, and one-arm overhead load.

Adrian Bozman is the head coach at San Francisco CrossFit. He has been coaching athletes, regular Joes, and anyone who will listen since 2004.

This month's Glassman video captures some of the key points from the question and answer session following the lecture excerpted in last month's Technique video. Here, Coach Glassman elaborates on a number of questions that get at some of the finer details of the relationships of technique, intensity, functional movement, and performance that he raised earlier.

Anyone who wants the full benefit and results of CrossFit must understand--and then act on the information--that nutrition is the foundation for all the other work you do in the name of athletic development and elite health. The key, of course, is hormones, which regulate how the body stores and releases energy and repairs itself. And, as far as hormones are concerned, food is a drug--a very powerful drug. It is the regulator for your body's internal teeter-totter, where the interdependent levels of "good" and "bad" hormones pivot on the food you take in. The simple CrossFit nutrition prescription--"Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar"--will deliver you from metabolic derangement (i.e., hyperinsulinemia, Syndrome X, and their relatives) and keep you generally well. For maximal fitness and output, however, you need to be more precise than that. In this lecture excerpt, Nicole Carroll makes a compelling case for why.

In the first of a series of practical instructional video articles on the difficult practice of taking good, clear action photos and video in workout contexts, CrossFit Media Director Tony Budding explains some basics of the art of capturing light on "film" (or, rather, the digital equivalent).

Affiliates'--and other CrossFitters'--photography scenarios and requirements are varied and often challenging (ranging, for example, from fast action in an indoor gym with little natural light to outdoor situations featuring glaring light and dramatic shadows). With lots of variables to account for, it can get complicated, but there are a few basic facts and tips that can make a big difference in the quality of your media. He starts us out this month with some on lighting, positioning, and exposure, giving live examples of the results as he explains them.

After working on his own for a few months, Pat Barber, the subject of the last two months' video articles on the fundamentals of the snatch, visits Mike Burgener for a coaching session on weighted snatches and tries for a new PR. It's an informative fly-on-the-wall look into an experienced coach's real-life session with a relatively new lifter.

Pat progressively increases weight with each rep, up to a point. Then, when he stops making his lifts and his technique deteriorates some under heavier weights, Coach B takes him all the way back to the empty bar and then back up to work again toward that new PR. Watch and see if he gets it...

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, California. He teaches CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars.

Technique Part 1

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In his earlier video article "Better Movements" (Oct 2007 CrossFit Journal) Coach Glassman explained that high power functional movements such as the jerk and the kipping pull-up are better exercises--in several critical ways--than their simpler relatives, the press and the strict pull-up. In "Productive Application of Force" (Jan 2008) he explained why our definition of strength is not equivalent to just muscular contractile force. What really matters is the ability to apply that muscular force to do real physical work, which cannot be independent of the skills and mechanics of functional movement.

In this month's video, Glassman elaborates further on the relationship between technique and functional movement, power, and fitness. Technique, he explains--like its cousins mechanics, form, and style--is not at odds with intensity but is in fact essential to maximizing power and thus fitness. Proper technique is the mechanism by which potential human energy and strength are translated into real work capacity.

Part 2, next month, will be Q & A, mostly A.

Greg Hammond of Concept2 Rowing continues the rowing lesson he started in last month's video article. Here, he offers tips on efficiency and troubleshoots a full slate of common technique problems.

Being able to see the problems and corrections in video makes them easy to understand and correct. Some of the key takeaways that Hammond demonstrates:

  • The first couple inches of the drive, beginning at the catch, are the most important part of the stroke. You need to generate drive power right off the bat.
  • The body is like a pendulum, with the torso beginning in forward inclination, swinging over the hip, and ending with a slight backward lean. The recovery phase traces the same pattern in reverse.
  • The recovery should be slower than the drive. Think of compressing the body like a spring: the recovery phase is a controlled compressing of the spring, and then it explodes back out from the catch.
  • The back will be slightly rounded throughout the stroke, not fully upright and erect.
  • Keep the chain straight, taut, and level, moving back and forth in a straight line at all times.

Hammond also demonstrates and explains how to correct one of the most common and ugliest problems on the rower--arcing the hands up over the knees on the recovery phase. The hands should move quickly, and straight forward, out of the finish position, leading the body toward the front. The knees do not bend until the hands pass over them.

Greg Hammond has worked for Concept2 Rowing for 11 years, most recently as a liaison to the CrossFit community and to fire and police departments and moto/action sports groups. He has a Bachelor's degree in health science and formerly owned and operated a fitness business called Hammond Corporate Wellness. He was a Crash Rescue Firefighter for the Air National Guard for 8 years and was a longtime rugby player until he took up the safer sport of motocross/enduro riding instead. He has used indoor rowing as part of training for his sports for the past 17 years.

In Part 1 of "Coach Burgener Teaches the Snatch," last month, Coach B worked with Pat, of CrossFit Virginia Beach, on some basics of footwork and positioning for the snatch. In Part 2, here, they walk through a progression of preparatory skill-transfer exercises and then into the snatch from the high-hang position--all still with just PVC:

Overhead squat: The landing position for the snatch. Pressing snatch balance: A slow pulling of the body down under the bar. The feet begin and end in the landing position and do not leave the ground.

Heaving snatch balance: A faster move, which emphasizes the initial "down and up" and teaches the athlete to actively drive the barbell upward and pull his body down under the bar. The feet begin and end in the landing position and do not leave the ground.

Snatch balance: An even more dynamic move, in which feet begin in the jumping position and move quickly to the landing position during the jump.

Snatch from the high-hang position: Coach B gives his now-classic instructions for any of the Olympic lifts: "Jump the barbell through a range of motion, creating momentum and elevation on the bar, keep the elbows high and outside, and pull yourself down into the overhead squat."

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif. He teaches CrossFit's two-day Olympic lifting certification seminars.

We pulled Olympic lifting coach Mike Burgener aside during the lunch break at a recent CrossFit certification seminar to teach Pat, of CrossFit Virginia Beach, to snatch. Pat's a very good athlete but has limited exposure to heavy Olympic lifting, especially snatching. Burg started him with PVC, expecting to breeze right through, but Pat made several little errors that needed fixing off the bat and was inconsistent in his movement. Burg rode him hard about them, making several essential coaching points along the way, including that athletes need to be ridden hard to nail technique from the beginning. He gets Pat through some basics on footwork and positioning, plus the Burgener warm-up in this month's video. Next month, Part 2 in the series will continue the lesson.

Mike Burgener, a.k.a. "Coach B" or simply "Burg," is the owner of Mike's Gym (a CrossFit affiliate and USAW Regional Training Center), a USAW Senior International Coach, former junior World team (1996-2004) and senior World team (2005) coach, and the strength and conditioning coach at Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif.

In this video article, Greg Hammond of Concept2 Rowing coaches the basics of technique on the indoor rowing machine. He works with two quite different CrossFit athletes in front of an audience to demonstrate rowing fundamentals and corrects their various mistakes in real time, with obvious positive results.

The point is clear: Faster rowing doesn't come from faster movement (i.e., higher stroke rate). It is the result, rather, of more power transfer and increased efficiency. In short, better, faster rowing (i.e., increased output) comes from better technique. (Maybe you've heard this argument before, in a few other contexts...?) Hammond and his volunteer models explain some of the specifics of what that really means when you're the one in the seat.

Greg Hammond has worked for Concept2 Rowing for 11 years, most recently as a liaison to the CrossFit community and to fire and police departments and moto/action sports groups. He has a Bachelor's degree in health science and formerly owned and operated a fitness business called Hammond Corporate Wellness. He was a Crash Rescue Firefighter for the Air National Guard for 8 years and was a longtime rugby player until he took up the safer sport of motocross/enduro riding instead. He has used indoor rowing as part of training for his sports for the past 17 years.

Strength, as an isolated quality, can be defined and measured as the biological contractile potential of muscle--as how hard your muscles can contract to apply force. But from our perspective, Coach Glassman explains in this lecture excerpt, that is an incomplete definition and an isolated measure that doesn't really reveal much about its application to real-world functionality (just as VO2 max measurements alone tell us little about a person's capacity and athleticism).

True, useful strength is not merely the muscles' ability to generate force but a body's ability to productively apply that force.

The missing link in so much mainstream fitness programming, from bodybuilding to monostructural endeavors, is the neuromuscular piece--in particular, the development of coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. We can sum these elements up as "technique." Omitting them from one's training necessarily results in only partial fitness, partial expression of one's genetic potential, and a decreased threshold of maximal capacity. To increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains (the goal of CrossFit), technique is the crucial connection--whether your goal is to win the game, protect your life, complete the mission, or just be fit for the demands of everyday life at any age.

In a companion piece to the articles by Collins and MacKenzie in this issue, triathlete and multisports coach Michael Collins explains how to work with, rather than against, the natural forces at play in nonsprint running. Gravity, ground reaction, muscle elasticity, muscle contraction, torque, and momentum are the key factors. However, the technique of many, if not most, runners is such that they are always fighting these elements rather than harnessing them to their advantage.

The Pose method for running is all about understanding the biomechanics and physics involved in maximizing efficiency (and minimizing impact on the body) to enable you to run farther faster. Once you understand and can harness the three pieces of the running movement--the pose (or posture), fall, and pull--running becomes an entirely different beast.

Michael Collins is the first level-4 certified Pose Method Coach and also trains and certifies other coaches in the Pose Method. He owns Multisports Orange County in California and is head coach for Orange County's Nova Masters swimming program. He can be reached at or 949-338-6682.

Video Article!

Coaching, according to expert lifting coach Mark Rippetoe, is no more than figuring out what to say to people to get them to move how you want them to move. This will vary from person to person, so, as a trainer, your bag of tricks--your ways of explaining and cueing movement and mechanics--must be broad and diverse. But, before that, you need to understand exactly what's going on in the mechanics of lifting and the body positions it requires.

This video continues Rip's discussion of lifting mechanics from last month's CrossFit Journal. Taken together, the two videos offer a clear, down-to-earth explanation of how and why the principles of force, physics, and human physiology determine the positions that constitute good--safe, effective, and efficient--form for the barbell lifts.

Evidence-Based Fitness

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Video Article!

In this excerpt from one of his talks at a recent CrossFit certification seminar, founder Greg Glassman discusses the methods and rationale of CrossFit. Fundamentally, what we are about, he explains, is evidence-based fitness. Here he breaks that claim down into its constituent parts and explains the logical, scientific basis of the CrossFit system for advancing human performance. To evaluate any such system, there are three key elements that must be assessed:

1) Safety: the program's record for injury avoidance-- and prevention.

2) Efficacy: its results, or the adaptations it produces.

3) Efficiency: how long it takes to achieve those adaptations.

For a fitness program to have meaning, those three elements must be supported by measurable, observable, repeatable data. Moreover, its methods, outputs, and criticisms must be transparent, or available for anyone to see and evaluate. These are the fundamental bases of scientific inquiry and of rational argument and evaluation, and (despite the unempirical, profit-driven nature of so much of the silliness that pervades the fitness industry), they are necessarily the requirements of any fitness program that claims to make you fitter.

Part 2 of Coach Glassman's discussion of nutrition addresses the refined dietary needs of athletes and what's required to optimize your performance. If you want elite physical output, you must be precise about your intake. "Close enough" won't cut it--or as Coach Glassman more colorfully puts it, "If you want top-fuel- type performance, you need top fuel; you can't just piss into the gas tank."

Most of us are familiar with CrossFit's nutrition prescription: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. But to achieve top performance, you have to be specific about the balances of those things and accurate in your macronutrient consumption. You can get far on the workouts alone, but you will not--cannot--reach your true potential without getting particular about your fuel. There's a 1:1 correspondence between elite CrossFit performance and accuracy and precision in your consumption. For more information on getting specific about your intake, see the following resources:

CrossFit Journal # 15 is an annotated reference list of books on nutrition that could keep you reading as long as your heart desires.

CrossFit Journal #21 goes into detail about how to determine how much of what you should be eating to optimize your performance.

In her journal article "Getting Off the Crack," Nicole Carroll, CrossFitter extraordinaire, tells the inspiring story of her dietary conversion and the results it had for her.

Greg Glassman is the founder (with Lauren Glassman) of CrossFit, Inc. and CrossFit Santa Cruz.

Video Article!

What constitutes good form for barbell lifts is not a matter of opinion or up for debate, argues lifting coach Mark Rippetoe. Rather, proper mechanics are about understanding the relevant bits of human skeletal anatomy and the principles of force and physics. These are what determine the most efficient, strongest, and mechanically sound body positions for all the lifts and these are what we, as lifters and trainers, need to learn to recognize and analyze. In this video article, he explains the skeletal geometry that is the basis for the back squat in particular.

The salient parts for geometric analysis of the squat are the shin, thigh, and back and the three angles formed by them: the knee angle (formed by the tibia and the femur), hip angle (rigid back and the femur), and back angle (the back and the floor). The relationships among these--with the added point that the bar will always be directly over the mid-foot if the system is to be in balance--determine the correct position of the bar on the back and of the elements of the body under that bar. Once the pieces are in place, then the force of the bar on the spine (and other joints) and the force generated by the body are applied in appropriate planes and the lifter is poised to be efficient and correct.

Video Article!

Retired engineer, scientist, and frequent rest-day discussion participant Jeff Glassman talks with Tony Budding about argument, logic, science, and his reasons for engaging in the rest-day discussions. He lays out the following hierarchy of terms for describing and evaluating the validity of statements and arguments, in order of increasing certainty and validity: A conjecture is essentially a wild guess: "I think x might be true."

A hypothesis adds to a conjecture the requirements that the statement actually fits the known data and makes a prediction about an outcome or outcomes. A theory is a hypothesis for which some significant predicted outcome has been established empirically. A hypothesis becomes a theory when one of its significant predictions has been tested and shown to be true.

A law is a theory for which all the possible predictions and all the ramifications have been tested satisfactorily, to universal acceptance.

Video Article!

CrossFit workouts emphasize high-skill movements (relative to isolation and/or machine-based movements) because they are, in almost every respect, better vehicles for optimizing fitness--for achieving CrossFit's mission of increasing work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

In this lecture from a recent CrossFit certification seminar, Greg Glassman looks at the differences among the shoulder press, push press, and push jerk and compares them to the differences between strict and kipping pull-ups. The advantage of the "better" (more dynamic) movements, he explains, lies in the power they express. They are consistently farther along the almost every continuum that matters: athleticism, power, intensity, skill, and utility.

Video Article!

Nutrition can be a touchy topic, like politics or religion, that people take very personally, but good nutrition is the foundation not only for general health but also for high-performance fitness. Much of the public information about diet, particularly the emphasis on low fat and high carbs, has resulted in a near epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes. In this first of a two-part lecture excerpt, Coach Glassman explores some of the science behind nutrition and the body, particularly the role of insulin in health and disease. "Syndrome X," the "deadly quartet" (obesity, glucose intolerance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides), and coronary heart disease, he claims, are avoidable through dietary means.

Part 2 will address the refined dietary needs of the athlete and what's required to optimize performance.

Video Article

Tom Arcuri of Blauer Tactical Systems presents the Close Quarter Form (CQF), a sequence of moves that drills a set of biomechanically efficient and effective close-quarter combat tactics. It is part of their S.P.E.A.R. system, which teaches that the most efficient, effective moves you can use in a fight--and in training--are ones that leverage the body's natural, instinctual, unavoidable behaviors (such as the flinch reflex, for example) and convert them into efficient protective and combative tactics.

The problem with a lot of martial arts and/or self- defense training is that it doesn't mimic the conditions of a real fight. The CQF is specifically designed to assist in visualization, muscle-memory, balance, target selection, and tactical flow--tools you can use in actual confrontations. Each move in the drill is a response to some aspect of a real fight. As a drill it is performed in a specific order not because a real fight would follow this sequence, but simply for conditioning and patterning purposes. Practicing the CQF helps prepare you to respond to an ambush or the rapidly changing elements of a fight as effectively as possible.

Human Weapon System

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Video Article!

Robert Smith is an M.D. and the medical director of Direct Action Medical Network, a group of physicians providing medical training and support to organizations that work in high-risk, remote, and/or austere areas. In this video, he talks about the tactical and safety benefits that people working in such environments can gain from understanding the body as a human weapon system. There are significant advantages of training the whole human body in ways that engage natural abilities and hard- wired instincts, and these techniques are underutilized in most kinds of combat training. Thinking of the body as a human weapon system is about integrating medical and physiological knowledge into combative wisdom. It's about having faith in our physiology.

In any combat system, your equipment has to be properly tuned, and in this case, the equipment is the body. Tuning it means being prepared to utilize it optimally--being trained and conditioned to handle the unexpected, physically and mentally. You have to train the way you're going to fight: with intensity, and in accordance with the body's natural functions of perception, reaction, and response. The relevance to martial arts, self-defense, and athletics is obvious.

Video Article!

Combatives and self-defense expert Tony Blauer talks about the "realistic, scenario-based self-defense" that he teaches as part of his patented S.P.E.A.R. (spontaneous protection enabling accelerated response) system. One of the main points of his work is that an effective combative/protective system must be based on human physiology and kinesiology--that is, to be most effective, it should work with, rather than against, the body's natural movement patterns and instinctual responses to attack and fear. He has put this kind of training and mindset together with CrossFit principles to create training regimens that develop true functional combative fitness.

In this video article, he shows how he adapts some of the basic functional movements we're all familiar with (squat, push-up, sit-up, etc.) to the tactical environment to create a "Fight Gone Bad"-type warm-up (or workout) with exercises that are relevant to defensive training.


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