Empire State CrossFit


Hand Care – from Shock to Realization

Hand Care – from Shock to Realization 

By: Coach EJ

With the hot weather and the humidity creeping up, it’s something every athlete should be mindful of..

Hand rips and callouses.. badges of honor?!

THINK AGAIN! I used to be so pumped after a WOD when I had ripped. To me rips/tears were proof that I busted my tail in a workout. Shoot it was proof that I was hopefully going rx’d with my pullups. I’d proudly take a photo, upload it on facebook and title it something like “awesome tear”.  Ahh how things have changed. Thinking about it makes me laugh.

Hand care is crucial to your CF journey and is KEY in being able to keep up with your workouts. Take a moment to really think about it. If you get a serious tear from a kick ass performance, you may go through the following sequence:

  1. Go into shock/surprise – with the adrenaline pumping, you didn’t realize you tore..until you randomly looked at your hand
  2. Denial – you suck it up for the duration of your WOD and man up
  3. Acceptance – Post-WOD you go off to wash your hands and realize how bad a rip you’ve made
  4. Acceptance/Reality – it hurts like a MOFO! You wash out the rip, throw on some nu-skin or some aquaphor
  5. Frustration – the following day you try to figure out how to do the WOD with the rip. How do you hold a barbell/pullup bar? If it’s really bad, no matter how you shake it, it hurts, and THEN..
  6. REALIZATION – you realize how important hand care is, and now are feverishly looking at every precaution necessary to avoid it.

To this, I turn to the tons of resources and literature that’s been written by other affiliates. If you’ve been doing CrossFit for a while, I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re still fairly new, you’ll realize that it’s absolutely key to practice a certain level of maintenance for your hands, just as you take the necessary steps to keep your body agile, through mobility work! You can also learn how to tape your hands or invest in gymnast grips (links below). Sometimes rips are inevitable, but you can help prevent a good percentage of them if you take care of your hands.



I’ve Got to Hand it to You via CF Virtuosity

CrossFit Hand Care via FITBOMB (has some graphic photos)

Blood, Blisters…via CF Journal

Ultimate Hand Taping  (video included)

Again Faster Gymnastics Grips – this is just one of many places you can buy them. Google gymnastics grips or reference the CF Forum for other suggestions

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER- Training in the summer/humidity

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By Coach EJ

Dog Days” (Latin: diēs caniculārēs) are the hottest, most sultry days of summer. 

Anyone who knows what the weather in the Northeast is like, can tell you that the summer’s can often been hot and humid. And if you’re a responsible athlete, you also know how important it is to take precaution when training under these circumstances.

The ability to adapt to heat/humidity varies. It’s said that you can adapt to heat to some degree after a period of 2 weeks. Heat and humidity play a significant role in your physical abilities, so don’t freak out if your performance isn’t what it normally is. The heat is a stressor on your body, and if you were to wear a HR monitor, you’d be able to see that your HR could elevate to 10 extra beats per minute.

So how do we adjust? Our body has it’s own internal coolant system and we “sweat”. This varies between individuals and is why some people will walk into the gym and immediately a pool of sweat will start forming beneath them. Others won’t be as phased by or reactive to the humidity. While there’s no magic prescription as to how best to address the soaring temperatures, one should learn how to BEST adjust to these changes.

It’s up to you to take the precautions necessary to ensure your safety while still kicking the snot out of your workouts!!



  • Hydrate yourself throughout the day if you have an afternoon workout. A suggested amount would be to try to drink at least 20 oz of water. The amount you drink varies from person to person. See the below link from the CF Forum for more tips
  • Don’t wait until your thirsty to hydrate! At this point, your body is already reaching a point of dehydration. So drink water during and after your workouts;
  • Wear light and breathable clothing. Or go the CrossFit way and train shirtless or in a sports bra 🙂
  • Bring a towel to the gym – just as a courtesy to the other athletes;
  • Hand care is important – this is prime time where you can tear your hands up pretty bad. Check my blog post on hand care  for tips to help from ripping; and most importantly
  • LISTEN TO YOUR BODY – if you feel lightheaded or ill, there’s no harm in stopping. Better to be safe than sorry!



Hot Weather and Heat Illness via CF Forum

Heat…via Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science

Heat Index + Humidity via weather.com – this provide a neat chart to show you what the humidity level can make the temperature feel like

Scale it Back..Listen to your body (INJURIES/STRAINS/PAINS)

By: Coach EJ

As the Open Season approaches and the influx of newer athletes come through the doors of the gym, I thought it was important to discuss what we often shy away from talking about and what usually leaves us feeling awful: injuries and scaling workouts.

What’s the difference between an awesome athlete and an mediocre athlete? It’s the ability to know when to turn up the juice and knowing when you need to scale it back.

So IMMEDIATELY you think – RIGHT ON, let’s turn up the juice! Go HARD or Go Home! This is something we strive for when we walk through the doors of the gym. Let’s destroy our WOD and hit new PRs!

Those who saw “Scale Back” are thinking, what a dreadful thought to scale back a WOD!

Specifically, I’m talking about how there may come a point in your CrossFit lifestyle where taking a more conservative route may be the best option. By this I’m referring to when you go through injuries/strains/pains. Of course there’s the typical soreness you encounter from a great session at the gym, but then there are the pains that are NOT the good kind. These are the kinds that may be sharp twangs; pain that limits your range of motion; or pains that feel down right debilitating! This is where you need to fight your mentality to always go hard, and instead, scale it back and play it smart.

Let’s take the example of Mikko Salo. If there ever was a competitor who could take the title “Fittest Man on Earth” in 2012 (could give Rich Froning a run for his money), this is your man!  He pulled himself out of the CF Games because of a ruptured ear drum and he was out of the following year’s open due to surgery. While he’s on the road to recovery, he is taking the necessary steps to play it smart by scaling intelligently (see video link below). He’s not being a pansy for not competing this year.

Scaling back is something that’s very psychologically challenging for many athletes, including myself. You take your fish oils, you mobilize, eat right, and do everything in your power to stay healthy and well, but sometimes, injuries/strains happen! BUT, you have to remind yourself, IT’S OK to scale back. You won’t lose all your strength and abilities in a few days/week! Whether you scale intensity/load or both, you have to TAKE every step necessary to keep yourself well. There’s no sense in working through a strain, only to make a small tear, a more severe one. There’s no logic in allowing yourself to push through the pain, only to set yourself out of commission for 3 months, versus being smart and scaling for a week. Don’t be a hard ass and jeopardize yourself, for the sake of hitting a personal record.


If you have an injury/strain:

  • Be SMART! Assess the severity of it and honestly decide if you should take a few days off, or if you can scale a workout.
  • Look at the situation as a way for you to work on other areas you might be ignoring (i.e. if you’re having shoulder issues, work on leg strength)
  • Talk to a coach – just because you have a minor setback doesn’t mean you can’t train. It’s not the end of the world. Remember, this is a small set back in your training. No one said it was FOREVER. Keep a positive attitude.
  • Work that mental toughness! Even elite athletes go through injuries, but they find ways to come back, better and stronger than ever. You’ll be back in no time – as long as you play it smart!

Pursuing Virtuosity

by Coach EJ

“Most people simply need to move better. Then after they learn to move well, they need to learn to move well under load. Then they need to move well under load for reps. Then they need to move well under heavy load for high reps. But never put the cart before the horse. Dropping a dollar to pick up a dime never got anybody rich. Be sure to keep the goal the goal and always remember, do no harm.” via Slaying the Dragon

If you have the chance, check out the link. I thought that it was an interesting perspective on how coaches and athletes need to be active participants in order to progress towards their goals. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing athletes bend over to a barbell and “rip it off the ground” with no regard for form, safety or efficiency. What is even more frustrating are the coaches who turn a blind eye. What’s going on here people?

Exhibit #1 – Are those paper towels? (Some profanity in the clip)
CrossFit has progressed so much over the years and it is inspiring to watch top athletes perform. Their grace, poise, mental/physical endurance and attitudes are bar none. So where exactly do things get fuzzy and athletes look more embarrassing performing a workout than farting in a quiet room?


Let’s think about it:

  • Why do people think that adding more weight on the bar will allow them to get the technique down, because “It’ll force me to move correctly?”.
  • Why do people jump right into kipping pull-ups, without first nailing down a decent strength level to support the muscular base required to perform?
  • Why do people insist in performing half assed reps?

I think that innately we’re programmed to TRY to be the BEST at everything. Remember, it was about “Survival of the fittest”. Your present situation and your future were highly dependent on your abilities to work at it’s highest capacity. However, in thinking solely in these terms, people see the end goal, but lose sight of an effective way to get from point A to point B. In pursuit of being the fittest, we forget that NOT only is it about the ability to DO a workout at a heavier weight(or rx’d) and doing it fast. It’s the ability to do it in a way that’s mechanically sound, efficient, and preserves the individuals’ abilities to continue to perform! The key word there is “continue” to perform. You’re in it for the long haul, aren’t you?

Yes it’s satisfying at the end of the day to be able to say you did a WOD as rx’d or to be the FASTEST time of the day, but

  • if your form looked like absolute crap and
  • if your reps were sketchy

What does that tell other athletes or your coach?

  • You want to be a sketchy athlete and you’re on the road to injury

Trying to skip basic fundamentals will get you no where fast. Your flaws and errors will only be magnified 100 times over as you try to progress faster than what your athletic base level is.

As modern day society tries to quick fix weight loss by marketing gimmicks or pills, you as a CF athlete are fully aware that it’s hard work that leads to athletic prowess. This prowess is found by those who dedicate the time to practice and educate themselves. They spend the time nailing down the basics. Those who understand know that with sound technique follows speed, due to efficiency in movement. That efficiency in movement can then translate to heavier load. The heavier load can then be carried out in a way that is SAFE and not a load that leaves you bedridden or writhing over in pain. Therefore, the fundamentals will lead to what Greg Glassman had written about in 2005, and that is “Virtuosity” via CF Journal.

Lessons to walk away with:

  • If you’re new, don’t be overly concerned with the weights you’re putting up. Focus on your technique. Load and speed will follow naturally
  • If you’re a veteran, there’s nothing wrong with brushing up on mechanics and practicing with lighter weights. Practicing good form, reinforces your ability to move efficiently
  • If you’re a coach, stop athletes with poor form, and give them corrections. Remember, our goal is to get people to move better.
  • If during a lift your form was horrendous, BE SMART. Correct your form before you go up in weight! Remember, the progression to follow is your ability to move weight efficiently, not the poundage; and
  • Never stop your pursuit to Virutosity

Holiday Wish List

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I used to work and lift at Santa’s Workshop in a past life  

By: Coach EJ

Ah yes…Once Thanksgiving passes and you’ve managed to indulge a little (or a lot), you know that the holidays are officially around the corner.

As you blissfully think of all the PRs you’ve had and look forward to the year ahead, here’s a Wish List or a Shopping list of things to get for your favorite CrossFitter (or yourself)


1 – SHOES/LIFTING SHOES – One can never own too many shoes! Yes you heard it here first..

Invest in a good pair of shoes.

Do you really need to get a pair of oly shoes? People have varying opinions on this. Let’s get things straight – oly shoes are NOT very cheap. Sure they look cool, but that won’t fix your mobility issues. They’re good at optimizing “BETTER” positions, but they don’t FIX it.

As you get more advanced and are creeping into the heavier weight territory, an investment in a good pair of oly shoes may actually pay off.

An alternative to the oly shoes would be thin soled shoes (e.g. Reebok Nanos, Converse, Inov8s, New Balance Minimus). These shoes are terrific alternatives and are multi-functional since it allows you hit those oly lifts during the WOD and perform your runs/box jumps, etc. without issue. The reason you want a thin soled shoe is because a lot of our movements require us to shift our weight into the heels and wearing shoes with thicker soles (e.g. running shoes) can off set your balance, often making it very difficult to get yourself into those prime positions.

So if I can impart any wisdom about your footwear, use your discretion. you do not need to spend a ton of money on shoes to perform well. Your ability to move well is determined by YOU, not the magical pair of shoes on your feet.



Take a trip to the 99 cents store, get one from Rogue or purchase the MYWOD App !! I CANNOT express how important it is to maintain a log with your WODS. Keeping records are a sure fire way to help yourself progress, see if you’re working towards your goals, and see where you may need to tweak things. In addition to this, you can add comments so you know if you’re hitting you max potential or if you need to go heavier next time.

There is nothing better than looking back at a WOD you’ve done, and seeing how far you’ve come. Without any records, it’s like trying to hit a bullseye blindfolded. As a coach, we are there to help you achieve your potential, by pushing you to your limits and watching your technique…BUT remember, this is a partnership and you must be just as accountable for knowing what you are capable of. You can have a kick ass coach that has trained elite athletes – but, if you pair them with someone who remains ignorant to their own abilities – you’re wasting your time. As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Whether it be a notebook, iphone, web blog – DO IT! Keep a record of your WODs, keep consistent and watch your progress! It’ll help motivate you to push harder and enjoy your successes!



There is nothing more frustrating than looking like you have been whipped silly! Two of the main reasons you get whip marks are because you’re using the WRONG SIZED jump rope or you haven’t developed the ability to understand the timing by using a flimsy rope. Yes you heard me – believe it or not, there is a jump rope that is appropriate for your height and can help you feel the timing. An extra few inches of rope can make the difference between becoming more efficient and whipping yourself like a crazy person. Most gyms have jump ropes that you can use, but most of the time, you have to fiddle around finding the correct sized rope or using one that’s pretty heavy. Two ropes I recommend are listed below

RxJump Ropes  – if you’re a complete beginner and doing singles is still difficult, this is a great investment. You can choose the cable “type” and length

Rogue Fitness – Speed ropes are for the more advanced athlete who’s gotten the timing down.







Before I looked into wrist wraps, I was using athletic tape to wrap up. Using the tape allowed me protect my wrists when lifting heavy. Coaches will often tell you to keep your wrists locked out, but sometimes under duress and heavy load, you’ll need a little extra support. You can go over to your local sports store to pick up some tape or you can invest a little more money and get yourself a pair of wraps. You can hop on Amazon.com and get a fairly low cost wrap, but Rogue, Again Faster and Strength Wraps are other vendors you can check out.



I invested in a pair of these after doing high volume kipping pullups. This helped prevent tears/rips. To be honest, I haven’t used them  in a while, but I suggest checking out the CrossFit Journal on “Hand Care”http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/CFJ_Larsson_Handcare.pdf



Have you ever visited www.crossfit.com? Did you know that there’s a whole vault of treasured information about training, recovery, nutrition and more and secrets at your disposal? Get yourself a subscription to the Journal. It’s the best $25 investment you could make to read up on everything you’ve always wanted to know!




Lacrosse Balls, Foam Rollers , voodoo floss, and Bands…oh my. There’s nothing like getting that FULL RANGE of MOTION that your coach is always talking about. Sometimes we need a little extra loving to our muscles to get us to those optimal positions. There are lots of great mobility tools on MobilityWOD not to mention going on good old Amazon. Sometimes just taping two lacrosse balls, can give you that magical push you’ve been looking for. Looking to read more about mobility? Check out Kelly Starett’s Becoming the Supple Leopard. A lot of my mobility warmups come from him



Rehband Knee Sleeves are on every Oly lifter’s wish list this season. “Whether you’re dealing with regular knee pain, recovering from an injury, or looking to prevent one, Rehband Knee Supports supply joint compression and warmth to promote better blood flow and reduce the direct strain on the knees during squats, Oly lifts, etc.” Check it out on Rogue Fitness


9 – SWAG

So you’ve drank the kool aid and you’re totally into all the cool t-shirts and hoodies, and more! Check out our personal, and near and dear favorite brand – UNBROKEN (wearing unbroken has increased PR abilities). Maybe you’re a socks afficionado ! Either way, look cool doing what you do!



Pay it forward! You love your CrossFit family…You love your friends..so why not try to merge two worlds into one and share the gift of health and fitness. Check out your local CrossFit gyms and see if you can purchase a gift card to help get that friend/family member to get their foot in the door. Once they see that you’re not as crazy as you sound, since you talk about CrossFit all the time, I think the return in lifelong health will continue to pay for itself each day, each week, and year after year.  We have gift cards at both locations available for purchase.


Back to Basics – Build your Foundation Strong

By Coach EJ

“Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint”

That’s what my first coach would tell the class when one of those technical movements came up in a WOD. His words resonated with me throughout my entire time doing CrossFit and I find myself telling my athletes just that. CrossFit can be overwhelming at first. All the movements, technical nuances, outfit choices, am I wearing the right shoes dilemma? There’s a whole lot going on. Believe me..see below for proof

“You must CRAWL before you WALK”


Exhibit 1. My favorite photo. That’s me in the middle, using a green band in 2010.

As someone who’s been there before, I GET IT. We want to achieve the sexy stuff (lifting heavy ass weight, kipping/butterfly pull-ups, muscle ups).  You name the most complex thing and that’s what we want! But when we ask “How can I do that or what do I have to do to get that?”, most people are never satisfied with the answer.


We all want that quick fix. And hey, I wish I had that solution for you, but trust me, taking the Cliff Notes version to get to more complex movements or heavier weights, will throw a huge wrench in your training if you neglect the seemingly, plain jane answer..


Sometimes we forget what we’re trying to do, because we just want that “end product”. But if you take a step back, all the movements we do in CrossFit stack on top of each other. That’s why we should look at our corrections and technical improvements as “progress”. Stop attributing your successes to solely the weight on the bar. Your ability to improve your performance is based on how proficient and efficient you can move.

That quick fix isn’t going to cut it in the long run. It may lead to injury or bad technique over time. Instead just put your head down and put in the work. Your overarching goal should be the ability to move well, do things with integrity, and be able to work at your full potential. Don’t count the days you’ve been in the gym and how much you suck at doing XYZ. Focus on what you can improve by taking the time to practice and perfect it.

As coaches in a CrossFit gym, our goals are to get you moving with virtuosity, in a safe manner, and to build your foundation with strength and technique that will help you arrive at your potential.

So how does one achieve perfect positions whether the movement is simple or complex?

It’s a very simple formula:

LEARN THE MOVEMENT + PERFECT THE MOVEMENT  = solid base foundation to perform COMPLEX movements!


Exhibit 2.  Before I could do MUs I needed to get that dip strength. Yes that’s a red band.

 Surprised? Hopefully not! There is a clear reason why coaches are consistently drilling the basics. This is because there is a natural progress in the movements we do in our sport and if there are any fundamental weaknesses, they’ll only be magnified the more complex a movement becomes. (I.E. Air Squat to Overhead Squat)

For example, if you’re squat looks like the below.

Obviously, there are things we need to make adjustments to before we can get you under load, and through more complex movements.

It’s very well put in this youtube clip Movement Hiearchy via Kelly Starett.

To summarize it neatly..keep it simple before you rush to do some complex stuff! You’d be foolish to do so.

  1. Learn the basics
  2. Spend time PRACTICING and perfect it .
  3. Embrace your progress and the JOURNEY

This will inevitably lead to

  • Creating stabilization;
  • Building confidence in yourself;
  • Creating a strong foundation to build on because now you have no more glaring weaknesses
  • A lifetime of CrossFit to help improve everyday life and improve your overall wellness.