Empire State CrossFit

Coach Justin blog

Deadlifts & Open 14.4

Coach Justin’s Blog

Saturday:

3 rep max deadlift: #435

Open workout 14.4 : 1 rnd + 29 calories on the row
14 min. amrap:
60 cal. row
50 toes to bar
40 wall balls 20/14
30 cleans 135/95
20 muscle ups

Rest till 20:00, then:

For time: 6:47
15-12-9-6-3
Hang sq. snatch # 95
burpees over the bar

3×25 GHD sit-ups

DEADLIFTS: I’ll take that 3-rep deadlift considering this was a day after Macho Man and since 435 used to be THAT weight — that effin number that goes up sometimes and gives you the false sense it will no longer be an issue, only for it to sit on the ground and laugh at you the very next time you attempt it. Prior to this I think my heaviest 3 rep deadlift was @ 425, and that was ugly. I’m talking full on hunchback rounding, humping the last rep up my leg, and taking full advantage of the bump of the ground. I’m not saying these were the prettiest deadlifts of all time, but they were lightyears ahead of where they’ve been. Not much of a grand design behind the progress. Sometimes the answer to getting stronger or better at a particular lift/movement is as simple as doing it more. In this case — deadlift really heavy weight more frequently and you’ll be able to pick up heavier weights. A specific program for increasing this lift is definitely something I will consider in the future, provided I’m not on another one for my squat. With the amount of training volume I accumulate, it would be highly difficult to do both competently and not suffer progress in other areas or put my body at risk. My raw squatting and deadlift strength have a long way to go, but for now I’m content with the progress.

OPEN 14.4: This little devil has been one of if not the most frustrating workouts I’ve repeated (too many times to count). No matter how I pace or break it up, I always hit a wall halfway through those muscle ups. My grip and ability to pull vanishes quicker than Coach Dan at one of the holiday parties (just relaying what I’ve been told, Coach). Muscle ups are a challenging movement to do when you’re fresh. Add in the fatigue and shortness of breath your inevitably going to feel, and it makes sense why the last 5-10 reps are that slow. My previous best was 17 or 18 muscle ups with those last elusive reps being a good 45 seconds away.

My plan was a stark departure from my usual tactic: attack the workout. Besides the row, don’t overthink it or pace it too much. Trust the work I’ve put in over the 4+ months since I’ve attempted this and that I’ll have enough gas to finish those muscle ups. Keep rest to a necessary minimum. Chalk up and jump right into the next movement. The rowing pace will be aggressive but not so much so that I can’t jump right up to the bar. My toes to bar have significantly improved (especially my max set number due to better shoulder stability), so don’t be afraid to break out a bigger set of 20-25 and then hit 10’s or 5’s for the remaining. Same with the wall balls. As for the cleans, if 30 quick singles is good enough for the elite Crossfitters, it’s good enough for me. The important thing is to minimize rest and keep pushing the envelope throughout. Worst case scenario, you don’t get back to the rower yet again. As for those muscle ups, the amount I do at a time will be dictated by how I feel. If I can do 5+ right off the bat, I’ll limit it to sets of 4 so I can try and maintain that (again, with shorter rests between) and get through 20.

If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t sure how this was gonna go. I’m usually optimistic when repeating a workout after enough time between, but after so many disappointments of thinking I was going to get past the Muscle ups, it was difficult to expect a positive result. All I can say is that I’m happy I pushed the pace and trusted in the progress I’ve made, because I got back to the rower and cranked out 29 calories. Constantly reminding myself to keep up the pace allowed me to get to the muscle ups quicker than I ever have and feel more competent on them than I ever have in this workout. Suffice to say, training pays off, or put another way… something’s working.

A quick note on the hang snatch/burpee workout. This was one I saw you guys do and was interested to see how I’d perform under fatigue. The answer was slow.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: This week and this workout in particular was a useful reminder to never underestimate what you’re capable of. On a DAILY basis, there is at least one instance of a member telling me or one of the other coaches they can’t do something, only to actually do it a few minutes later. I believe we all have our limitations, just as firmly as I believe most of us (probably all of us) have yet to hit them. The most appealing aspect of CrossFit for me is constantly redefining my perception of what is possible. It trains the mind just as (if not more) much as the body. The physical adaptation is important and real, but so is the willingness and ability to push harder and do things we once thought impossible. Are there risks to believing in unlimitied possiblities (particularly but not confined in the physical domain) — more than likely. Is there also a tremendous benefit to that line of thinking — no question. The key, as with most things is balance. It’s highly probable a two minute mile or a 2,000 lb. deadlift may just be beyond what any human body is capable of in it’s current, natural form. Then again, the same was said of a four minute mile and a 1,000 lb. deadlift not too long ago. The point is there is surely a limit. Just what those limits are, seem to some degree be arbitrary in nature. Imagine, for a second, operating with the belief that that those numbers were within reach. Could you accomplish them? Again, the probability is against you. BUT, would you be able to run a mile faster (or deadlift heavier) than the most people? I tend to think so, provided you can focus on the positive results you actually gain versus falling short of lifting 2,000 lbs. For now, I’ll concern myself with more immediate goals, like getting back to Coach Dan’s programming… and getting through it.Deadlifts

Burpee ladder & MACHO MAN

*COACH JUSTIN’S BLOG*

Thursday:
Death by burpee ladder: 17 burpees in the round of 18.
(by 2’s) 2-4-6…
30 double unders after every round

5 rounds ( move through at steady pace)
5 sdhp w/ #70 KB
5 kbswings #70
10 T2B

Friday:
“Macho Man” @ #185: Completed (15 rounds unbroken)
EMOM for 20 min: (the GOAL is to complete all 20 rounds)
3 Power Cleans
3 Front Squats
3 Shoulder to Overhead

1 rep strict press: 185

Thursday: This was somewhere between an active rest day and a lighter day (volume wise) for me. I wanted to move through full ranges of motion and breath heavy, while keeping the total amount of work + loading to a minimum in preparation for “Macho Man.” The death by burpees with 30 double unders every round is one of my go to workouts. It requires minimal warmup/equipment and can be done anywhere. Whenever I travel, it’s a certainty, or when I feel I haven’t done faster paced burpees, I’ll throw it in there. I probably end of doing some variation of it once a month. The burpees can also be substituted for a bunch of different movements (e.g. KB swings, cleans, pullups, toes to bar, thrusters…). I was surprised how well I moved through the burpees today. I figured yesterday’s surprise heavy Isabel + Nutts would have me lumbering along, but I felt light and fast. If Macho Man wasn’t scheduled tomorrow, this would be one of those days where the workouts would pile up — gotta ride that hot hand. Alas, because I am determined to finish that SOB of a workout, I’ll cut it short while I still feel good. Hopefully, it will carry over into tomorrow.

 

MACHO MAN: Easily in the top 3 toughest workouts I’ve ever done. Bobby put it best, “This was the hardest workout I’ve ever done… since doing this workout last time. Even if completing this grants you the title of a “macho man,”, you’ll really just feel like a mushy man — a heap of body parts so loosely connected you may just melt apart. Every time I’ve attempted this workout, I’ve been pushed to the brink mentally and physically. I’ve never finished this workout @ 185. I’ve limped into the round of 18, all the while making noises that I didn’t think a human being was capable of — before my body and spirit crumbled. This time, I brought along some company to do it with me and help spur me along (even I admit feeling slightly guilty for dragging anyone else into this misery). And this time I completed it.

I was looking forward to/dreading this workout all week. On the one hand, I know how painful it is to even try and complete 20 rounds at that weight. Just about every part of your body is going to hurt and hurt a lot. Once you get past 10, you not only have to deal with the escalating physical torture, but that little inside voice that’s telling you your only halfway there and should just throw in the towel to stop the pain. I have listened to that voice before, in this workout and others. I was pretty set on telling him to piss off this time. I was finishing this mofo once and for all. With all the squat and strict press work I’ve been doing, I was interested to see how the increased strength would translate into a workout that requires conditioning/cycling/recovery. The short answer is: it translated well. While I don’t think that was the only difference maker (it’s been a decent amount of time since I’ve hit this workout so I’m generally fitter since, not just stronger), those 185 front squats and shoulder to overheads felt twenty pounds lighter this time. They were a weight I felt like I was in control of, not one that as hurting my soul each round. I set out with the intention of doing the first round unbroken to see if I could do just a few and still have enough in the tank to complete 20 rounds. I ended up doing 15 unbroken and might’ve been able to sqeak out a few more. Suffice to say, I’m fitter than the last time I did this. In every way. Doing workouts like this are such a gratifying experience. It shows you how much progress you’ve made and reinforces the simple idea that hard work + smart work pays off. Or as I like to say to clients, something’s working.

Here’s my two cents if you’re considering doing this workout. First, it’s gonna suck. Even if you go lighter, it will hurt. Unless you are a beginner to Crossfit (and I’ll qualify that as less than a year’s experience of at least 3 classes/ week) or have a pre-existing injury/ mobility issue that precludes you from these movements, challenge yourself with the weight. Don’t pick something you know you can move easily. The goal should be a weight that you’re not really sure whether or not you can do for 20 rounds. For the more experienced Crossfitter, pick a weight that is heavy for you. One that fatigues you in the first minute. For a frame of reference, the first time I did this workout @ 185, I don’t think I got past round 13 — and that crushed me. If you make it to the 20 minute mark on your first try, pat yourself on the back. You did an awesome job… and you went too light. If you fail early on, use it as a gauge for what you need to improve upon. Is it a strength issue? Is it a conditioning issue? Barbell cycling? Re-gripping for the shoulder to overhead after those front squats? I you have no idea, you can always ask me or one of the other coaches before you hit this again and conquer that weight. As for me, #185 is in the books, which means I’m moving upwards and onwards to #205 for the next fail attempt at Macho Man…………….……………

 

Oh shit.

Coach Justin’s Blog: Heavy Isabel & Nutts

*This is NOT the class Wods. Justin’s Blog.*

WEDNESDAY:

Work up to a heavy-ish Snatch Balance: #215 (until speed of drop under decreases drastically)
Build to a heavy-ish set of 5 OH Squats — #225
Isabel (squat snatches) @185: 7:03
Nutts:

ISABEL: I came in with the intention of doing some skill transfer work, OH squats, some light squat snatches in a WOD, and MAYBE Nutts if I felt up to it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to feel half as good as I did. I figured the heavier weights from the last two days would have me moving slower. Sometimes even I’m surprised by what a decent night’s sleep and decreased volume over a few days (yes, I know that sounds slightly crazy when one of those days involved Kalsu) can do for your body.

I started with the snatch balance. For those that don’t know, the snatch balance starts with the barbell on you back (back rack) and the hands in a snatch (wide) grip. There are a few variations, each focusing on a different element, but the most common way to perform these is to jerk the weight overhead (with that snatch grip), while simultaneously dropping under the bar. If it’s easier, think of it like a push jerk, only we’re riding that second dip all the way down into a squat. The focus of the snatch balance should be on the speed of the drop and quality of the bottom position of the overhead squat. No matter how strong your are, if you can’t drop under the bar safely and fast enough, your snatch is never going to improve. As you become more comfortable with the movement, you’ll find they are a great way to drop under significant loading relative to your snatch (ideally 10-15% more). However, the true focus should be on the speed of the drop under, even more so when your just starting out. If you find you have to segment the descent or slow it down to at any point to manage the weight overhead, remove some plates off that bar (no loading is required. A PVC is great to start out with and reinforces SPEED. I do them everyday with a pvc). I capped my weight at #215 today for that reason. It felt stable enough and probably could’ve handled more weight, but that speed wasn’t quite there. It was more of a jerk, then an OH squat, rather than a concurrent movement. I already do them everyday as a warmup with just the bar, but now I will start incorporating snatch balances with heavier loads, especially anytime I am snatching over 60%.

Since I was feeling so good, I decided to add a little weight and see how some OH squats felt. It was at this point the idea for heavy Isabel entered my head. #225 felt solid for 5 reps, enough where I had at least another 10-20 lbs. in me. I held off on the weight, dropped the bar, and did a few snatches @155. A few reps felt good… so Heavy Isabel it is. The goal was simple: move consistently from start to finish. I didn’t want to move too fast and start failing reps or end up staring at the bar like its

NUTTS: This is a fun workout, provided certain caveats. If you are not adept at double unders, given there are 200 of them, this may not be a fun workout. If anything over 10 wallballs makes you feel like your throwing a 150 lb. stone to the top of a 5 story building, this may not be the most enjoyable workout. If you forget about those extra few inches on the box (which feels like your doubling the height of the jump), you may rediscover your initial aversion to jumping up via a good ole’ shin scraping along the edge of a wooden box — in which case this workout definitely isn’t fun. Otherwise, great workout. Chances are at least one of the movements is going to significantly eat into our time and make us ask the quintessential CrossFit question: Why the hell am I doing this? For me, it’s the wallballs. 100 is right on that edge of what I can move through without losing too much time. I broke them up in sets of 15 so I could hit those double unders close to unbroken and be on that run. The wall balls went well enough. The double under did not. I was surprised I had to break them into 3 sets, but it was either that or turn that run into a walk. That 400m at the end was a bit of a gut check, so you know I enjoyed it (I will confess I might’ve enjoyed it just a tad bit more if it didn’t involve holding a 45 lb. plate). Another good day in the books.

P.S. Coming up next time: what I consider to be one of the top three most brutal workouts.

P.P.S. One of these days it will be short enough so you don’t have to devote your entire lunch break to read this. In the meantime, I’d suggest reading it late at night. That’ll solve any sleep issues immediately.

Monday: Kal-effin-su & Max Back Squats

MONDAY:
– Max back squat test: #410

– Kalsu – 14:51
100 thrusters @ 135 with 5 burpees OMEM

– Death by Assault bike calories: 19 cal in the round of 21
1-3-5-7-9… and so on until you cannot complete within the minute.

It’s fitting my first post would cover thrusters and back squats. These two have traditionally been weaker movements for me, so it’s always a fantastic idea to tackle the most challenging combination of both in the same day… back-to-back… after a full weekend of being on my feet…

BACK SQUAT PR: After 6 weeks of a squat program and witnessing the inspiring performances of the WODFather, I was fired up for this. I actually felt weaker after the deload week (my body doesn’t respond well to too much time off), but there was no chance I wasn’t getting this. I didn’t anticipate running into any issues until the 400 mark. The bar had other plans. After working up, I failed my first at 395. Again, there was no freaking way I wasn’t getting past #400. One song change and a few “encouraging” words to myself, and 395 went up. 405 followed, only to be outdone by 410, a PR of 15 lbs! I still felt relatively good, so I decided to give 415 a whirl. It always amazes me how much heavier 5 lbs. can feel feel when your at maximal loading. Despite a tough fight (which will catch up with me in Kalsu), 415 wasn’t happening.

KALSU: This workout is a motherlover. I’ve tried this scheme (100 reps with 5 burpees OTM) with a ton of movements @ varying weights and have come to one conclusion: it always sucks. Eventually, five burpees feels more like 25/ minute and when you finally do stand that last one up, twenty or so seconds has flown by leaving you staring @ a heavy barbell trying to recover the breath and cojones to pick it back up, only to become even more gassed for another set of 5 of the slowest burpees you’ve ever done. Combine it with a heavy thruster plus some of the motivating times you guys put up the previous week (I’m looking at you Bobby, ya prick), and this turned into a real party. The good news is those heavy squats made this thruster feel light. The bad news is those failed squat attempts made their presence known. My goal was to crack 16 min. by tackling a few consecutive rounds close to as hard as I could, and back off for the successive one or two. Just like I predicted, by round 8, I was doing burpees in quick sand. Luckily I was well past the halfway mark and hadn’t taken a throw away round yet. Round 9 was the one. I chose not to pick up the bar and use every second to get my breath. Lucky thing I did, or I would’ve been in trouble. The final 30 reps is always as much a mental grind as a physical one (part of the reason why I secretly, albeit masochistically enjoy workouts like this). Like anything, the more time you spend in that uncomfortable place, the more instinctive it becomes. You know the end is near and you can/will finish. Nothing else to do, but put your head down and work… then collapse and reevaluate recent life decisions like hitting a max back squat before this b****.

DEATH BY BIKE CALS: I am a huge fan of death by ladders in all iterations. They require minimal warmup and total time to complete, allow you to focus on intensity and recovery (two huge aspects of fitness), and are pretty straightforward tests of progress. A normal death by ladder increases by a rep/minute, but I decided to ascend by two to speed up the total time and decrease to total time spent working after Kalsu. The goal was to use this as a bit of a recovery workout post Kalsu while squeezing in a bit of conditioning on the bike. Mission successful. Should be fun to see what my legs feel like tomorrow.

SQUAT PROGRAM & AFTERTHOUGHTS: Since Coach Dan started programming for me, he’s had me on a back squat program. Provided I actually follow it and put in the work, one of two outcomes was likely. Either I was going to get stronger, or I was going to sever my spine in multiple places (3×3 @ +92.5%, REALLY DAN?!). I’m pleased to say that it was the former. Some might consider 410 a lofty weight, while other may be thoroughly unimpressed. I fall somewhere in between. As we get deeper into these posts, you’ll find that’s a pretty common thread. I personally feel that for someone who approaches Crossfit with even the mildest of competitive intentions, you need to find that balance between being pleased with all the progress you’ve made, and never being completely satisfied. I find that attitude to be beneficial in almost every domain of life.

For 6 weeks I’ve squatted with more frequency and intensity (loading) than I ever have before. Prior to this program, I would have back squatted at most twice a week. And one of those sessions would have been at a significantly lighter loading for higher reps. There were probably times when I wouldn’t hit a heavy (let’s call it anything above 80%) back squat for two+ weeks, which is in part why my back squat was previously stuck on the same number for so long. Another reason was my bias (especially in the early part of my crossfire experience) for conditioning over strength, a huge weakness in my approach to programming. The final hiccup was in what I chalk up to “growing pains” as it pertains to programming. It took me a good year and a half to figure out a safe and efficient blend of volume/loading/frequency so as to see steady progression in strength and power while maintaining (if not improving) the cardio and bodyweight arenas. My greatest concern during this program wasn’t the loading, but the frequency (3x/week) in conjunction with the total amount of training volume I accumulate. It isn’t the muscles, but the joints and smaller tissues that will give out first. It’s CRUCIAL you listen to your body and understand the difference between general fatigue and discomfort that comes with most physical activity, and potentially injurious situations. Out of 20 some odd squat workout, I did end up cutting one session short for that exact reason.

The final verdict? The squat program was awesome for me. It was a grind and some days were tougher than others, but it was effective. It removed any guess work from the equation and biased the movement (back squat) + physical skill ( strength) I needed to work on. I saw immediate results. My mobility and positioning improved, my strength certainly did, and I felt more comfortable in a movement that never was a particular specialty of mine (tight ankles, poor thoracic mobility, and sitting for extended periods of time are just a few reasons as to why). Who would’ve thunk it — if you squat more, your squat will improve.

 

P.S. I may have went overboard with this first post…