RVA Owner Jake Rowell and 2014 4th Place Finisher at NAS Nationals Morgan German go through the points of performance for the Atlas stone load.
Many of you come into CrossFit RVA unable to do push-ups and pull-ups. Through routine exposure in classes, there’s a good chance you’ve reached the point where you could do these movements unassisted. But, it’s very common for this progress to take a long time, and for some, it seems like the day may never come when you can knock out push-ups and pull-ups with ease.
Let’s change that.
You can’t build on top of a foundation of bad movement. Most noticeably in the push-up, we regularly see extremely sloppy plank positions.
Your push-up should be initiated with a slightly hollowed plank position. Feet together, quads/glutes/abs turned on, and hips neutral or slightly “tucked” under to create a flat lumbar spine.
Neck and head should be neutral. Many tend to tuck their chins, and these are also the folks that usually sag their hips and can’t get full range of motion. Look a few inches in front of your hands, arching your neck up isn’t good either.
Place your hands slightly outside the shoulders, so that arms form approx. a 45 degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
Sets for near-max time, keeping hollow the entire time, is a great way to develop the hollow position. You can work in variations from your hands, elbows, and even outstretched arms (“Superman Planks”), and do these 2-3x/week.
Start with a 30” box. Set up so that at the bottom of the movement, hands are slightly outside the shoulders, and the box is hitting center of the chest.
Touch the box, and immediately come up. Don’t let your elbows flare out – keep them stacked over your hands.
If you’re somewhere in between a 20” box and the floor, you can try a small band, strung between two low j-cups setup in a rack. Do push-ups over the band, so that you get a little support at the bottom, typically the most challenging part.
Set yourself up in your now awesome plank position. Lower yourself as slowly as you can to the bottom of a full range of motion push-up. Keep your hollowed plank position, neutral neck, and good elbow positions. Rinse and repeat. This will build up strength in your push-ups, and good practice remaining tight.
Not so great options
Reducing range of motion: Strength is fairly specific to joint angle. Working limited range of motion won’t readily get you strong through the full movement.
Going to the knees: This may make things easier, but largely, we’re doing so by creating a shorter lever (your body), which isn’t working the trunk musculature like we need it to in order to do a great push-up.
Next week, we’ll address some options to keep your pull-ups improving, and very importantly, a simple progression to work these movements in and improve your push-ups AND pull-ups.
RVA Owner Jake Rowell and 2014 4th Place Finisher at NAS Nationals Morgan German go through the points of performance for the log press.
You’re almost done
Congratulations! If you’re a first time PNCer or done multiple rounds you’ve come close to the end of this iteration. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The mantle will be lifted. These chains of kale and grass-fed beef will soon break and you can again go sprinting toward loaves of hot, toasted bread. Should you make poor food choices? If not, what should you do next?
We don’t believe in “cheats”
Every suggestion or recommendation during the PNC has been framed within the paradigm of informed choices. The food you consume or do not consume is a choice and it is your choice. There are no “cheats” when it comes to food. There are only choices. Attaching a psychological significance and an emotionally arousing word to poor choices might be an effective strategy for discipline but it does nothing to cultivate a healthy relationship with food. A cookie isn’t an exam or your spouse so stop calling poor food choices “cheating”.
Not all poor food choices are created equal
There is a spectrum of poor food choices. You’ve been eating well for eight weeks and your body will provide immediate feedback if what you’ve just eaten is a poor food choice or a poor food choice. Red wine, dark chocolate, gourmet cheese, whipped cream are poor food choices. Cupcakes, smores, onion rings, spaghetti are poor food choices. Make sense?
80/20 and choosing one day a week to relax
You don’t want to be “that guy” lugging a cooler full of “paleo” foods to every party and you don’t want to offend your mom at Thanksgiving by grumpily munching on only turkey. Poor food choices, in moderation and with an understanding of their effects, are necessary to be social and, frankly, sane. One way to approach this is to adopt the “80/20” rule. This means, 80% of the time you make good food choices and 20% of the time you go wild. If you eat three meals a day, or 21 meals a week, you can make poor food choices for a total of four meals. Most people pack those meals into one day. Piling the gut punch into one day allows you to spend the week recovering and rebuilding through whole, nutrient dense foods.
Party like it’s 1914
Another method is to live like your Grandparents. Before the advent of grocery stores and the explosion of restaurants, people actually had to make the food they ate. The ingredients for poor food choices tended to be expensive and preparation was time consuming. Because of these factors, eating poor foods was a treat. Want a cheesecake? Fine. But you have to buy grass-fed dairy, farm fresh eggs, and organic flour. You have to make the cheesecake from scratch. You’ll find, like your Grandparents before you, that the hit to your wallet and your time will relegate these foods to “once in awhile” instead of “lets go to the store and pick up a cake”.
RVA Instructor Brandon walks through our standard warm-up and explains elements of movement preparation and selection.
“The cats nestled close to their kittens, the lambs have laid down with the sheep, you are cozy and warm in your bed, my dear, please go the f*ck to sleep.“
You wanna win the PNC? Then you need to go the f*ck to sleep
The average American sleeps five to six hours. Five to six hours!? We’re not going to give you a set in stone recommendation. You, after all these years on earth, are probably likely aware of how much sleep you need to feel rested. Much like making good food choices, you need to be aware of your sleep requirements and make appropriate sleep choices. Five hours ain’t cutting it.
“The windows are dark in the town, child. The whales huddle down in the deep. I’ll read you one very last book if you swear you’ll go the f*ck to sleep.“
If you train you need to sleep more
This might be obvious but if you are training, i.e. coming to classes, then you must sleep more. How much more? It’s hard to say, but something in the ball park of for every hour you train you should sleep one additional hour on top of your daily requirement of sleep. In other words, if you feel great from eight hours of sleep normally, but you went to class that day, try to get nine total hours of snoozing.
“The eagles who soar through the sky are at rest and the creatures who crawl, run, and creep. I know you’re not thirsty. That’s bullsh*t. Stop lying. Lie the f*ck down, my darling, and sleep.“
If you don’t sleep you will get fat
There’s science behind this, long and boring science but suffice it to say if you are not getting enough sleep you will cling to fat. Mostly because of elevated cortisol levels that you’re naturally going to try to level out with poor food choices like sweet tasting foods and too much caffeine. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if you are making good food choices, your body, stressed and depleted from lack of sleep and intense exercise, will hang onto fat.
“The wind whispers soft through the grass, hon. The ﬁeld mice, they make not a peep. It’s been thirty-eight minutes already. Jesus Christ, what the f*ck? Go to sleep.“
Learn sleep hygiene
There is something you can do about it: learn sleep hygiene. Just like the PNC, sleep hygiene is all about knowing your options and making good choices to create a desired result. First, you should stop watching T.V., using your phone or computer an hour before bed time. They emit blue light which stimulates cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that wakes you up in the morning and you don’t want any of that when you need to sleep. Second, make your room as dark as possible. Remove all LED displays, your phone, and cover your windows so that they don’t admit light. Some people say it should be so dark that you can’t see your hand pass before your face. I don’t know if that’s necessary but your room should probably be darker than it is now. Third, only use your room for sleeping and sex. If you work, read, hang out, or watch television in there then you will associate it with a myriad of things other than rest. It is a place of rest. Keep it that way.
“All the kids from day care are in dreamland. The froggie has made his last leap. Hell no, you can’t go to the bathroom. You know where you can go? The f*ck to sleep.“
Seriously, just go the f*ck to sleep.
I understand the world is busy and so is your life. But you started the PNC to make better choices with food and the next variable on your journey is going to be sleep. If something can make you feel and perform better in your busy life, why not try to do it?
“The cubs and the lions are snoring, wrapped in a big snuggly heap. How is it you can do all this other great sh*t but you can’t lie the f*ck down and sleep?“
Some people call it “the fog” others call it “low carb flu” but, no matter what it is known by, some of you may be experiencing energy decreases or outright crashes four to five weeks into the PNC. There are likely some reasons for this and a couple of tricks that may lift you from the doldrums.
Weekly Ubiquitous caveat: If you’ve gone off of caffeine (and I have no idea why you would ever do that), sleep less than seven hours a night, or have had a recent change in home/family/work life then you need to square those issues away too while tweaking your food choices.
You’re not eating processed food anymore
I hope this is a “duh” moment for you: processed foods are almost always calories, carb, and salt dense. Fresh, unprocessed food choices are almost nearly the opposite. A sudden change in food choices, particularly if you were making poor food choices, will lead to energy fluctuations. Here’s what you can do about it:
Eat more food
Since you are no longer pulling ready-made food from plastic packages your caloric intake has likely dropped drastically. When eating fresh food you must eat more. How much more? Something like this-
• Breakfast: 4-egg omelet (with whatever starchy vegetables you like), cooked in 1 tbsp. coconut oil; 2 slices of pan-fried bacon.
• Lunch: 1 whole avocado; salad with 6 ounces of salmon (about half a can) and whatever non-starchy vegetables you like plus 1 tbsp. olive oil in the dressing.
• Dinner: 1 serving of barbecued sirloin; 1 large sweet potato with 1 tbsp. butter; 1 cup spinach sautéed in 1 tbsp. coconut oil.
• Dessert: 1 cup strawberries drizzled with 2 tbsp. coconut milk.
Notice the recommendation to eat four eggs, one whole avocado, olive oil/coconut oil/butter galore and coconut milk. All are nutrient and calorie dense foods. This is likely a lot to prepare, but if you are using one day a week for food preparation it is doable to keep you fueled.
Eat more carbohydrates
You’re not on a low carb diet. You’re not on Atkins. You’re not even eating paleo. The PNC is simply a context to make better food choices that lean towards wholesome, fresh ingredients. Eat some more fruit, sweet potatoes, and other starchy vegetables. It’s fall, put down your cell phone and actually buy something in season from a local farmer. You’re in luck right now; the harvest for squashes is coming in. Eat more carbohydrates. Jake won’t yell at you for it and you’ll feel better.
Salt your food
I know salt is the boogey man. Whatever. Eating unprocessed foods means your salt intake is drastically lowered and miniscule compared to the standard American diet. It might also mean your electrolytes are out of whack. If you’re training three or more days a week (i.e. sweating) you will need to replace what you lose and one of the best ways to do that is to salt your food.
Take Vitamin D
If you don’t work outside and you don’t regularly sun bathe or tan you are likely Vitamin D deficient. Ten minutes of skin exposure (rolling up your sleeves and standing outside) to the sun might alleviate this issue but your best bet is to mega dose Vitamin D. It’s non-toxic in anything but enormous quantities and will boost both your energy levels and sleep quality when taken regularly. Try to avoid pill forms and consume Vitamin D in a liquid suspension. I am not telling anyone to do this but I know that smart, healthy and really fit people often take two to three times the Recommended Daily Allowance when they supplement with Vitamin D.
Lastly, and most unfortunately, you might be one of the poor souls that take almost a month to regain your metabolic flexibility. If that is the case, then you’re going to have to “suck it up” and wait till it passes. It will pass and you’re energy levels will be unlike anything you’ve previously known.
This might be Too Much Information (henceforth referred to as TMI) but there is the distinct possibility that some of you have been experiencing stomach pains, gas, and loose stool. No one’s been talking about it. No one wants to talk about it. Until now.
Ubiquitous caveat: If you’ve had the runs since the beginning of the PNC you may want to go to the Emergency Room.
You love nut flours
This is a common binder or loosener (I just invented this word) for people new to making appropriate food choices. Many things about nut flours could be killing your stomach so let’s just leave them alone for the next three weeks. You shouldn’t be replacing your poor desserts for “paleo” desserts anyway.
You put fat on everything
You’re hungry, you are trying to restrict poor carbohydrate choices and it just tastes so damn good so you’ve been putting coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, or nuts on everything. Stop. Consume a reasonable amount of calories from these sources in a macro nutrient proportion that fits the recommendation of previous articles. This challenge is about finding balance within the context of appropriate choices.
You’re crushing animal protein
This is another issue: you suddenly think it’s okay to destroy rib eye steaks every night. Now that you are ignoring the silly Recommended Daily Allowances of “insert government agency here” and since you want to be both jacked and shredded you consume protein in ungodly amounts. Eat only enough to support your work load and do it in appropriate proportions! If you want to gain weight, spread your meals throughout the day but be prepared and have a plan for wicked protein farts at work.
You’re eating new foods
Cauliflower, night shades, sauerkraut, Brussel sprouts, etc. give people issues on an eating plan of inappropriate choices. You, going down this road, are doubly susceptible to having issues. Add new foods in slowly and when you have issues remove them one at a time to see if you can pin-point the culprit. Better yet, cut them all out and reintroduce them one-by-one after a cool down period. As with all of this it’s going to take some time and experimentation to figure out what works in your context.
Last weekend myself and 11 of my craziest friends decided it would be a good idea to run 200 miles from Cumberland, MD to Old Town Alexandria.
You know the joke, How do you know a crossfitter is at your party? Give them 3 minutes and they’ll tell you. The Crossfitter talking about Crossfit has become a trait so pervasive that there seems to be a new joke or youtube video about it every week.
Well we discovered how to make a group of Crossfitters stop talking about Crossfit. Stick them in a van for about 45 hours with nothing else to think about than the basics like eat, sleep and clean porta johns, and how their next run will go. Crossfit was barely mentioned at all. Actually, I mentioned it out of surprise for how no one talked about Crossfit.
See, our goal for the run was simple. Just finish. We didn’t stress about time, and technique. We didn’t worry about a new PR or would Jake come and tell us to stay on our heels. (not good advice for running) We wanted to finish, and have fun doing it.
We saw a lot of teams out there stressing over 30 seconds difference in projected time. 30 seconds! It’s 200 freaking miles mostly over mountains. You have a chance to make it up. Teams that barely made eye contact except to boast about their kills. (runners you pass on the course) We took a slightly different approach. We cheered, we hugged and we laughed a lot.
Most importantly. Not talking about Crossfit gave us the opportunity to know each other better. I know this sounds all hippie tree hugger, but if you know me, you know I’m more antisocial anarchist. But it’s true, we had a genuinely good time and became better friends.
So what does this have to do with Endurance and Crossfit in general?
Most of the runners met here at RVA. None of us are exceptional athletes. Some of us are relatively new to running and have never done more than 13 miles and felt that for days afterwards. Some of us had pre-existing injuries we are recovering from. We would have never met in a regular gym but Crossfit promotes community and from that community we got a jury of our peers willing to take a chance on something completely unknown, and we succeeded.
There are a lot of new people in our gym. Some of them want to try Endurance, some of them want Strongman, and others just want to get better with a bunch of other people wanting the same. Chances are most of them feel completely out of their element and intimidated. Take time to know some of the new members. Try talking about something other than your last lift or the aches from yesterdays wod. You never know who you’ll be spending 45 hours with in a van.
For you new people. Get involved. Come to the gatherings at the box. Volunteer at a Superfit, or just ask to lift with someone you don’t know. Your Crossfit experience will be better for it.
RVA Endurance classes are Tuesday mornings at 6am and Wednesday nights at 5:30pm.
You can find the wods posted on Mondays and Wednesdays on Facebook at
or on Twitter: @rvaendurance
If you want to know more about Ragnar, or want to throw a team together for a future event, you can check here: