Two Great Resources For Learning How To Lift

When you first start CrossFit your coaches are sage-like possessors of wisdom unfathomable. They guide you, teaching you how to control your body so that your heels stay on the ground when you squat, developing your body’s ability to hinge at the hip and keep the spine secure with the infamous “core” muscles, and inundating you with arbitrarily named exercises that are supposed to help you get more fit. 

After a while, you decide that these strangely named exercises are fun and challenging. You want to get better at your snatch and clean and jerk. Unfortunately, your coaches seem to be bothered when you call them at 1130 at night demanding they explain to you intricacies of these movements, so that you can be better prepared for tomorrow’s workout.

No need to panic. Your coaches need sleep, and if you’re up at 1130 the night before working out, so do you. There are some great resources available to you where you can see quality demos of Olympic Weightlifting movements and the accessory work that is commonly paired with this type of training.

The number one resource for all things Olympic weightlifting is Catalyst Athletics. From having the most extensive exercise library I am aware of, to free training programs, to articles that are both informative and engaging, this site simply can not be beat.  All of the information here can be trusted to be accurate and the exercise demos are performed correctly as well.

Another great resource for some really great technique in action is the @hookgrip instagram account. He travels to weightlifting events around the world capturing the absolute best lifters in the world. His videos contain a bit of commentary as well, so you can become familiar with the elite athletes in the sport and become a bit of a fan in the process.

These two should be more than sufficient for anyone new to the sport. Where you want to stay away from is YouTube. Many people have developed the ability to speak clearly and confidently and present poor information in a way that sounds great. With more experience you will learn to discern the difference between those who know what they are talking about, and those who do not. 

Getting started and learning is a fun process. And you only get to be a true beginner once. Make sure to start that process on the right foot by getting quality coaching in your home gym and accessing the best sources available in your free time. Learning the right way initially will keep the progress rolling and eliminate the need for correcting pesky bad habits years down the road.

Gaining Skills and Making Progress

With the Open wrapping up everyone is excited about their fitness in a way many never have been before. Skills like muscle ups and handstand pushups are in the spotlight at the moment and folks are primed to get their first reps and make some new PR’s. It’s important at times like this to understand how skills develop and that there are correct ways to go about developing your physical abilities.

The first thing to remember is that capacity matters. If you are not strong enough to lift a weight, or if your lungs are not powerful enough to sustain intensity, you are going to need to fix these issues to achieve your goals. Many individuals had trouble with the thrusters of 16.5 simply because 95 lbs is over half of their best front squat. With this basic example it is easy to see that building your squat strength could significantly improve your capacity to handle this specific test.

Another good example is the kipping muscle up. While there were no muscle ups on rings this year, it is still a popular time to start looking up those two circles and imagining what the view is like from on top of them. The fastest way up on top is to kip and that’s what most folks set out to do, huck themselves upwards with all their effort  and hope for the best. The problem is most people don’t have the strength to even do a solid ring dip with full range of motion.

While the thrusters may have simply sucked for those who had to persevere through a challenging and relatively tough weight for them, the muscle up becomes incredibly dangerous at high speed without the required strength. Lifting a bunch of weights and practicing support positions on rings for several months is the best approach for developing the capacity to do a muscle up. Grow strong and things requiring strength work better. Simple.

Once you have the capacity to perform any skill you still have to learn to do the skill correctly. Fortunately, the two can be developed together. Pairing upper body strength development with ground based muscle up transition work will develop the motor patterning necessary and, as the strength reaches the required level, the only thing left is the application.

While the muscle up is flashy and has become a common benchmark for one’s efficacy as a fitness athlete, it is relatively easy compared to other exercises common to CrossFit. Learning Olympic weightlifting is an extremely intricate and time consuming process. From the basics of doing a consistent solid squat in training to nailing the classic lifts at heavy percentages, this is a process that can not be rushed. Spending hours, months, and years working the variations of snatch and clean and jerk along with supplementary exercises is how lifting is improved. Attempts can be made to rush or circumvent this process and achieve some level of success, but they will always pale in comparison to those who dedicate themselves to following a consistent program and putting in the hard work.

This year many individuals will build the ability to do amazing things. Many more can achieve those same skills and much more if they can commit to developing their capacity and honing their technique. Commit to working on the basics and developing sound strength and movement patterns and you will continue to grow towards your true potential.

5 Key Components of Post-Workout Nutrition

5 Key Components of Post-Workout Nutrition

Figuring out what to eat after you workout can be overwhelming - How much do I eat?  When should I eat?  What if I’m too busy to plan ahead?  Keep it simple and sane with the following 5 key components…

1.    Meal Composition

  • To refuel and recover, you need easily digestible sources of protein and carbohydrates

    • Trying to lean out?  Focus primarily on protein after your workout

    • Doing multiple workouts a day, just finished a really high intensity workout, and/or trying to build muscle?  Focus on including protein and carbohydrates after your workout

  • But where’s the fat?  Fats are a very important part of your daily nutrition, but they digest slowly (which is why they help keep you full and satisfied).  Fat’s slow digesting quality makes it something you want to limit in the meals after you workout so that your body can get the protein and carbohydrates it needs.  Plan ahead to get your fats into your other meals during the day!

2.    Meal Timing

  • When it comes to post-workout nutrition, sooner is better.  After a high intensity workout, your muscles been damaged and used glycogen (how carbohydrates are stored in your muscles). To repair and replenish, they need protein and glucose as fast as possible.  Try to eat something within 20 minutes of working out, then have the next meal in your day (breakfast, lunch, or dinner - depending when you workout) within 2 hours of finishing your exercise, focusing again on protein and carbohydrates.

3.    Meal Size

  • Your body can only process certain amounts of protein and carbohydrates at a time, which is why you want to give it small, easily digestible portions after you workout (this is why you probably don’t feel ready to eat a giant steak and a bowl of beans in the 20 minutes after you finish a high intensity workout)

  • Specific nutritional requirements post-workout depend on just about everything: your size, goals, and how hard you worked out.  Try to include 15 - 35 grams of protein and about 30 - 100 grams of carbohydrates.

4.    Meal Choices

Your carbohydrate sources should be high in glucose.  If you’re looking at nutritional information, a good tip is look for something with carbohydrates but low sugars, or think of carbohydrate sources that don’t taste sweet.

Mix and match from the suggestions below:

Fast Digesting Carbohydrate Sources

  • Sweet potato

  • White potato

  • Plantain

  • Cooked white rice

  • Bread

  • Bagel

  • Oats

Protein Sources

  • High quality whey protein powder

  • Chicken breast

  • Fish

  • Bison

  • Lean ground beef

  • Low fat greek yogurt

  • Low fat cottage cheese

5.    Implementation

To put this all in practice, keep an open mind and try to plan ahead.

  • Try some of the principles outlined above and tweak them based on how your body responds.  Don’t like dairy?  Don’t choose dairy as a protein source.  Can’t handle gluten?  Choose gluten free carb sources.  Almost threw up after your last post-workout meal?  Try eating a little less next time and/or waiting a couple of extra minutes.  Adjust and personalize as needed, and remember that the foods in #4 are just suggestions.

  • Try to plan ahead so you don’t find yourself going hungry (hangry?) after a workout.  Batch prepare carb sources for the week and keep a tub of protein and a shaker cup in the car.