The Kipping Pull up IS a Pull Up

January 23, 2014
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One of the most common hits on CrossFit presented by CrossFit haters and globo gym rats is the idea that the kipping pull up is not really a pull up. You see someone make an ignorant comment about this at least once a month on all our favorite avenues of social media. I usually just ignore these people, but this morning I simply couldn’t help myself…and it made for a good article since I haven’t posted one in a while…

Well executed kipping is a skill: a useful skill and a legitimate one at that in the world of gymnastics. My experience is people who hate on kipping usually lack the skill and coordination to do them properly with solid mechanics. Their strict pull ups are likely to not be technically sound either. Common faults you will find are

-not achieving full flexion of the shoulder at the bottom of the hang,
-allowing the shoulder to internally rotate in the bottom (enter potential for shoulder cuff injury),
-lack of scapular muscle activation,
-allowing the thoracic spine to go into extension (again putting the shoulder in a less than optimal position…this lack of motor control tends to manifest itself in other movements as well.),
-tilting the neck back into cervical extension (aka the chicken neck) to shorten the pull,
– etc. etc.

It really boils down to ego. The belittling of the kipping pull up tends to reveal a level of insecurity compelling the person to downplay another’s accomplishments. Again, the kipping pull up is a legitimate variant of the pull up especially within the context of CrossFit where the goal is to achieve a task as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The gymnastic kip is only one version of the kip. The butterfly kip is a more advanced version that is pretty much a CrossFit signature movement and not even found in the sport of gymnastics. This variant requires a bit more coordination as well as raw strength. It has no real application other than to do pull ups in high volume VERY quickly (in some cases less than 1 second per rep). I’ve heard of 65 in one minute CHEST to bar

Now the goal of CrossFit isn’t just competition. The competition component is a SMALL fraction of the overall non stereotypical demographic of “CrossFitters”. CrossFit was designed and developed to make people better at life in general; to prepare people for the unknown and unknowable. Let’s be honest, if you were running away from a dog and had to climb over a fence, are you really going to stop and do a strict pull up? No, you will want to know how to fire as many tissues as possible to clear the obstacle as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is an overarching theme that manifests itself in all the foundational movements: an emphasis on generating power from core to extremity. This is an emphasis sadly lacking in “traditional” fitness programs where isolation is an emphasis and not really relevant to real life. The effect for some is the production of all show no go athletes who are uncoordinated and lack the neurological wiring and awareness to use their muscles in concert with one another as they were intended. Don’t even get me started on the lack of mobility for which these “weight lifters” are famous. That’s a whole other discussion.

Simply put: a kipping pull up is a pull up. Most people who hate on them can’t do them properly anyway and should put their ego aside before they belittle people who can.

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Don’t use machines… Become One. Part 1 of many

May 26, 2013
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Fitness Tips for the Masses Don’t Use Machines… Become One. Part 1 of Many

Next time you’re in the gym, make a better decision and grab a dumbbell or a bar INSTEAD of hopping from machine to machine. (Read disclaimer below)

The primary reason I dislike machines is that real life happens in free space, in three dimensions. Machines, on the other hand, lock you into a set path, thus isolating a SMALL percentage of tissue that would otherwise be needed in an everyday situation.

A very simple to understand example would be a shoulder press. A shoulder press involves taking a resistance and pushing it from your shoulders straight up over your head. Super easy.

A lot of people like to use a machine or a bar locked on rails (called a Smith Machine) because it keeps the load stable and going in one direction (up or down).

I invite you to conduct an experiment (or just follow me mentally here). Use the machine twice a week for a month on your shoulder/upper body day or whatever you do. Guaranteed…you can get really strong pushing things over your head using this machine, especially if you do it seated. But now go and try to lift the same weight with a bar in free space. Can’t do it can you?

The reason is that by locking the load into one plane of motion, you are DISENGAGING a TON of other tissue that is needed to perform the same movement in a real life situation… PARTICULARLY your “CORE”. (This is a concept I’ll revisit later…because, contrary to popular belief, your core is more than just your abs.)

A real life overhead lift is VERY complicated and uses a lot of musculature to stabilize the load in all three dimensions. If you only ever use a machine, you are missing out on a great deal of potential to generate real, functional strength. But worst of all, you set yourself up for potential injury. What good are strong arms without a strong stable foundation on which to attach them?!

Like I mentioned earlier, using a machine DISENGAGES your core. Why in the world would you EVER want to do that? If your back arches or hurts lifting a free weight, you are probably using a weight too heavy for you in the first place. Who cares if you “look” like a sissy with the 10 pound dumbbells. Make a better decision. Keep your back straight, keep everything tight and build some real life, functional strength. Sitting on the sidelines, getting even huskier with a broke back is not a happy alternative.

Disclaimer: All this being said…if you don’t know how to use free weights (and even if you THINK you do…because experience has shown me that the average person doesn’t or has been taught incorrectly). PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, make a small investment and pay someone who knows what they’re doing to teach you how. Ask them what “midline stability” is and how to best keep your core tight to protect your spine. If they can’t answer that or give you a blank stare at first…go find someone else. They probably don’t know what they’re doing either!

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Athlete Progress & Maintenance

June 25, 2012
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I want to start off by saying that I’m super stoked on the progress I’ve been seeing in everyone.

Ricardo…your squats like a gazillion times better in just one week.
DD…congrats on updating your pants size!
Michelle Wilcox…you are SO NOT fat… you’re like a gazillion times stronger and more ripped than when you started 2 months ago!

(notice I like the word gazillion?)

Those are the first three that came to mind, but each one of you is progressing quite nicely. I HAVE been keeping everyone’s scores. I take photos of the results every day…but it’s a full time job keeping them organized. I have 3 jobs already…so I’m failing on keeping up with these.

BUT…this shouldn’t be my job anyway!!! Though, I WILL try and keep you accountable.

Your homework (due next time you come in for class):

  • notebook
  • writing utensil
  • 3 lacrosse balls (you can get these at any sporting goods store. ~3 each)
  • 2 rolls of athletic tape (get them at the same sporting goods store you buy the lax balls at)

Athlete Progress

Yes…each one of you is an athlete…whether you think so or not…

Starting yesterday… I want you all to start logging your own WOD results. A workout journal will help you immensely in tracking your own progress and help you see what areas you need help in. Every week I will ask you what movements need work… and I will give you an individualized WOD to work on those skills or movements. Friday is best for this since Friday is a dedicated makeup or technique day. But if you don’t come on Fridays, we can do it another day.

My hope is that you’ll see just how effective CrossFit is and help you meet each of your individualized goals.

ALSO… July 1, we are starting our Paleo Challenge. I want you all to start logging your daily nutrition. When you eat, what you eat, etc. No matter how hard you’re working, you will NOT see significant results without modifying your diet. That said…you will NEVER again, see me eating donuts in the gym. =) I’ll do that in private. Just kidding…


Why the lacrosse balls and athletic tape?

The athletic tape is for those of you who are not happy with the idea of your hands looking like mine… And cannot just wear gloves. I want you to be able to feel the bar.

For protecting those girlish hands and to guard against ripping

The lacrosse balls will be used to do SMR work to get blood flow to your muscles pre-WOD and to help maintain yourselves when you’re not in the gym and are feeling sore and tight. We’ll go over that more this week.

Keep up the good work everybody!

In genuine fitness,

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Results & Scalability

April 27, 2012
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Whenever I’m asked to explain what I do or “What is CrossFit?” I typically begin with the textbook definition:

“Constantly Varied Functional Movement Executed at High Intensity”

I then proceed into an extended monologue that could easily be distilled into two words:

  1. Results
  2. Scalability

My heart behind this article is to elaborate a little on these two words and share with you my vision as we move forward in this new season at CrossFit Stronghold.

Re: Results Quite simply it JUST works. Case in point:

Yes, indeed. That’s me on December 6 2006. 5’4″ tall, 195lbs, 34″ waist, bloated gut, no neck, and not happy at all. Probably couldn’t run 30 yards without feeling like I was going to pass out. Today I weigh 165lbs, have a 29″ waist, and though I think that ties are anti CrossFit (they are non-functional and restrict range of motion) I wear them upon occasion simply because I can.

My sister, as mentioned in her trainer bio, lost 75lbs after her second baby.

I love CrossFit because it produces real and functional results. It makes you better at EVERYTHING you do.

When I went to my CrossFit coaches training I completely nerded out (and I still do on a daily basis) on all the cool research and hard data that CrossFit has accumulated over the years about human performance and training. With that in mind, I’m Bringing Back The Girls. For those of you who may be new to CrossFit, you can get acquainted with them at the Main Site. The short of it is that every other week we will be doing one of the CrossFit benchmark workouts. We will then revisit each one every 2-3 months so that we can measure your improvement. I mean seriously…what’s the point in doing something to better yourself if you can’t measure your results?

Re: Scalability

This is a CrossFit staple. I love watching the old CrossFit videos that have an elite athlete, an average joe, a couple college girls, and a grandma doing the same workout at the same time. Those videos paint a quintessential image of the heart behind CrossFit:

“The needs of a Navy Seal and your grandma differ only in degree not kind.”

While Reebok and the CrossFit Games have done a lot to increase CrossFit’s visibility beyond the local boxes, I feel like the hype has, in a way, clouded a foundational tenet that makes CrossFit so great. Because of it, many people seeing CrossFit for the first time are led to believe that CrossFit is only for the elite athlete. When the actual truth is that CrossFit is for everybody.

As a CrossFit box owner and coach, my focus isn’t on producing a stable of elite athletes. If I end up coaching one or two people that end up competing at the games, that would be cool. But quite honestly, my joy comes from helping regular people: nurses, lawyers, servicemen, students, moms of young and teenage children, and especially grandmas improve their quality of life. I’ll say it again, CrossFit makes you better…at EVERYTHING. And a fundamental reason behind this is CrossFit’s foundational emphasis on scalability. For this reason, every Workout of the Day (WOD) will be programmed in such a way that it will challenge the veterans and still be accessible to the first timer or for those with special needs.

So, if you’re reading this article and wondering “Is CrossFit for me?” I emphatically, jumping up and down, say “YES!”

In closing

Every athlete, (YES, YOU in one sense or another are an athlete, contrary to what you or anyone else may say about you) is different. While we all have the same fundamental needs, meeting those needs may require a different path for one person than it would for another. Some people need more work than others. As a coach, I am committed to helping you get there as well as fostering a community of athletes that have a heart to help each other.

If you think you’re beyond help, Try me. I can’t take credit for this, but ask those who know me… I have an uncanny, God-given level of patience and would love nothing more than to help you overcome your personal challenges. Just come with a willing attitude and a teachable spirit and we’ll be good to go. It’s because of scalability that we can meet the needs of even the most out of shape or physically challenged. And it’s by scalability and dedication that we can achieve results.

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