OPT does Helen in 2008. One of the first CrossFit videos I watched
James (OPT) Fitzgerald won the CrossFit Games in 2007. That was the very first year of the games. Back then it was like a bunch of friends throwing down with each other. If you happened to drive past and recognise what they were doing as CrossFit you would have been welcomed to join in. OPT is now 41 years old so eligible to come and try and join me at the CrossFit Games this year or next.
Today’s gym benchmark at Blackwater is Helen. One of the most popularly programmed ‘Girl’ WODs. There’s been a huge number of variations of Helen, ‘Fat Helen’, ‘Fatter Helen’ and of course ‘Eva’ which is basically double the reps, double the running and at an RX+ standard with 32/20k swings and chest to bar pull ups.
However, out of all of these, the basic ‘Helen’ puts the biggest knot in my stomach. Knowing I am expected to go all out without any excuse of weight or skill slowing me down is more scary than plodding through a 40 minute marathon paced with a high but not at my limit heart rate.
This is exactly why good scaling is essential. I have seen so many people make up ridiculously hard workouts with movements and weights that are almost at their absolute limit. They think that they are being total beasts by making things so hard for themselves but actually all they are doing is making sure that the stimulus from their workout will be remarkably small. Yes they will still get a good strength workout but as far as cardio goes their heart’s not going to get out of third gear.
So next time you open up the CrossFit Blackwater page, look at the WOD and think how easy it looks, be very very wary… Sometimes the easiest on paper can be the hardest. Something you can fly through weight and skill wise bites hard. Lactic acid shutting down your muscles is at most uncomfortable, missing a lift is often annoying, but nothing hurts like getting into that max heart beat, pushing hard as you can zone, that’s when you find out how much you want it.
Hope you enjoy Helen today, your scores are going to be written down and kept for the next time we programmes the benchmark.
Back Squats – 3-3-2-2-1-1 – Build to a heavy single.
One of the most common problems I encounter is difficulty in taking on board sufficient protein to fuel training and recovery.
Depending on your goals and lifestyle you will probably need somewhere between 1 and 2 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. If you are a CrossFitter trying to build strength and hitting intense wods several times a week you are likely to be at the top end of this range.
So here are a few suggestions to help you start hitting your protein targets.
Plan your eating around protein.
Every meal is an opportunity to get some protein inside of you! Don’t have bran flakes for breakfast, vegetable soup and a roll for lunch and leave yourself in the unenviable position of having to eat 3 chicken breasts, a tin of tuna and a protein shake for tea.
Eggs, cold meats, high protein yoghurt, leftovers from the previous evening are all great breakfast protein sources. Think outside the cereal box – breakfast doesn’t have to be conventional.
2. Ban ready meals.
They aren’t good for you in any respect. They are full of preservatives, flavour enhancers and other chemicals and you have no control over what they contain.
From a protein perspective, meat is the most expensive ingredient in ready meals and you can guarantee that they contain far less than you would serve yourself from a home cooked meal.
3. Keep away from the cookie jar.
Junk food just isn’t high in protein – period.
It’s generally an addictive and moreish combination of sugar and fats – one digestive soon becomes the packet and, before you know it, you’ve eaten enough calories to support the lifestyle and training regime of a world’s strongest man competitor – oh, except you still have 3 chicken breasts, a tin of tuna and a protein shake to cram in.
Do you want to eat them now you know that you’ve already overeaten? Can you face eating them now you are full of biscuits?
Try eating your chicken/fish/steak and vegetables first – and THEN make a decision on whether you still want the biscuits!
4. Have some handy protein hacks to get your through the tough bits.
Here are a couple of substitutes for when the ice-cream monster visits…
Fancy some: Ben and Jerry’s Phish food (1/2 tub – who eats only one scoop?)
580 calories 8g protein/74g carbs/28g fat
I scoop of Icon Evolution whey (molten chocolate) 32g
1 tbspn unsweetened cocoa powder (5g)
1/2 tsp baking powder
20g almond butter
2 tbspn milk (30ml)
3 tbspn egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix all the ingredients together, pour into a large mug and microwave for 45-60s.
During November we will be including some Hero workouts.
CrossFit has a longstanding association with the military and uniformed services – hero WODs honour some of those who gave their lives in the line of duty.
If you check out WODvember.com you will find a 30 day challenge comprising a hero WOD for every day throughout November. They raise money for Help for Heroes and some brave souls actually take on the challenge of a hero WOD every day for a month!
We won’t be doing that, but we will be including a few hero workouts during November. If you would like to support Help for Heroes you can buy the WODvember t-shirt or make a donation via the WODvember website.
Today we will be doing a British hero WOD that you won’t find on crossfit.com. If you are interested in looking at the British Hero WODs check out their Facebook page.
1) Clean and Jerk Programme
2) “OLAF ”
Dedicated to Ssgt Olaf Scmidt (30) 11 EORD, who died in an explosion in Afghanistan on 31/10/09. Also dedicated to Cpl Thomas Mason, Cpl James Oakland, Lcpl James Hill, Jamie Janes, and Marc Wojtak who died in the same month.
Simon admires Steve’s body position on the strict chest to bar pull up
When I first started experimenting with CrossFit my background had been mostly isolation exercises. As far as I was concerned using your hips was cheating. Getting that last bicep curl by leaning back a bit and doing something strange with my legs… Or as we now know it using our hips. My body seemed to do this on it’s own without any direction from my brain, it was like there was an inbuilt method in my genetics kicking in and getting that last rep done.
This was widespread in CrossFit competitions in 2009 – Olympic lifting was basically ‘get it up there anyhow’, kipping handstand push ups had not been invented and a muscle up was done with very little kip in a false grip using mostly biceps then triceps to finish off. Happy days :)… for me.
Then slowly over the next few years people started taking Olympic lifting seriously – getting actual REAL olympic lifting coaches in to teach them and inventing newer, faster ways of doing the bodyweight exercises. The `Hip Revolution`, as I call it, was born.
Everything was about the hips. Ring dips, hspu, muscle ups, olympic lifting of course, no longer could you get away with muscling a 80k snatch to win a Throwdown. CrossFitter’s were shouting ‘hips, hips, hips’ on everything.
Our hips do produce the most power and are essential in Olympic lifting. But this power comes at a cost, just like gas guzzling cars they eat oxygen as fast as a Bugatti sucks down petrol. On the longer conditioning workouts they are going to burn a lot of fuel and you’re going to need the help of the smaller muscles, the old fashioned musclers.
That is why we programme for both at Blackwater. Olympic lifting specialised days refining your technique and explosive speed, strength days with the big lifts like squats and deadlifts and on top of that isolation exercises to keep tendons and joints strong and every muscle ready to take big lactic acid hits.
3 rounds – Move with purpose between exercises, rest 2 mins between rounds.
Strict Press – 10-10-10 – ascending weight. Build to a heavy 10 reps.
DB/KB rows – 10-10-10 each arm
Hand Release Push ups – 15-15-15
Bicep curls – 10-10-10 each arm
This was one of the first CrossFit videos I watched. This is also the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz. Annie, Eva and Nicole all trained here together and regularly hit main site workouts that people would copy all around the world.
Back when this was filmed around 2008 if you were close enough to an affiliate to train there with other Crossfitters you were truly blessed. So what the rest of us did was follow crossfit.com. Every morning a workout would appear on main site then you would get yourself to your local globo gym and do it to the best of your ability and rush back and post your times on the main page comments -scrolling up and down seeing who you beat or who beat you. Just like at the gym now, I had my names to look out for, people I would do my best to beat every day. Nik ‘Alan’ Nichols from Texas and Richard Vanmeerbeek from Belgium were my main contenders and like me they posted a score every single day… apart from the rest days of course when we made our own workouts up.
Fast-forward six years from my good old days, and where
is CrossFit now? There are over 4,000 CrossFit gyms spread across the
entire world. There are now hundreds of thousands of
CrossFitters, and it seems like there are hundreds more
every single day.
I hope you enjoy the video… And yes the form’s not always great 😉
Hang Power Clean 3-3-3-3-3 – Build to a heavy 3 reps
50 Air Squats
7 Muscle Ups / 21 Ring Rows
10 Hang Power Cleans 60/40k
In CrossFit almost every day is different. However we need to measure your progress in more ways than just your lifting. The best way to do that is with a variety of benchmark wods that test different aspects of your training, skills and how well your body uses different energy pathways. Simply – whether you’re good at shorter faster workouts or excel on the long ones.
Today’s test is Helen. A mid range workout with most people falling within the 8-12 minute finishing time. It’s a test of your cardio-respiratory capacity combined with a bit of grip endurance. Kettlebell swings followed by pull ups are tough.
It would be great if everyone could make a note of their time and how you scaled, so next time around we can see how much you have improved. My first Helen took me 13 minutes. I hadn’t learnt how to kip pull ups and the 24k kettlebell felt a lot heavier to me back then than it does now. Since then, over 8 or so years, I have taken almost 5 minutes off my time. You may wonder how I remember that long ago being so old…. I don’t. Luckily my workouts are all logged since I began in 2008. I cannot emphasise enough how much it’s helped me over the years having a log. For example, I remembered doing one of the Games workouts from this year at Fitness First about 5 years ago. Going through my log I was able to formulate a great strategy and get an idea of how the workout would feel.
In case you fancy reading ALL of my struggles since discovering CrossFit here is my log. You won’t take long to find a rant about double unders being impossible, how I will never be able to overhead squat or my final breakthrough with the muscle up. When I watch you all learning I remember being in that exact same place and I know the work needed to get each skill mastered.
When I first started CrossFitting if snatch popped up on the blog I’d suddenly find something else VERY important that needed doing. Loading the dishwasher couldn’t possibly wait for a couple of hours, my house desperately needed hoovering, even a visit to the infamous Swedish hell, I mean homewares store, could become essential when threatened with the snatch.
I went to the first few classes but found myself standing around bemused – how exactly was the bar supposed to go from the ground to over my head again? Then I got a bit embarrassed about having no idea what to do – so I stopped going to classes involving snatches.
Fortunately, my box at the time started up a weightlifting session and we worked on hitting positions that helped us to execute the full snatch. After a few weeks something exciting happened – I was at the bottom of a squat with the bar overhead. I wasn’t quite sure how it happened but it felt pretty good!
That continued for quite a long time – maybe once in every session, or even every other session some magic would happen and everything fell into place. I still had no idea how I was doing it but I was hooked – chasing those occasional lifts that just felt great.
A lot has happened since then. The snatch is now my favourite movement and I’ve invested a great deal of time educating myself on the intricacies of coaching it and on improving my own lifts. I love sharing my technical knowledge and experience with other people and seeing THAT look the first time someone hits a good one!
So, here’s a quick rundown of common reasons for avoiding the snatch and why there may be an alternative approach.
I don’t want to be an Olympic weightlifter, I’m a CrossFitter/runner/triathlete…
Ok, CrossFit first. The snatch invariably comes up at all levels of competition. The better your technique is, the more efficient you will be at cycling low weights.
Did you see the max snatch event at regionals this year – or the snatch ladder at the Games? If you have aspirations to compete at CrossFit, the Olympic Lifts are a must for your toolbox.
The snatch is transferable to any sport requiring explosive power. The extension of the knees and hips, drilled by snatching, is going to be helpful for any sport mimicking that movement. Like running… and therefore sports involving running – rugby, football, hockey… You don’t need to be a super heavyweight world champion snatcher to benefit from training the movement.
Which brings me to…
I don’t want to be a huge weightlifter with loads of body fat.
Eek – I hear what you are saying. This lady seems to cause controversy wherever she goes…
Don’t panic – weightlifters come in all shapes and sizes. The sport itself is categorised by bodyweight so similar sized lifters compete against each other.
Yes there are some BIG lifters out there, but there are also enormously powerful lifters with low body weights.
Check out Welshman Gareth Evans snatching twice his bodyweight of 62kg at this year’s British Championships.
I just want to be healthy – not a weightlifting machine.
As we age, we lose muscle tissue unless we fight and train to retain it. Have you ever seen a grandparent struggling to get out of a chair? If you get to the point where you can’t squat the weight of your own body that is the end result. Lifting weights is essential to combat muscle wastage.
Especially important for women (but not exclusively, as men can be affected too) is the beneficial impact of lifting weights on bone density. Menopausal and post menopausal women are particularly susceptible to osteopenia and osteoporosis which can lead to deformities and increased risk of broken bones in later life. Lifting weights has been proven to help with the maintenance of bone density.
As an added bonus, building lean tissue through weightlifting can help to sculpt a tight, firm physique that hours of running will never achieve.
Yes it is.
It is one of the most complex movements that we teach in CrossFit. You will struggle, you will get frustrated and some days you will start to believe that you will never get the hang of it.
You will have other days where it feels like the most beautiful movement in the world. You’re throwing yourself under an enormous weight and DAMN IT FEELS AMAZING!!
AND, you can do it in pearl earrings and pink wrist wraps…
What’s the point in training a movement I will never be competitive with?
The growth of CrossFit in the UK is fuelling an increased interest in Olympic Lifting. This can only be good for the sport at the highest level and good for recreational lifters looking for opportunities to compete.
A number of our lifters have enormously enjoyed competing in this year’s East Anglian Lifting League. None of them (yet!) have big enough totals to qualify for a major championship but have still been able to compete locally.
Our first inter-box lifting friendly match is approaching. This is a great opportunity to lift and compete. This is the time to get up on the platform and exhibit the results of your efforts in training.
There really is nothing like an imminent competition to supercharge your training and nutrition. Often the excitement and adrenaline of the occasion produces lifts at the top end of your ability.
Whilst most of us won’t be attempting to get to Rio (!!!) there is an enormous amount of pleasure and satisfaction to be gained from mastering one of the most technically complex movements you’ll encounter in CrossFit.
Snatch deadlift + 2x high pulls 3x (1+2)
Front squat 5×3
500m row for time
75 abmat situps
Just in case you think my video coverage has been a bit too girly…