Olympic-Lifting, Power-Lifting, Strength and Conditioning
The 4 Horsemen will usher in a new age of fitness. The traditional versions of Conquest, War, Famine and Death are represented in our focus on Goals, Competition, Nutrition and Metabolic-conditioning. We firmly believe that strength, power and fitness are best achieved by utilizing CrossFit methods and the 4 Horsemen of Lifts: Squats, Presses, Deadlifts and O-lifts.
Crossfit (noun): General fitness program which uses Constantly Varied Functional Movements done at High Intensity!
But what does all that really mean? ... To answer this question I have summarized a lecture by Pat Sherwood given my Level 1 cert. in Toronto.
Basically, Crossfit is a program that is designed to provide an individual with a broad general and inclusive fitness level. At Crossfit their specialty is not specializing, crossfitters are generalists because frankly, life requires the skills of the generalist (good at many tasks) not the specialist (good at only a single/few tasks), specialization is for insects! Crossfit works to extend ones exposure to as many stimuli as possible because most often you fail at the margins of your experience. By continually pushing those margins or boundaries with new experiences or constantly varied stimuli we can better prepare ourselves for whatever life may throw at us. The way to push these boundaries is through the use of the most basic movements such as the squat(standing up with something), deadlift(picking up something) and overhead press(putting away something), which are essential to independent living. These are safe, prehistoric, biomechanically sound movements for which the human body was designed to do. Nobody had to teach you how to stand up out of a chair, you just knew how to do it. These movements use the universal motor recruitment patterns found in almost every movement we do. They are truely unavoidable excercises. They are compound movements working mulitple muscle groups with multiple joints and by their very nature can not be reduced into simpler, more beneficial movements. However, they can be combined and made more complex in order to become increasingly useful and generate more power. Their greatest effect is how the muscles must all work in symphony for the action to occur. Additionally, these are all core to extremity movements in that the midline must remain stable for the power to be transferred from the ground by our legs, through the trunk and into our arms which are holding the object we wish to lift. Thus, all these movements will improve core strength and contribute greatly to overall strength, that is why they are functional movements. With these Functional movements we are capable of moving large loads a long distance in a short amount of time and that means we can generate more power. This is important because Intensity is directly equal to Power (Power = [Force x Distance] / Time). For all intents and purposes all one needs to know is that intensity is almost always the independent variable most commonly associated with favourable adaptations in fitness. Heart rate is only a correlate to intensity, true measureable intensity is all about power - how much you lifted, how far you lifted it and how long it took you to do it. Basically, all the good stuff comes through high intensity. How high? It is relatively high to each individuals abilities, so by maximizing individual intensity we are maximizing our individual results. Therefore, high Intensity is our shortcut to both fitness and results, which we will notice almost immediately in the improvements to our everyday life.
Stay tuned for What is Fitness?
"The Magic is in the Movements, the Art is in the Programming and the Science is in the Explanation." - Pat Sherwood quoting Greg Glassman.
When looking to maximize performance and most importantly health, you need to make sure what your eating is something that can be classified as food. If it needs to be fortified with vitamins to be "healthy" it is not food. People are so obsessed with fat, calories, and vitamins that they are totally missing the point. If you are eating properly those things should take care of themselves. Do you look at nutrition labels? Well then what your holding in your hand is not food! If you cannot kill or harvest it and have it on your plate in under an hour then you should not be, and were never meant to be eating it.
Human evolution has not kept up with the advances in agriculture and it has left us being the most overweight and unhealthy we have been in existence. We were never meant to eat wheat, nor were we meant to eat refined sugar or any other ingredients you see on the boxed foods that are unpronounceable.
What were we meant to eat?
Whole foods! Meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, and leaves. Forget the low-fat, high carb diet unless you want; diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer or any of the western diseases associated with a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
Escaping the western diet
It can certainly be a difficult change for some people, and for others just a bit of tweaking and your there. Here are some easy ways to escape the western diet and all the fun diseases that follow;
Eat a diet of; meats and vegetables, nuts & seeds, some fruit, little starch and NO SUGAR
Shop the peripherals of the grocery store.
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible, you won't find high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer's market.
Buy grass fed meat/eggs; you are what you eat eats!(Note: just because its free range does not mean it is grass fed, make sure it says grass fed).
Buy meat in bulk; cook extra for snacks and freeze what you don't cook. Buying in bulk is also much cheaper.
Be the kind of person that takes supplements; a fish oil capsule and a multivitamin can go along way.
What to stay away from;
All flour/grain products
All dairy; pasteurization destroys the milks genetic make-up, what your left with barely represents what it would look like if it came straight from the cow. Unless your getting your milk from a grass fed cow before it goes through processing, then it is fine. If not, you need to eliminate your milk consumption
No sugar or artificial sweeteners
No beans, lentils or legumes (we will leave the reasoning for another post)
These changes to your diet will drastically improve the way you look, feel and perform in all aspects of life. Proper nutrition is the foundation of human performance, health and longevity. What you doing isn't working, never has worked and never will. Acknowledge, accept and move on.
Olympic lifts (O-lifts) or Weightlifting the one word version not weight lifting to two word version describing the recreational activity of a 1/3 of the population in which they move some dumbbells in a futile effort to get in shape. I'm talking about weightlifting which is all about the Snatch and the Clean & Jerk (2 of the original 3 Olympic lifts - they removed the clean and press) and any of the hanging- (prefix - start just below knee) or power- (prefix - catch in 1/4-1/2 squat) versions. There is no better way to develop pure POWER than the O-lifts. They are a true power movement in that they move enormous loads from ground to overhead in a very short amount of time. For all those scientists like myself that can do the math Power = Work/time where Work = Force(load) x distance. So if you move the same load faster you create more power even though you are doing the same amount of work. Basically power is all about speed or explosiveness in an exercise. This speed/explosiveness is generated in the "seat of power" basically from all the muscles that attach to the pelvis mainly the back, quads, hams, glutes and hips. The tremendous power generated by the opening of the hips can transfer directly from weightlifting into other activities of daily life such as running and jumping. Thus O-lift are extremely functional and should be an active part of any program. The down side to the O-lifts is that they are very technical in nature when trying to move the load from the floor to overhead. Although not as beneficial, simpler versions (smaller range of motion) can be employed rather easily so that one may gain from using such a lift. The simplest form of the clean is a standing two feet jump. Instead of the full squat clean which starts with the weight on the floor, one could start with the weight just above the knee on the thighs - then "explode" or "Jump" with the weight while keeping the arms straight, to full hips, legs, back extension, shrugging at the top of the "pull". The lifter should come up onto their toes without actively engaging the calves and the lifter and the bar(load) should feel weightless for a fraction of a second. This sort of bastardized version of the clean simplifies the movement but still allows for someone with no understanding of what they are doing to benefit from the lift. In all honesty, a knowledgeable and certified coach is needed to learn the full versions of the lift. O-lifts are all about the "jump" as this is where the power comes from. So please do not let me see you trying to reverse curl 225lbs in a heaving motion that is all back in a poor attempt at a power clean. I would rather see you doing jumps with two 40# dumbbells in your hands. I love the O-lifts so more detailed rants are on the way!
Presses are another group of great basic movements. They encompass a fairly large range of motion along many degrees of freedom. Basically the presses are a "push" done with the arms usually in concert with other large muscle groups such as the pecs/delts etc. Presses range from decline bench press to bench press to incline bench press up to standing shoulder press. They can even be done in conjunction with the legs and hips for a more dynamic and complex variation such as the push press and jerk. Other more complex versions include the Sotts press and Handstand pushup (an inverted standing press), both of which are very demanding on the core. These are only a few of the many types of presses. When it comes to Presses for strength we are concerned with only two factors 1.) the number of muscle groups involved in which case more is always better and 2.) How much demand/load can we put on these muscles. For example anytime you are standing rather than sitting or lying to do a press you are using more muscles (you need to stabilize yourself) it is therefore of greater benefit to overall strength. This is why standing press is more functional (useful) than bench press. Don't get me wrong I love bench press and it should be in everybodies program because of reason 2 the demand it puts on the muscles as we do bench press with much larger weights. But unless you shove people a lot it is far more useful in every day life to be able to lift heavy boxes etc. over your head. Lastly, stay away from isolation presses like tricept press and french press that just work one muscle group as they are almost useless (They don't use a lot of muscle groups and you can't use a large load). Leave them to the bodybuilders who want to just look good and be weak, we want to look good and be strong!
The Deadlift is a monster of a lift, a true monster! Due to the mechanics of this lift insane amounts of weight (like 1000 lbs of crazy) can be lifted and therefore an insane amount of strength can be gained. If your training program does not have the deadlift then you need another training program. Like most lifts the deadlift has many variations such as the romanian, straight-leg, round-back and sumo deadlifts but there are a few commonalities. First the bar should be under the scapula (shoulder blade), you might as well start with it there because that is where gravity will take it. This usually means that the bar starts over the mid foot as the mid foot is the point where your balance should always be. Second, with the exception of the round-back version (full flexion-Like when those strongmen pick up an Atlas stone) the back will always be in extension to give the spine that ideal "S" curve with which it is the strongest support and has the best mechanical advantage. People will usually hurt themselves when their spinal erectors are not strong enough to hold that "S" curve and they end up in a state between full extension or full flexion and will either pull a muscle in their back or slip a disk. You are definitely near your max once your back starts to round. Generally, with little exception the bar should be pulled right up the shins over the knees and across the thigh and back down in the reverse order. Keep your lats tight so that the bar is touching those shins. Some people (especially Quad dominant ones like myself) can lift more with the Sumo-deadlift due to the fact it keeps the back in a more vertical position but the regular version is best for strength training - it's a back excercise so treat it like one. Treat the straight-leg and romanian versions as assistance excercises (too only be done once and a while). The Deadlift uses most of the same muscle groups as the squat but in slightly different ways in that the squat is mainly a leg excercise and the deadlift a back excercise. The deadlift will help strengthen the big muscles (legs, back, hips) for other strength and power excercises which if combined with say cleans will damatically increase your vertical jump or 40 yard dash time. So remember whether you are picking up a bag of groceries or a 300 pound fold-out sofa the deadlift will help you out and strengthen your back in ways you could never imagine.
Whether it's getting off the toilet seat or setting a PR with 500lbs on your back the mechanics of the squat don't change much. It is one of the basic movements our bodies were designed for and therefore it is one of the most important movements to learn to do correctly. There are many variations of the squat (Front, back, overhead) as well as variations involving stance (wide-narrow) and bar positioning (high to low), however, there is only one way to squat in the weightroom and that is to perform a full squat. Not a 1/4, 1/2 squat, 3/4 squat, squat to just above parallel, at parallel, just below parallel, but a full squat - right to the bottom ie. as far down as it is possible to go without altering proper form. For experienced lifters this will be the "ass to ankles" position as some call it but basically the point were the muscle touch so you can't go any lower. For novice lifters it will be the point at which they begin to loose the "S" curve of the spine. The important thing is that the movement is put through the largest range of motion possible so that the individual is strong throughout the entire movement. If you do not use full range of motion it is impossible to definitively compare results from one attempt to another. Anyone that can Full Squat a max of 400 lbs can always "1/4" squat 400 lbs but someone that can "1/4" squat a max of 400 lbs can not Full squat 400 lbs. As the great Mark Rippetoe says "A 500 lbs 1/4 squat is about as impressive as a 1000 lbs leg press." The only reason to perform a 1/4 squat is to stroke your ego in an attempt to feel like a big man! There are many reasons to do the full squat it's better for the knees, strengthens the hamstrings, etc. but the only reason that is neccessary is that it makes you stronger (not just in the quads but increases total body strength) and that's what it's all about.