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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rings are up!

After finally getting the rings up I decided to put them to good use in a WOD. Today called for a Metcon of 10min of less so I did half "Nate".

AMRAP in 10 min of:

2 Muscle Up's
8 KB Swings (2 pood)

Managing 7 rounds + 2 MU's. Certainly not epic but my progress like everyone else in the gym is certainly coming along.

Props to Dani for the great picture taking!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Get Up!

I've set alot of goals for myself for 2009, one being a 55 inch box jump. Tonight I made a bit of progress by hitting a 53.5 inch jump. If we could have found anything to make it higher I would have attempted more.

Women and strength training

(Monika hitting a pulling and Dani locking out a ring dip)

Now it seems to me there is a stupid myth out there that women shouldn't do strength training and if they do, it should be to tone and sculpt and involve a two pound pilates ball, or a 1/2 pound stick and a step-up board. This is total and utter BS! First off, women are not some special group of people, they are more than 1/2 the population and the same training that benefits men will benefit women. They might be XX and we are XY but we still share all the same important anatomy (legs, arms, torso, stomach, liver, pancreas, intestines, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.) and our bodies function and respond to hormonal stimulus in almost identical ways. Although the intensity and volume of stimulus needed for adaption to occur differs between the two genders, both benefit in the same manner from the same stimulus ie. Strength training is good for women. I think this perpetuated fear of strength training comes from a notion that if women lift weights they will develop monstrous muscles. Now unless they start using steroids this probably will not happen (see hotties in pic above). You can press 115#, squat 225# and deadlift 315# and still have a slender girlish figure. It's all about muscle density - by strength training properly you can building strength without "bulking up". Body-builders use lower weights and higher rep schemes (12+ reps) to greatly increase the volume of a muscle cell (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) where as power/strength athletes use heavier weights and lower rep schemes (3-8reps) to increase the contractile potential (strength) of the muscle cells they already have (myofibrillar hypertrophy). Additionally, having stronger muscles means you burn more calories/day and this more often than not will result in a decrease in body fat. With less fat and slightly more muscle you will essentially be denser/firmer (not bigger) or more "toned" and we all like a nice firm butt. More importantly though women need to be strong, as being strong prevents injury. Women are active and active people can get hurt but if you can support a heavy load in a perfect position, you are less likely to injure yourself with a moderate load in an awkward position. Strength training in particular should be done by all women as this will dramatically increase bone density and decrease chances of osteoporosis later in life. The main point is that women like men should use strength training in addition to cardiovascular exercise and proper nutrition as a means to improve daily life. Now suck it up buttercup and get under the bar!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chasing the White Dragon - Our addiction to sugar

Sugar is like crack! Plain and simple, when you're addicted to it you need it to function. As a recovering sugar junkie I know all about the sugar highs and lows. From the need to have a can of coke as soon as I got home to the mid-afternoon crash I experienced after I slammed down my carbo-loaded lunch. Like any good drug, after a hit of sugar (the pancreas releases the hormone insulin into your blood and) the brain releases "feel good" chemicals (increased serotonin levels = euphoria) into your blood stream, making that brownie taste even better. The problem is that eventually we build up a tolerance to this like every other drug as our body was designed to adapt to change to minimize deviations from homeostasis. What this means is that the can of coke you had isn't as sweet anymore and you need two cans to satisfy your sweet tooth. Your body beings to increase it's tolerance to insulin in the blood stream and it takes more and more sugar to hit the "high" and release those feel good chemicals, this high also starts to decrease in length. Before you know it you are just plowing through a bag of skittles and a Fruitopia just so you can make it to lunch. Your cells have actually become increasingly resistant to insulin and your blood sugar levels begin to elevate. This constant state of elevated blood sugar and insulin levels result in hyperinsulinism and is correlated to almost every disease you can think of (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc) and obesity. Now all those calories are floating around in your blood stream and the massive amount of insulin that goes along with it is telling your body to "store, store, store" it all as fat! The good news is that this sugar addiction can be cured. With a slow tapering of refined carbohydrate foods (sugars/grains) towards more natural sugar sources (vegetables/fruits/berries) you can start to get the situation under control. This is followed by monitoring not only the quality but more importantly the quantity of sugar you are ingesting everyday. I recommend "the Zone" diet for this sort of portion control but the easiest way is to just start eating natural foods mainly vegetables. The result is that by monitoring the type and amount of sugar (carbohydrates) you put into our body you can start to control the amount of insulin your pancreas releases. You will slowly decrease your cells insulin tolerance and get back to normal levels of function. You will begin to find out what it's like to not have 11pm sugar cravings and to be alert and not feel hungry throughout the day. You will have essentially kicked the sugar habit!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chin, Chest, Thighs

                                                (Brad showing us the ROM we like to see)

As discussed earlier, range of motion (ROM) is key. Anything less then full ROM doesn't count in our minds. Only with proper ROM do you elicit maximal power out-put, and in Crossfit, Power is King! Many people do not complete exercises through the full ROM for many reasons. It hurts, it takes more effort, it takes more time and they can't lift as much weight. Some people have flexibility problems and some lack the kinesthetic awareness, not knowing that they are high on their squat or their hip isn't reaching full extension.

"Power is the independent variable most commonly associated with the rate of return on favourable adaptation." -Greg Glassman

If you're not giving us full ROM, you're doing less work, you're producing less power, and we are NOT going to count your reps.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Cheaters Guide To Success – Lesson 1: “Get the door it’s Domino’s!!!”

Cheating while doing paleo or zone is almost human nature and is neccessary. Every once and a while we need to indulge and we should, but there are ways to do it wisely. Today’s lesson is all about Pizza, my favourite treat/drunk food. First and most important tip – don’t eat the crust!!! This is by far the easiest way to minimize the carb intake for your cheat meal (remember carbs are the enemy). By not eating the crust (See above Pic) you cut out a good 20-40+ grams of carbs (about 1-2 slices of bread worth depending on how thick the crust is) for a typical 8-10” personal pizza. Remember the crust is just there so you don’t get grease on your fingers. Tip #2 always, always get thin crust! This is another way to keep all the taste and lose upwards of an excess 600 calories (for a 12”) from the meal. Tip #3 say no to dipping sauce – you aren’t eating the crust so you don’t need the dipping sauce (and you don’t even want to know what it’s made of). Tip #4 don’t drink pop with your pizza. This seems to be a big thing, as almost every pizza vendor has a pizza and pop deal it might seem a little economical to grab a can of pop (40g carbs) with your slice but it isn’t worth it. If you absolutely have to drink a soda then at least grab a Diet soda but remember although it doesn’t have any sugar it will still spike your insulin levels and that is what we are trying to minimize. The Last tip is mozzarella is always better than cheddar as it has more protein and less fat, plus everybody likes the stringy cheesy pizza that only mozzarella provides. It makes eating the pizza fun and that’s what cheats are supposed to be all about. As far as toppings go nuts, the more the better! Believe it or not the toppings are the best part of the pizza because that’s where all the good meat and vegetables are. I’m not going to say one is better than another because taste is why we have the cheat if it didn’t taste just the way we wanted it wouldn’t be a satisfying cheat. So on your next cheat day, go grab a slice of heaven!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eating Primal

                                            (House warming gift my amazing girl gave me)    

When people ask what type of diet I follow (a common question in the Crossfit circles), I usually respond Paleo. But that is not entirely the truth. I actually follow more of a Primal Blueprint way of eating. 

At first glance you will most likely think that Primal and Paleo are the exact same, but there are some differences. You can find The Primal Blueprint here, at Mark Sisson's Blog (the author). Mark's blog covers some great topics and is an excellent source for knowledge on overall health and wellness. 

"Pick up any book on nutrition, flip to the index, and look up insulin and hyperinsulinism. If there is nothing there the book is pure bull-shit, put it down."- Greg Glassman

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Met-con Medicine?

                                     (What was left of me after my first Met-con in a month)

After a little over a month of no met-cons (only Starting Strength), I gave one a shot. It was not pretty. The workout was: 5 rounds of 5 squat cleans @ 135# and 10 KB swings with the 2 pood. My first round went well, it took me easily under a minute moving the weight in both exercises without a problem . Then it was all down hill from there. The finished product was a time of 10:52. I was gasping for air after the first round and barely could push through the pain and finish all 5 rounds. What was my reasoning for doing this? Why not stick with SS?

I did SS in the beginning because I had lost significant strength in the past few months and wanted to improve in that area. It is common knowledge that a good strength base is essential for reaching a high level of performance in Crossfit. But why was I sacrificing my overall fitness to improve in one area? Crossfit looks to optimize physical competence in each of the 10 recognized fitness domains; cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, balance and agility. I was optimizing one. I knew what I was doing before I began Starting Strength, but I wanted a change and I was interested in what kind of results I could achieve from it. 

One night I was deciding whether or not I should continue with SS or should I start crossfitting again while adding some strength work on top. My question was answered when I opened up the Crossfit Journal and a new article had been posted, "Strong Medicine".  The article covered a program called Crossfit Strength Bias. It is exactly as it sounds, Crossfit with a bias around strength. Basically the schedule runs 2 on 1 off, 3 on 1 off. Four out of the five days you are lifting, while also doing met-cons and skill work.  This way I am achieving my goal of getting stronger without sacrificing competency in the other 9 fitness domains. My overall goal has always been to become the best Crossfit athlete I can possibly be. 

Bottom line, to get better at Crossfit you have to do Crossfit.

The article can be found here:
The journal costs $25/year and is more then worth it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Its Starting to Come Together

We are slowly making some progress but for a garage gym it is certainly coming along. Rings should be up tomorrow and hopefully sometime next week we will have mats covering the remaining floor space and two nice stud pull-up bars. Some thanks has to go out to our good friend Corey Jones. Without him we wouldn't have these platforms. Thanks Jones!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Light Killing Your Diet?

After reading our post on nutrition (The Foundation), it is easy to see that we recommend following a low to moderate carbohydrate approach. Why? Because this approach closely resembles that of which we have evolved to feed ourselves. Carbohydrates are not a necessary nutrient for the body, that is why there are NO essential carbohydrates, but essential proteins and fats. They are also not the preferred fuel source ( There are many reasons people fail/cheat with a low-carb approach, sleep and most importantly light is a huge one, let me tell you why.

Light controls everything our body does, light tells you when to get up in the morning, and the disappearance of it tells you when to go to bed at night, or at least it use to. We were only intended to eat carbs and plenty of them (especially fruits) during the long days of summer. During these months fruit was plentiful and winter was coming. When winter hits so does famine. We would consume copious amounts of fruits and vegetables during these months to gain weight (fat) to live off during the winter months. Carbs release insulin, insulin stores fat.

With the invention of artificial light we never get out of summer mode. We have lights on in our homes well past sun-down, television and computer screens dominate most past times and street lamps are shining in our bedroom windows even when our lights are out. This prolonged exposure to light makes your body believe its constantly summer, wanting to eat carbs to store fat for the famine. This is why when you do cheat it is usually late at night, and usually its something sweet (cookie, ice cream, fruit, chocolate).
Getting back into your body's natural cycle is key for optimal health. This means getting to bed earlier during the winter months, and staying up later during the summer. You could potentially sleep up to 14 hours during the winter! I know, not going to happen, but getting to bed as close to sun set as possible will be most beneficial.

The smallest amount of light exposure during sleep has a significant effect of the level of melatonin your body produces during that time....but no worries, its only the most powerful anti-oxidant in your body.

Keys to Success:

  • Sleep a minimum of 9.5 hours a night in a completely dark room
  • Reduce exposure to light as much as possible after 6pm during the winter
  • Keep Fruit intake low during winter months

Caution: If you do have trouble sleeping NEVER take over the counter melatonin! Stop your exposure to light and your body will produce the melatonin needed by itself. If you begin to rely on supplementing melatonin your body's natural production will decrease significantly even when you are off it.

The Wanna Be Bench Press

This is a calling out of all those wanna be bench pressers. You know who you are! You are the ones that spend hours sitting on the bench with at least 2 plates on each side of the bar (225+) talking to your buddies more than actually lifting the damn weight. Now I really don’t have a problem with you having a social life at the gym, what I do have a problem with is that 225# you have on the bar. The problem is not in the weight itself, as 225# is not really that much, but rather the fact that you can’t even use it. Now I say use it as opposed to lift it because I know you can lift it. I see you lift it off the rack, lower it an inch and rack it again. That’s right, I have a problem with your range of motion. You are the bench press equivalent of the 1/4 squat. To be straight up with you, what you are doing is completely useless. I don’t know where you got the idea that you should stop at the point when your arm make a 90 degree angle. Yes it is true that at 90 degrees and above you can lift more weight and when people tell me this my reply is usually “Really! No shit!” it’s all about leverage and common sense. But here is the problem, you are missing the most useful part of the moment! The most useful aspect is to strengthen the muscles at their weakest points (the point of lowest mechanical advantage). The only way to efficiently do this is to work the muscles through their full range of motion. I promise I will hammer this point over and over and over again – FULL RANGE OF MOTION. That means on the bench press the bar comes off the rack, travels down to the point where it just touches the chest and then travels back up to the top and is racked. Now the bar just “kisses” off the chest before it travels up, don’t bounce the weight off the chest as you could break/crack a rib that way. Now why does it matter that you go all the way to your chest? First like with the squat if you don’t go all the way to the bottom it is impossible to compare one workout to the next. You think you are stronger because you lifted 5# more than the last workout, but as it turns out you just didn’t go down an extra 1cm from the time before, this mechanical advantage means you could move the larger weight but didn’t actually get any stronger. Now if you always touch the chest then the distance is fixed (basically your arms aren’t going to change length from week to week) so any increase in weight lifted means a direct increase in strength. Second, say you are walking down the sidewalk on a windy day and a tree falls over and you are trapped underneath it (see picture). It is not a big tree and some of the tree is touching the ground so it’s more like a lever system. Now to lift the tree up at the point it is touching your chest requires say a 205# push. This is great because your bench is a big 225#, but wait, that’s only to 90 degrees. That extra ~6 inches (from chest to 90 degrees) in your range of motion is not 225# strong it is only about 185# strong at best. Meaning you will die trapped under the tree! So much for your “big” bench press. On the other hand if I put myself in a similar situation back when I could only bench 205#, I would be able to lift the tree up and off my chest, take a breather and thrust it out of the way and live. Why? Because I do my bench press right to the chest so my muscles are strong through the entire range in which I might need to use them. Basically all I’m saying in this rather long rant is that I don’t care what you have on the bar just as long as you do it right. You are only as strong as your weakest link. So if you are in the gym to get stronger, why not work at it properly and get stronger. Now, in case I haven’t gotten through to some of you as to you would want to start lifting properly. Well… doing a movement right increases efficiency (through better mechanics etc.) and results in an increase in strength (max weight you can lift) and more reps at a given weight. This increased strength means that you are able to perform more work in the same or less time, so you therefore have increased your power output and thus increased your intensity. This increased intensity will make you fitter, and being fitter makes you a better athlete and it also means you’ll look better naked! Now get fit and have fun!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Other peoples great posts

If I read a great post/blog/article I'm going to start posting a link so we can all share in the good stuff.
Just a few of my favourites so far.

Attaining High Intensity!

I’m sitting here in Italy and it’s raining so I have a bit of time on my hands and of course I’m thinking about Crossfit as it is one of my most favourite pastimes. The question on my mind is how to maximize my results or what is the best way to make improvements. I’ve been thinking about this for a few hours throwing ideas out there, thinking about them, and then rejecting them. There are four things that time and time again pop out at me as the way to best improve my fitness. Recovery, Nutrition, Deficiencies (what I suck at ie. situps), and INTENSITY, all of which I’ll try to write a post on. This post will be on the aspect of intensity because in my mind it is the clear leader in maximizing my results. When thinking about intensity and how it relates to my workouts I looked at a few things. First, what is intensity? The answer is Power! (Intensity = Power), and therefore to increase intensity I have to increase power which basically means doing more work in less time (more pushups in 2min, or 50 pushups in less time than the last time I did it). Now this is all a physical definition of intensity there is also a mental definition which is a perception of the level of exertion. But I have come to the conclusion that by maximizing the physical you will definitely maximize the mental. When doing say 100 pullups the question becomes, should I breaking it up into manageable chunks or go for broke ie. balls out! till I max out and die off. It is my thought that you should always go balls out on any task that fits in the anaerobic arena (phosphogenic and glycolytic pathways). The time frame for workouts that take less than ~10min require that you go as hard as possible the whole way through.(author side note: these workouts are composed of components which require only ~30s - 1min to perfom and therefore are at the peak power position of the glycolytic pathway. It’s not 10min on one excercise). Most people take too much rest during the workout. Taking a 15 sec break will not give you enough rest to make up the 5sec that you wasted when 10 sec rest would have been enough. When you go for broke it is better to minimize the rest that is needed and go right back into the exercise. This requires an enormous amount of mental intensity to push your body when it wants nothing more than to just stop doing everything. It is my opinion that when you break the exercise or workout into chunks you spend more time then you actually need resting. When I go balls out I know at the end of the workout I could not have gone any faster, when I break it up I usually finish and go I should have done 15’s instead of 10’s. Mentally it is easier to break things up because it is physically easier to not have to continuously push through the pain. A great quote from the legendary OPT on the subject relating to which is better for improving work capacity:

“…Go as hard as possible, all the time, under perfect form and if you break a little bit on intensity throughout then, that’s fine that can be fixed, but I’d rather see intensity first. When people start strategizing, they immediately get into pacing and when you pace you don’t push and when you don’t push you don’t create power. If you don’t create power you don’t create success, long term. So if you are strategizing I’d suggest drop it and focus on basically just hitting the workout as hard as you can and managing the pain when you do get into it and then getting out of it you’ll feel a whole lot better…”

-James FitzGerald “OPT” on Crossfit Radio - episode 27 (Jan. 30, 2009)

The more intensity you bring to the workout the more “intense” it will be and the fitter you will become. As Coach Glassman says “Intensity is where the good stuff comes from. It is almost always the independent variable most commonly associated with favourable adaptations.” It will maximizing your results and greatly improves your fitness level.

*Note: Intensity is relative to the individual and their abilities, don’t kill yourself! Just go as hard as you reasonably can. I’m an idiot and try to push myself to the extreme, but hey I’ll crush you at almost any workout!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Rings of Power!!!

Sean banging out a Muscle-Up

Two rings to rule them all, two rings your weaknesses they will find them. Two rings for unbelievable strength and in your training you won’t mind them. The still rings or gymnastics rings are a great tool for improving overall strength, in particular core strength just from stabilizing yourself on the rings. You can take ordinary movements like the dip and push-up and greatly increase there difficulty by performing them on the rings. The average person that can perform 20 dips on parallel bars will be lucky to get 10 dips on the rings. This is because of the “speed wobbles” you get while trying to stabilize yourself. At first your body is not used to such an intense stimulus and in order to keep holding you up it starts firing all the muscles in your core randomly. Just holding yourself up on the rings is an extraordinary challenge and should be attempted regularly with goals of 30sec, 1min and 2mins. One must always control the rings or they will own you! Close attention to form is a must and the rings must always be kept as close to the body as possible, as the further away from the body they venture the difficulty in terms of strength and stability increases exponentially. Through time and practice your body will become familiar with being on the rings and your training on them can progress. There are a variety of moves that can be done on the rings as evident by anyone who has watched a gymnastics competition but some beginner movements are: pull-ups, push-ups, dips, L-sits, handstands, handstand push-ups, levers and muscle-ups. The muscle-up is a favourite of mine and is the combination of a pull-up and a dip going from hanging under the rings to supporting above the rings. The muscle-up is a great power movement and shares similar beneficial qualities with the clean & jerk (C&J you start above the bar and finish under it, in the MU you start under and finish over top). The muscle-up will allow you to surpass any obstacle you can get your hands on. The rings of power are a great addition to your strength training just give them a try and soon you'll be the Lord of the Rings.