monday morning conditioning

Made it to the (sparsely attended!) six am class at CFA this morning. Here’s what I did.

Hang Power Snatch: 3 x 75 / 3 x 85 / 3 x 95 / 2 x 105 / 2 x 110. Not too pleased with the 105 or 110 reps. Needed more speed and power; felt a little press out on all of the last 4 reps.

Ring Rows (4 x 5 at tempo) and Double Unders Practice (4 x max reps in 20s). Best set of DUs was 6 consecutive.

12 minute AMRAP: Hang Clean 5 x 115 / 20 double unders. Total: 4 rounds + 6 reps. My double unders were as exasperating as they ever were. Best set of consecutive DUs was 3 in the WOD. I missed countless reps.

friday fun at ASC

Friday afternoon workout, at ASC, with Brian Cohen:

Warm Up

500 meter row 1:55
Double unders practice; best set was 7 DUs.
200 meter run
Shoulder mobility and dumbbell calisthenics
Leg stretches
Some heavy bag


Front squat: 10 x 45 / 5 x 115 / 3 x 145 / 1 x 160 / 5 x 170 (PR); volume: 2,470.
Snatch Balance: 4 x 100, fail on 5 / 5 x 100 / 5 x 100 / 4 x 100, fail on 5 / 5 x 100 (PR); volume: 2,300.
Snatch: 7 x 1 x 105 (10 attempts, 3 fails, 7 successful). Volume: 735. 105 lbs is 91.3% of my current 1 RM in Snatch. So, this ought to have been a good stimulus for me.

Analysis of snatch training progress: Obviously, with the OHS work during the past couple of weeks, and the snatch balance work, and the dynamic effort, low volume snatch work I’ve been doing, I am chasing bigger numbers on the snatch. And I am going to get them. I have not just been trying to max out all the time with it, but rather, have been more concerned about speed, aggression, range of motion, and execution. I am trying to get better at the lift, without much help in the form of coaching. While I am improving, I also worry that I’m cementing bad habits I can’t observe. Brian saw me trying to snatch without bringing the bar close enough to my body. After he cue’d me to keep the bar closer, I slowed myself down in the 1st pull, focused on it, and ultimately could feel a world of difference.


3 rounds at “moderate” pace (75% or so):
6 double unders,
8 box jumps (24″)
10 KB Swings (50 lbs) (Russian swings)
200 meter run

monday conditioning and lifting

A full Monday. I was stoked to see this morning’s workout at CrossFit Asheville. Back to a more simple and direct program? Maybe so. In the meantime, I’ll take today.

CFA WOD: Hang Cleans, Double Unders, and 8 min AMRAP of burpees and running

Hang Cleans: 5 x 45 / 5 x 75 / 5 x 95 / 5 x 115 / 5 x 135 (PR) / 5 x 145 (PR). A 25 lb. PR.

Push Jerk: 5 x 135. (After finishing the Hang Cleans at 135, I decided to do a set of split jerks at 135, because I could. It was fun).

Double Unders: 4 x 1 minute Max Reps w/ 1 min rests. Amazingly, I was able to string together some DUs today. Maximum number in a row: 8. I’ll take it!

AMRAP: 8 minutes of 200 meter run and 12 burpees. Result: 3 full rounds and 1 run. I went a few seconds long. I was SLOW. SLOW. Feeling totally deconditioned. Did I mention I was moving like molasses in the fridge? Plus, I was hacking up goo balls from my lungs. I am totally NOT well yet. It’s been almost 2 weeks with a nasty respiratory/sinus bug. I hope this clears up soon.

Lifting at Asheville Strength and Conditioning

After breakfast, and working on my stuff for a few hours, and lunch, and more work, I made it over to ASC to get some work on the gym done, hoping also to get in a quick session of squats and shoulder press. I assembled the squat racks and weight stands, sweating in the growing heat. Then did some quick squats. I only did one set of shoulder press.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 20 lbs DBs x 10.

Squats: 10 x 45 / 5 x 135 / 3 x 185 / 3 x 195 / 3 x 200 / 3 x 205. Volume: 3,480.

Analysis: these squats felt like shit. I did the 135 and the 185 as High Bar squats. But overall, I was feeling pretty weak here. On paper, my 5 rep max for squats is 210. But it felt impossible to imagine that today. I didn’t even feel like doing an additional set of 3, at 210 or any other weight. Volume wise this session was about 500 lbs less than the total of my last serious squat session (a week ago Friday). This calculation seems consistent with my gut impression that I wasn’t able to accomplish as much work today as I was this past Friday. It’s high time I charted out the curve of squat volume again as I did a few weeks ago, and considered more carefully the frequency of my training here.

A word or two about the term “volume” as used in this blog

In this blog I somewhat idiosyncratically use the term “volume” as a shorthand for what other weightlifting writers would call “work” or “volume of load.” I hope that this doesn’t confuse anyone. I track my workout volume out of curiosity, as a way of roughly comparing the “intensity” of various lifting sessions I accomplish, knowing that most of these sessions take place within reasonably comparable time frames, and that almost all of them reflect some variation of the low-rep scheme training methods that are more popular in powerlifting or olympic lifting as opposed to bodybuilding or weight training.

In most American weightlifting literature, the term “volume” is used only as a means of quantifying the amount of exercises that are done; when others write about “volume” it doesn’t reflect the weights that are used. Sometimes no number is given for volume at all, as in the use of relative or qualitative terms like, “high volume” or “low volume”; but if there is a number it is denominated in “reps.” Workouts are said to be “high volume” if they have a comparatively high number of reps. “Low volume” workouts have fewer reps. Thus, the term “volume” comes into play, for example, when comparing weight training methods of powerlifters as differentiated from the methods of bodybuilders. In conventional terms the former use “low volume” training sessions and the latter use “high volume” training sessions.

When I do much lower rep workouts (what other writers call low volume workouts) I do expect to see the volume of load number be lower than when I do much higher rep workouts. And thus, it is the case that volume of load (or what I call “volume”) does tend to track volume in the conventional sense of the term.

But again, I don’t find the conventional use of the term very helpful.

If I tell you I did 15 reps of the back squat, you’re going to ask me what weight I used. Why is that? If it wasn’t a relatively heavy weight you’ll call me a pussy, that’s why. On the other hand, if I tell you I did 250 back squats, you’re going to assume I must mean air squats, or used a kid’s bar (and you’ll probably be right). Because nobody (or at least, nobody who looks like me) can do 250 heavy back squats in one session. On the one hand, you could say that this just proves that there’s a rough, theoretical expectation that what is traditionally called “volume” tracks with “volume of load.” Or, you could point out that for anyone to make sense of what you really mean when you say “low volume” or “high volume,” you have to do more than quantify this in terms of reps.

This conventional system of terminology never made much sense to me, because, for instance, it doesn’t really let me compare the relative training value of two of my own “low volume” workouts. So this is one of the main reasons I always report “volume” not as reps (implying some rep scheme or another) but as volume of load, i.e. reps x weight.

Now, none of what I’ve written here so far takes account of the idea of “power.” Greg Glassman of CrossFit makes a big deal about what he calls both “intensity” and “power,” which is volume of load, or work, divided by time. If a CrossFitter does 36 back squats at 95 in 3:00 minutes flat, he or she is said to have produced more power and to have worked out much more intensely than a powerlifter who does 9 squats at 380, but over the course of 20 minutes. The absurdity of this comparison should be immediately apparent to all. Once again, we return to the observation that the two different workouts offer completely different neuromuscular stimuli. A high power workout is a good way to elicit conditioning, weight-loss, puking, and/or a rush of happy neurotranmitters. But power and intensity, as CrossFit defines them, are completely different animals than strength. The fact that many male CrossFitters could easily accomplish 36 squat reps at 95 does not at all let us know how many of these skinny boys could squat even one rep at 380, let alone 9. Power is clearly not everything. Being metabolically well conditioned but comparatively weak may be sexy, but it will not help you lift a volkswagon beetle off of an old lady after a traffic accident.

Of course, in principle it does make sense to differentiate between different training styles, especially between those that use low rep schemes versus those that use high rep schemes. This is because we know that there are far different neuromuscular effects elicited by 36 back squats done at 95 lbs, versus 18 squats done at 190, versus 9 squats done at 380. And yet, these all have the same “volume of load,” i.e. the same amount of work has been done, the same amount of weight has been moved. So a critic might point out to me that volume really isn’t that reliable or useful a number.

There may be truth in that. But one of the uses of this number that I have discovered for myself is in predicting my needs for recovery. In general, I find that my “volume” calculations are pretty good predictors of the difficulty of the recovery I will face (i.e. the amount of DOMS, the amount of rest needed, the amount of food I’ll want to eat). Training methods being kept more or less constant, when I significantly increase my volume of load above whatever “curve” my linear or sine-like progressions have been following, I’ll be more sore and stiff than usual over the next few days.

And so, my own preference is to compare my lifting sessions using the term “volume” in reference to the total volume of load lifted in any given movement, in any one training session (or measured over any arbitrary period of time). Since my training methods do not wildly vary, this provides an interesting way for tracking my progress, planning my workouts, and looking at potential neuromuscular effects. I am not under the mistaken impression that any two different workouts using the same movement that happen to have identical volume of load will produce comparable neuromuscular effects. I just wanted to make this clear in case any snarky reader comes along some day and says, hey, you’re an idiot for computing your so-called “volume” after squatting.

Well, whatever dude. I may be an idiot but this particular issue is the least of my worries.

the hump day hump

Blistering hot day (90+ degrees), open gym session, mid-day at CFA, working on Overhead Squat and Snatch, ended up with new PRs in OHS and Snatch Balance.

My day was full to the brim with work, with parenting, with shopping, with obtaining materials for the new Asheville Strength and Conditioning space, and of course, with training. Besides what’s listed below, I loaded and unloaded 10 3/4″ sheets of plywood at Home Depot. That extra volume is nothing to sneeze at.

This session was meant to be a simple, not too intense lifting day. But it turned out to be a relatively constant effort, which, combined with the humidity and heat, left me drenched with sweat. Also, it’s worth adding that even though this was a midday session, it was done in a fasted state. I ended up with about 19 hours of fasting today. A bit too much, but I’ll handle it.

I planned out the session exactly, and hardly deviated from what I planned beforehand. Here’s what I did do.

Warm-Up: Double Unders x 10 / 200 meter run / Double Unders x 10 / 200 meter run. Mobility. GHD Hip Extensions. Lightweight shoulder work.

Deadlift: 5 x 135 / 3 x 5 x 200. Got a few tips from Corey here; one of which is definitely worth attending to: remaining fully engaged at the top of the lift, from buttocks through the whole chain.

Back Squat: 10 x 45 / 3 x 5 x 160. These felt really solid. I was pretty amazed.

I was determined, after this warm-up, to get another OHS PR, to follow the new PR of wednesday 2 weeks ago. It went smooth as silk!

Overhead Squat: 5 x 45 / 3 x 95 / 3 x 115 / 1 x 130 / 1 x 140 (PR)

From there, into training the snatch.

Snatch Balance: 5 x 45 / 5 x 75 / 5 x 95 (PR)

Snatch: 5 x 3 x 95 (5 second pause between lifts to reset; 3 minute rest between sets).

I started at about 11:15 am and finished right on schedule at 12:45 pm. Great fun. This is living.

I was so glad I didn’t do Jackie today! Having completed this training session, now I can’t believe I earlier felt any CrossFit guilt about skipping that WOD. Ha!

Analysis of what went on here today. For that, maybe compare: 2/19/2011 and 5/18/2011

mon wed thu fri this week

Monday hit CFA 6:00 am warm up included shoulder work then did the WOD. Best OHS # was 12 x 95. Will look up the rest. Afternoon included multiple rounds of jump rope and wood chopping and splitting with axe, 10 lb sledge and 5 lb wedge. Also: pull ups dead hang weighted 1 x +15, 2x+10, push ups (10).

Tuesday I worked on the house, on a ladder, off a ladder, with a sharp scraping blade overhead, knocking down the texture on our living room ceiling.

Wednesday, open gym at CFA, 400 meter run, ohs 10 x 45, push ups 10, shoulder exercises (db press, btn press, t3, rotations). Deadlift, 5×135, 3x5x205 at tempo; squats, high bar, 3 x 5 x 155. Overhead squats, plus cleans, jerks, etc (no racks) 1 x 95, 3 x 105, 3 x 115, f x 130, 1 x 130, 1 x 135, 1 x 135 (PR). Snatch: 1 x 95, 10 x 1 x 105, f x 115, 1 x 115, ohs 3 x 115. Later I did dead hang pull ups: 2 x +15 lbs, 1x +15 lbs; and weighted ring dips: 1x +15, 1x +15. I felt good about the PR Overhead Squat. In the afternoon I mudded and taped in the living room, again on the ladder and overhead.

Thursday, no workout, but, plenty of yard work in the afternoon and into the night, by a fire, with cultivating rake and pitchfork, swinging a machete and axe, deadlifting, carrying, stacking log rounds, throwing branches and limbs. Like a jerk I neglected mobility work and sleep, staying up into Friday AM. This workout is called lumberjacking. I call it active rest. It’s summer.

Friday, no way I could get up at 6:00 am. During the afternoon I performed 4 rounds of: 5 minutes jump rope practice, 5 minutes hauling/throwing/cutting on the downed cherry and crepe myrtle in my yard, i.e. lumberjacking. I’m starting to regain my rhythm in the double under. I think I did a couple hundred of them in my 4 rounds. I could barely move with the axe, so I stuck to the machete and moving heavy rounds. Also: dead hang pull up: 1 x +15. Left shoulder bothering me this evening. Skipped the dips. I feel myself slacking off. I weighed in at 197 today. I drank milkshakes with my kids at Cook Out today. That was fun. Our living room makes the house chaotic. I’m good and exhausted. Off to Durham early tomorrow. Good night.

tuesday active rest

AM early: mobility work! on shoulder and forearms; shadow karate/boxing punches.

Afternoon: 10 minutes of playing around with jumprope; pushups (10); weighted +5 pull ups (2); weighted +5 ring dip (1).

Later: Watched two mobility WOD videos.

Evening: hamstring stretches; foam rolling; wooden ball rolling on shoulder and arms; ring dips (2); squat mobility.

Purpose of day: active rest and mobility; gradual introduction of additional training volume.

return to the fitness challenge

Friday morning I set a new personal record for the Overhead Squat and then established some new numbers for the Carolina Fitness Challenge final WOD, which I first did back on Dec. 11th., 2010, at the CFC.

Overhead Squat: 12 x 45 in warm up / 5 x 45 / 2 x 95 / 2 x 105 / 2 x 115 / 2 x 125 / 2 x 130 (PR)

I ran out of time. I suspect I might have had 135 in me today as well. I already have 125 x 5, but had never done overhead squats with more than 125 for any number. I am proud of myself for doing more than I’ve ever done, but am also conscious of the fact that my pal T-Bone recently did 1 x 148 … and she’s “a girl.” I got some work to do. Of course, for me, this new PR represents a neuromuscular achievement. But also it is only a temporary stepping stone on the way towards more impressive numbers. PROMISE.

CFC final WOD / New Year’s Day 2011 WOD

2 minutes max reps / 1 min rest of: Double Unders, Deadlifts w/ 225 lbs, 24″ box jumps, 53 lb kettlebell swings.

Result: 14 (that’s right, 14, I suck at DUs), 23, 34, 42.

My double unders have actually DEGRADED of late. Time to get serious about them. I’m tired of being embarrassed by my DUs.

Comparing my numbers from Dec. 11th to today:

DU’s: 36 vs. 14. I suck much worse now versus then!

Deadlifts: 21 vs 23. Improvement!

Box Jumps: 38 vs 34. Not a lot worse, but worse.

KB Swings: 30 vs. 42. Great improvement.

There is actually a problem with the results page… I’m not sure whether the results are listed in the right place. It is possible that my original box jump number was 30, vs. today’s 34, and my original KB swing number was 38 vs. today’s 42. That would make more sense to me. In that case, I got better in 3/4 of the events.

Friday CrossFit sectionals WOD #1 aka I’m screwed

I was happy to make it to the 6:00 am workout on Friday at CFA, but immediately felt intimidated by the WOD: we’d be doing the 2011 CrossFit Games Sectionals WOD #1, a 10 minute AMRAP of 30 double-unders and 15 Power Snatches at 75 lbs.

I’m not even going to get into the anti-Aromas buzz around the instructions for the WOD, which equate any ground to head movement with power snatches (this is an anathema to the Oly lifting world, of which I am now part).

What gets me about the workout is that it involves Double Unders, which spelled instant death for me. So.

After a warm-up, we did the WOD.

I slogged it through the double unders, pathetically. I barely made it into round 3, getting about 5 or 6 double unders. Pathetic! The better athletes at our affiliate got upwards of 5 rounds.

Following the workout we did some lunge squats and ring rows. I did 3 rounds, with 30 lbs and 35 lbs, 6-8 reps per leg, and 6-8 ring rows.