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Welcome to the Champions Club Summer 2018!


Entries in back squat (38)

The Takeover Goes to Lamphere

Last spring, Coach T and I went right around the corner to Lamphere High School (home of The Hill) to talk with head football coach Jeff Glynn and a few of their athletes about some of the movement standards we follow. Coach Glynn loved it, and I started to come in and work with the team informally up until the Summer.

Now we are back at it and with another year of technique under their belt, the small group that has been showing up looks really good. Check out some highlights from yesterday's back squat tempo session.

So far the Lamphere kids have been very easy to coach and willing to learn. Hope that keeps up!

Beast Mode: Shaka

I'll be honest, Alyssa Sciacca was probably in the top 5 most uncoordinated athletes I've ever taken through Fundamentals. Binno is up there, obviously. Avery is definitely in that category. And, of course, the infamous Jas. But the cool thing is attendance cures everything.

Shaka was rolling early in the year, then fell off a bit after she got that flu bug that was going around, but has regained her consistency for the past two weeks. Yesterday she topped off in her 1 rep max back squat at 100 lbs!

Not only is that 100 freaking pounds(!) but the technique and form is spot-on. It was really cool to see her progress up in weight because of how well she was making adjustments. She started doing 3 and 4 reps on the sets, then once her movement consistency picked up we moved up to 100 lbs. and only did one rep. As you can see, she nailed it!

Keep up the good work Shaka. I know it's not an easy drive, but we all appreciate you being in the gym!

Standards in the Back Squat

The more coaching reps I get in different settings, the more I think about Dr. Romanov's quote at the first Pose clinic I attended in 2011:

"Without standards, you cannot teach."

Last year at Michigan State, Coach T and I defined and illustrated the three movement standards - set by nature - that we follow. They are: midline stability (no change in spine), loading order (prime movers firs), and laws of torque (flexion = external rotation; extension = internal rotation). Those are very clear, visible standards and therefore decisions made when coaching are based on those standards.

At the heaviest loads (think Lifts 4 Gifts) and highest intensity (think that burpee pull-up workout a few weeks ago) a slight deviation from the standard is expected and aceptable. The word "slight" is often bent by coaches - myself included when I'm feeling either really lazy or really ambitions - but is fiarly obvious when standards are clear. In the video below you can see a slight deviation in Conor's back squat technique as the reps go on.

First rep: passable at a max weight. Second rep: shaky and cut the depth short. Third rep: clear error in Laws of Torque (loss of arch/knee in on right side). Since he was 1-for-3 on this set, he could either try it again or move down in weight. We decided to move down.

The movement standards at the Champions Club are simple, yet very difficult to follow - especially considering the variety of ways we challenge them. There are a lot of outside sources who notice this and admire from afar, so take pride in that! In the meantime, keep up the pursuit!

Coach's Corner: Josh's Squats

If anyone still has the email I sent out for the Summer 2011 back in the Fieldhouse, you'll find a part in there about attendance. The message has been the same and repeated since: just show up! We'll take care of the rest. And I have yet to see anyone go against the trend of their results following the same trajectory of their attendance. The Athlete of the Summer people are microcosms of that.

The interesting part about about this adaptation is it's a lot less physical than you think, especially in the early days.

Josh Howey was a Summer 2017 rookie who came in with the second-least body awareness and control of the group. By the end of the Summer it was improved after good attendance, but then he took September and most of October off because football practice was right smack in the middle of the afternoon. He came back at the end of October and his first workout back was a max effort back squat. Here's how it looked:

Not great with 65 pounds. But he was here almost every day, and here's what he looked like 12 days later on his max effort front squat:

Not bad with 75 pounds!

It's hard to know for sure, but I would assume the time it takes someone's muscles to gain 10 pounds of contractile potential is a lot longer than 12 days. So my guess, and other coaches I talk to agree, that this adaptation happens between the ears. We teach movement above all else with CrossFit, and the Champions Club, in specific, emphasizes that about as much as any other gym I've seen. The pathways from your brain to your arms, legs, and midline needs to be continually reinforced, and every time a movement is completed it's like hitting Save on a Word document. Between the first video and the second, Josh probably did 300 squats in the form of air squats, front squats, burpees, deadlifts, and box jumps (all variations of squatting). With that repitition he was able to show more control over his body, and that expressed itself in a little more weight and a much cleaner-looking movement. Watching Nick Bewick through Fundamentals and going from not being able to hollow rock on Day 1 to doing 4 cycles of Tabata on Day 7 is another example.

Movement = skill. Skill = reps. Reps = attendance. Attendance = get your lazy butt to the gym! 

Beast Mode: Jay

Jay Junkin is back in action full-time with the Champions Club after landing a local engineering job in the Madison Heights area. He is trying to get in his Summer 2015 shape and he's been off to a good start since early August. Last time today's back squat workout came up it was May 2015 - aka Jay's prime form. He started off at 225-lbs. for his set of 10 last time, and worked up to 275 for his 3 singles.

Today he low-balled his first few attempts, then on the way back up the ladder he finished the day with a set of 10 at 205 lbs. Check it out.

By the looks of it, 225 might have been a possibility. Either way, he's not too far off.

Recommended reading: The Z axis

Coach's Corner: Arches w/Mr. Carey

We had a really small turnout on Tuesday's max effort back squat, but I used the opportunity to pay extra attention to what was going on with the feet.

Everyone did their squats without shoes on so they could get a better feel of when their arches were collapsing or when they were keeping it in tact. Mr. Carey was kind enough to show his feet to the world.

Much like Shakes, he did not do a great job of showing us what bad reps look like, but if you look closely you can see the back of his arch collapse by his heel. On the next three, there it literally no change through the movement. This means his knees were out, tension was maintained in the hips, and carried upstream to stability in the spine. For this workout he stayed at 135-lbs. and did anywhere from 5-8 reps each set slowly and trying to control every centimeter of the movement.

Keeping a stable foot position is critical to high-speed movements like jumping and running, but when starting off this principle is best practiced through squatting. More to come.

From the Vault: Moving up and The Feet

In October 2015 I did the Moving up... or not post that gave a good glimpse of what I look for when coaching back squats - in specific, whether to move an athlete up in weight, keep them where they are, or drop them down. Over time, I have refined this coaching technique; things I might have let go before I don't anymore and other things I have been less picky about. In the post referenced above, I used Collin and JZ as examples. Here's what they looked like:

Looking back on it now, I still would have called it the way I did. Also, I shared this with the Martins from Brand X and they said they would have as well. While this standard has stayed the same, Kelly Starrett brought up another one in last week's MWOD episode that also reminds me of a former video/post.

Coach's Corner: For All Things Pokemon and Foot Related

Looking at the arch in your foot is a great way to tell exactly what is going on upstream with the hips. We have avoided a lot of barefoot stuff recently 1) because of the weather and 2) because I have been looking for increased ROM and intensity. But I think for the next few weeks, especially for squatting, we are going to do a lot of barefoot work to help you guys get a better sense of what good torque feels and looks like. Look for a post coming soon on more specifics (I planned on one with Shakes this morning, but her lack of ability to perform bad form made it virtually worthless).