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Congratulations to David Saporito, Athlete of the Summer, 2017

See his feature editorial here.


Entries in tempo (5)

Coach's Corner: More With Tempo

Among other things, this has been the Summer of tempo lifts. On Tuesday we worked slow sets of 5 front squats with everyone in our constant attempt to develop more movement control - and therefore strength. Here is the last sets from the 11 am and 6:30 pm sessions.

Carter: "OOWWWWW"

A couple points of note:

Rack position. The front rack archetype is one of the fundamentals shapes our shoulder need to be able to go through, and is very prominent in things like throwing and tumbling. In the front squat, the main limiting factor for most in keeping the elbows up isn't the wrists, and it's not necessarily the shoulders (although improved mobility will help). It's actually midline strength. At the bottom I yell out "elbows up" as a means to make sure the athletes are not breaking any position of the midline. I'm sure they noticed how much harder this made the lift.

Gravity. The more I am learning about strength and conditioning, the more I am beginning to realize the role of strength: resisting gravity when needed. If we are exaggerating the skill/technique of a movement, then we are working with natural forces (gravity, muscle/tendon elasticity). But in real life, we will not always have the perfect technique to serve what nature is offering us. Or maybe we will be blindsided by a linebacker. This is where strength comes in to help us keep our position relative.

Movement control. In order to keep position, we need to control how our body moves. This is what I refer to as movement control. This can be as simple as bracing the midline, or holding the figure-4 Pose in running. When you speed a movement up, athletes can find flow that can help them with the skill/technique; when they slow it down, it helps on the other end of the movement control spectrum. The front squats in the video above are a great challenge to the athletes' position. Watch Elizabeth go through her front squats; how many moving parts are there? Is her head moving? Her arms? Her belly? Not really. Watch Crawford (with 3 years less CrossFit experience); how many moving parts do you see? Was he able to control the squat movement to the tempo of my counting? What about Kroll?

Now this is all fun for me to talk about, but the thing I really value is intensity. So when we see movements with the squat performed at high intensity, I am interested to see if this translates as well as I think it will. Just some things to keep in mind...

Coach's Corner: Slowing it Down at 5:30

Last Tuesday we did handstand push-ups and dumbbell cleans; 21-15-9 reps. The nature of this workout meant that if your name wasn't Elizabeth Banet, who falls alsep doing handstand push-ups, the scaling options would not yield a good metabolic response. In other words, doing this workout as fast as possible probably wouldn't end up doing that much.

So we used it to work on strength and control. The Brand X people have been encouraging me to work more with tempo stuff, and so far I like it a lot. Here's how the 5:30 people looked.

Workout Notes: Overhead Squats 'Till Infinity

A few days ago, a workout on CrossFit.com called for a 3 rep max overhead squat. Last time this came up was in September and we actually looked pretty good doing it. On most occasions we would have just gone with the traditional max effort routine.

Yesterday, though, I wanted to spend a little more time in that shape. I also noticed we hadn't done a straight for-quality workout in a while, so I figured this would be a good workout to do it. Here's how the 5:30 session looked with both a PVC pipe and some light weight.

Adding tempo to the lifts is something Brand X has really been pushing on us, and I like how it's been working so far. When we slow the movement down our brain gets more feedback about that specific movement pattern, which has shown in here to help athletes get the form quicker. We are also hoping that this has a good effect on the overall strength output.

The cool thing I saw yesterday is everyone - even JZ and Murley - did this workout as they were supposed to. In the past, we have seen athletes gag at the sight of using light weight for a workout and proceed at a normal speed and normal form, which does very little to help any party. Depending on your deficiency, tempo overhead squats could have been a shoulder workout, a leg workout, an ab-burner, or all three. It's a great lift to build strength and expose flaws. Hopefully the way we did them yesterday helped us in the right direction of both.

Beast Mode: The Other Hopkins + New Editorial Alert

This past weekend Coach T and I had the opportunity to speak in front of 200+ high school, college, and professional strength coaches from around the country... twice. Once in the auditorium and once in the weight room. I have an editorial coming out tomorrow at 12 noon that actually wrote its way into my ongoing Building a Champion series. It is called Reflections of a Dropout in Sparta (A Short Story). It's 4,500 words long, so it might be a little much for the tl:dr crowd.

If you don't feel like reading words, the complete videos from our presentation are part of the post so you can just watch them if you'd like.


While Hadley Hopkins has been getting a lot of attention from her consistency and workouts at the gym recently (see the post below), every day she walks in with a little chihuahua puppy by her side named Erik, who also happens to be a sophomore at Cousino. If any of you remember Rene Shelton from the OG Champions Club days, Erik has her build; long limbs that his coordination hasn't quite caught up with yet.

But I'd say from maybe middle of January till now, Erik might be our most improved athlete. He's still a scrawny little guy, but his movement control has really developed well. I stand by what I said earlier about him being a future JZ with a little less strength and a little more endurance. Their builds at this stage were very similar.

Last Thursday, Erik did his 5 rep max back squat at 75 lbs, and while the weight doesn't seem like a lot, they were slower reps and the control of the movement is going to set him up for heavier lifts in the future. Check it out his last set - this one dropped down to 65 lbs.

Keep up the consistent attendance Erik. You'll see it pay off soon!

Isometrics & Time Under Tension: A Great Way to Gainz

While Coach T and I are prepping for a presentation at Michigan State we will be giving in February, we have been in contact with Jeff Martin of The Brand X Method to bullett-proof our coaching points about midline stability, technique, and most importantly defining a standard for movement quality. One of our offsets will be about neck training. Football strength programs traditionally promote neck machine exercises to build muscle mass around the neck and shoulder area that studies suggest will make concussions less likely.

My thinking, however, is traditional neck exercises violate Rule #1 of movement: Midline Stability. If we shouldn't do rounded back deadlifts and overextended squats, then why would we want to constantly round and flex our neck? In the same method as "core lifts" we should train static holds and braced positions when neck training instead.

TL;DR for Cap'n Dom - Spinal rules = neck rules because neck = spine! Gainz.

When I brouht this up to Jeff, he talked to a few people on his end and concluded that our view would, thereotically be more beneficial and realistic. He also emailed me an old article from T-Nation talking about how bodybuilders often use static holds to build mass. So we can cover both areas by using good movement principles. Very convenient!

But I digress. In preparation for the presentation, I've been studying a lot of material from the college coaches who will be there. As of now, their thinking revolves around creating bigger athletes so their bodies can handle the physical stress the game of football puts on you. All of them without exception abide by a main principle of muscle growth: Time under tension = muscle mass growth.

TL;DR for Cap'n Dom - slow movement = gainz. Gainz.

Is that why we've had all the hollow holds lately?

Our reason for doing slow movement is often to either encourage a good movement pattern or make things harder (or easier) for the athlete by creating tension. But just because our purpose is different doesn't mean the muscle growth principle doesn't apply.

Grabbing a 15-lb. bar and doing a 10-sec. squat is boring and slow and could be done much easier if you didn't have to do it with a 10-sec. tempo. Same with strict knees to elbows or hip extensions. But it's not always about just going from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Mostly it is, of course, but sometimes we have a different purpose in mind. When these instances come up you can always get some good out of it. If you are looking for form, there is no better way to engrain a pattern. If you are looking for asthetics, then it would be in your best interests to make those 10 sec. squats as difficult on yourself as tolerable. Then maybe you can buy some more time getting a little more cut until your diet eventually catches up with you.