Rowing is a staple CrossFit exercise.  You get tremendous benefit as you are engaging your entire body, as well as getting a tremendous cardiovascular response. A lot of the time we assume we can just hop on the rower and get started without any instruction. There is, however, a bit of technique involved to help you be more efficient while rowing.

1. The angle of your back when rowing is very important. Some people try staying straight up and down throughout the motion and others over exaggerate it by almost laying down as they pull. Aim for a 30 degree angle each direction. 30 degrees leaning backward as your hamstrings begin to tighten. Then 30 degrees forward as you begin your way back to the front of the machine.

2. The timing of your return and your posture is also very important while rowing. Do not begin making your way to the front until you pull that handle all the way to your body. Then lean forward 30 degrees past 90 as you release your hands, point your tailbone to the back of the rower, and maintain that same angle until you start back again.

3. The positioning of your hands is also important. You do not want to pull it to your belly nor should you pull it to your neck. Imagine there is a table sitting chest high. You want to pretend your finger tips are grazing the top of the table as you pull.  As you make your way to the front your hands are ever so slightly beneath that table, as if the top of your knuckles are skimming the bottom that same table.

Hopefully implementing these tips will help you in your rowing WODs.

Pull up strength
Pull up strength

You know THIS GUY does pull-ups!

Pull-ups are a tremendously valuable exercise and the best way to achieve them is to follow a good pull-up progression program.  From a functional standpoint, it is your ability to pull yourself up from hanging position.  Maybe it’s just to see something over a wall, or maybe it’s something more life threatening, like pulling yourself up from a cliff!

In your CrossFit workouts, you’ll see pull-ups quite often and if you just keep grabbing that same ol’ band, your improvement will be very, very slow.

The Pull-Up for Strength

The strict pull-up is a STRENGTH movement for most people beginning exercise and CrossFit, and as such you should go through various progressions to achieve that strength.  In addition to being able to master your body weight, the ability to do strict pull ups is also the gateway to many other CrossFit movements:  kipping pull ups, butterfly pull ups, and muscle ups.

In fact, you shouldn’t even try to do kipping pull ups if you haven’t achieved your first strict pull up.   Perform these progressions 2 or 3 times a week either before your workouts or after (obviously, you’ll be much fresher if you do them before).  Chris Stroud has an awesome 3x/week pull up progression that you can find HERE.

Today, I’ll introduce you to one of my FAVORITE pull-up progressions: Struggle Up Struggle Downs.

If you have been laboring for too long in “band land”, it’s time for you to add Struggle Up Struggle Downs to your routine.

The Snatch.

It’s a beautiful movement when executed correctly, but man is it tough to learn and get good at.  Why is that?

Well, for starters it takes a TON of mobility that, especially new CrossFitters, just don’t have.  You need to have good mobility in the shoulders, thoracic spine, hips, & ankles.  If you lack mobility in just one of these areas, you will get taken out of position.

Next, it is very complex.  In order to execute the lift correctly, the bar needs to land at the top right over your center of gravity.  But there are a lot of pieces to the snatch: from the hook grip, to the 3rd pull (getting under the bar) that can go wrong.  If your timing is off just a little bit, the chain reaction will cause the barbell to end up either too far in front or too far behind you, resulting in a missed attempt.

So how can you get better?  Check out this video I made with my friends at the F.I.T. Muscle and Joint clinic for some great progressions and drills to start improving your snatch today!

Saw Annie Thorissdottir and Andrea Ager, a couple of top female CrossFitters, working on these so had to try it out.  372% harder than it looks. Massive shoulder and core stability needed.   Also, using a PVC pipe under load made me very nervous so be extremely cautious if trying this. A bamboo bar would be far more safe and effective.

To perform this great assistance exercise you’ll need two kettlebells of the same weight, two resistance bands, and a PVC pipe (for safety don’t overload).  You’ll secure the band through the handle of the kettlebell and then drape the open end to each end of the PVD pipe.  You’ll want to make sure they are in the same place on both sides.  Next, get under the PVC pipe as if you are setting up for a back squat and have someone assist you in pressing the PVC overhead (this is important because if you apply too much upward force the PVC may break).  Then engage your abs, pull your ribcage in, press out your arms, and begin walking.  Not only will this improve shoulder stability if done properly, but it is also an ab burner.  Enjoy!

Our resident CrossFit production team, Kendall and Cameron Potter show you how to do handstand pushups!  Hey, if they can do it, you can do it!

Great job girls.

As many of you know I work on my Olympic lifts with legendary coach Istvan Javorek once every week. Not only is his coaching greatly improving my technique, but he helps me to become a much better coach for you guys, as well.

I am lucky to have such a renowned coach and mentor and I look forward to this session every week because he demands perfection. If my lift sucks, he tells me so, even if I successfully complete the lift. Technique is everything!

Olympic weightlifting is a VERY technical skill that takes years and thousands of repetitions to become proficient. And even longer if you want to become GOOD. Coach takes me through a wide variety of auxiliary exercises to help reinforce the movement patterns and ingrain the neural pathways involved.

Below is a video of an auxiliary exercise for the snatch. You’ll want to pick a moderate weight (50-60% of your max). Get your snatch grip and deadlift the weight to waist level. Next you will lower the weight to just below your knees (low hang). Now hold this isometric position for 5 seconds before you explode into a power snatch. Be sure to keep your lower back locked in! Perform 5 to 8 repetitions.

You’ll notice that Coach criticizes my stiff shoulders at the end of the video. As with most guys, I need more shoulder mobility! I’ll post a video to help with that in the coming days.

There is a great saying I heard once that is incredibly true when it comes to training methods. “If you want to learn something new, read an old book.” Each year we are flooded with “new” training programs that are really just modifications of tried and true programs that were created long ago and given a fancy new name.

I have had the pleasure of being coached and mentored by a true legend in Olympic Weightlifting, Istvan Javorek.  In fact, he invented barbell and dumbbell complexes!  His book and programming have helped me tremendously and I recommend his books and DVD’s to ANY CrossFitter that wants to improve their Olympic Weightlifting and over-all CrossFit performance.

You can find his products HERE!

Javorek Book Cover