I wrote this up in January but wasn’t able to publish it until now, better late than never though, right?
Seeing as it is January, I thought it would be a good time to post about my fitness goals for 2017!
Now i’ve broken these up into two categories – health and fitness. While they both intertwine, I am focusing my health goals on nutrition and mental health for the time being; and leaving the physical feats to fitness.
I’ve formulated these goals in such a way as to make them easily repeatable, so as to create habits. I am a firm believer in habits, and think that anyone who wants to change their lives needs to create new habits and/or replace their bad habits. These goals are designed to be able to be done once a day or multiple times a week, and will be implemented as short routines.
Drink Dr. Axe Superfood greens 1x a day
Drink a minimum of 128 oz of water daily
Meditate for 5 minutes every morning
Bump up wrist strengthening routine to 4x/week
Improve ankle dorsiflexion
Improve thoracic extension
Improve internal hip rotation
My plan for achieving these is to create easy to go through routines where I can put in some time daily or on select days a week. I figure my fitness goals will be most achievable by staying for ~15 minutes after my WODs and going through my mobility routine. For my health goals, I’ll stick to drinking my superfood greens with my nightly Turmeric and ZMA supplements, and continuously refill my water bottle periodically.
The benchmarks for the mobility goals will be to hold a freestanding handstand and have a perfect front squat by the end of this year.
Preface: I have had a pair of these for just over a year now and have enjoyed them thoroughly.
The Nike Romaleos 2 is a premier weightlifting shoe designed for experienced power lifters, weightlifters, crossfitters or any serious lifter. They’re improved over the first version by weighing lighter (50g each) and having increased flexibility in the forefoot to improve dynamic movements such as olympic lifting.
Some quick asides before we dive in:
Insoles – Comes with a training and a competition insole. The competition is designed to be stiffer, I didn’t find much of a difference between them
Color – Unlike other weightlifting shoes it comes in a range of colors (style points?)
Wide – Every now and then someone mentions that they fit wider feet better. With the two metatarsal straps I believe any size foot will be secure.
Arches – Noticeable arch support for those with flatter feet. May feel uncomfortable for some, but I found no issue. I have flat feet and tend to over pronate on squatting movements, leading to collapsed knees and ankles. The arch support has significantly helped me during any squatting movement by providing proper support.
Durable: I’ve had my pair for just over a year and can attest to their durability. If you make sure to wear them only inside the gym, they should last for many years. The only thing I could see wearing out is the laces and that would come from continually getting entangled with the velcro straps. Tucking your laces into the shoe after each use will solve that.
Year old Nike Romaleos 2, still in great condition
Versatile: Comes with a heel height of 0.75 inches. Perfect for increasing squat depth, while maintaining a decent height from which to pull from the floor. Also has enough forward flexibility in the toe box for dynamic movements. Great for weightlifters and power lifters alike.
Stability: I was seriously impressed by how stable I felt squatting in these. The unique arch support ensures that any force you generate is directly and evenly distributed to the ground. It comes with two metartarsal straps to lock your feet in and prevent any lateral movement.
Long Top Strap: The top strap is a bit too long and can drag along the floor. It shouldn’t get in the way of any movement, its merely an eyesore. There’s also the option of taking it to a cobbler or a pair of scissors.
Price: For general fitness or weekend warriors, these are too pricy. Only experienced and serious lifters should consider these.
There is a reason that the Nike Romaleo II’s are the weightlifting world’s premier shoe. They provide top notch stability and durability, ensuring that force is transferred quickly and directly into the ground and thereby increasing your performance and safety. They’re a great purchase for the experienced lifter willing to pay a premium for a quality shoe. The average gym goer or weekend warrior would not benefit enough to justify the high price tag.
If you’ve ever seen somebody use a Voodoo Floss band before, you probably wondered what exactly they were hoping to accomplish by wrapping a band around some body part and then moving it around. Moreover, if you managed to actually talk with the owner you probably heard some fantastic tale of it solving pain that had been nagging them for years. Understandably you were a bit skeptical so you went to the Internet to find the truth. Lets see how Voodoo Floss Bands stack up.
First things first.
Price: $24 USD for (2) 7’ bands or $42 USD for (1) 28’ band.
Voodoo Floss Bands provide compression to a specific joint or muscle(s). When this compression is coupled with movement, a phenomena known as ‘tacking and flossing’, multiple things occur. It improves range of motion by helping to reduce tissue restriction, improve joint mechanics, and push swelling out of the area and further into the lymphatic system.
How to use: Voodoo Floss Bands are very simple to use and merely require one, sometimes two, hands to wrap the band around the desired area. Dr. Kelly Starrett recommends to wrap the band towards the heart, beginning at the furthest point from the heart for the desired area. An example for a knee wrap would be to begin wrapping below the knee and work up towards your quadriceps.
Easy: There is essentially zero learning curve, just wrap the band around the desired area and tuck it back into itself and start mobilizing. Also it is very easy to carry around in a gym bag or anywhere on the go.
Longevity: This is a quality product that I have used for 3 years now and it works just as well as when I first purchased it. It will fade over time and usage, but we aren’t shooting for cool points here.
Multi purpose: Can be used for mobilizing/stretching to improve movement and to reduce inflammation from nagging injuries/help recover for the next workout. This is huge as most mobility tools are single facet like foam rollers just providing myofascial release. Perfect for warming up for a WOD or cooling down and stretching afterwards.
Quick Results: Only takes up to a minute or two of mobilizing to make immediately noticeable changes to your physiology. This is especially prominent if you’re trying to work out inflammation. I have personally used them as part of my treatment protocol for Osgood Schlatter (link), sprained ankles (link), and recurrent wrist problems (link); and can attest to their efficiency. After a bout of basketball my knees swell up to nearly a softball, yet the bands will take the overwhelming majority of the inflammation out of there, allowing me to walk limp free.
Adaptability: Nearly any part of your limbs (legs/arms) so ankles, knees, wrists, elbows, shoulders, etc can be treated. Stay away from the trunk as they were not designed for that.
Partner can help: Some positions can be tough to wrap such as elbows or shoulders, having a partner in these situations will make it much easier. I highly recommend mobilizing at your box with a friend, both before or after a WOD as it is makes the time go much faster.
Here I am flossing my elbow. This would be a time to have a partner to help wrap you.
Should Clean: I say should clean because I have cleaned my own set once in the preceeding three years; however, I do the majority of my mobilizations at home when im not sweaty. If you find yourself using the bands to warmup or cool down from workouts, you’re likely sweating a fair amount and they can attract dirt and other grime. A quick wash with some soap will make them sparkle again!
Marks: You will more than likely see redness and marks from your use of the bands. If you begin to notice any tingling sensations, the band is probably too tight, loosen it up before continuing to save those nerves. Any marks you see shouldn’t last long, between 5-20 minutes is common. We aren’t here to look pretty anyways, heck they can complement the rest of your gym scars.
The Voodoo Floss Bands are one of the premier mobility products for any athlete and I personally consider them one of my top three mobility tools along with my lacrosse ball and foam roller. I recommend this product to anybody dealing with inflammation in their arms and legs, those trying to improve their mobility and movement patterns, and to anyone wishing to spend a few minutes doing some preventative maintenance to avoid future injuries. I’ll be providing future guides on the use of Voodoo Bands with regards to specific injuries and mobilizations.
I am going to break upper body mobility into three areas.
I have found that these three areas are the most prone to being immobile and lead to injuries ranging from low back and neck pain, to torn pecs, rotator cuff problems, carpal tunnel and more. Unfortunately this is due to the ’rounded desk posture’ of our modern society (sitting, typing, writing, texting) resulting in poor posture. The resulting ‘C’ shape with a rounded upper back, hunched over shoulders, and forward jutting neck compromise stability and force transfer for nearly any movement. On top of that, the poor positioning leads to improper muscle recruitment patterns in a variety of exercises, heck it will even make breathing more difficult.
In other words these positions are terrible to default to, and merely going to the gym and working out will not address the problem – in fact it will more than likely lead to significant injury.
5 Best Upper Body Mobilizations:
1) Myofascial Release:
Items Needed: A ‘Peanut’ which is two lacrosse balls taped together. You can make your own or grab one off Amazon, the cheapest I found is this one.
Purpose: Restore the gliding surfaces of the various layers of tissue. Make sure to breath in deeply and work out any sore/tight areas. Also keep your abs tight and strive to keep your lower back on the ground throughout the movement.
Modifications: There isn’t much you can do to make this easier. A more advanced version or for bigger people (like myself) would be to get a weight of some sort like a kettle bell and hold it on your chest. This will give you some extra weight to really dig into that T-spine.
Aim for: A minute or two of maintenance once all the knots are cleared out. Whenever a knot comes up, spend a minute or two on just that area and try to loosen it up.
2) Wall Slides:
Items Needed: A wall! Or any flat vertical surface.
Purpose: Activate the low trap, external rotators, and rhomboid. Stretch out the pecs and internal rotators. It’ll also help to teach you to not engage your upper traps (by shrugging).
Keep your shoulder blades back and down throughout the movement.
Hands, wrist, forearms pressed into the wall the entire time.
Modifications: If you can’t do this perfectly the first time, don’t worry about it. It can take some time to restore movement that hasn’t been addressed in years. Only go to the point of discomfort, no need to push through any pain.
Aim for: Spend a minute or two doing this.
Items Needed: Nothing!
Purpose: Restore T-spine mobility. Try to breath out on the way up, and in on the way down.
Modifications: This is a very gentle stretch, push as hard as you’d like at the top and bottom.
Aim for: 15-20 repetitions. Shouldn’t take more than a minute.
Items Needed: None!
Purpose: Warm up and mobilize the fingers, wrists and forearm muscles.
Modifications: Several are covered in the video! Just put as much weight as you’d like into your hands.
Aim for: 2-5 minutes before any activity involving the hands.
Purpose: Stretch out the shoulders and pecs. Reposition the shoulder into an anatomically correct position.
Modifications: Can perform without a band although it will be less effective. Just grab a doorway and step through.
Aim for: 2-4 minutes per side.
These drills are easy to perform, can be personalized to your needs, and shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. I highly suggest using these as part of your warmup routine to allow for better positioning and safety during your workout. Additionally, working out immediately after mobilizing will help to cement your changes by teaching your Central Nervous System new motor and muscle recruitment patterns.
Try these drills for a week or two and see if you notice an improvement, if not change up the timing, range of motion you explore or try out some new mobilizations. Stick with what works!
If you are completely unfamiliar with the term mobility, check out my overview article on it here.
Before we begin, I’m sure you understand the importance of attaining some basic mobility, if not I will be writing a future article the ‘3 Biggest movement dysfunctions’. It will go in depth to describe the 3 biggest mobility problems facing people today, and why it needs to be addressed ASAP.
Alright. Now that we are on the same page about needing mobility (especially lower body), here’s my Top 5 best lower body mobilizations.
Purpose: Primarily stretch out your hip flexors (super important for anyone who sits … so everyone)
Modifications: Can be easily modified by the extent you push your hips forward. Remember to tighten your butt cheek of the leg with the knee on the ground, and not to lean your upper body away, stay vertical.
Note: Video begins at the 4:00 minute mark.
Take it one level further with a banded distraction pulling your hip forward.
Note: Video begins at the 9:45 minute mark.
Aim for: Around 2 minutes per side. If you find any problem areas, feel free to spend longer working those out.
Purpose: Deep stretch in your hamstrings and pelvic floor muscles, adductors, and calves. This is one of the primal positions humans are designed to be comfortable holding. Even if you can easily eat dinner in this position, which I bet most people are not, some time should be spent maintaining that ability.
Purpose: Break up any adhesions in your quadriceps and the insertion of your hamstring into the glutes.
Modifications: An easier way to do it would be to use a foam roller, since the surface area is greater.
For the quadriceps, begin just above the knee and slowly work all the way up to the flexors. If you find any tight spots along the way, pause for a minute and let it work itself out.
The easiest way to get the gluteal fold is to sit on a hard surface and place the lacrosse ball at the insertion of the hamstrings into the glutes, right before your sits bones. Make sure to have your pelvis directly underneath you. It may help to sit up as straight as you can to put your pelvis in the most advantageous position for this mobilization.
Aim for: Around 2 minutes per side. As with the previous stretches, if you find any areas that you’d like to explore go ahead and camp out there for a while.
Purpose: Restore internal rotation of the hips. This is essential in creating torque from external rotation, which helps to stabilize the hip joint during squatting movements. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you think about it the more internal rotation you can achieve, the earlier ‘starting point’ you will have to begin the external rotation = more torque = stability = performance.
Modifications: Let your legs fall as much as you’d like, further and you will have a greater stretch.
To perform, lay on your back and bring your feet out wide. Let your knees fall inward toward the opposite leg. Try one at a time, or two, whichever your prefer. Be really conscious of keeping your hips on the ground and trying to feel the stretch in the hip joint.
Aim for: Around 2 minutes per side.
The beautiful thing about all of these mobilizations is that you can personalize them to fit you. If you feel a particular range of motion or side of the movement is tighter/stickier, spend some more time there and really dig into it. Kelly Starrett is a big proponent of ‘hunting’ for those tight areas and really working them out. The greatest changes in your physiology and performance come directly from working out those problem areas. Also another note, test your movement positioning before and after each mobilization. See if you end up making changes. If you don’t experience any changes, try a different variation of it or experiment with holding it longer.
I’ve completed the six session fundamentals course now and I’d like to talk a bit about what I’ve learned, and hope to gain by pursuing Crossfit.
We last left off after the first session. A day by day breakdown looks somewhat like this:
Day 2: A focus on hip hinging. We learned Romanian Deadlifts, Deadlifts and Kettle bell Swings. The main takeaways from this day were to keep your shoulders back, neutral spine, and load the posterior chain. For the KB swings specifically, its still a hip hinge, not a squat. So when the KB is coming down you should be using your hips to catch the weight, not squatting underneath it.
One of my problems here is hip overextension on the follow through. After snapping your hips through, you shouldn’t be leaning back, you should be nearly vertical. I’ll add it to a list of what I need to work on.
If I recall correctly the WOD was a 7 minute AMRAP of 10 KB swings, 5 RDL’s, and 5 Pushups.
Day 3: Kipping movement, wall walks for Handstands, and Box Jumps. The major things I learned were that the kipping movement begins at the shoulders, not the hips. Often times people have shoulders that are way too tight to allow them to start hitting kipping pull-ups off the bat. I strongly recommend only practicing the motion back and forth until you feel comfortable. The wall walks were difficult for myself due to my wrist impingements/lack of flexibility. So I did more of a pushup position with my feet on the wall. I’ll be slowly progressing upwards to give my wrists time to adjust. Box jumps were easy. A few things here are to completely stand up on the top of the box, and land softly. Also be sure to step down after each jump, no need to put added stress on your joints and connective tissue yet.
We ended with a 10 minute AMRAP partner WOD consisting of 5 DL, 5 T2B (toes-to-bar), and 10 box jumps. At the end of the WOD I looked down and alas the first callous tear! I have a feeling this will be something that might happen often. I’ll be sure to write a post on how to speed up the healing process and how to get back into the gym fast.
We started off learning the front rack position. Being a taller athlete (6’4”) with currently limited thoracic extension this was very difficult for myself. Couple that with poor ankle dorsiflexion and wrist mobility and we’ve got a storm brewing! We began by standing and holding the front rack position for several minutes. Man, this was tough. Some keys here were to keep your elbows in front of the bar, and let the bar rest on your deltoids and across your throat. Oftentimes being unable to do that is due to poor thoracic mobility (upper back). Of course as usual you also must keep your abs tight (ribcage down) and glutes squeezed. We performed numerous sets and reps totaling to around 80. Many more reps will be needed to iron out the form required.
Our warmup was the assault bike: burn 10 calories at 60rpm, 10 at 70, finish with 10 at 75.
The WOD was 5 rounds or 6 minutes (whichever comes first) of 10 20lb wall ball shots to a 12 ft (?) target followed by 5 thrusters at 95lbs and 5 chest to bar pullups. I ended up finishing around 4:40, note that I had to break up the pullups into smaller sets towards the end.
Warmup on assault bike, 10 cal at 50rpm, 10 at 60, 10 at 70. Spent a good amount of time stretching out our hips with my favorite mobility poses. We then started learning the Clean.
The sequence for the movement is as follows:
Hip hinge and explosion followed by shrugging the shoulders up and bringing the bar up as close to your body as possible. Then swiveling hands around the bar and catching it in the front rack position.
Whenever I did cleans beforehand I would do the movement away from my body rather than keeping the bar traveling vertically next to my torso. The closer you keep the weight to your center of mass the easier it will be to catch it properly.
The beginning sequence for the snatch is the same as the clean, however your hands are much wider on the bar. Wide enough that your elbows are locked out when the bar is in your hip crease. After the hip hinge-explosion-shrug-arms pulling up, you ‘pull’ yourself underneath the bar and lock out overhead.
How to perform a snatch:
Clean and Jerk:
My overarching goal with Crossfit is to first lessen or eliminate my movement dysfunctions and subsequent pains, and gain strength in fundamental, functional movements. Which include moving weight (additional or bodyweight) in any functional movement pattern, whether that be hip hinging (deadlift, cleans etc), squatting (back, front, overhead), overhead movements (strict press, handstand pushups) while improving metabolic conditioning.
I plan to achieve this by attending 3-5 workouts a week. Specifically the Mobility and Conditioning class as well as the Strength Development class. Additionally I will be following a daily mobility routine to improve my biomechanics to prevent and recover from injuries.
Mobility is “theability to move in one’senvironmentwitheaseandwithoutrestriction.” In terms of human movement, mobility is the ability to put one’s body into the correct position for various movements such as a squat, deadlift, overhead press etc.
Dr.Kelly Starrett of San Francisco Crossfitand mobilitywod have been the main sources behind this term becoming more popular. Kelly says that mobility is “a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems.” In other words mobility is super important when we are talking about fitness, and even just general everyday life. Having mobility means having the ability to move the way our bodies were designed, that is the correctly and safely. Incidentally having this mobility will also allow for greater performance through higher force and therefore power production.
While you can break down mobility into many subcategories, as Dr. Kelly did above, I believe the three most pertinent categories are as follows:
Soft tissue restrictions
Joint Range of motion
The majority of improvements in mobility will more than likely come from these areas. Additionally they are all easy to work on individually which is very important for those of us who cannot afford a personal masseuse or chiropractor.
Soft tissue restrictions
Think scar tissue and matted down old tissue that hasn’t been required to move in a long time (ie you haven’t done a full squat in decades). All those adhesions serve to tack down and restrict the movement of different layers of tissue. The goal here is to break up those adhesions and restore the sliding surfaces of the various layers of tissue.
The main tools used here are self-myofascial release tools, such as foam rollers and lacrosse balls. If you’re unsure how to use either I’ll be making an article on the both of them and the importance of myofascial release soon.
Think stretching. A shorter tissue will have a decreased range of motion when compared to a longer tissue. If you have yet to attain the maximum range of motion this is an excellent place to put some work in. Kelly is a big proponent of Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). PNF is essentially stretching a muscle, isometrically contracting it, then stretching it further. Commonly you will perform multiple cycles of it. Couple PNF with prolonged static stretching (I prefer up to two minutes) and you’ll see noticeable changes in your mobility.
Lastly the range of motion of your joints needs to be addressed. This is usually done through the use of banded distractions. Here’s an excellent video of Starrett demonstrating some banded distractions. The main idea is that the band applies pressure to put the joint back in the correct position, then you can move around a bit and stretch out the end ranges of motion.
Some things to note here are that mobilization is not the same as a warmup (although it should be incorporated into a warm up). Generally a warm up is designed to increase your heart rate a bit and get more blood flowing. Mobilizing during your warm up will serve to put you in better positions during your workouts, thus making you stronger and less likely to get injured.
Some of my favorite movements are the runners pose (first stretch she demonstrates), deep squat hold, and pigeon pose all of which address both tissue elasticity; and, when coupled with a band, joint range of motion.
Started my first day of Crossfit at Crossfit Invictus. For the first two weeks I have to take a fundamentals course going over all of the basics of Crossfit, from the warm up and stretching to technical positioning for movements. Today we spent the first 25 or so minutes merely smashing our quads with barbells and doing some stretching. The stretching started off with some banded hip distraction whilst in a lunge position to really work out the hip flexors. Next we did around 10 or so repetitions of the ‘world’s greatest stretch’.
Following the warm up we began some movement sequences. Pushups came first, with an emphasis on stacked joints and holding a hollow body position. Lunges both forward and reverse came next, again the emphasis was on holding a tight core and splitting the work evenly between both legs. After working on those we were shown the rower. Push with the legs, hinge slightly with the back, and finish by pulling through with the arms. From the top go in reverse order back to the starting position.
We finished off with a quick two round WOD of 1 minute row, 1 minute pushups, and 1 minute weighted reverse lunges. I got 22/18 pushups and 15/15 or so reverse lunges. Not sure how far I rowed. After the WOD we stretched our hamstrings and were taught the importance of eating real foods, note that shopping the outside rim of the grocery store is the way to go. Can’t wait to start some of the mobility and functional movement pattern classes in the near future!
Inflammation is the body’s response to a perceived harmful stimulus such as foreign bacteria entering the body or a broken bone. It serves to increase blood flow to that area to speed up healing, and restrict the movement of the tissues/joint/area in an effort to mitigate further injuring that area.
Oftentimes an athlete will realize they have a problem with the onset of inflammation. It is important to be aware of the outbreak of inflammation and to treat it quickly, whilst noting the reason(s) for its occurrence. Inflammation as experienced by athletes usually falls into one of two injury categories. Acute or chronic.
Acute inflammation occurs when a singular event leads to injury. Examples include a torn ACL, sprained ankle, broken arm. Here the injuries can be explained by putting too much force into the body in such a fashion as it couldn’t handle (falling on your wrists and breaking them) or poor movement patterns (such as valgus knees leading to non contact ACL tears) leading to one event where the injury occurred.
Chronic inflammation in the athletic sense normally occurs from repeated poor movement patterns coupled with a workload that one’s body is not capable of handling; both putting stress on tendons/ligaments/bones in a fashion they were not designed for. These are commonly overuse injuries. Examples include painful swelling in the knees arising from Osgood Schlatters disease, plantar fasciitis, and others.
How to Deal with Inflammation:
The initial phases of acute and chronic inflammation should be treated in similar fashion. The goal is to decrease the immediate swelling sustained from the injury to speed up the healing process and the return to previous activity levels. Commonly athletes are told to Rest Ice Compress Elevate (RICE) their injured areas. This is a mostly solid healing protocol. However in recent years the icing recommendation has come under fire with certain people noting that icing primarily serves to ‘turn off’ the nerves of that area for a period of time and thus diminish the feeling of pain; while decreasing the blood flow to the area and clogging up the lymphatic system (primary system responsible for the elimination of inflammation). Thus their argument is that icing is counter productive for healing an injury. I tend to agree with them, with the stipulation being that prolonged icing is the main culprit of decreasing blood flow (greater than 5-10 minutes). Rest, Compression and Elevation are all beneficial for the initial onset of inflammation.
Once the initial phases of the inflammation are dealt with, athletes need to continue the healing process by increasing the blood flow to the injured areas and supporting the lymphatic system. I recommend a gradual progression of increasing activity when recovering from an injury. Starting with progressively longer walks, more intense stretching and moving into lower intensity exercises with higher repetitions. The progression will depend on each situation and should be dictated by how the athlete feels. To stimulate the lymphatic system, contraction surrounding the injured areas is needed. This can be provided from muscular contraction or from outside compression such as a Rogue Voodoo floss band. If you’re interested in seeing how the Rogue Voodoo floss band can drastically decrease the inflammation of an area check out my review of them here. The point here is that once the initial inflammation subsides, the athlete should gradually increase their activity levels and stimulate the injured area to increase the rate of healing.
I cannot stress it enough that inflammation (as commonly experienced by athletes) is merely a symptom of some root cause. If the inflammation is treated, yet the underlying reason behind it is not, you can rest assured that the problem will still be there and will recur when activity starts ramping up again.
One of my hopes is that through accumulating information from this site and others athletes will be able to identify faulty movement and loading patterns before they are exposed to inflammation and injury.