Wednesday, December 29, 2010

12/29/10 - Clean/Jerk & Bench

Five rounds of:

Clean & Jerk, 135 lbs, 3 reps

Bench Press, 205lbs, 3 reps

source: JG
time: About 8 minutes
works: legs, shoulders, chest
difficulty: 5
my effort: 6

Honestly, today was a "throw away" day. One of those days where you end up at the gym, but really wish you hadn't gone in the first place. I almost always try to go three days on, one day off, but I have an engagement tomorrow evening, so I compromised with a light workout today. It was almost worthless, as I was still so sore from the tail end of the last three-day rotation that I didn't accomplish much. In any case, I suppose it was a good way to get my blood moving. I also did some muscleups (though not as many as this guy), and an extended rowing session as a warmup.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

12/28/10 - Front Squats/L-Hang Pullups

For time:

Seven rounds of:

Front squat, 185lbs, 3 reps

L-Hang Pullup, 7 reps

Rest 2 minutes, then:

Three rounds of:

Box jumps, 24" box, 15 jumps

Kettlebell swings, 2 pood, 15 swings

source: JG
time: 9:01, first pair of exercises. Time not kept second pair.
works: legs, back, shoulders, core, power
difficulty: 8
my effort: 8

Want to strengthen and/or tone your legs? This is the workout for you. For power and strength, keep the weight up and the reps down. For toning, increase the reps a bit, and dial back the weight. In both cases, minimize the rest between all sets. This is meant to be an aerobic workout.

I performed these exercises wearing a 20lb weight vest that I recently got for Christmas. It certainly made the pullups much harder - and slower. The box jumps also got more difficult. The squat was effected too. Interestingly, the kettlebell swings weren't that much harder - if at all -, emphasizing the fact that the main movement in this exercise is the hip snap and the tightening of the core to pull the weight up.

Remember to keep your back nice and tight and straight on the front squats; don't allow the weight to pull you forward too much. It should - like the split jerks from yesterday - sit on your clavicle.

As an aside, I've decided that the way you can easily notice someone that trains like this is to look for bruises on their clavicle and shins - areas the weight bar impacts in many of the Olympic lifts.

Image credit:

Monday, December 27, 2010

12/27/10 - Split Jerks

Split Jerks:


10 Cleans, 135lbs
5 Split Jerks, 135lbs

source: JG
time: None kept
works: shoulders, legs, back, core
difficulty: 6
my effort: 7

This is a difficult workout to perform at a typical box gym, primarily because the split jerks require some confidence when attempting the higher weight. A properly set up gym will have a lifting box and rubberized weights, suitable for dropping if you can't lock the weight out at max extension. As it is, my gym is a little crowded, with no rubberized weights. Dropping 225lbs of plated weight would not go over well. As such, I stopped quite a bit shy of my max weight reps for the split jerks, at about 185lbs. After that, the explosiveness required to jerk the weight made me nervous that I'd risk dropping it.

When performing the split jerk, remember to rest the weight on your shoulders/clavicle in your staging position. This allows you to generate maximum thrust when bending your legs to jerk the weight. When thrusting out of the first stage and moving the weight up, make sure to propel your hips and the weight up, not out. This generates a lot of upward thrust, allowing you to avoid landing on your front toe when landing. You want a good, stable platform for coming down. Remember that the final movement is not a shoulder press; that is, there is no military press movement involved. The thrust of the hips and core should be enough to propel the weight up; you're simply landing underneath and 'catching' it.


Photo credit:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

12/26/10 - "Bull"

For time, two rounds of:

200 jumpropes
50 overhead squats, 85 lbs
50 pullups
Run 1 mile

source: a modified crossfit workout
time: 52:20
works: shoulders, legs, back, endurance, balance, core
difficulty: 9
my effort: 7

The first day back to the gym after a holiday is either the best of times, or the worst of times. It's not my favorite, primarily because my body tends to get stiff after a day or two of no activity. So the first day back sometimes is a little rough. Today was an exception to that; I actually felt pretty good. This was a difficult workout for me though, because it incorporates the overhead squat, a movement that, as I mentioned before, I'm very slow at. So my overall time went way up due to these. I think it's a balance thing; it takes me time between each rep to make sure I'm set for the next one. I also take care not to overstress my shoulders in the locked-out position, as I've hurt them before and I want to avoid that experience.

The original crossfit workout called for double-unders as opposed to regular jumpropes, but the ropes at my gym are so flimsy, they don't really allow for this movement. A lame excuse, I know.

The pullups were an easy part of this workout for me. I split them into quick sets of 10, and had no trouble getting the 100. I did regulars, not kipping.

The miles were ok. I'm not an overly fast runner to begin with, but I can usually mile in about 6:00 - 6:20 without a problem. However, running these at the end of the rotations made them difficult. I ran the first at a 7:00-ish pace, and dropped all the way off to a 9:ish pace for the last one. That's the main reason a only marked my effort as a "7"; I think I could have run the last mile faster.

Image credit:


Rest day.


Rest day.

Friday, December 24, 2010

12/23/10 - Bottom-to-bottom tabata squats

One set of:

Bottom-to-bottom tabata squats.

source: part of a crossfit workout
time: 4:00
works: balance, endurance, legs
difficulty: 6
my effort: 7

This "workout" was kind of an afterthought at the end of my day. I hadn't been planning on doing anything, but wanted to perform at least a few minutes of exercise, as I find this helps my body feel good on a day-to-day basis.

The tabata component is the same as any tabata exercise: 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest over four minutes.

The squat is an air squat (i.e. no weight).

The only unique aspect to this workout is that the "rest" is taken in the squatting position. In other words, 20 seconds of air squats are followed by 10 seconds of a held squat position, for a total of four minutes. This gives the body time to recover aerobically, while forcing the muscles to continue to work. It's not easy, but you can do anything for four minutes...right?

12/22/10 Thrusters/Burpees

For time:

Five rounds of:

10 thrusters, 95 lbs
10 burpees

source: JG
time: 15:01
works: quads, hams, glutes, chest, shoulders, endurance
difficulty: 7
my effort: 6

I designed this workout to be a) fast and b) a complete workout. The weight prescribed isn't very heavy, but the difficulty comes in managing the transition from the thruster to the burpees, as both are a very exhausting movement. Focus on minimizing the amount of rest taken (ideally, you'll need none), and concentrate on the next movement. It's a short workout, but long enough to thoroughly exhaust the body if performed correctly.


Rest day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

12/20/10 - "Nutts" about handstand pushups

For time:

10 handstand pushups
15 deadlifts, 250lbs
25 box jumps, 30" box
50 dead-hang pullups
100 20-lb wall-ball shots, 10' target
400 meter run, carrying 45lb plate

: workout from a few days ago
time: 20:15
works: everything
difficulty: 9.5
my effort: 9

If you like tough, high-intensity workouts (like I do), this is the WOD for you. It's a basic progression style workout, with reps increasing as you move through the various exercises.

I moved the HSPUs to the last set, to give my shoulders plenty of time to warm up and stretch out before doing those.

I moved cleanly through the deadlifts, box jumps and pullups before arriving at the wallballs. These are very tough when aiming at a 10' target; after the first 20, I broke them into sets of 10 with 10 seconds of rest between sets. The run was the hardest exercise in this group, primarily because you can't stop on a treadmill. I ran it at a 10:00 mile pace; the last 1/4 lap was very hard.

I gave this workout a good effort. I had somewhere to be, and I was trying to stay within five minutes of the time leaders, which I did.

(photo credit:

Sunday, December 19, 2010


20 minutes, complete as many rounds as possible of:

5 chest-to-bar pullups
10 dips
15 overhead squats, 95 lbs

source: workout from a few days ago
time: 20:00
works: balance, shoulders, flexibility, core, back, triceps, chest
difficulty: 8
my effort: 7

This is one of the continual movement-type workouts favored by martial artists, crossfitters, etc. It's a difficult one for me, as I have never been particularly good at overhead squats, mostly due to the ROM in my shoulders. It's OK once I get warmed up, but I'm very slow at them, so my overall rounds are usually low.

Overhead squats are a great movement for strengthening the glutes and hamstrings while training your core to balance. Be sure to take a wide, snatch-type grip on the bar, lock your elbows into place, and perform a wide-stance squat. If your achilles prevent you from making a full squat, stop where you need to; don't allow your knees to buckle.

The chest-to-bar pullups can be performed either in kipping or dead-hang format, depending on what you're trying to get out of your exercise. I kept it mostly dead-hang.

The pullups and dips were the easy part of this workout for me; the squats slowed me down considerably.

I completed 6 rounds, subbing an 80lb bar for the 95lb.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

12/18/10 Kipping versus 'regular' pullups

First, today is a rest day for me. And much-needed; my abs, shoulders and lats are still sore.

Today I want to address the topic of kipping versus regular dead-hang pullups. There is a perception that kipping pullups are somehow a 'cheat', and not as effective as regular pullups. Like anything else, this is a matter of perspective, based on individual goals. For a video of how to kip, click here.

image credit:

First, a definition. A "kipping" pullup involves the basic pullup movement, but paired with a movement or thrust of the legs and hips to create momentum and propel the body upward into the pulling movement. As far as I can tell, the word "kip" comes from an old gymnastic move that involved swinging the legs. Obviously, this reduces the work load on the lats and shoulders, causing many people to call this a "cheat".

I want to suggest that kipping has a place in your workout, provided that it's utilized in the proper way: to provide coordination and endurance in a strength workout.

Regular dead-hang pullups are one of the best exercises (save perhaps weighted pullups) for developing strength in the shoulders and back. Many workouts that I create or borrow from other sites involve regular pullups utilized as a strength movement. They are also a very functional exercise; many people training or working in fields involving military, police or fire work have to make these movements on a regular basis. When I prescribe regular pullups, they're designed to build strength in the lats and shoulders.

Kipping pullups perform a slightly different function. While still working on the literal strength of the lats and shoulders (albeit to a lesser extent), they also incorporate elements of endurance, explosiveness and muscular coordination. Many people find it difficult to combine the hip movement necessary to properly kip; learning this increases your ability to coordinate multiple muscle groups. In addition, a proper kip allows you to do more pullups as a faster pace, training your body to perform a strength movement while it is taxed on a cardiovascular level. And if you really consider it, a kip is the movement that one would naturally perform if you needed to pull yourself up in a real-world situation where speed and efficiency mattered. There would be no reason to waste a store of potential power (your legs and hips) if they were available to you.

So the next time you design or attempt a workout that involves kipping pullups, don't automatically assume that it's not as effective as doing regular pullups. Rather, keep your particular goal for that workout in mind. There's a good chance that kipping pullups will help you reach it.

Friday, December 17, 2010


3 rounds for time:

Weighted pullups, 10 reps
Back extensions, 30 reps

source: workout from a few days ago
time: 3:40
works: shoulders, back, core
difficulty: 7
my effort: 9

This is basically a breakneck speed, all-out effort type of workout. It tests your ability to give maximum effort on varying body parts over a short stretch. Choose a pullup weight that you feel is challenging for you.

I used a 40-lb dumbbell to weight my pullups. I was able to complete sets of 10, 10 and 7 without stopping. The last three reps of the last set I had to pause briefly between each pullup.

Total time: 3:40.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12/16/10 - Shoulder Presses

Shoulder Press, 1-1-1-1-1
Push-Press, 3-3-3-3-3
Push Jerk, 5-5-5-5-5

source: workout from a few days ago
time: 45 minutes
works: shoulders, core
difficulty: 6
my effort: 5

This was a long, slow workout designed to tax the shoulders with weight close to their load limit. The idea is that one shoulder press is about as difficult as 3 push presses, which are about as difficult as 5 push jerks. I found this to be relatively true.

Obviously the progression involves using the legs and core on an increased basis as the shoulders fatigue, allowing you to lift more and also to get the explosive power of the hips involved in the last sets.

I didn't lift all that much, as I was feeling fairly sore from some earlier workouts. Plus, straight shoulder presses have never been my strongest suit.

If you attempt this workout, remember that it calls for 1-2 minutes of rest and recovery between each set (to allow the maximum amount of weight to be moved).

My splits:


PS. Feeling those GHD situps today!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

12/15/10 - Deads/GHDs

3 rounds of:

Deadlift, 10 reps
Glute-Ham Developer (GHD) Situp, 30 reps

source: workout from a few days ago
time: 15 minutes
works: hamstrings, glutes, core
difficulty: 6.5
my effort: 6

I focused more on weight and form than speed on today's workout, because both of these lifts can be hard on the lower back if performed incorrectly.

The GHD situp used to be called the "Roman Chair Sit Up", and is fairly uncommon. The exercise moves the core from near hyper-extension to near-full flexion. The role of the core in this movement is primarily isometric. In other words, you're holding yourself back from over-extension. This is in line with the thinking that the most powerful, functional, and developmental contractions of the trunk are isometric, not isokinetic. In either case, it's a difficult exercise to perform. Not many gyms have the equipment for it; I used the half-bench on a lat-pulldown machine.

The deadlift is fairly self-explanatory. There aren't many better lifts for developing explosive power in the glutes and hamstrings.

If you perform these exercises, be sure to use a light weight (or low reps for the situps) until you're confident that you're applying correct form. The lower back can suffer if you're not careful. In fact, if you suffer from lower back problems, I'd avoid the GHD situps entirely, and go light on the deads. No sense hurting your back.

My splits:

Deadlifts, 10 reps/GHD Situps

275lbs x 10/body weight x 30 reps
295lbs x 10/bw x 30
315 x 10/bw x 30

Have fun.


Rest day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

12/13/10 - Push/Pulls

5 rounds of:

Max rep bench press
Max rep pullup

source: jg
time: 20 minutes
works: shoulders, back, pecs
difficulty: 5
my effort: 6

I chose this classic push-pull workout for a couple of reasons. First, it's very low cardio. After a grueling 45 minutes of non-stop work yesterday, I wanted to back off the cardio. Second, I was curious to see where my pullups stood.

I chose to use 180lbs for the bench press because

a) yesterday's workout incorporated 110 pushups
b) I haven't worked on a flat bench press for over a year
c) my left shoulder doesn't always agree with the press movement

It was a decent workout, but I definately felt yesterday's burpees and shoulder presses leaving me quite a bit short of reps on some sets. I stuck with regular dead-hang pullups, as opposed to kipping.

My splits were:

11/30 (push/pull)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12/12/10 - Modified "Whitten"

Five rounds of:

22 2-pood (72lbs) kettlebell swings
22 24" box jumps
22 85lb push press
22 burpees
22 20lb wall-ball tosses

time: approximately 45 minutes
works: shoulders, hamstrings, quads, core
difficulty: 8
my effort: 7

I took today's workout from The original workout called for 400m sprints as the third leg of the workout, but I modified it because I had a bit of running in my workout yesterday.

Set one was smooth; no rest between exercises and only one pause during the push presses.
Set two was very difficult for some reason; I think it took me the longest.
Set three and four were better than two, but I began to fatigue around the end of three, about 30 minutes into the routine. My burpees got a bit sloppy, and the KB swings a bit low.
The last set, oddly, was likely my second best set. Not much rest (maybe I knew I was almost done), and good solid movement through each exercise.

I gave myself a 7 for effort for getting through it, but I feel like I could have avoided a couple bits of rest here and there.

Tomorrow might end up being a rest day, but we'll see how today makes me feel. KB swings always leave me sore.