Why I’m Stretching More (And Maybe You Should Too)

Why I’m Stretching More (And Maybe You Should Too)

 At this point it’s no secret…

…I’ve been on a mobility mission!

Ever since I was introduced to gymnastics movements when I started CrossFit 7 years ago I’ve been fascinated with some of the higher level movements ever since.

But I realized something when I attempted to train these movements…

…my mobility was terrible!

When I first started CrossFit I could barely do a full depth squat, I couldn’t get my elbows up in the front squat, and I couldn’t touch my toes (not a chance). I’ve said it a million times – I’ve had every flexibility issue known to CrossFit. So before I could even approach these cool gymnastics moves – I first needed to master the ability to perform functional movements.

I was able to overcome a lot of those flexibility issues through CrossFit and a habitual mobility practice. I learned a lot from Kelly Starrett and his daily MobilityWODs. These improvements greatly improved my CrossFit and I felt like I was doing pretty well until I came to another realization…

I had only achieved average flexibility – enough to “get by”.

Yes – I was able to do all the CrossFit movements “as prescribed”. By all accounts – I was moving well. However, as I became stronger and the intensity of my workouts increased, I began to experience nagging aches and pains, particularly in my low back.

I took a step back and looked at the big picture.

  • Was I setting my flexibility standard high enough?
  • Was achieving good movement in CrossFit alone going to counteract all the sitting I do each day, keeping me safe and injury free?

After hearing a podcast with Coach Christopher Sommers from Gymnastic Bodies describe most (even elite) CrossFitters as “stiff as a board” – I realized I needed to aim higher. Well before I started focusing on gymnastics strength training, I simply started stretching a bit more before and after the WOD. I wasn’t satisfied with just the basics anymore – I aimed a bit higher. My goal wasn’t just to “put the time in” anymore.

After a short amount of time I wasn’t experiencing on again, off again low back discomfort. My first squat of the day didn’t feel like absolute hell any more. I was able to perform functional movements without having to perform an excessive warm-up so as not to feel tweaky or tight.

Now I’m not saying the average CrossFitter needs to achieve a full front and side splits, a chest-to-ground pancake, and the overall flexibility of a 12 year old gymnast. But what I am saying, as your CrossFit coach, is that overall as a community, we all need to set our bar higher.

Can you:

  • Touch your toes
  • Reach your arms overhead (with a completely neutral spine), and
  • Sit in the bottom of the squat (comfortably)?

If not, this should be taken as a serious warning sign that you need more dedicated flexibility training. Most of our athletes struggle in at least one area I’ve just listed out and those are just the absolute bare minimum requirements to move well.

Let’s look at a couple of basic stretches I’ve determined we all need to improve in order to move very well and injury free both at CrossFit and our everyday life:

  1. The couch stretch

This is a great stretch for the front of your hip – it hits your hip flexors and your quads, hard! After a full day of sitting, these muscles become particularly tight. The average CrossFitter should strive to get into this position.

Are you just starting out? Try these variations:

2. Straddle Pancake

If sitting on the floor without rounding your low back is not possible – than your hamstrings are way too tight. If your hip flexors cramp from just sitting down – that should be a big wake up call that your hips aren’t working properly.

The straddle pancake stretch also helps with range of motion in the adductors and piriformis, which for the average sedentary adult are very, very tight. By working on progressions toward a straddle pancake stretch, your hips will enjoy pain-free mobility both inside and outside the gym.

Are you just starting out? Try this variation:

3. Standing Pike

Not being able to bend over and touch your toes easily is a serious deficiency – one that limits several movements in everyday life and CrossFit. Deadlifts and toes to bar are two CrossFit movements that come to mind regarding hamstring flexibility.

To perform the standing pike – simply bend over at the hips. Hold the stretch for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. As you become more advanced – reach behind you or grab your ankles to pull you deeper into the stretch.

Heads up! There is one great way to get started on improving your mobility – attend our next mobility seminar on Thursday, April 28th. Here’s what to expect:

  • Improve your flexibility and mobility for CrossFit and every day life
  • Learn proper stretching protocol and techniques
  • Done-for-you stretch routines to do at home or before/after class
  • Experience pain-free movement

Register HERE.

Open Prep Programming

Open Prep Programming

As you may have noticed, last week brought upon a shift in Programming. Gone are the hard heavy and fast WOD’s we used for 6 weeks during 5-3-1 and in came some pretty lengthy and brutal WOD’s. Don’t worry you are not being punished for your holiday indulgences.

We are preparing for the CrossFit Open and Friday Night Lights which is right around the corner beginning February 25th!

For those of you that are new you could stop reading now or…….. Just plan on signing up for Friday Night Lights. Just do it! Also, know that you are going to get in really good condition with some good old fashioned butt kickin’ CrossFit these next 6 weeks. Scaled where needed of course. With consistent effort and attendance you will be surprised how far you will come.The open is tough but we all had our first run at it. It’s doable and you will be happy for having done it. Still with me? Intrigued? Up to the challenge? You can do it and we will help.  Okay, read on.

Open prep means It’s time to build up your fire breathing engines, sharpen your mental toughness, tune up your technical skills and maybe even acquire some new ones. Here’s how we’ll do it:

  1. Open Style WOD’s

Each Friday we will be testing an old CrossFit Open WOD. Additionally, the WOD’s throughout the week are going to feel tough. They should. They are meant to build you all into hardened warriors by the time the Open arrives. I can’t guarantee that the open WODs won’t still be terrible but I can guarantee you will already be used to some terrible WODs to soften the blow. You’re welcome!

  1. Open Movements in varying combos,weights, and rep schemes.

These moves will likely be in the open so we will be using them leading up to the open: Thrusters, Cleans, Snatches, Deadlifts, Shoulder to Overheads, Over Head Squats, Wall balls, burpees, double unders, toes to bar, muscle ups, chest to bar pullups, Hand Stand Pushups. All the oldie but goodies are in there. Fun!

  1. Technique Work and Practice.

Throughout the week expect to see some technique work on some gymnastics and Olympic lifts in the form of complexes, EMOM’s and progressions. Put on your thinking caps, listen to your coach’s, be patient, check your egos, don’t get frustrated and work your weaknesses. It’s time to sharpen existing skills and acquire new one’s. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”- Yoda.

  1. Preparation for the Unknown.

If there is one thing we know about Dave Castro(Crossfit Open head programmer) he loves surprises. Last year we saw a heavy lift and HSPU’s for the first time in the open. What is it this year? My guess is the new frontier can be found in Gymnastics. Hand Stand Walks, Pistol’s, …. Who knows, but we will be trying some moves that have not appeared in the open yet. That Castro is sneaky so I’m going to be sneaky too. Sorry.

Bottom line. I want you all to have the best Open season you can. Your goals are mine. All we ask is that you be consistent in showing up and reap the rewards when you kick some tail in the Open.

Let’s Do this!
-Coach Travis

Take Your CrossFit Game to the Next Level

Take Your CrossFit Game to the Next Level

5 Tips to Take Your CrossFit Game to the Next Level – By Travis Hanson

So you’ve been Crossfitting for a while. You show up consistently, you’ve hit some PR’s and experienced a few of the girls. You may have entered the pain cave and came out the other end. Maybe you are close to Rx’ing every workout. You might love weightlifting and can explain what a snatch is to your grandmother without blushing. Perhaps you’ve experienced frustration from hitting a wall with a movement or you just can’t seem to get past a certain weight. Hopefully not, but maybe you’ve experienced injury. Bottom line, you love CrossFit and you want more. At a certain point just showing up to class is not enough. Here is what you can do to take your game to the next level:

Eat Well – First things first, your diet must be on point. You cannot out train a bad diet. Not only that, but you have to make sure you are eating for your goals. If you still need to drop some weight, eat for that goal. If you are trying to maintain, make sure you are eating enough to fuel your workouts. If you are trying to get stronger you may need to eat more to gain some muscle. A good place to start is to figure out how many carbs, fats and proteins you should be eating based on your goal and track your macro intake each day. You can figure out your macros at http://iifym.com/ and you can track them by using apps like “my finess pal”. Finally, make sure you are eating protein and carbs 90 mins before and immediately after your workouts. This will help fuel your workout and repair your body.

Sleep Well – In the gym you are literally breaking down your body. We rebuild our body during rest and with proper fuel. Ideally, adults should be sleeping around 8 hours a night. Athletes may need a little more. It’s during deep, quality sleep that we release and restore our hormone levels, as well as repair broken down muscle tissue. Yes, I know, sleep isn’t always easy to come by. We lead busy lives. However, there are ways to improve your sleep. First, shut your electronics off. Your body needs to ease into sleep. Instead, read for a half hour before bed and maybe have some non-caffeinated tea. Second, set a bedtime routine. They tell new parents to have sleep cues for their infants so they get used to falling asleep faster and it’s easier to get them down. Guess what, you have not progressed that much when it comes to something as basic as sleep. Try to got to bed at the same time every night and have some cues. For example, have a bedtime snack, brush your teeth, do some mobility, read and go to bed. Boom, night night. Finally, improve your sleep space by making it cool and dark. Put a fan on to cool the room and create white noise and wear an eye mask to black out the room. Follow these tips and I guarantee you will wake up more refreshed.

Attack Your Weaknesses – Certain aspects of CrossFit may take more than just showing up to class and working on them during that hour. If you’ve been CrossFitting for a while, you’ve more than likely found some chinks in your armor. Things like Double Unders, Gymnastics, and Olympic Lifting are all things that may require more work. Practice is best exercised at low intensity, so you may want to add some work before or after class. 10 minute EMOMs are a great and easy way to work on a certain movement at low intensity. There are also some services here at the gym that you could take advantage of. First, Foundations Seminars. These 90 minute workshops are a back to basics technique session that will help you practice the right form in gymnastics and weightlifting. If you need to get stronger and better at lifting, there is Gainz Club. Maybe you should take 8 weeks to really practice lifting technique. Finally there are skill sessions and personal training.

Do Mobility Everyday and Rest Wisely – Human beings were not meant to be stuck in cubicles, driving compact cars and sitting on their butts for hours on end being hunched over a computer or watching TV all day. We were designed to move and if you are limited in any of your movement, then you are not performing to your full potential and even worse you are at higher risk of injury. Your mobility might be holding you back from hitting that next PR or finally nailing that muscle up or it could be a ticking time bomb that will take you away from the gym altogether.

Have you ever seen a toddler squat? It is absolutely perfect! Human beings were designed to move and they were designed to move with full mobility and range of motion in all of our joints. It took years of bad movement to develop poor mobility and movement. I’ve got good news, with minutes of work each day you can improve your mobility and erase some of the poor patterns you may have developed over the years.

Figure out where you are limited or what might be holding you back or where you may have inefficient movement and do something about it everyday. Also, look ahead at the WOD and figure out what you can do before or after class to prepare and repair your body for the day’s work. Finally, when you are at home binge watching Fargo, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones or whatever else the kids watch these days, that is a perfect time to get off the couch and grab a foam roller. 20 mins, spread out throughout the day, goes a long way.

Seek Out Knowledge – I highly recommend that you seek out knowledge on your own. The first place to start is if you have a question ask a coach. We will do our best to answer it or find the answer for you. Second, there are books and journals and all types of resources out there dedicated to everything we do in here. The list endless. Here are some of my favorites:

Becoming A Supple Leopard by Dr. Kelly Starrett
Power Speed ENDURANCE: A Skill-Based Approach to Endurance Training by
Brian MacKenzie
FreeStyle by Carl Paoli
Olympic Weightlifting A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches by Greg Everett

Finally, there is also this magical place called the internet and it is filled with resources and information about everything we do here in the gym. Not only that, but just by watching other athletes on YouTube or Googling a movement you can learn a lot. Below are some of my favorite places on the internet:

General Fitness and CrossFit:
http://www.crossfit.com/ particularly the CrossFit Journal
http://crossfitfootball.com/ for all sports



https://romwod.com/ not free

New Strength Cycle – 531

This month we are following a basic strength program known as 5-3-1.

5-3-1 was created by strength and power lifting coach Jim Wendler and is a simple no nonsense strength program designed to increase raw strength. The philosophy behind it is training multi joint movements(functional movements) while starting light and progressing slowly in the hopes of setting new personal records.

The implementation is simple. All you need to do is show up and lift.

Here is the breakdown of the rep schemes week to week:

Week 1- Test 1RM’s
Week 2- 5@ 65% 75% 5 or more@85%
Week 3- 3@70% 80% 3 or more at 90%
Week 4- 5@75% 3@85% 1@95%
Week 5- 5@ 40% 50% 60%
Week 6- Retest your 1RM’s

The first week you saw that we tested our 1RM’s to set a baseline. This week we are hitting the same lifts at lower percentages for sets of 5. Next week we will do 3 reps at lower percentages followed by 5-3-1 in the fourth week. The fifth week we will be deloading and executing sets of 5 at very low percentages. Finally in the sixth week we will retest or 1RM’s.

So, make sure you are showing up this month if you want to get stronger. Good luck and happy hunting those gainz!

-Coach Trav

Living a Physical Lifestyle

Living a Physical Lifestyle

Ido Portal is a teacher, athlete, and “movement specialist”. Born in Isreal, he comes from an eclectic fitness background that includes capoeira, jiu jitsu, gymnastics, and strength. He’s known for having an interesting take on movement and physical fitness. I stumbled upon a quote he made while giving an interview that I wanted to share with our community.

“It’s not about a single workout – it’s about living a physical lifestyle. Respecting the body you were given, constantly”

Respecting the body means listening to it, all the time – not just at the gym.

If your back is aching, get up and move around to help alleviate that ache. Do some foam rolling or stretching in order to begin to remedy the issue. Plan to do some exercises to strengthen your back and figure out the best times to do those exercises.

See beyond just the hour of working out every day or every other day.

There are too many who want “microwave-able” fitness, the quick fix or a single dosage. You cannot resolve years and years of poor movement or positioning in the snap of a finger.

Even CrossFit, the most effective fitness program on the planet, cannot keep up with how you treat your body the 23 hours it spends not doing it.

So start living a physical lifestyle. Go beyond your hour of CrossFit and begin to listen to what your body needs!

– Coach Pat

Friday 151023 Gauging Your Performance

Friday 151023 Gauging Your Performance

Gauging Your Performance

Intensity is a key tenant of our program. It’s key to getting results and improving your performance. Being able to reach new levels of intensity equals results.

However, intensity doesn’t always have to be “work as hard as possible every time!” or “you should always be trying to add another rep!” or “you need to add more weight!”.

At CrossFit Mendota, we want to be mindful of every aspect of our training and use this awareness to direct our work in the best way possible.

Using your log book – strive to evaluate your performance in every session and use these evaluation to to analyze what you’ll do in your next session.

Taken from Gold Medal Bodies and originally Gunnar Borg – I suggest using these evaluation tools:

Rating of Perceived Technique (RPT) and Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The ratings are done on a scale from 1 to 10.

It’s important to realize we aren’t searching for absolute maximal exertion every time we train! You should be aiming for an intensity level that allows you to work hard at the same time you maintain a high level of good form.

RPT and RPE work together to get you the best bang for your buck each training session. You’ll likely notice that when RPE is at its highest then your RPT tends to be lower. It’s just the nature of working very hard – your technique tends to suffer.

RPE – Rating of Perceived Exertion

10 = Maximal Effort. No reps left in the tank, and form is
breaking down.
9 = Heavy Effort. It’s taking everything you’ve got to finish
the last rep with good form.
8 = Could have done more, but it wouldn’t be pretty.
7 = Each rep is clean and controlled, and form is spot-on.
6 = Perfect technique with moderate effort.
5 = A repetition that is a little harder than a warmup, but still
very light.
4, 3, 2, 1 =Minimal exertion. These should be the sensations
you have in a progressive warmup.

RPT – Rating of Perceived Technique

10 = Perfect 10! Can’t get any better, you’re on the stand
receiving your Gold Medal.
9 =Nearly perfect, probably looks that way to an observer,
but you feel that there was a minute form break.
8 = Great technique and an ideal to shoot for in every work-
7 =A smooth and steady repetition with minor issues. This
may happen if you have better form in the beginning but fa-
tigue is building up as you continue to train.
6 =Form breakdown is more obvious. Now it’s a good idea
to stop and rest a bit, or stop the exercise entirely for the
5, 4, 3, 2, 1 = Your form is pretty wonky here and is typical
for the first couple times you perform a skill. Here it is help-
ful to perform the skill for a repetition or two, then go back
down a level to get a training effect. Don’t push through this
at all, you’ll get no benefit.

Here’s an example of how to use the RPE and RPT together to judge when you should progress in a certain exercise:

Rate of Perceived Technique

RPT is our self evaluation of the level of proficiency we have in the particular exercise. How does our form compare with the perfect form demonstrated during the technique portion of class? Before we attempt to add repetitions or sets to the exercise, we want to make sure our RPT is at least an 8.

Rate of Perceived Effort

RPE is how much we judge our level of effort is in the given exercise. We should only add work when our RPE is at a 6 or below. If you are at around a 6 to 7, then you are at the right level of intensity and don’t need to add more.

Once you can hit your RPT / RPE goals for every exercise in a given routine, you are ready for the next phase or difficulty level.

– Coach Pat

Back Squat
5RM or 5×5 @80%

“Shoulder Day Brah”
Push Press
Push Jerk
*weight determined by
*from floor

Post thoughts and scores to comments.