Zercher Squat

Instead of front squats we’re going to be working on the Zercher squat.  Named after Ed Zercher a lifter from the 1930’s – I don’t know much about his background or accomplishments but for some more info go here.

From the Ball State University Biomechanics Lab.

A truly great lift that you will feel in your abs (and yes, your biceps as well…).  When I do these it feels like a combination of a front squat and deadlift.  For those of us that are more advanced and want more work, feel free to do these with the barbell starting on the ground.


-5-5-5-5-5-5 Zercher squat
-5 x max. hold handstand

15 min. AMRAP of:
-6 pistols (3L/3R)
-9 push-ups
-12 leg scissors

The Second Pull

Many of our lifters are getting noticeably better at the clean.  This is in large part due to refinement of technique – at least more so than just pure strength development.  One area that could use some work is improving the second pull.

The second pull occurs after the first pull (early deadlift) and is much more explosive.  Start by lifting the bar off the ground relatively slow (RELATIVELY – don’t try to go extra slow or anything) to the point of, or just slightly above, the knee – this is the first pull.  Without pausing here you explode into the second pull.  The word ‘explode’ should be in bold capital lettering with neon lights around it.  To many it appears as though the hips are thrusting into the bar – although there’s plenty of contact you want to avoid just pushing horizontally into the bar with your legs or hips.  Below is a great video of Pyrros Dimas performing the clean.  He’s one of the greatest lifters of all time:


The multiple slow-mo clips help take a look at what’s really happening

To work on developing the second pull it helps to work at a lower weight doing hang cleans.  Starting from mid-thigh in this manner really helps emphasize the ‘pop’ needed to get moving fast.  Pop equals power!  Here’s another clip from the always popular Mike Burgener explaining the second pull and how it makes the barbell ‘weightless':

I like his analogy.  It drives home the point of making the barbell move up without using brute arm pulling power.


-4-4-4-2-2-2 hang clean
-5 x6-8 ring pull-ups

12 min AMRAP of:
-4 SDHP (75/55)
-6 push press (75/55)
-8 Russian twist

Gym Jones

For those of you not in the know, Gym Jones was founded by Mark Twight, a long time climber and former CrossFit associate.  They train a large number of professional athletes from various disciplines, including mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, football, extreme sports, and all kinds of alpine and endurance sports.  If you’re into exploring various strength and fitness methods you’ve probably already heard of Gym Jones.

Mark Twight and his group became quite popular once their ‘300’ workout and other training methods were associated with the chiselled guys seen in the movie 300.  From that point on, many have sought out the Gym Jones facility, bringing back little bits of information to those of us that can’t afford to run on down to Salt Lake City for the seminars offered.  I’d be first to admit that I don’t know exactly how they differ from CrossFit or other groups.  I’ve heard and read a lot of different things.  From what I’ve actually seen of their workouts they’re pretty intense, with a lot more work being done in one programmed day than most other routines.  There’s a lot of elements that are repeated day to day (or week to week) that vary in amount or intensity.  They aren’t overly concerned with scores.  They seem to take it pretty serious and, like CrossFit, the workouts are mean.

Unfortunately, only members have full access to the routines and methods used at the Gym Jones facility.  But a few of the more popular and recurring workouts are known to the public at large.  I’ve tried a whack of them at one time or another and taken elements I’ve enjoyed (or hated!) and worked them into our workouts from time to time.  I may not have the full scoop on Gym Jones – maybe someday I’ll find myself in Utah – but I know what I like.  I like what they do.

And today all credit is due to the Gym Jones group for the workout we’re doing.  The ever popular 30/30…

You can check out the Gym Jones website here.


Lifter’s Choice

4 min. rounds of 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of ‘rest’ for the following:
-push press (bar)
-ring pull-ups
-jumping lunges

Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th!  The workout looks… fun? Better be extra careful.

Friday the 13th


-5-5-3-3-3-3 hang snatch
-5 x 6-8 snatch grip push press

-10 rope climbs
+30 reps any body weight exercise after each climb (no repeating elements)

Zone or Paleo?

Zone or Paleo diet.  Most of the CrossFit community seems to be divided into one of the two camps.  Which is best?

Well that really depends on the individual.  And if you’re really keen you can try a combination of both – eating strictly paleo while still ensuring that each meal is evenly distributed amongst carbs, protein, and fat according to the Zone plan.  But before beginning or continuing any diet you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
-What are my goals?  That includes short-term, long-term, nutritionally, and training-wise.
-Can I afford these changes on my budget?
-Can I endure this diet for more than two months?
-Can I make this diet part of my everyday life?
-Am I happy?

There’s a lot of food fads out there.  The Zone and paleo diets are definitely some of the easiest nutrition plans I’ve ever come across.  They don’t really ask a lot and they make sense.  It’s important to note that when we use the term ‘diet’ it often implies an eating change with certain dictates that we will eventually stop following.  Otherwise we wouldn’t use the term at all, it would just be the way we eat.  That’s really what we need to aim for – a permanent nutritional change for the better.  It doesn’t need a catchy name.  Remember, you could always try out the cabbage soup diet

This video is hilarious.  My favourite quote is from the end of day one: “It’s not as good as I hoped it’d be.”  Followed closely by the beginning of day two: “…I hate this diet.”

Of course the easiest diet to follow is common sense.


-4-4-4-2-2-2 split/push jerk
-5 x 5 box jump

4 rounds of:
-25 double unders
-10 clean (115/80)
-10 bar hopping burpees

Kettlebell Swing Technique

Swinging the kettlebell may seem like a fairly easy and straightforward move – and it certainly can be! – but there are a number of small details that are essential to making the swing as efficient as possible.


This video from CrossFitHQ should help anyone improve their swings

When doing this lift you really need to get your hips going – you shouldn’t be using your arms to pull or lift the weight up to height.  Around our group I see many of us with stiff legs bending only at the hip (think extra lumbar shear) and loose core.  Granted these issues tend to pop up mostly when we’re tired and already at or past our threshold for maintaining perfect form.

As with any weightlifting, when done improperly you open yourself up to injury.  Although the type of injury would be different compared to lifting the barbell to overhead (like a snatch).  A recent study shows that during a kettlebell swing the load on the spine is inverted compared to a traditional barbell lift.  More shear in the lower back as opposed to compression.  That may sound dangerous but it actually means that, done safely, kb swings can be great for strengthening the lower back.  Done poorly at too heavy a weight… ka-blammo!

Not too many people seem to like going after the 32kg…  But it feels sooooo good!

If you feel any lower back irritation or the weight is too heavy, go down in weight (you’d be surprised how many people need to be told that…  I’m occasionally one of them) or only do Russian-style swings (to shoulder height).  I generally prefer Russian style swings because it lets me target the muscles I want to strengthen.  Do some of these everyday and I fully expect to see improvements in your deadlift and other posterior chain lifts.

And please, please, deadlift the weight off the ground before starting the swings.  It’s not a good idea to just start wrenching the kettlebell out in front of you while bent over…


-8-8-6-6-6-6 kettlebell swing
-5 x 8-10 bent over row

21-15-9 of:
-overhead squat (95/65 lbs)
-ring push-ups