Maximizing your open gym workouts

If you are an even remotely respectable CrossFitter, you will more than likely follow (stalk?) the Instagram accounts of your favourite athletes. They seem to PR every lift at least once per month and they fly through “Fran” like you do a warm up. The workouts and movements they post seem so far beyond our reach, both in strength and technical ability, that it can either leave you depressed on the couch with a tub of Ben and Jerry’s or it can fire you up to train even harder. This post is for the latter group. However, if you fall into the former group, please come to training and share your ice cream.

The very first thing that happens to every inspired CrossFitter is to dramatically pump up the volume of their training. You attend 4 to 6 classes per week, do team WODs in open gym and even sneak down to your local commercial gym to get your Wendler or Smolov routine in. Bad news sunshine, you are now trying to win a 400m sprint by training for a marathon. The wise and sagely Dave has already written on the importance of intensity in your training, so make sure you re-read that often. I’d much rather address the unsexy side of CrossFit: skill development.

In order to maximize your fitness, you need to focus on the holy trifecta of strength, conditioning AND skills. Every great lift, every perfect muscle up, every record setting Hero WOD time was preceded by hundreds and hundreds of hours of mind-numbingly boring drills. This you will never see online because it doesn’t lead to more views, likes and subscribes. Rest assured, these great athletes know how to grind and the glimpses you get to see are merely the end result of hard work.

So, now that you’ve accepted the inevitable and realized that you need to put in some hours, here is an easy to follow guide to help you get started.

Running
Does the sight of a running WOD send you into a mild panic? Do you fear anything longer than a 50m sprint? That’s probably because you run like a three-legged giraffe trying to rollerblade on beach sand. Once you learn to run more efficiently, you will find that you use significantly less energy during workouts and may even begin to enjoy it. One of the easiest to learn techniques is the Pose running method. YouTube is awash with tutorials and your friendly Mobilis coaches geek out over this stuff. Go online or ask us, then hit the road with your gym buddies and get running.

Pull ups
If you’re still defeated by strict pull ups, I may now have to point out something obvious; you’re too weak. Now, the solution does not lie in using banded pull ups and praying for a miracle. You need to strengthen the two prime movers: your lats and biceps. Despite the unfounded hate for them, this is one instance where curls will really help you. Add some negative pull ups for your lats, bent over rows for the supporting muscles and watch as something amazing occurs within a matter of months.
Once you have strict pull ups conquered, you can move on to kipping. Kipping is driven by your abs, glutes and lower back! Hollow rocks, arch rocks and barbell pullovers need your love and attention.
Lastly, you’ll want to try your hand at butterfly pull ups. If you can do strict and kipping well, butterfly is merely a matter of timing and coordination. Do 3-6 reps every minute on the minute with careful attention being paid to the movement pattern. Skills are not well developed with high reps or a racing heart rate.

Rope climbs
A bit slow up the rope are we? You’ll probably not do well during the zombie apocalypse. The primary problem likely lies in your leg wrap. Pull up a box, sit in front of the rope and practice wrapping and unwrapping your legs for 10-15min.

Double unders
Finally conquered them? Great, now let’s make them pretty to look at. Right now, you probably look like a salmon trying to swim upstream through syrup, but we can fix that. Double unders are all about body position and timing. Practice the movement without the rope, hands by your sides and double tap your hands on your thighs on every jump. Yes, you’ll look like a penguin on Ecstasy. Will that really matter when you can do 200 unbroken double unders?

Weightlifting
It’s best not to practice something this technical without a coach, but if you really insist, then focus on speed work. Load 40-50% of your 1RM on the bar, start in the hang position and focus on getting under the bar as fast as possible.

Push ups and dips
We can skip the obvious need to do more hollow body work and focus on the elephant in the room: weak shoulders. You want those puppies to grow? Then train like a gymnast. Add pseudo planche leans, pseudo planche push ups and tempo negatives into your routine.

This list is hardly exhaustive and merely gives you a starting point. Don’t be afraid to ask those muscular weirdos (coaches) for tips and be prepared to not like the answer. Like medicine, the stuff that works is often hard to swallow. Bring that ice cream.

Coach Albert