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WOD 4.9.12

As Many Rounds As Possible In 14 Minutes Of:
500m Row
20 Burpee Box Jumps, 20"

Post rounds completed to comments.

A Good Low Bar Rack Position: Elbows high, wrists straight, bar secure on the upper back.

The Dirt On The Clean

Guest Post by Samir Chopra
From his blog

Some three years ago, when I first started learning the clean at Crossfit South Brooklyn (CFSBK) my Coach Extraordinaire David Osorio said it would take two thousand repetitions to get the clean ‘right.’ As I’m fond of saying to my fellow CFSBK’ers, I’m not sure I am at two thousand reps yet, because I don’t think I have the clean right. I certainly clean more than I used to three years ago;  my heaviest clean is now at 175 pounds, and I remember feeling ridiculously pleased when back in September 2009, I first went past 125 pounds. But the mere fact of being able to hoist a greater number of pounds from the floor into something that approximates a finish position does not mean that the lift has been accomplished in technically correct or aesthetically pleasing fashion.

For as more than one coach has noted, on more than one occasion, when I’m done with my lift, while I might not have pulled off  ‘a foul rep’ insofar as I didn’t drop the bar, fail to catch it, or anything else like that, the lift has still ‘gone bad’: my elbows have not come around fully, I have landed too wide, I have pulled ‘too early’, I didn’t ‘set my ass back’ properly. And without fail, on the clean, there is a progression: some twenty pounds or so beneath my maximum lift is where my form is at its best, and above that, my form starts to break down. My max clean, as noted is 175 pounds, and my ‘cleanest’ heavy clean occurs at about 155 pounds (i.e., one where my coaches don’t feel compelled to roll their eyes, grimace, shake their heads, or otherwise give indications of severe distress). Needless to say, the max clean is one ugly baby, so ugly that no one in their right minds would kidnap it.

On the clean, it seems, one never stops learning, never stop getting little insights into the lift that are revelatory, helpful, and contribute to a greater understanding of this complex, powerful movement. These little moments of insight, ludicrously small as they might seem, all add up in contributing to the effective execution of the lift. For instance, in recent weeks, I’ve learned to become more conscious of two cues that help me manage the complexity of the ‘three pulls’: one, as you deadlift the barbell up and past your knees, don’t move it around the knees, rather, get your knees out of the way. (That this is an ‘insight’ tells you how confused I might have been in the past; after all, the first pull is just supposed to be a deadlift up to the pockets, innit? And aren’t you supposed to get your knees out of the way when you deadlift?)  And then, as you reach the ‘pockets’ and ready for the explosive hip-opening pull, cue yourself by brushing the barbell off the pockets, (audibly even), as you pull it up, get under, and rack the barbell.

Competency in the clean feels like a moving target, as an attempt to fix one component of it results in another going wrong. No other lift quite induces the feelings of Sisyphean labors the way the clean does: seemingly, almost every improvement in the max weight cleaned results in technical competency at that weight breaking down so that having mastered competency at one weight, one moves on to try and get better at the next step. I’m better now at 155; a year and a half ago, that was my one-rep max, my 155lb lifts were all ugly, and my 135lb cleans were, ahem, cleaner. So there is hope here then: at least, there is a slow and steady graph of improvement, even though as one’s strength improves it seems that all the old insecurities about being able to pull off the lift well return.

No other lift, also, I think, quite makes the lifter want to do it well even as he struggles with it. A well-executed clean is a thing of beauty so a sensitive lifter can feel the aesthetic imperative of the lift acting on him. The desire to achieve competence in the clean can burn strongly in a motivated lifter, not just because he wants to lift more weight but because he wants to do it correctly and perhaps even ‘well’; an ugly clean is never satisfying and the lifter knows it.

So, hail to you, the mighty clean. You never fail to stay out of my reach, but in doing so, you make me work just a little harder.

Clean and Jerk Compilation Youtube
The Dawn Of The Meta Vote (by CFSBKer Noah Barth!) constructionlitmag
L-Sit Variations CrossFit

Reader Comments (28)

I completely agree with this Samir. This is one of my goats that I'm planning on focusing on this year...
Great write up!

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterSarah la Rosa

Great write up on one of the most fun things that you can do in the gym.

In honor of Bubba Watson, I'll compare my thoughts on the clean to that of the golf swing. There are a million things to think about, and too many thoughts will mess you up, so I pick out a couple and work on those.

For me, typically, it's about really being explosive and open, and then just a fast catch, elbows up high. Front squat accessory work is kind of where I can improve when I am doing them, I can get under the bar but often it's about how much I can front squat.

My best cleans, my pr, have been when I am a little groggy and can't think. They've measured the brain activity of the best golfers in the world, and they have very low brain activity during the swing. I think on technical endeavors like this, that there's a parallel.

To me, it's the most fun thing that you can do in the gym, and the less that I think, the better that I do.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR

Oh lordy, the clean. It's not my *biggest* goat -- that would still be double unders -- but it's close. I wonder how many reps it'll take me before I finally figure out how to get under the bar quickly.

WOD 2 rounds + row + 3 burpee box jumps. Burpee step-ups, really. I've done 20" box jumps before, no problem, so I'm not sure why I faded so quickly on them today and had to switch to step-ups almost immediately. Still recovering from last week's stomach bug, I guess.

Welcome back Keith -- 7 AM just wasn't right without you!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStella

Nice one, Samir. I PR'd my clean last year (after a long struggle) during the Starting Strength seminar with Rip - because the plates were in kilos and I didn't know how much weight was on the bar.

*The* most mental of all the lifts, for sure.


My neither-paleo-nor--kosher brisket is up at The Daily Paleo.


April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermig

Really enjoyed Noah Barth's article. Also enjoy Construction's fond at the heads of their page. Yes, these things do get my attention.

I've gone back and forth for a long time over whether or not to join the co-op. Besides fearing that i'll have to work 800 hours of Dan's make up shifts, I know that I personally try to keep as much politics out of my food as possible. I know that sometimes it is inevitable that certain political choices of leanings will influence who I buy from and/or where I buy it - I can't help but feel this most recent vote regarding (what was it, hummus? Okay, okay I know.. way more than hummus, but on a base level it's about the actual food on the shelf) at the Co-op went above and beyond the basics. And that leaves a pretty negative feeling in the air.

Back to the gym tomorrow! Stoked.

Did a workout in Newburyport which would be fun to do at CFSBK some time (or a version of it). It was a partner WOD.

4 total rounds:
1 partner runs 800m, the other has to do continue sit-ups, double unders or farmers hold (you can mix and match during the time you are waiting) until the runner returns then you switch. At the end each person accumulates 2 miles of running (yep!) and a load of other stuff - I think I had around 200 sit ups, a few sad double unders and minutes upon minutes of a farmers hold.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterasta

oooh that was a nice little iPhone addition, FOND* = FONT*

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterasta

Great 6am with Captain Osorio. 3 rounds + 122m. Neck and neck with Chris P through the entire wod, but in the end his quicker cycling of the burpee box jumps defeated my faster rowing by 10m.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Very happy for the coop to exist, and that there's a place like that for folks that want it, I'm just afraid that if I joined, I'd end up like Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJR

Great article Samir! Validating to hear others' struggles with the clean. I feel like I made a breakthrough the other day during a wod featuring a clean. It was so heavy that I had to really make use of the mechanics of the movement to make it easier for myself.

Today I was 5 BUBJs short of 3 rounds. Not bad.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNathan R.

If Alec or Deb are reading this, I tried emailing you at bodyfundi@.... and tried 4 different email services. They all got bounced cause I couldnt remember which service.

Does someone have Alec or Deb's email?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdh3

@Dan-We got it! I'll be in touch soon!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDeb


April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterJoe


They might be the only people still on earthlink, keeping the provider afloat.

Great article Samir,
Embrace the frustration that comes with trying to "perfect" (or just improve) your technique. My actual memories of learning the olympic lifts are a little fuzzy. I taught myself mostly at Equinox and without any feedback. It was hard to see how I was improving but slowly and steadily I improved. Ive since developed a pretty good handle on the lifts, but even now am still learning new things. I've been working on really getting the "brush" at the top of the 2nd pull. I've been able to get it with the clean but not so much the Snatch. I snatched 2 days ago and trying to rehash something I've done a particular way for years was frustrating.

Great Article Noah,
The best perspective I've read about the ban and the coop yet. Most are quite polarized and over-use the opportunity to take jabs at the coop instead of actually analyzing anything. I actually really love the coop and all it's quirks. I've not been a member for like 2 years only because I got embarrassingly behind on my shifts and have already used one amnesty. One day however, I shall return!

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Great Article, Samir. :)

David, it is nice to learn you taught yourself. Been struggling with whether or not to try Coach Burgener programming alone in the mornings. I have been scared to get in that many reps without feedback (in case I end up just strengthening bad habits, like my current issue with my butt going up too fast.)

Sorry I have been AWOL from the gym lately. Been wanting to be outside like all the time and also having a terrible time deciding what my priorities, even feeling kind of past the whole idea of fitness priorities, and more interested in technical/tactical performance goals and head-to-head competition. Been O-lifting between 4 and 8 hours a week, but like Samir points out, it takes years to get competent, it isn't tactical in the traditional sports sense, and it is hard to be indoors right now...

And then...somehow...in the middle of the night...I registered for a women's soccer league. Its a big deal. Seriously. I had to unpack some bulky mental baggage. We had a motivational speaker when I played at Clemson, who emphasized that the biggest transition for college athletes was realizing they no longer "played" for "fun" but rather "worked" at their "athletic career." The truth: the transition back down to fun has proven much harder for me, personally, than the transition up to career which I had actually made around age 12. The last time I signed up for a league as an adult I broke my ankle in two places during the first game of the season because I had never in my life learned how to back away from contact, I had always been the strongest, most explosive kid on the field. It is weird to be the slowest, least explosive now.

When registering I had to really ask myself whether I am fit enough mentally to play in a way that I can minimize physical injuries. Like, "Billy, Do you still have something to prove? No? Good." I have been missing the ball and the flow of play like crazy. And I think I am ready to make grown up decisions about staying healthy in the game. Fingers crossed!

I am really curious, how do other people at CFSBK integrate sports and Crossfit? Do you find mixing programming challenging? What kind of training schedules do you use? Do you treat Crossfit as like off-season or off-cycle training?

I don't want to derail the great current convo in the blog about O-lifting and the Co-op. Feel free to shoot me a note at billy (dot) keefe (at) gmail.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBilly K

Billy- I've been trying to figure out how to incorporate some sport along with my CF training for a while. I'm a former soccer player too (albeit much lower-level) and miss it sometimes, but its always been a balancing act for me, and there's only so many hours in the week! Let me know how it goes.

Samir- Well done, a poetic handling of a poetic lift.

NoahB- Bravo, the vote-about-a-vote struck me as odd too, and even if I found myself happy with the ends, as a believer in the democratic system I was a bit mystified by the means. Only at the coop, a grand experiment of the thin line between socialism and facism. (I'm a happy member.)

I recently took a week off at the gym (closer to 2, eek) to try and get my body right, feeling good, and to restoke some fire. Sometimes when I feel like I "have to" work out I do this, and by day 4 or 5 I am always chomping at the bit to get back in there. Excited to try some new stuff.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

I don't know that a vote about a vote strikes me as particularly odd. I have my problems with the upper chamber of our congress, but the Senate has a vote about a vote every single time it tries to bring something to the floor, the cloture motion. Recently it's become pretty easy to argue that the filibuster has become abused, in that it is now quite easy to block cloture, especially with the sides so sorted by party. However, in other times, and with other alignments of party and ideology, it was quite useful to protect minority rights, and to force the sides to discuss and bargain and grab a larger group of legislators before something was passed. We also have government by representation, and sometimes people have to gather signatures to get something on a ballot for referendum. There are many impediments to getting up and down votes in a democratic system, often with good reason. Passions are inflamed around politics, as they should be, and so we often force people to do more work to get their way than just a simple majoritarian vote.

Perhaps voting to not have a vote was a recognition of that, and I've learned the hard way that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most heated debate with too much noise and not enough signal most of the time. A vote at that moment could have done much more to harm the Co-op than to not vote at that time.


As to the clean, when Samir shared that article via Twitter, I likened it to a different movement than JR. I said that when the clean feels good, it's like a good jumpshot. You know it's going to make it to your shoulders even before it's there. I've spent my whole life tinkering with my terrible jumpshot, and then there are those moments when it clicks, and my wrist snaps, and everything flows.

I need to work on my clean more, and in many ways just reading Samir's article, and a few others lately, have really gotten me mentally prepared to do the lift in a way I hadn't been. I definitely have been too fast off the floor, and definitely have not been getting my knees out of the way sufficiently. Even just this morning I put myself in position for an air clean, and thought about pulling slowly and getting my knees out of the way and as I did that...boom. I could feel my jumping position, bar at my pockets, hamstrings and glutes engaged, and the bar moving straight up. There was a loaded spring in my hips ready to pull the bar up in a way that I hadn't felt, maybe ever, but of course, there was no bar. I am excited to work on this with a bar in my hands.

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterJoel Wertheimer

@MGMT: Thanks for the link to my article.

@EveryoneElse: Thanks for the positive feedback; I hope to keep writing more pieces like these on my Crossfit experiences and I hope folks here find them useful. My relationship to my body is quite perplexing and writing helps me figure it out a little better.

Also, meta-votes are quite common - for instance, in meetings, we often vote on whether to "bring the question to the floor" or not.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

I would like to note that Jeremy is almost unrecognizable without his beard. Maybe he's trying to get into a lower weight class?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStella

I found both of these articles really, really interesting-- nice job guys!

My last name is Israel and I have a pretty difficult time with both sides of any argument about it. My parents ingrained in me the importance of having the state and that it should be defended at all cost (because we lost 1/2 our family in the holocaust and having a jewish state would somehow keep that from ever happening again). This is pretty tough stuff to unlearn and because of my anti-authoritarian and pro-underclass politics, I can never get comfortable with either side of any Israeli/Palestinian argument. It was nice to read an article that just spoke about the overall situation and didn't get caught up in either side.

As for the Clean, like most here, it's a love/hate relationship. I sprained my wrist badly doing them and left the lift behind for many months. Upon returning to it, the frustrations that plagued me on day one came roaring back, but so did the joys. Much like any action sport, I find it's worth the risks. And doing cleans is an action sport!

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterRob Is

seems that my post got eaten?


April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKeith W

Could... not... catch... the Paladin
3 rounds plus 161 meters. Chased Baz the whole way and couldn’t catch him; he was kicking it the whole way!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDMak

Early session:
3x750m row. 3 min easy row recovery

Lifting session:
531 Squat
Felt good, first time squatting for reps in 2 weeks and my back is still a little sore from Saturday. Had a few more reps if I wanted them.

Dbbl Overhead Press

465x1 OTM for 10 min

2 rounds grip/ab work
60# wrist rollers
30 ab wheel rollouts

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

Strength Cycle A

Some mobility stuff.

WU 45x5 95x5 135x5 155x3
3x5@175 woo hoo!

WU 45x5 95x5

WU 95x5 135x5 185x1
200x5 oh yes.

Beta-carotene delicious supper afterwards - yellow beets, sweet potatoes, AND carrots. Plus some cod and the ubiquitous kale. I didn't have to cook. Awesome.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercorbett

Martinez and I are going to try Conjugate straight for a little while, I'll start in earnest once I get back from Amsterdam on the 19th. Trying to get some numbers down for the dynamic effort days.

Row 350m

Seated Box Jumps 10">30" 3x5
Kneeling Alter Boys 3x5 up to 2 10kgs and 1 15kg bumper

Max Effort LB Box Squat (10" box +3 pads)
(45x5, 115x5, 145x3, 172x2)
205x1, 225x1, 235x1

Not to stable at the first inch on the way back up. After finishing up we did some calculations and it seems like box squat heavy singles are about 85% of what your traditional lb squats are.

April 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Pre-class lifting:
Squat: (45, 95, 135) 155x5x3
Press: (45, 65) 85x5, 85x5, 85x10

2 rds + row + 7 burpee box jumps
this was pretty terrible but I'm glad I finished. I went out way too fast (got a 1:45 first 500 which was a terrible sign) and never really found any rhythm at all on the burpees.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

Todays wod 3 rounds plus 370 meters. Burpee box jumps were very choppy no rhythm. Enjoyed this workout a lot.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDH3

completed 3 rounds plus 193 meters today. First round of burpee box jumps were slow because my legs weren't underneath me. Settled in better for round 2.

April 9, 2012 | Registered Commenterarturo ruiz

Nice little WOD. I finished 3 rds + 155m rowing. Would have liked to get to at least 250m rowing, but am overall happy.
Was able to keep moving for the most part. That 20 inch box is a lot easier than the 24.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commentershawn$

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