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Rest Day

Last week Rob U (pictured left) called out to the CFSBK community to help teach kids to code at ps/ms 282 in Park Slope. Alex, Jim, Asha and Dan answered the call! So cool!

Holiday Schedule

Tuesday the 24th (Christmas Eve): No Active Recovery, no 8:30pm class. Otherwise normal.
Wednesday the 25th (Christmas):
Only 9am and 10am Group Classes
Thursday the 26th:
Normal Schedule

Tuesday the 31st (New Years Eve):
No 7:30 or 8:30pm Classes. Otherwise normal schedule
Wednesday the 1st (New Years Day):
No 6a,7a,8a or 10a Classes. We'll still have a noon class PLUS an extra 1pm Group class and then a normal evening schedule.

So Close To a Pull-Up..

Are you "So Close" to a pull-up? Do you feel like it's within reach but has still eluded you despite your most sincere efforts? Below are three things I think will help folks who are close to pulling body weight get over the bar.

Start with Chin-Ups
Chin-ups are easier than pull-ups and you're more likely to get your first chin-up sooner than your first pull-up so it's a pretty good place to start. In my experience once a couple chins have been developed the pull-up magically shows up a lot faster. That being said, both versions are totally legit and huge milestones for anyone who didn't have them before.  Chins are also easier for people to organize well. The upper arm is already rotated into a more stable position and the last few inches over the bar usually involve less neck craning and wiggling. Once you can do about 3-5 chin-ups you'll be a Lot closer (if not already there) to the pull-up. When performing chin-ups, keep your hands just inside shoulder width and imagine pulling the bar down to your chest, not pulling yourself up to it. That cue usually helps people fire the upper back and pull the elbows posteriorly during the ascent, both good things.

Keep The Reps Low
If you're struggling to get your first pull-up, your muscles experience the effort as a near maximal exertion.  You're going for something that you'll only be able to do 1 rep of (right now), so when we train to develop our first pull-up a lot of our reps should look and feel pretty similar.  Several doubles or singles with just enough resistance to clear the bar is better than high volume sets of 5 or 10 with much more assistance. If you were a 1 rep max obsessed lifter, you wouldn't spend all your time doing sets of 5 and 10, you'd perform submax singles, doubles and triples more often to get your body ready for the effort.  Here are two examples of productive training sessions:

7 sets of 1 rep with ample rest
5 sets of 2-3 reps with ample rest

"Ample Rest" could be anywhere from a minute to three minutes depending on how much you require to get another successful rep. Because this is going to be a strain, make sure to warm-up with some ring rows and more heavily assisted pull-ups. 2-3 sets of 5 reps should be sufficient.

When you're scaling workouts, use the lowest volume option possible. 20 Kipping pull-ups as Rxd on the workout might be 5 chin-ups for you. That component of the workout won't have anywhere near the same conditioning effect but depending on your goals that might be okay.

That being said, a little volume isn't a bad thing. Just remember that if you want to get a pull-up you've got to train in a way that feels similar to your goal.

Resistance Matters

While the big jump-stretch bands can be a valuble tool in this process, they shouldn't the only or even the majority of assistance you use. In my opinion, having a good spotter is ideal. Someone who knows how to give you just enough help to make you finish the rep without any jerky movement, uneven assistance or too much pushing. You've got good hands on you if you never get "stuck" anywhere in the rep but still work really hard at the most difficult positions (the very top and the first few inches at the bottom). The range of motion should be smooth and you should be able maintain good organization throughout. Another option is using a band just below what you can do on your own and having a partner gently push you through the finish. Depending on the size, height and strength of everyone involved, sometimes this is a more practical solution and can lead to better spotting. If you're working with someone who is not a coach or giving you too much/too little/weird help, tell them what you feel and work together to make it better. One major problem with bands alone is that at the top of a rep you're getting the least help since the band tension decreases as you ascend.  If you're flying solo, choose a band that helps you get all the way over the bar, not just enough so that when you reach your chin can barely make it over the bar. That's a no rep.

Hopefully these three tips can help you find some success with getting your first pull-up. Make your goal to not only do it, but do it well. If you train smart in the beginning and pay attention to your neck and shoulder positions you'll develop a solid foundation to build off of. If you make your emphasis simply getting any sliver of your chin over the bar, things will be a lot slower and less awesome for you.  To see exactly what I'm talking about, watch this MobilityWOD: Stop The Pull-Up Chicken Necking People

Women, Body Image, and the Media: A New Emphasis
Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are TED
Pregnant Weightlifter Stirs Debate NYT
NSA mass phone surveillance programme 'unconstitutional' BBC

Reader Comments (34)


Power Snatch:
155x1x14 OTM
135x2x5 OTM

Was working on finishing my 2nd pull and speed under the bar. I usually start to squat clean around 155 so I was really focused on my finish. Overall happy with this.

Then jumped in on the 8:30pm class

Bench Press:
(45x8, 115x5, 135x5, 150x2) 160x5x3

Fun to work with Keith and Marco on this.

Hadn't eaten in several hours and passed on the WOD. I guarantee the path to elite fitness is not forged by not eating enough and skipping the conditioning.

December 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Thanks for yet another amazing holiday schedule, cfsbk.

And also the pull ups tips! Maybe I'll switch to pull up practice before class. Hand stands have hit a plateau.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterariel c

Rob U's smile is not toothy enough!

The Holiday schedule is neither festive enough nor schedule-y enough!

Pullups aren't hard, I once saw someone do a bunch on the internet!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark ARRRRRRRRGH

Belated post of amazement and kudos in the wake of Sunday's Total. The amazing Becca, D-turn and his hard-fought PRs, Janelle's quiet (and convincing) determination, and Uzef's continually astounding and hilarious blog posts... It is honestly flat out inspiring, even after over three years of Totals, to be a part of our community of strength.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

Yet again I left my black Rogue water bottle with the big red R and an SBK sticker on the bottom Sunday at OG. Its not on the table of misfit water bottles so if someone accidentally grabbed it would be rad if you brought it back. Thaaaaaanks

6am with Lady Fox and McD. DLs and BSQT + part of the $-out before I had to jet. I'm.. knackered.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

Becca, what an inspiring squat! Congrats on a job well done. That really should be the last little push I need to get in on a strength cycle. XOXO

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercrystal

Has anyone else had problems loading the blog and/or posting comments? Things have been really spotty for me from several devices since late last week.

Just got to read yesterday's this morning and wanted to say that Uzef's comment has made my day.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad D

@Brad Squarespace was the target of a DDOS attack which has slowed things down for them over the past couple days. I would imagine that they will have it resolved soonish.

Today's Work:

Bench: 135x5, 185x3, 205x5,5,10 - Rep-out was a little tough but got 10

WOD: 15/12 Burpees, 18/18 KBS @32kg. This seemed like it went on forever.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan L

@Asha re: pumpkin/choc chippers from yesterday's post... I will make some in the new year and bring them into the gym one day so you can sample :-)

full disclosure: NOT paleo.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

Almost everyone who came to 7 AM today was there for yesterday's slogfest, so I got a semi-private with McDowell.

Snatches were a bit of a mess. I'm getting better about foot placement, but I'm still pulling too early. Thanks McD for your extreme patience (more patience than I have with myself, really).

But the great thing about two-lift days is that I get to follow O-lifting, which destroys my self-esteem, with a powerlift that builds it back up. HBBSQ, 175x5. Part of me wishes I had gone for another try at 180, but then I wouldn't have had time to do the cash-out. For once, I did the entire thing. And now I am sore and ready to eat a bucket of the paleo pad Thai I made last night!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

I haven't met Uzef, but yes, he always makes me laugh. funny stuff. delayed post on Sundays work:

press 140X5X3. This lift is not getting close to the old numbers like my other ones. Definitely shoulder mobility issues, too. Feels about as heavy as possible.

deadlift 295x5x1 felt really good and moved easily so keep marching forward.

tonight I'll squat, bench, then play squash.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJR

Random freakin' observations and a question - Tuesday edition:

1) The egg sandwiches from Dizzy's on Fifth are pretty freakin' good (although you may need two of them to achieve the optimum state of engorgedness.

2) I am pretty freakin' tired from Sunday

3) Traveling to the Denver area this weekend with my fellow Crossfitters, Adele and Niko Any recommendations on boxes out there? (not sure if I will actually go given the altitude and point 2 above but may need to escape my little nieces and nephew for a while)

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

@Jay, my good friend works out at 1884 Crossfit at the Denver Athletic Club. If you go, definitely tell Kim H. I say hello!

Congrats to all the Total-ers! Just watched Becca W's video -- so amazing!!!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca C

@Jay - I have some good places for eating and drinking, loads of deliciousness out there, that are kiddo friendly for ya'll if you would like a list! The only box I know is Crossfit Pandora from a friend.. they like it.

For all, I can attest to the deliciousness of Whit's pumpkin choco squares. I think I ate 111 the last time she brought them in. They were still warm! Ok... even cold I would still eat the same amount.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB


CrossFit Verve!

December 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

Great suggestions. Thank you!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJay

@Jay you can also work out at U Denver gym for $20 and they have squat racks, boxes, KBs, empty squash courts for handstand practice...

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte

David, coaches: thank you so much for having so many open hours over the holidays! I really appreciate it :)

Good advice regarding pull-ups! I've been following a similar program and it's working!! I'm still on chin-ups, but I'm hoping to move to the pull-up grip soon. Right now, I'm at 10 sets of 2 reps :) One other thing that has been helping me is to do ring rows (hard ones - don't cheat yourself!) instead of banded pull-ups in WODs. It's easy (at least for me) to fudge a little with the bands and make it too easy. Basically, it has helped me to do exercises that make me feel my lats activating, which is where the resistance comes in. You can really feel your lats firing when it's hard. When the band it just springing you up there, not so much. Disclaimer: I'm not a coach, so coaches please jump in if I said something wrong.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKMo

Comrade Gospodin Vlad,

I apologize for the belated report of this month. You see, there was this thing they called TOTAL and it was my first. I didn't want to send a premature report before I actually observe and monitor our subject, the Ukrainian Jewish kid Uzef, in it. Can't take any chances on a kid whom half of the Siberia's natural resources are being spent on to keep him under control, you know.

First of all, I want to report that as you instructed we made sure that ALL merit badges are given to him, and he believes that Coach Jeremy is an American (I know, ha-ha) who loves heavy metal music, is a movie buff, and video game lover! I would have believed that myself should I haven't caught the subtle clue Major Jeremy proudly displays: the beard he grew in honor of the great Russian cavalry of the 19th century and Dostoyevsky!

The whole team of participants of Strength Cycle are truly awesome, no doubt about it. They are great in what they do too. For instance, Uzef thinks Kabir is the bad boy, and all the female spies are there to cheer for him. He is happy.

The Total started with squat. I took your advice and just did half of what I could have done for not to upset Uzef. 240, 260, 275 all PBs.

Then comes the Press, which I hate, because I suck at that. 100 PB, 115F, 110F. Actually I failed on this because I was so distracted while I was thinking about the instance Uzef tried to kill me by dropping a plate on the toes -I am not joking, ask Jeremy.

Then the Deadlift 285, 300 PB, 315F. I failed on the last attempt because I was thinking about how marvelous the frozen Lake Baikal must be at his time of the year, and imagining you throat singing with my distant relatives Tuva people at the shores of it.

I think I did my job relatively well considering it is my first time, and my background and age. Although Uzef sometimes becomes suspicious of me and others I think he truly believes that the box, coaches, all the crossfitters really do exists, not realizing it all is a huge set up, that your government and we Turks arranged just to frame him.

...and lastly, Uzef still thinks that you are his uncle, and he misses your massages.

Your brother in arms,
Murat the Turk

-- Kidding aside, I am deeply impressed by ALL of the SC people on their determination, strength, friendliness, support, and the personal fight they put to further themselves. I love this box and its crowd. Special gratitude and thanks go to Jeremy who keeps amazing me with his keen perception, knowledge, gentle but clear (i.e. no BS) guidance, his interest, concern and attention. It is apparent to me that he cares about us and what he does and that is what matters most. A man who is worthy of utmost respect.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMurat A

Wow, I'm loving these Strength Cycle writeups. Maybe every cycle should have a theme, and respondents should have to sum up in character.

From yesterday:

Bench 205x5x2, rep out X 9. Didn't feel great- abs still smoked from theill fated V-Up challenge with Rickke, Todd, and Katie Harper, didn't feel like I could brace very well.

Burpee/KB WOD: Hit 10/18 the first round and stayed with it. 2Pood KB felt pretty good (I remember the days fondly when it used to whip me around like laundry on a clothesline.)

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNoah

Great link from Psychology WOD today. This is a really interesting and relevant topic to me for a few reasons. Because of my profession, because I am a husband, because I'm a father to a teenage girl, and because of the many female friends I care about. Whenever I read (as a male) about women's body image issues I can't help but feel like there's some part of the issue that I must not be able to relate to, that my male brain must not understand what a female brain is processing. In fact I've been told as much. The way the author presented the (in her opinion) underlying psychology of negative self body image and the role of the media, and then proposed a path to changing current attitudes was great.

Curious on others opinions as well, lest this is just my "male brain" misunderstanding again!

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFox

Congrats to the Totalers! Wish I was there to cheer on that epic leaderboard crushing squat. Congrats Becca!

Bench: 195x2x5 and rep out was also 5. I didn't start with a good position. My shoulder blades could've been closer. Next time..

Burpees/KB (32 KG)


With those words, I picked up the KB and swung away.

Thanks Noah. Green eggs and ham to you too buddy.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDave Fung

*claps for murat*

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermichele

Fung and Murat FTW.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStella

made up yesterday's work on my own today.

105x5x2, 105x10
-got slow but never doubted I had 10. Will still add 5# next week.

16mins of kb/burpee
-mistakenly started on the kb which McD pointed out to me after I was done. fitness ruined!
-got 16 swings every round at 24kg
-started with 10 burpees for 3 rounds, then 9 for 2 then 8 for the last 3. Kept the pushup strict so as to hopefully get stronger and improve my bench. i'm such a weak bencher.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlady fox

youre dead to me, murat

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteruzef

Well, I am from hell, anyways, Uzef.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMurat

oh and thank you to whoever accidentally took me my gray sbk hoodie a few saturdays ago and returned it yesterday. I guess my name on the tag kinda gave it away huh? I'll bring back the small that was left behind instead...just let me know who it's for!

p.s. Since we've got so much merch floating around these days, it would make sense for you all to at least initial your SBK gear to avoid confusion. Yes, kinda like summer camp. :) Promise I won't check your underwear.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterlady fox

Office Workout

Hit and Catch Drill into Sots Press

Snatch High Pull
95x3 125x3 140x3x3

Doing some auxiliary olympic lifting work every session until the meet. Crazy how taxing high pulls are when compared to straight snatch pulls.

45x5 95x5 135x5 165x5,5,10

45x5 75x5 105x5,5,10

BWx5 10x5,5,9

I liked the GSLP so much for my squat last cycle I am doing it for all my other lifts this cycle. Kind of brutal to do 3 repouts in a session.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

175x5x2, 175x10

8/10 Burpees, 16/21 KB @ 24kg

I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this burpee thing.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

Fitness ruined. Heart.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterariel c

drills at 33#
3 part snatch DL + hang snatch (full squat):
53x2, 63x1, 73x1, 78x1, 83x1
This felt AWESOME since I failed 73 twice on Friday.
Great specifics from coach Josh tonight about bar path and timing. This was key for me, as I think I pull too early too often without full extension and lose the bar fwd. REally visualizing that, focusing, and WAITING made the whole lift so much easier... even if it felt a bit more like a leap of faith.

Thanks to JBails for the wrist wraps, as this felt like the least stable portion of the lift at 73.

45x5, 95x4, 125x2
this felt way heavier than I wanted it to. 5#'s up from squatting on Saturday. it wasn't terribly grindy, but it didn't feel great, either. just a bit disorganized in the torso/trunk. really kept focus on bracing tight and staying controlled, but it felt wonky on the way up 80% of the time.

will see how I feel next time I squat if I stick with 135 or go up... which will probably be in a gym or box at home in the Chicago burbs!

no time for the cash-out since it was already 7:35 when I finished squatting. rolled on an orb for 5 min.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

also... the snatch at 83# was in slow motion.

legit slo-mo. it wasn't a press out. i got it up high enough and dropped under it fully. but somehow... time actually slowed down.

Jess B and Josh are my witnesses. I will be looking to harness this slo-mo superpower in 2014.

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWhit H

Some award-winning posts these last couple of days.
If only the path to elite fitness was sitting on my arse and reading the cfsbk blog, while noshing on copious amounts of ice cream.

I appreciate the body image article and have a bunch of stuff to say but for brevity's sake I'll just say that I'm all for spending less time worrying about how to make my thighs smaller or how to get my kids to sleep or eat vegetables.

Yesterday's workout today:
- 80#x5x3 w pause on all sets. Up only 5# from last week bc added pause. Fun to partner with Maggie on bench press for her 2nd class postpartum. Welcome back!
- 16 min of burpees / KB swings (20kg). Total: 239
- Lots of lax ball action on upper body and calves. It's never enough

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

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