Push ups

There isn’t a decent  home or gym routine that doesn’t have push ups in. Many strong men of old insisted on them daily, getting clients to progress from floor pushups to between chairs to get that extra range of motion.

In my “Andrew Stemler  Fit  at Home” regime,  I say, Do them everyday . Make them a daily habit.

Unblock your nose

As I discuss here, and here, breathing has become a “thing”.

However some have problem breathing through their nose: here is the useful procedure from the Buteyko system

According to the argument  reduced  CO2 levels causes an increase in mucus secretion and constriction of the airways. and helps block it up.

The following, so it is claimed  is a simple exercise which could  unblock the nose (in as little as five minutes.)

The technique  increases   the   carbon dioxide levels in the blood, which  so its claimed, will open the nasal passages.

✦   Sit upright on a straight-backed  chair.

✦   Calm your breathing.  Take a small breath (two seconds)  in  through  your  nose,  if possible,  and  a small breath out (three seconds). If you are unable to take a  breath  in  through   your  nose,  take  a  tiny  breath  in through the corner of your mouth.

✦   Pinch your nose and hold your breath. Keep your mouth closed.

✦   Gently nod  your head  or sway your body until  you feel that you cannot hold your breath any longer. (Hold your nose until you feel a relatively strong need for air.)

✦   When  you need  to breathe  in, let go of your nose  and breathe  gently through  it, in and  out, with your mouth closed. Avoid taking a deep breath  when you breathe  in, and calm your breathing  as soon as possible by focusing on relaxation. Repeat to yourself ‘relax and breathe less’.

✦   Continue   to  do  this   exercise  until   you  can  breathe through  your nose  fully. If your nose  does not  become totally unblocked,  wait about  one  minute  and  perform this  exercise again.  Initially you may need  to do this  a number    of   times   before   your   nose   is  completely unblocked.

the basic aim is to improve your co2 tolerance.  even during a hevy cold you should breat through your, presumably, snotty nose

Holding breath   traps  additional   carbon   dioxide which has been produced from the physical activity involved in moving the muscles. It is quite common  for the nose to become blocked again shortly after doing this exercise. This is because  the underlying  breathing  has not been  changed and the body has not become  accustomed  to the increased carbon  dioxide  level. However,  after  some  time,  and with regular practice of breathing  exercises, the body will adapt to a higher  level of carbon  dioxide and  the nose  will remain unblocked.

Give it a try

The learning and practice of  Olympic Weightlifting from a Psychological point of view


This paper describes the learning and practice of the snatch, from the sport of Olympic style weightlifting where a barbell is pulled from the floor to overhead and caught in a deep squat. Many of the skill and learning issues are the same for the other Olympic lift the clean where the bar is caught on the shoulders), so illustrations will be used from both activities. It is described as a discrete, gross motor skill and a combined throw and catch. The learning curve is initially positively accelerated then becomes stepped, and pyramidal at advanced levels. Demonstration and extensive cueing are used in the early stages of learning as is segmentation and light weights. Feedback focuses on knowledge of performance. The strength element of the move influences the selection of practice type. The whole spectrum of imagery and self talk moves from technical to motivational.

Chiu and Schilling (2005) observe that Olympic weightlifting is associated with improvements in motor control, noticeably improved activation of muscle groups and motor units, and activation of more fast twitch fibers, hence the skills are also taught to many athletes as part of their strength, conditioning and power  programmes and are  not pursed as a sport  in their own right.

The Olympic Lifts are   a sole participant, self paced skill, performed in a static environmental context.  The move is initiated by the performer, which  according to Gentile (Schmidt  & Weisberg, 2000) makes this  a closed motor skill. It is an object manipulation action function involving the change of position of a barbell  (Magill 2007), requiring correct management  and the adjustment of body position to counteract the in-balance created by the object and conforms to  skill definitions suggested by both Knapp (cited in Guthrie 1953) and Magill (2007): a learned ability, maximum certainty, minimum of time and energy with predetermined results and, according to   Schmidt & Weisberg (2000) produced as a function of practice.

The snatch is   a ground based  multi joint weightlifting exercise, the athlete  exert large  multiple muscle group force whiles standing on his own feet thus developing balance and  coordination: the speed   develops the nervous system (Garhammer, 1985) requires a triple extension at the ankle knee and hip, a  jumping athletic movement, demands the athlete recruits muscles in  a synchronized pattern, develops explosive power:  requiring a high degree of kinesthesis or proprioception (Magill, 2007) The larger muscles are mainly used, making this a  gross motor skill,  requiring both gross motor  and psychomotor ability (Magill, 2007)

According to Charniga (2001) the lifts involve a combination of lifting and catching which, using Gentiles (Magill, 2007) taxonomy   is a mixture of 2B, a throw, combined with 4B, a catch.   4B is higher up the skill table (Magill, 2007) suggesting the catch element of the move to be more problematic than the throw aspect. Hence Newton (1984) recommends that athletes should learn the receiving position 1st,, then the 2nd pull.

Lears (1989) observes  the sport  to be  a changing apparatus:  the aim is to lift more each time, and thus  creates  different velocities  and changing weights resulting, in  intertrial variability  (Gentiles, cited in Magill, 2007) .  When demonstrated as a sport, the lifts are performed as single attempts, making this a discreet skill (Magill, 2007).

When the move is evaluated as a learning or performance curve, the early cognitive stages represent a positively accelerated progression.  However, the skill ultimately reflects dynamic strength (Zatsiorsky,  2006)  with practice stepped , pyramidal and periodized as  higher gains  are sought and progress becomes slower (Rippetoe and Kilgore, 2005, Bompa, 1999)  reflecting the associative and autonomous stages of Fitts and Posners model (Magill, 2007)

Learning stages reflect much of the literature with the need for an overt cognitive  Stage ( Fitts and Posner 1967, cited in Magill, 2007 ) where very clear progressions and skill break downs are deployed. Crossfit London (2005) indicates some 32 separate stages or progressive practices. For absolute novices, its best to use a wooden pole or polyvinyl chloride pipe (Hori and stone, 2005).

According to Hedrick (2004) most  strength and conditioning coaches avoid teaching the lifts  because of the technical demands but he   suggests he has taught thousands of (US air force academy) athletes to clean with good  technique which  is essential (Chiu & Schilling 2005, Hori and Stone, 2005) as is   attention to detail (Lear, 1989)

Many teaching practices simplify the skill, thus addressing  the degrees of freedom issue (Magill,  2007) but also reflect the fact that part of the skill can be used to develop power generation.  Hori and stone (2005) recommend practices that begin from the hang or from boxes, to simplify learning and  take  advantage of the  high velocity and acceleration output.

Hedricks (2004)   suggests 12 steps: Education, modelling, foot position, hand position, grip, start position, jump shrug, low pull, high pull, clean adjusting foot position and squat clean.  Garhammer (1984) sees three distinct phases the 1st pull, the second pull (including the transitioning double knee bend) and receiving the bar.

Some teachers focus on the Double knee bend teaching  and practicing it  segmentally; research suggests this does  not need to be  specifically taught or practiced. (Gentry, 1999)  Some believe this to be an overt coached move, others that it is a natural move that some do or don’t have (Jones 1991, Walsh 1989) Never the less, Johnson (1982) details segmental exercises.

In order to assist learning in the cognitive stages, BWLA ( the British weight lifting association)  rely  on a set teaching  sequence with demonstration at its heart (Lear 1989) . According to Magill (2007) demonstration works best when the skill to be acquired is about  mastering unfamiliar patterns of movement hence there is a widespread use  of observational learning (Bandura, 1986), modelling, and demonstration (Magill, 1998, Cumming et al., 2005).

Adeyanjou (2005), Heyes and Foster (2002), Hebert and Landin (1994), all suggest that repeatedly watching live or video taped performances can result in enhanced skill acquisition. Magill (2007) shows beginners, observing other beginners, will perform at a higher level.  There is an emphasise on verbal cues, (Landin, 1994) which are used extensively in coaching the lifts (Crossfit London 2005), and are often combined with demonstrations (Cissik, 1998)

As with many skills and sport, feedback is essential to assist learning and the development of the snatch.  In the early stages there is sufficient task intrinsic feedback (Magill, 2007) as the lift is either achieved or failed. However, it is possible to successfully lift weights badly; so much coaching focuses on feeding back knowledge of performance, rather than knowledge of results.  Learning is about force control and applying the right amount of control (Magill, 2007). The teaching aim is to over  overcomes the  end state comfort control issue, were trainees use incorrect form as it feels easier, but drill  correct mechanics.(Cohen & Rosenbaum 2004, cited in Magill)

However, feedback tends to mirror all spectrums of coaching available: Kono (2001) suggest that many early stage athletes receive poor quality coaching.

Like many challenging skills the problem is in the transition from one phase to another, throw to catch, which relies on a strong stimulus response bond created by practice (Magill, 2007).

The sport has a large foundation in deliberate practice. Much of the repetition levels are low i.e. one to five repetitions of amounts reflecting 90+% of the lifters one rep max. According to Ericsson (Magill, 2007) this is not intrinsically motivating, requires high levels of attention and does not leads to immediate social or financial rewards

Much practice focuses on retaining skill at escalating levels of maximal muscular contraction (Lear, 1989).

Many psychological studies are on continuous skills rather than discrete skills (Lee and Genovese, 1988). The snatch is about maximal lifts and practice tends to be grouped at the minimal repetition/ maximal strength end of the training spectrum, there being no strength  benefit to training with lesser weight ratios, with higher ones not physically possible (Zatsiorsky, 1995)  conforming to Ericssons  ( Magill, 2007)  view  that training  quality is vital and needs to be appropriately difficult.  However at the elite end training sessions are  variable as athletes would be unable to tolerate a maximum lift regime.(Rippetoe, 2005).

Both schmidts  Schema theory and   Gentiles learning stage model (Magill, 2007), suggest  variability to be the key to successful future performance. Standard variability practice  is not conducted against a maximum effort  back ground, but well within the  students capability (Shea et al., 1990). This  is clearly distinguished from an attempt to lift the heaviest weight possible. It is note worthy that some athletes win competitions by lifting a weight they had not achieved in practice, lending possible support to both of the conflicting theories of motor programme learning as advocated by Schmidt versus dynamic theory pattern as advocated by Kelso (Magill, 2007).

The study of lifting practices can be deceptive as many athletes use the lifts as a power training system, and not as a competitive event in its own right,  and  focus on weights in the 70% of 1 RM (Garhammer, 1985).

Practice can be subdivided into structural units: training sessions, training day and various periodized cycles (Bompa,1999), where the aim is to keep athletes fresh and vary the training intensity (Zatsiorsky, 1995 ) Elite practice tends to be shorter, multiple session and distributed, rather than massed, practice to allow for rest as fatigue negatively influences learning (Magill, 2007).

As the skill is  high in complexity  there is  substantial use of Whole Part Whole practices, but with variation at various stages of learning. Some exercise regimes will take the novice back to basic muscle strength and set isolating exercises (tricep extension, and hamstring curls).  This is not without controversy, as some coaches see no value in breaking exercises down to individual muscle level as they offer no specificity of practice (Magill, 2007).  Some advanced coaches even object to the inclusion of the back squat as having little transfer to the speed  of the snatch (Charniga, 2001)

At an elite level, the tendency, in the absence of rehabilitation, is to focus on compound movement   (Lear, 1989) or meaningful chunks as the associative and autonomous stages are reached (Magill, 2007)

Various experiments have concluded that the correct imagery can enhance strength (Chaiwanichsiri et al., 2006 &  Ranganathan  et al.,2003).  Silbernagel et al (2007) ascertained that many weight trainees use the whole spectrum of imagery, both cognitive specific and motivational. Munroe-Chandler (2004) identifies that weight trainee’s use imagery in the following order: appearance, technique and energy, but grouped body builders in the same category as athletic lifters and studies the subject as “exercise addiction”. These experiments were single joint isolation exercises and may not apply to athletic moves. Zatsiorsky (1995) notes that Olympic lifts do not primarily provoke hypertrophic growth: making it an unsuitable mechanism to discharge body dismorphia.   Kono (2001) states that positive thinking clues and technical phrases are used by Olympic level lifters, suggesting technique and success (in lifting) imagery and self talk is the focus of the weightlifting athlete.

Rushall (1984) indicates that athletes use self talk to cover all aspects of training, both specific and motivational. Milller (2006) notes the use of cues and self talk raises from technical to motivational as higher skill levels are reached.

This paper ascertained that the snatch is a discrete, gross motor skill and a combined throw and catch. The learning curve is positively accelerated for beginners, and then becomes stepped and pyramidal at advanced levels.  The practice of the sport is influenced by its unique strength nature, but never the less follows traditional learning patterns of using demonstration, cueing, segmentation, imagery and self talk.


Adejanju, L. (2005). Effects of repetitive audio visual display on volley ball skill acquisition among non athletes undergraduate students of a south western Nigerian university : “the interdisciplinary journal of African sports”  . Accessed at http://www.ohiou.edu

Bandura A  1986 Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory Prentice Hall USA

Bompa T (1999)  Periodization training for sports Human kinetics United states.

Chaiwanichsiri D, Tangkaewfa S, Janchai S Aksaranugraha S 2006  Effects of imagery- weight exercise. Journal of the medical association of Thailand Aug 89(8) 1260-4

Charniga A, (2001) Concerning the Russian squat routine 2001. Accessed from www.dynamic-eleiko.com

Charniga A (2001) The relative value of  pulling exercises in the training of weight lifters Part 1 www.dynami-eleiko.com

Chiu L  Schilling B A primer on weighlifting from sport to sport training National strength and conditioning association vol 27 no1 42-48

Cissik, J (1998) An introduction to Olympic Style  Weightlifting McGaw-Hill USA

Crossfit London 2005  accessed at www.Stemlerfit.com

Garhammer J  1984  Power clean kinesiological evaluation. National strength and conditioning association  journal 40, 61-63

Gentry Roy, 1999  “a comparison of two instructional methods of teaching the power clean weight training exercise to intercollegiate football players with novice power clean experience”  Part of  a doctorate submission to the Virginia polytechnic institute.
E. R. Guthrie (1953) The Psychology of learning John Wiley, New York

Hedrick  (2004) Teaching the clean strength conditioning journal 26 4 70-72

Heyes, C., & Foster, C. (2002). Motor learning by observation: evidence from a serial reaction time task. The quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 2002 55A(2) 593-607

Hori N and stone M  2005 weightlifting exercises enhance athletic performance that requires hi load speed strength. National strength and conditioning association vol 27, no 4, pages 50-55.

Johnson J 1982 teaching the power clean and the hang clean National strength and conditioning association journal Aug/Sept 52-54

Jones  L (1991)Coaching accredition Course Club Coach  Manuel. US weight lifting federation

Kono t. 2001  “weightlifting Olympic style” Hawaii kono company USA

Landin D 1994 the role of verbal cues in skill learning. Quest. 46 299-313

Lee  T and Genovese E 1988 distribution of practice in motor skill acquisition. Learning and performance effects reconsidered. . research quarterly for exercise and sport 59, 277-287

Lear J  1989 Weight Training and Lifting A & C Black  London  1st ed

Magill   2007 Motor learning and Control: Concepts and Applications Mcgraw-Hill  USA

Miller  A J 2006. The influence of types and selection of mental preparation statements on collegiate cross-country runners’ athletic performance and satisfaction levels

Accessed at http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/send-pdf.cgi?miami1145904211

Munroe-chandler, Kim, 2004  Using imagery to predict weightlifting dependency in men International Journal of Men’s health accessed at  http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0PAU/is_2_3/ai_n8966587/pg_1

Newton H  1984 Bridging the gap power clean. National strength and conditioning journal vol 6 no 3 64-66

Ranganathan V, Siemionow V, Liu J, Sahgal V Yue G (2003) From mental power to muscle power-gaining strength by using the mind Neuropsychologica 11.018

Rippetoe M (2006)  The power clean  Crossfit Journal Aug 48 6-9

Rippetoe Mark and  Kilgore Lon (2005), Starting Strength  a simple and practical guide for coaching beginners The Aasgaard Company, Wichita Falls

Rushall, B.S. (1984). The content of competition thinking. In W.F. Straub & J.M. Williams (Eds.), Cognitive Sport Psychology (pp 51-62). Lansing, NY: Sport Science Associates.

Silbernagel Ms, Short SE Ross Stewart LC Athletes use of imagery during weight training  Journal of Strength and  Conditioning research. 2007, Nov(4) 1077-81

Schmidt ,RA & Weisberg G 2000 Motor Learning and performance (2nd ed) Champaign,IL Human Kinetics

Shea C and Kohl R   & Indermill C 1990 Contextual interference contributions of practice  Acta Psychologica 73

Walsh B (1989) the scoop in Olympic  style pulling movements- is it a teachable commodity National strength and conditioning Association journal 112, 65 67

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Prilepin table

Assuming you get to a decent gym, that allows your to do some barbell movements, how do you go about developing the strength you so long for? The reality is that the average Gym instructor may know  a bit about hypertrophy ( ” 3 sets of 10 mate!”) but thats about it. Sitting in a Globo gym among a pile of machines does that to people. Its tragic. But, lets say, you have something heavy and you want to lift it, how many sets, how many reps?

One of the secrets of elite trainers, like me,is that we are quite well read: we look at British, American and Russian  strength training literature. ( mind you, if  Tabata is Japanese, add Japanese literature to that list).An interesting piece of research was carried out by   soviet Sports scientist, AS Prilepin, who studied the training logs of  1000 leading weightlifting champions .The table below  is an averaging of these logs and shows the % of 1 rep max , the amount of reps performed per set,  the optimal amount of reps per workout, and   the range of reps used indicated by the research. This table is specifically for gaining maximal strength

The Prilepin Table: 
Intensity Reps per set Recommended optimal Total of Reps Range of reps seen in research
Below 70% 3 – 6 24 18-30
70 – 79% 3 – 6 18 12 – 24
80 – 89% 2 – 4 15 10 – 20
90% and above 1 – 2 7 4 – 10

There are ofcourse a few points worthy of mention. These tables were extracted from the training journals of olympic weight lifters and its possible to argue that this would not apply to other lifts ( the slower lifts like the squat, deadlift press etc).

This also assumes you have a reliable 1 rep max figure, and for that matter, an up to date one.

What I don’t know ( and if anyone does , please let me know) does he use the idea of a 1 rep max as your best ever lift. If you look at Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, they establish a difference between a training max and a competition 1 rep max. They suggest that the difference is about 12.5%  +/- 2.5% in  superior weightlifters. The further make the distinction that a training max is  a load you lift with no emotional arousal which can be monitored by your heart rate. If someone says, lift that weight, and your heart rate zooms up in anticipation, that load is  (probably)  above your training max. This  ,ofcourse, assumes some experience. Stopping the average sedentary person and saying, lift that weight, will probably get most people heart rate up!

These tables and information are, of course a snap shot. Im not discussing long term fatigue, issues of scheduling. Yet.


Pull ups and girls

I  love the pull up.

It is seen by many as a useful test for measuring the strength and endurance of the arm and shoulder girdle, and useful for those occupations where you need to manipulate your body weight: fire fighters, climbing into lovers’ bedrooms, showing off in front of kids, and getting out of holes when the zombie apocalypse strikes.
In Dec (2012) The media (papers and blogs) were all a-thither with the scientific proof that women cannot do pull ups. Even the Marines (“hoo-rah”) expect men to do 3, but women don’t have to do even one.


If you boil down the current research on women and pull ups, you will find two physiological reasons why most women cannot pull up.

They are fat and weak. (Don’t hate me, it’s science! )

It is generally accepted that women have a higher % of body fat (Heyward and Stolarczyk 1996) and according to an average of the research, women have upper body strength ½ of that of a man. (ranges from 35-79%: Laubach 1976).

But, as Kate said “It may be true, but God help you if you say that out loud to a girl!”

To be diplomatic and soften this up, it can easily be spun into the standard gym nonsense that women don’t have to do pull ups. Woo hoo, here comes your next Yoga class….after all strength is for smelly noisy boys.

We must accept that (Western) women have been sold a pernicious type of cultural weakness that blurs fitness with the spa. It palms off competence in Zumba as a substitute for the fitness that most women in the developing world need purely to survive the day. Elsewhere in the world women have to be tough, they have to plant food, haul goods, build stuff. A heroin-chic stick insect clinging to a partner’s arm isn’t available as a job option.

In fact, to be slightly political, the only reason Western women can prance around an aerobic studio and claim to be fit, is because their ancestors had the decency and foresight to be pirates, drug dealers and slavers who not only stole wealth, but saved it.
The poorest of us lives in comparative luxury based on this accumulated wealth, and it doesn’t matter if you have no physical competence
But what did this science experiment have to do, to validate the proposition that women don’t have to pull up?
“Three days a week for three months, the women focused on exercises that would strengthen the biceps and the latissimus dorsi — the large back muscle that is activated during the exercise. They lifted weights and used an incline to practice a modified pull-up, raising themselves up to a bar, over and over, in hopes of strengthening the muscles they would use to perform the real thing. They also focused on aerobic training to lower body fat”
And the result of this exciting “lat” challenging, bicep-strengthening routine was: “By the end of the training program, the women had increased their upper-body strength by 36 per cent and lowered their body fat by 2 per cent”
“But on test day, the researchers were stunned when only 4 of the 17 women succeeded in performing a single pull-up.”
“We honestly thought we could get everyone to do one,” said Paul Vanderburgh, a professor of exercise physiology”

A few interesting points.
1) This “hot news” (New York times dated 2012) was based on a report published in 2003 (“Training college-age women to perform the pull-up exercise.”) Shows how behind the times fitness media is.

2) It has been presented by much of the blogging world as justification for women having no pull ups, with the implication that they ought not to bother.

3) It shows that no one reads the small print. The researchers did not set out to produce a pull up specific routine
“We designed our training program with certain delimitations ..a whole body workout and not just a workout to improve pull ups”

4) It shows the impatience of “fitness regimes”. Why should the ability to achieve a certain goal in an arbitrary 12 weeks hold any sway? What’s wrong with spending 6 (+) months learning a skill?

5) The ineffectiveness of looking at movement in the simple terms of the strength of individual muscles.
All worthwhile “exercise” movements are analogues of human movement: they need to be learned, and they all, all combine numerous components of fitness: co-ordination, accuracy , agility, flexibility, strength, strength endurance, and to be frank some mental toughness and determination.

6) If you will permit me to sling a cat in among the pigeons, my final point is this : are pull ups a proper marker of fitness, or is “fit” a guesstimate of VO2 max.

If the girls we train can haul weight, including themselves, we begin to think “ tough chick” ( yes I know that’s a bit demeaning, but its meant nicely), but when flexible stick insects swoon into our gym with chocolate denial etched into their dulled eyes and the whiff of bulimia induced vomit around them, but a “really low resting heart rate”, we don’t think , “wow you’re fit”, we think “ Eat something and man up” .
Or to be more specific, get some steak and a pull up bar!


Gymnastics: do some

As some of you know, Im always playing with gymnastics. Im doing this  as part of my on-going “remember what its like to be a beginner”,  because as a gymnast, I suck big time.

Im appalling.

But equally, Im  a crossfitter.

As a crossfitter, I’m led by the 100 words. These words, written by the only fitness genius of  our times   are  not, unfortunately what happens in most crossfit gyms.

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, push-ups, sit-ups. Bike, run,  row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. “

~Greg Glassman

What wrong with that you may ask?

It seems to be the pool from which Games WODs  are drawn: I suppose we kettlebell,  do  “pull throughs”  and bench, but thats not too bad. Is it?

I’ve been nasty. Ive amended the above  100 words to reflect what most people  want Crossfit to be: Below is the often ignored  true  100 words .

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. 
~Greg Glassman


So here is the Crossfit  message: Whatever effort you put into your snatch, you must put into your flip. The deadlift must be trained as much as your pirouette.

I know its very common  and attractive  to proclaim that  the “snatch is king”, or the secret is “Deadlifting” or simply having a big back squat will get you through. These are important moves and its fantastic that we both train and practise them as the 100 words always told us to do. My apologies if anyone  thought “Outlaw” had produced a novel training approach. They simply read Greg Glassman.

Long term we need more gymnastics in our classes. This is  part of my long term mission: learn it, learn how to teach it, teach it, then teach others how to teach it. This formula has worked so far.

The problem with Gymnastics is that its easy to mistake  hot air, hanging around in gyms,  feeling sorry for yourself and  cruising the internet,  as practice. Many people give up  on gymnastics  as the skills seem too hard. The reality is that most people only spend about  2 to 3 minutes on  a skill before  throwing in the gym towel.

We need to deal with this crushing blow  to the ego, before we push more gymnastics onto our poor crossfitters.

A gymnastics lesson doesn’t focus on one skill: it focuses on many skills, or certainly the foundational skills that  underpin most  obvious gymnastic skills.

To be very specific, most clients will attempt 5  (4 -8) handstands in most sessions.  Maybe each attempt takes 10 seconds ( Oh, who cares… call it 20 seconds) Even being generous that amounts to  less than 2 minutes practice of  handstand skill. Of course the dish work is a handstand prep drill,  blah, blah, but the hanging around before class starts,  moaning about how band your handtand is, loosing yourself in internet articles about handstand mechanics, is not practicing. If you went to one gymnastic class this week, you practised the handstand for maybe 2 minutres ( you also, rolled and  jumped etc, but  at 2 minutes a time: it takes a while)

So I thought Id invent the Stemler Grid  for those times I get demotivated.

I cannot judge my current improvement in the numerous  teeny improvements I always make: I unfairly judge,  can I now “back tuck” can I  now “front flip”. If i cannot do the whole thing now, I declare the lesson a failure (the medical  term for this is  “being a tosser”).

So, if Im going to judge myself so unreasonably,  I ought to record what practice I actually  do .

So, if you do the same,  draw up a Stemler grid: Make each square  30 seconds and record the amount of time (each week /day/month) you  actually do the skill.

If its  handstand, are you on your hands? Thats the amount of time you record. When your feet  get back on the floor, the clock stops.

Thats what you record.

The lectures, the feedback, the diagrams, the  group observation, the videoing, the self pity, the “whatever”, at this basic level, doesn’t count. Of course  this is an extreme view, because in reality … it all helps. Even self pity (believe me I know!).

Sure its skewed , you still have to get to the gym,  and that takes time. But before you give up on skills that are supercool, and properly demonstrate that you have control of your body because ” I cannot do it”,  do make sure you have spent enough time  on that  skill to judge. Why not shoot for 30 minutes?

The romance of strength Training

Successful Strength training like marriage  is measured in years not  weeks or months

Pay attention to the basics . Lift often, lift heavy (5 plus, but vary from 5 to 1)  be happy with small increases. Every relationship or  “thing”  in your life requires consistency

Don’t panic if  you plateau.

In what other part of  (real) human existence  do we expect to have increases all the time . We can tamper with economics and pretend we have yearly growth:  some  NHS workers ( apparently ) get a  grade increase each year , but that always, always  unravels. “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…….’

The hall marks of successful  strength training  (marriage) is patience and maturity: watch for the opportunity to improve but don’t obsess., be happy with consolidation,  treasure consistency and above all, be confident enough to rest and take it easy.

Eat well and sleep well

Bear in mind  that all advanced programming is dedicated to one phenomenon, failure.   Many marriages fail because one partner isn’t happy with the perfection they have, and instead   indulges in fantasy . Don’t let the strength porn of a few gifted ( psychotic) individuals deprave and corrupt your  normal image of how things are.

Failure is rushing at  fantasy  target too hard and fast.

Having preached consistency, it’s equally essential to mix it up and be creative. Add  and vary assistance exercises.

Variety has always been the spice of life   But variety is still just a spice. It makes the fundamentals seem a bit different that’s all. It still needs the fundamentals/

In short, don’t see strength as something geeky or the preserve of experts. See it as the perfect romance or marriage, demanding consistent loyalty commitment and work , along with romance and variation.

So to be successful, research how to be romantic and simply build it into your strength regime