The Starzynski Squat

In the time before the lockdown, I used to coach Olympic weightlifting at Crossfit London on a Saturday morning.

I mean, I was in the same room, at the same time as other people

Seems weird now.

Now that everyone has moved online, it’s easy to forget that that building explosiveness into fitness regimes, without weights can be tricky.  The Olympic lifting drills  are especially difficult to think up as , ideally, you want to the end up in a squat.

There are only so many jumping squats you can do!

This is a fun , useful drill. Enjoy


Isometrics revisited

in the 60’s to 70’s  you would have been hard pressed to ignore the isometrics movement. Vic O’beck published “How to Exercise without moving a muscle” in 1964 and it became very popular.

During the late 60’s early 70’s the Daily Express ran a regular cartoon in its pages which popularised the exercise regime. The cartoons were eventually bundled into a book Isometrics. How to exercise without moving a muscle, in strip cartoons from the Daily Express.

Like many fitness fades, the interest faded from main stream use, due in part to silly claims. A regime that promises to get you fit and trim in 90 seconds a day is bound to sell you the book or course, but fail to deliver much , if any, fitness.

This is a shame, as given the right objectives, the static hold has a really useful role to play. According to James Hewitt who wrote Isometrics for you: Get fit and trim in 90 seconds a day in 1966  “without special apparatus and without moving a muscle you can grow stronger and build, or reshape your body to nearer your hearts’ desire. The static  contraction has been part of physical culture systems  for a very long time. Hatha yoga contains postures  held without movement”.

Put simply, isometrics are a system of physical exercises in which muscles are caused to act against each other or against a fixed object. It’s a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint.

The popular regimes focused on basic body building type exercises and suggested a 6  second static contraction  with a maximum, or comfortable maximum contraction. This bicep curl picture gives you a good idea.


Whilst this had some value, the use of the extended static hold in functional fitness is probably in developing the capacity to simply hold postures which contribute to actual exercises. The reality is that if you want to kick up to a rock solid free standing handstand, or do 20 plus pull ups, you better be able to hold a static ( albeit “leaning” ) handstand against the wall, and hang for 60, 90, 120, 180 seconds. Extra grip strength is always useful!

Btw you could find yourself struggling at 10 seconds when you start. Just do what you can and build up

So think about your regime and hunt out obvious postures to practice: the side planks, lunging pushes against a wall and deadlift holds spring to mind. Adding the L sit, a horse stance ( the old martial arts favourite) and a “hip up” hold can , when combined,  make a really useful home exercise regime.

No more, “I cannot get to the gym”!!

Is Successful Strength Training like Marriage ?

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 some strongman training, 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

Practice the basics

You can analyse and use the olympics lifts in many many ways. One is  to view the full skill is a pressure test for your front and overhead squat. The pure ” beautiful” form of the lifts are seen as the squat clean and  squat snatch.

Put in other words, it tests if you own a superb front and back squat to the extend that you  can jump into it with a great big weight. Any squat wobble or misunderstanding of your squat form means that, under pressure, you won’t be get under the bar.

Take home message: don’t skimp on your front squat and overhead squat practice!

Rest periods

I keep on meaning to create a post with this timing  information in:

These are estimates of how long a set of reps takes, followed by the ideal rest periods between sets.

The chances are that 1-5 reps  takes  0-20 seconds , with 1-2 reps needing 300 to 240 seconds rest  and 3-5 reps needing 240-180 seconds to recover

If you are doing 6-8 reps, the chances are it takes 20-40 seconds and you need rest of 180-120 seconds between sets.

If you are doing 9-12 reps the chances are it takes 40-70 seconds and you need to leave 120-90 seconds

If you do 13-20+ reps, chances are it takes 50-120 seconds and your rest period could be 90-10 seconds.

Rest periods can really support or screw your training



You are a self fulfilling prophecy! Your early teachers, the trainers you have met, the sports you have tried and failed at  have  pretty much taught you that you are weak, uncoordinated and basically crap. So, when you look at the WODs we publish on the Crossfit London UK site, you must to be thinking: “you have to be joking!  I cant do that!”

How you account for failure and success and the feelings these evoke  is the subject of  attributions;  the perceived causes of events and behaviours. Theories about attributions focus on your perceptions and interpretations that affect your behaviour.

The attributions we make about ourselves and others affect our behaviour.

If you cannot snatch (an olympic lift) you would behave differently depending on why you think you cannot. Perhaps you don’t know how, or need more practice; in which case you may  attend a Crossfit London UK skill seminar. However if you think its because you are weak and too uncoordinated to learn, you could simply give up and go back to a leg extension machine in your local fitness centre. The attributions you  make about others also effects  how you feel about them. If you watch a classmate attempt a snatch , how you perceive their attempt will be different if you think they lack the strength or that they are lazy!

Weiner  et al (1974) has  been credited with  bringing attribution theory to prominence by developing an attributional theory of achievement behaviour. He specifically felt that the difference between high and low achievers is the difference in attributional patterns (or how you think about stuff)

According to Weiner, if you had to assess why you screwed up a workout, or came last in the Crossfit games, your explanations could fall into one of 4 categories: ability, effort, luck, task difficulty.

However these four categories are not the critical aspect, the locus of causality (where the “blame” lies) and stability are the two essential dimensions.

The locus of causality can either be internal or external, ie ability and effort are internal,  luck and task difficulty are external. Are these stable?  Your ability is stable, however your effort is unstable and can vary from workout to workout: luck, unstable.

Later Weiner added a third dimension; controllability. Some factors are internal, but not very controllable, ie aptitude and natural ability.

Often people make internal attributions for winning and external ones for failure. In team sports, external attributions normally seem to come from the loosing side (lucky breaks, officials’ calls, weather). The tendency to attribute success internally and failure externally  can be seen as setting up a self serving bias. If you complete a workout faster than class mate, you would prefer to think that your extra effort won the day, not that your rival was ill that day.

Weiner suggests that the internal/external dimension can correlate to feelings of pride and shame, with the internal attributions provoking stronger feelings: you take a greater pride in a victory you earned!

The stability of these factors also has an effect: a stable attribution  leads you to expect the same outcome: if you have failed in the snatch because you its too complicated for you, you can expect the same results in the future. The controllability of the factor effects our moral judgements: we praise those who give extra effort and  dislike those who shirk.

However, the results of studies are confusing. Some have identified winners as internal stable and controllable, others that winners make more stable and controllable, but not more internal, attributions.

Spink and Roberts (1980) showed winners made more internal attributions, more importantly  they actually found two types of winners satisfied, and dissatisfied winners who felt the victory was too easy. Satisfied losers attributed losses to task difficulty, dissatisfied losers looked to their own low ability. Essentially, McAuley(1985)  found perceived success  to be a better predictor  of internal stable controllable atttributions  than objective success.

Attributions and Emotions.

It is quite popular to link attributions and emotions. Weiner identified outcome-dependent emotions (associated with actual outcomes)  and attribution-dependent emotions (the reason for the outcomes)

Work  by Biddle ( 1993) indicated performance satisfaction (or subjective appraisal)  is one of the best predictors of emotion, and that attributions play a role.

Dweck (1978)  deploys attributional theory in the field of learned helplessness.  We all come across those individuals ( do you think this of yourself)  who “know” they are slow, uncoordinated and too un-athletic to take part in sports or get fit ( or Crossfit) Here we can help by making these people attribute their failings to unstable, controllable factors including a lack of practice, instruction and techniques.

In reality, at Crossfit London, we find that many people who have been dismissed as weaklings, or overweight, uncoordinated failures can often make substantial improvements in performance and fitness. Our focus is to get you to work on those things you can control, and make stable; we do our best to get you to forget the vicious labels that incompetent sports teachers and trainers may have lazily given you. Our teaching is made progressive so that we can take beginners and make them skilled performers. Our approach will get the best out of your efforts and enhance your feelings of personal control.