Top 3 Tips to Maximize Your Deadlifts


People tend to have polarized feelings about deadlifts. Either they love them or they hate them. If you love deadlifts this is usually for one of three potential reasons. 

You already pull heavy weight. You are considered “strong” or “really good at that” so you enjoy doing it more. Yay dopamine!

Maybe you are favorably built for deadlifts with relatively shorter legs, a relatively longer torso, and long arms. (Ape index off the charts!) You seem to PR every time you walk into the gym.

It’s also possible that you grew up on a farm and have been lugging hay bales and drinking raw milk your whole life. Lifting heavy sh*% is a walk in the park for you.

If you don’t fall into one of those categories then there is still hope. Let’s explore the top 3 tips to maximize your deadlifts!

  1. Ditch the Mixed Grip
  2. Dial in Your Setup Position
  3. Train Deadlift Variations

1.Ditch the Mixed Grip

One of the best ways to start improving your deadlift is to ditch the mixed grip. Many people worry that grip will be a limiting factor at their maximal percentage lifts but you can easily overcome this by implementing a hook grip. This takes some getting used to since you’ve probably never lifted a bar of this weight with a hook grip and the pressure can seem unreal. Try taping your thumbs the first few sessions to take some of the edge off. The benefits of a double overhand grip is better position on the bar, less torque on the hips and spine, and decreased strain on the bicep. Build up this strength in your training sessions and if you really need to resort to a mixed grip for a competition or 1RM attempt then you will be better for waiting.

2. Dial in Your Setup Position

One of the biggest issues you may be facing with deadlifts is the setup. That first pull off the ground never feels quite right. To overcome this you can practice rolling the bar into position. This may feel more comfortable and your body will naturally find the right position without you fidgeting around. If you are new to lifting or know that your mobility is lacking then you may find it beneficial to practice pulling off of blocks. The higher start position will make it easier for you to engage your posterior chain. Another good option here is to work from the top down with lighter loads. Take the loaded bar from a rack or higher blocks and start standing tall, hips fully extended. Keeping your back and core tight and start pushing your hips toward the wall behind you as the bar descends down your thighs. Keep the bar in contact with your legs and the weight in the middle of your foot and heels. Practice lowering down in a slow control fashion taking 4-5 seconds to lower for each rep. If you have a hard time finding the right position then you should take some one on one time to work with a coach who can provide the right cues to get you properly set up.

3. Train Deadlift Variations

Another way to build confidence in your deadlift is to explore different deadlift variations. Sumo deadlifts, single arm, single leg, trap bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, atlas stones, dballs and tire flips will all help you. Getting stronger is going to help even if it is non specific. There’s no shortage of heavy stuff to pick up off the ground! These variations will train your grip, stabilizers, and strengthen many smaller muscles of the glutes and hamstrings that may not get fully recruited in your normal deadlift style. 

There you go, the top 3 tips to maximize your deadlifts. Now go find a coach and pull some big numbers!

 

The Importance Of Stress For Your Health


Did you know that a little bit of stress can actually maximize your performance?

IF you’ve ever been in a flow state and totally lost track of time immersed in the task at hand you know know how astounding it can be to snap out of it. You were so focused that you couldn’t worry about your bills, external relationships, and the little worries in life.

It turns out that time spent in a flow state is one of the highest corollaries to a fulfilling life. The more time you spend in flow the happier you are. It also turns out that flow is the best way to get good at a particular skill- assuming the activity meets some key criteria. 

The Yerkes Dodson Law examines how as arousal increases so does performance. Being pushed slightly beyond your comfort zone you get hooked. Locked in flow you will continue to push yourself, just barely keeping up with the challenge that is inches from your grasp. They even assigned a specific value to the degree of difficulty. If the level of the challenge is approximately 4% greater than your current skill you will be most likely to get into a flow state.

If you think about great athletes, musicians, artists and other high performing individuals you will see countless examples of them rising to the occasion. Completing the game winning drive as they march their team down the field and scoring with just seconds left on the clock. Playing a guitar lick faster and faster immersed in sweat and the roar of the crowd. These folks are locked into what they are doing to a place that is beyond what conscious mind and ego can interfere with. They are fully present and immersed in the task at hand.

It is important to find the thresholds in your life where you can push yourself and grow. If you feel like a task is too easy you will quickly lose interest and find yourself bored. If it is too difficult, you will feel like it’s hopeless and not actually give your best effort. Find the challenge that is engaging and challenging yet attainable if you truly want to get the most out of yourself!

 

5 Health Metrics That Are More Important Than Weight


For some strange reason American’s have chosen the scale as their favorite way to track progress around their health. People derive their sense of self worth based on the number facing up at them from between their feet. If you’re someone who draws any sort of emotional reaction, positive or negative, from the scale then you may want to self reflect and consider if there are better options out there. 

The funny part is that weight is such an inconsequential and ambiguous predictor of substance. Just consider this. If you have three avocados-one freshly picked and hard as a rock, one brown soft and ooze, and one firm ripe and tender-which one are you going to slice open to make your guacamole with? It shouldn’t matter if they all weigh 170 grams right…

What you are made of, how you feel, and what you are able to produce are all factors of way greater significance than your weight. 

What you weigh is going to constantly fluctuate. You may lose weight and be less healthy. You may be well hydrated one day and performing well then get totally thrown off because your weight went up a pound or two. This number doesn’t say who you are as a person or how healthy and fit you may be. It’s just an arbitrary number. Stop letting the pounds run your life and change the way you feel about yourself. Instead try one of these alternative ways that measure success off the scale!

Body Fat Percentage

Body fat percentage is an alternative way to track your progress and provides much more actionable information than just your weight in pounds. This takes into account your lean muscle mass. In this way you can actually gain weight in muscle which would consequently reduce your percentage of body fat. This is a clear example of how gaining weight would make you healthier. Plus as you add more muscle to your frame you will burn more calories at rest. The fat will disappear faster and faster on it’s own!

Measurements

Taking specific measurements is a great way to achieve the goals around the way you want to look. Measuring neck, arm, waist, hips, thigh, and calf circumference can help you transform your body without ever worrying about the scale. Losing two inches off your waist will make you look and feel like a whole new person!

Habit Tracking

One of the best replacements for weighing yourself is to instead track daily health habits. If you track metrics like sleep, hydration, servings of veggies, daily walking, and other relevant habits you can focus on the right behaviors to make you look and feel great in the long run. This takes discipline but it is essential to long lasting transformation.

Performance Metrics

Switching your focus to the weight on the bar is a great alternative to the scale. People will often train harder and longer in pursuit of strength and performance goals than solely for aesthetic purposes. If you push yourself more in training the results will speak for themselves!

And don’t forget that we have an inbody machine that tracks some of these measurments like body fat %, water weight, daily calorie burn to maintain.  If you are on an unlimited membership you can get a few scans each month as part of your membership so make sure you take advantage of that.

 

Top 2 Reasons To Train With Kettlebells


If you could only buy one piece of equipment to accomplish all of your training what would you buy? Treadmills and cycles are great for cardio but definitely won’t get you stronger. A barbell is great but where do you have room to keep it and let alone use it? Total gym style machines always feel so awkward, the cables never work and they seem to be built for someone elses body. So what exactly can you use to transform your body, build strength, burn fat, and improve your cardio?

Enter the kettlebell.

Kettlebells are a great and diverse tool that you should implement into your training. Kettlebell swings train the total body and can be a low impact way to build muscle.They can be used to improve performance as well as make you look and feel strong and capable. Of course a tool is only useful as long as you know how to use it. Consider learning the basics with a certified coach who can show you the ropes. 

Today let’s dive into the top 2 reasons to train with kettlebells so you can see if they are a good fit for your fitness regimen. 

    • Carry Over To Sport and Life
    • Quick And Effective Way To Train

1. Carry Over To Sport and Life

Kettlebell swings have tremendous carry over to your sport and lifestyle activities. They teach you how to hinge at the hip, one of the most important movement patterns for health and optimal function. A strong and healthy lower back as well as a tight core will be developed rapidly when you train kettlebell swings with good form. You will also develop an iron grip. Grip is one of the best indicators of a healthy human and Harvard has found strong correlation between grip strength and cardiovascular health. 

Swings will also improve your performance with the olympic lifts and power lifts and any other hip dominant movement like jumping. Kettlebell swings teach the dynamic hip extension that is the foundation of a powerful lifter and athlete. When you become strong and proficient with swings you can continue adding load becoming stronger and more explosive in the process.

2. Quick And Effective Way To Train

Learning swings comes easier for some and harder for others. They are also easier to learn than the olympic lifts and far less technical. Swings are a great alternative for individuals who are focused on fitness for their health and young athletes. They also require less time to prepare the body for in terms of warming up the joints, muscles, and nervous system. They can be a fast and fun way to fit in a workout if you don’t have much time.

The kettlebell swings is such an effective tool because it trains both the eccentric (lengthening of the muscle) and concentric (shortening of the muscle) in a dynamic fashion. The snatch and clean both require a focus on a strong concentric contraction as the weight is lifted, Swings offer a different stimulus that may better suit athletes in sports like basketball or soccer or folks whose goal is not to lift maximal weight overhead. 

Kettlebell swings are a fun and effective way to train. Just like most exercises, it’s best to learn from a certified coach so you know you are performing them properly. If you are interested in getting in shape and training in a fun new environment come in for a free consult and we can show where you how training can be fun and get you results!

Make Your Breakfast 10% Better


You’ve heard it before. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It’s become cliche. And like so many aphorisms you lose an important message when you overlook it. 

A healthy breakfast can support your physical and mental performance. If you are trying to excel, grow, and make changes to your body or in your life then you need the proper fueling regimen to get you there.

Have you ever crashed during your workout? Felt mentally foggy or weak on a particular day? There’s probably a correlation with your nutrition. Whether it can be drawn back your breakfast or the long term effects of neglected nutrition you can probably find a link.

To get the results you want, you need to pay attention to your nutrition. Some people do better with big changes. But today let’s just focus on how you can make your breakfast 10% better. 

There are so many benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. Of course improved performance is one, but eating breakfast has also been shown to reduce food cravings later in the day. It can also improve mental clarity and boost energy.

Our bodies are complex machines and the benefits of breakfast impacts the way our body operates for the day. Eating breakfast affects neurotransmitter production, electrolyte balance, blood sugar levels and more. Our bodies operate with best with certain types of fuel and the right ratio of carbs, fat and protein to perform at their best. But before you reach for your Cornflakes chill for a second. Not all breakfasts are created equal.  

So what are the makings of a great breakfast?

Choosing high quality proteins, healthy fats, and low glycemic carbs is a great start to make your breakfast 10% better!

Increasing protein intake is one of the best decisions you can make for your nutrition, especially at breakfast. Protein contains high quality amino acids that will keep you full and prevent cravings later in the day. Try to eat some solid protein such as meat or eggs. If you need a quick option try keeping hard boiled eggs and greek yogurt on hand. They are easy options to scarf down quickly or grab on your way out the door to work. Protein shakes are also good but whole foods are best. People who consume liquid protein in the morning don’t get the same satiety benefits and still tend to overeat later in the day. Use protein shakes only if no other options are available or you are going to exercise first thing in the morning and need something fast digesting.

That being said, if you work out in the morning, sometimes it’s hard to get a good workout in if you had a full and satisfying breakfast.  So a protein shake could be the ticket to give you the energy you need for the workout and then after wards, eat the whole foods breakfast.

For fats look for foods like nuts, seeds, and avocados. These foods provide healthy monounsaturated fat and are chock full of vitamins and minerals as well. Rotating through different fats will ensure you have diversity in your diet and prevent excessive intake of any one food. A handful of nuts, an avocado packet, or some chia pudding are all easy grab and go options for healthy breakfast fats.

For carbs at breakfast you should take a less is more approach. Focus on low glycemic carbs such as leafy greens and broccoli. Dark berries are also great choice when fresh and in season. This will give you some additional fuel for your day. Try to avoid highly processed foods that will spike your blood sugar and have you craving carbs and making energy levels crash throughout the day. 

Not a fan of breakfast?

There can be benefits to intermittent fasting too. Just recognize how your body feels and performs its best. For some people that is 5-6 small meals per day. For others a big lunch or dinner is all it takes. Focusing on high quality whole foods, getting enough protein and heart healthy fats, and calibrating carb intake based on your activity levels. 

For more nutritional and training strategies get in touch with our nutrition coach today.  nutrition(at)crossfitgsl.com

And if you are really serious, we’ll give you one free inbody scan and a free meal plan.  To get that, just email nutrition(at)crossfitgsl.com.

CrossFit: Sport vs Exercise Program


 

CrossFit has exploded in popularity as a fun and effective way to get fit.

It’s popularity has evolved because it works for everyday folks who need to maintain their health but is also extremely popular as a competitive event.

Sometimes it is tough for the outside world to see the differences between the sport of CrossFit that they see on TV and the training methodology they would experience in a local gym.

If you are already a GSL family member then maybe this article can help you explain to your friends and family who look at you weird when you tell them you do CrossFit.

If you haven’t experienced CrossFit yet, then hopefully this helps you know that it’s not as crazy as it may seem on TV.  Let’s look at some of the key differences between the sport and the training style.

CrossFit in any form without a doubt incorporates functional movement. Using natural human movement patterns like squatting, hinging, and pressing overhead you will experience these patterns. What varies between competition and class is the technical requirements or difficulty, and the weight used in competition. The Games you see on TV are the best athletes in the world competing head to head. In order to truly differentiate the fittest men and women they must be tested by the most extreme workouts. You will see that they perform weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardiovascular workouts but at much higher intensities and volume than a coach would ever ask you do perform in your local gym.

“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing favorable adaptation to exercise,” -Greg Glassman

The cool thing is you get to see your favorite athletes being pushed and tested so that they feel the workout is just as challenging as you might feel workouts are. Everyone is safely pushed and challenged to improve themselves. Reaching just a little bit further and tapping into their true potential.

If you want to try a high intensity functional fitness workout like CrossFit you may well be surprised by how friendly and welcoming the community is. You will not be the biggest or smallest, the oldest or youngest, or even the least experienced. And even if you are, someone else was that before and it’s no big deal.

Training for the sport looks very different from what you may think is involved with a regular CrossFit class. Everyday the workout is different and scaled to your specific needs. Your coach is more likely to scale the weights or movements in a way that lets you choose when to stop rather than push you into doing something that is dangerous or painful. This style of training is so popular because people are able to experience long term growth in a fun and supportive environment.

We hope to see you around!

Grit
Strength
Life

3 Alternatives to Juice Cleansing


Heading into the new year, beach season, or anytime you have had “enough” with the way you look and feel about your body there are some popular options you may have turned to. 

One of the most popular options is buying a multi-day juice cleanse from a local cafe or whole foods market that is supposed to replace all your meals. You are so excited as you pick up your bundle of beverages. A confidence and optimism that this time you mean business. That fat is going down!

But wait…is it really the best option for you to improve your health or lose weight?

Today let’s explore 3 alternatives to Juice Cleansing that truly support a healthy diet and lifestyle. These options will actually help your body perform better and get the results you want rather than juicing fruits, vegetables, or 10 lb hams. 

  • Consume Whole Fruits and Vegetables
  • Eat/Drink Balanced Meals
  • Fast Instead of Juicing

1.Consume Whole Fruits and Vegetables

Whole fruits and vegetables are the basis for a healthy carb intake. Juicing eliminates the skin, pulp, and fiber that make these foods so healthy in the first place. Many of the flavonoids responsible for reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke are found in the pulp and skins of many fruits and veggies. Removing the fiber also increases the glycemic index. Eating an orange has a totally different effect on your body than drinking a glass of orange juice. In fact drinking OJ is more comparable to a coca cola in the way it effects your body!

“If life gives you lemons, make some kind of fruity juice.” -Conan O’Brien

2.Eat/Drink Balanced Meals 

Did you ever sneak spoonfuls of sugar as a kid? I know I did. But as we get older and wiser we know that that blatant disregard for our health won’t fly anymore. We try to limit our sweets to the foods that are really worth it. 

 But did you know that when you juice you are basically drinking sugar? Especially if the juice contains fruit juices in the mix.

Try consuming balanced meals instead. Eat high quality protein, healthy fats, and whole fruits and veggies. Your body knows what to do with these real  foods and will respond better to a diet focus on protein and fat than a carb dominant intake-especially if fat loss is your goal. If you are looking to maintain a healthy body weight then you need meals that keep your metabolism stimulated and promote fat burning. High quality protein will help keep you satiated and repair muscle tissues. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats will improve inflammation response and help your body burn stubborn belly fat. Whole fruits and veggies will provide the key nutrients needed for energy production and eliminating toxins from the body.

3.Fast Instead of Juicing

Intermittent fasting may be a much better approach to fat loss than juicing. By choosing to fast rather than consume a juice you allow your body to continue burning fat as a fuel source. When you drink juice it spikes your blood sugar and insulin, promoting fat storage rather than burning. Intermittent fasting can easily be achieved by setting up a 12 to 16 hour window of time for you to eat during. If you consume your last bite of food at 6pm then you don’t eat again until at least 6am the next morning. This is a great strategy to help you achieve the results you work hard for. Make sure you plan your eating window accordingly and you’re good to go!

Now that you have some alternatives to juice cleansing you can try these out and see which option is best for your success. If you have questions about a healthy diet that lines up with your lifestyle then connect with Sarah (nutrition@crossfitgsl.com) for more great advice.

Debunking 3 Big Stretching Myths


Debunking 3 Big Stretching Myths

Stretching is one of the most misunderstood practices in the realm of fitness and sports performance. A long standing staple in many training sessions, it is commonly performed incorrectly, performed at the wrong time, or avoided for the wrong reason.

By the end of this article you should be able to see the benefits of stretching and how to place it into your routine. Let’s take a closer look at what stretching is, when to do it, and debunk 3 of the most common myths about stretching.

    • Myth #1 Stretching makes you weak.
    • Myth #2 Stretching should not be performed before exercise or sport.
    • Myth #3 Stretching increases risk of injury.

 

Myth #1 Stretching makes you weak.

Stretching is sometimes avoided entirely. Especially by athletes who are concerned with losing strength or experiencing a decrease in performance. Holding long static stretches before executing a high intensity lift or movement may have an impact on the stretch shortening cycle of the muscle.

Most folks however, are not going hold a long passive hamstring stretch and immediately pop up into a heavy set of back squats or deadlifts. Proper stretching of the muscle requires breathing, relaxation, and a parasympathetic state to be performed correctly. Odds are that what most folks consider stretching is more like jamming their connective tissues, ligaments, and joints into aggressive end range of motion and uncomfortably holding them there until the pain is overwhelming. The positions are wrong. The intensity is too high. The body doesn’t relax. Stretching is not achieved.

Performing proper stretching has actually been shown to IMPROVE strength as the muscle is able to contract properly and generate force through a greater range of motion. But when and how should it be done? Let’s move on to myth #2.

Myth #2 Stretching should not be performed before exercise or sport.

Stretching before exercise or sport can actually increase performance. The key is knowing how long to stretch. A meta-analyses of studies around stretching and the ability to generate strength or power in subsequent effort found some pretty clear data.

Holding stretches for less than 30 seconds had no negative effect on the ability to jump, sprint, or produce force in resistance training movements. Holding stretches for 30 seconds or longer lead to decreases in the ability to produce force with longer stretch times leading to more significant decrease.

Key Takeaway: Perform dynamic stretching and short duration static stretching before exercise or sport. Take the muscles through a progressively increasing range of motion to improve circulation and prepare the body for performance.

Myth #3 Stretching increases risk of injury

Based on the first two myths being debunked you probably know where this one is heading… The idea that stretching increases risk of injury is tied in with the lack of knowledge around proper timing and execution of stretching protocols. In fact in today’s society where we spend more time sitting, in poor positions, with our shoulders hunched and necks cranked forward as we peer at our cellphones and computer screens.

We’ve already established a dynamic stretching and short duration (< :30 seconds) static stretching routine can help prepare the body for performance, but there is a huge benefit to longer duration static stretching post workout and during active recovery sessions. By addressing some commonly tight muscles like the pectoralis or psoas we are able to correct our bodies posture and alignment. Stretching these two muscles helps provide stability to the hip and shoulder joints and can significantly decrease injury risk.

So now that we’ve debunked some of the common myths around stretching you should feel confident about incorporating stretching into your training. If you need help with stretching, mobility, or any other training needs consider connecting with one of our trainers to find a plan that works for you.