Preparing for the Open

During the CrossFit Open, you need to be prepared for anything. Whether you’re scaling or going Rx, you will be challenged both physically and mentally.


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Preparing for the CrossFit Open

Preparing for the CrossFit Open​

The 2019 CrossFit Open registration has been released. Are you competing this year? Is this your first time or are you a seasoned Vet? To succeed at whatever level, it’s important to know what you’re up against and how to prepare.

What is the CrossFit Open?

The Open is the first Qualifying stage to make it to the CrossFit Games. It’s an opportunity for participants of all skill levels to pit their wits. Lasting 5 weeks, with a new workout each week, announced midday Friday (NZT). Athletes have until Tuesday at noon to complete the workout and register their score.

The format of qualifying for the Open has changed this year.

The Games are broken down into these stages:

The Open – Initial 5-week stage of competition, anyone can compete. The top 20 athletes qualify for the games.

Sanctioned events – 3-day invitational competition for the top athletes. The winners move on to The Games.

The Games – 4-day competition consisting of 40 men, 40 women, 40 teams. The Winner of each is earns the title, Fittest on Earth.

A large emphasis from the CrossFit brand is the community feel within each gym. The Open encompasses this on a global scale, as everyone can participate in the Open. It allows you to push a little harder, work on weakness’ and compare yourself against others.

What to expect from Open workouts

During a regular week of training it’s typical to expect the core foundational movements of CrossFit and WOD’s (Workout Of the Day) that you’re familiar with. The Open provides level of suspense in the wait for its announcement on the day. While keeping the foundational skills of CrossFit they always throw in unexpected movements to throw you off guard.

Sometimes they will repeat a workout from a previous Open, or use a new piece of equipment. In 2017 was the introduction of dumbbells to the WOD’s, which threw a lot of athletes off guard. 

How many times can I do an Open workout?

You have 4 days from Friday midday to Tuesday Noon to attempt the workout as many times as you want. This also depends on your gyms Open policy, as some only offer certain time periods.

Realistically though, you’re likely to attempt it only twice, sometimes three times depending on the workout. You’ll need time to recover from the first attempt by at least 1-2 days.

While it’s important to get the best result you can do. It’s also important to spend time at the gym to offer your mates moral support and help out as judges.

Prepare a workout strategy

If you’re doing this for the first time or just started training in CrossFit speak with your coach about a plan. Coaches will know your abilities and be able to offer you a realistic strategy to get the best result. The main thing for first timers, is to enjoy the experience.

For the more experienced athlete, you have trained long enough to know your limitations, your burn outs, you understand pace setting and max lifts. From this knowledge, whatever workout is announced you should be able to form an air tight strategy to get the best out of your ability.

Think about things like:

  • Where do I exert the most energy
  • How many reps before breaking
  • How to transition between equipment the fastest
  • What pace should I keep to maintain the best time
  • How long to take for a breather

Note: Once you’ve formed a plan let your judge know so they understand. You may also want to write it down to remain strict as you start to fatigue.

Being mentally and physically prepared

Preparing before the Open with only a few weeks to go, it’s unlikely you will learn new skills. Try to focus on the current ones you’re capable of and become more efficient at them. If you plan to do extra training, make sure you’re not over training. Try to focus the extra work on cardio, skill-based training or mobility.

The Open is equal if not more challenging to your mental capacity. This often is what sets two athletes apart. The ability to silence the voice inside that is telling you to stop. Strategies higher reps in your workouts leading up to Open before breaking. Also use visualisation techniques to be prepared in both mind and body.

Embrace the embarrassment or work on your weakness’

In CrossFit they call them goats. The movements you least enjoy and likely the ones your avoiding the most. The Open has the ability of exposing your weakness’. So rather than being exposed put in a little extra time after training to work on that skill. Whether it’s a double under you keep snagging or Olympic lift you’re struggling to catch. Getting better at these will improve your overall placement.

The Open does a good job at showing where your weak links are. Accept it and move on. The silver lining is that it provides you with an understanding of what needs more work for the new year.

Whether it’s your first or tenth time, embrace the experience. Put in a good effort have fun and support the other athletes.

How can Physio help

As mentioned the Open challenges you in so many ways and knowing where you’re failing already provides a tonne of information about which body part could be at fault and how to direct your treatment plan. If you find yourself struggling with an injury leading up to the Open or throughout the competition have a look online.

Throughout the Open as each workout is announced I will be uploading videos of mobility drills to help prepare you for the whats to come. Keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram. 

Copyright 2017 © All rights Reserved.

Training – Finding the Sweet Spot

Understanding your training load and tracking your acute:chronic ratio is a great tool of avoiding injury but seeing regular improvements when training.

Bourdon et al 2017

Understanding your abilities with training is a constant adaption. In the gym or on the training field, knowing your boundaries of training intensity will allow you get the best results and minimise risk of injury.

In 2016 there was conference in Doha, Qatar bringing many of the worlds leading sports science experts to discuss monitoring athletes training loads. This is Journal draws together the key points from the conference.

The importance of monitoring your training load is to get the best out of training and make improvements. But also tracking this figure helps minimise risk of injury.

Acute-Chronic Workload Ratio.jpg
Training loads of each session is referred to as ‘Acute’ workload, this is compared to each week throughout the year, it’s referred to as your ‘Chronic’ workload. The objective is to make sure there is no big spike in acute workload compared to chronic workload. A spike in acute workload will lead to fatigue, poor performance and increased risk of injury. As displayed in the diagram a ratio increase increase acute:chronic of more than 1.5 results puts you in the red zone that indicates a greater chance of injury. Also worth pointing out, taking your training level below 0.8 of your chronic workload, surprisingly showed a higher risk of injury.

Staying within the workload “sweet spot” is your goal to minimising injuries. It takes time to build up training load and this should be done gradually.

Measuring Training Load

To monitor your overall effort in your workout there is a simple method of combining:

Internal Load: These are the biological/psychological factors. This could be heart rate monitors, blood lactate levels or rate of perceived exertion.

External Load: Power output, speed and acceleration derived from GPS and accelerometer devices.

Tracking your training load is a great way of assessing your own capacity to handle the session. Over time this can provide information on training load adaptation.

Internal Road x External Road = Training Load

In CrossFit there’s too many variables to monitor with different workouts each day. Use your strength component to measure your external load, this will be a more consistent figure. Whether it’s a dead lift, back squat or strict press. Record internal load a rate of perceived exertion, using a visual analogue score, see below.

The acute:chronic workloads apply to all levels of athlete, not just beginners and people returning from injury. Even at the top level our training intensity needs to be tailored to our own individual needs.

Below is a summary of the journal.

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Bourdon et al. (2017) Monitoring Athlete Training Loads: Consensus Statement Int J Sports Physiol Perform Performance

Crossfit: Is it time to go Rx?

Are you at that point in your CrossFit training where you’re asking if it’s time to go Rx in a workout? Read on to make sure it’s safe and no risk of injury.

Have peace in the process and joy in the progress

For a seasoned athlete this question is almost a full gone conclusion in deciding to do the prescribed workout. But even then on any given day factors can play their part in deciding if they need to adjust the workout. For the newer athletes and the others that have just been plugging away and making progress on the scaled options, it can be tempting to move into the prescribed workouts.

What does “going Rx” really mean?

  • You can safely move with consistency even when under fatigue.
  • You understand the purpose of the workout and can complete it within or around the desired goal.
  • Your coach is confident with you doing the workout.

Safety and Consistency

It’s the main concern for anyone attempting to workout at a prescribed level for the first time. Developing your competency of individual skills in the strength phase of training is vitally important. But also being able to match it with consistency when doing multiple reps. It’s important to be honest with your ability.

Moving either your body or heavy weight inefficiently and inconsistently over multiple reps only increases the risk of injury. If it means you continue building strength with the scaled options, so be it. Most workouts will repeat 2-3 times per year, giving you another opportunity for the next one. 

Understand the purpose

Every time you walk into the gym and see the new workout on the board consider that there is a purpose to each one. Workouts are not just slapped together. The coach has programmed each workout to compliment the type of strength work you’re doing and the stage that you’re in, within the program.

Each individual workout is designed to expose your body to different metabolic demands. A workout designed to be a short 5-8 minutes is expectant for you to be able to train continuously during this time at a weight you can keep going. If you’re going Rx and taking long breaks, this defeats the object of the session.

The other side is doing a workout that’s meant to be long in duration testing stamina. If you’re scaling too low, this could get you through the workout much faster. While this looks good on the whiteboard you won’t get the intended aerobic demand to your body.

If you’re unsure about where your expected to finish or what weight would be appropriate….

Speak to the Coach

Coach has been watching you week by week and is aware of your abilities. They also understand the stimulus of each workout. So if you’re still unsure of what level you’re at, ask the coach. They’ll guide you on appropriate weight, pacing, expectation of finish time and offer scaling options if you’re injured or still not ready for a particular movement.

If the coaches decision is lower than your expectation, leave the ego at the door. This is for your own safety and you’ll still end up getting an effective workout.

Gradually you’ll find there’ll be days you can Rx and others you won’t. Remember that you can’t force the process. Keep working to your ability and progress will come.

Strength Training for Endurance

This is a literature review of the benefits of including resistance training into your running or cycling training programme.

Rønnestad 2014

For recreational runners and cyclists, strength training is not always considered important when developing increased pace, endurance and mechanics. But this paper from 3 years supports the involvement of explosive strength training as part of a training program for endurance runners/cyclists. With benefits of improved endurance to muscle fibres when in an anaerobic state, increased tendon stiffness and greater explosive power.

The study went on to find numerous benefits with the addition of strength training. And provided these recommendations.

  1. To improve the chance of increased endurance performance following a strength training program, the resisted exercises should engage similar muscle groups and imitate sport specific movements. This will result in firing up the same neural pathways connected with the motion of running or cycling.
  2. Force output may increase the ground strike in runners or force velocity in cycling if an explosive focus is put on the concentric phase of the muscle. For example pushing fast out of the back squat.
  3. At least 2 sessions per week of strength training to develop maximal strength over a 12 week program. Beginning with lighter loads in the first 3 weeks to learn correct form before increasing load. Working within 8-12 reps and 2-3 sets.

Some beneficial lifts for runners and cyclists would include back squats, dead lifts, hip thrusters and bent over rows.

Abstract

Here we report on the effect of combining endurance training with heavy or explosive strength training on endurance performance in endurance-trained runners and cyclists. Running economy is improved by performing combined endurance training with either heavy or explosive strength training. However, heavy strength training is recommended for improving cycling economy. Equivocal findings exist regarding the effects on power output or velocity at the lactate threshold. Concurrent endurance and heavy strength training can increase running speed and power output at VO2max (Vmax and Wmax , respectively) or time to exhaustion at Vmax and Wmax . Combining endurance training with either explosive or heavy strength training can improve running performance, while there is most compelling evidence of an additive effect on cycling performance when heavy strength training is used. It is suggested that the improved endurance performance may relate to delayed activation of less efficient type II fibers, improved neuromuscular efficiency, conversion of fast-twitch type IIX fibers into more fatigue-resistant type IIA fibers, or improved musculo-tendinous stiffness.

Rønnestad et al (2014). Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports

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Lunge Hip Mobility

The 2nd part of hip mobility focuses on your lunge shape. Having full access to hip extension will improve your running, throwing and kicking abilities.

This is the second part of the hip series. These hip shapes are positions that we should all be striving for to have confidence and feel safe to function if exposed to complex positions. 

Following on from the blog hip opener for the hinge shape is our next hip position we should try to achieve. The lunge shape is full extension and internal rotation of the hip with the knee positioned behind the hip and foot pointing forwards. This shape is most seen in lifters doing split jerks, kicking a football, ball throwing. But most commonly seeing this lack of range with runners, not utilising the full hip extension in the push off at the end of stance phase.

Over the years adaptive changes happen either through injury or more with positions we adhere to. The most common being sitting, which results in anterior structures of the hip becoming limited. Lacking the end range of this movement could mean we’re selling our self short of momentum, power or endurance.

Running-lunge

Using the picture of long distance runner Mo Farah, he demonstrates a great lunge shape at the hip. While maintaining a neutral spine he manages to reach full hip extension and toes are pointed forwards, maintaining the internal rotation of the hip. Lacking hip extension can compromise running form of the upper limb and spine. But as you can see he reaches a good press shape of the opposite shoulder in the arm swing making his running style extremely efficient and balanced.

Below are a series of stretches and mobility exercises to help improve your lunge shape.

Couch stretch

If hip flexors are tight this is one of the best stretches for improving length back. A long sustained hold of this stretch with full diaphragmatic breathing over 2 minutes is extremely effective.

Illiopsoas Trigger Point Release

This muscle sits within the abdominal cavity and if tight it will feel sore with pressure through the abdominal wall towards the muscle. At first the pain can be quite high but relaxing into the pressure overtime the pain subsides and will feel looser once released. Aim for 1-2 minutes hold.

Hip flexor stretch (with band)

Another hip flexor stretch with a joint mobilisation using a band. Position the knee behind the hip. Allow the band to pull the hip forwards, contract the glutes to get the best anterior hip stretch.

Quads and inner thigh release with LaX ball

A lacrosse ball is a great tool for isolating sections of tight muscle. Rolling on the ball like you would a foam roller will be more effective, if tolerated. Then opening up inner thigh/hip adductors using the kettle bell handle. The knee flexion/extension stretches the muscle through range while being tacked down.

Suspended split stretch

This is for the more adventurous. It will help your lunge go deeper while increase stretch through the hamstrings. Throughout this movement, it is important to keep the glutes switched on to avoid hanging of the hip capsules. Spend around a minute each direction.

Continue reading “Lunge Hip Mobility”

Hip Opener for Hinge Shapes

The hip hinge is an important movement in daily activities as well as in sports. Many people are unaware this movement exists and struggle with reaching their potential.

Many lifting injuries result from a lack of movement awareness and weakness of the posterior muscles. The hip hinge is a foundational movement for so many actions like deadlifts, squats, sprinting, jumping. Lacking an effective hip hinge is like racing a formula 1 car on flat tyres.

Developing a good hip hinge will improve the strength of the posterior chain. This includes muscles like the glutes, hamstrings and back extensors. The hinge movement is primarily coming from the hip. The goal is to maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, the hips start to bend with your butt moving backwards and minimal flexion in the knee. This will increase the tension on the hamstrings and glutes.

The majority of people find this pattern of movement unnatural, as it’s rarely practiced and in most cases, are quad dominant. This quad dominant pattern causes weight to be distributed anteriorly, which is fine with some activities, but most actions we need to be more engaged with our posterior chain.

hip hinge movements.jpg

 

Below are a series of stretches and strengthening exercises to help Improve your hip hinging abilities.

Weighted Hip Hinge

This exercises is a great way to warm up and encourage the hip back movement while fighting the resistance to maintain a neutral spine.

Banded Hip Distractions

These two movements are also great for warming up. Both encourage release of the hamstrings but also the band provides a traction force on the hip socket. This should allow the joint to move free’er and help you access more range in the joint.

Dynamic Hamstring stretch

This is a deeper stretch of the hamstrings. Having more flexibility here will help you hinge better at the hip which will off load the knees.

Jefferson Curl

This movement is a great way of developing movement segmentally and will help build strength when maintaining a stable spine. It’s important to note if you have a spinal injury to avoid this movement until you have gone through the appropriate phases of rehab.

Continue reading “Hip Opener for Hinge Shapes”

What’s in a warm up?

There’s a misconception with the warm up, that it’s mainly used to raise the heart rate and body temperature. But there’s much more to this part of your workout. If applied appropriately it can enhance your overall performance.

Warming up before sport or any strenuous activity it’s important to reduce the risk of injury (1-3). For the typical adult most of the day is sedentary (sitting or standing). Would you expect to jump straight into your fastest 100m sprint or complete a heavy dead lift? No is hopefully your answer.

What structures am I warming up?

Vascular System

When you move, changes happen to your circulatory system. There is increased blood flow to muscles, resulting in increased oxygen supply, along with delayed lactate buildup. 

Myofascial System

During the warm up the muscle and fascia (the connective tissue between muscles) begin to increase in temperature. Muscle fibers are prepped for a smoother contraction. A warm up allows fascia to slide easier.

Nervous System

This is the most important part of a warm up. Your nervous system is connected to every other system in your body. A warm up causes increased neural activity, increased sensitivity of nerve receptors and increased speed of nerve impulses. This provides improved balance, faster reaction times, increased speed, strength and flexibility. 


Warming Up Excites Neural Pathways

The nervous system is constantly responding to a multitude of sensory information to adjust muscle tension, movement patterns and balance. If a light jog was your standard “warm up”, but you’re training for heavy dead lifts. Will you have channeled the right neural pathways for this activity?

There’s a study showing improvements in vertical jump performance following sets of squat repetitions (4). It also demonstrated increased EMG neural activity following the squats.

A baseball study showed improvements in batting speed following warm ups with a weighted bat (5). This enhanced the neural motor pattern of this movement providing more speed and strength.


What’s in a warm up?

Really a lot depends on what you’re preparing for. Consider what muscle groups and movement patterns need to be primed. You need to be firing up your neuromuscular system and increasing your heart rate to enhance the vascular system.

Mobility – If you’re not doing this in your spare time, then check-in 10 minutes earlier to do foam rolling or some static stretches for those notorious tight areas.

Cardio – The best way of increasing your heart rate is a light jog or cycle, jump on the rower or practice some skipping.

Dynamic movements – This is where our nervous system gets kick started. Working on these movements will fire up movement patterns used when performing. These movements should engage our core stabilisors of the spine.

Plyometrics – Implementing this into your warm up will help fine tune your motor skills and ensure precision when training.

Explosive strength – Once going through the above warm ups. It helps to use extra resistance to improve those neural connections. Back squats before box jumps. Chest passing medicine ball for passing speed. Weighted overhead throw for spiking or serving.

Take the warm up seriously. By incorporating these actions to your warm up you will see great results and minimise injury.

  1. Emery et al, (2010) The effectiveness of a neuromuscular prevention strategy to reduce injuries in youth soccer: a cluster-randomised controlled trial. 
  2. McCrary et al, (2015) A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. 
  3. Al Attar et al, (2016) How Effective are F-MARC Injury Prevention Programs for Soccer Players? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med
  4. Sotiropoulos et al, (2010) Effects of Warm-Up on Vertical Jump Performance and Muscle Electrical Activity Using Half-Squats at Low and Moderate Intensity. J Sports Sci and Med
  5. McCrary et al, (2015) A systematic review of the effects of upper body warm-up on performance and injury. Br J Sports Med