Sunday, February 28, 2010

Week 15 Day 6

Trainer's Workout:

For Time:
200 meter run
20 Wall Ball
15 Ring Dips
400 meter run
20 Wall Ball
15 Ring Dips
200 Meter Run

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 15 Day 5


1.Clean+Jerk- 5x1 above 80%

2.Box Jump- 10x1 above 42"

3.Dunk attempt-10x1

4.Deadlift- 5x3 above 80%

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week 15 Day 4


1. 6x1 Snatch (all reps above 80% of 1RM)

2. 7x3 Front Squat (all reps above 80% of 1RM)

3. 3x 25 GHD Sit-ups
25 Back Extensions

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Game Day

Recently Debbie Premo, a CrossFit Marinite, posted a gigantic list of questions in the comments section of the blog post in which I relayed my results from the PW Championships. The pervasive theme of Debbie’s questions was the athlete’s approach to “game day.” Here are Debbie’s questions and my answers:

Debbie: What do you do to contribute to your success for your 45 seconds or so of actual performance? It's not like you can recreate the environment of an actual competition as part of your usual training--the crowds, the standing around, etc.

Ben: The best way to mimic a weightlifting competition is to rehearse it. One of the luxuries of competitive weightlifting is that the happenings on game day are relatively predictable. I know that I am going to lift six times (three Snatch attempts and three Clean & Jerk attempts) and I know that I will have somewhere between 2 and 8 minutes to recover between lifts. So I rehearsed it. Exactly one week before the competition I participated in my own pseudo-competition at CrossFit Marin. I tested out my openers (the weights that I started with in the Snatch and Clean & Jerk) and got a good feel for the jumps that I planned to make during the competition.

Debbie: I know you drove up from SF to Sacto that morning--was it just another long car ride, or were you nervous? What did you do to stay relaxed?

Ben: I actually wasn’t very nervous during that car ride. I was a tiny bit worried about getting there on time and not missing the exit off of the highway, but all in all I wasn’t too nervous during the ride. I started to get nervous when I entered the gym and saw some people competing. Whenever I get nervous like that before a competition or a workout I remind myself that if I am not nervous there is something wrong. If one’s central nervous system is not running full steam before a competitive scenario, then that person’s body and mind are not ready.

Debbie: Do you have some favorite music that you listen to?

Ben: I listen to rap (something along the lines of Andre Nickatina, Zion I, or 50 cent) when I train at CFM. So I don’t change anything on game day, just more of the same old tunes.

Debbie: Once you're there, I suspect there might have been lots of standing around and uncertainty until your turn to perform? How did you manage that?

Ben: There was a bit of standing around, but not too much. I was definitely nervous, but I was confident too. I knew that I had trained intelligently for the past couple of months and I was confident that my preparation would beget good results. When I am really nervous before a competition I like to use a breathing technique that I learned from the performance menu ( I take a deep breath in and say “strong, strong, strong” in my head and as I slowly exhale I say, “relax, relax, relax” in my head. There are tons of other equally effective techniques. My post on “The Art of Olympic Yawning” states that forcing a big yawn before competition triggers the production of neurotransmitters that put the mind and body at ease. Also, Jon Seitz, an athlete at CFM taught me a new relaxation technique last night, in which you take a big breath in, elongate your exhale as long as possible, and cough as emphatically as possible.

Debbie: Did you get hungry? Feel like just the smell of food would make you hurl?

Ben: After I finished the snatches I felt really light-headed, not necessarily hungry, but I knew I needed some food if I was going to perform well in the Clean & Jerk. So I ate some chicken and a couple of tangerines (courtesy of coach Russell Bruel). After that little power snack I felt lucid and my energy skyrocketed. And no, the smell of food didn’t make me want to hurl.

Debbie: I know my friends who run marathons say game day is all about fluid management--in all ways one must manage that. Were things like that even relevant?

Ben: Drinking an adequate amount of water is immensely important for all athletes. When one is dehydrated, they will feel sluggish and their muscles will tighten up. That being said, the biggest difference between marathon runners and Olympic weightlifters is in the duration of the activity. Marathons can last up to 6 hours and the total amount of time spent lifting at a weightlifting competition will only amount to about 45 seconds. Consequently, game day hydration is much more important for the runner. I just approached hydration the same way that I do on a day-to-day basis. I think that I put away 2 full 32 ounce water Nalgenes before the competition. The only caveat to the water intake of a competitive weightlifter is that you weigh in before a weightlifting competition. So if I were attempting to cut down to a certain weight I probably wouldn’t drink any water until after the weigh-in (about 2 hours before the competition). I am light for the 94kg weight class so that wasn’t an issue.

Debbie: How about rituals or techniques you use to stay calm and focused on game day? I have a silly ritual before a very heavy lift (well, heavy for me, it’s all relative...) of moving the lower cuff of my sweats outward from my shin before I push the bar onto my shin--silly stuff like that. How about you, any rituals or habits like that which you continued at the PWA?

Ben: My pre-lift routine is to take a deep breath in (saying “strong, strong, strong” in my head), followed by a big drawn out exhale (saying “relax, relax, relax” in my head), then I chalk up my hands, do a small pre-emptive fist pump (see my post on “The Mental Approach,” 12/17/09), continually replay a successful lift and the corollary feeling of a successful lift in my head and then I finally lift the bar.

Debbie: And how about the other athletes? Did you notice what they did or didn’t do? How about antics they may have pulled to mess with their competition?--you know, try to unnerve the competition?

Ben: Most of the competitors were very low key and didn’t really stand out much aside from their impressive technique and the incredibly large loads they threw over their heads. John North was the only athlete who really stood out. John is an incredible lifter (he snatched 150kgs and clean & jerked 176 kgs), but his lifts paled in comparison to his absolutely insane pre-lift routine, which was more reminiscent of a theatrical performance than something you would see at a weightlifting competition. John would run out from behind bleachers and start jumping up and down with his arms out (gesturing for the crowd to make more noise). Then John pushed the bar and danced around it as if he were sparring with it. John proceeded to engage in some positive self-talk (almost all successful athletes do some form of internal positive self-talk) out loud. Before his Clean & Jerks John yelled, “Pendlay, Pendlay (the name of his coach) . . . Snatch this, Snatch this” (meaning that he could snatch the weight as easily as he was about to clean & jerk it). John set the PWA record with his 150kg snatch. It was pretty amazing to watch John’s performance in person.

Debbie: And, did you do anything materially different at the PWA compared to a regular training day?

Ben: Other than producing an insane amount of adrenaline, I didn’t do anything different than a typical training day at CFM.

Week 15 Day 3

Rest Day

Week 15 Day 2

Active Rest Day

1) Jumprope

2)ROM exercises

3) Trigger Point Work

4) Stretching

(Really destroyed myself last week so I am taking an extra day off)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Week 15 Day 1

Rest Day

Week 14 Day 7


5x5 Front Squat

5x5 Deadlift

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Week 14 Day 6


1. 5x3 Back Squat @75%

2. 20x1 Dunk attempts

Week 14 Day 5


1. 5x1 Snatch (all sets above 75%)

2. 7x3 Overhead Squat

3. 4x1 Turkish Get-up

4. 5x10 Overhead Weighted Sit-up

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Olympic Art of Yawning

Snowboarders are flying through the air, moguls are being speedily traversed, skaters are gracefully gliding on the ice, and the Canadian hockey team is destroying the competition. What does this all mean? It means that we are smack dab in the middle of another awesome winter Olympics.

What interests me most about the winter games is the astonishing mental preparation and psychological strategies that all of the successful athletes utilize in order to perform their best in astonishingly stressful and nerve racking scenarios. I respect professional football, basketball, and baseball players enormously, but their day-to-day performance is nowhere near as meaningful as the performance of an Olympic athlete. In conventional pro sports there is a championship every year, so if you don’t win the Super Bowl in 2010, your sights are set on the 2011 Super Bowl.

The Olympics, on the other hand, come only once every four years, and the stakes consequently rise astronomically. Not to mention the insane pressure that each athlete’s home country places upon them. For example, when The Netherland’s Sven Kramer raced in the 5000-meter speed skating final this past Saturday it was estimated that 97% of the population of the Netherlands was watching Kramer. The weight of an entire country was on Kramer’s shoulders. He ended up winning the gold medal, and lived up to his country’s high expectations.

What allowed Kramer to win this race? Obviously, he spent long hours on the ice, had a solid strength and conditioning regimen, and some very strong genetics. But doesn’t every Olympic athlete possess all of these qualities? The simple answer is yes. So then, what allowed him to win the gold? It was his mental approach.

I am sure that Kramer practiced visualization and positive mantra sports psychology techniques to prepare for the race, but that is just speculation. I can guarantee that Kramer used one mental preparatory technique, because I saw him use it just before his race.

What was his technique? He yawned. Before each of his races last Saturday almost every time the camera went in for a close up Kramer was in the middle of a big drawn out yawn. I am sure that this sounds absolutely absurd, but there is a very logical explanation for it. When one yawns it triggers the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which directly correlate with a state of relaxation and calm. I am sure that Kramer and all of the other speed skaters in his race were extremely nervous and could have used some much-needed relaxation.

I have been watching a lot of the speed skating and Apolo Ohno and Shani Davis of the USA speedskating team have been using the same yawning technique before their races. Ohno has already won a silver medal and is in contention for two more and Davis is the favorite in the long track 1000 and 1,500. So, maybe there is a method to the (yawning) madness.

I am definitely going to test this out the next time I am nervous before a weightlifting competition.

Week 14 Day 3


1. Clean and Jerk- 1 rep max

2. Front Squat- 8x2

3. 2x 30 GHD sit-ups+ 25 Back Extensions
2x 12 GHD sit-ups+ 12 Back Extensions (w/ 20lb weight vest)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Week 14 Day 2


3x1 Clean and Jerk @ 75%

5x3 Backsquat

5x3 Dips

Monday, February 15, 2010

Big PR on Snatch

I hit 90kg today on the snatch,which is a 5.5kg improvement from my last PR from 10 days ago.

Week 14 Day 1


1. Snatch- 1 rep max

2. Snatch Push Press- 5x5

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week 13 Day 7

Active Rest Day

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More Sleep= Better Performance

I have said it before and I am going to say it again. Sleep (in mass quantities) is an essential aspect of a successful training regimen.

A recent article in the NY Times covers this very topic:

The article states that a handful NBA teams have dropped their morning shootarounds in an effort to allow their players to get more sleep. NBA games typically end around 10PM and by the time players have showered, been interviewed, and had something to eat they will normally not be in bed until 3 AM or 4AM. The vast majority of NBA teams hold what they call a shootaround the morning before a game. NBA teams typically play 6 games a week and are consequently guaranteed to frequently play back to back games, which normally entails going to bed late and getting up early for a shootaround (early being relative, something like 8AM).

NBA players are playing 48 minutes of high intensity basketball 6 nights a week and their bodies take a beating. Performing optimally night in and night out on 5 hours of sleep is simply unrealistic. Most notably the San Antonio Spurs, the Boston Celtics and the Portland Trailers have dropped their AM shootarounds. It is no surprise that their nightly performance has sky rocketed.

Doc Rivers, the coach of the Celtics, was quoted in the article. ““If you go three, four, five days in a row with less than six hours of sleep, your reaction time is comparable to that of someone legally drunk,” Rivers said. “You’re trying to play a basketball game where just a 10th of second, a degree off, throws your whole game off.”

So sleep more and you will perform like an NBA player... maybe not, but it is an undeniable fact that sleep restores neurons and sleeping 8-10hours a night will do wonders for one’s mental clarity, focus, and physical performance. To quote Robb Wolf ( “Sleep as much as you can without getting divorced or fired...and if the marriage is shaky and the job is lame, just sleep as much as you can.”

Week 13 Day 6

Trainer's WOD:

2k Row For Time

(Definitely a good WOD to finish off the adaptation week. I haven't done anything this aerobic in about 9 months)

Friday, February 12, 2010

NEW Deadlift PR

I know, I know... I am doing an adaptation week so I shouldn't be deadlifting, but when I came into the gym today I just had an itch to go for a one rep max I did. I picked up 183.45kg (406lbs). My goal for the next couple of months is to pick up 200kg.

Week 13 Day 5


1.Deadlift- 1 rep max

2.Ring set- 3x muscle-up, 3 dips, L-sit, and 2 skin the cat

3.5x 50 meter Overhead carry (40lb vest+ 155lb barbell overhead)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Post-Workout Nutrition

Post workout nutrition is a bit more complex than pre-workout nutrition in my opinion. The food (or lack there of) that one consumes following a workout is entirely predicated upon the duration of the workout, the type of exercise (i.e., strength-based, aerobic, or anaerobic (glycolitic)), and the number of times that one is engaging in this activity on a daily basis.

For example, I have been training mostly strength-based workouts lately, once a day, with an occasional, small dash of anaerobic activity (maybe one short CF WOD a week, or a series of short sprints). Given the fact that the type of training that I do regularly does not drain my glucose stores and the fact that I only train once daily I don’t really see the need for a post-workout meal. I will usually take in a high protein, high fat meal with some low glycemic vegetables (what the vast majority of my meals consist of) somewhere between one and three hours following my workouts. This has worked very well for me through the “Quest.” The manner in which I address post workout eating is applicable to any strength or short duration activity athletes because it addresses the fact that muscle stores need to be repaired (protein does this) and my muscle glycogen (glucose stores) have not been depleted very much so there is no need for a ton of high glycemic carbohydrates. For example my style of post-workout eating would work well with100 meter sprinters, high jumpers, throwers, and baseball players.

In an effort to address the approach to post-workout nutrition for more glycolytically demanding sports I am going to describe the ideal post-workout dietary tactics for a hard charging CrossFit athlete. Let’s say that we have a CrossFit games competitor named Bill and Bill trains CF WODs twice a day on a 3 on 1 off rotating schedule. Bill should be getting the bulk of his daily carbohydrates with a dash of protein in his post-workout feeding window (when glucose stores are most deplete--within 30 minutes of a workout). Ideally Bill would be taking in some sweet potatoes (or other starchy plant-based carbs) and some protein (ideally meat protein).The starch will replenish his muscle glycogen and prepare him for his next workout, while the protein will elicit a glucagon response and enhance the restorative process within his fatigued muscles. Marathon runners, MMA fighters, and any other glycolytically demanding sport (basketball and soccer are also good examples) would attack the post workout feeding window in a very similar manner.

There are also many other interesting ways to tackle post-workout nutrition. I have heard of bodybuilders who eat one insanely large, protein only, meal (2-4 pounds of meat) a day immediately following their workouts. This is a very sneaky way to confront the post-workout feeding window because the meal is entirely ketogenic (just protein and fat), yet the meal will also fill glucose stores simply because it is so large (eliciting a somewhat large insulin response). This type of meal also delivers the body with an onslaught of essential amino acids.

Although I give some pretty concrete examples above, the only way to determine what approach is best for you or your athletes is through experimentation—trying different strategies and seeing how you look, feel, and perform.

What is your post workout meal? When do you eat it? Do you eat one at all?

Week 13 Day 4

Rest Day

(Wanted to work out today, but I'm fighting off a nasty bug)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Before I dive into this juicy topic, I want to make it clear that everyone reacts differently to various nutritional approaches, so the only true way to determine one's best nutritional strategy is through experimentation. In that same vein, the way in which one eats throughout an entire day is significantly more important than simply focusing on the hours before, during, after training.

Pre-workout nutrition is pretty simple. In my humble opinion entering a workout in a somewhat fasted state, will encourage optimal performance. I would advise not eating anything within 3 hours of a workout (especially if that workout is a fast paced met con). Everybody’s digestive system is slightly different and some people might be able to get away with wolfing down an entire meal 30 minutes before they do Fran (CrossFit WOD) for example.

Digestive diversity aside, I would still argue that everyone at least consider training in a fasted state for a couple of reasons. First of all, following the consumption of a somewhat large meal, gastric emptying occurs, meaning that a large percentage of one’s blood flow goes to the stomach to aid in the digestive processes as opposed to continuing to circulate throughout the body. Systematic blood flow does not occur in a state of gastric emptying, consequently exercising during this period of time will not lead to optimal performance nor an optimal hormonal response. That leads to my second reason for training on an empty stomach—it increases human growth hormone and the overall exercise induced anabolic response and consequently increases muscle growth (study on this theory The increased anabolic response that occurs during and after “fasted” (not eating within 3+ hours) training is a compensatory response to the catabolism that occurs when training on an empty stomach.

So if you are not already training “empty” give it a try for a week or two and see how you look, feel and perform. For those craving (no pun intended) more regarding nutrition in conjunction with training my next post will cover post-workout eating.

Week 13 Day 3


10 x 100 meter sprint (up steep stairs)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Week 13 Day 2


1. 5x3 HSPU

2. 5x 100 meter Farmer's walk (adding weight each round)

(This week is an "adaptation week," meaning that I will be training movements that I do not normally train)

Week 13 Day 1

Rest Day

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Quest

As I approach the final day of my 12-week quest for dunkage I feel pretty good about what I have accomplished, but I am nowhere near being satisfied. My original goals at the beginning of the program were to dunk a basketball and have an Olympic lifting total of 200 kilograms. With one day left (in the 12 weeks) my Olympic lifting total (combination of the Snatch and Clean and Jerk) is 198.5kg and I am able to dunk a mini basketball slightly larger than a softball. Although I did not fully accomplish either of my goals I made gigantic improvements and learned a great deal about how to effectively implement a goal-oriented training regimen.

I am planning on maintaining a very similar training regimen and continuing to train towards my goal of dunking a basketball. I am confident that my oly numbers will improve steadily if I continue to train and research as avidly as I have over the course of the last three months. I will keep the blog going as I continue to train towards “dunkage.”

Lately I have been reading a ton of literature written by the head of Westside Barbell—Louie Simmons( Westside is an incredibly successful power lifting gym in Ohio and Louie swears by an “adaptation week” after every four weeks of training. During an “adaptation week” one trains entirely different exercises or modalities in an effort to allow the body to adapt to the stress that had been placed upon it and congruently ward of plateaus in training.

So for as long as it takes me I am going to continue to train the Olympic Lifts, plyometrics, and the occasional CrossFit WOD in an effort to allow myself to dunk a basketball. I will conduct an adaptation week on the fifth week of my training cycle in which I will participate in activities that I have not trained in the previous four weeks. For example I am planning on focusing primarily on gymnastics during my adaptation weeks.

On a side note...Is there any subject matter that anyone would like me to post on? I have been posting on topics that I find interesting, but I would be more than happy to address anything that anyone is curious about.

Week 12 Day 7


1. Back Squat- 5x2 @ 80%

2. Dunk attempts- 10x1

Week 12 Day 6

Coaches' WOD:

10:00 minute AMRAP

5 Chest to Bar Pull-ups
10 Burpees
15 1.5 Pood KB swings
20 Double Unders

Friday, February 5, 2010


Hit a new snatch PR today...84.54kg. I barely missed 90, so I am going to try that again within the next couple of weeks.

Week 12 Day 5


1. Snatch- 1 Rep Max

2. 4x 30 GHD sit-ups + 25 Back Extensions

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Week 12 Day 4


1. 5x3 Front Squat

2. 5x3 Shoulder Press

3. Handstand and Pullover work

Week 12 Day 3

Rest Day

Week 12 Day 2


Snatch Balance to Snatch Complex @ 80%

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Results from the PWA Championships

As you guys know I participated in the PWA championships on Saturday. I was a bit disappointed in my performance on the Snatches. I hit my firt attempt at 78kg and then missed my next two attempts at 82kg (which were very close). I hit all three of my attempts on the clean and jerk, finishing with 114kg (250lbs and a PR).

Week 12 Day 1

Active Rest Day