November 4, 2011
Standards, Progress and “No Rep”!
November 8, 2011

Right off the bat, you knew something heavy was in store on Sunday just by the length of the warm-up:

3 x 5 Body Wt Rows (Rings or Bar), 10 Push-Ups, & 15 Squats
…followed by…
3 x 25 Band Good Mornings, 20 Spider Lunges, & 15 Sit-Ups

And so what did all this lead up to? Squats (not squat, squats!).

5 x 5 Squats

Class was divided up into 6 different groups and then given the task of working up to a 5rep max for the day. We talk about a lot of different cues for different pieces of the squat, like initiating with the hips or driving the knees out, but sometimes, it’s important to remember why we focus on these pieces. So let’s step back and see the whole forest rather than concentrating on a few different trees.

Get Tight – Stay Tight

Maybe you think “If I drop down fast, then I’ll save energy to come back up,” or “If I bounce, maybe just a little, at the bottom, it’ll help me come back up.” Maybe you don’t actually think it, and it just happens, a sort-of subconscious decision. Either way, it’s tempting, isn’t it? I mean, unlike the deadlift where we can let go and drop the weight, once that bar’s on our back, and we’re at the bottom of the squat, we HAVE to stand up with it. So, maybe if we, just, you know…a little??

NO. A million times no. The only way to properly squat (or deadlift, or press, or bench press) is to get tight, and then stay tight. The first, getting tight, involves drawing in as deep a breath as possible, holding the breath, and squeezing it in your belly (as opposed to in the chest – a big chest is important, but it won’t help you stabilize the lower spine). The second action, staying tight, involves tensing up every muscle in your body at one time, locking down the essential parts to create as stable a base as possible from which to initiate your lift. That includes grinding the heels into the floor (which not only tenses up our posterior chain, but also sets us up to keep our knees driven out when lifting). However, it also includes pulling the bar into your back, as if you were actively trying to bend the bar across your shoulders (which helps us tighten up our lats). Combined with our deep breath, our trunk should be well equipped to squat heavy.

Partner Met-Con:
10! Push-Ups, 10! Sit-Ups, 10! Burpees

With nearly 25 people in class, the met-con had to be simple, yet tough, space saving, yet intense. The result was a trio of 10! ladders (10! = 10-down-to-1) made up of push-ups, then sit-ups, and finally, the ubiquitous burpees. So, P1 does 10 push-ups, then P2 does 10 push-ups, then P1 does 9, etc., etc. until the pairing has finished all three ladders and called time.

Great work in a big class. Take the opportunity to rest up what I’m sure are some well-worked posterior chain muscles, and we’ll see everyone Tuesday.



  1. Erica says:

    I’m sore today (surprise surprise, I always seem to be sore). I was feeling particularly energetic yesterday and a few of us couldn’t seem to figure out if we had in fact PRed on the squats or not. There seemed to be an advantage to my not paying attention to how much weight was being placed on the bar, so that I wasn’t psyching myself out before I even stepped up to the bar. I hit (I think) 115# and felt pretty good, so maybe could go up a little more.

    I really struggled on the pushups on the metcon. I was talking to some peeps after class and was saying that even though I dropped to my knees (gulp) around 7, my arms were just spent and it was hard even from my knees to push off the ground. I felt okay on the sit-ups and burpeese. It’s weird, I reallly like burpees. Thanks everyone for being so welcoming to my sister!

  2. SBV says:

    The safety-bar squat is a nasty S.O.B. I found it to be brutal on my midsection, partly due to the fact that I was losing my lumbar curve at the bottom. I tried to sit back, but the weight seemed to get out in front of my center of gravity. I played it fairly conservative and worked at 190# for sets across. Definitely want to give this movement another shot in the near future, maybe for box squats?

  3. edgy reggie says:

    Love those squats! (Everyone should know by now how much of a squat fan I am.)

    Back squats: I was in the “at-least-six-foot-tall” group (Jason, Adam, Tom “Hammer” A., and yours truly). For the most part, I concentrated more on my form (especially the depth) and less on the weight I was squatting. My work sets were 185# x 5, 225# x 5, 235# x 5, 245# x 5, and 255# x 5. As the loads increased, I felt good. In addition, I helped Adam and Jason with their form as well as evaluate Tom A.’s squats. Nice work all around from the group.

    Thanks to Tom “Hammer” A. and Coach Tom for the critiques on my form.

    Met-con: I was in a group with Greg and Kyle. Greg and I did the “partner one” set, and Kyle did the “partner two” set. Here is a surprise: I felt good on the burpees. In fact, I was a bit surprised on the amount of energy I had with respect to the burpees. I guess there is a bit of “burpee love” in me (but it still is not a lot). Props to Kyle for soldering on and finishing (I know it wasn’t easy).

    On another note, 10! (as mentioned in the blog) is 10 factorial which equals 3,628,800. That’s a whole lot of reps! 🙂 I understand what the notation was attempting to accomplish (maybe “10 => 1” would be a better way of stating it), but the math major/mathematician in me couldn’t let it slide. 🙂

    Post-class: Julia and I resumed our “Double-Unders 101” session (everyone is invited; no one is turned away), and Erica joined us for a few double-under attempts. Later, I “rewarded” my workout efforts with a feast: shrimp-and-chorizo cheese grits, collard greens, and tiramisu (yep, I made them all). Zone friendly? Maybe. Maybe not. Delicious? Hell-to-the-yes! 🙂

    Just like Ice Cube said, “Today was a good day.” 🙂

    “Not too bad for an old man.” – CFDC’s own ODB

  4. edgy reggie says:

    @Coach Salty: Great write-up on why one should always control the descent of a squat.

  5. Amelia says:

    I hadn’t done squats in awhile so felt good to get back to them.
    Worked up to 115# and did 3 sets of 5 at that weight. Probably could have gone heavier but was working on depth and form. Thanks Steph for checking me!!

    Erica and I partnered on the Metcon and cleary have different strengths. I was able to push through all the pushups but was much slower on the burpees than the burpee machine. Good Metcon though – simple but challenging and all movements that are important.

    Definitely sore today from the pushups!

  6. Katie says:

    Some very sore hips made Sunday’s class(es) tough for me, but I enjoyed learning a lot about form.

    Chris worked with me on push presses at the 9:00 class; it was amazing how much easier push presses were than regular presses. I need to remember to keep the weight close to my midline and not let it travel forward…the head movement on presses kind of reminds me of a pigeon, going back then forward to finish. Chris’s advice to take a deep breath before I press helped as well. The cool part about that was getting to see Chris really put that into action when he did his back squats!

    I stuck to light weight (15# and 30# bars) for the back squats, as to not make any soreness worse and really get the form down.

    I teamed up with Dana for both the back squats and metcon, and she was great to work with – a very quick learner. It was funny, as she was doing push-ups I reminded her to keep her elbows as close to her sides as possible, be sure to get a full range of motion and drop to her knees if needed. Not sure when it happened, but I think I drank the Kool-Aid! I still have much to learn, but I’ve already learned a ton in my first month.

    I did enjoy the ring rows, in part because it’s so easy to scale without needing to move anything but your feet. Here’s hoping I will one day have anything but total hatred of burpees. :o)

  7. Tom Brose says:

    Reggie, the fault was not Chris’, but mine. I didn’t explain the workout well enough, it actually was supposed to be 10! burpees, but we only did 55. That leaves us 3,628,745 burpees just to get back on track. I’m sure we’ll get caught up by the years end.

    Some impressive squatting going on yesterday. Chris could not have put it any clearer,you need to get tight to lift heavy. It should be uncomfortable before you take the bar off the rack! Full body power requires full body tension. Heavy weights require maximum spinal support.

  8. Steph says:

    We haven’t done heavy squats in awhile and it was a lot of fun. The metcon was a great burner and it’s very cool that we could have a great metcon in the studio even with such a big class.

    I really enjoyed reading the blog entry, particularly the section about controlled descend and deep breath in. I used to be guilty of not doing either of those things, but thanks to the hip injury, I had to quickly learn to control my descend or fucked up hip again. But I still have trouble taking a deep breath into my belly. I want to blame it on that the weight is too heavy for me to get air in there, but I know I just need to work on it more.

    I think my last set was 130lbs. I was happy with that after not having lifted heavy in awhile. I feel I had more in me, maybe 5-10 more pounds. Next time.

    Partnered with Sofia on the metcon. She was so fast that I tried my best to not slow down so she didn’t have to wait too long. Subbed crunches for sit-ups. I went to my knees for the push-ups after the first few sets also. There was no way I could’ve done all the push-ups with chest to the floor without going to my knees, and even then it was still tough. Burpees actually sucked much less than the push-ups. Sofia and I finished at 11’15.

    It was crazy how fast Chris and Tim were going. 9 minutes? That’s just insane!

    Looking forward to tomorrow!

  9. SaltyHat says:

    Egads, I knew my lack of mathematics would catch up to me sooner or later – I should’ve been smarter than to go posting such arithmetic shorthand on a public forum.

    In truth, I’ve borrowed the notation from various fitness-related websites, including most recently CrossFit Endurance ( I realize that doesn’t completely excuse my lack of mathematical-license, but hey, I think we’re all comfortably aware that, when it comes to numbers, I am the wrong coach to turn to (technique, yes; numbers, not so much). Now if only I could get everyone to concentrate on their form as much as they do on my barely-coherent fitness-related drivel…

    Awesome to have Erica’s sister, Dana, in class with us on Sunday – no doubt about it now, that exuberant motivation runs throughout the entire Merson-bloodline. Also, props to Kyle for his first full class after finishing Foundations this past week – you definitely took the workout in stride, and I was impressed by your ability to incorporate the suggestions to the burpees mid-workout. And, of course, as always Katie, you did fantastic! And don’t worry, if we can cure Dian of her hatred for burpees, we can do the same for you.

    Thanks for the shout out Steph – I promise, I never pay for such exultations (now then, Ms. Li, how would you like your steak cooked tonight?) Really, Tim’s a lot of fun to work with – he’s built to be a monster, but never fails to encourage and congratulate those around him. I think Tom gave him one cue on Sunday, and not only did he apply it immediately, but he decided to remain at the same weight the following round to ensure that he had fully absorbed it. Inspiring.

  10. Sara says:

    WOW My hamstrings are sore.

    I first want to give huge shout out to the awesome squatting at the bar where I was working. As I am sure it was awesome at everyone elses station too. But here goes:

    – Dana hit 5 at 130 which surpassed her old one rep max and a weight she never even attemped before

    – Dian hit 5 at 125 and

    – Julia was very inspiring with 3 at 220

    It was so exciting to watch and spot for each of these women.

    My sets went as follows:

    If I had even one more squat to do on that last set I don’t think I would have gotten it. I think these number were right on for me.

    Dana, Julia and I partnered for the metcon. Dana and I went at the same time giving Julia plenty of rest while Julia was done with her reps in no time. The push-ups were definitely the hardest part.

    Nice job to everyone in class. It was pretty organized for the massive number of people in class.

  11. Ben says:

    My hamstrings are ridiculously sore today. Those safety bar squats caught up with me. I worked with Ethan, SBV, and Greg for the squats. Mostly stayed around 190, but my max set was 210. Really had to focus on getting my chest up and not letting the weight push me forward. Thanks to SBV for the cues when I was getting too far forward.

    I partnered with Adam on the met-con. Have to say that I was impressed with Adam’s endurance on the burpees. Nice work.

  12. Arbi says:

    Wasn’t able to make it to class this last Sunday due to some solid beligerent drinking the night before, but came in Sunday afternoon for a workout.

    Tom was around and showed me a solid muscle up progression that I worked on for a good 10-15 minutes. I’ll get these soon!

    I followed that up with some Split Jerk work and into the following DWOD from my buddy’s box out in California:

    “This is Your Baseline on Drugs”
    3 rounds for time:
    500m row (or 400m run)
    40 jump squats
    30 KB swings (2 pood/ 1.5 pood)
    20 Push-ups (competition)10 pull-ups (chest-to-bar)
    workout reference:

    After this workout, I’ll probably never touch another drug again.

    I used a 24kg KB, and had to substitute in assisted push-ups/pull-ups by the end of the thing. I even cut down the last round in half so I wouldn’t pass out.
    Time: 24:12