December 23, 2011
December 30, 2011

With the majority of the Holidays out of the way and classes back on schedule, it seemed appropriate to kick things off with some barbell work.

 6 x 3 Front Squats 

 Just under 3 weeks ago, we went to some lengths in discussing the big keys for success in the front squat (flexibility and mobility) as well as the lead-off cue (initiate with the hips). Initiating with the hips starts the descent, and sets us up for better posture and control as we reach the bottom of the squat and ready ourselves to come back up. Appropriately enough, this time around we’re going to focus on the second big cue for the front squat: drive up with the elbows / drive with the elbows / drive the elbows up.

First, let’s look at the inverse of ‘driving up with the elbows,’ which is to cue on driving the feet into the floor and simply stand up with the weight (a decent cue for a heavy back squat); unfortunately, this will cause the hips to shoot up, putting the weight even farther forward in the front squat. When the weight shifts forward, the hands and wrists are now supporting the bar – not the shoulders – and the back will round over, with the neck often jutting forward, in an attempt to maintain the neutral position. In essence, we have created a slightly upright version of a bad deadlift, where the back is now doing the work to right the body and stand the weight up. Instead, initiate the ascent of your front squat by driving the elbows up first (in short form: “drive the elbows up”).

Starting with the elbows – instead of the hips – will keep the weight from tipping forward and allow the torso to stay upright, especially when standing with the weight. Preserving this vertical position, with the chest up and scapula back and down, is vital to finishing a heavy front squat.

 Of course, the same positioning is true for other movements involving the front squat position, such as wall balls, cleans, and thrusters. So what do you imagine came next?

8min AMRAP Cluster/Burpee Ladder 

 As programmed, each athlete had 8 minutes to see how high up the cluster/burpee ladder they could climb, adding an additional rep of each exercise with each additional round. Thus, the first rung was 1 cluster and 1 burpee, the second rung was 2 of each, the third three of each, and so on. The Cluster is a Clean and Thruster combo, and athlete’s had the option to either squat clean the weight right into a thruster, or perform a power clean and then thruster the weight.

The thruster is an awkward marriage of front squat and push press, neither of which are simple to perform perfectly on their own, but infinitely more difficult when put together. This is because the ideal front squat uses a different elbow position than the ideal push press. The front rack position is hard enough, but in the thruster, a lifter must not only have a solid front rack, with the elbows up as high as possible, but must then be able to transition mid-lift into a solid push press position, where the elbows are only slightly forward of the bar with the hands gripping the bar.

 It was great to see so many people raring to go after the short holiday break, and lots of good form to boot. Classes are back to their normal schedule, including both a 9am Elements and regular 10am class this coming Sunday (New Years Day). Of course, when I say regular, I mean regular only in the sense that it will be at the regular time; there just might be something special in the works for the first day of the New Year. 

Also, some announcements:

 (1) Paleo Challenge – if anyone is interested in trying (or getting back on) a Paleo regimen, CFDupont is kicking off the New Year with a 30day Paleo Challenge beginning the first week of January. There will be pre- and post-measurements (weight and body fat), as well as a few prizes for those dropping the most body fat;  

(2) Inner-Gym Competition – to conclude the challenge, any member of CFBalance, CFDupont, and CFDC is invited to participate in an inner-gym “Smackdown” to tentatively take place on February 4th. More details to come, but if you’re interested, please let Tom or I know; 

 (3) Crossfit Games Open Qualifiers – the Open kicks off at the end of February (a scant 9 weeks away!), and I highly encourage any and all of you to think about competing. We will be running all of the workouts at the gym, so you don’t have to worry about travel, crowds, etc. This is a great opportunity to take part in some great workouts and help encourage your fellow athletes. Again, if you have interest (or simply want to ask questions), please feel free to catch Tom or I.



  1. Steph says:

    It felt great to get back into things last night! And what could be better than heavy squats to get back on track?!

    I am pretty sore today though, good sore of course!

    I worked with Erica and Julia. I don’t ever get to work with Julia because she’s always in the strongest-ladies group, it was great working with and watching her last night. Maybe it was Julia that inspired me to go heavier and hit a new PR! PRed at 125lbs for 3. I think the 2nd and 3rd reps were better as they were more controlled, the 1st rep I dropped too fast. Actually I think everyone in my group PRed last night. Right, ladies? Nice front squat picture, Erica!

    I finished the metcon with 3 reps short of completing 7 rounds using 65lbs. As great as it was to be back, I did not have the drive to push through the pain last night as I did before Christmas. Took a lot of rest and when I finally decided to push it to finish round 7 it was too late.

    It was great to see everyone returning from the holidays! Looking forward to Thursday and especially Sunday! Hopefully I’ll be able to bring my A game that day!

  2. Katie says:

    Oh wow, how did I forget about the front squats 3 weeks ago?

    I worked with Doron and Anna on the front squats. I did 40#, and struggled not to pitch forward when coming up…working on driving my elbows up. I wasn’t too happy with that weight, but looking back and seeing I went up 10# from 3 weeks ago, I’m much happier. It was awesome watching all the other ladies in particular do front squats, so awesome! Something to strive for!

    I subbed DB thrusters for the clusters and started with 15# DBs, then dropped to 12.5# after about round 3. I finished 7 rounds and 2 thrusters.

    I’ll be at WWE (yes, World Wrestling Entertainment…) on Thursday, so I’m going to drop in on CrossFit Dupont Friday. Wish me luck and see everyone next year!

  3. Julia says:

    Great to be back!

    Squats – got to work with Erica and Steph! Nice PRs, ladies. I failed out after 2 reps on my last set of 3, and it was a very good illustration that going heavy highlights technical flaws that you might be able to get around at lower weights. I’m definitely guilty of dropping fast, losing tension and pitching forward at the bottom, and counting on being able to pop up anyway… which only works up to a certain point. (Apparently: ~6:40pm, 12/27/11.)

    Metcon – my rest-to-work ratio certainly didn’t win any points. But I was happy about 1) staying in control and 2) doing all my reps as clusters (compared to: power clean>front squat>push jerk – what I resorted to doing, in between sucking wind and spazzing out, for the Open Wod #3 last spring). So, hey, that’s progress! That being said, as Chris pointed out, I need to work on thruster-ing out of the bottom with a lot more speed, and using that momentum to drive the bar overhead.

    Looking forward to Thursday!

  4. edgy reggie says:

    To quote Frankie Beverly and Maze, “I’m so happy to see/you and me/back in stride again…” 🙂

    Front squats: I worked with “Lil’ Swoll” (Sebastian/SBV) and Will (we had the “six-footer” squat rack). I worked up to “deuce-and-a-quarter” (225#) for three reps (and this was in the fifth round) which is a new PR for me (the last time we did front squats – which was earlier this month – I could only manage 100kg x 2). I believe the main difference between early December and yesterday is that I had better (more) rest and more-than-adequate nutrition [and holding baby Ezra before class didn’t hurt either – thanks Doron and Peter :-)].

    The one thing that pleases me the most about my squatting of late is my squat depth with heavier weight.

    (Coach even called out for “One more!” and I was able to do it without hesitation.)

    Thanks to SBV for the encouragement/coaching (and smack talk) and for the form-checking; it was much appreciated [besides, I couldn’t let you down, could I? ;-)].

    Met-con: I used a 95# barbell and completed six full rounds; time was running out before I could attempt a cluster for the seventh round.

    Everyone did a great job. Right now, I’m feeling pumped and strong (with ego safely in check).

    Bring on Thursday!

  5. Julia says:

    Katie, I look forward to hearing about your kicking a** and taking names at WWE. :o)

  6. SBV says:

    Tuesday night was a bit of a throw-back: heavy barbell work followed by a short, intense metcon. I love this type of training. Last night was another step in the right direction. One of my goals is to front squat 225# and, last night, I managed 215# for a double.

    The metcon provided a great opportunity to push the tempo. Unfortunately, my lower back started to lock up on about the fourth round, so I had to tone things down a bit.

  7. Ben says:

    It was great to be back, but unfortunately this was a really frustrating workout for me. My wrists weren’t holding up for the front squats, which also made the thrusters difficult in the met-con. Someday I’ll actually listen to my body and get serious about mobility/flexibility.

    Last night was good practice to try and focus on form (thanks Chris for the tips). The front squats definitely checked my ego at the door for me.

  8. Tom Brose says:

    Ben, sometimes the most frustrating workouts are the ones we benefit from most. We can help you get a plan to proactively improve the positions that limit you, and next time we front squat will be a lot more fun. Keep in mind, after a fall/winter on lots of heavy stuff, we are going to be working in more olympic lifts…which means more front and overhead position work.

    Steph, I’m looking forward to seeing the A game.

    Reggie, good work on the PR and the depth. I firmly believe that when you hold yourself to that standard, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more. Conversely, not hitting depth will not get you stronger, and set the lifter up for a downward spiral, especially when chasing numbers. So…as Kool and the Gang would say, “get Down on it!”

    Katie, you should take a sign to the WWE. What do you think it should say? Oh wait…IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!!!

  9. Dian says:

    I finally got myself a little notebook to start tracking my progess. I’ve felt myself slipping or stuck (not sure which) so I need to start getting back on track.

    It was a lot of fun working with Peter on the front squats. It seems like I’ve been stuck between 90-100lbs on front squats for a while. My sets were 65lbs, 75lbs, 85lbs, 95lbsX2 and then I did my last set at 105lbs. I tried to control my squat and Chris reminded me to take a deep breath before squatting. All and all I felt pretty good on the front squats. I didn’t get called on collapsing knees which is progress.

    I finished 6 full sets of the metcon using 50lbs. It was ugly. As in Nick Nolte mugshot ugly.

    I had a crummy day yesterday and really wanted to skip class but a conversation I had with Reggie got me to lace up my sneakers. He told me you should always show up for class when you really don’t want to. Thanks for that Reggie. I was very glad that I made it to class last night…,ugly metcon and all.

    I’ll be there tomorrow with my wee notebook.

  10. edgy reggie says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. edgy reggie says:

    @Dian: You’re welcome…anytime. I have moments of wisdom; that was just one example (again, ego safely in check).

    I’m glad you made it to class, and you did a great job (as always). Keep on pushin’ (as Curtis Mayfield would say)! 🙂

    @Coach: Kool and the Gang also said “Get down, get down!” [“Jungle Boogie” (latter) vs. “Get Down on It” (former) 🙂

    But I digress. I’m full of song quotes this evening (all you hip-hop heads at CrossFit DC, take note…pop quiz on samples comes later).

    Point taken on the squat depth (always have, always will). 🙂

  12. Sara says:

    Steph – Your squats looked great. I would agree with you, on your 1st rep you had a bit of tendancy to speed a bit to the bottom but reps 2 & 3 were very controlled. 125 looked pretty easy too.

    Erica – I am so proud of you and so happy to see you push the limits even after you hit a PR. Nice work on the front squats. They are looking good.

    I think I jumpped up in weight too quickly. I went from 115 to 135. Then I tried 140 and failed on the 3rd rep. I dropped back to 115 for my last 2 sets and at that point I think I was warmed up… too bad it was time to move on to the metcon. I also think a heel digging into my hip from our very own Tom B helped. Maybe I need that before every workout.

    I scaled the metcon to just thrusters because my forarms were a bit wrecked from lots of grip heavy exercises in workouts over the last week. I worked at 85lbs and finished 6 rounds plus 4 thrusters. The scaling didn’t help much with my forarms. I spend a lot of time resting them. None-the-less I got a good workout and have some sore legs today.

    Perscription for tonight is rest and mobility.

  13. Erica says:

    Woah, how fun to come on at almost 8 tonight and see so many posts!!! It was so fun to be back with you all. Ben and I dropped into Crossfit Modigs (named, not after our very own Amelia, but rather the word for “lion-hearted” in Swedish) while we were in Colorado for Christmas, and I’m not sure my body had fully recovered before yesterday’s workout. We did the “12 days of Christmas WOD”, which was a ladder 1, 2-1, 3-2-1, etc of 1 SDHP, 2 DLs, 3 PPs, 4 hang cleans, 5 squats, 6 sit ups, 7 kb swings, 8 pushups, 9 burpees, 10 wallballs, 11 pull-ups, and 12 thrusters, wooohoo.

    Yesterday was a good day for me! I PRed on the front squat at 110#s, and thanks to Steph, Sarah, Julia, and Tom for encouraging me to go heavier. I’m definitely feeling it today. It is so true that driving up with your elbows, pushing your hips forward, and knees out really helps. And thanks to Chris and Tom for helping me with my grip.

    I ALSO PRed on the cleans yesterday. I used 60#s and was 5 burpees shy of 7 full rounds. Even though they didn’t count, I still finished off the burpees. I echo everyone, super pumped for the last WOD of 2011 🙁

    And Dian, way to get yourself there. I agree with Reggie that coming is the battle and once you’re there, it’s nice to let Chris and Tom just make the magic happen.

  14. Steph says:

    I’d like a heel digging into my hip too, please!!!

  15. Erica says:

    I forgot to add! I completed my own “30 days of Paleo” today…not sure if I notice any differences in any way, but nonetheless, I did it!