March 19, 2012
March 23, 2012

As promised, Tuesday’s classes featured lots of barbell work. However, it all featured a fair amount of skill work, in the form of handstand push-ups (HSPU).

Skill Practice and Review: 
Handstand Push-Ups 

Roughly 20 minutes were devoted to HSPU Tuesday night, including various scaling, set-ups, and execution. Everyone began with a set of kick-ups – that is, kicking up into the handstand position, holding for one second, and then coming back down. Way back in August of 2010, we did a blog-post reviewing the most efficient way to kick up into a handstand with lots of assistance from Jim Bathurst and his Beastskills article on handstands.

After the kick-ups, class was split in two pieces. Those without full ROM (range of motion) HSPU worked on scaled versions, with knees on a box and both hands on parallettes to ensure full range of motion. Those with full HSPU worked on increasing the depth of their HSPU by using plates. This included one set of 2-3 HSPUs with hands on 45# bumpers and two ab-mats, one set of 2-3 HSPU with hands on the bumpers and just one ab-mat, and then, finally, one set with hands on the bumpers but no ab-mats.

Post HSPU work, everyone in class worked on chest-to-wall handstands. These were broken down into three scaled versions:

(1) Wall Walkers as close to the wall as possible;
(2) Wall Walkers or cartwheels into a full chest-to-wall handstand with at least a 10second hold (the big emphasis here was ensuring the pelvis was tilted forward, keeping the stomach from sagging into the wall); and,
(3) 10 Handstand Shoulder Touches – to complete, get into the handstand position with chest facing the wall, and then quickly retract one hand and touch your shoulder, before replacing the hand on the floor and then following suit with the opposite hand. 

Strength Conditioning: 
8 rounds x 2 Power Cleans + 1 Hang Squat Clean + 1 Thruster + 1 Push Press/Jerk

As programmed, each set was to be completed unbroken. So the first two power cleans were done back-to-back, without resetting the grip on the floor, before going right into the hang squat clean (again, without putting the bar down to reset the grip). This was not for time, although rest times varied owing to the various number of people in each group. Athletes were encouraged to increase weight across all 8 sets but without hitting failure as much as possible. More than likely, this would be dictated by an athlete’s max thruster weight.

We’ve discussed triple extension in the clean before, most notably last June in a blog-post entitled “CLEANED-OUT!” However, sometimes hitting triple extension during the clean just won’t happen, no matter how hard we try. Maybe you lifted extra heavy the day before, or maybe it’s just been a long day and your body won’t respond the way you want. If this is the case, go back to the basics; break the clean down, or more specifically the second pull, into it’s components to remind yourself of the patterning. With light to moderate weight on the bar, perform the following three-movements in succession:

(1) extend & shrug – open the hips up all the way, and then shrug the shoulders straight up;
(2) extend, shrug, & pull – the same movement as above, but at the top of the shrug, pull the elbows high and outside (think “scarecrow”) so that the bar travels straight up the front of the body;
(3) clean.

If the first two movements above go OK, but the third, the clean, continues to present a problem, you can try inserting a 4 movement, the “rack delivery,” in between steps (2) and (3). The rack delivery, borrowed from Greg Everett at Performance Menu, should be done with light weight only. This is simply a method of practicing getting the elbows around the bar, thereby transferring the bar from the upward pull to the front-rack position across the shoulders. To perform, start standing tall, holding a barbell in the scarecrow position — bar against the chest and elbows elevated high and out to the sides. From this position, quickly whip the elbows around and turn the bar over onto the shoulders and into the rack position. This is best when coupled with quickly jumping the feet out into a good squat position, thereby allowing the athlete to slightly drop under the bar.

Class ran slightly long, but kudos to everyone for sticking it out to finish their sets. It’s a forgone conclusion that most of you will be waiting with baited breath for the announcement of the fifth and final Open workout, and we’ll be sure to update the blog header as soon as it’s out. Until then, I’ll leave you all with this parting image of Tom A. and Ben who both happened to be Chicago for the same conference and decided to drop into River North CF for a workout:

According to Ben, RNCF’s drop-in policy was to bring a shirt from your home gym, or simply purchase one of theirs. Someone should tell them the latter won’t be of much use to Tom A.


  1. Erica says:

    Struggled on the HSPUs. I actually felt scared in some of the positions. Something I’ll need to tackle.

    Still struggling with right quad soreness so even though I attempted a few of the squat cleans and thrusters, scaled the workout to 3 power cleans and 2 push press. Very excited and sad for Saturday. Hopefully we’ll all be recovered.

    Was kind of cool though, watching the Week 4 round up, hearing how 68,000 people all around the world were in as much pain as we were.

  2. Katie says:

    Andraea, now I’m not alone in leading a post with a great form/weird face clean photo! :o)

    I felt like I hadn’t done cleans in forever, but the form came back okay. I was exhausted, though, so so I took it easy with 30# for the sets after not keeping great form with 40#. (allegies? dehydration? who knows.) I’m still scaling handstands with my “angled wall hold”, though I think my angle is slowly becoming more steep. I will try kicking up in a handstand soon, but last night just wasn’t the night to do it.

    Cool picture from Chicago! I hope Tom A. provides a rebuttal today to provide some trash talking entertainment for those of us who are bored at work. :o)

  3. SBV says:

    Gleg Glassman has said in the past that you should pick the three movements you’d least want to see show up in a workout, such as 12.5, and attack those movements until they become strengths. I’d have to put handstand push-ups at the top of my list. Let’s face it: I’m screwed if they show up in 12.5. Is there anyone at CFDC who can handle HSPUs for a bunch or reps? I guess it was good that we worked them on Tuesday night. I was really trigger-shy with the shoulder touches and was scared of falling on my face. Definitely need to spend more time in the handstand position.

    On a more positive note, I felt like a monster on the barbell complexes. I think I saw Tom snicker at me when I yelled out a “yes!” after completing the complex at 175#. But, hey, I was feelin’ it at the time. Couldn’t get past the thruster at 185#. These types of barbell complexes remind me of the old CFDC days.

  4. Andraea says:

    Oh that is such a horrible face I’m making!! Lol!

    I didn’t realize how sore my shoulders were until I kicked up into a handstand. But it was good to work on HSPUs. I liked the variation of chest to wall and touching shoulder with hand. A bit scary but I got a couple touches.

    Enjoyed bar work but my quads were still sore so it was rough especially the thruster part. I had no power in my legs to drive it upward. My right quad is also sore which is odd that it’s just the right one.

    Can’t wait to see what 12.5 is going to throw at us!

  5. Julia says:

    +1 for right quad soreness. What’s up with that? Are there 68,000 people in the world who are leading with their non-dominant quads right now?

    +1 for anticipation of Tom A.’s rebuttal.

  6. Dian says:

    I think that is a great photo of you Andrea. “Weird,” face and all.

    Really disappointed that I missed this. Yes, even the HSPUs. Being upside down simply freaks me out. I’m going to have to get over it and quick if HSPUs show up in 12.5. I had thought that HSPUs for 12.5 would be the worse thing that could happen but then I woke up this morning with overhead squats on the brain.

  7. ppetersan says:

    The HSPU’s are always humbling. I would rather 12.5 include handstand walking rather than HSPU’s. The barbell complex was a great workout and helped to flush the remaining lactic acid out of my quads. Something I should have done on Sunday or Monday but was in far too much pain. For some reason I feel sure that dead lifts will be part of 12.5.

  8. Tom Brose says:

    Sebastian, in all honesty, it was not a snicker. I love seeing you all excited about lifting big weights. As for the HS position and HSPUs, practice, practice, practice. Its definitely something Chris and I are including in our post Open long term programming.

    As for quad soreness, i was pretty miserable in both for a few days, but fine by Monday. Yes, the collective CrossFit world was pretty much all done in by those wallballs.

    Everyone expects HSPUs in 12.5, I think OHS are a pretty good guess as well. I won’t even bring up the combination of movements I mentioned to Sara yesterday, I’ll be so unhappy if it comes up…

  9. Ben says:

    Greetings from Chi-town! Been to Crossfit River North twice this week, great box, programming and people. I believe it was somewhere between round two and three in the first of two 8 minute AMRAPs when Tom A’s shirt couldn’t take it any longer and came off. It lasted longer than I expected.

    Anyway, just want to say thanks to Tom and Chris. It has been fun to go to a different box and feel completely prepared to tackle whatever WOD is encountered. We are really lucky to have such great coaching and programming.

  10. TomandAmi says:

    Wow – am I feeln’ the luv or what? I actually put my shorts on for that photo so some credit please.

    And glad Ben was focused on my clothing during the WOD that was part of my strategy to distract him and prevail in the WOD – well at least one part of the strategy worked.

    I would second Ben’s comments – great box and going to do the last WOD tomorrow there at 6 am. Then I get my T shirt.

    will react to Chris S. separately when he is most vulnerable and least expects it.

    Good luck to everyone this weekend.

  11. edgy reggie says:

    Hmmmm…and I thought that the blog title would be “Spring Open” (since the first full day of spring was yesterday (March 20).

    I’m in the minority on residual quad soreness. I didn’t have as much as most folks that I asked.

    Even though I feel that I am proficient with the handstands (thanks Winnie!), my handstand push-ups need work. The scaling options were good, but I will need to (re-)tackle the wall and the floor…soon.

    I liked the barbell work; although, I knew — going in — the thruster would limit me to what I could do all-around. I worked up to 145#, and, yup, had to bail on the thruster. I tried 145# for a second time, got the thruster, but couldn’t rack the bar back to my shoulders for the (split) jerk. I dropped the bar, cleaned it, racked it back on my shoulders, and completed the jerk…albeit raggedly.

    I’ll be at CrossFit Bethesda tonight (March 21) to do some Olympic lifts (I think the snatch is what’s programmed for me tonight), some skill work (work on foot placement for the jerk), and to find out what Open workout 12.5 will be.

  12. edgy reggie says:

    I can’t diss my “brother” about being shirtless. One gets used to it. 🙂

  13. edgy reggie says:

    Pull-ups and thrusters for Open workout 12.5. Coach, care to share what you thought it was going to be?

  14. SaltyHat says:

    Sebastian, you must learn to discern the subtle differences:

    “laughter of approval” – when SBV yells enthusiastically after a heavy BB complex set;

    “snicker of glee” – when another coach cracks himself in the head demonstrating push press.

    Tom A., I constantly feel vulnerable when you’re around, but am usually left expecting more when you start to disrobe.

    Family atmosphere be damned. I say “Bring it!”

  15. Dian says:

    I should cut my hair like Kristan Clever. I could totally pull that look off.

  16. SBV says:

    I don’t have a good “Fran” time, but, screw it! I’m bringing the friggin’ heat on this one. There’s no holding back now. I’m pouring everything I’ve got — and maybe even a little bit more — into this final workout. Let’s finish the Open on a high note, CFDC!

    Oh, and my CrossFit crystal ball shows a bunch of CFDC ladies banging out their first pull-ups this Saturday.

  17. Erica says:

    GREAT CALL SBV! I’m excited to see you bring your A game, and for the rest of us ladies to PR on pull-ups, with or without KC’s awesome doo.

  18. TomandAmi says:

    I am actually at my most lethal disrobed.

    Did the final WOD at 5 am today – full 12 rounds for 60. Last year I think I got through the 15 thrusters and got a few pull ups. I am beating a number of you will get through the rond of 15 plus.

  19. Kenna says:

    The HSPUs are always a little scary for me. Though I can tell a difference in my improvement. This time I was able to cartwheel into a handstand and hold for a good while.

    The hang squat clean and the thruster were definitely the obstacles for me on the series. I was struggling with 65#… getting stuck in the bottom of the squats. I’m still working on keeping my elbows up, pushing the knees out, and keeping my core engaged (as always). I’m rocking some soreness today though! See you guys tonight!

  20. Erica says:

    Woof Tom, that’s early. But way to go! I like your typo. I read it that you were beating us already. Thanks for setting the bar so high!

  21. Ethan says:

    I am announcing my return off the DL for this workout. I will live by the Tom A school of thought as well. Above 45 degrees, the shirt is coming off.