September 7, 2012
September 12, 2012

Just as Thursday’s blog post prophesied, a set of 20rep squats was awaiting all those who ventured into Sunday’s class. However, before we got to that, class worked through some speed based Olympic skill work.

10 Pause Squats, 10 Push-Ups, 
Spider Lunge 1/2 Ct, 
5 Dive Bombers, 
Lunge Backward 1/2 Ct, 
Carioca Left Full Ct, Carioca Right Full Ct 
Tall Cleans 3, 3, 2, 1, 1, 1 

It was remarked by a few people that we’ve been adamant about teaching everyone how to use their hips when performing cleans, but that on Sunday we were now taking the hips out of the equation. Here’s why: while fully extending the hips is an essential component of a solid clean, so is the ability to get under the weight as it gets heavier. It’s important to teach yourself that a full clean, in which the lifter ends up in the bottom of a squat, is not performed as a power clean followed by a front squat.

In fact, if you miss a power clean, it should be because you ended up too deep in the squat position, NOT because you flung your legs out as wide as possible, leaned way back, and did everything you could to power curl the weight the last few feet up your chest.

Instead of using hip extension, the only upward momentum in the tall clean comes from a violent shrug. This shrug provides the bar with a moment of weightlessness, but it also serves to initiate the explosive downwards movement of the lifters body. To properly pull under the weight, a lifter must keep the bar close to their body and swing their elbows around the bar as quickly as possible in order to receive the weight on the shoulders (rather than in the hands).

Strength Conditioning: 
1 x 20 back squat @ 65% 

The day finally arrived: the 20 rep back squat! Warm-up sets were programmed at 1x 8 @25%, 1x 6 @35%, 1x 5 @50%, and finally 1x 5 @60%. After that, it was time to go for one set of 20 at 65%.

Two weeks ago, following completion of our 2 x 15 reps, one of our members left the following query in the comments section (“DOUBLED OVER“):

So I do have a stupid question that I no doubt missed in one of the earlier sessions.  I know high weight / low reps increase strength. I know this is a newbie question, but what are you getting with moderate weight and higher reps?

As another member so helpfully pointed out, we actually touched on the subject briefly when we kicked off this short hi-rep cycle, stating that “(t)hese workouts will add muscular endurance onto the the strength achievements provided by the squat cycle…” (“CLEAN AND MEAN“). However, in the interest of education, let’s be clear about this: 20 rep squats will not add significant strength gains, but they can (if implemented properly) augment your strength (fast twitch muscles) by adding endurance (slow twitch muscles).

To grasp how this type of muscle-type make-up affects the strength-to-endurance-ratio, consider Dr. Fred Hatfield’s “muscle fiber test”:

– Find your one rep max back squat
– Rest 15 mins
– Perform as many reps as possible with 80% of your 1 RM  

– Less than 7 reps = fast twitch (FT) dominant
– 7-to-8 reps = mixed fiber type
– More than 8 reps = slow twitch (ST) dominant

As CrossFit athletes, we are constantly looking for the best of both worlds as we “prepare ourselves for the unknown and unknowable” (yea, I just dropped some CFHQ lingo on you, what of it?!?). Strength is important, but so is the ability to tap that strength over and over and over again regardless of the time duration, short, moderate, or long.

Great work in a smaller-than-normal class. Hopefully everyone got out to enjoy the great fall weather (finally!). See you all on Tuesday!



  1. Steph says:

    It was so weird to have such a small class on Sunday. Maybe the nice weather had everyone else outside running?

    Thanks to Chris for some very interesting information on the blog today. I wonder how I’d do on the muscle fiber test. Maybe we should do that in class one day! 😀

    I worked out after class with Chris and Sara. The tall cleans were okay. I need to work on whipping the elbows around faster and higher. When the weight got challenging, I found my elbows not as high as they should’ve been. The squats went pretty well, but I am sore today.

    Looking forward to class tomorrow!

  2. SBV says:

    Very happy to have successfully completed Squat Cycle 2.0. I started having doubts around rep 16. I couldn’t control my breathing and it became very difficult to stabilize my mid-line. I’m sure it was ugly, but I gutted it out. The encouragement from “the crowd” definitely helped.

    It also helped that we only worked tall cleans on Sunday. I can’t imagine attempting 20 reps after having performed heavy clean & jerks. That would not have been cool. We noticed down at our bar that there’s a fine line on tall cleans. As soon as you cross the line by going too heavy, the hips naturally kick into gear and defeat the purpose of the movement. The trick is to find that right balance of a challenging weight that still allows you to pull under the bar with just a shrug of the shoulders.

    We messed around with the “Sling Shot” after class on the bench press, coupled with some toes-to-bar. It’s a neat device that forces your elbows into the proper position while benching, which helps to engage the lats. It basically reinforces the positioning on pressing movements that Tom’s been teaching us over the years. I really enjoyed it. Great training day!

  3. Sara says:

    As Steph said we did the workout after class. Steph finished her squats so effortlessly that both Chris and I encouraged her to do another set. The second set looked even better. It was amazing to watch. Nice job Steph!

    I have a lot of practice with tall cleans and this was a good test to see if my ability increased with my increased max c&j. Unfortunately, I didn’t see that increase with the tall cleans. I landed on my toes on the first attempt at 45kg and the second attempt was a full on heave of the bar.

    I finished out my squats at 63kg for 20. At the halfway point I wasn’t sure I would make it. Thank you to Chris and Steph for pushing me through to the end.

  4. SBV says:

    @Sara: No need to be disappointed with your tall cleans. As you mentioned, you’ve increased your max on your actual clean, which is all that really matters. Tall cleans, as you know, are just an assistance exercise.

    I also love that you guys made Stef do a second set on squats. I need her ramped up for the next “Smackdown.” Julia should have done a second set, as well. She demolished her set at 175! Looked as though she could have done 30 reps.

  5. Maher says:

    I’m so mad that I had to miss this class! The post is an interesting read and I’ll be armed with questions when I’m back. I can’t wait to give this a shot tomorrow.

    See you guys on Sunday.

  6. Sara says:

    @SBV – not upset really. More just looking for that extra ability so that my c&j can continue to go up. We didn’t make Steph do anything, only suggested she do another set. I was ready to suggest set number 3 after the 2nd but thought I may have been pushing it a bit so I didn’t.

  7. Kat says:

    So glad to be back at a CFDC class now that I won’t be able to come on Tuesdays and Thursdays! Loved the Sunday class format and the use of the studio–I’ll definitely be back.

    Struggled with the tall cleans (apparently shrugging is not my forte), but it really helped when Chris corrected my hand position and when Sara told me to focus on sucking everything in before going onto my toes and starting the clean.

    Having not been around for the squat cycle (first Sunday class ever), the 20 back squats were a shock to the system but felt awesome! So sore today, but so glad I made it over there yesterday.

    Thanks guys!

  8. Katie says:

    Andraea and I did this workout tonight. Thanks Andraea, I needed you on this one!! It was especially rough after a fun but unhealthy weekend of champagne and pretzels.

    Tall cleans felt better than they had previously, though still tough. I worked up to 35# and I think I pulled a little on the last one, but I did get more comfortable pulling myself under the bar.

    Whew, that was a lot of squats! I did all 20 at 55# (I rounded down today). I felt my hips rising early toward the end, but did my best to keep my core tight.

    Looking forward to getting back into class with everyone tomorrow!

  9. Andraea says:

    Thank you Katie! It was awesome to do this workout with you as I was worried about the 20 reps of squats. But you got me pumped and were so encouraging through it. This time I used the belt and I think it definitely helped me focus on the breathing and getting air all the way down into the diaphragm. I think on the 15 reps cycle I breathed to shallow plus the bar was too high which I think both caused the headaches but this time it felt better and no headache! It was still rough and glad when I hit the 20th rep.

    Nice job Steph on doing 2 sets! That’s awesome!

  10. Julia says:

    Nice work Katie and Andraea! And Steph – wow!

    Great lifting with Ami and Dre. I like what Dre said about tall cleans – you know you’re doing it right (speed starts from shrug, not hip extension) when it ‘feels appropriately hard.’ 🙂 And squats went well, thanks guys! I really liked the prescribed warmup %tages and reps on Sunday – should have been adding that many intermediate sets in all my warmups all along. See you guys tonight!

  11. Unknown says:

    1. Some of the best looking models you’ve had on the blog in a little while.

    2. Thanks for burning up my legs on Sunday. I may have actually gone a little light though, but I guess it’s best to take it easy on the foot.

    3. Going to miss Tuesday’s class, but looking forward to Thursday.


  12. Dian says:

    You know, since Sunday morning I have had these moments where I absolutely understand tall cleans. I’ve been doing laundry, in the hardware store, watching Masterpiece Mystery and it all makes so much sense. Of course, that doesn’t mean I was able to execute the movement properly. I think I got a few good ones in. Looking forward to working on tall cleans again.

    I was a little nervous about the squats since my 2 sets of 15 a couple weeks back were not pretty. Chris reminded me about the importance of breathing and that helped so much. Really impressed that Steph could just rip off 2 sets of 20. Julia definitely should have gone for another set of 20 as well. It looked too easy.

    I hope to make it to class tonight. It’s a beautiful day. I sense a run. I hope I don’t get stuck in the office.

  13. edgy reggie says:

    I did this workout on Monday morning…minus the tall cleans (because I was guessing as to what the other exercise was besides the twenty-rep squats).

    I love performing tall cleans (and tall snatches for that matter); therefore, I will probably incorporate a few of them into my Wednesday workout.

    The twenty-rep squats were killer! I missed the fifteen-rep squat class, but I feel as if I made up for it this time. To be honest, I managed to get in fifteen reps unbroken. But my quads were shaking and my low back was hurting a little (even while wearing a weight belt). So I re-racked the weight, gathered myself for a brief moment, and finished the remaining five reps. I’ll give this another try in a few weeks; hopefully, I will be able to get all twenty reps unbroken.

    After the squats, I did a few sets of good ol’ bench pressing.

    Just as Dian mentioned, I sense a run in this evening’s workout since the weather is very nice (read: less humid). We’ll see.

  14. Dre Khoury says:

    Tall cleans are definitely challenging in a humbling way. They really force you to work on your shrug and dropping under that bar. I struggle with getting under that bar. As always, love working out with Julia. She has amazing strength and focus. Thanks for a great class.

    On another note, my fall is crazy with travel to places where gym availability is scarce. Any good suggestions for travel workouts without a gym/weights…maybe a treadmill (if i’m lucky) 🙂