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From the Blog

Here’s an awesome post on the hook grip from Catalyst Athletics. Happy Reading! 

The hook grip is a pronated (palms facing the lifter) grip in which the thumb is trapped between the bar and usually the first and second fingers, depending on hand size. For the pull of both the snatch and the clean, this method of gripping is an eventual necessity to maintain control of the barbell during the violent explosion of the second pull.

It’s important to understand that the thumb is itself wrapped around the barinside the fingers and not simply pinned parallel to the bar. With the thumb wrapped over the fingers as it would be in a conventional overhand grip, it will typically reach only the index finger and have a weak purchase on it due to being only partially flexed.

The fingers then grab onto the thumb to pull it farther around the bar. This is very important—you do not simply smash the thumb flat against the bar; you grab it with the fingers and try to pull it around the bar. This mistake of just pinching the thumb against the bar is usually what causes new lifters to believe the hook grip makes no sense—it’s just uncomfortable and doesn’t feel strong.

The thumb also creates a ridge for the fingers to dig into. Rather than just wrapping around the bar, which is smooth and has no real points of purchase, and squeezing, the fingers now have a protrusion to hook onto—not only does this make gripping something easier, but because it’s your own thumb, it’s actually naturally reinforcing your grip security.

By wrapping the thumb around the bar directly, we create a powerful hook on the bar, which can then be reinforced by the grip of both the index and middle fingers. This allows the thumb to reach around the bar enough to significantly contribute to grip integrity without limiting the ability of the fingers to wrap around the bar adequately to grip it as well.


With the hook grip, the thumb is able to wrap farther around the bar than in a regular overhand grip, while the fingers are still able to wrap considerably, allowing more overall contribution to grip security. 

The hook grip also creates a system that balances the tendency of the bar to roll. In a standard overhand grip, the bar is supported by the fingers, which all open in the same direction, creating a tendency for the bar to roll backward out of the hand. The mixed grip—one pronated and one supinated hand—is commonly employed in the deadlift by powerlifters because the backward rolling tendency on the pronated side is countered by a forward rolling tendency on the supinated side, thereby stabilizing the bar.

The hook grip creates a similar system of countering this tendency of the bar to roll while allowing the necessary movement and position of the hands and arms during the snatch and clean that a mixed grip precludes. The bar will try to roll out of the thumb in one direction, and out of the fingers in the opposite, eliminating to a great degree the spinning element of grip loss.


Setting the hook grip: Press the webbing of the hand between the thumb and index finger against the bar; wrap the thumb about the bar as far a possible; grab the thumb with the index and middle fingers; use these first two fingers to pull the thumb farther around the bar; grip the bar with the remaining fingers. 

Finally, because of the increased security created by the hook grip for the reasons described above, the athlete can rely on lower levels of grip tension during a lift. This reduction in finger and wrist flexor tension allows a reduction in elbow tension during the pulling phases of the snatch and clean that improves the transmission of leg and hip power to the bar and the speed and fluidity of the transition between the second and third pulls. In short, the hook grip optimizes the anatomy of the hands for this application.

The more relaxed the athlete can keep the hands during a lift, the more relaxed the arms will remain, and the better the transmission of force from the legs to the bar will be. However, the hands can only relax so much before the grip begins slipping with the violence of the body’s extension. Depending on grip strength and hand size and shape, athletes will be able to maintain different levels of gripping effort, but all should make it a goal to grip only as tightly as necessary.

The wrist can be flexed somewhat so that the back of the hand is in approximately straight alignment with the forearm, which will relieve the thumb of some pressure and shift it more into the fingers. For most lifters, this will increase the comfort and security of the grip both by reducing the discomfort of the thumb and by allowing the shorter fingers to wrap farther around the bar. However, this is a minimal degree of wrist flexion—it is certainly not significant. Excessive wrist flexion in the pull will be similar in effect to partially flexed elbows; that is, it’s a weak point in the system that can extend during the explosive final extension of the snatch or clean and create a loss of force transfer to the bar.

Typically the hook grip will be uncomfortable if not considerably painful initially. Consistent use will condition the offending structures appropriately over time and the grip will ultimately offer no trouble. It will, in fact, become more comfortable than a conventional overhand grip with experience. Covering the thumbs with flexible athletic tape can reduce the discomfort and, for some, improve the feeling of grip security by increasing friction. Lifters can submerge the hands in ice water for 5-10 minutes after training to help reduce pain and speed the adaptation.

If taping the thumb (or other fingers) across a joint, it’s important to use elastic tape rather than conventional athletic tape. Non-elastic tape will limit the motion of the taped joint and create potential for sprains in the next joint up the chain. If elastic tape isn’t available, non-elastic tape can be used if wrapped and/or cut in a manner that prevents it from covering the back of the joint.

Lessons In Weight Belts: How And Why To Use Them

Weight belts are an important piece of equipment in your training repertoire. Find out how and why to use them!

In the dark corner of my local gym, I recently spied a guy doing sit-ups … while wearing a weight belt. The sight was like a swift punch to the crotch! While it’s not the worst gym offense, or even an incredibly rare event, I realized that many trainees don’t know what a lifting belt does, when to wear one, and why someone should.

Wearing a belt during sit-ups, for example, is actually contrary to the function of the belt. The whole point of a weight belt is to prevent spinal flexion; the whole point of doing a sit-up is to flex your spine by contracting your abs. See the problem here? I’ve also seen people belt up for biceps curls, lat pull-downs, and leg extensions. Clearly, some instruction on this common accessory is needed.

Belt-Ology In Action

Most people think that weight belts support the back and can help prevent injury. That’s generally true, but a better understanding of the mechanics will change how many people use their equipment. Even some weight belt manufacturers don’t understand how a belt is supposed to work, which is revealed when they make the back of the belt wider than the front.

To talk about belts, we first have to talk about breathing. Most people are taught to inhale on the eccentric (negative) part of an exercise and to exhale during the concentric (positive). While you should definitely breathe, this isn’t the method that works best when you need to produce a large amount of force. In the everyday world when you need to move something heavy—a couch or an Atlas stone—you take a big breath, push or pull while holding your breath, and only exhale after completing the movement.

We use this technique—known as the Valsalva Maneuver—when we’re performing certain exercises at near-maximal effort. Holding your breath against a closed glottis while increasing you thoracic abdominal pressure braces you, and allows you to lift more weight. You’d never see a powerlifter squatting 600 pounds while slowly breathing out.

When you inhale, pressure increases in your thoracic cavity; this pressure is further increased when you flex your abs. In this regard, the muscles of your abdomen serve chiefly to apply pressure to the anterior side of your spine, attempting to balance the forces produced by the extensors on the backside. In other words, this pressure keeps you from being crushed by the weight when you squat.

The back muscles apply force, position and support to the spine from the back while the abdominal wall and increased abdominal pressure from a deep breath support it from the front. A weight belt’s main function is to add support from the front by increasing abdominal pressure.

Belt It Real Good

In a nutshell, a lifting belt provides a wall for your abs to push against. The added force with limited space means increased anterior pressure for the spine, helping to stabilize it. This gives you a more rigid torso with better transmission of force from the hips to the bar, plus a more stable foundation for overhead lifts. The width in the back of the belt has absolutely nothing to do with a belt’s function, as many people think.

Ideally, a belt between three-and-four-inches wide, all the way around, is sufficient. If it’s much smaller than that, it won’t provide much support. If it’s much larger than that, it may not fit well between your ribs and hips. The material should be firm, typically leather/suede or something that won’t stretch.

To Belt Or Not To Belt

There is no need to wear a belt all the time. There is a lot of discussion in the fitness community about whether you should wear a belt at all. Some people believe you should only rely on your own abilities to stabilize heavy loads. I don’t intend to delve into that debate here, but I will say two things: first, under a heavy load, a belt can help reduce your odds of getting an orthopedic injury. Second, a belt will definitely aid in lifting performance.

In my opinion, a weight belt is only necessary during near the max attempts on compound lifts, definitely not when you’re on a bicycle. You shouldn’t wear a belt with loads that you can easily support—below 90% of your one rep max on big, barbell lifts.

Wear It Right

When wearing the belt, it should be positioned and tightened correctly. Many times I’ve seen lifters move the belt to a more comfortable position under their gut, even though that is contrary to what they’ve learned about belt usage. Obviously, the belt shouldn’t be too loose, although many make the mistake of making it too tight. A belt so tight that you can’t properly contract your abdominal wall will actually work against you. Take a breath (hold it), place the belt in position and brace the abdominal wall. Draw the belt just tight enough to slightly restrict your braced abdominal position to achieve maximum benefit.

Rocky

Throughout our lives, everywhere we go or look, we are involved in relationships. Friends, family, work, home, fur babies, even lifting. When it’s such a big part of our lives, it’s hard not to consider lifting as one of those relationships. It can be just like any other one . . . when things are good they’re great and when things become challenging we get into our “ruts”. The ultimate goal is finding a happy medium between the two. A lot of times the reason why we are able to succeed is because of the drive and dedication behind what we do.  We create ourselves a foundation to build and strengthen said relationships.

I feel like somewhere along the line we are programmed to believe that to be the best we have to hit a new PR, that we have to constantly be moving forward. The thing is though, this isn’t necessarily the case. On any given day, whether you hit a new PR or not, it doesn’t directly reflect who you are as an athlete. You don’t need to shave time off of your WOD, add 20 lbs to your lift, or come in first place every single time you workout to be considered great. Sure these big events definitely help motivate us in our training, but it’s the little things that show who you really are. It is the extra work you put in before and/or after classes. It’s the early morning workouts, or squeezing a quick run in because that’s all you can manage for the day. Variety is the spice of life, and of training.

Your relationship that you have with the barbell (or even Crossfit in general) is what you make out of it. One workout doesn’t define you, the hard work that you put in is what does. Embrace the good that comes from the barbell, work through the ruts even when you don’t want to, and, by building up this foundation, great things will come!

 

cherry picking

Found this online and couldn’t help myself . . . it’s brilliant.

Cherry picking you say? What? Have I gone off my rocker?? Most certainly not. When I refer to cherry picking I am definitely not referring to those delicious little nuggets of fruit that grow on trees. I’m referring to the term that no one likes to hear or even admit that they tend to do. Let me explain. . . . Like when going to pick cherries, or anything else for that matter, you always look for the best ones. The pieces that appeal most to you and that you know you will enjoy better than the other not so fortunate ones left behind. Some are easy to find, others may be hidden gems. However no matter what any of them may actually look like, in the end each one picked still holds the same value. One magically isn’t going to give you super powers and the other one won’t suddenly turn into a completely different fruit. (If this does happen to you and you gain super powers, let me know because we need to talk!)

Take the same premise explained for cherry picking – now apply it to your workouts. Yea I know I’m the big meanie that just went there. In all seriousness, REALLY think about it. From time to time we all have a tendency to cherry pick our workouts. Now you’re probably going to say, “But Jen, I never cherry pick. I simply don’t go to class when my body tells me it needs a rest day.” That’s great! You should be doing that to keep yourself safe and give your body time to recover. I’m more so referring to looking at the programmed WOD, seeing something that you HATE doing (or one of your weaknesses) and suddenly deciding that you’re not going to go just because. THAT is cherry picking.

The reason why I bring this up is because every so often I catch myself wanting to cherry pick. I know I cannot be the only person who is guilty of this. If I’m going to pep talk myself out of this, might as well for everyone else too right?? One good way to help prevent this is to pick a schedule and stick with it. Most of us have a pretty good idea of what our bodies are capable of and know when we need rest days. Use that when picking a schedule. If you can only go 3 days a week, select those 3 days and be consistent. Even something like switching around your days because of what you see is programmed is still considered to be cherry picking. Not going to class on heavy cardio days will never make cardio any easier. OR only going on heavy lifting days won’t help us when gymnastics are programmed.

Like cherries, every one (workout) still holds the same value as the rest. Just because we may not like how one “looks” it doesn’t mean it’s not as beneficial as the rest. For those who participated in The Opens, you didn’t have the option to cherry pick a programmed WOD. If Dave Castro says you are going to do burpees, guess what . . . you do the burpees (he’s evil I know).

If we only ever do the WODs that we like, we will never get any better at the WODs that we hate.

The official results are in! In case you missed it. . . .here are the official Leaderboard results for the 2018 Crossfit Opens.

WOMEN

women

MEN

men

TEAM 

team

For the complete list of official results be sure to visit the Crossfit Games website HERE.

regionals-2018

With The Opens coming to an end. . . . . Regionals are right around the corner!

Remember to mark your calendar for a few of these upcoming events!

Wednesday, April 4th – 7 AM – 7 PM Body Comp Cryo will be back at the gym.

  • Body Fat Testing – $45: To get the best results you need to fast for at least 2 hours before the test & should be done before the workout. The bod pod uses air displacement for very accurate measurement of percent and pounds of body fat and lean body mass. This allows you to track your progress at the gym. Will need to wear tight fitting clothing.
  • Whole Body Cryotherapy – $40: Standing in a “sauna” from neck down for up to 3 minutes at minus 220 degrees. This is equivalent to a 20 minute ice bath. Will help reduce muscle and joint pain and swelling.

Saturday, April 7th – 9 AM – Join us for an end of Opens/Crossfit Factory Square Anniversary WOD/Potluck.  9 AM WOD (only one class this day, no 8 AM class) followed by a Potluck. Everyone is welcome to attend (not just those who participated in the Opens) including friends and family. If you cannot make the WOD still feel free to stop by after for the Potluck (remember to bring your favorite dish for sharing)!

Saturday, May 19th – 10 AM – 4 PM – LiveFitCT Health and Fitness Expo at Mt. Southington. Crossfit Factory Square will have our own booth. Stop by to volunteer some time at the booth and/or connect with the community and other local vendors.

 

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