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An Olympian’s Perspective

Published on Mon, 2012-01-09 15:26
By: CrossFit (main site)

Chad Vaughn is a 2-time Olympian, 6-time National Champion, and American Record Holder in the clean and jerk (429lbs., 85kg Division). Chad has been involved with CrossFit for the last year, training out of CrossFit Austin, and is the head coach for Here’s his perspective on the Games.

As I sat in the stands watching Iceland Annie fly across the “Killer Kage” at the 2011 CrossFit Games, I started to realize how much of a fan of CrossFit I really am. For whatever reason, I have never been much of a “fan” of anything, yet I have fallen for this thing called CrossFit.

Event after event, I saw the athletes either struggling and learning valuable lessons for the next time, or succeeding and bathing in the glory. This sparked the competitor in me to want to join in and feel the pain; the coach in me to want to critique and help; and the fan in me to just sit there with my jaw hanging.  Workout after workout, these athletes rose to the occasion despite the tremendous physical, mental, and emotional tests they were required to endure. Needless to say, I spent most of the weekend with my jaw dropped.

I did get to scratch my need to compete/show off/workout with a clean and jerk exhibition in support of Barbells for Boobs at the Again Faster tent. The challenge? Throw all the bumpers available onto a single bar and get it overhead. I took a few warm-ups and put on what ended up being 345 lb. It felt strong and solid. I was tempted to scrounge up some more weight, but I have to say, I was relieved when I realized that the other set of 45s that I thought I saw out of the corner of my eye was only a mirage. If they’d been real, the crowd may have been disappointed with a nice and slow deadlift for the day!

The coach in me definitely broke loose during all of the barbell movements. I couldn’t help but notice the increase in average quality of weightlifting technique and leg strength between this year and last. I believe that these will continue to increase through the next couple years until everyone participating has the technique and positions of an elite level weightlifter and exceptional leg strength.

Technique and leg strength will be necessary for optimal efficiency through workouts with barbells set at low weight for high reps. Using more core, hips and legs during low weight/high rep barbell workouts – and less extremity and arms – will increase a Games athlete’s success over the three-day competition, as their extremities and arms are in high demand, given the large number of pull-ups, push-ups, muscle-ups, etc., in Games workouts.

To improve their efficiency, ability to conserve energy, and performance in one-rep max efforts, athletes must learn proper positioning and movement of the bar and their body. Ideally, to lesson the use of extremities, the bar will stay close to their body throughout the lift and contact their body upon completion of extension.

Secondly, powerful, controlled hip extension is – as we CrossFitters know – the base of all athletic ability and crucial to success in the Games. An athlete must have strong hips and legs to be able to succeed in the multitude of movements tested in the Games, and make it anywhere near the podium.

If you don’t have Olympic lifting technique down, you better learn the concepts and then drill it into your muscle memory. Once you know the technique – in brain and body – you will see carryover into competition, low weight/high rep workouts, and one-rep max efforts.

If you weren’t blessed with a lot of natural leg strength – as many of the competitors this year were – you better regularly add extra squatting to your programming. It may even be necessary to go through cycles with periods solely focused on strength training. Later, when you return to met cons, I believe you will have more overall potential while still maintaining your physical memory of the met con. Just my opinion, of course.

When it comes to the CrossFit Games, I can’t help but think about the Olympic Games. I am sure that many – especially CrossFit Games competitors – have found themselves comparing the two. The greatest difference between the two is age: the modern Olympics have been around for more than a century while the CrossFit Games just finished its fifth year. Nonetheless, the similarities are nothing less than magical!

In the Olympics and the Games, we have a group of athletes with a common goal, who are the best of the best in their chosen sport, brought together for the world to see. They have all sacrificed more than most could ever understand in their preparation and dream chasing that can only have the attempted description with the word, “Everything!”

Each of the Games athletes will leave nothing less than all of their blood, sweat, and tears on that battle ground with every rep. This combination ensures incredible feats. Amazing things will happen! People watching will be inspired! Add CrossFit’s unique desire and willingness to bring in the experts in each skill or subject matter, and the CrossFit athlete’s results will continue to reach new heights. Moreover, exceptional fitness will be achievable to anyone who “drinks the punch.” Altogether, this makes me believe that CrossFit and the CrossFit Games will be around and continue to be successful for a long time.

Lastly, much congratulations and props to all of the CrossFit Games competitors!

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Fitness trackers are becoming more and more popular. They are a great way to pay attention to how much activity you may be getting throughout your day. Many keep track of steps, time, calories, heart rate, sleep etc. Also, most of the new trackers even have smart-watch like features, like text messages, email and music. With so many wonderful brands out there, here are a few tips when choosing the tracker/watch that is best for you.

  1. Get something that looks and feels good: no matter if the tracker measures your sleep quality or calories, you want to buy something that has a design you’re drawn too. You may even want to consider spending a few more dollars on a device that’s more attractive so you don’t feel miserable wearing it.
  2. Get something that Syncs Automatically: You want to be able to just put the device on and go. No one wants to have a ritual of plugging in with a USB cord and waiting for information to load.
  3. Get something that works with your device(s): You always want to double-check that your new tracker is compatible with your phone, tablet or computer. Not every tracker/watch will work with every device.
  4. Get something that works for you: You don’t want to buy a tracker that doesn’t have everything you need. I wanted something that had the time, date, miles, steps, and heart rate. Many trackers did not have all of the things on my check list, so I had to do a lot of digging. Never settle for a product that you are not compatible with because they may limit your desire to use it.



CrossFit is a sport of endless learning. It is a sport that will continue to push you to your limits no matter of advanced you are. There are moments were you feel like your at your breaking point, but that is when you become stronger. You become stronger both mentally and physically. At those moments you start to learn to shut off your brain and just go. You push and push until you reach the finish line. When first starting CrossFit it seems like you need to be good at everything at once. You feel like there is always something to work on. This is the beauty of CrossFit. There is never a moment that there isn’t something to work on. There is never a time when you think “ok, I will forever be satisfied with that form or weight”. At every stage of the game you learn to learn. You become fearless and strong. Everyone is at a different stage but we all push through it together. When in class, we are all learning. When the coaches remind the class of proper form, it means something different to each of us but we still continue to grow. Be proud of how far you have come, work on the things you feel needed and just keep going.

“How To Tweak Your Training”

Barbell Shrugged Technique WOD

This week on TechniqueWOD, we thought we’d give you some practical examples of how to tweak your training when things don’t go exactly was planned. Trust us, you’re going to need this skill!

These tweaks are one-time adjustments, not permanent changes. Come back to the gym next time around and perform your WOD as planned. If that’s not possible – if the derailments, interruptions or injuries persist – that’s when you should consider a more significant programming edit.

1. So, what do I do if my shoulder hurts?
Gyms are running over with athletes beating the shit out of their shoulders with endless repetitions of snatches, presses, ring-dips, low-bar back squats, etc. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll experience some kind of wing pain during your lifting career.

The trick is knowing when to back off.

If you’re shoulder will not allow you to complete a solid repetition – without undue pain or movement restriction – then you have to work around for the day. Instead of full snatches, do high-pulls instead. Skip the jerks in favor of dumbbell presses or handstand holds. Get the heavy barbell off your back and maybe do some temp front squats instead.

All of these changes will unload the shoulder and accelerate recovery. With enough TLC and a few good meals, everything should feel fine the next week around.

2. What if I feel great?
If you feel on fire and ready to train, that’s great! Just keep a few things in mind.

First, be careful when adding in extra volume above and beyond your prescribed workload. Workouts stack and build in effect over time. The WOD you do today will directly effect what you do tomorrow, next week, etc. So, add extra barbell work, but only if you intend on working equally as hard on recovery.

Next, think about your weaknesses. If there’s extra work to be done, make it count! For example, you might kick ass at squats, but suck at gymnastics and pull-ups (that happens all the time). Continue to push your squats, but dedicate all the extra effort to mastering your own bodyweight.

That will have a much more powerful carryover to your performance.

3. I only got 3 hours of sleep. What should I do?
The first thing you lose when you sleep poorly is your speed and coordination. So, keep that in mind when looking over the whiteboard with those blood-shot red eyes.

For all Olympic lifts, just work up to 70-80% of your best and see how you feel. If things feel ok, just repeat that effort a few times and move on. If you go any heavier than this, that lack of speed will show and your form will deteriorate quickly.

As soon as things start to look ugly, SHUT IT DOWN! Move on to a basic strength move, like squats or deadlifts. Yes, you’ll still feel terrible, but strength is much more robust quality than either speed or coordination. You should still back off the planned work a little bit, but don’t be afraid to sneak in a few heavy sets. It’s good for you.

Happy tinkering,


Recently we’very picked up two new pieces of equipment- the peg board and the Swedish Ladder.  While the peg board has been getting all the love, it’s time to start playing with the Ladder as well! A great tool for stretching, body weight strenght and core stability there are a multitude of movements you can preform on it.  Although not a tutorial, here’s a quick video showing you 17 different things you can attempt!


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