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Aggghhhh yes, flexibility . . . .something I swear I have nothing of. Even with putting in a lot of extra time and effort into my mobility, somehow I still constantly feel like the tin man. Don’t get me wrong, when I put in the extra time to focus on my mobility and flexibility I absolutely 100% feel better, but even on my best days it’s still difficult for me to do something as simple as touch my toes.

That in mind, here’s a good article (I know it’s a bit long, but a very interesting & worth while read) to remind ourselves how important our flexibility really is . . .

How Flexibility Affects Strength (& Vice Versa)

By William Imbo

The term ‘muscle-bound’ has long been associated with athletes and individuals that have developed large muscle mass through strength training, but in so doing have significantly reduced their ability to move freely through a full range of motion. This is certainly the case for many people in sports and fitness, and yet, we need only look at gymnasts, Olympic Weightlifters and elite CrossFitters to know that the opposite is true as well. These athletes compete in sports where an imbalance between these two fitness skills would limit their progress and impair their success—and the same applies to you.

How flexibility affects strength
A limited range of motion is going to hold you back from maximizing your strength gains. Think about the mobility you need in your hips and ankles for a typical barbell squat. Then consider the added shoulder and wrist mobility you need for the front and overhead squat. Yet the squat, in all its variations, is renowned as the best compound movement (involving more than one joint) you can possibly perform, especially when it comes to improving overall strength. Because it does involve so many muscle groups, your body will be triggered to release more testosterone and HGH—two powerful hormones for building muscle mass and strength. And studies have shown that in order to maximize your strength gains, you need to execute full range of motion when squatting in order to have your muscles have greater time under tension. But what if you aren’t mobile enough to break parallel in the back squat, to maintain a front rack position in the front squat, or even hold an empty barbell overhead during an overhead squat? Well, you will inevitably hit strength plateaus that will take some time to break. Needless to say, being flexible enough to put your body in the right positions when moving heavy weight is vital. If you want to clean, jerk and snatch like an Olympian, first make sure that your body is mobile enough to receive heavy weight—then you will be able to reap the strength benefits of standing up monster weights from the hole. The same concept applies to developing bodyweight strength. One need only look at the body of a gymnast to realize how strong these men and women are—yet they are highly mobile too. Consider this—how many of you struggle with pistols? And, for those who do, do you think it’s because you lack the individual leg strength to perform the movement, or you’re missing the requisite mobility in your hip and ankle to get into the position? I’d wager that for the vast majority of people, the latter is the limiting factor.

lifting gBut before you start going to yoga 10 times a week and spending countless hours flossing, rolling, banding and performing every stretch known to man, it’s important to remember that there is evidence that too much flexibility can have a negative impact on strength. An increase in flexibility without a corresponding increase in strength can result in joint instability. When someone is hypermobile, their ligaments become loose. This is a problem because ligaments act as the “strapping tape” of our joints by connecting bone to bone. If they become too loose, they have no recoil property. Corrective exercise specialist Brooke Thomas provides the perfect analogy: “Imagine the difference between a rubber band and Silly Putty. Stretch out the elastic and “boing!” back it goes. Stretch out the Silly Putty and you have stringy globbery-goop.”

If the ligaments are too loose, this is where your muscles step up, as part of their job is to determine the appropriate range for a joint (where the bones get to go). “This means if they are functioning in a balanced way, the ligaments do not need to take on a load. And our muscles weave into the bones via tendons, and all of this is living in a sea, inside and out, of fascia [connective tissue that runs throughout the body],” Thomas adds.

Of course, if there isn’t the right balance between muscle strength and flexibility (in this case a lack of strength), the ligaments have to shoulder the load, making them highly susceptible to wear and tear and increasing the risk of serious injuries to the joint. So, we cannot overlook the importance of strength as it relates to flexibility.

How strength affects flexibility
Just as being hypermobile can cause damage to a joint, an increase in strength without a balanced rise in flexibility can result in soft tissue tears, sprains and postural changes. Now, strength is obviously an important skill that we’re always looking to improve. Being strong allows us to move heavy weight and perform functional tasks outside of the gym. In addition, many joints in the body require stability so they are able to resist movement from an outside force. For example, ideally we want the knee joint to be stable so that it doesn’t buckle or twist when we run, squat or jump. One of the best ways of doing that is by increasing the strength of the supporting musculature of that joint—in this case, the quadriceps, the hamstrings and the muscles of the calf. When our joints are stable, we are better able to transfer power throughout the body too. This manifests itself well in the thruster, where we need to generate a lot of force through the joints as we move upwards in order to help get the barbell of the front rack before pressing it overhead.

But wait a second, isn’t squatting one of the best ways to strengthen the supporting musculature of the knee? And didn’t you just write that an athlete needs to have good flexibility in the hips and ankles to be able to perform a squat? Yes I did—that’s because while some joints of the body require stability (like the knee), others need to be more mobile (such as the hips and ankles). You can emphasize strength training all you want, and the joints that need stability will thank you for it, but if you can’t execute a full range of motion because of how immobile you are where it matters, your strength won’t count for anything. In fact, overly focusing on strength without mobilizing muscle groups can lead to conditions such as anterior pelvic tilt and upper crossed syndrome. Take someone who spends most of their day sitting at a desk. In this position, their hamstrings are going to become stretched and tight. They then go to the gym, and expect to bang out heavy sets of deadlifts. Deadlifts require the hamstrings to be strong, but they also need to be mobile. What happens when you place excessive strain on an already strained muscle group? They tear.

So, it’s obvious that the body in general needs to be supple and strong. A balanced ratio between the two allows an athlete to perform functional movements at full range of motion with heavy weight, while an imbalance in either direction paves the way for injury and postural problems.

Overcoming 6 Common Obstacles in the Way of Your Fitness Goals

By BoxLife Team

Life happens. As such, there is always some obstacle standing between you and your goals. Being aware of common obstacles puts you in a place of power. You can anticipate the obstacles and do something about them, or, in the best case scenario, set yourself up to prevent them altogether.

1. Forgetting to set a game plan
Setting goals and getting psyched about them is half the fun, but if you don’t create a game plan to achieve a goal, it may not happen. Let’s say you want to get a muscle-up. You’ve seen other athletes do it and you want to be able to do one too. That’s great—but what’s your first step? Are you going to jump up on the rings and simply try to pull yourself up? What about the coordination—can you time your swing, pull and hip extension properly?

If you answered no or aren’t sure about any of these questions, you might not have set a game plan. To reach any goal, you need to set a game plan to ensure success. In the case of a muscle-up you can ask your coach and other athletes for their help. Identifying what knowledge gaps you have and making an effort to fill those gaps will help you build a plan that will give you a far greater chance of success than simply winging it.

In addition, do you have a plan as to when you will put these drills and tips into practice? After every class? During open gym? Three times a week? Or just when you feel like it? Build a goal-training schedule and stick to it. Set up specific targets to reach by certain dates to act as stepping stones towards your overall goal. Not only will this help your athletic ability, but it’ll also help boost your confidence and motivation by reassuring you that you are indeed progressing and moving forward. Lastly, lean on your friends and fellow training partners for support and accountability so that you don’t fall off the wagon.

2. Not knowing your ‘why’
Looking a certain way or progressing in the sport are general reasons to set goals, but being specific about why you want to accomplish something is a far more powerful incentive.

Wanting to walk on your hands just for the sake of being able to do it may be enough for some people, but for most athletes there’s no true purpose there, and it may turn the goal into a mundane task. And tasks are more like chores, and no one has the motivation to do those. You need to attach some meaning behind your goal, otherwise you won’t feel inspired to spend the countless hours of necessary practice in order to achieve it. A great way to do this is by setting a specific date or event by which you hope to have earned the movement/weight, etc. Much like you should use mini objectives to build towards a larger goal, setting yourself a deadline provides a sense of urgency and impetus to the task at hand. You’re far more likely to put in the work if you know there’s a countdown as to when you need to achieve it. Use the start of the Open as the target date for stringing together multiple double-unders, an upcoming competition for your first ‘as prescribed’ workouts, or perhaps a personal event in your life (wedding, vacation, etc.) to have shed a few inches from your waistline and feel happy in your bathing suit/happy with your reflection in the mirror. When you make a goal personal, it becomes important to you—and that makes it far easier to sacrifice your time and efforts to work towards achieving it.

3. Not having enough confidence
Confidence—not arrogance—is paramount to success in life, not just in CrossFit. Good things happen to you because you make them happen, and believe that you can in the first place. Sure, certain goals might intimidate you because they may seem difficult or take too long to obtain. But if you look at them from a different perspective, you can tell it’s something worth pursuing. If you never take a chance or do something that scares you, you’ll forever remain in your comfort zone, stagnating your level of fitness. Having a good plan and the right incentive are great tools, but without possessing the inherit confidence that you can and will earn that goal, the smallest setback will easily floor you. At one point legendary CrossFitter Chris Spealler had six CrossFit Games appearances under his belt, but he wanted one more. In 2013, he fell just three points shy of making that a reality by finishing 4th at Regionals. Yet Spealler had confidence in himself and his abilities, and returned to Regionals once more in 2014, snagging 2nd place and earning his 7th trip to the CrossFit Games.

The point is, you can’t let the unplanned setbacks in your training or life (illness, injury, etc.) dent your confidence in such a fashion that a goal you once made for a good reason vanishes—along with your self-belief. Understand that you’re not alone in experiencing obstacles. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, and don’t assume that some athletes magically achieve their goals with the greatest of ease—I assure you that that’s not the case. Some goals will require months or even years (think of Spealler) to achieve, and you need to be prepared for that possibility. It’s important to use smaller objectives to help build your confidence en route to your primary objective (as mentioned above), but there are other tactics you can employ as well. These include visualization (picturing yourself accomplishing the goal), positive body language in training and celebrating smaller milestones.

4. Lack of resources
Some goals require a lot of training or prep time—making it more difficult for those athletes who are parents, work multiple jobs, or have other obligations that limit their time in the gym. Yet while a lack of resources can be a hindrance, it shouldn’t derail you completely from your goal. Look at your schedule to see if there are opportunities to get your training done in the morning or at lunch before you have to return to work. If you can’t make it to the box, is there a globo gym nearby where you can get a workout in? Are you able to meal prep for the week so you’re not forced to eat out every day? You’ll quickly come to realize that if the goal you set for yourself is truly important to you, you’ll find ways to work within resources and still progress towards achieving them.

5. Unwillingness to change
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. You have to be comfortable with change to evolve as an athlete (and as a person). For some, this might mean completely revamping their diet, expanding their training regimen to two-a-day workouts, switching to a new affiliate, and or altering their training plan when they’re not seeing results. Any one of these changes can come with complications, but if it’s what you need to become the athlete you want to be and reach your target, you have to at least consider making them. Just as you have to throw varied programming at your body in order for your muscles to constantly grow, adapt and become stronger, so too must you make changes in your schedule and diet if that’s what it takes.

6. Letting others negatively influence you
It’s important that you surround yourself with the right kind of people who will support your goals, and not question your ability to achieve them. If you’re constantly surrounded by negativity, then you’ll likely start to doubt yourself. So just as it’s important to have supportive people in your corner, it’s equally important (if not more so) to remove the negative people from your circle—or at least limit your interaction with them.

7. Fearing failure
“I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison

Think about all the great success stories in life and sport. Do you think they hung up their gloves as soon as they ‘failed’? I’d doubt they’d even consider their setbacks failures—more like learning opportunities that helped them become the athletes and professionals we admire. It’s far easier to quit rather than face your fear of not succeeding. But even if you don’t reach your goal by the date you set, does that mean you’re done? Of course not! There’s nothing stopping you from regrouping, readjusting your plan and setting yourself the same goal with a new date—just like Chris Spealler did.

keep moving

All of a sudden it seems as though everything under the sun is happening. Before another month passes us by, here is a quick list of some upcoming events and information on them!

  • Monday, Labor Day – please check both Facebook and/or the website for holiday class schedule updates
  • Saturday, September 16th – WOD Up Nation Competition out of Branford Crossfit (visit link for more information). We have multiple teams of 3 currently competing. Be sure to come down and support your fellow athletes!
  • Thursday, September 21st from 6-9 PM – “Girls Night Out” presented by New Balance and Crossfit Thin Blue Line at the Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor. Participants will receive a swag bag, enjoy a Crossfit inspired bodyweight workout, live DJ and more. We already have a group of ladies attending this event. If you are interested, please be sure to RSVP on Facebook (see Crossfit Factory Square Members Only Facebook page) or see me (Jen deVre)!
  • Saturday, September 30th from 9 AM – 2 PM – Crossfit Factory Square is partnering with Pure Skin Spa in Southington to offer members a day of relaxation. They are offering discount packages for things such as massages, renew facials, mani/pedi, etc. There are only a few spots left! If you are interested be sure to see Rosanne.
  • Friday, October Date TBD – That’s right! Barbells for Boobs is right around the corner! Come enjoy a night of fun to complete the partner WOD of “Helen Meets Grace”. More information to come in the upcoming weeks.

Outside the Box: Best Crossover Activities for CrossFit

By William Imbo

For a lot of us, CrossFit has become our sport. Where we once may have devoted all our time to practicing our jump shots, pitching, batting, striking, tackling, we now focus on our attention on pull-ups, snatches and clean & jerks. We no longer want to become better basketball, football, soccer players, but better CrossFitters. And yet, being a true CrossFitter doesn’t mean we need to give up those other sports entirely—quite the opposite, in fact. As CrossFit founder and CEO Greg Glassman states, we need to regularly play new sports and new activities. Why? For one, it’s an excellent way to help develop the ten skills of fitness (which includes things like accuracy and agility that aren’t always emphasized in a WOD) in a new setting. It’s also fun, aids in your active recovery, adds variety to your week and allows you to reconnect to your sporting roots from high school and college. There are so many different ones out there, but we can be limited by the weather and geography (not everyone gets to surf on the weekend, California). However, if you’re looking to try out some new activities (or get back in touch with some old ones), we think this list will be a good place to start.

Swimming, if you didn’t already know, is a particularly vigorous workout. The world’s best swimmers move through the water with grace and economy, while the inexperienced are awkward, clumsy and inefficient. As Terry Laughlin notes in the CrossFit Journal, a world-class runner is about 90% mechanically efficient—meaning that 90 of every 100 calories expended produce forward motion. The remaining 10 are lost to muscle heat, ground friction, wind resistance and so on. Water, on the other hand, is 900 times thicker than air and is highly unstable as a medium for applying power. Therefore, Laughlin estimates, a world-class swimmer is only 9% mechanically efficient. A typical novice swimmer, on the other hand, is only 3% efficient. Yikes.

Even so, getting into the water can regularly produce some great results, particularly if you are on the mend from an injury. It’s a low impact activity, as well as a form of active stretching, and since you approach near weightlessness in the water, it’s a great way to get some exercise in when you are coming back from an injury. Swimming is also a form of both cardiovascular and resistance training—seeing as you have to propel yourself through water. Swimming significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. It is a full-body activity that will boost your overall muscular endurance. When you swim, your breath is somewhat restricted (both in volume and frequency), so as you fight against the resistance of the water your lung capacity is growing, resulting in both anaerobic and aerobic gains.

Targeted areas: Active recovery, muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, stress relief, fat loss

You can tell how much the CrossFit community values yoga as a complementary activity by the number of yoga classes currently being offered at affiliates all across the world. This is for good reason: Basic yoga poses (such as downward facing dog and warrior two) help to reinforce external rotation of the shoulder and hip joints—not to mention your overall mobility—which is important for numerous movements within CrossFit. In addition to completely revamping your flexibility, practicing yoga can help you focus, help to control your breathing (which can be a lifesaver in workouts where you are too excited and starting to lose your ‘chi’), improve your balance, coordination and reinforce good positioning. “As Debbie Steingesser writes, “Most of the classical poses in yoga support the same concepts of creating torque, finding a braced neutral spinal position, and always working from core to extremity.” Essentially, doing yoga helps you learn how to move your body more efficiently.

Targeted areas: Stress relief, flexibility, balance, coordination, active recovery

Running can be performed almost anywhere—the beach, on the street, in the woods, even in water—therefore making it a useful variant to your regular CrossFit work. And because so many CrossFit workouts require a good deal of running, it can’t hurt to get a little extra practice in on the side, right? In addition to relieving stress, improving cognitive function, lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of getting cancer, running can burn a shit-ton of calories, increase your bone mass and improve your cardiovascular endurance. You can vary your workouts based on the distance you choose to run, whether you want to run intervals or even add some muscular endurance training to a run by wearing a weight vest. You may even want to do some sprint training, highly valued by Olympians and professional athletes of varying sports for its ability to build muscle and power (by strengthening the size and strength of your fast-twitch fibers) and increase work capacity, to name just two benefits.  Clearly, running has a place in your fitness regimen.

Targeted areas: Stress relief, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscle and power development, fat loss

Rock Climbing
I love rock climbing. I’m not that good at it, but I love the idea of having to utilize your entire body to scale a massive wall or rock face. It’s quirky, it’s different, and it scares the shit out of me, but it also provides me with a huge adrenaline rush. Obviously, your grip strength is going to double, probably even triple. After all, you’re going to be using every muscle group in your body and multiple joints to move your body upwards. Like the squat, rock climbing requires multiple compound movements to be performed over and over again, which can only mean good things when it comes to improving your strength and learning how to move your body. On top of that, rock climbing can shred fat. Think about it. You’re clinging to the side of a mountain/wall, sweating buckets as your muscles are constantly relaxing and contracting as you move from crevice to crevice. Rock climbing exposes you to the natural beauty of the great outdoors, which can be enormously powerful for relieving stress. Finally, rock climbing is a great active recovery exercise (low impact), and useful for forging perseverance and confidence in an athlete. Fran may not look so intimidating after spending the better part of an hour contemplating falling to your death as you climb the face of a big-ass mountain.

Targeted areas: Grip strength, muscular endurance, strength, fat loss, active recovery, stress relief

Traditional ball sports
Football, basketball, baseball, rugby, soccer—traditional ball sports are what most of us grew up with, and we love them. The athletic benefits can vary depending on the sport in question, but a general list would include coordination, accuracy, speed, endurance (both muscular and cardiovascular), agility, strength and power. But perhaps the greater value in playing ball sports is that they allow you to be part of a team. In truth, playing team sports and joining a rec league is a great way to socialize outside the box, relieve stress, improve almost all the skills of fitness, help with active recovery, avoid the CrossFit burnout and simply have fun.

Targeted areas: Stress relief, social benefits, agility, strength, speed, coordination, accuracy, power

Mountain Biking
Like rock climbing, mountain biking is a great way to relieve stress and reintroduce yourself to the great outdoors. It can be detrimental to your physical and mental state of being to be cooped up between four walls during the week, so grab your bike and hit the trail! In addition to stress relief and having some great ‘fun’ trying not to die as you hurtle down a steep path, mountain biking can provide you with some great athletic benefits. First off, your legs are going to get a great workout from having to work overtime to get you up the damn hill, mountain, forest, whatever in the first place. As a result, expect to see the muscular endurance of your lower body muscle groups improve. Balance and coordination will also improve, especially if you’re one of the mentalists that insist on hurtling down the slopes at breakneck speed while simultaneously trying to avoid rocks, trees, ditches and so on. Depending on the type of mountain biking you want to try (i.e. terrain, uphill vs downhill, speed, intensity, duration), you can expect to burn a ridiculous amount of calories and beef up your cardiovascular endurance. It’s thought that mountain biking 2 to 3 hours a week can improve your lung capacity by up to 20 percent, which will come in handy at the box!

Targeted areas: Stress relief, balance, coordination, fat loss, cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance


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