Back in September 2013, Jay and I attended an Outlaw Training Camp and I penned a lengthy (surprise!) review.
A couple of weeks ago, Heather and I attended an updated Outlaw Camp, dubbed the “Science and Precision Series.” I figured that most of you would appreciate a dose of fresh penmanship, as such, here is her review:
We all know that CrossFit can be expensive. A Level 1 Certification is $1000. Yup, $500 a day, so roughly $62 an hour. Ok, when you break it down that way, it’s not so bad. But will that certification make you a better CrossFitter or get you a PR on your Olympic lifts? Well, it could, but not necessarily. The Level 1 is a very basic overview of CrossFit movement and philosophy.
The ‘Outlaw Training Camp: The Science & Precision Series‘ on the other hand is a 3 day, yes I said 3 full days (9-5), course of excellent foundational and theoretical knowledge about Olympic lifting, gymnastics skills, conditioning, coaching, and cueing that will in fact help you (and others) become a better CrossFitter.
Rudy Nielsen, who is the “ring leader” of the training camp, is so full of information that his hands are actually twitching the whole time he is talking (which if you ever meet him, you will not be able to miss). Rudy coaches Champion Olympic Weightlifters and Games athletes. Joining him was Tom Sroka (Weightlifting), Nicole Capurso (connectivity/weightlifting) and Lauren (Lulu) Truszkowski (connectivity). There were also several weightlifters who stopped by to lift with us (including a 14 year old girl (Juliette Chang-Fane) who beat my snatch PR by almost 20 lbs, and New Zealand’s best lifter – Puawai Munro-Halkyard…we called her Blossom!)
Friday: We started the day with a lecture/video analysis of Olympic lifting (and more specifically the snatch). One of the major points was the bar-lifter complex. This refers to the combined center of mass of the lifter and the loaded bar. In order to lift the most weight, the bar needs to be in PERFECT position.
The lift was then broken down into the first pull (off the ground to the knees), second pull (knees to upper thigh), and the power position (high hang/finish). Surprisingly, we didn’t directly analyze what I consider to be the “finish” of the lift, i.e. catching a snatch at rock bottom of an overhead squat and being able to stand up the bar with control.
The following is a quick summary of each pull position:
- Start/first pull: scapula directly over the bar, shins pressed into the bar, bar over the first strap/ lace of shoe (towards the toes), and weight in the balls of the feet (not tippy toes, but heels just barely kissing the ground)
- Second pull: shins vertical, bar below scapulas, weight toward front of heel and slightly to outside of foot, the angle of the hip should be the same as the angle of the knee
- Finish/ power position: torso behind the bar and vertical, knee flexion is the same as in the hang (knee remain static), bar contacts pelvis, weight in front of ball of foot (heels just kissing ground)
Major things to remember:
- When weight is in the balls of the feet, it doesn’t mean tippy toes, but you should be able to slide a piece of paper under the heels
- After yelling “balls!” several times as a group, apparently everyone else forgot, and I yelled “balls” all alone (awkward!)
- This lead to a memorable quote: “Athleticism is in the balls of the feet!”
- Pull the bar into your hips, not thrust your hips into the bar
- Depending on the length of people’s levers (torso, arms, femurs, shins), everyone’s start position will look a little different, but the weight in your feet and position of the bar relative to your body will always be the same
- Another memorable quote: “ Lifting is physics, geometry, and architecture”
After we completed the lecture and broke for lunch, we lifted… A LOT! We went through a snatch warm up with an empty bar, emphasizing the important points in each position. Believe me, an empty bar can get heavy really fast! Then we got to add weight… and add more weight… and add more weight! Lots of people got PR’s that day (myself included)!!! There was one rule. Your PR needed to be on video. If there was no video, not only did it not count, but there was a 1000 burpee penalty!
The day ended with watching the professionals show off their skills! All the seminar staff/ hosts (Olly Goddard, CrossFit Fenrir) threw up some huge numbers!
Saturday: The structure of the day was the same, but this time we were focusing on the jerk. We did not go over the mechanics of the clean at all, because they are the same as the snatch, just the hand position is different. The jerk is all about the footwork and the dip!
The jerk dip is a stacked position (shoulders, hips, and heels in line vertically). Weight in the foot should be at mid-foot to slightly forward (balls!). Think about pulling yourself under the bar, not pushing the bar up. The most important park of the jerk is the catch.
- Back foot breaks slightly before the front foot
- Receive with the back foot and finish with the front foot
- Weight should be balanced evenly between the front foot and back foot
- Front foot and back foot move the same distance (front to back)
- Bar needs to remain stacked over the shoulders and hips
Again we went through a snatch warm up with an empty bar and a fun little exercise called “jerk jail.” Basically, using the threat of bodily harm to your partner as incentive to maintain a straight bar path throughout the dip and catch. After the jerk drills, we did talk a little bit about the clean. Some people were given a visual/ physical barrier in front of their feet to prevent them from jumping forward during the clean. You’ve likely seen us use this with folks before. After we went through some drills, we got down to the serious stuff! A lot of weight was thrown around and more PR’s were made! The seminar staff and Olly again threw up more huge numbers!
After two days of what seemed like 20 hours of holding a barbell, we were all pretty spent! But, the great news was, we still had another whole day of learning to do!
Sunday: Today was all about what they call “connectivity.” Many people think of this as gymnastics skills but it is so much more! The key to connectivity is tightness: toes pointed, quads squeezed, abs engaged, shoulders active. This position applies to pull ups, muscle ups, handstand walking, and handstand push ups. The lecture/ video analysis started with ring muscle ups and then moved on to butterfly chest to bar pull ups.
Ring Muscle Ups:
- Arch: Press down and out on the rings, active lats, active abs, everything squeezed tight, keep legs as high as possible for as long as possible
- Hollow: pike to hollow position, whip (not kick) feet high as the rings, when you can see your feet, it’s go time!
- Quick transition, pike to arch, snap hips up to straight line, hips drive directly vertical to axis of rotation (where the rings hang), bring the rings as high on the torso as possible
- Turn over and use the swing of the legs back towards the hollow to press out of the dip
Butterfly Chest to Bar Pull Ups:
- Bottom: tight arch, head up (looking at or above the bar), actively pull down into the bar (lats firing)
- Backswing: tight pike, head up, create space between the bar (arms length)
- Kip (tap): feet hover, hips drive directly towards the bar, look up, arms break
- Bar contact: chest grazes the bar (on the way down) and then cycle right back into the arch
- Front swing: hard tight arch, create space in front of the bar, head is still up
- Body travels through an oval that is equal amplitude in front and behind the bar
More words of wisdom from Rudy: “Every bad rep is a wasted rep!” “Athletes get faster by getting slower.” “Kicking your legs does not give you momentum.”
After lunch we got on the floor. We drilled the hollow and arch positions. I learned that I was holding a “hollow” without really using my abs, and therefore my lower back was “broken” and I had no connectivity! Some of you out there are just like this…you know who you are! I learned this the hard way by having Nicole practically punch me in the stomach to get me to bring my ribs to pelvis, turn on my abs, and actually achieve a hollow! After working on positions on the floor, we moved to the rig. As if our hands didn’t hurt enough from all the barbell work the previous two days, they certainly hurt now!
When we got to the rig, the first thing we went over was the active shoulder position, which Rudy refers to as the scapular pull up hold. At CFG we have talked about “active shoulders” before, but changing the position of the head (always looking at or above the bar), changes the angle of the shoulders and uses more of the upper back and lats versus purely the shoulders. Once the active shoulder and head position were established, we started working on creating the tight circle of movement coming from moving through the hollow and arch WITH CONTROL. If your practice reps looked good and coordinated, only then could you attempt to actually do chest to bar (or chin over the bar) butterfly pull ups.
Next on the agenda was handstand walking (ah yes, another thing I can’t do!) We had a couple high level gymnasts in attendance, who did some nice demos of body positioning and technique. Then it came time to get on our hands. Don’t worry, we had a partner to catch our legs, and make sure we didn’t fall over. We talked about keeping active shoulders, head in neutral, body squeezed tight, body stacked. Once you could maintain the static position, then you could try to walk. Yet again, I got stuck at the inability to maintain the static position properly. So, Nicole took me to the wall for the remedial version. Remember the “nose and toes” that Josh has programmed for us? Well they call it chin and toes (not quite the same ring), but it forces you to maintain the proper body position.
The last thing we did was a burpee pacing test. We did 4 rounds of 2 min of burpees and 30 sec rest. During the 30 sec rest, we took our pulse. The goal was to maintain a heart rate of 150 beats per min (BPM). After the test was over, we added up our total burpees completed and our average HR. Don’t worry, Josh said he’ll be programming this fun drill for us very soon!
We shared the burpee totals for the seminar staff and a few selected participants. Not surprisingly, the participants with endurance based athletic backgrounds had the highest burpee totals while maintaining the target HR.
The burpee test lead into a discussion of HR ranges during activities. The aerobic zone (HR 110-140) can be maintained for all day activities. The crossover zone (HR 150-170) is where most CrossFit metcons fall. The last zone is the anaerobic zone (HR 180-200+) and can only be maintained for 1-2 min.
We discussed how this affects various athletes’ performance. Rich Froning for example, is the king of aerobic conditioning, and can therefore hold off longer before he reaches the crossover zone and eventually the anaerobic zone.
Now that we were all sweaty and stinky, the weekend came to an end. The seminar staff was full of knowledge, spunk, and fun. They all have a “say it as it is” type attitude and don’t really sugar coat the constructive criticism they give you. Not everyone can handle that type of “advice,” but I saw the positive in the negative! I got a couple minor cues and corrections to my Olympic lifting, and got 3 PR’s! Then it came time for body weight skills (which I was dreading before I even got there). Yes, I know I need to work at my body weight skills. Yes, it sucks to be called out about it. But, since the Outlaw Training Camp, I developed a body weight skill work/ strength development program that I have been doing every day. Sometimes it takes someone calling you out to make a positive change!
All in all, I think they Outlaw Training Camp was the best money I have spent for a training seminar thus far! I would recommend this camp for anyone who is looking to improve as an all around CrossFit athlete!