I am the Owner of Nansemond CrossFit out in VA and was looking through the last month of programming to get a good idea about the CFFB program. We have been using scaled CrossFit.com workouts, but most of our people really need to get stronger more than anything, so we are going to switch to your programming for a couple of months and see what happens. We work with some local HS Volleyball players and I am excited to get them back after the season and put them on the program.
My question is about gymnastics as part of your SWOD. I saw lots of pullups, a pretty good number of dips and GHD situps, and HSPU once, but was wondering if you had considered other movements. I was specifically thinking about handstand work, front and back levers, pistols, and planche progressions. Have you tried and discarded them, or given them some thought and gone other directions?
Two things made me wonder about this, the first is Gregg Glassman and other coaches have mentioned that gymnasts tend to learn other sports better than other athletes, and I recently started working on a free-standing hand stand and it has highlighted a weakness in upper body and OH strength. I spent about a minute total time in a handstand and my upper back was talking to me the next day.
Thanks in advance for the programming. We are excited to see how it turns out.
How many 300 lbs gymnasts do you know? Maybe a 225 lbs gymnast? Or the reverse, how many top-level gymnasts have played in the NFL?
The reason we do not put complex or more technical gymnastics movements in CrossFit Football, is because we are not gymnasts. We do however, use basic bodyweight strength movements like handstand push ups, pull ups, dips, and the occasional skin the cat, as assistance work in the program.
The muscle up is a staple in CrossFit main site programming. I won’t program muscle ups because I feel the risk versus reward is too high for power athletes. One slip off the rings and an athlete can tear a shoulder or pectoral muscle and be out of commission for months. In a sport like football, an off-season injury can be devastating.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a “specialist” as one who specializes in a particular occupation, practice, or branch of learning. To play professional football, or any high level sport for that matter, you have to be a specialist. You have to dedicate yourself to be the best at your given task, many times at the expense of other things.
When I played, I couldn’t have cared less if I had the stamina to walk a 5k, as long as I could run forty yards in 4.9 seconds. For the last few years of my career, the range of motion in my right shoulder had gone down significantly. It never bothered me because I could still bench over 500 lbs. I surely could not have walked on my hands, let alone do a free standing handstand, but if I punched you I would have caved your chest.
What is more important, the ability to walk on your hands or knock a defender on his ass with a punch? I would take the punch over the circus trick.
In CF circles, words like specialist and hypertrophy are dirty words. CrossFit Football, however, made it’s bones on myofibrillar hypertrophy, alactic power and short capacity. The program was never designed for the generalist, but the specialist. Check the tag line, “Forging Powerful Athletes”.
Many of you are entering the S&C world and at some point may be approached to train athletes that get paid. I caution you to look at everything you do with a risk vs reward mindset. Yes, seeing a 250 lbs linebacker do a muscle up is inspiring. Watching him slip off the ring, tear a rotator cuff and kiss his upcoming season good bye is heartbreaking.
*I have said countless times, if you are training for the CrossFit Games you need to be able to do muscle ups. You will need to be able to perform basic body weight movements. You should put those into your programming in the form of skill development.
We followed the CFFB at our box for a few months, and you’d be surprised how their programs helped all of the athletes at our box in the skilled movements. Not only did our strengths in the olympic lifts go through the roof but most of us got strong enough to do pistols, muscle ups, handstand push-ups. It was amazing to us that we didn’t see the benefits of the CFFB programs till about a month after we were done. In fact many of us questioned our trainers at the time. But as our owner told us when we were finished, “let’s use this newfound strength of ours to kill our old pr’s and to test the limits and boundries of our new bodies”. You’ll be pleasantly amazed how their programming will translate in a more “powerful”, yet agile, athlete
You’re far too knowledgeable to be associated with crossfit, what gives?
If you are interested in strength-biased programming coupled with lots of skill work (gymnastics) check out CF South Brooklyn’s programming. They do that and from what I’ve seen, they do it well.
Additionally they offer 100% strength classes (given in 8 cycles) with a Rippetoe starting strength coach. Those classes have a 100% strength emphasis (basically SS for the newbies and TM for more advanced lifters) and run side-by-side with the regular CF programming. Folks cycle into those for 8-16 weeks and then go back into class 100% (or more) stronger. Then there are those like me who just stay in the strength class and squat, press and pull heavy 3 days a week…
Brian: Since gymnasts are usually 4’10”, what sports did Glassman say gymnasts pick up more quickly? Certainly not basketball or volleyball. Not baseball, lacrosse, golf. Maybe jockeys and weightlifters? What other sport are dominated by short people?
There is a time an a place for risky movements. If you’re training for power, take a risk on a third PR jerk attempt or some heavy partials though.
And that’s a badass pic up there. Some hard work being done.
People who do gymnastics as KIDS absolutely pick up other sports easier, they develop a body awareness and fearlessness than is hard to teach to an adult who is afraid of diving under a 315lb clean. Lots of top female O-lifters are ex-gymnasts who grew too tall or got older. However, this is a reason to put your kids into gymnastics when they’re in their early developing years, like 3-4 years old, and give them a good few years to get strong with bodyweight work, develop body awareness, fearlessness etc, then transition them onto other sports. This does not mean that a 40 year old desk jockey will benefit from muscle ups and placnhes in terms of playing other sports, or that top gymnasts will dominate other sports, or that power athletes should do muscle ups.
I would like to hear john’s thoughts on the application of bar muscle ups as a lower risk alternative to ring muscle ups.
[…] Required Reading: Talk to Me Johnnie “Risk vs Reward” […]
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, “CrossFit is a base you should work from, not towards.” People get nervous when they specialize in one specific realm because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s terrible. The base conditioning you can get from CrossFit is awesome and John’s spot on about the risk you take when training someone that has money on the line (high school, college or pro).
IMO it’s fun to be able to train for something for 12-16 weeks then shift gears and do something at the other end of the spectrum. It creates a good challenge for yourself and gives you a different experience/perspective. I’ve bounced back and forth between CF Football, CF Endurance and Catalyst Athletics based on my mood and anticipated food consumption (holidays are a great time to lift heavy).
John, I agree that CFFB adresses the specialist. But I do not agree that, for example, a 255lb, div 1 college football player who comes to my box to train in the off seaso would not benefit from CFFB, and rolling in gymnastic elements such as handstand pushups, or walking on hands, or even a scaled workup to muscle ups to increase shoulder flexibility and suppleness while not detracting from CFFBs strenght modes and times. Strength/power and mobility are not mutually exclusive, and generally highlight an area of potential injury.
Thanks to John and CFFB community for the responses.
Rob Is: I will look into that. I am not so much interested in the skill work for the sake of generalization or just to do it, but my experience was that the gymnastic work requires a tremendous amount of strength and wanted John’s thoughts on appying that to football as a power sports.
Big Josh: My understanding of Glassman’s observation was not that a gymnast specialist may become a professional at any of the sports listed, or even become particularily skilled at them (compared to other athletes), but that a gymnastic background allows an athlete to adapt more quickly to other physical tasks than a background in other sports. The inference being that if you take someone who is built for basketball (I will use it because that’s what I know) and teach them gymnastic principles they will become better basketball players faster.
You are right that someone who is a very adept gymnast probably won’t achieve very much success as a basketball player because there is so much more to it than just having specific capability. Ie, at 4’10” you would need about a 50″ vert to be competitive, regardless of how good you were, and that’s not likely.
I was interested in John’s general thoughts as part of a basis to start answering more specific questions about how and where to draw the line between generalization and specialization. Examples: Does developing a pistol get an athlete to a 40″ vert faster (or is it a neat side effect of a strong and mobile athlete)? What is the value of Handstand work for volleyball players? Is that better/same/worse than pressing for strength and durability?
By the way, the response was right on the money.
I don’t always get in fights…but when I do…I cave chests in.
Stay powerful my friends.
Josh, I think the squat is questionable. He’s probably doing one of those quarter squats like CHilton was doing at the meet…haha. Badass group of guys. Nice work.
Why is it that people come to the CFFB site, reap the benefits of the programming, and then issue a complisult (compliment + insult)? I love the comments and questions starting off with, “I have used the CFFB programming and have gotten much stronger and more explosive. But have you considered…….” There is not a program out there that is going to increase your speed, strength, and explosiveness as well as increasing the time you can spend in Warrior II or a “free standing hand stand”. If you think that is possible, go with P90X or the Crossfit main site and quit trying to change a FOOTBALL program into whatever you think it should be. I would love to see Ray Lewis, Adrian Peterson, or Megatron crediting their planche progressions for their success in the NFL instead of their explosion, strength, and power.
Big Josh, Shane is just standing there looking at his reflection. They’re called heavy self-admirations.
Josh, Smuggler, Lake et al…,
Can you think of anything more fun than loading up a bar, putting it on your back and then just staring at your reflection for 30 seconds? I love heavy reflection day! Way better than DE day!
Great article John. Good insights as always. Thx! Gfy
Brian – “My understanding of Glassman’s observation…” Well there’s your problem right there.
I think that what John says about risk vs reward for a professional power athlete is the same thought process I use in my gym for regular folks. Strict pullups and back squats get you stronger faster with less risk of injury than kipping pullups or snatches. Appropriate for athletes and for regular people who want great benefits without getting hurt. I was a gymnast and am comfortable with all the body weight gymnastics skills. At age 41 I follow CFFB and compete in powerlifting so that I can stay injury-free. Really, John’s stuff on this site is a huge gift to all of us.
How do you know that handstand work will not benefit an NFL player? Have you performed this experiment? What is another 45kg on your bench going to do for you?
Lake: it went something like this….
Rose “You gotta go a little deeper Shane”
Shane “I’m already unlocking my knees dude!”
Awesome insight John! I have no intentions of ever learning the muscle up but I do intend to continue to increase my squat max. I think i’m in the right place.
BTW-While Shane may have been observing his own reflection behind the camera, as usual, i’m the one performing the work under the bar!
Kestrel, do you have a different understanding of his observation?
With all that being true, somehow, somehow, gradually developing an increased power output in the short-burst, alactic stuff has helped my, be it very occasional, running. I practice the pose method and had found that it is much easier to pull my feet up and stay upright and sturdy during change of support. I find that maximal power trickles down into all of the other facets of my activities, including stamina and whatever “endurance” means. Much like Reaganomics, haha.. Good stuff
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I hope you disable the comments section at some point, you spit come real shit and some people get rubbed the wrong. “How do you know that handstand work will not benefit an NFL player? Have you performed this experiment? ” How many players do handstand pushups as a special teams formation??? If you don’t like what you hear on here from TTMJ, go some where else. Thank you for your time John. Once again Thank You for your blog, and your time.
[…] Risk Vs Reward – talktomejohnnie.com […]
[…] “Risk vs Reward” from Talk To Me Johnnie. “I surely could not have walked on my hands, let alone do a free standing handstand, but if I punched you I would have caved your chest.” […]
Brian, I just think that you should take whatever he says with a grain of salt. A microscopic grain. My original comment was blocked, I guess. For the better, probably.
[…] “Risk vs Reward” from Talk To Me Johnnie. […]
If you don’t mind me zeroing in on just one movement, why no pistols? I remember step ups being discussed at the CFFB cert. Single leg work may not build absolute power the same way as full lifts, but it does appear to have some role in correcting imbalances. Is it the ROM, the balance element, or the flexibility required that makes the pistol a bad choice as far as risk vs reward?
Great point John, id also include box jumps [in a conditioning workout] as not worth the risk either.
Chad – if you want to do pistols, do them. i am not saying for you to not do pistols. If you are using a pistol as a corrective exercise, then pistol your little heart out.
Personally, I am a fan of doing weighted single leg squats. When I trained at Athlete’s Performance we did a ton of single leg squats with a barbell to a below parallel box, touch and and go. I thought that was useful early in the off-season to offset some imbalances. But as the training progressed we traded them for heavy back squats, plyos and sprinting.
Lets say you have 4 months to work with an athlete and he cant back squat or do a pistol, what would you focus on?
now if you are training for CrossFit, your athlete needs to be able to a pistol. if you dont prepare them for this movement then you didnt do your job.
Thanks John, that’s what I assumed you’d say, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t for another reason like “they put too much strain on the meniscus” or something along those lines.
I always prioritize the back squat for obvious reasons, but a recent knee injury made me evaluate the value of putting some single leg work back into my training. Not in place of back squatting of course, but just as a supplement to it.
It doesn’t help to have a +2x bodyweight squat if your MCL is blown.
[…] thought this was a very good article that demonstrates that you really should know the “why” behind […]
I was pretty overjoyed to see this response to the question re gymnastics moves. While millions watch the Olympics and are awed by the moves gmynasts engage in, those same millions may be unaware of not only the immediate risks of those moves but the long term damage to joint structures these same moves result in. As a 55 y/o firefighter who needs to go to work and perform straight on fitness is necessary with risk minimization paramount. Due to this, and a prior rotator cuff injury, I have avoided both ring work and hspu’s. I always sub when these are in the wod’s. At one point I was doing hspu’s and developed increasing pain and discomfort in the shoulder with the old injury. I surmised that this was due to the locked in tracking of the joint through the hspu range of motion. Currently my focus is on kettlebell work and I am experiencing both an equalization in strength and joint flexibility bilaterally in arms and shoulders with none of the pain that hspu’s caused. Bottom line, the risk vs. benefit is a great approach. Subbing is always an option, adapt to your needs and your injuries (I imagine atheletes in my age group work through pain somewhere in every workout…:) ).
[…] 1-100 M run 2-Box jumps (36/28) 3-Thrusters(95/65) 4-SDHP(95/65) 5-Push press(95/65) 6-KB swings 7-Burpees 8-Med Ball Cleans 9-KTE 10-Push ups(w/clap) 11-Pull ups 12-Hang Clean and Jerk (95/65) Complete reps like the song: 1 2-1 3-2-1 4-3-2-1 5-4-3-2-1 and so forth. 12 Days of Christmas song Compare to 7.25.11 or 12.20.10 Risk vs. Reward-CrossFit Football […]