Monday, April 28, 2014

Kstar Breaking It All Down with a Jump Rope

If you can stay with this for the whole video, you can see in 10 minutes exactly where CrossFit is going - towards virtuosity in human movement.  In something as basic as jumping rope, we learn how to see about six very common movement and positioning flaws, even in this very fit and well conditioned athlete.  Each of the flaws would have significant impacts over a lifetime of loading, but just using the jump rope as a diagnostic tool, this athlete will have a chance to identify and correct several movement and positioning errors.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Scaling MU and PU for Individuals

Hang the bottom of your gymnastics rings right at your outstretched finger tips. [Assuming you've got overhead clearance*]
Position the squat rack directly under the rings
Set your J-Cups at shoulder level to start
Our resistance bands stretch perfectly between the J-Cups.  Use that band as a platform for your feet or knees.

To increase the amount of assistance, either add bands or raise the level of the J-Cups.

Excellent technique for scaling for garage gym folks.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Hammerhead Fitness on Double Unders

Get a Fitted Jump Rope - Nothing makes the Double Under more difficult that when you constantly change equipment.  Grabbing one of the jump ropes off the Wall at the local box is only going to take you so far.  Too short a jump rope and the rope won’t make it under your feet.  Too long and the cable hits too far in front slowing the speed of the rope.  Here's a quick guide for cable length:  For those at 5'6" height and less, add 2'10" to your height.  For those over 5'6", add 3'0".  With proper hand and arm position, these cable lengths will get you off and running.  We list this step first because it's the most important.  Do everything else right but have a too short or too long a rope and it won't matter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Epigenetics Doesn't Last 7 Generations

Of particular concern is the idea that mammalian health can be affected by epigenetic tags received from parents or grandparents. For example, one group reported that pre-diabetic mice have different epigenetic tag patterns in their sperm and that their offspring have a higher chance of contracting diabetes. (Virginia Hughes has written an excellent article summarizing this and other related epigenetic studies.) A flurry of other biomedical and epidemiological research has strongly hinted that a susceptibility to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can be passed on through epigenetic tags.
However, Heard & Martienssen are not convinced. In their Cell review, they admit that epigenetic inheritance has been demonstrated in plants and worms. But, mammals are completely different beasts, so to speak. Mammals go through two rounds of epigenetic "reprogramming" -- once after fertilization and again during the formation of gametes (sex cells) -- in which most of the chemical tags are wiped clean.
They insist that characteristics many researchers assume to be the result of epigenetic inheritance are actually caused by something else. The authors list four possibilities: Undetected mutations in the letters of the DNA sequence, behavioral changes (which themselves can trigger epigenetic tags), alterations in the microbiome, or transmission of metabolites from one generation to the next. The authors claim that most epigenetic research, particularly when it involves human health, fails to eliminate these possibilities.
It is true that environmental factors can influence epigenetic tags in children and developing fetuses in utero. What is far less clear, however, is whether or not these modifications truly are passed on to multiple generations. Even if we assume that epigenetic tags can be transmitted to children or even grandchildren, it is very unlikely that they are passed on to great-grandchildren and subsequent generations. The mammalian epigenetic "reprogramming" mechanisms are simply too robust.
This is an oft discussed topic in books about the paleolithic model, first discussed I suspect by Weston A. Price.  Price noticed that populations that have the best health on the planet (at the time that he prowled the world to find them) had several things in common:  very low incidence of dental carries, very good dental structure, very good bone structure overall, and a very low incidence of chronic disease (heart disease, cancer and their precursors) - In other words, as Denise Minger put it in her excellent book "Death By Food Pyramid", you are what you eat, what your parents ate, what their parents ate, and what you food ate/was fed.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link -

The set up:
Many of us have long been told that saturated fat, the type found in meat, butter and cheese, causes heart disease. But a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of international scientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacks and other cardiac events.
The new findings are part of a growing body of research that has challenged the accepted wisdom that saturated fat is inherently bad for you and will continue the debate about what foods are best to eat.
For decades, health officials have urged the public to avoid saturated fat as much as possible, saying it should be replaced with the unsaturated fats in foods like nuts, fish, seeds and vegetable oils.
But the new research, published on Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, did not find that people who ate higher levels of saturated fat had more heart disease than those who ate less. Nor did it find less disease in those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including monounsaturated fat like olive oil or polyunsaturated fat like corn oil.

The rest of the article includes interviews of so called experts, recitations of opinions, and very little analysis of where yet another epidemiological study falls in terms of the scientific value.

Let's face it - epidemiological studies show everything causes everything.

Why anyone reports on this silliness is a mystery.  If there were any good science of the topic - that would be newsworthy.  Eat meat, vegetables, nuts/seeds, little fruit/starch, no sugar/wheat.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Correlation or Causation?

To summarize, back in the 80s and 90s, because scientists had noted a correlation between estrogen replacement therapy and a decreased risk of heart disease, many women were put on estrogen replacement by their doctors.
Twenty years later, a controlled randomized study showed that in fact, estrogen replacement was very bad for heart disease! Oops.
How could a mistake of this magnitude occur?
It turned out that women of higher socioeconomic status who were more interested in their health (or better positioned to do something about it) were much more likely to ask for or agree to take estrogen than poorer women who had less access to health care.
And while on the surface it may have looked as if hormone replacement therapy reduced a woman’s risk of heart disease, in fact, it was a woman’s socioeconomic class that actually predicted that risk.
Middle and upper class women were less likely to suffer from heart disease – despite the fact that more of them were on hormone replacement therapy, not because they were on hormone replacement therapy.
Filed under "epidemiology has a 100% track record - it has always been wrong."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rudy Quoting Greg

Hold on to your hats, boys and girls… I’m going to quote Coach (that’s Greg Glassman for those of you who have only been around a year or two):
The missing link in so much mainstream fitness programming, from bodybuilding to monostructural endeavors, is the neuromuscular piece—in particular, the development of coordination, accuracy, agility, and balance. We can sum these elements up as “technique.” Omitting them from one’s training necessarily results in only partial fitness, partial expression of one’s genetic potential, and a decreased threshold of maximal capacity. To increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains (the goal of CrossFit), technique is the crucial connection—whether your goal is to win the game, protect your life, complete the mission, or just be fit for the demands of everyday life at any age.—Greg Glassman

At first, the techniques required for the successful lifting of barbells does not look like life, sport or combat.  But over time, all force application looks like powerful hip extension applied through a rigid torso (aka stable midline), and often completed via extension of an arm (or both arms).  This description can be seen in running, jumping, punching, batting, golf-ball-punishing, throwing and in lifting lifting objects from the ground.  Hip flexion adds to many movements, also, such as kipping pull-ups, maximal jumping, muscle ups, legless rope climbs, and etcetera.

Barbells provide a remarkable variety of ways to practice powerful hip extension while maintaining a rigid torso, which is why they are a potent tool for the development of human performance.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Thank You, RC Science

WHILE THE CURRENT study is by no means exemplary (frankly, it sucks), it is still far preferable to the anecdotal evidence rampant across the Internet. What's truly needed is a longitudinal study that tracks CrossFitters from various demographics and levels of experience over a long period of time -- at least six months.
"This should not be difficult to do, given the vast popularity of the sport," Strength and Conditioning Research's Chris Beardsley wrote.
While we wait for that, both CrossFit's opponents and proponents need to be more reasonable. CrossFit, like any form of exercise, is not without risk. But the benefits far, far outweigh them. CrossFit coaches and trainers need to look out for the health of their athletes, and take care not to push them beyond the bounds of what is safe. That means dialing back intensity, when necessary, and ensuring that participants always utilize proper lifting form. Dying for fitness just doesn't make much sense. Getting fit and living to one's fullest potential; now that does.
I wonder about what it means when they say "coaches shouldn't push."  In my experience, CrossFit is the opposite of the "drill instructor" model.  Coaches don't push, they set the stage and let the athletes choose their level of exertion.  Encourage?  Heck yes!  Reward and acknowledge outstanding effort and courage?  Frock yes, like you read about.  Celebrate PRs?  DUH!!  But the point of the CrossFit system - measuring the work and noting improvement over time on benchmark workouts - is that the coach doesn't have to "push" athletes.  The athletes take their own stock of how hard to work each day based on a multitude of factors no coach could ever know.  How much water did they athlete drink the 23 hours a day they are not in the coach's arena?  How have they slept and eaten?  Did they have a bad day at work?  A family issue?  A bad hair day?  A coach in CrossFit isn't getting paid to "push" they are getting paid to help you move well, in a group setting that is intrinsically motivating, and to help you celebrate your wins.  
I appreciate the write up in "real clear science" but saying "CrossFit coaches and trainers need to look out for the health of their athletes" is like saying "the sun needs to come up."  Really dude, that's all you have to say?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Exercise and Mental Health?

The Cochrane Review (the most influential review of its kind in the world) has produced a landmark metaanalysis of studies on exercise and depression. They picked 23 rigorous studies out of a pool of more than one hundred. The conclusion was that exercise had a “large clinical impact” on depression.
Among the studies that support the theory that exercise directly causes improved mental well-being (as opposed to vice-versa) is one that looked at the effect of exercise on older adults with clinical depression (Blumenthal et al., 1999). The authors compared exercise to a commonly prescribed anti-depressant medication (Zoloft), and found that both were equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms. In contrast to these results, a group of researchers from the Netherlands found that exercise may not be nearly as important as genetics in determining one’s mental well-being (Stubbe et al., 2007). These researchers looked at pairs of identical twins in which one twin exercised significantly more than the other, and found that there was no significant difference in their levels of happiness.
Diet and nutrition can be beneficial to psychological well-being. A supporting study by Hakkarainen et al. in 2004 observed 29,133 older male smokers. Participants in the study recorded their meals, and the researchers examined those men who consumed more fatty acids from margarine and junk food. The researchers found that ingestion of those foods was associated with increased depression, anxiety, and insomnia. However, in contrast to these results, a group of researchers examined the improvements in well-being associated with exercise or micronutrient supplementation. After 17 weeks, the researchers followed up with study participants and found that neither supplementation nor exercise had a significant impact upon the well-being of the participants.
Take it for what it's worth.  I can say with confidence that the best times of my life included physical training.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Butter Back, But Where's the Apology?

Julia Child, goddess of fat, is beaming somewhere. Butter is back, and when you’re looking for a few chunks of pork for a stew, you can resume searching for the best pieces — the ones with the most fat. Eventually, your friends will stop glaring at you as if you’re trying to kill them.
That the worm is turning became increasingly evident a couple of weeks ago, when a meta-analysis published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine found that there’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. (In fact, there’s some evidence that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging.) The researchers looked at 72 different studies and, as usual, said more work — including more clinical studies — is needed. For sure. But the days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close.
The tip of this iceberg has been visible for years, and we’re finally beginning to see the base. Of course, no study is perfect and few are definitive. But the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.

Bittman recently called Dean Ornish one of the most knowledgeable men in the world about heart disease (or something like that), an unabashed kiss of the derriere, so for him to come up with a column like this is noteworthy.

The rest of the article is a good read, but I could beat up every line from one angle or another.  Mostly, I wonder "where's the apology?"  Bittman participated with the government and all the hip wannabe scientists to pretend they knew that saturated fat was bad for us, and the in process had a bunch of eating truly wretched levels of sugar and grains and processed foods laden with industrially produced "vegetable oils" - and that crap has been killing people.  More people than wars, more people than drugs.  As this huge super-tanker full of tortured dietary science makes it's long turn away from the saturated fat scare, few will admit to what they did to their fellow humans based on their arrogance and willingness to bank on immature and incomplete science.  Some days that has me boiling mad.

And I think I'm just going to have to get over it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jogging Delusion?

Okay, here's my justification behind that insensitive comment that got everyone's panties in a wad. While gender is biologically determined, the concept of masculinity is a socially constructed notion. And while the idea of masculinity varies somewhat from era to era and from one region of the world to another, masculinity is usually associated with superior strength, muscularity, speed, and power. The human body, as it turns out, isn't a very good multi-tasker when it comes to "S.A.I.D." (specific adaptation to imposed demand). It prefers to be either big and strong, or small and weak, (albeit with good endurance). True, some guys can manage to have it both ways, but if you find it challenging to gain muscle or strength, you're not one of them.

Jogging, as the bulk of studies have repeatedly shown, reduces, or at the very least, makes it more difficult to maintain or develop all of the masculine traits I just described. This is why national and World-level powerlifters and weightlifters - most of whom are jaw-droppingly jacked and three times stronger than you are - rarely jog or do anything resembling it. Maybe you're willing to risk minimizing your manhood to obtain the supposed benefits of jogging.

Interesting topic!

The Pro: it's both cheap and easy to "jog" or engage in running for endurance training.  I think running is in our DNA - there's a case to be made that we differentiated ourselves as hot summer running scavengers, in which we could reach the dead animals on the savannah faster than other predators since we have the best cooling system in the animal planet.

I ran for fun and fitness all over the planet for many years.  I didn't log huge miles, and I didn't often get to be very "fast" at running.  My life was always better as a runner than when I didn't run.

If you are a foot soldier, you must be able to run long and slow.

Running is better than nothing and in terms of being able to do work, better than walking - if you don't take it too far.

The Con:  He's right, taken too far endurance running makes most of us weak and frail.  Running confers no special benefit to heart health, it does not help most people sustain a fat loss, and it is not a boost to performance for most sport.  Which is to say, if you play soccer, lacrosse, football, baseball, basketball, or other sports which place a premium on top end speed and explosive power, you'd be far better off skipping the long running sessions and focusing on speed and explosive power training.

If you like to run - cool!  I hope you enjoy the heck out of it.  I also hope you are not doing it because you think it's the bees knees for fat loss, heart health or sports performance.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom

"In an informal survey, we asked readers of The Salt if they bought packaged food labeled as fat-free during the fat-free marketing craze. 76 percent said yes, and 70 percent told us they ate more refined carbohydrates and sugars as a result."

This is another telling of how the government intervened in the diet of americans, and killed many, based on immature science, good intentions and arrogance.  If folks could sue the government, the settlement would be far larger than the tobacco industry settlement as so many more were killed and sickened.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Winning the Open!

Look, I don’t know who you are. Maybe you are one of the fire-breathers who might dethrone Froning. Totally possible. But most of us aren’t. And we need to keep this thing in perspective.
This isn’t about winning a contest, it’s about winning your life. If CrossFit is making your life better, then by all means, go in and go deep. But if it’s making you stressed-out because you’re not achieving some external goal about kicking someone else’s ass, dude, then you’re doing it wrong.
Which is why I love The Open so much. It’s a great time to come together, and get perspective. Sure, when one of our guys got 189 reps in 14.4, we were psyched. But if I’m being honest, I was more psyched about that woman’s first Toes-To-Bar. And I was even more proud of the way my daughter hit a wall, shed a few tears, tore some blisters open, and kept going.
This lady is a great writer, take a stroll through the whole article and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dr. Mike about Denise and Death by Food Pyramid

She discusses the notion that the meat eaten by our Paleo ancestors was different than the meat we eat today, and implies that those following a Paleo type of eating regimen aren't really eating Paleo. Why? Because Paleo man ate from nose to tail. He ate the entire animal, including all the parts modern man avoids, such as the viscera, offal, and organs. Typically, if reports from contact with contemporary hunting societies are indicative of how Paleo man behaved, the muscle meats — the ones most of us Westernized folk eat — were not prized as much as the organs and offal and were often fed to the dogs.
I have a little different perspective.
The organs, offal and viscera supposedly contain a lot more nutrients than the muscle meat. And, compared to muscle meat, they are filled with considerably more fat, much of which is saturated. Consequently, those following an ancestral diet are encouraged to limit muscle meat and increase consumption of organs, offal, and viscera, i.e., eat nose to tail. I have no argument with this other than it's often difficult to find organs, viscera, and offal unless you are on a farm or in a major city. Santa Barbara, where we live part of the time, is an upscale small city with three or four natural food grocers, including Whole Foods, and about the most exotic organ meat I can regularly find is liver. I suspect it's the same in most other places. Those of you who live in foodie towns, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, and New York can probably find all kinds of organ meats, but the rest of us either have to resort to ordering online, butchering our own, or doing without.
But all is not lost. First, although organ meats have more nutrients than muscle meats, it's not all that much more. Run a search on the USDA Database of Foods, and you'll see what I mean. Compare beef steak to beef liver or kidneys. Not a lot of difference except for the vitamin A in the liver.
A muscle meat diet can provide most, if not all, of what you need nutrient-wise. If you're worried, supplement with a multi vitamin.
I suspect our ancient ancestors were drawn to the organ meats and offal not because they knew they were more nutrient dense (how did they know?), but because of their greater fat content. Thankfully, agricultural science has come to our rescue. We modern folk enjoy steaks and chops and roasts more than we do the inner organs of beasts and fowls, so modern farmers now produce muscle meats that contain more fat than wild game. So we can get the fat of the organ meats while at the same time getting almost the same level of nutrients.
Many purists consider the muscle meats to be overloaded with fat and turn to the organ meats and offal instead. I say, what's the difference? I would much prefer a juicy, medium rare ribeye steak than I would a kidney or spleen or lung (and I've eaten them all), so why not get the fat in my steak?
Denise's book is a great read for several reasons, I highly recommend it as a foundational book in understanding the diet wars, and several nuances in the science of diet and health that are not well articulated elsewhere.

I like Dr. Mike Eades' point also - organ meats from grass fed and healthy animals are very potent in nutrients, but modern and unusually fat muscle meat is a more reasonable substitute than many would think.