Archive for April, 2008

Fitness is about progress.

You don’t get fitter if you don’t push yourself to a higher level.

The beauty of CrossFit is that it offers numerous ways to measure your current ability level across a range of skills and provides benchmark information so that you know how you measure up to everyone else.

A while back I came across CrossFit North’s (Now CrossFit Seattle) Athletic Skill Levels document. This is basically a list of goals for all of the elements of fitness organized into ability levels.

I love this document and its pretty much the cornerstone of how I focus my training and also how I go about analysing my athletes and designing programs to meet their specific needs.

Understanding the Chart

First things first… You’ll want to download our version on the Skill Levels so that you’ll be able to follow what I’m talking about. This is an almost identical document to CrossFit Seattle’s if you prefer to use that.


As you can see there are 4 skill levels across the top – Superstar, Action Hero, Super Hero and Legend.

You can see that on each line of the chart you have a different activity type i.e. squats, 400m run, deadlift etc. As you move across the columns, the goal or benchmark gets progressively harder, but is still the same type of activity allowing for easy reference as to where you need to aim next.

Using the Chart to Evaluate Strengths and Weaknesses.

The next thing to do is to print the chart out.

Now go grab yourself a highlighter.

All you now do is go through each activity and if you can do it, highlight the box. Obviously if you don’t know if you can do something schedule in some time to test yourself.

This should leave you with a chart that looks something like this

CFW Skill Levels

The great thing now is that you can start to look for patterns.

Now you can’t see particularly well on the above image, but this person has reach Legend status on the Deadlift and the Military Press, Super Hero level on the Squat, OHS and the Clean so obviously this person has the weighted strength and power exercises down pretty well.

For the above athlete, all of the gymnastic skills are sitting at the Action Hero level, which is great, but shows that this is an area that needs some work to get it up to the same level as the Weightlifting elements.

Looking at where there is a bunch of white boxes, this is where all of the MetCon and endurance stuff can be found i.e. your runs, rows and high rep work.

So for this athlete we’d tailor their program so that their Weightlifting ability will be maintained, but we’d be looking to increase the gymnastic work and really work hard on pushing the MetCon work.

Our goal is to build well balanced athlete’s who are capable across a wide range of athletic activities and in doing so, this simple tool has proven to be very effective.

In Summary

  1. Download and print a Skill Levels Chart (Get ours here).
  2. Highlight the skills you are currently capable of completing.
  3. Look for patterns – are you generally better at Weightlifting, gymnastics or MetCon? Are there any skills within these areas that are lagging behind i.e. are your pullups way better than your pushups? Is your Military Press lagging behind your Deadlift?
  4. Devise a training schedule that adresses these imbalances
  5. Re-evaluate regularly.

What are you waiting for – get cracking…


Photo by la tartine gourmande

I’m consistently told by people that they eat healthy.

Their bodyfat % usually tells me otherwise.

So what are my top 3 rules for getting your nutritional ass into gear? Let’s take a look…

1. Eat natural

If you couldn’t have dug it up, cut it down or caught it yourself, then chances are you can make a better food choice.

Think meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds.

If it’s something that has been processed to make it, go for foods that have had relatively few processing steps i.e. olive oil = 1 step (the pressing of the olive), therefore good. Snickers = god knows how many steps, therefore eat something else.

A couple of other ways to think of this are to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh stuff is and to avoid pretty much anything with bright, eye-catching packaging – it’s usually EVIL!!

2. Quit sugar

This kind of goes with number 1, but refined sugar is a killer. From diabetes to gut problems and a whole host of metabolic derangement conditions, sugar sucks. Get it out of your diet now.

Only drink tea or coffee with sugar? Cut down or find another drink. I had a client who drank 10 cups of tea per day, each with 2 sugars – that’s 20 teaspoons of sugar per day just from beverages.

Oh and kick your soda habit as well – apparently there are the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar in 1 can of coke.

Excess sugar screws up your insulin functioning and when this goes crazy, that when you start storing fat and starting on the road to type-2 diabetes.

If you eat a lot of fruit, that can be just as bad, so make sure you get the majority of your carbs from veggies.

3. Eat enough protein and healthy fat

Nowadays most people I talVeggies!k to are scared of fat. Don’t be. Fat is your friend. Your body needs it for a whole range of jobs. Just make sure you eat the right kinds.

Stay away from processed foods and you’ll avoid the majority of trans-fats – these are man-made fats that succeed in actually stripping vitamins from your body. Not good.

You want to get the majority of your fats as monounsaturated. You can get this from olive oil, avocados, almonds, macadamia nuts and a bunch of other places if you google it.

Take a good fish oil supplement to get another dose of healthy fats, this time polyunsaturated.

Believe it or not, you can also get healthy saturated fats and a good source of this is coconut oil or coconut milk.

As for protein, eat lean sources like chicken breast or fish and aim to have one serving at each meal. Don’t be scared of eating protein, but in all honest even if you’re training hard you don’t need to go overboard.


As long as you eat clean, you’re most of the way there. The next thing to do is control your insulin by reducing sugar and carb intake whilst eating plenty of veggies. Next make sure your getting enough nutrition in the form of quality protein and good, healthy fats.

Get this far and you’ll be eating better than 90% of the population. From here on in, it’s a case of optimizing your nutritional plan to suit your lifestyle and personal needs.

If you need help designing a custom nutritional plan, sign up for our Online Personal Training Service and we’ll work with you to optimize your diet.

People just don’t hang around by their arms enough in my opinion.  But they should.

Hanging Around...

Kids get it – give them a set of monkey bars or a goal post, and the first thing they’ll do is jump up and start hanging there like little monkeys.  Why?  IT’S FUN!

Being able to hold your bodyweight by your arms is a valuable skill.  It’s the first step in being able to pull your bodyweight over an obstacle and could save your life if you ever find yourself hanging from a cliff face…

So, go find yourself a pullup bar, a ledge, or something else to hang from.  Then take a palms-away, thumb-on-top grip and hang there for as long as you can.  Build up to 60secs.  This will work your grip strength and build up the strength in your arm and shoulder joints.

Of course, if you’re doing the above exercise, then you should really balance it out with an exercise where you support your bodyweight on top of your hands with your arms at full extension.  This is the position you’d find yourself in if you were to push up onto an object such as a ledge – think getting out of a swimming pool (without using the steps smartass…).

Support on Worktop

OK, so find a surface about waist height such as a worktop, a sturdy desktop or a hand-rail.  Then with your arms fully extended, take all of your weight onto your hands ensuring that you push down through your shoulders until your feet come off the floor – hold for time.

If you have access to gymnastic rings, then these are perfect for practicing your supports on and make the exercise harder because you need to stabilise the rings by your side.

Ring Support
(Photo taken from

These are nice moves to work into your cool-downs.  They’re not particularly stressful, but are well worth the addition to your training if you’re not ready to start working full range-of-motion pullups of dips.

Give ’em a go.

I mentioned to a client of mine last week that I did a mobility and “wake-up” workout every single morning regardless of whether I had another CrossFit workout planned later in the day and he was a little taken aback.

I thought I’d take some time to chat through why I do this each day and what my routine entails.

I read a fair amount of Taoist and Zen influenced material and a while ago I came across a book which talked about setting aside some time each day where you allow your mind and body to “come together” whether this is through meditation or lifting weights, you take the time to really involve your mind in what your body is doing.

Seeing as most people try to distract themselves with music or television whilst working out, I liked the sound of really getting involved with what I was doing and thought it would be a good was to set my mental focus up for the day and get my body running properly. The goal is to prep myself for the day, not to get a sweat on or fatigue myself – hence the low reps on the strength moves.

So here’s what I do each day. I really focus on each movement and get my breathing nice and deep as I progress. I do 10 reps of all the mobility stuff, both sides where appropriate:

  1. Neck mobility – left and right / up and down
  2. Shoulder rolls
  3. Arm circles
  4. Dynamic chest stretches
  5. Wrist circles
  6. Seated spinal twists
  7. Dynamic waist & spinal twists
  8. Hip “hula” circles
  9. Pelvic circles
  10. Hindu pushups
  11. Dynamic forward bends
  12. Dynamic front leg swings
  13. Dynamic side leg swings
  14. Dynamic rear leg swings
  15. Ankle circles
  16. Rocking Pistols (5 x 3)
  17. Full ROM Handstand Pushups between chairs (5 x 3)
  18. L-Sit (30 secs x 3)

That’s it. I then have my morning shower and I’m good to go.

Try something similar – its definitely worth it and you’ll have already accomplished something and improved yourself by the time you get to work whereas all your colleagues will have to make do with being happy that they got their socks on the right feet before they left the house.