My Experience at the CrossFit Strongman Trainer Course

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Coaching With Passion, Focus and a Innate Desire to Improve Upon One’s Skills

images (26)Coaching is my absolute passion and I am constantly striving to improve not only as a coach, but as an athlete as well. I believe a coach should always be pursuing and furthering their education to become more knowledgeable and proficient in their skills. Every day we as coaches should be learning, improving and trying to progress in our trade; whether it be attending coaching courses / seminars, reading books and articles, interning with good coaches, and most importantly checking the ego to remain humble by understanding there’s always room for improvement, no matter your skill level. Greg Glassman said, “Have fun screwing up…it means you are removing your ego from the problem.” Every day is a chance to learn, progress, and advance in the realm of coaching, it’s exciting!!

“Have fun screwing up…it means you are removing your ego from the problem.” – Greg Glassman. 

As coaches, we are mentors and leaders in our CrossFit Affiliates; we owe it to our athletes to provide them with the best we can offer in order to help them progress and achieve their goals. If you, as a coach, stop learning, then eventually you’ll stop progressing and so will your athletes, who deserve everything from you as a coach.

Since completing my CrossFit Level 1 Trainer Course at CrossFit Mayhem (an amazing box), I have made it my mission to further pursue my education as a coach and have attended multiple CrossFit Specialty Trainer Courses, to include: CrossFit Gymnastics, CrossFit Endurance, CrossFit Powerlifting and the latest being CrossFit Strongman.

These courses are all truly amazing and awe inspiring. The CrossFit Coaches teaching these courses are talented beyond words and their passion for coaching is powerful and inspirational.  Every course I attend, I walk away with an arsenal of tools to add to my toolbox as a coach that benefits my athletes, as well as building upon my own foundation as an athlete.

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Not only do I gain a vast amount of knowledge pertaining to each specialty area, but since these are trainer courses, I’m presented with the opportunity to watch others coach and gain insight on different tactile teaching cues, verbal cues and coaching styles.  This is an invaluable aspect of these courses (again more tools).  Every athlete responds differently in terms of learning stimulus: some are kinesthetic, visual or auditory learners. If you have an athlete who is struggling with conceptually understanding your message, then having multiple ways to deliver that message can be extremely useful, whether is be a tactile cue, visual cue or auditory cue.

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Another bonus associated with attending these trainer courses is the fact you’re able to observe the movements of different athletes, which is then analyzed by some of the top CrossFit Coaches in the world. This element allows for you to identify proper or improper movement from all body types, honing in on faults and proper corrections relative to each body type.  Once again invaluable and definitely needed to give you a well rounded understanding of proper mechanics and position within the large spectrum of CrossFit movements.

This past weekend, March 15, 2014, I had the opportunity to attend the CrossFit Strongman Trainer Course. It was an amazing experience. Between the coaches and presented material, I left  with a new outlook on Strongman exercises and learned how these movements can be a phenomenal supplement to our CrossFit Training.

What is CrossFit Strongman

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Tires ranging from 1000lbs to 150lbs

When you think of Strongman training, people often think massive men moving extraordinary large loads, such as: trucks, cars and crazy heavy items that us mere mortals could never imagine moving.  That is true to some extent, but “CrossFit Strongman” is the integration of Strongman movements / energy systems into the constantly varied CrossFit Model, which is a powerful mixture!!  Coach Tim Burke simply put it as, “Old School” movements with ”New School” programming, thus developing optimal power output and intensity.

Strongman Movements are hardwired, innate and natural, thus replicating real world strength: pushing, pulling, dragging, carrying and pressing. Movements that we use in everyday life.  Just like CrossFit, Strongman movement are universally scalable to all fitness levels, yet still producing the same intensity and stimulus. These movements are in our makeup as human beings, i.e. picking up items, pulling or pushing items, dragging items, carrying items etc.

“Strongman Movements are hardwired, innate and natural, thus replicating real world strength: pushing, pulling, dragging, carrying and pressing. Movements that we use in everyday life.”

Throughout this course we learned safe, proper, and fun movements utilizing strongman objects, to include how to coach each movement and identify common faults.  In addition, we discussed CrossFit training methodology and programming as it relates to the integration of strongmen movements.

Below are the strongman movements taught throughout this course:

I had an absolute blast learning these movements.  CrossFit Strongman movements have to be one the most fun methods in terms of developing strength, still affording you the ability to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains.  I mean who wouldn’t want to build strength and overall fitness by flipping heavy tires, picking up heavy atlas stones, carrying all types of funky objects and moving them from point A to point B? It’s like a playground for CrossFittters!!

Why Do Strongman??

download (5)For all my CrossFit Level 1 Trainers, remember the statement “Large loads, Long Distances, Quickly,” that was continuously repeated and instilled as one of the essential components to develop power, strength, intensity and work capacity over model domains? “There is no better execution of this statement than moving a Yoke that is 3 x body weight across a football field in 30 seconds, or carrying 1.25 x body weight in each hand (farmers walk) the same distance in less then 30 seconds, or flipping a 700 pound tire for max reps in 60 seconds. These all equate to “ Large Loads, Long Distance, Quickly.” – Strongman Material

Learned VS. Remembered

Answer this question: how long does it take to teach an athlete to Snatch?  Does it take 6-12 months? Longer or shorter?  Ultimately, it all depends on the athlete, but I think we can agree it takes time, patience, consistent practice, an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment to become proficient with the Snatch.  Remember, we should be following the Charter of: mechanics, consistency, then intensity.

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1000 lb Tire!! Took three people to flip, awesome!!

Conversely, flipping a tire is pretty simple to teach to beginner athletes and even easier for them to remember in terms of replicating again without having to spend 6-12 months learning. Introducing Strongman movements immediately to new athletes can provide huge power output and instant intensity with movements that are safe, fun and easily remembered, delivering phenomenal results in terms of developing strength and metabolic conditioning quickly.

One of the Strongman Coaches, Tim Burke, emphasized, :It would almost be a disservice to your athletes by not introducing them to something so easily learned and remembered that would lead them to becoming stronger, fitter, thus achieving overall fitness quicker.  Which after taking this course, I would have to agree 100%!!

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Kegs filled with water, talk about a dynamic object!

I understand some of the equipment is pricey, but you can find tires for free, atlas stones are relatively inexpensive to make and kegs can be found free or inexpensively, so there are options. Also, you can purchase one strongman item at a time and create a workouts with stations; get creative.

Rogue Fitness has a phenomenal selection of quality Strongman Equipment.

Getting Down and Dirty

Every CrossFit Strongman movement learned in this course was followed up with a min-WOD, ranging from 1-2 minutes. Two words come to min: intensity and power.  Talk about introducing my body to a completely different stimulus, which definitely will achieve increasing work capacity.  Something as simple as doing four rounds of a tabata with shoulding an atlas stone at 75% of your body weight for max reps, or 45 seconds of max reps tire flips with a 500lb tire, or 2 rounds of 30 sec Viper Press (Log) with 30 sec max effort burpees.

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Atlas Stone, ground to shoulder.

These mini-WODs wrecked me and left me feeling excited at the same time; what an expression of strength, power and intensity, so potent and multi-functional, not to mention FUN!!  Because of the awkward size and shape of this items, athletes are constantly being introduced to different stimulus.   These movements also force athletes to move heavy load under less efficient and less favorable stimulus, which results in transference of power to well balanced objects like a barbell.

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Mountain of Atlas Stones ranging from all sizes

For example, while performing the atlas stone lift, you’ll see similarities to the deadlift in terms of setup, but the stone lift will look more inefficient. This is because the stone is farther away from your body’s midline as opposed to a barbell that would be held close to your body throughout the entire lift.  This is what you will see in most CrossFit Strongman Movements, a less favorable setup, but is come down to being able to brace your body under load created by these inordinate objects, this amounts to brute strength and new PRs!!

Addition, how often are we presented with a barbell in real world situations? Never.  So in retrospect outside of the CrossFit Box, we will be picking up items in all types of less effective positions.  The Barbell has a mechanical advantage since we can keep that bar close to our body, as opposed to pickup up your children, carrying groceries, and other everyday movements.  Strongman is applicable to our everyday life.

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Keg Clean and Press

Another example: A water filled keg. This represents a dynamic load that challenges the neuromuscular system in a manner that a barbell cannot replicate.  This stimulus develops efficient movement patterns with inefficient loads, thus allowing athletes to become stronger and respond quicker to unfavorable stimuli.

Increased Maximal Lifts, Improved Midline Stability and Grip Strength

Crossfit Strongman does it all in terms of assisting athletes with developing strength in lifts, improving midline stability and grip strength. Throughout this course, I was blown away by the potency of the movements in terms of the the levels of intensity and power output created by moving loads under less efficient stimuli.

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Viper Press with Log

We as crossfitters love lifting heavy shit, especially PRing on our lifts, which is ultimately a measure of progress and becoming stronger as an athlete.  During this course we lifted a ton of unconventional objects that produced an intense stimulus, which required us as athletes to lift in less than efficient positions, due to the objects being farther away from your body’s midline.   As your strength increases in these areas, the transference of power to well balanced objects, like a barbell, will result in heavy loads being lifted!!

Let talks Midline Stability, absolutely critical to our development as an athlete. One of my favorite quotes from Coach Greg Glassman “People ask me, ‘what do I do for abs? I tell them, stabilize the mid-line like a motherf*cker, that’s what you do.”

“People ask me, ‘what do I do for abs? I tell them, stabilize the mid-line like a motherf*cker, that’s what you do.” – Greg Glassman

While performing the yoke carry in this course, I was astonished at the mount of midline stability that was required to move maximal loads from point A to point B quickly. These movements require very little flexion or extension at any of your joints, creating a isometric hold from your core, requiring quick movement from the athlete’s feet. Again, another example of “Large loads, Long Distances, Quickly,”  By the end of the day my core was trashed and sore more so than it has ever been.

Another important element, grip strength, is not only vital to many movements within CrossFit, but even more essential to everyday life: turning door knobs, shaking hands, opening jars and other everyday functions in life. There are so many movements in Strongman that will develop brute grip strength.  For example they had us perform maximum effort farmers walks (Holy Moly, what a blast) and talk about maximum time under tension, metabolically challenging and tough. My grip definitely gave out first before anything else. I could already feel the effects in my palms and forearms (soreness) before the course ended that day!!  For Crossfitters, just think about being able to hold onto the pull up bar longer for the last few repetitions, not dropping the barbell under heavy loads, kettle swings and so much more!!!

What To Expect When You Attend This Course

Like I previously mentioned, I have attended several CrossFit Trainer Course that all have been amazing, but I would have to say CrossFit Strongman has been the most fun thus far.  Be prepared to have a blast, but be ready to work as well, you will be exhausted and neurologically taxed by the end of the day. But I guarantee you’ll walk away with a new perspective on Strongman movements and how these movements are an  essential supplement to your athletes training and development.

Schedule

The course was well organized and presented in the following manner:

* Introduction to CrossFit Strongman
* Introduction to Tire Flip

  •  Movement Teach / Demonstration
  •  Practical Application
  •  Mini-WOD

* Introduction to Atlas Stone

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

* Introduction to Keg Clean & Press

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

* Lunch – 1 Hour
* Q/A Programming – 1 Hour
* Introduction to Yoke

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

* Introduction to Farmers Carry

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

* Introduction to Log Clean and Press

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

* Introduction to Viper Press

  • Movement Teach / Demonstration
  • Practical Application
  • Mini-WOD

Upon completion of the day, we huddled around the whiteboard for Q & A session and finished with taking a group picture.  The coaches were great about answering questions and providing additional resources or means to contact them in the future.

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Group Picture!!!

The Level of Instruction and Coaches Teaching the Course

It never ceases to amaze me, each and every time I attend a CrossFit Trainer Course, I find the coaches are world class and operate on a level that is heads and shoulders above the rest.  Their passion for CrossFit and teaching others the concepts and methodologies is awe inspiring. Even after teaching the same course week after week for years, their passion and genuine care and belief in their message and material is as if they were teaching the course for the first time.

Big shout out to Coach Tim Burke, Coach Dom Maurici, and Coach Natalia Martinez, who demonstrated exceptional coaching and created an atmosphere conducive to training and learning at the highest levels.

My Recommendation

If you’re looking to build upon your foundation as a coach and or athlete then I highly recommend this course as well as the other specialty trainer courses that CrossFit provides.  These courses will allow you to progress as a coach, which in turn will provide you will more tools to develop your athletes. Furthering your education as a coach should be a constant priority in the realm of coaching. Always looking for ways to become more proficient in your skills, we should constantly be learning and pushing ourselves to better, therefore providing more to our athletes, who are our #1 priority as coaches.  “We fail at the margins of our experience.” – Greg Glassman

“We fail at the margins of our experience.” – Greg Glassman

If you have any questions or would like to share your own experience, please feel free, I would love to hear the feedback!!  Also, if you all are interested in hearing my about experiences with some of the other CrossFit Specialty Course, let me know and I’ll definitely make sure to share them in the future:)

Till Next Time,

Michelle

Below are videos demonstrating some of the Strongman Movements:

Tire Flip

Atlas Stone Shoulder

Viper Press with Log

Log Clean and Press

Yoke Carry

Zercher Yoke Carry

Keg Carry

***Resources CrossFit Strongman Manual***

5 thoughts on “My Experience at the CrossFit Strongman Trainer Course

  1. OK, you talk about transference – so let’s transfer some of your newfound knowledge to the Tribe! Of everything you wrote about, my most immediate interest would be things that improve grip strength – how many times have I said that my grip is almost always the limiting factor for my pullups and toes to bar? And it seems like the equipment for that (some “handles” to add to barbells) might be fairly inexpensive (and needed only if the dumb bells and kettlebells we already have aren’t heavy enough). Maybe a Saturday “Intro to Strongman” WOD? I’m in!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brian,

    I would love to do a introduction to Strongman!!! That would be a blast and the tribe would benefit greatly from these movements, not only are they fun, but provide a different stimulus to achieve serious results!!

    See ya soon,

    Michelle

    Like

  3. Very inspiring….any recommends on how to strengthen your grip? Struggling with larger bars such as for hanging to do toes to bar, pull ups etc…I have smaller hands and would love tips on how to get a grip!! I do use the hook grip when I can actually wrap all my fingers around the bar, but it doesn’t always work…thx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Rosie,

    There are lots of great options to improve upon your grip, which can often be a limiting factor when holding onto the bar for kipping, T2B, heavy barbell loads etc.

    On a mechanical note, I want to emphasize the importance of gripping with your hands as a oppose to solely gripping with your fingers. I say this because, when you grip with your hands, there will be the automatic tendency to form a false grip. A quick way to determine if you’re predominantly using your fingers, you’ll see your wrist break to form a backward C, which happens to be the opposite of the false grip position.

    Here are a few options that will help build strength within your grip:

    * Fat Bar Training: Using thicker bars (Axle) while training your lifts. Or you could simply wrap a towel around the bars to make it thicker, your notice the pump in your forearms on the first set!!

    * Pinch Grip with Plates: Grip a bumper Plate for your fingers to develop finger strength, which will transfer into your overall grip strength.

    * Power Hold: Set a barbell up at just above your knees. Load it up heavy and pull it off the rack and hold till grip gives out, then do it again

    * Towel and Rope Pulls: Throw a towel around a pull up bar and do pulls, same with ropes.

    * Farmer Walks: Can be done with heavy kettlebells, dumbbells, or bumper plates,
    if you don’t have Farmer Walk Bars.

    * Performing dead hangs on the pull-up bar.

    Hope this helps!!!

    Michelle:)

    Like

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