Risk vs Reward: Why Things are Different Here!

At MJCF we refer to the concept of risk vs reward often, and nowhere is it more apparent than in movement selection.
At a later date we’ll deal in depth with WHY CrossFit biases towards some movements and avoids others, but for brevity’s sake we’ll focus here on which movement’s have the worst risk vs reward ratios, what to do instead of them, and how to minimize the risk IF you decide to take them on.
“Don’t break your neck”–Inversions. (handstand pushups, handstand holds, wall walk ups) 
Inversions are a personal pet peeve.  It takes an awful lot of philosophical hoop-jumping to say inversions are remotely “functional”.   The best thing I can say for them is that they are about the only tool available to drive shoulder strength without equipment.  MJCF will program them on occasion, BUT we’ll never encourage anyone to throw themselves from their feet to their hands and expose the cervical vertebrae to an uncontrolled impact.
What to do instead?–  Overhead presses.  My very first choice would be standing overhead press with dumbells.  MOST of the reward,  NONE of the risk.
How to do them safely if you must?–  PLEASE!  Pad the landing surface.  An ab mat or two is great and most CrossFit’s have them.  At MJCF we have 1″ hi density foam strips that have great grip and great cushioning.  Make sure your chin is neutral and your not lifting your chin away from or lowering your chin into your chest.   Lastly,  regardless of the workout specs, if you start to descend hard and “Bonk” your head on any given rep,  it’s time to take a short break before continuing.
“Don’t tear your hands”–  (Kipping pullups, toes to bar) 
While you see tears on some barbell stuff and some kettlbell actions, the really nasty rips usually come from the kipping pullups and toes to bar.
What to do instead?  Strict pullups instead of kipping solves this problem 99% of the time.  Rotation not load is the issue, and your strict pullup has minimal spin affecting the grip.   Ab straps or Hanging knee Raise instead of toes to bar.  HERE especially, I am quick to recommend scaling.  The Pullup has some functional value.  Toes to bar has almost none.  A good test of scapular strength and control to be sure, but I am hard pressed to remember a time life demanded I put my feet on the surface I happened to be hanging from.   The ab straps we’ve got at MJCF start to build the necessary strength in the scapulae and shoulder capsule, and take any concerns about hand abrasions completely out of it.  Hanging knee raise DOES have a grip component, but much less swinging and therefore much less shear on the hands.
How to do them safely if you must?  Here is a helpful link to a decent article about preventing rips.  Meanwhile, here’s two essential tips 1) Grip tight!  Tears come from the pullup bar spinning within your grip.  You want to minimize this spin with a secure and aggressive clamp. During the kip, your wrist angle will change, but your palm should remain fairly still.  2) Calluses are not your friend.  You want your hands tough but flat.  A raised callus gets trapped as the bar rotates within your grip and shears off, taking good skin with it.
“Don’t Ruin your Shoulders”– (Ring Dips, Heavy Snatching, Kipping pullups/Toes to Bar)
The shoulder is uniquely complex, easily injured and slow to heal.  Even versus knees and back,  we tread softly around the shoulder.  Here are the most shoulder troubling CrossFit movements in my opinion.
Ring Dips-  Elbow behind the spine, shoulder loaded, mounted on two very unstable rings is a bleak scenario.
Snatching (heavy)-  We’re taking a weight we lift ballistically with the legs, and asking  a fully extended shoulder to decelerate it in a safe and controlled manner.  That’s a tall task.
Kipping while hanging-  We are hyperextending the shoulder (elbow behind the ear) while bearing ALL our bodyweight, then applying torque (force in multiple directions)  usually over and over again with a brief release every repetition that further complicates staying in goo mechanical position.
What to do instead? —
Ring dips:  Do your dips on a bar.  Even then, moderate your load and stop the set as soon as your control on the descent begins to waiver.
Heavy Snatching:  Don’t.  Snatch light/medium.  The snatch is a GREAT driver of gross motor skills, coordination, speed, power and accuracy.  But 90 % of the benefit remains at medium loads.
Kipping While Hanging-– Sub the strict versions or use our abstraps.  See above.
And lastly….
“Don’t Split your Shins”– (Box jumps):
Reward vs Risk… What is the reward of jumping vs. stepping up? Small increase in work capacity and a bit more athletic demand. Risk? Nasty scars for life, stitches, and leaving chunks of your shin on the box.
What to do instead? Step up and don’t jump or use a padded box.
How to do them safely? 90% of you should step up on the box instead of jumping. If you’re in the other 10% and want the added athletic demands of jumping, MJCF has 7 padded boxes for your shin’s safety.  As always, feel free to ask your coach for the best option for you and your goals! No one wants to end up in the emergency room because of a misguided CrossFit workout. You can trust MJCF to steer you right and provide you with safe equipment!

Scaling: What, When, Why and How

To it’s detriment, CrossFit is very jargony, and one of the most common “CrossFit-esque” words you’re likely to hear early and often is “scale”.
“Did you scale or go Prescribed?”
“What’s the scale for a muscle up?”
“I shouldn’t have scaled as much!” etc etc.
Let’s define and demystify.
What is Scaling?  Scale in essence translates to modify, to change usually in the direction of easier, but always toward getting the appropriate response from the day’s workout.
I’ll elaborate:
CrossFit workouts are commonly quantified in some way shape or form.  Obviously, we don’t say that  “HELEN is “Run for a while, then do some Kettlebell swings, and then do a few pullups, maybe like a couple of times total?”, but rather HELEN is:
3 Rounds for time
400 m run, 21 Kettlebell Swings @ 53/35lbs, 12 Pullups.”
Everything is precisely defined.  The exact distance, weight and repetitions must be achieved and in doing so as written than and only then you have done the workout HELEN as Prescribed (shorthand HELEN rx’d).
But often you’ll find that adhering to the workout “as prescribed” will be
1)Impossible–Perhaps you don’t have pullups yet.
2) Detrimental–You could run 400 m if you had to, but your plantar inflammation would leave you crippled the next day or …
3) Inappropriate–Doing so would give you something other than the appropriate physical response.  If any of the above apply to you,  you should be scaling (changing/modifying) the workout.
In short, if any of the above applies to you on a given workout you should change, modify, adjust  ie SCALE. Which segues to Why scale?  We’d scale so that your time at the gym is advancing your fitness safely and incrementally, while not leaving you too fatigued and/or sore to come back the next day.
How/When should I scale?  The answer here is to consult the instructor and collectively come up with a plan.  They are going to be able to define the goal of the workout.  You are going to be aware of your limitations and circumstances.  So, continuing with HELEN as a reference point:  you might say  “Hey Whitney, I can’t run my knee is bothering me”  we might sub something that serves the same effect as running 400 m and takes about the same time.  Row/Ski/Bike 500/500/1000 m for instance.  These are all repetitive, relatively low skill, high turnover movements that will achieve the same end as a vigorous 400 m run.  If one of those can be done pain free, they’d be a much better choice than a stunted and slow run and the workout effect would largely be the same.
Another scenario “Joel,  I struggle with 5 pullups fresh.  I could do the 12 pullups per round, but it’ll take me probably 20-25 minutes to do this workout.   What should I do?”  Here’s an instance where the effect of the workout is altered by adhering to the prescribed standard.  This athlete will take so long to do her pullups that she will largely be recovered at the start of every run, and this is NOT what we want out of HELEN.  Among other things we want to see the athletes run while fatigues and we are looking for times in the 10-15 minute range.  This athlete CAN do the workout prescribed, but SHOULDN’T.  In this instance we’d reduce the load (perhaps we’d add band assistance or do jumping pullups) or possible change the movement to something with a similar effect  ( a horizontal pull like a supine row).
Doing the workout’s Rxd is often a good goal, but slavish devotion to Rxd no matter what is likely setting your fitness back a step or two and exposig you to injury.  Please continue to think long term about the toll we put on the body.  We can always go for Rxd down the road.

The Programming Week.

Hello All-

First and Foremost, our profound thanks for your support.  Prior to opening, we had certain membership goals for the one month mark.  Thanks to your collective participation, we  hit our monthly membership goals ON THE FIRST DAY!  We are shocked,  amazed and above all,  so very grateful!

Onto some exercise related stuff.  We thought it might be of interest to, with this entry, detail a little about our programming process.   The gist of it is, each day of the week corresponds to a fundamental movement pattern, after which, that pattern won’t repeat again till the next week.  This is a conscious choice done to reduce chance of injury.  For example, this Monday our “Strength Component” was Seated Dumbell Shoulder Press and our “Work Capacity” was Freddy’s Revenge.  Both featuring resisted shoulder extension.  So, for the remainder of the week, resisted shoulder extension is by and large OUT of the programming.  It’s not a hard and fast rule and there is some grey area. There may be some overhead movements, but they won’t be particularly heavy or high volume.  We might see Wallballs, for example.  While technically this has some resisted shoulder extension, but it’s relatively light loading and low risk.

So, real fast,  here’s a map of our week.

Monday- Shoulder Extension/Overhead  (Shoulder Press, Bench Press, Etc)

Tuesday- Off the Ground/Hip Hinge   (Deadlift, Clean, Snatch)

Wednesday- Aerobic Focus

Thursday- Upper Body Pulling (Pullup/Toes to bar/ Rows)

Friday- Hip Extension (Squat/Lunge)

We throw an aerobic focus on day 3 of our 5 day cycle, so the weekly pattern is 2 high stress days, 1 day “off” 2 high stress days, 2 days (sat and sun) off.

The net effect is, a wide variety of movements and patterns that cover as many bases as we reasonably can, with a constant eye toward preserving the joints/reducing injury risk.

We hope you enjoy the process!