During November Crossfit Ignite has programmed a weekly set of strength and conditioning workouts to let people get comfortable with the movements and push themselves to improve week over week. One of the WODs is perhaps the best rowing-specific strength workout I’ve ever done:
WOD: 4 super sets, with 1 min rest of
Back Squat x 8 – deep and solid, nuff said. Doing this week after week, I have almost equaled my 3-rep max for 8 reps, meaning a significant strength gain. With this many reps I also get a pretty good upper back workout, and my squat technique has improved dramatically.
Romanian Deadlift x8 – this is scary at first, because it is almost a straight-leg deadlift, but once I got used to it I found that I can actually handle more weight than I can squat. Hits the lower back and glutes hard.
10 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible):
10 Single Leg Kettlebell Deadlift– 53/35 5R 5 L – done with a single kettlebell, alternating sides, to even out imbalances. This is a hugely effective lower back exercise.
10 Goblet Lunges (53/35) or Barbell Lunges 45# – this is a glute and quad ripper.
Even though this is only a 45-minute workout, I feel like I just did a 25K erg piece at drag factor 180, followed by a “Buns of Steel” video!
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The two key stretches I’ve added to my warmup over the past year are the deep, wide squat and the simple hang, or “orangutan hang”. Today I did the latter on rings outside (each hang lasting about 20 seconds), and realized that this could be a wonderful pre-race stretch for rowing. Why? I was cold and tight, and started out with my toes just grazing the ground on my first hang, having to hop slightly to get my hands fully on the rings. By the fourth hang , the entire chain from my fingers to the base of my spine was tingly and warm, and my body had gained about 3 inches of length, to the point where I could put my feet flat on the ground (in minimalist shoes, so really flat!). I got to thinking about the possible effect of an extra 3 inches of mobility between the base of the spine and the fingertips on the arc of a sculling stroke over the course of a 1000-meter race, and I felt silly that I had never considered this before. I think I might be taking my rings with me to the next race and hanging them from the nearest tree!
While Mark Sisson maybe goes a little overboard with his “Grok” persona, he has a good description of both the simple wide squat and the simple hang on his Mark’s Daily Apple blog.
Kelly Starrett also has a great video demonstration of dynamic variations on the deep squat on the Mobility WOD blog.
Anybody else try this?
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So I have a new project – a focus on hip, ankle, and lower back mobility in order to improve rowing performance. I have stiff hamstrings and ankles, as do many rowers who have focused for years on exercises that work the quadriceps exclusively.
My question is: what would be the effect if I could comfortably and safely get an extra inch of compression on the slide on each stroke? At its simplest, this would mean an extra inch through the pin, and would make it possible for me to gain the same length through the water with a shorter oar length. The effect would be easily measurable on the Concept 2 ergometer because splits on the machine are directly related to how long your pull on the chain is.
One way to work on this is to achieve good form in the truly deep squat. To date in Crossfit, I have tried to increase weight, but I just can’t get LOWWWWW with it because I am not flexible and my knees have traditionally hurt from running. Switching to a FiveFingers “barefoot” approach solved the latter, but the former is still there.
Here’s my plan:
1. Lighten the weight, go for perfect form. This is a sequence with 205 lbs, which I consider my new “PR” because it was done correctly with a rack to gauge my depth. Even though this is about 50lbs. less than my squat PR, my legs were cooked from it. You can see in the right hand picture that my mobility limitation is causing me to rotate a little at the bottom of the squat – gotta work on that!
2. Focus on mobility exercises for hip and ankle flexibility. I have been doing the deep squat (also called the “Asian Squat”, the “Indigenous Peoples’ Squat” and the “10 Minute Squat” as part of my warm up for both Crossfit and rowing. There is a funny video on “How to do the Asian Squat” linked from Mark Sisson’s blog and a post from Kelly Starrett on his Mobility WOD blog.
3. Measure the impact through the upcoming winter on the Concept2. More TBD on this.
I hope that this approach will not only help my rowing and Crossfit results, but will also help prevent lower back injury when doing heavy erg work this winter.