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Gym Belle  - noun  one who enjoys pull-ups, push-ups, lifting things up/putting 'em down, PRs of all kinds, racing, jumping, spinning, daring and blogging re same (more here)


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Staying Centered

Last weekend I found myself at the CrossFit Level One Certification course in Brooklyn.  The two-day course covered both the theoretical underpinnings of CrossFit and the mechanics of executing and teaching the nine basic movements.  Those nine movements fall into three categories: the squats, the presses and the deads.  During the lecture on squatting, our instructed remarked that overhead squats are the best ab exercises you can do.  That surprised me.

When I thought about doing an overhead squat, I thought mostly about my shoulders.  To do an overhead squat, you first press, jerk or snatch the barbelle up overhead and then you squat, keeping the barbelle up.  The lift begins and ends with the bar overhead, and it is sustained there throughout.  The elbows have to stay locked, and you have to keep pressing the thing up.  Otherwise, of course, it might come down on your head.  That's a shoulder thing.  You also need to keep the bar centered above you.  If it's too far forward, in particular, gravity will win and you'll drop it.  Keeping the bar back to maintain balance requires a degree of openness in your shoulders.  My shoulders are pretty tight. 

Well, this week at the gym, we went for 15 rep maxes of the overhead squat.  I'd done one rep maxes, and workouts that involve a lot of light-weight overhead squats, but I'd never done something like this. 

I warmed up with 22 lbs, and was quickly reminded that this lift kills my grip, too.  I then did 15 reps at 32 lbs as fast as I could.  I toyed with the idea of doing 37 before 42, but it seemed like everyone around me was moving up pretty quickly.  I loaded a bar for 42 lbs.

42 lbs started out pretty well.  I tried to keep the pace up.  Coach's words of encouragement are usually commands to go harder; he urges us to be "explosive, to "get aggressive," to "drive the ground away with your heels," or to "make violent love to the kettlebell."  That night, he kept telling up to focus, insisting that this lift was mental.  I can see that.  It's a nervewracking lift and with each rep, making the decision to send my hips back and down got harder and harder. 

42 lbs got painful quickly.  Remembering the lecture, I tried to think about engaging my abs, but when your hands are screaming from the grip and your shoulders are straining, it's hard to focus on a part of your anatomy that doesn't hurt.  At rep number 10, I had to drop the bar.

A short while later, I went for it again.  I wish I could tell you that it all clicked, that I focused and used my core strength and did the 15 reps.  It didn't happen.  In fact, the struggle set in much faster the second time around.  My balance was shot and I was shaky.  By rep 10, I was actually shaking, and I dropped the bar. 

Before we began the workout, Coach commented that 15 reps of bodyweight overhead squats is something to strive for.  I weigh a smidge over 42 lbs, so this may take a while.

I'll keep you posted.

-Gym Belle- 



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