Diaries of a Coach || 015 – Barbell Cycling

Hey CFA, Coach Erica here. Wanted to give you a little recap from the skills session this past weekend on barbell cycling. For those of you that couldn’t make it, here are some quick tips with the ol’ barbell as we approach The Open… fo’ free!

First things first. Before we can talk about positioning, variations of a lift and cues to save you time and energy, we have to accurately (and humbly) assess the work ahead of us. For the sake of this discussion, because we are specifically talking about barbell cycling, lets assume the priority is speed through a determined number of reps. The first assessment must be the recommended weight as it relates to personal work capacity. Depending on that, we then prioritize speed, under a relatively manageable load, or efficiency, focusing on maintaining heavier loads while preserving effort, grip and overall fatigue. We must also keep in mind the rep scheme and how it will relate to grip and to other movements that may be included in the workout. An accurate and honest assessment of the workout is crucial.

From there, let’s breakdown the discussion into various barbell movements that you’ll see in classic CrossFit workouts as well as The Open: the Snatch, Ground to Overhead and Shoulder to Overhead, all in their various forms.


When it comes to the Snatch, we have three acceptable variations. First up is the Muscle Snatch. This catch position allows the most efficient use of time because the lift finishes in the achieved standard – knees, hips and elbows extended with the barbell overhead. However, this particular lift is expensive in regards to strength and exertion. Be prepared to transition to a power snatch when necessary.

Tips: Keep the bar close on both the ascending and descending portions of this lift. As the bar descends, shoot the hips back and get the elbows over the bar quick, ready for your next pull. When weight is light, go straight down without a touch point at the thighs, almost vertical shins and weight in the heels.

When weight or rep scheme exceeds what we can consistently muscle, the Power Snatch becomes the most efficient variation. When cycling power snatches, adjust to a wider stance to save time (rather than jumping and landing every rep) and reduce range of motion from floor to overhead.

Tips: Again, keep the bar nice and close with an aggressive turnover to lock out at the top of the lift. Slightly push the hips back to reach the power position faster. As the bar comes down, same cues apply from the muscle snatch. However, a touch point at the thighs may be optimal, with weight as the determining factor. Touching the bar slows the bar down and keeps it close, ensuring a better position over the bar for the next rep. It also reduces tension in the back.

Finally, the Squat Snatch. Ideally, the squat snatch is used only when specified in the standard of a workout. If weight is relatively heavy, we may utilize the squat snatch out of necessity. Again, start with a wider stance when cycling, to avoid replacing the feet with each rep. Because we are speaking specifically in the context of CrossFit workouts, rather than Olympic Weightlifting, a slight cut to the hip extension may also save time as you pull yourself under the bar to achieve the standard of this particular lift. (If you know me, you know it pains me slightly to say that because this is NOT optimal in competitive Olympic Weightlifting.)

Tips: Keep the bar close. (Seeing a theme with that one? The closer the bar the more control as we cycle.) Be aggressive turning the bar over and locking out. Pull under the bar to reach appropriate depth, below parallel. Again, adjust the need for touch points as the bar descends based on weight.

Shoulder To Overhead

Next up are our Shoulder to Overhead movements. Options here include the Push Press and the Push (or Power) Jerk. (Strict Press and Split Jerk have been omitted for the sake of this particular discussion as it relates to barbell cycling.) Upon first glance there is an advantage to the push press because we end the lift meeting it’s standard, hips and knees extended. However, weight is our variable here. Opting for the push jerk will allow heavier weight and higher volumes.

Tips: In both lifts, sit the hips back with an upright torso and explode from the shoulders. Think about punching the bar into your overhead, rather than pressing (this was a game changer for me). Squeeze that booty and lock out your knees to finish. Then, pull the barbell back down and reload into the bottom of the dip, the explosion point of the next rep. With the push jerk specifically, take that wider stance again, to save time. Drive with the legs and then sneak under the bar to save those arms! Another tip for both, breathe (simple, right?), but often overlooked. Exhale as you punch overhead and inhale as the bar returns to the shoulders. Lastly, practice hand positions that might give you an advantage in regard to range of motion. If mobility allows, you may be able to adapt an advantageous wider grip.

Ground to Overhead

Finally, your Ground to Overhead. Let’s assume all Shoulder to Overhead assessments and variation techniques apply. From the ground, we then focus on the Clean, where the Power Clean is primarily most effective. Just as with the power snatch, starting in a wider stance will save time and reduce range of motion. No matter which overhead variation you establish as preference for the given workout, you are already in your dip position at the end of your power clean, so immediately drive overhead.

From the top down, touch point options include, straight to the ground, a touch point at the shoulders or straight to the thighs. Your choice should depend on the degree of difficulty for the weight required.

And there you have it folks. While it’s a lot of info, hopefully you found one tip or trick that you can try out to increase efficiency. So get out there, lift that barbell well and don’t forget to give me coaching cred when you’re named Fittest on Earth!

-Coach E

*Adapted from CrossFitInvictus.com. Click the link for full articles.

Sweat With Your Sweetheart

Looking for something special to do with your Valentine?

Join us for CrossFit Austin’s Annual Sweat with your Sweetheart WOD!

Whether it’s your husband, wife, fiancé, girlfriend, boyfriend, brother, sister, best friend, random person you met when you showed up to the gym….doesn’t matter to us! Grab a partner and lets get sweaty!

Saturday, February 10th @ 9:00 am & 10:00 am
Free Class
Limit 1 visitor per member – visitor must be with a member
Capped at 20 and both you and your partner must reserve a spot!


Diaries of a Coach || 014 – R&R

As many of you may know, a few years ago I sustained a training related injury to my back. Unfortunately, as I’ve continued training, there are seasons that just take me out. This is one of those seasons.
What is ridiculous to me, even in the midst of chronic pain and extreme discomfort, is that the hardest element of recovery for me is rest. I’m beginning to think these flair ups are my cue to take an extended period of rest, my body telling me it needs it. But my mental game is so stubborn. I’m out to make progress, gain strength and efficiency, see changes in my body, so any time off seems like a step in the wrong direction. False. Rest is an integral element to training and the element that is most overlooked. Without it, we actually stall progress and risk injury.

So, without further ado, here is a great article from Strength and Conditioning Coach, Bill Starr, on rest. In it, you’ll find a scientific breakdown of this magical one third of our lives, a justification for effectively blaming all our sleep problems on light bulbs and permission to nap on random benches for the sake of our gains. He will also give you some practical sleep tips to make the most out of those precious hours of shut eye! Enjoy!

As always, your coaches are more than happy to help with anything you may be dealing with so hit us up and let us help!


The Intramural Open 2018


Are you doing the Open? We hear, and even ask that question a lot around this time of year. The 2018 CrossFit Open begins on February 22 and we’ve already taken some steps to help get you ready. We’ve been offering weekly skills classes, working past Open WODs into the programming, doing some extra PT sessions… all in hopes of preparing for the next Open. What you don’t know, however, is that this year we have something even more exciting in store!

This year, we are going to do an Intramural Open. This is a first for CFA and we are really excited to give it a go. More details will come soon with specifics on registration and teams, but for now we just wanted to get the word out.

Open to all CFA members of all skill levels.

The Intramural Open experience is a team format take on the CrossFit Games Open (the qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games season). All participants will be placed into a draft and then drafted into 4 different teams managed by your Team Captains.

Points will be earned by things like:

Participating in the Open Workouts
Top performance in the Open Workouts
Team Spirit
Team Outings

And more… To be determined, but will be established before we begin!

Starting on Feb 22nd, one workout will be released from CFHQ each week for 5 weeks on Thursday evenings. We will program the workouts as the normally scheduled training sessions for Fridays. You can come morning, noon or night. Friday nights, however, will be the BIG time for teams to gather and have a fun time together. Special make ups outside of the Friday classes/events may be requested and addressed on a case-by-base basis. The Intramural Open experience will wrap up with the final WOD announced March 22nd and conclude with a closing party on Friday, March 23.

The workouts will be run at the gym on Fridays as part of the normal class sessions and Friday Night Lights events. If you are traveling during this time period, you may also find an affiliate to complete the standard workouts with to earn your participation points.

Because it’s fun and ew believe it’ll make you better in more ways that just improving your health and fitness. Cheering each on other on in this environment gives you an experience that you can’t find anywhere else. The Open is a great way to test to see where your current potential is. I encourage everyone to participate because it’s the path that’s going to allow you to pursue your most positive potential and be able to connect with other fellow CFA family members.

For those that want to submit scores via the CFHQ Open, please feel free to do so, make sure you have a judge for your workout, and we will validate your scores via the CFHQ system accordingly.

Sign up on the sign up sheet at the gym. The registration fee is $30 – Can be charged to your account or cash/check in an envelope with your full name – envelopes are by sign up sheet. This includes your t-shirt, entry fee, and funding for the finals party and winning team’s prizes

In an effort to allow as many people as possible to participate, we will keep registration open until Friday, February 16th. This means shirts will not be ready for week one, but you’ll be guaranteed the correct size.

If you are paying cash or check, place payment in an envelope with your full name on it and give it to a coach.

You DO NOT have to register through CFHQ to register for the intramural open. You ONLY need to register with HQ if you want to submit your scores worldwide.

The top team will earn a GRAND prize. Details released soon!

Our focus is on FUN. We want participation because it will make you fitter, and it will get you high-fives and you’ll be happy and love life more and glow and stuff.

Register at the gym, and let’s start this party!

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or if you have any reservations about any unique challenges, I’m positive we can work it out.

Approaching a New Strength Cycle


Don’t let this be you…. 😉

We recently tested our Deadlift Max to prepare for our next strength focus and there were all kinds of PRs! Great work guys! Very soon you’ll see us working in class on those deadlifts, building to what will hopefully be a new PR at the end of the cycle!

Today, in preparation for the next deadlift cycle, we wanted to re-share an article and video that Coach Tim wrote a while back on proper set up & execution of a deadlift. Check it out, hone your skills, and let’s get some more PRs!

Recap of Some Key Components of the Deadlift

Anyone that has performed the deadlift, knows that it can be an extremely gratifying lift. The picking up of heavy objects can produce a feeling of empowerment. Performed properly, the deadlift is a lift that allows us to maximize our strength potential and physically express that potential. Notice I did say “performed properly”. This is important because while you may get away with sub-par reps every now and again, you will never know your true potential because the injury bug will eventually bite you. Even if maximal strength is not on your radar, these key points should be of note for you, if longevity and living that happy, healthy life are of import.

We can break the deadlift down into 3 critical phases.

  1. Set-up
  2. Execution
  3. Finish

If one of these areas is not up to standards, you probably won’t be training long or you will be chasing your own tail through a pattern of  “every time I get close to a new PR,  my back starts acting up”. So let’s take a closer look at the the aforementioned phases, and some key points for each phase.


The set-up is crucial for all multi-joint lifts. It is the foundation for us to build upon.  The “Frankenstein Monster Set-up”  is a quick, effective way to prepare
yourself for the deadlift. Without exhausting every “trick in the book” or “cues”, we can break this phase down into several key focal points.

  1. Stand with your feet in a comfortable stance, somewhere around hip-width, and shins touching the bar.
  2. Lift your arms in front of you and rotate your thumbs towards the ceiling.
  3. Pull shoulders back and down.
  4. Glutes tight, ribs tucked.

This initial position, even before attempting to grab the bar is important. For the beginner, it helps us recognize or “feel” a solid position. Next…

  1. Send your hips back without surrendering your neutral spine. This is referred to as the “hinging” or “hip hinge”
  2. With a soft bend in the knees, grasp the barbell with one hand, then the opposite hand.
  3. Lifting your chest to remove any slack out of your arms, should consequently remove any slack out of the bar.
  4. Maintain solid grip on the bar, push your butt toward the ceiling
  5. Maintain vertical shins and pull with your hamstrings to ratchet your hips down into your starting position.


Once we have established a proper set-up, we can begin to execute the movement.

  1. Gently screw your feet into the floor.
  2. Maintaining a neutral spine, take a deep inhale.
  3. Squeeze your knees back and drive your hips up.
  4. Once your the barbell clears your knees, keep the bar close to your body  and your hips begin to come forward to meet the bar.


The finishing position is simply standing upright and squeezing your glutes, ensuring that your shoulders are on top of your hips. Finishing with tight glutes can’t be stressed enough. Ithelps us perform the lift properly, but more importantly it helps us perform the lift safely. Athletes that are unable to squeeze the glutes at the top of the lift all too often experience either some acute or chronic low back pain. This pain is experienced  because the athlete moves the fulcrum from the hips (hip hinge) to the low back. Thus the load is shifted to the low back.

A few key takeaways;

*Maintain a neutral, braced midline from set-up to finish.

*Knees back, drive hips up.

*Squeeze glutes to finish lift.

Diaries of a Coach 013 || The Redemption Workout


Some of you may remember my post on Saturday in our Members Only Facebook Group. It was kind, inviting and seemingly well intentioned. It read something like this: “Hey guys, opening up the gym tomorrow from 1-3pm.” All smiles, right? What a nice little coach I am! Well, I have a confession. (Maybe we should rename the blog to, “Confessions of a Coach” this week.) Sunday was a redemption workout. Anyone know what I’m talking about? Workout doesn’t go as planned, maybe the whole day doesn’t go as planned, and you just need a redo. Maybe some of you have been there? Well, that was me.

Last Friday, I walked out on my workout. I have to say, it was a first for me. I’ve cried during a workout (you can fact check with Tim on that one). I’ve gotten angry and frustrated during a workout. I’ve hurt myself in a workout, probably too many times to count. But giving up and walking out? This was a first and honestly, it’s really not like me.

But nothing felt right, in fact, it all felt terribly wrong. Weight felt heavy. I felt slow. Such a bad combination. On top of that, if you’ve talked to me for 2.7 seconds you know I am an extreme perfectionist and my own worst critic. So, as you can imagine, it was the perfect storm for this workout disaster.

Snatches were up first and I swear to you, my pull was just about as slow as me getting under the bar. It was awful. My pride was immediately squashed when I was told to take weight off the bar. I swallowed it as quick as I could and proceeded in all the humility I could muster up. When it was time for my Clean & Jerk build, my upper body just couldn’t deal with putting more than the weight of my hand overhead. (Anyone else feel like last week annihilated your arms? #blameshifting) I was just a few reps in when I threw up a lift and felt a pull in my arm that was my body undeniably telling me to stop. I guess it had tried subtle hinting and my stubbornness had drowned out it’s cries. And that was it. I deloaded the bar, took off my bright pink lifting shoes and I walked right out the door. And when I say I didn’t look back, I mean it literally.

So Sunday was all out mission redemption. And with some encouraging words from a few friends, I was back in business. But not without a few lessons and encouragements to stick in the pocket of my Lulu’s.

You know what, if I’m that mad and frustrated, I stinking care. I really do. I want to get better and stronger and if something stands in my way, I’m going to feel some kind of emotion. That is good. Feeling something is good, it means we are human, we’re invested and our goals are costing us something (like a whole heck of a lot of hard work!).

These days make you stronger, probably more so than days that are smooth sailing. A fellow athlete challenged me a few days later with this very truth. Maybe I should have stayed, because getting through days like that make you who you want to be. Next time I hope I’m not so quick to walk away. But even so, the lessons learned are a crucial part of the journey.

There’s always room for redemption. All was not lost that day. It motivated me to get back in the gym a couple days later and prove to myself and to that dumb bar that I wouldn’t be beat by it. Sometimes it is better to just walk away (rather than risk sloppiness and injury). But don’t let a bad workout have the last word. Take a beat, then get back in there and do the thing!

So maybe you’ve walked out of a workout or maybe not. Maybe your reaction was another extreme. Or maybe you’ve plateaued and workouts aren’t challenging enough to bring out your inner hot head. In that case, maybe it’s time for a push! Wherever you may be today, feel it, let it make you stronger, and in moments where we fail or fall short the first time, always take another shot.

Coach E

Diaries of a Coach || 012 – Be Where You Are

I was going to write a post on accountability with the premise that we have this New Year with new goals and new motivations, but what happens when that motivation runs out? How do we stay in it? How do we confront the busyness and distractions of life head-on and refuse to allow them to keep us from getting where we want to be? Sounds like a great little post, eh? Well sorry, not doing it. Not today anyways.

Instead, a recent conversation sparked some thoughts in me that I’d love to share with you. A little bit different, but it’s all from the heart. Instead of “3 Ways to Stay Motivated” (or whatever it may have been), I don’t want you to DO anything today. I just want you to live and be present where you are. Embrace the beauty in and around you, right now, in this season, whatever it may be for you.

As many of you know, Monday was a big day here at CFA! New lights. Participant meet up for Whole Life Challengers. SFH reppin’. But if you were here, you more than likely saw the Body Analytics trailer posted up out front. Body Analytics conducts hydrostatic body composition testing, the most accurate form of compositional testing to determine lean body mass and body fat mass.

I was talking with one of your fantastic coaches the following day who had this testing done 5 years ago and again on Monday night. Over the course of those few years, from testing to retesting, their body fat increased by 91%. Now, in no way is their current body fat worrisome or even remotely unhealthy. But things have changed circumstantially, and consequently, this test showed it. Here is what got me, instead of being disheartened or discouraged by this, I was so encouraged by the level of acceptance and awareness of this particular coach that it is simply a different season.

Years ago, being in the heat of competitive CrossFit meant rigid training schedules, a rigid nutrition plan to optimize that training, and countless hours of skill work and mental exertion. Stakes were high, focus was narrow and competition was the motivator. It’s no wonder body fat percentage was at an all time low.

Fast forward to a few years later and life and focus have notably shifted. Movement, nutrition and overall health are still very much a priority, but the next competition is no longer knocking at the door. Goals have shifted and people, this is what I need you to hear, THAT IS OK.

All I want to do today is encourage you to really examine where you are in life. Seasons shift and change and sometimes, the focus can and must be different. Yesterday’s goals may not be today’s, embrace that. Revile in that freedom. Let yourself off the hook. Maybe you have new challenges, new responsibilities, new aspirations, prioritize finding balance and embracing all the wild dreams you have in life, not just the ones related to the scale or the next PR.

Simple as that. Be where you are, then dig deep for the next step. It may be small or it may be a giant leap, either way you’re right where you need to be to take it.