Friday, March 30, 2012

An Amputee's Perspective on the Overhead Squat

First, I do not claim to be a trainer, nor do I claim to hold the keys to unlocking an amputee's ability to perform Olympic lifting. I do, however have a very solid stronghold on the difficulties amputees face when performing these lifts.

Second: This is not the Overhead squat. No matter how much crack the publishers at Men Fitness magazine have smoked, inhaled, or ingested in non-traditional forms! Seriously! WTF are your editors doing?!?!

A brief description of the Overhead squat for the typical biped:

Step1: Starting position with bar overhead, arms fully extended with hands in the same position as the Snatch grip. Use active shoulders (push your shoulders upwards; similar to a shrug). Your feet should be in your normal squat position/stance with toes pointed slightly out and a tight buttocks.

Step 2: Squat down by pushing your butt back, keeping on your heels with a tight lumbar curve and chest up. Your knees should move outwards over your toes.

Step 3: Reach your max squat depth where the hips are at or below parallel. This depth is dependent on back flexibility and the maturity of your squat.

Step 4: Push out of the bottom of the squat maintaining the bar overhead.

So it seems simple enough, but looks can be deceiving. Besides the normal issues people experience such as low shoulder flexibility and lack of back flexibility, there are some major issues Amputees must overcome in order to perform this exercise. Let's take a look at Step 2 for a second. Keeping my heels on the ground is easier said than done. For me (a left below-knee amputee), keeping my right heel planted is easy but balance becomes an issue with my left heel being rigid and defaulting to the toe. I've been asked if there is a way to keep my heel down. I wondered this and asked the manufacturer of my foot if this was possible. Ossur responded by telling me the foot would literally snap before I would ever get the heal to stay planted. So, adapt and overcome is the name of the game.

Another issue that below knee amputees experience is what I call rimming. It's a crude term which I am sure means something derogatory in other contexts but here, it simply means that the lower you squat with weight, the more your prothesis' socket digs into the back of your knee. In my case, this means that bio mechanically, I have transition weight bearing from the normal patella tendon region of my knee to supporting the weight of the squat on soft tissue as well as the Hamstring and Posterior Cruciate Ligament. To say that this is uncomfortable is an extreme understatement.

Naturally, amputees, by virtue of not being able to maintain heel to ground connection and not having a normal range of motion in the ankle and knee, are not going to be able to reliably reach the "at or below parallel" standard. That's not to say that with lighter weight, an amputee might reach that parallel mark, but there is an element of danger in trying to do so without having practiced the OHS meticulously.

I have a few tips and tricks (some of which I practice and some of which I seem to have either screamed at me during a WOD or remember when I am sucking wind during a WOD) which may provide some help. Remember, these are just suggestions. Do not perform the OHS if you are not comfortable or do not have a certified coach who is willing to work with you on this (Thanks to my many CF Reston coaches).

  • Practice Overhead Squats daily as a part of your warm-up. I use the standard PVC pipe and perform at least 3 rounds of 10 Shoulder Pass Thrus to 10 OHS. Gradually work up to 3-5 sets of 5 reps of OHS with the 45# bar.
  • SCALE. Let me repeat; S-C-A-L-E!!! Do not try to be that guy (I have been that guy. Dumping every other rep, cussing, crapping on form) Do not go up in weight until you can comfortably perform the OHS to the best of your abilities. This is key; to the best of your abilities. You have limitations and are no doubt wanting to prove you are not "disabled". The OHS will disable you if you are not true to form and if you try to go beyond your capabilities!
  • Use a foot with a heel! I know, sounds weird. I have crossfitted in a running foot, sprinters foot and the normal daily activity foot. You need a heel for this one. Your body will thank you when you are in the starting position and have the heel for stability.
  • Keep your core tight and your shoulders active! Due to our lack of balance this is very important. Seriously. As you fatigue, the first thing to go will be active shoulders which will limit your ability to keep the bar in line with the base of your spine and will cause you to dump the weight. A good trick to keeping your core tight is to press your belly out as if you have a weight belt you are pressing against.
  • Pick a neutral point on the wall to focus on throughout the duration of the lift. Not too high and not too low. Either of those and your balance will suffer, you'll dump weight and you be stuck snatching the weight and starting all over again.
  • Don't stop and drop the weight until you absolutely have to. This is not to say that if you injure something or cannot complete the lift safely to hang on to the bar. Remember, the more you drop that bar, the more you have to clean it or snatch it back up and mentally reset to perform the lift.
  • Finally, don't quit!! It'll be frustrating. So what! Suck it up, pick up the damn weight and complete the prescribed reps! You will never see me quit. I might not be the fastest, but I won't quit and neither will you!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Landslide Victory for Primal Chili at the Chili Cookoff!!

We had a chili cook off at the office and my Primal Chili took all three top honors! The recipe won Most Creative Chili Name (Primal Chili), Spiciest Chili Award and the Best Tasting Chili Award.This chili recipe couldn't be any easier to make. Here you go and enjoy!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 Hours (the longer the better)
Servings: 15-20 (depends on the size of your servings)

-2 lbs. Ground Beef
-2 lbs. Chicken Breast (you can cube it or grind it up)
-1 lb. Pork Chorizo, casings removed (make sure you buy REAL chorizo that is not fully cooked)
-1 lg. Sweet Onion
-2 Md. Bell Peppers (any color)
-4 Md. Carrots (thinly sliced)
-2 Md. Celery Stalks (quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced)
-28 oz. can of Crushed Tomato
-14 oz. can of Tomato Puree
-5 Tbsp Chili Powder
-2 Tbsp Cumin
-2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
-1/2 Tbsp Thyme
-1/2 Tbsp Oregano
-2 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
-1 1/2 Tsp Sea Salt
-1 1/2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
-1 1/2 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper
-1/2 Cup Water

Chop and prepare all vegetables. You want the slices to be as small as possible so that they almost disintegrate while cooking but don't just pulverize it in a food chopper. Set aside.

In a large crockpot, break up and add in your chorizo (remove the casings) and ground beef. If you have whole chicken breasts, dice up into 1/2" pieces and toss into the crockpot. Next into the crockpot is the vegetables.

Mix all of the seasonings (except the vinegar) in a bowl. Pour half of the seasoning mixture on top of the veggies and mix the meat and veg mixture up. Add in the remaining seasoning and mix up again. You need to make sure the mixture is mixed and integrated very well so the seasoning mixes well with the meat.

Next into the crockpot is your crushed and pureed tomatoes and vinegar. Add in 1/2 cup of water. Put the lid on the crockpot and set it for 6-8 hours. (The longer the better) I set mine to cook overnight, then mixed it up in the morning when I woke up and set it on warm for another 4 hours before serving.

Serve and enjoy. If you are Lacto-Paleo, throw on some cheese (Raw milk cheese is beast on this!). I ate it plain with a topping of scallions and more onions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Decade of Life!

It's hard to reflect back on the events of today in 2002. I feel a well of life inside me but also a deep sadness. I made it. Like the mythical bird who rises from the ashes, I am a phoenix. On March 20, 2002, I lost part of me. Not the obvious physical part; but I lost a deep psychological part of me. While I do not have remorse for having lived while two of my fellow soldiers died, I do have remorse for the others who suffered in that horrific accident and the family members of my fallen comrades. All told, 13 of us were injured and two died. But more than just two human lives died that day. I think a small part of us all died that day.

Many of us who were there have permanent physical and emotional scars. While I do not suffer from PTSD related to that event, I do carry the burden of being a survivor. I love my life and am glad I survived. But believe me when I say that I would have taken all the force, all the shrapnel and all the pain in the world if it meant that nobody else would have been touched. If It meant that SSG Rick Hall and PFC William Hamm would still be here today. If it meant that nobody else had to endure any pain from that day.

March 20th will always be a special day to me. I may not celebrate it. I may just take time to reflect internally. But this day will always be one of the most important days of my life. It's what drives me. It's who I am. I am a survivor. The outpouring on Facebook to my posted reflection on this decade anniversary validates how my story and how I have chosen to live my life has touched people and I am truly honored to be able to inspire people. Thank you to everyone who has played a role in my life since that day. My wife and two beautiful children, my parents, my mother and father-in-law, my friends and those I have met along the way.

Rest in Peace SSG Hall and PFC Hamm. I have not, nor will I ever forget you. To those injured, I hope you have come to peace with your injuries and moved on from the physical pain. I hope you take time to reflect on how lucky we were to have survived and how you have an obligation to live your lives with success and love since two of us will never be able to do that again.

Thank you Rachel, Sam and Annabelle. You are my life, my heart and my soul. You make me happy I survived!

To life!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life Lessons Learned from the CrossFit Games Open......So Far.

Seriously!? My last post was the 28th of December. I guess as a blogger, I am less than reliable for routine information and entertainment.

With peer pressure streaming throughout the CrossFit worldwide community and, at least in my world, CrossFit Reston being the epicenter of my personal peer pressure cooker, I signed up for the 2012 CrossFit Games. What? Me? An amputee who can do exactly 2 double unders and scales most workouts!? Yup! Sure did!

WOD 12.1: 7 Minutes of Burpees (Burpees are a synonym for hell in my eyes) with a jumping target 6 inches above your extended arm reach. My score: 70.

What life lesson did I learn from this WOD? I learned that I don't like doing burpees for 7 damn minutes! Seriously, who does? But I kept moving, even when I couldn't pull my legs up anymore. I devised a strategy to just keep moving by alternating which leg came forward first!

WOD 12.2: Proceed through the sequence below completing as many reps as possible in 10 minutes of:
75 pound Snatch, 30 reps
135 pound Snatch, 30 reps
165 pound Snatch, 30 reps
210 pound Snatch, as many reps as possible

My score: 37

I performed this WOD on a Friday after having set a 1RM Snatch PR of 125# on the preceding Tuesday. I have never snatched 135#. Hell, prior to that Tuesday I was told I had an ugly snatch! (Had to throw that in) As I got my bearings together for this WOD, I decided, I was not leaving the bar without getting 135# up at least once. After the first 30 reps, I changed my weight and with the encouragement of one of my coaches, I snatched 135# 7 times. I was overjoyed but also left wondering in a 1RM, what would I be able to do? You can absolutely do anything you put your mind to.

WOD 12.3: Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 18 minutes of:
15 Box jumps, 24" box
115 pound Push press, 12 reps
9 Toes-to-bar

My score: 4+24 or 168 points

Holy Shit! Before this WOD, I had literally jumped on a 24" box one damn time. These people want me to do it repeatedly 15 times!?! Aw hell, no time to quit now. I practiced a couple of jumps and then when the WOD started, so did I. I jumped like I had never jumped before. If I scaled, it didn't count. No way was I scaling this WOD! I did, however, learn some interesting tidbits from this WOD.

1. I CAN jump on a 24" box; so much so that I am now thinking I can jump on a 30" box! Why the hell not!
2. For some reason, the box jumps followed by the 115# push press meant I was totally out of breath and pressing that shit bar above my head was rough! Gasping and trying to catch a breath felt like I was drowning.
3. I am a toe-to-bar master! I cranked those out like they were nothing. I'm guessing I could breath during those!

Unfortunately I also learned another valuable lesson in week three of the CF Games Open. Make sure your scores are actually recorded. Despite my best efforts, my 12.1 score was not properly recorded meaning I am no longer in the running for the 1st prize cash. (I knew exactly what I would spend it on too!)

CrossFit really is for everyone!  always hear, "I wouldn't be able to do that!' and "I can't lift that." Sorry folks but I am calling bullshit! If you want it bad enough, you'll figure out a way to do it. Scaling is what will help you achieve your goals. You didn't run out of the womb; you shat, crawled, walked then ran. You scaled your early years, why not treat CrossFit as such and scale it until you can do Rx'd. And if you can't do the prescribed weight, who cares. We don't judge, we cheer you on and help you to get to the prescribed weight.

Now, WTF does 12.4 have in store for me........