Coach Joel's Top 5 Exercises

October 13, 2017

We all have movements that we like. We all have movements that we dislike. Nonetheless, all of our exercise and health needs differ by degree, not kind. We should all be pressing, we should all be squatting, we should all be picking things up and putting them down, and of course elevating our heart rates. Varied functional movements executed at high intensities across broad modal domains are what will be keeping us alive and thriving for a long time (sorry for the® spiel, but they got it right). But so many of us avoid certain movements, even entire WODs like the plague and make excuses (whether we intend to or not) about why we shouldn’t do them. I have battled with a number of different movements in my CrossFit life but through the struggles have emerged a number of my favorite exercises. 



First I’ll get into one I think many have problems with, Double Unders! Some people have them, many don’t, and many don’t even want to try! I’m here to tell you to not give up! I could go deep in to the story about my DU trials and tribulations but the one biggest piece of advice I can offer you is to just practice. I think there are few cardio/skill movements that you can do in order to get a good workout outside of jumping rope. But this movement’s high technical skill level and cardiac output demand scares many away. I’m telling you, don’t stop! I wanted to, many times, but refused. It took several months of day to day practice to even get 10 in a row. But slowly came 20. Then 30. Then 50. and finally I got to the coveted 100 mark and beyond. It takes time, patience, and practice to figure out the best way that clicks for you but don’t settle! It’s so rewarding once you’re jumping and swinging away almost effortlessly in a workout. Plus the sound it makes is badass!


My next favorite movement has to be riding the Assault AirBike. Yeah, I said it. And I know you’re thinking what kind of masochistic fool am I. But honestly I see WODs that have the AAB in them and I smile. Trust me it did not start out like this. I remember when Ryan decided to buy two of them a couple years back when they started becoming a bit more mainstream. I immediately started trying to ride 100 Calories for time 3x a week after class. At first it sucked and I hated it. The first couple times I think I maybe got to 50 and stopped because it was just too difficult. I mean the damn thing felt like trying to ride 20 miles on a bike in dry sand! But slowly it got a bit easier, and my 100 Cal times started getting faster! There are still workouts where I really dislike getting on that thing but I definitely don’t overly dread or avoid it. And if you think about it, it cools you off with the fan while you ride it, bonus!



Next up we have pull-ups. But not just any variation, I’m talking about butterfly pull-ups. You know, that type of pull-up that us CrossFitters so often get made fun for because it’s not as hard as a “real” pull-up. Yeah, I challenge anyone who says that to go ahead and try a set of 20. But anyways, I remember asking Coach Holley to help me on the technique a couple weeks after my first ever WOD. The interesting thing is that she was 8 ½ months pregnant with her son Duke. But she hopped right up on that bar and effortlessly knocked out a set of five as she talked me through the technique. Needless to say I couldn’t get the rhythm down for quite a while, but after seeing Holley doing them so smoothly and while pregnant I was determined. As with other movements I’ve mentioned, time, patience, some strength and skill work got me to where I wanted to be. But whether you’re working on butterfly pull-ups or even trying to get your first strict pull-up or ring row, proper devotion and mindset can get you there!


I’ll roll right into the next one - Hand Stand Walks. This one is recent. And I sucked. I know it’s not a movement everyone wants to do or needs to do. But I have always tried and failed miserably, never able to get any more than a step or two before collapsing. The plain and simple truth was that I was not stable enough or mobile enough in my core and shoulders. And it took an unfortunate injury to my shoulder to make me take a step back to strengthen, stabilize, and mobilize my body. A few weeks ago I walked 50+ feet on my hands and couldn’t believe it. This took quite a bit of time though, and some rehab outside of the gym. However the lesson I learned through this that hard work can’t always replace smart work and often we need to slow things down in order to move better and then move faster.


Last one, Snatching. Let’s just say I don’t think anyone has had an easy time with this one. There is not another athletic movement that requires more strength, speed, coordination, and skill to execute properly and to one’s full potential. I am far from perfect or even efficient at this movement, but a lot of studying, technique work, breakdown lifts, and again, PATIENCE has led me to some recent PRs and milestone lifts. I also think there are few more gratifying things than catching a solid lift at the bottom and standing it up, but we know from the assault bike statement above that I a little weird so take that for what it’s worth ;)


So you listened to me ramble on, but I want to know what your favorite movements are, and why!! I want to know your struggles and accomplishments with them. I can tell you that these five above have been formed into my favorites and sure as hell did not start off that way! Just remember to enjoy the process, keep striving to move forward, and don’t forget to celebrate the small victories (which sometimes is just making it through the front door of the gym!) Soon I hope to be adding Handstand push-ups to this list but there’s gonna be a lot of practice and patience before that happens! 

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