Good Morning Fit Peeps!
If we haven’t already told you, let me reiterate, we are HUGE fans of Tosca Reno, Bob Kennedy and their publications; The Eat Clean Diet Series, The Clean Eating magazines and cookbooks, Oxygen Magazine and the spin-off Oxygen bookazines and special publications.
Well they’ve done it again. If you’re an Oxygen reader, you know that their publisher, Robert Kennedy aka “Tough Love Bob” has recently passed. Their most recent publication “Oxygen Tough Love Workouts” is a tribute to all things Bob.
I’d like to say that I kinda had a personal experience with him in a not so up front and personal way. I am not one to write into a magazine, but one day after reading his publishers page, I felt compelled to email. I believe his closing was something to the effect of, contact me with your fitness questions. Hmmm…..at the time, at least a year or so ago, I had been hearing many rumblings about TRX and Cross-fit, so I asked if he could give me a bit more back ground on the two.
Surely this gentleman must be inundated with emails on a regular basis, I never expected a response, but low and behold, there was an email from Oxygen. It seems that Bob read my email and passed it along to another fellow named Jeb and asked that he respond. Wow! I really couldn’t believe it. I was already a huge fan, now knowing that there was actually a personal touch behind it all made me that much for of a devoted follower. Jeb was amazing, very thorough and more than willing to educate me. I’ll attach the email below, maybe you too can learn from it.
This special edition is great. It literally takes all of Bob’s best workouts and puts them into one book for you. It’s like a library of mix and match routines. No cutting out pages and putting them into a binder (come on, I can’t be the only one that does that)
This actually came at a great time for both Ava and I. If you recall, Ava asked if any of you had suggestions for gym workouts. As a dancer, the gym floor isn’t really her thing. This is perfect. For me, I have notebooks full of workouts from my trainer, but truth be told, I don’t understand much of what he writes. Now, I can pick and choose my workouts from this book of awesomeness. What a timesaver! Heck, I took the whole damn book to the gym the day after I purchased it to do the first Abs routine. When I ran into my trainer, I showed him what I was doing and he was quite impressed that I had chosen to do this. I already know Bob’s stuff is good. I can still feel that little pang of soreness 3 days later, yeah! The hanging leg raises were particularly challenging.
I encourage you all to pickup this publication whether you’re a newbie looking for some guidance or a seasoned gym rat looking to spice up your routines. If you’re looking for some great advice, answers to some popular fitness questions and great workouts without the guesswork, you’ll find it all here. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ll be using for the next few months. My goal is to look like the cover model by Christmas
As for the Oxygen family, it’s great to see that Bob’s legacy lives on. What a great way to honor him and everything he believed in.
As Tosca would say, “we’re sisters in iron,” what an empowering statement.
If you’ve picked this up, let us know how it’s helping you out….sharing is the best motivation
Here is the email from July of ’11
Bob just stopped by my office with a print-out of your email to Oxygen, and he asked me to get in touch with you. I’m an editor for our male brands, but I’m also RKP’s resident CrossFit geek, so Bob thought I might be able to offer some insight into your questions. (I’ll also be penning a feature on CrossFit for an upcoming issue of Oxygen.)
I’ll start with a general explanation of CrossFit’s methods, and then I’ll get into your specific questions.
CrossFit is essentially a combination of gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, monostructural movements, and metabolic conditioning. In other words, it combines the best of each of those training protocols to create a Frankenstein-like approach to fitness.
The gymnastics movements include things like ring dips, kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups, and various handstands, holds, and bodyweight presses.
The Olympic lifts include cleans, presses, jerks, and snatches — all performed with barbells and rubber bumper plates that you won’t find in most fitness facilities. The also include some kettlebell exercises, but you won’t see any single-joint movements like curls or leg extensions. Every lift is compound (activating multiple joints) and functional (has a real-world corollary).
The monostructural movements include basic “cardio” activities like running, jumping, rowing, and occasionally biking and swimming.
Finally, metabolic conditioning simply means you’ll be doing as much work as possible in the least amount of time. Think of the HIIT intervals you might do on the treadmill, but remove the low-intensity component. At CrossFit, everything is an all-out sprint, and everything is timed so that you can compete with other members and with yourself during future attempts.
Aside from some of the stranger exercises like kettlebell swings and barbell snatches, the thing that most differentiates CrossFit from the typical routine in the pages of Oxygen is the “time” component. Instead of breaking workouts into sets and reps with regular rest periods, Every workout is an all-out effort done at maximum intensity until you’ve completed every last rep (at which point, most members lie on the floor in a semi coma for a good 15 minutes).
CrossFit also doesn’t believe in training “bodyparts.” Instead of following a typical five-day split (chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs), CrossFit favors a random approach that keeps your body guessing and never lets you adapt to a specific routine. For example, instead of hitting the gym to train chest with various press, flye, and push-up variations that you’ve prescribed ahead of time, you’ll show up at a CrossFit “box” (their term for “gym”) without having a clue what you’ll be doing until you see the WOD (workout of the day) written on the whiteboard.
Typical examples of CrossFit WODs might include:
* Max rounds in 10 minutes of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air squats
* 21-15-9 reps of barbell thrusters (front squat & overhead press) and pullups (so you’d do 21 thrusters, 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, etc.)
* Run 5K for time
* 1 rep max back squat (you’d spend the entire workout figuring out your 1RM, and that’s it for the day)
Now for your specific questions:
You don’t have to give up your regular workout routine to do CrossFit.
Most members pay a monthly fee (usually $150 — ouch!) and do nothing but the random WOD a few times a week, and they still see great results, but you can also purchase 10 sessions at a time and show up only once or twice a week. Plenty of CrossFitters still keep their regular gym memberships and still do cardio and bodypart splits, though it’s frowned upon by CrossFit dogma (it sounds like a cult, I know). There are two important points here:
1) You won’t be able to follow your regular workout at a CrossFit box — when you’re there, you have to do their WOD, and they don’t allow any movements (like curls) that aren’t part of the CrossFit methodology.
2) If you do pure CrossFit, you’ll find that the individual targeting of typical bodypart splits isn’t necessary. Your delts will still pop, your thighs and glutes will get toned, and you’ll have a back that makes anyone envious. All of these individual parts get hit through the full-body compound lifts you’ll be doing.
You don’t have to do CrossFit 5 days a week.
The standard prescription is three days on, one day off. If you follow that, you’ll end up doing six WODs on some weeks. This is where things get fishy (and this is something few CrossFit coaches will tell you): That’s way too much work for anyone to see results! Since you read Oxygen, you already know that the changes you want to see in your body require a balance of work and rest, and overworking your muscles five or six days a week will lead to CNS (central nervous system) fatigue, cortisol increases (causing water retention and weight gain), and — in the worst-case scenario — injuries. You never want to be burnt out when you’re hoisting a heavy barbell overhead.
In the early days of CrossFit (the early-to-mid 2000s), it was much tamer, and you could go three days in a row without issue. But these days, thanks to competition between boxes and the business-savvy desire to give members a full hours’ worth of “value,” the WODs have become longer and more strenuous at most locations, and this increased intensity can cause problems even for elite athletes. If you visit a box, pay attention to the workload. If the workout lasts longer than 15 minutes, and if it isn’t supplemented with restorative low-intensity work like mobility drills, skill practice, stretching and foam rolling, find another box where the trainers are more interested in long-term results than the short-term razzle-dazzle of an hour-long torture fest.
Suspension cables are your best friend.
Assuming that you’re talking about the TRX-style cables, they’re perfect for CrossFit movements and for regular strength training and toning. You won’t see TRXs at a CrossFit box, but you will find Olympic rings, which function just the same. In CrossFit WODs, you’ll use them mostly for the following four movements:
* Ring Push-ups: Set the rings (or handles) a couple of inches off the ground and perform pushups from either your feet or knees (working up to your feet). They’re deceptively hard, and you won’t find a better chest/shoulder move.
* Ring Dips: Set the rings just above hip height, and jump up to support your bodyweight with straight, locked-out arms. From there, perform regular dips, keeping the rings as close to your body as possible throughout the entire range. Kip with your legs if needed, and you can drape a rubber band between the rings and kneel in it to work up to a bodyweight ring dip.
* Inverted Rows: Set the rings so that they’re just out of your reach when you’re lying beneath them on your back. Then grab hold of them and walk your feet out in front of you, keeping your entire body in a flat plane. Pull yourself up to perform rows. This move will also target your rear delts, and it’s fantastic for the overall health of your shoulders.
* Muscle Ups: Few people can master these, but they’re a badge of honor at CrossFit boxes. Start with a ring pull-up and then transition into a ring dip. These can take years of practice!
As for the reformer/pilates stuff you’re doing, it will have little in common with CrossFit. It’s great for flexibility and bodyweight strength, and both of those elements are extremely important, but it lacks the high-intensity (metabolic aspect) and external-object control (another essential strength component) that you’ll see in CrossFit.
I can’t say that CrossFit is better or equal to any other fitness methodology out there. And I certainly have some gripes with it: It’s too expensive, there are too few talented coaches, and many members get burnt out or hurt in the absence of good coaching.
That said, I think everyone would benefit from at least short-term exposure to it. It’ll open you up to a host of new training modalities. You’ll learn correct rowing and sprinting form, you’ll learn how to perform complicate Olympic lifts that will leave onlookers in awe, and you’ll learn how to squat properly, which is the single-most important thing any of us can do as we prepare our bodies for the war against aging. (Here’s CrossFit mobility expert Kelley Starret on a basic squatting drill that’ll add years to your life
If you want to give it a try, check out a box nearby and try a one-month “on-ramp” package. You’ll get introduced to the methods in a safe, planned way, and you’ll be in a better position to decide if CrossFit is right for you.
I realize this is becoming a novel (I’m pretty passionate about this stuff), but I’ll try to quickly answer your supplement questions as well. Here are the basics on what’s legit:
1) Whey protein: Find a flavour you like and use it up to twice a day. Whey has stood the test of time for a reason. You can’t go wrong with it.
2) BCAAs: Use them after workouts (particularly CrossFit workouts) to boost recovery.
3) Fat burners: So long as you’re eating clean and following a strict diet, they’ll have an effect. Just don’t use them 365 days a year.
4) Fish oil: This one’s essential. Your diet should have a 1:1 ratio of omega 6s and omega 3s. Unfortunately, the standard western diet (even a clean one, if you’re eating a lot of nuts) is too high in omega 6s, which throws off that ratio and causes inflammation, water retention, and a host of other issues. So avoid “omega” products that contain 6s and 9s (the latter is manufactured by your body), and unless you eat a ton of fresh fish, get some omega 3s to balance things out ASAP. Start with three caps a day and see how you look, feel and perform.
I hope that helps, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any other questions. I’m always happy to talk shop.
Jeb Roberts, MA
MuscleMag International and Reps! Magazine
400 Matheson Blvd West
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5R 3M1