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Feb 21 2014

How We Train: Progressive Overload

By: Coach Mike Lowe

Progressive Overload is used day in and day out in our training at CrossFit 915. It’s the principles used to help us get stronger. This strength in turn helps us become better athletes by allowing us to move heavy loads faster, and more efficiently. When you show up to the gym and complete a set of back squats at a higher percentage than the week before but for fewer reps you have just taken part in Progressive Overload.

Progressive Overload is a technique used to get stronger by placing skeletal muscles under stress that makes the body’s adaptive ability respond to the new demands placed on it. This is called Hypertrophy. There are two types of hypertrophy; sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. At CrossFit 915, we emphasize myofibril hypertrophy because it focuses more on strength increase and less on an increase in the size of the skeletal muscle (sarcoplasmic). Looking bigger does not mean that you’ll be able to move large loads, long distances, quickly. Bigger muscle does not always equal better function. CrossFit 915 is focused on functional fitness that can be sustained for a lifetime.

Progressive overload also makes bones, ligament, tendons, and cartilage stronger. It also stimulates nerve connections between the brain and muscle to be more responsive. There is also the added benefit of increased blood flow, and oxygen to the muscles placed under stress.

With progressive overload there is an increase in volume, intensity, frequency, or time to achieve the goal of getting stronger.  Volume is the total number of reps performed with a resistance over a period of time.  Volume is 3×8.  3 set of 8 repetitions (24 totals reps). Intensity is the percentage of maximal force. 70%(percentage) of your 100%(maximum force).

Training at maximum force day in and day out with strength training will not only overload the central nervous system, but it can also lead to injury. The central nervous system is what sends the impulses between nerve and muscle. If you train too much, too often, the central nervous system becomes overloaded and this will result in fatigue.  Fatigue can lead to injury, missing days at the gym, and just a general bad feeling.

It is important that periodization be done in order to allow for adequate rest and recovery of the central nervous system to perform needed volume and intensity for increases in strength. This is why some days our workouts are 6 minutes long and other days they are 25 minutes long. This is why we gradually climb the ladder of percentages and have the infamous “deload” week. We train our athletes appropriately to allow for proper intensity, variation, recover and rest so that we can have the increases in condition, endurance, strength, and functionality. We practice progressive overload to make ourselves fitter, longer.


Feb 19 2014

The “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of Race Day: El Paso Marathon Edition

By: Endurance Coach Larry Pinon

If this is your first big race, there might be plenty on your mind, but its important not to overlook the basics. Here are 8 simple tips for success to help along the way. If you are interested in participating the in full or half-marathon this Sunday, February 23 at join the team CrossFit 915 FEMMEfitters or particpate as an individual.


1.)    Wear shoes right out of the box. I know you want to show off your brand new racing kicks, but the day of the race is the wrong time. You don’t know how your feet will react to the new shoes, and this could save your feet blisters or even black and blue toe nails

2.)    Try something new for race day. The list can go on and on for this topic, but my top choices refer to nutrition. Do not try new foods the night before your race. Also, do not eat something you have never eaten before on race morning. These new items can upset your stomach and leave you racing to the port-a-potty instead of a new pr

3.)    Sweat the small stuff. Chances are you will be nervous and anxious, especially if this is your first race. If something can go wrong, it will. You will wake up 45 minutes later than your alarm. You won’t have time to shower and eat breakfast. You will not get the parking you planned for and will have to add an additional 5k just to get to and from the your car

4.)    Go out too fast. As your adrenaline is pumping, and the crowd is cheering you on, there is a good chance that you will take the pace faster than you have been rehearsing. I suggest keeping  your normal pace, maybe even a tad bit slower, until the final miles of the race. When you are about 3-4 miles out, pick up the pace. You will be surprised how well your body can handle it.


5.)    Get your clothes ready the night before. Start from the bottom up. Shoes. Socks. Shorts. T-Shirt. Underwear(Sports Bras, Spandex). Bib Number. Don’t forget these accessories that can be overlooked. Deodorant, Sunscreen, Rubber Bands, Bobby Pins, Headbands, Running Caps, Visors, Sunglasses. And any other items you have been training with. KT Tape, Braces, Compression Socks, etc…..Here is a little tip. Temperatures will be very cool on race morning. Once you get warmed up and headed for your pr, you will most likely want to down grade. Bring an old long sleeve t-shirt or sweater that you don’t plan on keeping. After a couple of miles, take the shirt off and throw it to the side of the road. The crew will pick it up and most likely donate it to charity. Consider it your good deed for the day

6.)    Eat breakfast. You want to eat something that you have been eating regularly, and won’t upset your stomach. Try to get up and have a meal a couple hours before the start of the race. Even if you are not used to eating breakfast, take in a meal that has a good amount of protein fat and carbs in it. Here are some good options. Eggs, Banana and some Applesauce. Oatmeal with some protein powder in it.

7.)    Have a plan “B”. You will be well on your way to getting a new pr, and all of a sudden you cramp up. Or you run out of fuel. Think of other strategies to get out of your tight spots in case something doesn’t go your way.

8.)    Have fun. You have spent the past couple months training for this one day. For some of you, it is your first race. You are making a huge stride in your fitness by coming out here and running. Take pictures, run with your friends, listen to the bands, talk to people around you and most important, ENJOY IT!!!!Get this race out of your system and come back next year and crush your time

Feb 19 2014

The Benefits of Burpees

By: Coach Ale Montalvo

Burpees. Oh how we all “love” burpees. They take our breath away and leave us soaking in sweat. They leave these “cute” bruises on our knees, make us look like jellyfish after about 3 minutes of them, and make us ache oh so much.

A couple of months ago we were named the Best Crossfit Gym in El Paso, and with this huge accomplishment came a prize for all members – ZERO burpees for the week! We were all so ecstatic not only about the huge accomplishment but also because we’d get a break from burpees. It is not a secret that we all experience a love/hate relationship with this movement. We would probably love to find a million reasons why our coaches shouldn’t program them into our workouts. But, the reality is that the benefits gained through burpees far exceed any excuse why we shouldn’t want to do them.

Burpees are a complete full-body intense exercise that burns fat and builds muscle all in one movement; a movement that tests both your strength and aerobic capacities. Burpees are nothing new to the world, incorporated in daily workout routines performed by the elite military forces, football teams, Olympic athletes, and now Crossfitters. But burpees are not just beneficial for hardcore athletes…they’re for everyone!

A quick Google search on why you should do burpees yields hundreds of links to articles, blogs, videos, and studies. Choosing some of the most popular, here is a list of reasons (benefits) why we should grow our love for burpees and get them on our favorite exercise list:

  1. Conditioning- Burpees are one of the most programmed exercises among great training programs. They are great at developing our conditioning and endurance; why? Because burpees make us engage in a highly complex movement pattern engaging our entire body – moving from flexion to extension to neutral to extension to flexion to neutral, as fast as possible. A little less complex, the movement requires you to just drop to the floor and get up as fast as you can. Burpees increase aerobic capacity when performed at a high intensity, getting your heart rate up – fast!
  2. Strength – The burpee is a full body strength training exercise and the ultimate example of functional fitness. With every rep, you’ll work your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and abs.  Because burpees work numerous these numerous muscles and areas of the body, muscle tone becomes much more improved with frequent exercising. After a few sets of burpees, your legs should feel a little bit like jellyfish.
  3. Fat-burning Machine – Burpees turn your body into a fat-burning machine since they incorporate and engage your full body. Moreover, research shows that high intensity exercises like burpees burn up to 50% more fat than moderate exercising. Even better, high intensity exercises help speed up your metabolism throughout the day – meaning you’ll burn more calories all day long (even after your burpee hell is over.)
  4. Inexpensive – There is no cost associated with the burpee. You don’t need any special equipment a personal trainer or anything but yourself. They’re literally free!
  5. Portability – Possibly the best thing about burpees is their portability. You can literally “take” your burpees with you wherever you go. Not requiring absolutely any equipment or much space, burpees can be performed basically anywhere and everywhere, in your hotel room, your office (or cubicle), or any random place where you may be. Only have a few minutes to spare between meetings or classes? Do a 7-minute burpee challenge or 100 burpees for time and you’ll have gotten a great workout.
Feb 18 2014

Eat Big, Lift Big: Basic Rules for a Novice

By: Coach Jennifer Kruse

We live in an information age that can be overwhelming.  In an effort to keep things simple and easy to understand I’d like to share just three rules to getting mad gains in the gym…for the beginner.

1. You need to eat

If you expect to move large loads repeatedly, you’ll need fuel to power your engine.  Your fuel should be consistent as well as monitored.  An athlete should be able to track the results of a workout like time, reps and weight but also be able to reference food and water intake and how those foods made them feel.

Macronutrients matter—-protein, carbs and fat.

Protein tracking is a must for maintaining and gaining lean mass.  With any weight resistance program, microscopic muscle fiber damage is done on a regular basis and ample protein intake is a must.  Since each athlete varies in size a good guide to determine protein intake is by first determining your current lean mass, then multiply that number by 1.5 to find your needed protein in gram form.

Example: 100 pounds of lean mass X 1.5=150g of protein per day

Heads up! The human body can gain roughly ½ pound of lean mass a week.  Gain too fast and you’re sure to gain FAT.

Carbohydrates are basically your pre-workout fuel and your quick repair post-workout.

Healthy fats are your cells BFF’s and they are a must!  Fats aid in quality of sleep, cardiovascular function and recovery.

Both carbs and fats vary by athlete and their goals.  Keeping track of the intake of both and learning to adjust these two macronutrients as needed.

2. Consistency, Form and Functional Lifts

To achieve gains you must put in the work and work hard! Push yourself!!!  No cheating allowed.  At a minimum, get into the weight room 3 times a week.

In CrossFit, we are all about proper form and hard work, cheat your range of motion and you’re cheating those gains.

According to leading strength coaches, Lon Kilgore, Mark Rippetoe and Glenn Pendlay, the five primary lifts are: Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press and Power Clean.  Add in pull-ups and a carry (like a farmers carry) and you’ll have a solid foundation for strength and gains.

3. Track Your Progress

Remember this phrase:


There are so many tools to keep you accountable; notebooks, WODbooks, iphones, etc.  Such simple tools can help achieve your goals when used properly.

These rules are very basic.  A focused athlete would be wise to look into starting and growing a fitness library based on their goals.  Our resources and imagination only limit us.

Feb 12 2014

Benefits of the Wall Squat

By: Coach Samantha Bencomo

How many times have you heard the words “squat” and “foundation” used in a sentence together? That’s because the squat is the fundamental movement pattern used in our everyday life. We squat when we sit down on a chair, when pick something up off of the floor, and even when going to the bathroom. It is a movement that we need to get through everyday life independently.

However, just because we “squat” everyday doesn’t mean we are entirely efficient at it. Most of the time we have a support system beneath us or squat so quickly that we don’t even focus on form. Why is this important? As CrossFitters, we do movements from air squats to squat clean thrusters with heavy weight. If the reason you aren’t able to demonstrate an almost perfect squat is because you could use a little more mobility then take a few minutes out of each day and work on some strength and flexibility exercises.

Here are some key points to look at in a good air squat and some factors that may be contributing to bad form.

Stance – Heels in line with the shoulders or slightly outside of the shoulders and knees tracking the toes.  Toes slightly pointed outward but never more than a 45° angle. Poor ankle flexibility may prevent your knees from going any further than your toes and tight Achilles tendons might cause elevated heels at the bottom of your squat. Weak adductors can cause the knees to cave in while squatting.

Range of Motion – Crease of hip breaks parallel from knees and stands to full extension at top. Tightness or inflexibility in the hips (flexors, adductors, and glutes) hamstrings, and ankles can prevent you from breaking parallel.

Upright torso – Chest upright with head facing forward. Poor thoracic spine mobility can affect your ability to keep your chest upright and may cause you to lean forward or round your back.

What can I do to improve my squat?

Let me start off by saying this – adding weight to a barbell isn’t going to magically improve your squat. Start practicing proper mechanics with body weight, a PVC pipe, or a barbell.

After doing some research and using a few test subjects, I have come up with something I like to call “Squat Therapy” to help improve squat form. Here it is:

3 Rounds

10 Wall Squats

Beginners: 1 max hold

Intermediate: 25 second hold

Advanced: 30 second hold with resistance band

Why did I choose wall squats? Not only can wall squats pretty much be done ANYWHERE, but they help to strengthen weak muscles and also make you more flexible at the same time.

How to perform a wall squat:

Face the wall with feet pointed slightly outward and heels right outside shoulder width apart.

Arms should be fully extended upward with your biceps in line with your ears.

Squat to reach full range of motion without any part of your body touching the wall.

Focus on pushing knees out as much as possible and keeping an upright torso.

Intermediate/ Advanced Wall Squat Variation

For intermediate-advanced: Get a resistance band and step in the inside of the band and pull the band overhead and extend your arms into an OHS position. The resistance from the band will not only force you to keep active shoulders but will also force you to use a little more strength on the way up as well.

This workout is meant to be performed at least 3-4 times a week for 4 weeks.

Consistency is going to be the main component in this exercise if you are really looking to improve your squat. As you progress, try stepping a little closer to the wall to challenge your flexibility even more. Ideally, you would want to be able to perform a wall squat with your toes touching the wall. You’ll see that improving your air squat will translate into other movements that you do everyday in the gym.