Cleaning up the Clean: Part 2 by Coach Brett

The First Pull, No Booty Dancing


            When you enter the box, normally you hear the sounds vibrating from the speaker. We use the music to drown out the pain. We use it to enjoy the moments in between workouts. Your booty dancing may be hurting your Olympic lifting though.


            Many, many of you shoot your butt up like a rocket every time you lift a barbell.  You’ve corrected your start position and in all the excitement you can’t wait to get that barbell off the ground. So much that you put yourself in a poor position. Let’s talk about it-


            The first pull is from the floor to the knee in the clean or snatch. We move the bar in a controlled manner, allowing for the hip and barbell to move upwards at same position. We push the knees back, away from the bar, giving the bar an uninterrupted path up the legs. The purpose is to be in the best position to gain speed and power in the second pull, or from knee to thigh/hip. What I see that contradicts the above-


1.     Butt shoots up before anything else-The first pull requires great stability and tension throughout the hip and buttocks. It requires a tight core and back. I would say most people I see try to avoid such tension by raising the butt up and moving the bar primarily with the back. This puts us in a forward off balance position. It cause the bar to typically be out of place in the second part of the lift. It drains us of the ability to generate power. The first pull feels uncomfortable and only strengthening these components will lead to better positioning through the first pull.

2.     We move the bar around the knees instead of pushing the knees back-Once many of you are corrected on your rocket butt. The attempt to keep the butt down results in not knowing how to clear the knees. Instead  of loading the hamstrings, you try to bring the bar out and away from the body, going around the knees. This causes the bar to swing our forcing imbalance.

3.     Not maintaining proper back angle- A rounding or curvature of the back. All that’s needed here is a stronger back. This equates to all parts of the lift but most prominent in first pull.


 Now that we have identified a problem, it may take some extra work to fix it. These are numbered to go with the list above but all build on each other. If you are unsure of what something is google or ask.


Accessory Lifts for above Issues (yes, extra work):

1.      Clean deadlifts-maintaining proper mechanics, not concentrating on lifting bar from ground but on maintaining bar path. Stop pull at thigh, lower slow if possible

Clean Deadlift to knee with a pause at knee- Working on holding tight, clearing knees and loading hamstrings. Also good for strengthening back


2.     Straight Leg Deadlifts- To strengthen hamstring

Glue Ham Raises

Getting use to loading the hamstrings to be able to drive the knees back


3.     Barbell Rows-Strengthen back, make sure you keep a straight tight back angle

Pendlay Rows

Dumbbell Rows

Good Mornings


If you or someone else has another issue please comment below.


1.     Pick an accessory lift to work on

2.     Identify your weakness and focus on its correction next time you lift

3.    Keep that butt out the air, not cute

Cleaning up the Clean: Part 1


Let me start by saying I am not a USAW certified lifting coach. Nor do I have a Crossfit weightlifting cert. If anyone out there is more qualified and would like to add to anything I say, please feel free to comment. I have spent the last two years trying my best to learn my craft, logging thousands of hours performing the lifts, at times correctly and at times incorrectly. I am you and have been through whatever stage you are at today. I will try my best to not use overly technical terms as I want this to be relatable. Here are some terms you may hear and there meaning:


Starting position-The position in which we start from requires shoulder and knees over the bar, a straight back and arms, chest up

First Pull- Barbell moves from ground to just above the knee

Second Pull-From top of knee to receiving position- this is the setup for explosion from top of knee through the power position

Power position- Knees bent, feet flat preparing to drive hips through bar- where the “magic” happens

Receiving position- For the clean the bar will rest on the shoulders with elbows high


 Sean Waxman referred to the importance of a solid starting position as, “The moment forces acting on the hip, knee and ankle joint must be minimized in order for the lifter to separate the barbell from the floor while maintaining an ideal body position for the subsequent “2nd Pull” or “explosion.” What he is saying is that everything needs to be tight, the “slack” taken out so to speak, so that there is little friction as you remove the bar from the floor. Sounds good in theory, so what do I see?


Primarily I see that most don’t have the mobility or stability to reach the position properly. It shows up in various ways but most commonly in the agony on your face, the rush to get the bar off the ground as quickly as possible due to the discomfort. There is nothing comfortable about the starting position for the Olympic lifts. It requires perfect hip and ankle flexibility with a strong midline and posterior chain. 


                Physically, it shows in many ways as well. Later in the series we will speak more on accessory lifts that can strengthen the weak areas needed for the starting position as well as the lift as a whole. Today we will focus on mobility. Here are some things  I see:


  1. Starting with the shoulders and or knees behind the bar. This is typically due to poor ankle and hip flexibility. Not being able to drive the knees forward and to open up the hip
  2. Starting with a bent back. This is caused by trying to work around the above mobility issue. Also caused by instability from undeveloped muscularity in the back. The inability to drive the shoulder blades back. In many cases starting to high
  3. Starting with knees in rather than pressing out against the arms. More so in females it is cause by weakness in the outer thigh. Not being able to drive the hips forward.
  4. Starting with bent elbows. Typically because I am trying to release the tension in my upper torso. A workaround to the discomfort of lowering the body in the starting position , leaning too far forward, and not keeping tension


These are the most common things I see and they can all be fixed by A. working on the mobility issues preventing me from getting in position  and B. just getting down in the starting position and getting used to being uncomfortable. This may mean you have to decrease the weight as your body adapts to something different.  We will over the next few weeks speak on each part of the lift and the troubles I see. We will discuss accessory lifts to help strengthen the areas needed to maintain the positions. Each part builds on the other, each accessory helps create the sum of the whole.  Keep that in mind and I hope it helps all to get better.


Goals for the week:


1.       Work on creating a better starting position

2.       Work on mobility in your problem areas focusing on hips and ankles

3.       Ask a coach to take a look at your start and give tips on how to make it better


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11:30 AM - SLAYING GIANTS REMEDIAL CLASS Monday, Wednesday, Thursday

There is going to be a bunch going on at J19 at 11:30 AM Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. 

I am starting a remedial class for individuals that are not prepared to start our intro course. Truth is some people have a long way to go and are not ready for burpees and some of the other basic movements.  I will customize a plan based on the individuals needs with the end goal preparing them for the intro course and then on to regular classes.  If this is you or someone you know give me a call and we can discuss.  Let's Slay Giants.

There will be a regular WOD or open gym as well.


KO 404-606-4122

Lee before

Lee before

Lee After

Lee After

Hate to Tell Ya...Summer Starts Now by Coach Brett

Fall is in the air. Tailgating, Thanksgiving, Christmas. The leaves will start to fall from the trees as temperatures drop. The holiday nostalgia will start to take over. There will be gatherings and parties. There will be food, but here is something you may not know…..your fitness goals start now.

                We have two classifications of athlete, the competitor and the novice.  One desires to push themselves to the brink, with the culmination of their effort ending in the Open. The other wants to just get in shape and maybe look good in a bathing suit. The Open is in late February and Spring Break shortly after, so “What’s the rush right.”

                First, the competitor.  Summer is grueling in the south. It seems there is a competition every week. They are typically outdoors, hot and each one seeming to be more difficult than the next. I caught myself last week just wanting to rest. Therefore, I did and immediately the bad eating came. The night of Charlie’s Angels I ate five slices of pizza and a pint of ice cream. I passed out shortly after.  Monday at work was more difficult than usual. The thought crossed my head to go home….I went to the gym anyways. I felt sluggish, out of breath but at least I was back. I immediately saw how quickly I would fall off. I then knew that if I slacked through the new year I’d never be ready come February.  Deep down you know the same.

                For the novice, gaining extra pounds during the holidays will make it that much harder when summer comes. It would feel that now would be the time to rest up, but let me be the first to say that thought and mentality can leave you in a deficit you can’t get out of in a healthy manor. Fad diets and quick fixes never yield sustainable results. Statistically there isn’t much correlation, typically most people gain 1-5 pounds during the holidays. The question then becomes of the people who gained, who had the dedication to lose that weight again. From my seat as coach, I’ve seen many go out at Christmas and not return.  Best policy is to enjoy the holidays in moderation. Have fun, enjoy food….just not every party, just not every night. We all want the work we put in the gym to show on the outside, don’t blow it. The holidays are stressful and at times emotional, which can heighten the urge to medicate with food. Its proven that those who regularly exercise have a lower level of stress and therefore an easier time combating this urge.

                Have fun but stay focused. It’s easy during this time to take a break. It’s easy to rationalize that this break is deserved. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:

For the competitor:

       1. Plan deload or light weeks around the holidays. If you know you’re going to visit grandma for Christmas structure your training around this required break.

For both:

  1. Plan cheat meals around office parties and gatherings.
  2. When at parties make sure to adorn your plate with fruits and vegetables making smaller places for heavier dishes.
  3. When traveling make sure to ask one of your coaches for various travel workouts.
  4. Find time while away to schedule activities outdoors.
  5. Minimize your mistakes by not taking the on the wagon/off the wagon approach. Just because you have a bad day or couple of days does not mean hope is lost, get back in the gym and don’t stay gone.

Great effort by everyone at Charlies Angels, Thanks for making it a success. Keep that momentum going and God Bless

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Four Competitions in Seven Weeks: What I Learned by Coach Brett

Part 4:There is no I in Team and other clichés on Teamwork

Of the four competitions I participated in only, one was a team event. Since I was young, I have always been highly competitive. When I started Crossfit, within months, I was competing on an individual level.  I never liked the idea of teams, if I did well it was on me and if I did poorly, it was too. It seemed like teams would be a waste of time, where I would always wonder if my partner or I needed to do more to increase our rank. I was misguided and ultimately wrong, teams are at the heart of Crossfit. A system forged in community, working together comes natural. Whether it is partnering together for a workout or for a cause.

 A local gym, WP Crossfit in Montgomery, decided to hold a Charlie’s Angels event at their box and make it team. I, being the father, gladly participated. Coach Jaden and I teamed up and came in 8th place.  The next weekend I started a run through three individual competitions. Here are several observations on the differences:


  1. Teams are far less pressure: At the event in Montgomery, I remember being extremely relaxed. Jaden and I beforehand discussed our strengths and weaknesses as they related to the workouts. Some things I was better at and something’s he was better at. Regardless, we each had a role and were able to support each other in the areas which we had trouble. It was relieving to know I didn’t have to carry the weight myself. The next weekend in Dothan was my bout with the rope that I discussed in my first post. I knew that climbing rope was a weakness and that workout would give me trouble. I was plagued by it the whole day. I kept staring at the rope in fear of what it would bring. After the event, I beat myself up about my lack of preparing in that area. This in a nutshell is why team events and partner workouts are so great. I get to work and exhibit my best points while someone helps me in the areas I am not so good at. It’s a win-win.
  2. Team workouts are far less physically taxing: The day after the event in Montgomery I worked out. Doing only half the work and having rest breaks built in while my partner worked allowed me to not break physically. At one of the events, The Dirty South Games, I participated individually but went the next day to view the teams. They had individuals on Saturday, teams Sunday. The teams had to do the same workouts we did except they got to split the work up rather than do it all themselves. As I limped around and watched them work, they all looked refreshed, happy. They were able to finish the workouts far faster than I was alone. Teams afford you the ability to push yourself harder, yet recover faster, as you have teammates to help with the load.
  3.  Team events push you in ways individually never will: I remember at the Dirty South games watching a scaled event. A girl was dangling from rings unable to complete a single rep. I thought to myself,” If I were her teammates I’d be pissed.” Her teammates may have been but didn’t show it. When she missed a rep they supported, when she got a rep they cheered. She somehow finished her part.  After the event, she thanked her teammates. She knew more was expected, but also knew she was in a judgment free zone with the people she worked out with day in and day out. I had finished in the top 10 the day before but in that moment, I was a little envious of her spot.  I sometimes forget what it is like to have people rally around you like that, I trained typically alone. Since then, I have made the point to surround myself with others more when I train. Doing so I have seen all my numbers go up.




I often hear people state they don’t “get as much’ out of partner workouts. A misconception that if one splits the work they are splitting the results.  See these workouts as opportunity to push harder when it is your time. See these as opportunities to be able to support your fellow gym member and be supported. Know that these benefits transcend fitness. That on a daily basis you are surrounded by the most passionate group of people I have ever been a part of. Know that you may be the push someone else needs today, you may be the light.


Goals for the Week: (Shameless plug coming)


  1. Get signed up for Charlie’s Angels team event September 27th 2014 at Valleydale Baptist Church. Teams consist of two males or two females with scaled, RX, and master divisions. #propaganda
  2. Go out make some knew friends today and partner up. Who knows, may become your best friend


Matthew 5:16

charlies angels.jpg

Four Competitions in Seven Weeks: What I Learned by Coach Brett

Part 3: There is No Prototype


                You must be shorter than 6 feet for a male and 5’6 for a female. You must be younger than 30. You must be lighter than 200lbs or 140 for a female. Society has formed the habit in us to place labels on ourselves. We start to believe the lie that we will never be strong enough, never lose “the weight”, never get that pull up and that we are not progressing.  I’m here to tell you, none of this is true.


                Looking at the games this year several individuals stuck out, none of which came in first, second or third place. I think one of the biggest sensations was Cody Anderson, standing at 5’7 and 160lbs, he went unbroken on all his muscle ups for the biathlon. The moment though that separated his performance  was when he cleared round 2 of the speed clean ladder, setting for himself a personal record at 305lbs.  Chris Spealler and Valerie Voboril proved age is just a number, Chris in his 7th games at 35 and Val finishing 5th overall at age 36. Kara Webb at 160lbs was in 1st through much of the games until her injury. She showed an atypical frame with far from typical results.


                Locally, the events I participated in had similar examples.  The winner of the Dirty South games was a male weighing 230 pounds and 32 years of age. Second place at Dirty South games, by an extra final workout, was a girl 5’4 130lbs going against a regional athlete who was 5’8 and 160 lbs. Masters men and women age 40+ doing the same workouts as scaled competitors 20+ years younger are doing. Repeatedly I was shocked to see that looks were deceiving. Sizing up your opponent is impossible in Crossfit until you see them perform.


                So what was the same in each athlete? Here is a list:


  1. Intensity- In looking back at my last post, power=intensity and intensity=results. All the people I saw that seemed to defy stereotypes had a switch that once turned on didn’t stop. They had an extra gear. Obviously, it was not solely based on athletic ability but on a will to push through the pain.
  2. Efficiency of movement – Being able to do a pull-up and being able to do a pull-up well are two different things. Learning movement in reference to one’s body type can take you far. Each of us was created differently, therefore there is a standard way to learn a movement and then there is a way to make that movement your own by adapting it to your physical traits. Each of the above individuals were able to adjust their height, weight, age, and body type to make the movements necessary for Crossfit work in harmony with their traits.
  3. Strength- I just did a whole post on this. See last weeks and go squat something.
  4. Work capacity- Via Strength and Science-“Work capacity is, essentially, the total amount of work you can perform and recover from”.  The people I saw could not only perform great amounts of work in short times, they were able to recover and do it again. All the above factor into this including diet, sleep, and training regimen. Pushing ourselves just a little harder in our workouts can help to stretch the amount of work we can do over time. This is the reason Crossfit is based in different domains of time.  Another quote from same text,” Once you’ve increased your work capacity and allow recovery to catch up, you’re in a position where you’re able to tolerate much more volume, which means a greater stimulus, which means an increased potential for gains.” GAINNZ, now I like the sound of that.




So quit being so down on yourself, you were made perfect in Gods image and have distinct characteristics for a reason. These characteristics may be viewed as flaws or as assets. I could look at my long arms as a hindrance to overhead movements or as an asset to things like rope climbs where longer reach makes for more effective movement. All I’m saying is embrace who you are today and utilize the traits you possess. Also, work on the things you know conflict with your body type. If hip mobility is an issue, mobilize. If you putter during workouts based in longer time domains, make sure you show up on days we program them. Lastly, there is no body type for effort, giving your all is not genetic. Push yourself to get better every day, up the intensity and up the results. Repeat after me “ I can do it” whatever that may be.


Goals for the Week


  1. Write down a list of your Crossfit assets and things you feel may need work.
  2. Praise your assets and tell them to someone so they can praise them too. Give yourself a hug….feels nice doesn’t it
  3. Go hard, 100% effort. Thanks in advance

Four Competitions in Seven Weeks: What I Learned by Coach Brett

Part 2: Size Matters

 I know you look at it when you come in the gym. Compare yours to others and wonder how and why it is bigger. You sometimes feel inadequate in comparison. You’ve taken supplements to try to help with the problem, been to clinics but no matter what you try you just cannot, under any circumstance get it fixed. Your PR’s of course and looking at the PR board at the gym just makes it worse. So you quit and think,” Ah, who cares size doesn’t matter.” However, it does.

 Of the three individual competitions I did, in my division, 5 out of the 6 winners came in first place in the strength category. Of the other divisions, scaled and masters, no one came lower than 4th.  There is a lot to be said for the ability to do skills correctly and the aerobic capacity necessary to move consistently through a Crossfit workout, but personally I have found no greater correlation than between strength and Crossfit success. This is true for the highest levels like the Crossfit games, Rich Froning and Matt Fraser were one and two in the games and one in two in the OHS max. It also applies completely to you and your goals as well.

 Lately, we have had a great emphasis on strength building and many ask the questions why. I have heard people say,” I just come to get breathing heavy” or “I don’t want to be too big”. Getting stronger does not mean you have to get bigger or weightlifters would never be successful in there resected weight classes. It may happen but personally, I have stayed the same weight for some time now and have been able to raise all my personal records. So why me, why is this important to my goals?

 Results in Crossfit are shown through the equation for power, force x distance/time. Moving objects long distances over smaller time domains. I know, I know, “Don’t get all scientific on us.” Jason Khalipa said in a speech that “the good stuff” happens when the top figures go up as the time numbers go down. So when larger loads go greater distances faster we get better. It is intensity in a nutshell, doing more work in a smaller amount of time. Intensity in Crossfit=results. What’s your point in regards to strength? So a simple example: Say my clean and jerk is 275 and say your clean and jerk is a respectable 200. No shame in that. Now let’s say we are doing a workout like Grace, 30 Clean and Jerk for time. Now I am working with just less than 50% of my max where as you are at almost 70%. Common sense would say I would have an easier time moving this load; therefore  I could perform more work in less time, creating greater intensity and therefore greater results. I recall a conversation at the gym between myself and two clients. It was asked,” How do I get strong like you?” I replied, ”Squat more.” The person next to them asked, “How do I get abs like that?” my answer,” Squat more.” Now you know why.

 Whether you love it or hate it, it is necessary to any and every goal you have. It also has many secondary benefits, in an article by the Mayo clinic they stated that strength training could develop strong bones, control your weight, boost your stamina, aid in chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease, and sharpen mental focus. This Is not such a daunting task, Jim Wendler said once,” Fortunately, there is a solution, and it’s not performing multiple sets of whatever cable Kegel exercise is being pushed as “The Answer.” Just a little hard, smart, basic work." Whether it is improving in bodyweight movements or in the Olympic lifts keep it simple and follow the plan. Do not skip your strength days but embrace them. Get better every day, work hard and realize that Size Matters.

Goals for the week:

1. Find an area of your own personal strength to work on. Whether it is better positioning or mobility for better strength gains. Whether it is a bodyweight movement or with free weights. Map out a plan.

2. Write down your PRs somewhere, anywhere and REMEMBER them. When we do percentage work I expect all to know these….seriously, you guys are driving me crazy.

Four Competitions in Seven Weeks: What I Learned by Coach Brett

Part 1:Failure is an Option….Just not a Good One
I stared up at the rope, arms swollen, ego busted. It was only 15 feet but might as well be 15 miles. I felt a tap on my back as a crowd had formed in Crossfit fashion to root me on. As I turned, I saw my friend Elijah Muhammad, one of the top Crossfit athletes in the world.  He was smiling and asked, “Whatcha doing?” I replied,” Oh nothing, just trying to climb this rope.” He attempted to coach on proper technique for the movement, but I was done. I completed 3 out of 10 climbs. As the clock finished on the time cap, he basically said the same thing happened to him except his “rope’ was strict HSPU and it cost him a trip to the Crossfit games. Elijah came in 4th in the Southeast, missing the games by only 3 points ,needing to finish the strict HSPU workout in 36th place or higher, he came in 39th. He told me he had a huge hole in his own fitness that cost him. That he would be working on his own weakness and by the next time we spoke, “ I better be able to climb a rope.” The event placed me in last place, I had never finished so low in an event before.
I came home to lick my wounds and prepare for my next event, which was in two weeks. I said to my wife,” I hope I never have to do anther rope climb again.” Over the next few days the workouts were released for the competition coming up. OHS, not great by doable, muscle ups, tough but I am improved....double unders, KBS, rope climbs….wait rope climbs! Not just rope climbs, an event solely based on rope climbs. 5 climbs with sprints, I only completed 3 last time, I was doomed. I started to except failure. My mind raced,” There is no 15 foot rope at J19” “ I don’t have the time to learn” “Maybe It won’t hurt my overall standings that bad”. The thought even came to mind not to compete. I was paralyzed by the fear of failure. I decided that these were not valid options and called my friend to tell him I coming to learn to climb. I worked hard over the next two weeks working it into workouts, using the short rope at J19 for footwork and most importantly preparing myself mentally. If Elijah could admit holes in his fitness and address them I can admit and address my own.
The day came for the competition, the rope climbs were the last event.  I went through each workout glancing occasionally at the set up for the climbs. It was time, I had done decent on the workouts for this day, made some goals, missed some goals. Success for me was measured by this one event though. 3,2,1….go, I sprinted to the rope, wrapped my leg as I was taught, leaned back and began to climb. One climb down, two climbs down, a third and a fourth I was further than the competition before. I finshed the event in 2:44 seconds not near first but not last either. More importantly, I now can climb a rope, had I quit I would have never received that satisfaction.
A lack of success doesn’t equal failure, it equals an opportunity for change,  an opportunity for getting better and breaking outside our comfort zone. It only becomes failure if we quit.  A defeated mentality gets us nowhere. I am not the most gifted athlete but often times I am the hardest worker.I haven’t reached every goal I have for this sport but I know I have never succeeded at any goal I have given up on. Just because we “cheat” a meal doesn’t mean our diets blown. Just because we haven’t gotten our first pullup doesn’t mean we never will. I have seen lives changed, confidence built all paved by hard work and effort. We fall sometimes but we get back up or thank God the community is here to pick us up. Henry Ford once said,” “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Lets be a people who continue to learn, continue to grow and continue to support each other in the process.

Goals for the Week:

Pick a weakness, set a goal. Either write them down in private or on the goal board at J19

Develop a plan to achieve one of your goals. Consult with your coaches on how to form your goal plan. Implement plan into action.