There has been some debate on whether or not CrossFit participants should use weightlifting belts. We asked Weightlifting coach CJ Del Balso for his thoughts on weightlifting belts. CJ coaches youth lifters and also offers weightlifting workshops for Masters Athletes at CrossFit EST and CrossFit Iron Horse in the Dallas Fort Worth area.
CJ Del Balso: It is always better to go without one [lifting belt] provided your lumbar spine is healthy and your lifting technique is sound; however, there is a place for them in certain circumstances.
WODMasters: What kind of circumstances?
CJ Del Balso: If an individual has a preexisting low back injury, I don’t have a problem with using a belt in things like heavy squats, dead lifts and the Olympic lifts. This is especially true with masters level lifters where it’s just not worth the risk of incurring another injury.
CJ Del Balso with his lifting team
WODMasters: Would it be good for Masters to wear lifting belts all the time? A lot of us already have back issues.
CJ Del Balso: Even on the movements I mentioned,I do believe it is good to go without a belt as much as possible to strengthen the core without supportive gear. For example, a belt may not be needed on back squats until a certain weight is reached. Because I work primarily with youth lifters, this is not an issue I deal with much. I do not let any of my lifters wear belts other than when we do 1RM back squats but they are also learning proper technique from the very beginning so the risk of injury is minimized.
WODMasters: Thanks so much.
CJ Del Balso: I hope that helps and feel free to contact me with any other questions you may have. Take care!
CrossFit trainers and Masters CrossFit: weightlifting flexibility strength
You’ve probably heard it. “pull yourself under the bar”, “you’re not going down enough” “full range of motion”. Sometimes CrossFit trainers seem to get aggravated and may end up ignoring masters athletes who don’t “listen” to their advice. For many the situation is more complex than choosing not to respond.
Coach Bob Takano (l) and Masters Athlete Scott Miller (r) at the 2011 SPLWC Championships
The two most important factors limiting weightlifting ability (here we mean simply ability to pull, push, and lift) are balance and joint strength (Fischer et al. 2012). There may be some truth to the “believe in yourself model”, but there are also psycho-neurological factors. If you feel off-balance you will be less comfortable taking risks that may put you further off balance and increase your odds of getting hurt. Your brain is looking out of you. For a lot of people, especially older guys, balancing in a squat is tough. They may not be able to balance steadily in squat position. Increasing flexibility in the hips, legs and back will help them improve form and increase weight loads. Some WODMasters swear that Active Release Technique, a form of Chiropractic, has helped them enormously. Only one paper, a pilot study, was found on this technique, but the authors felt it was promising.
The second point is that of joint strength. Your lifts will be limited by the weakest link. Improving strength in your weak spots will help you achieve greater loads on major lifts like squats, deadlifts, cleans etc. For some, especially for women, the weak link may be hand strength. Those annoying farmer carries may be a good bet.
Crossfit weightlifting and flexibility: getting one on one coaching
Lastly, and most importantly for injury prevention as well as just plain getting better at CrossFit, is get some specialized Olympic Lifting coaching. Someone with a Level 1 CrossFit Certification may know little about proper lifting technique, and even less about teaching. If you are in Southern California, look up Bob Takano. He is an excellent teacher.
Scott Miller has been lifting and working with Bob Takano for about two years. Great form.
Fischer SL, Brenneman EC, Wells RP, & Dickerson CR (2012). Relationships between psychophysically acceptable and maximum voluntary hand force capacity in the context of underlying biomechanical limitations. Applied ergonomics, 43 (5), 813-20 PMID: 22245635
Robb A, & Pajaczkowski J (2011). Immediate effect on pain thresholds using active release technique on adductor strains: Pilot study. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 15 (1), 57-62 PMID: 21147419
CrossFit Pasadena has a friendly, open feel to it and a good community. Its also close enough to CalTech that you could run or bike over and back. CalTech also has its own CrossFit club if you are thinking of working or going to school there.
Here’s a little bit about CrossFit Pasadena:
They are located in old downtown Pasadena:
25 West Valley Street, Pasadena, CA 91105 Phone: 626.405.2320
Box is spacious and well-equipped
Pull-up bars have a wide diameter which made pullups a bit more challenging than usual, but that was a good experience. Might be good to practice on varying diameter bars if possible to improve grip strength.
The Owner, is a very good-natured, friendly guy who likes offensive T-shirts. Bring him one from your home box in XXL and he will waive the $25 drop-in fee.
CrossFit Pasadena’s Trainer Johnny (left) with offensive shirt message blotted out. Coach Bob Takano is on the right.
The best thing CrossFit Pasadena has to offer may well be USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame Coach Bob Takano. Two of us recently had an opportunity to get some coaching from him. Bob has been lifting since he was a kid in the early sixties, has coached a number of champions and is a gifted teacher. He also has a dry, understated sense of humor. If you get a chance to take a workshop with him, or drop in to CrossFit Pasadena where he coaches lifters in the evenings, be sure to keep your ears open for subtle jokes. And listen to what he tells you about your lifting too.
If you are going to do CrossFit get good at olympic weightlifting. It is important for injury prevention. It will also help you improve your ability to perform well during WODs and do well at next year’s CrossFit Open Competition. We highly recommend spending a little time and money getting specialized coaching. Masters tend to get overlooked at a lot of boxes. We may be more likely to get hurt and it will definitely take us longer to recover. CrossFit Pasadena combines CrossFit CrossFit with exceptional skills training.
1. Testosterone levels rise when people compete on teams or in events with members of the opposite sex (if you are heterosexual).
There have been a number of studies looking at the effects of winning and losing on men’s testosterone levels. Recently, a research team has found that competing on co-ed recreational teams increased testosterone in both men AND women (androgens, more precisely). The greater the proportion of opposite sex players the greater the increase. The people studied were ultimate Frisbee players, which is very different sport than CrossFit. However CrossFit provides a competitive mixed sex environment. Another notable thing about the study was that testosterone increased whether the participants were on the winning team or not. So, even if you don’t have the best snatch you can still enjoy a little extra from the group experience (Miller et al. 2012).
2. Testosterone will rise when you workout or compete where you will get positive feedback.
Train with people who will tell you how to get better instead of criticizing you for what you are doing wrong. Training in a positive environment will increase testosterone and future performance. Training somewhere where emphasis on mistakes and negative criticisms are the norm will lower it and lower later performance. Sometimes for days afterwards. Effects of different post-match recovery interventions on subsequent athlete hormonal state and game performance.
3. Avoid Canned Food.
The linings of canned food contain a chemical called Bisphenol A among other things. You may know Bisphenol A as BPA and may know it has recently been banned for use in manufacture of baby bottles. BPA is an estrogen mimic and may lower testosterone production in men.
Miller SL, Maner JK, McNulty JK. 2012. Adaptive attunement to the sex of individuals at a competition: the ratio of opposite- to same-sex individuals correlates with changes in competitors’ testosterone levels. Evolution and Human Behavior. 33(1): 57-63.
Lee HJ, Chattopadhyay S, Gong EY, Ahn RS, & Lee K (2003). Antiandrogenic effects of bisphenol A and on the function of androgen receptor. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology, 75 (1), 40-6 PMID: 12805653
Crewther BT, & Cook CJ (2012). Effects of different post-match recovery interventions on subsequent athlete hormonal state and game performance. Physiology & behavior, 106 (4), 471-5 PMID: 22465311
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