Board Meetings & Hype Sauce

Board Meetings & Hype Sauce

Just the other day, in-class teammates (aka training partners) were encouraging each other to an extraordinary level. I can’t recall the precise movement focus, but the amount of hype around what was going on was undeniably noticeable.

I know: this doesn’t seem like anything particularly significant. Especially since we’ve gotten used to this kind of culture having deliberatley working to develop it over the last eight years. In fact, it’s come to be standard behavior here at CFD. But if we look a bit deeper, what’s actually going on is remarkably kick-ass.

The class was loaded with doctors, researchers, VPs, students, parents, lawyers, scientists, engineers and various tradespeople. During the training session, the project was to build up to a weight that was challenging for the day. As the intensity progressed, so did the spirit of the class. These “professionals” were screaming at one another with the utmost excitement. The collective enjoyment of everyone doing their best was enough to tear the building in half.

I sat there and wondered: When was the last time this happened in their lives? Does a level of hype exist at work, in the boardroom during a quarterly sales meeting or while ordering a cup of coffee? Does it occur during a walk in the morning with the dog, or while getting the car washed; during lunch, maybe? Perhaps, for most of us, the only place this level of unfiltered excitement occurs is here, at Defined.

So, your assignment is this: Arrive each day and let us cheer for you. Allow two, three or four people to support you with reckless, unsolicited enthusiasm. And then return the favor; do the same for someone else. Be a part of something.

Coach David

Movement Culture. More than a gym.

Failure Provides Opportunity

When working with a group of Depaul students (the Women’s Rugby Team, to be specific), I noticed a pretty incredible reaction to failure.

Their team Coach, Scuba Luke, brought them in to Defined for some team training, conditioning, squat work and mindset maintenance. At the start of the session, I intentionally set them up to fail. We played a game with a PVC pipe that almost guaranteed a fault in team communication, but their reaction was particularly astonishing…because it was 100% positive. They actually enjoyed it.

The first time they failed, they responded with curiosity.
The second time they failed, they replied with a few smirks.
The third time they failed, they fully responded to the challenge.
The fourth time they failed, they collectively rose to the occasion and stepped up.

They reminded me that: “Failure is an event, not a person.” – Zig Ziglar

But not everyone operates this way. In most cases, failure is purposely avoided as if it were a bad thing. However, failing offers a chance at confronting new challenges and the taking on of new opportunities. We need to openly relish this. Don’t chase comfort. Chase an opportunity at failure.

Consider that last time you failed: How did you react? Was it positive? Did you enjoy it? Did you quit? Additionally, what you have consistently avoided due to the potential for failure? Remember: we can learn from failing. We can’t learn from staying in a comfort zone.

Coach David

Picking Teammates

I asked a few people the other day how they choose training partners. All of their answers were a bit different, but equally excellent. Here’s what they said:

Response #1 – “Class time determines who I pick. At 5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, I usually find someone at a similar skill level to share a barbell. Keeping the coaches in mind, I do this to be efficient with equipment. Outside of those times, I’ll work with anyone because I remember what it was like to be the new person.”

Response #2 – “I never come in with a pre-picked partner. But when selecting a teammate for the hour, I like to find the best person in the room. Why not work with someone that I can emulate? I can learn a lot by just watching someone with better technique than me.”

Response #3 – “I pick my friends. Oddly enough, I knew none of them when I joined the gym six months ago. We all met at Defined. Now we hang out inside and outside of the gym. Which is pretty cool because I am new to Chicago. The gym has introduced me to some truly wonderful people.”

So, how do you pick teammates? Do you look for similar skill levels? Do you shy away from some of the “big hitters” out of nervousness? Or do you seek out the new athlete to welcome him/her to our home? Do you engage with new people on the training floor? Most importantly, do you actively bring good vibes to the gymnasium?

If you always do the same thing, I challenge you to shake it up a bit. Introduce yourself to the most recent On-Ramp graduate and be a role-model. It will elevate your game. I promise.

Coach David

Conjugate Defined // Semi-Private Training Group

Coach Ben and Coach David have developed Conjugate Defined: a new semi-private strength-based program designed for eight interested athletes who want to challenge their current strength, address movement imbalances, and increase performance across a broad spectrum.

Conjugate Defined has dramatically shifted the way we approach our own training, and now we want to share it with those who enjoy individualized attention, personalized rep schemes and complementary movement progressions. This small-group training team is intended to feel unique with a hyper-focus on feedback. Being able to receive rep-by-rep feedback will dramatically increase each athlete’s ability to advance. This is an opportunity to make training changes and tailor the program on an individual basis.

Performace markers for each athlete will be showcased in a variety of ways. For some it will be about lifting heavier weights, for others, it will be about being able to do multiple bodyweight push-ups or pull-ups for the first time, and for a few, it might be about improving quality of life or getting closer to Rx weights in a CrossFit class. Regardless of your goals, strength matters, and we will deliver on that.

Conjugate Defined programming emphasizes the following:

  • Conjugate Strength Methods
  • Addressing unilateral upper and lower body weaknesses
  • Speed training to enhance the ability to exert maximal force
  • Targeted rep-schemes to engage weak underused muscle groups
  • Conditioning work intended to improve muscular work capacity
  • A decrease in body-fat
  • Implement band work and accessory chains to increase resistance
  • Goal-setting with a performance mindset

There are absolutely no training pre-requisites necessary, prior to participation. Truthfully, we’d love to work with athletes new to strength training. If you’re dedicated, focused and exert a positive attitude, this is the right team for you. The program is all about strength. But goal setting concepts, mindset components, and relentless feedback are what you’re going to get. I don’t care what you can squat, press, pull, push or do right now, I care that in 6 weeks you’ve made some performance improvements (mentally and physically).

Here are the details to get you going:

    • We are running two sessions this time.
    • The AM Session will meet on Tuesday & Thursday from 12p to 1p (June 5th through June 28th)
    • The PM Session will meet on Tue, Thur & Fri from 6p to 7p (June 5th through June 29th)
    • The cost of the program is $205 for the PM session and $185. Please register here.

Please email with any questions.

Final thoughts. The goals of the Conjugate Defined 102 Small Group Program are simple (to get stronger and become anti-fragile); you are going to receive hyper-focused coaching, immediate feedback and on the fly adjustments while surrounding yourself with like-minded high performing individuals and capitalizing on the team atmosphere.

Leading > Hand Holding

While coaching a Team WOD a few weeks ago, Coach Ben tossed out a casual comment that holds a ton of weight for our community. It’s something that I’ve thought about at least a 1,000 times since writing this article.

Pull Ups can cure just about anything.

The introduction. We started the morning working on Hang Power Cleans, then transitioned into a powerful, quick burst of conditioning, then finished with some pull-up accessory work. The warm-up, the cleans, and the workout were all formatted from start to finish. Timing, structure, cues, goals, mindset, logistics and barbell weight percentages where are discussed and thoroughly planned out ahead of time. Not atypical by any means, this is what we do as a coaching team week in and week out.

The structure. We had about 8 minutes left in class which was a perfect amount of time to get some additional pull-up work done. It also served as an effective cool-down from the intensity. I told the athletes to grab someone to work with and do anything they wanted to on the pull-up cage as long as it was productive toward improving their pull-up game. I did not discuss progressions, regressions, rep schemes or anything else. I just asked everyone to be productive for the next 5 minutes.

The outcome. Everyone got right to work and took the opportunity to try different things. Ring rows, jumping pull-ups, banded pull-ups, holds, negatives, kipping, chin ups; everyone figured out their level of movement to execute and crushed the work. Subtle, yet very powerful peer to peer coaching conversations took place, and everyone smoothly rolled into their game plan. It was beautiful to watch. Coach Ben sat back and said, “We are kinda like parents, we have to let them go. As long as they are safe, we just have to let them figure things out.”

Pull Ups can cure just about anything.

Sometimes I worry that the CFD community leans a bit too much on the coaching staff to tell them what to do every step of the way; this 5-minute Saturday observation (along with subsequent others) have proved me wrong. The coaching team at Defined sets the tone, motivates by example, develops the culture, educates and guides our athletes to where they need to go. They do not hand hold, they lead.

Learn from your experiences, embraces new challenges, be courageous and don’t be afraid to fail.

Coach David

Programming Details; Cycle #3: 3/19-4/15, 2018

Cycle #3 Programming Details: March 19th to April 15th. 2018

The primary barbell focus on this cycle will be as follows:

  • Back Squat in higher working percentages
  • Halting Power Clean or Snatch
  • Wendler Conventional Deadlift
  • Pressing focus: Strict press, Pushpress, Push Jerk

The secondary focuses will include:

  1. Lateral training (frontal plane)
  2. Static Holds
  3. Single arm/leg work

We have 1 more week of the CrossFit Open before we start transitioning to a more strength focused training cycle with a secondary emphasis on increasing our ability to stabilize through the midline.

The Back Squat higher percentage work will set us up for success in hitting a new PR on our testing week that will follow this cycle. (1st testing phase of 2018: April 16th-29th)

The pressing focus will help increase shoulder to overhead strength as well as better the ability to keep a strong and stable torso/core to help transition power from the legs through the midline to arms.

Adding the  “Halt” in your cleans and snatches will aid in optimizing lifting mechanics by forcing the lifter to evaluate body positions at certain points in the lift. Halting teaches proper bar path and the importance of lats as well as forcing the body to increase muscular activation at certain weaker points of the lifting phases.

Introduction of lateral training as a way to increase athleticism and decrease injury prevention; achieve better symmetry by balancing stability, mobility, weight shifting and postural alignment.

Lastly, you will see more single arm and single leg work. This type of training recruits more muscles, balances strength from one side of the body to the other, increases core and spine stability, improves balance and most importantly will help decrease injury.

As always, if you have any questions about programming, please reach out to





2 Chains & Squatting

Q: Why squat with chains?

A: Improve lifting speed.
When set-up correctly, chains pile up and decrease load as you squat down; when you stand up, weight is reapplied, gradually. The idea behind this action is that the weight is heaviest at the top of the lift and lightest at the bottom. So the goal is to learn to accelerate out of the bottom of a squat to “outrun” the gradual increase in weight. This translates to what we are trying to do as we come to a “sticking point” during a lift.

A: Improve core/trunk stability.
Due to the subtle swaying and stirring motion the chains create, we are forced to use our core and trunk muscles to stabilize and control the bar. This also teaches us to be more focused and maintain body tightness throughout the entirety of the movement, thus improving mental focus. Every step, including the un-racking of the bar, your set-up, the concentric (downward) and eccentric (up) movement of the squat, and final re-racking of the bar, all take additional focus and stability due to the application of chains.

A: Bar Path and Proprioceptive Awareness.
When squatting, we want the bar moving down and up in something that resembles a straight line; and we refer to this as the “bar path.” Chains give us feedback as to what path the bar is taking and where our body is in space all while allowing the lifter to auto-correct because of heightened feedback. One of the more common mistakes during a squat is getting pulled forward or the dropping of the chest. If, and when this was to happen with the application of chains, you’d immediately know because these chains follow along with a pronounced swaying motion (as discussed above). Over time, you’ll learn to correct this, which will give us a more vertical bar path. Optimal bar path leads to an upright torso, which improves positioning that ultimately leads to better performance.

The concept is simple.
And it’s something new, fun and fresh that you can do with your friends. It adds a different stimulus to our training day and keeps things new and exciting. Plus, it looks cool, you look cool, and you feel cool. And we all know the saying: Look good, feel good, play good!

So, grab some chains and give it a try. When we sent out our 2018 survey, the gym asked for three new pieces of equipment: Bikes, additional dumbells, strongman equipment AND chains.

Coach Kevin