From its genesis, 57 North has continually evolved to meet our athlete’s needs across the whole spectrum of its offerings. Because the Elements programme is our most fundamental and introductory package, it will form the subject of this post.
Anyone looking to join CrossFit usually goes through the initial stages of the cycle of change, which most fitness instructors are familiar with. This cycle works through the following:
So, prior to joining CrossFit you will possibly be at the contemplation phase or the pre, if this happens to be a random come across.
To help you ‘contemplate’ there are videos and articles all over the web which espouse how good CrossFit is.
You may even have a friend or family member beside you right now who happens to talk about it incessantly (which could be deemed as a bad thing!).
This post is intended to provide you with information to read and digest in your own time about how new members start up at our gym. Hopefully encouraging you to take that 3rd and 4th step, eventually leading to what we hope is the 5th.
How we do it:
Rather than diving straight into CrossFit classes, we first invite our prospective clients to try a free taster session.
Here we hopefully explain and answer any burning questions you may have initially and dispel any myths that may be circulating about CrossFit.
After a chat, we begin with a warm-up and then go over technique for the movements that are about to be completed in the workout.
This workout is relatively short and sharp, but very deceiving in its relative difficulty.
Most people, regardless of physical background, find the workout rather challenging and usually experience a little DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) a couple of days after. This is expected as the muscles targeted are usually neglected by the masses.
Society as a whole is very anteriorly driven in its training and lifestyle so we aim to awake those large underused muscles of the posterior chain.
I personally took part in this same taster workout a few years ago at a CrossFit gym in London. I classed myself back then as an extremely fit ex-marine, however, to my horror, I found after the workout that I had to exercise the utmost control not to swagger out of there with a gait like John Wayne. All because there were aspects of my training I had neglected through lack of knowledge. However here a conservative approach to the workout will be adopted.
After the taster then, and if you feel that CrossFit is for you, the next step is to enrol onto our Elements programme.
Ideally this programme should be attended three times during the weekdays for a month. That gives you 12 sessions and 12 hours of training.
This programme is designed to build a foundation of basic strength and conditioning while working constantly on mobility, particularly hip and squat therapy.
The squat is the most common movement at CrossFit and should be a staple movement in everybody’s training regime.
We find most people who first begin CrossFit have tight hips and struggle with the simple air squat. As we do squats on an extremely regular basis here, it makes sense to spend time preparing those to squat well with safe mechanics and to learn how to maintain it.
The Elements isn’t focused on learning the snatch or being able to master a muscle-up, it’s purely for the basic lifts like the back squat, press and deadlift; as well as the basic gymnast movements like the air squat, pull-up and push-up.
The conditioning element, as I mentioned, sees movements like the air squat, pull-up and push-up; but we also bring in kettlebells and midline stability exercises to build that core strength.
The kettlebell is an incredibly effective tool for strengthening up the posterior chain. Those who are desk-bound on a daily basis or have evaded working out for a while will certainly have their glutes and hamstrings woken up with some simple kettlebell swings.
But even for the experienced athlete, he/she knows how fundamental hip extension is to their all-round performance and the kettlebell is always a tool kept regularly at the front end of their arsenal.
Originally, prior to elements, we ran a four session fundamental package which aimed to introduce the main movements to those new to CrossFit. Each session would finish off with a short workout and then, on completion of the four, that was you ready to join the classes.
The problem we found with this was that those who were rather sedentary before kick starting their fitness regime, found the pace and the movements a bit too overwhelming.
This was perfectly understandable and wasn’t too much of an issue when the box was very much in its infancy. Classes were not full and we did have plenty of opportunities to put the basic movements right.
But as the classes grew bigger, faster, stronger – we needed to put in place a programme which provided more time on the basics for our newcomers and set that foundation of strength and conditioning.
On top of the weekday classes then, we still wanted to add some sessions which worked on the more technically demanding movements both lifting weighted objects and controlling your own bodyweight.
On the first three Saturdays of a month, we run a two hour technique session from 1300-1500. Here the first Saturday sees us look at the squat, deadlift and press. With these we also bring in the variations of the movements like the front squat, sumo deadlift and push press for example. All movements are carried out with just the barbell or dowel.
The second Saturday, is for the gymnast movements and we cover movements ranging from the pull-up, f/wd and b/wd roll, to the handstand and the gymnast ring progressions.
Those more mature have been found to reminisce about past childhood schooldays, and the thought that they would be back doing handstands in their senior years had certainly never crossed their minds.
That brings us to the third and final Saturday. This session is for the more technical demanding lifts and is a mere introductory lesson, again only using the dowel and barbell.
Movements covered are the snatch, clean and jerk and their warm-up and progressions, as well as the more technical kettlebell movements.
No actual workouts are carried out here as it is a relaxed environment to soak up what’s being taught. Added onto the weekday classes, this will tally up the Elements to 15 hours of introductory training.
Recently, we asked for feedback from clients who had taken part in the Elements this year. Across the board the overwhelming response was positive. However one comment, which I will talk about here, deserves mention:
“I think for someone who has lifted before, some elements were relatively easy. However, elements specific to CrossFit and gymnastics were challenging.”
We have to take into account that many people who begin CrossFit have an athletic background where lifting played a big part.
We hope that the lessons on mobility, myofascial release techniques and the standards in movement make up for those who feel they are certainly at a high standard of fitness and proficiency in lifting weights.
We expect those individual’s then during the sessions to display sound technique and listen to any advice given when lifting.
During the conditioning we expect those who are fit to go at a pace that is challenging, BUT, keeping form at the top most priority as that is the main focus of the Elements classes.
I mentioned earlier that the aim wasn’t to have those new to CrossFit progressing say with a snatch or a muscle-up through the elements. Well, the main reason for this is again through experience.
Those who are not used to training will find that their rotator cuffs aren’t fully up to the task of the dynamic and agile movements.
The rotator cuff is made up of four small muscles which, if not strengthened properly, can tear and ultimately affect the athlete for a considerable period of time.
To that end we use simple and safe methods like ring rows, push-ups and strict pull-ups to build up the strength as well as some other techniques.
Another issue arises from poor thoracic spine mobility. If this is the case then the scapula cannot be in a correct mechanical position, therefore leading to impingement.
We aim to solve these problems through careful analysis of each individual. The videos you see of CrossFitters performing kipping pull-ups are only to be used at 57 North by those that have spent time building up that strength in the shoulder joint and are able to exude competency carrying out strict pull-ups.
There are many ways we can alter and change the movements here to cater for any individual’s ability.
The Elements program provides us with a relaxed and adequate period of time to spend working on form and fitness.
In the gym’s embryonic stage, teething problems were expected, but we are firmly on our way forward, bringing into play lessons learned.
These include lessons from the CrossFit community as a whole and from valued feedback from our members.
‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ – and here, 57 North is an organic establishment which aims to continually increase performance and introduce people to fitness in a fun, results driven, motivated environment.
Feedback from our Elements programme:
“The Elements package for me was really good. As a shift worker the flexibility given from the trainers was excellent. The level of training and expertise with regards to the technical lifting was spot on. I struggle mostly with the lifting as I’m not the strongest, but the coaches were always encouraging and helpful, providing useful tips to perform each set properly but more importantly safely. Out with elements, I continue to learn and receive ongoing support from the team. I have thoroughly enjoyed elements and am loving the classes. Cheers!”
“I thought the Elements was great. Some of the stuff was a bit challenging when you start off very unfit like myself, but not too challenging, because everything is scalable and it just makes you prepared for the CrossFit classes. The length of the programme was perfect. All the coaches were really good. I only have positive things to say about the place, classes and everyone I’ve met there. I’m going home to Norway for three months soon and I can’t wait to be back and join you guy’s again in December!”
“The pace of the course is just right. You can develop skill level to get you to a competent level, give you the confidence to attend CrossFit classes and then further develop your skill during these classes. When I first went to the box for my taster class I was immediately welcomed by the coaches that were there. During the sessions coaches always give encouragement and give pointers on your technique. Even if the class is full they make the effort to have a look to make sure you are using correct technique. They are very knowledgeable about what they are teaching. I did most of my Elements sessions at 11am which was great as that fitted in with my schedule.”
“I think the Elements package is great. I have learnt more in the six sessions I have done in Elements than I ever had in a gym, which was for three years! I really enjoyed the gymnastics on a Saturday – a lot harder than I thought. The instructors are fantastic too. They are very particular on technique, which I think is important.”