2014

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Ball to the Wall for Hips

Get your hips moving better than Elvis with the wallball and box jump, two of the best hip-snap exercises in CrossFit

The explosive hip thrust is the most-often repeated technique in CrossFit, which you’ll find in kipping pull-ups, muscle-ups and dozens of other moves. “Women are more flexible through their hips, but guys seem to, ahem, understand the hip thrust a little better,” quips Justin James Hughes, a coach at CrossFit Studio City in Southern California. Here’s how to perfect two of the most powerful hip-snap moves: the wallball and box jump.

Wallball

 

What You’ll Need: Grab a medicine ball that weighs at least 12 pounds but no more than 20 pounds, which is the prescribed weight for men. The soft Dynamax-style balls are best. You’ll also need a strong bare wall (no windows!) with a target marked at a height of 10 feet.

Setup: Stand in front of the wall with your toes about six inches away from the baseboard. Hold the medicine ball with both hands close to your chest so that the top of the ball is at chin level. Keep your elbows in and pointed down.

Execution: Drop into a relatively deep squat. Push through your heels and extend your knees. As you come up, explosively thrust your hips forward and extend your arms overhead, sending the medicine ball directly above you to the target. Catch the ball and use its momentum to drop into your next squat.

Coach’s Cues: Place a medicine ball directly behind you and make sure your glutes touch it at the bottom of the rep. “Butt balls,” as they are known, can help you learn to consistently hit the right depth, says Hughes.

Box Jump

What You’ll Need: Find a stable nonslip surface that’s between 20 and 30 inches high (24 inches is the prescribed height for men). Some high steps or a planter will do in a pinch as long as you can land with both feet on the object. If you train at home, think about investing in a plyometric box.

Setup: Stand in front of the elevated surface. Keep a slight bend in your knees with your weight on the balls of your feet and your hands and arms loose and relaxed.

Execution: Drop into a shallow squat and then explosively thrust your hips forward and bring your knees up toward your chest. At the same time, swing your arms directly over your head in a violent “ski pole” motion. Land with both feet completely on the box and fully extend your hips so you come to a full standing position. Step back down or jump both feet back to the ground.

Coach’s Cues: Coming off the box might actually be more important than jumping onto it. You can either step down one foot at a time, or jump down. Stepping down is easier on your Achilles tendons, but jumping down is far more efficient.

 

The Wallball/Box-Jump Workout

 

 

The workout features a favorite rep scheme of CrossFit, a classic case of stick and carrot. Perform 10 reps of wallballs and then one rep of a burpee box jump, then nine wallballs and two burpee box jumps and so forth. As the reps of one exercise ease off, the other only gets more difficult. A burpee box jump is exactly what it sounds like. Perform a burpee in front of a plyo box, but instead of finishing the burpee with a jump and clap, jump onto the box and extend your hips.

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Bodybuilding: The Human Flag

Bodyweight fitness guru Brandon Carter teaches you how to rise to the challenge for one of the most difficult isometric moves: the human flag.

Some well-trained guys make the human flag look easy, but if you’ve ever tried this move, there’s a good chance you’ve come crashing down like a sack of potatoes. It requires a beastly amount of core strength, but for an extreme functional move that turns heads, it’s hard to top the human flag. All you need is a sturdy post (emphasis on sturdy!) and you’re ready to start.

Warm-up

Start out with a few sets of light crunches and oblique crunches to get your core muscles warmed up. Don’t push it too hard, though, because you don’t want to tire out those muscles. You’re going to need them, big-time, once you start working on your flag.

Hand position

If you’re doing the flag on a straight pole, place the hand that’ll be above your head in an overhand, pull-up position, and your bottom hand in an underhand, chin-up grip.If you’re using a pole that levels off on top (see photo), use a neutral grip for the top hand.

Setup

Once your hands are in place, hold the grip firmly and start out with your knees tucked, hips stacked vertically and the side of your lower foot resting on the ground. Engage your abdominals and obliques, shoulders and back muscles as you lean in toward the pole.

The flag

Rather than popping up explosively into the horizontal flag position, use your hip flexors and core muscles to get off the ground as high as you can. Beginners should keep their knees bent, as this
will ease the stress on the core muscles.

As you progress, you can start the flag raise with straight legs, or kick right into it with a sideways jump.

 

The Flag Workout

At the start, you may not be able to hold the flag for more than half a second, even with bent knees, but don’t get discouraged — it takes practice.

Do four sets of human flag raises with bent knees, 8–10 reps per side, with 30–45 seconds’ rest between sets, alternating sides after each set to make sure you work your muscles evenly.

Incorporate this workout into your abs routine three times per week and you’ll be flagging in no time.

For advanced human flag variations, watch Hit Richards in action:

Bar Gloves

Richards strongly urges using a good set of gloves when doing bar work. Gloves provide better overall grip, they absorb palm sweat that can cause slippage, and most importantly they prevent blisters.

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