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About The Author

Todd Nief is the Owner and Director of Training at South Loop Strength and Conditioning. He blogs regularly on all things strength and conditioning at southloopsc.com/articles


Recent Posts

5 Unconventional Conditioning Methods for Competitive CrossFit

By Todd Nief | Wed, Jul 5

This is installment 4 of a 4-part series on off-season training for competitive CrossFit. Today we will be diving into what you need to do to dominate the competition floor.

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10 Ways to Build an Unstoppable Engine for Competitive CrossFit

By Todd Nief | Wed, Jun 28

This is installment 3 of a 4-part series on off-season training for competitive CrossFit. Today we we be diving into what you need to do to build unstoppable repeatability.

To succeed in CrossFit, you need the ability to repeat near maximum efforts with as little rest as possible.

It’s not enough to simply have a high one rep max or a large unbroken set of muscle-ups. How many reps at 90% of your max power clean can you do in 8 minutes?

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4 Ways To Develop Functional Speed and Power for Competitive CrossFit

By Todd Nief | Wed, Jun 21

Speed is one of the most underdeveloped traits in fitness athletes, and for good reason - it’s almost never tested outside of a few events at the CrossFit Games. And being a fast, explosive athlete often results in poor performance in typical CrossFit-style testers.

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6 Methods CrossFit Competitors Should Use to Develop Raw Strength

By Todd Nief | Wed, Jun 14

Now that Regionals is over, it's the off-season for most athletes who compete in CrossFit as a sport.

And you know that means most of them are thinking - “it’s time to do a strength cycle!” 

So competitive fitness athletes across the nation are hopping on the internet, checking out forums, and scrolling through Instagram posts.

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Reflecting On The 2017 CrossFit Open Workouts

By Todd Nief | Wed, Apr 19

Training for the CrossFit Open is always a bit of a guessing game, and Dave Castro certainly loves to throw out some cryptic clues on his Instagram to stoke the piranhas of social media into a feeding frenzy of speculation.

While I think this speculative game is usually not worth playing, there’s a lot to learn every year from the Open. Extracting key principles is important to guide training going forward for athletes who wish to compete in CrossFit as a sport.

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Competitive CrossFit: The Specialization of the Generalist

By Todd Nief | Tue, Mar 22

While CrossFit was founded as a GPP (general physical preparedness) program, it’s evolution into a competitive sport has made training a CrossFit athlete into a sport specific operation.

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Own Your Goals

By Todd Nief | Mon, Dec 15

In the fitness community, we have people with a variety of goals. Some have a competitive itch that they can never quite scratch, they want to maximize their performance and reach their true potential.

And, in the process, they wouldn't mind beating a bunch of people as well (in fitness competition, or sport).

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"Flipping" the Bar in the Power Clean

By Todd Nief | Mon, Nov 10

Many athletes, even at high levels in fitness, complete their snatches and cleans with a sort of "flip" of the bar. Rather than finishing with a powerful pull, the bar kind of floats out in front and is then "flipped" into position.

This may be an unfair generalization, but I often see this with athletes who are thinking "jump and shrug" to complete their lifts. Not that this method can't be effective for teaching the lifts, but, if athletes don't know which position from which to be "jumping and shrugging," things can get a little bit funky.

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The Goldilocks Mindset - Dealing with Conflicting Coaching Cues

By Todd Nief | Fri, Sep 5

When being coached on lifting technique, it's not uncommon to feel like different coaches are giving conflicting cues.

How am I supposed to sit back onto my heels while still keeping my chest up in the squat? If both cues aren't happening, which one should I sacrifice? Is it better to keep my chest up in the bottom and roll onto my toes a bit, or is it better to stay firmly rooted in the heels and allow the chest to drop?

While we could go into a variety of discussions regarding the finer points of cuing and triaging errors (short version: prioritize proper stabilization strategies through the core and many other mobility and motor control problems handle themselves), I'd like to instead discuss a phenomenon I see with many athletes, particularly those who are motivated to get better - I call it the Goldilocks Mindset.

In a group class model, athletes will often be exposed to different coaches who will offer different cues. At some level, this can be very valuable, as one coach may say the "right thing" that suddenly makes a concept click. "Oh, 'ribcage down' on my kettlebell swings makes sense! Now I know what Paul was trying to get me to do the other day when he was saying 'don't arch.'"

However, other times, athletes may feel like they're getting mixed messages from coaches.

This is absolutely the case sometimes. Depending on which continuing education courses you've taken, which coaches you've worked with, or which blogs you read, you may have a differing opinion on how much the knees should translate forward in a squat.

And, there may be different "correct" answers for different people. Is the squat unloaded? Loaded? Is it a weightlifter trying to win a competition? Is it a powerlifter trying to win a competition? Does the person have a history of knee pain? Does the person have a history of back pain? All of these factors can change how much the knees "should" translate forward in the bottom of a squat and different coaches may have different opinions or different degrees of understanding of these nuances.

Worst case scenario, some coaches just have a few basic cues that they throw at every situation like "Stay in your heels!" and "Keep your chest up!" This is the "if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" situation.

In any case, it can be frustrating to hear different cues and not know which ones are the right ones to be following. However, another common situation is athletes over-correcting their errors. Think of Goldilocks and the three bears. Some porridge was too hot. Some was too cold. And some was just right. Finding your back angle on the deadlift can be the same way. "Chest up!" "Chest down" "Just right!"

So, how do you figure out what the situation is? The easiest way is to ask your coach. Explain that you've heard different cues elsewhere and you're not sure what to do. Key here, though, is not to accuse your coach or the other coach of "being wrong," since that puts the coach in an inherently defensive position. Coaches don't want to undermine each other. And, we also understand that, sometimes what an athlete hears is not what a coach actually said.

Ideally, your coach will be able to explain to you why they're giving you a certain cue and also explain that, in another situation, the other coach may have been correct in giving you a seemingly opposite cue. We're all after better movement and better performance, so we attempt to change what we see into what we envision in our head through cuing and programming.

For an example of this in action, see this video. MJ has had a bad habit of pulling the bar around her knees on her cleans for a long time. We've worked on correcting this and have made significant progress. However, in this video, she pulls her knees back quite well, but changes her back angle significantly in the first pull in order to get the knees back. So, we've created a new problem. Enter the Goldilocks Mindset - First the porridge was too cold, and now it's too hot. Eventually, we will end up at just right. And then we can start worrying about whether the bed is too big or too small.

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Not Hitting Depth on the Back Squat - Hypermobility Edition

By Todd Nief | Mon, Aug 4

The hypermobile athlete can be very tricky. In passive tests of flexibility, they can do freaky things. They can even do impressive stuff actively. Nose on the knee? No problem. Grab the opposite wrist behind the back? No problem.

However, when it comes to hitting depth on a loaded squat, these folks often look like your typical office working weekend triathlete who has steel rods in place of their hip flexors.

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