Is this Common Mental Pitfall Hindering Your Progress?

A Common Mental Pitfall


By Dave Werner

In the 15+ years I’ve been at this, I’ve trained the old and young, lean and overweight, natural athletes and folks who struggle with the basics. You know what a lot of them have in common? A sense that they’re stuck in some way, that they’ve been dealt a certain hand, and that’s just the way it’s going to be. Forever.

“I just can’t get into a deep squat.”
“I work out five times a week and can’t seem to lose weight.”
“I’m just inflexible.”
“I have weak ankles.”
“Flat feet.”
“Bad knees.”
“Bad wrists.”

I’m in the business of change.  So I will often point out to them that, actually, you can improve your flexibility, your body composition, or whatever the case may be. I might even tell them about other clients who’ve overcome the very same issues. I’ll give advice on how to work through the problem.

And still, they insist that their problem is outside of their control for one reason or another.

I’ve been there myself. Back injuries ended my career as a Navy SEAL, and for years, I simply accepted that I’d be living with pain the rest of my life. I grew accustomed to the pain. In some ways, it took over my life.

Finally, a light bulb went on. I could fix myself.  And I did. (Read how I fixed my back)

So when clients tell me they can’t do something, I don’t buy it. But I also understand that there’s something more going on. It's a mental defense mechanism. If you tell people they can do something about their problems, they don’t necessarily hear it as a glimmer of hope. Sometimes, they don’t want to hear it at all. Instead, it’s a whole lot easier to simply think you’re wrong.

Sure, bad backs and frozen shoulders and lousy movement patterns aren’t always easy to fix. But after fixing my own back and using that experience to train thousands of clients, I can tell you that in most cases, it’s doable. And in all cases, it’s worth the effort.  A little bit of progress will open up a door for you. You may even see your life differently. I know I did.

Dave Werner served as a Navy SEAL for 12 years, founded the first CrossFit Affiliate in 2002, is creator of the Athletic Skill Levels and is owner of and

GOALS for CYCLE 5 - October 8 through December 17, 2017

GOALS:  Cycle 5 2017

Oct 9– Dec 17, 2017

The progressions for this cycle include:
•    Headstand Push-ups for reps, including progression for those who can’t do any yet
•    Military press building to a 2 Rep Max test
•    Heavy Back squats, building to a 3 Rep Max test
•    Single leg squats, including progression for those who can’t do any yet
•    Strict Pull-ups/weighted pull-ups, building to a heavy single
•    Dips/weighted dips, building to a heavy single
•    Continued Handstand work for shoulder strength and stability development
•    Barbell Clean technique and strength progression.

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There is a big focus on developing upper body pressing strength this cycle! We are using a Headstand push-up progression, continuing work on the Military press as well as Dip/Weighted dip training.

All the heavy pushing will be balanced with Pull-up/Weighted pull-up work, as well as the usual mix of other pulling movements and shoulder structural balance work.

Last cycle we worked on increasing max reps for both strict chin-ups and dips. This cycle we will build on that base by keeping the reps low and increasing difficulty and/or adding weight to both movements.

Hip strength will be developed with Back squats, building up to a 3 RM test. We are also focusing on single leg strength and range of motion development with Single leg squats and Split squats. Deadlift work will continue, but we are keeping the reps higher and intensity lower this cycle.

A barbell clean progression continues the work we did last cycle, with more focus on technique as well as continued strength development.
In addition to the usual variety of metabolic work, we are going to focus on the CrossFit workout “Helen”. We will do the full workout 3 times in the next 10 weeks, it will also be broken down in several different variations, all aimed at improving your engine.


Farmer's Walk - A Secret Weapon


By Dave Werner

This fairly simple exercise, which is not technically complex, is a very powerful tool for building strength in many different ways.  You could call it a secret weapon of strength development.  Not coincidentally, it’s a staple part of strongman training.  Folks that know how to get very strong will incorporate heavy carries in their training.

The first thing that will be developed is grip strength.  Grip development feels like the limiting factor in the beginning but as you get stronger grip will become less of an issue.  I need to emphasize that Farmer’s Walk means very HEAVY.  The implication is that the load is challenging for you to pick up with good technique.  As you develop strength and grip, the farmers walk develops shoulder and trap strength.  It is a nice shoulder strength developer and contributes a lot to shoulder stability. 

As you begin to carry very heavy weight, you start to challenge all the support structures of your spine.  The muscles deep inside that support your spine are challenging to train.  For example, if you did enough deadlifts to greatly fatigue your spine, your form would fail first. 

However, when you do a very heavy farmer’s walk for 100 yards, you are holding the weight for potentially minutes.  This means a long time under tension which translates to a surprisingly effective tool for strengthening your spine.

Dave Werner served as a Navy SEAL for 12 years, founded the first CrossFit Affiliate in 2002, is creator of the Athletic Skill Levels and is owner of and

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An article worth reading

Why Weight Training Is Ridiculously Good For You

Markham Heid

Jun 06, 2017

TIME Health

For more, visit TIME Health.

For many, weight training calls to mind bodybuilders pumping iron in pursuit of beefy biceps and bulging pecs. But experts say it’s well past time to discard those antiquated notions of what resistance training can do for your physique and health. Modern exercise science shows that working with weights—whether that weight is a light dumbbell or your own body—may be the best exercise for lifelong physical function and fitness.


Do you have a Healthy Body?

Do you have a Healthy Body?

By Dave Werner
June 7, 2017

What are the qualities needed to have a healthy body?  I’m not talking about being a good athlete, or being super fit, or well trained for any specific sport. I am just talking about general physical health. This healthy body allows you to do what you want without pain or restriction.  Your body should be able to engage in the activities you enjoy, take on new activities, and feel good.

For the past 4 months or so I have been training “Anne”.  She is in her 60’s and moves well.  For several years now she has been extremely busy working and being a care giver for other people in her family; she didn’t have time to maintain a healthy body.  She came to me because she realized reaching overhead hurt and she couldn’t open her sunroof unless she used both arms.  She realized she had lost a lot of strength in her shoulders. Basic tasks like reaching overhead were no longer possible. Her healthy body was starting to slip away.

Let’s break down a healthy body into three principles.

Neutral Spine

Healthy physical function requires the ability to maintain a neutral spine. Many people can recognize and hold a neutral spine when standing up.  However, you also need to be able to maintain your neutral spine while moving.  Some examples are being able to squat and deadlift (i.e. pick stuff up) without rounding your back.  But the concept applies to everything you do.  Almost every day I see a loss of neutral spine as people do push-ups. Often they fail by sagging in the middle right away.  Going through the motions of doing a push-up, while your back is sagging and moving around weakens your pushing strength, reduces the benefit of your training effort and increases your chances of low back pain. Extend that thinking into all the movements you do.

Developing the strength, flexibility and skill needed to maintain a neutral spine will transform the way you feel and function on a daily basis. There are a lot of resources available to help you understand neutral spine. Learning what neutral spine means, what it feels like, how to practice it, and how to maintain it, is time well spent.

Neutral Spine

Neutral Spine

Hip Function

Full hip function is essential.  You need to know how to flex and extend your hips and how to use your full range of motion. Using your hips is very different from using your legs, and knowing the difference is crucial to being active and healthy. A basic test is; can you squat all the way down while maintaining a neutral spine? If not some troubleshooting is in order. A more advanced test is the single leg squat. Having the strength, flexibility, and skill to squat on one leg shows that your hip, knee, and ankle are all working correctly.

Single Leg Squat

Single Leg Squat

Active and Strong Shoulders

Active shoulders means that you have the strength through the full range of motion. The shoulders are not just for moving your arms around.  Being able to lock your shoulder blades into position and hold them there while you do fun things equals being healthy.

Active Shoulders

Active Shoulders

How do we break this down into particulars?  What specifically do you need to be able to do?  Can you squat all the way down?  Can your shoulders support you?  Can your shoulders support your bodyweight while you move with them?

Look at the skills in Level 1 of the Athletic Skill Levels.  I developed the Athletic Skill Levels back in 2006 to give myself and others a tool to allow us to see what our strengths and weaknesses are.  By looking at these skills, you will be able to see where you are in your journey to a healthy body.   You need to have all the skills in Level 1 for general physical health.  Taken together these skills represent someone who has full range of motion in their joints, a decent work capacity and basic strength.  This person has a healthy body.

A few weeks ago Anne told me she reached up to put her sunroof back and realized she did it with only one arm and no pain.  She was elated! Everyone experiences set backs at some point, everyone experiences the aging process and potentially gets discouraged. But the truth is, you can have a healthy body at any age.  Consider giving this to yourself.


Dave Werner served as a Navy SEAL for 12 years, founded the first CrossFit Affiliate in 2002, is creator of the Athletic Skill Levels and is owner of and

We started a new Training CYCLE - May 22, 2017

We are starting a new training cycle May 22nd, 2017.

We have an exciting and challenging set of progressions coming this cycle including;

  • Vertical pressing strength with both Push-press and Military press progressions
  • Lots of midline stability development with L-sit and Hollow Body progressions
  • Upper back strength with Chin-up and Bent Over Row progressions
  • And an extremely challenging squat program!

I am most excited about the squat program! We will be introducing and working on a very demanding movement called the 1-1/4 Front squat. This squat variation doubles the amount of time you spend at the bottom of your squat and requires you to start your drive up – the hardest part of squatting – TWICE each rep. This is a movement that everyone loves to hate, and it will improve your strength and stability at the bottom of the squat dramatically.

After this cycle you can count on big improvements in your pressing and squatting strength.

For the metabolic work, we are going to focus on improving your 400 meter run time, practice a broad range of different time and work demands, as well as a dumbbell complex.

As usual, this cycle will include several different progressions to develop shoulder strength and structural balance. You are building very strong, very resilient shoulders which are capable of advanced moves such as chest to bar pull-ups, muscle-ups, handstands, handstand push-ups and press to handstands.