Today it was “Elizabeth”

Today’s workout involved another one of the CrossFit Girls; Elizabeth. Elizabeth, like Fran is a 21-15-9 rep structure workout from CrossFit. It’s also one of my personal favorites, probably because I do well with it. If you’re unfamiliar with Elizabeth, the goal is to complete 21 Hang Cleans with 135lbs then 21 Ring Dips, and then 15 and 9 reps as fast as possible. As we move closer to this year’s CrossFit Open I’ve taken it upon myself to become familiar with many of the more popular CF workouts and to gauge my times compared to best in the sport. Additionally I’ll be going after my Level 1 trainer certification in the next few months so these are things I need to know inside and out.

The Hang Clean is as much about skill and technique as it is raw power and with Saturday’s beat down from Fran still fresh in my mind I decided to start Elizabeth with a little more restraint. It paid off, with an unbroken first set of both Hang Cleans and Dips. Admittedly my form was less than pretty through the last 4 reps or so but I got it done and kept it within legal bounds. This time around I also made sure to position my bar and rings within two steps of each other so as I finished my Cleans I merely had to take a step over the bar and mount the rings.

Something an experienced athlete will tell you is that Ring Dips are a lot more taxing to the core than you might think, especially after completing a set of heavy lifts. I’m sure it probably didn’t help that I had spent an hour doing skills work before beginning the WOD,  including inverted hang descents, hanging leg raises, muscle-ups, and pistols. The point is half way through my second set of dips my core was screaming and kipping became an ordeal.

Fortunately by this time the finish was in sight and I was able to keep moving with only one stop for a 3 second breath during my last set of Cleans before powering through my dips unbroken, finishing in a time of 3:55. If I had a few tips to share it would be this. Its okay to dip under the bar during your cleans but a full squat to receive the bar will only slow you down and burn up your legs with a weight this light. For most experienced lifters and CrossFit athletes 135lbs. shouldn’t present much of a problem it’s just a question of mentally gutting your way through it. During a workout for time it’s easy to let form slide in the name of speed but I still try to maintain a good hook grip for the pull and a fast elbow rotation under the bar. Also it’s vital that you use the jump and shrug to bring the bar up, not just your arms, especially when beginning each pull from the hang position. A common mistake I see is people resorting to an upright row as they tire and forgetting to activate the traps and hips altogether.

During the dips I try to keep my elbows pinned to my ribs and my chest over the rings almost in a push-up like position. I find this helps to keep me from swaying in the rings and involves my chest more which is by far stronger then my triceps alone. Also if you master your kip it becomes more of a core exercise then an arm movement and you can enlist your hips and glutes to power you past the point where your arms fail.

If you’ve never taken Elizabeth for a spin I suggest you give it a try. It’s another one of those workouts that may last 5 minutes or less but if you’re giving it all you got I guarantee 5 minutes is all you’ll need. Tomorrow I’ll be taking Karen out for a spin.

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