Breathing and Bracing

Breathing and bracing is a hugely important topic which is massively under rated.  It is not spoken about a lot but it really should be as it relates to everything we do. It covers all areas in training and also the way the body functions including the central nervous system, recovery, mental health and much more. There has been a lot of research in to this area, however I would just like to mention a few things that I have used and learnt relating to CrossFit. 

breathing correctly will optimize oxygenation to your muscles and internal organs, and help you lower your blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety by lowering the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and releasing mood-boosting hormones like serotonin, balance your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, improve athletic performance and Improve mental focus and boost brain health

Dr Mecola, Peak Fitness, 2015.

Strength Training

First thing to discuss is what are the weight, sets, reps, tempo.  How I would breathe doing a 1rm back squat is a lot different to how I would breath during a 5x5 back squat with a three second negative and two second pause at the bottom. 

Using these as my examples I will explain how I would attack a one rep max back squat.

  1. Take a deep breath and brace my core (which means pushing out against my abdominals) as I take the bar out of the rack.

  2. Hold that breath until I hit the bottom of my squat 

  3. Exhale as I stand or attempt to stand out of my squat. 


Now I'll move to the more complicated one which is the 5x5 back squat with a three second negative and two second pause at the bottom. 

The things to consider with this are that there are more reps, an increased amount of time under tension and less weight. If I was to attack this the same way I would my one rep max I would most likely pass out which isn't highly recommended so through trial and error I have a different method which is:

  1. Taking a deep breath when taking the bar from the rack. 

  2. Breath out slowing as getting to the bottom of your squat. 

  3. Take another breath in whilst in the bottom of your squat. 

  4. Exhale on the way up. 

  5. All of the above done keeping the core braced. 


Doing this breathing technique helps you not feel like you're going to pass out, be massively out of breath at the top of your lift and also teaches you how to stay in a strong position throughout your body. 

Notice however there are similarities in both. The core is braced throughout in both lifts and exhaling on the way up is also done in both lifts so practicing different breathing techniques no matter what lift you're doing in higher rep / time sets will help you considerably when it comes to a one rep max.


Isometric Holds

An example of an isometric hold would be a plank or wall sit.  Isometric holds are difficult to execute and something I see and hear people struggling with regularly. Whenever there is something like a hollow hold or plank, I tend to see a lot of red faces and shaking from holding their breath. 

A point of performance I was taught on CrossFit Gymnastics was about breathing during a hollow hold. Thecoach explained it as 'sips of air' which resonated well with me but it essentially meant small breaths whilst staying tight in your abdominals which again isn't dissimilar tothe strength examples I mentioned previously. 



I have practiced many different breathing techniques. But the method I've found which I use the most is that I purposely breath at the same pace I was when I was performing an exercsie, which is probably the one which a lot of people would disagree with, as I have said I am just discussing the methods that have worked for me.

This method works for me as I don't feel I am restricting myself of oxygen by deliberately slowing my breathing down. As an example; if I do five rounds of 10 burpees and 20 calorie bike sprints @97% effort with a 1-minute rest. During the rest period I would be looking to bring my breathing and heart rate back down. What I would do to control this is continue to breathe how I was during the working sets, which prevent me from depriving myself of the oxygen I need to be able to recover. 


The topic of breathing is something that I have discussed with some people in classes and people seem interested but also sounds like it's something new. Breathing is something we all have in common and should be a thing that is consciously thought about and practiced through different techniques. I truly believe that if you consciously think about breathing whilst in the gym, you will progress in movement, strength and conditioning a lot quicker than if you weren't. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my article

Pat Lucas - Coach at Central Staffs CrossFit

Dallam, G.M., McClaran, S.R., Cox, D.G. and Foust, C.P., 2018. Effect of Nasal Versus Oral Breathing on Vo2max and Physiological Economy in Recreational Runners Following an Extended Period Spent Using Nasally Restricted Breathing. International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science, 6(2), pp.22-29.

Tissue stresses and Tissue health - A basic understanding.


We as coaches constantly get asked; ‘why can I not do that movement or exercise’ or ‘why do I have a constant niggle here’, ‘coach, why are you making us do this weird exercise’ or my overall favourite ‘I want to do a muscle up or a handstand press up why won’t you let me!’.

For many years, (more so now than ever before) we idolise our elite performance athletes in our chosen sport/sports that interest us. Moreover, we use their success as motivation towards our personal training goals. This can be very effective given the safe management and application of the training that we undertake.

What we struggle to understand, as the general public, is that we have entirely different lifestyles to our sporting idols and undergo completely different physical and mental stresses throughout our daily routine.

Following an ‘online program’ or emulating an ‘elite level athlete, regardless of sport workout regime will either;


a) Get you injured to the degree you need surgery to fix it

b) injure you to the point that you require copious amounts of Therapy and Rehabilitation or

c) Put you in that much discomfort you ache so bad and are in constant pain.

Most of these will probably put you out of work for some amount of time.

Either way without me putting this more bluntly it is completely thoughtless and stupid.

Tissue health – Tissue health is defined by what stress the tissue can absorb before becoming damaged (Brukner and Khan (2017). This is a function of the health of the tissue. For the same level of activity, the risk of re-injury increases with increasing damage to the tissue that is generally evaluated through the presence of symptoms (e.g. pain), signs (e.g. swelling) and diagnostic tests (i.e. muscle strength).

Tissue stress – Is the stress that that is applied to the tissue, directly related to the activity we do. Using the frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) principle us as coaches can modify our program to suit the general public and then tweak individuals training during our classes on a 1-2-1 basis. All of the FITT principles create the stresses that are applied to our tissues so we MUST pay attention to them Joyce and Lewindon (2015).

Tissue stress is where we as coaches come in to determine what sets, reps, rest, optimal loading, optimal range, client readiness and many more factors allowing us to decide whether or not you as clients are ready for a particular movement or a certain level, i.e. intensity or volume (another huge discussion point).

Our discussion points were mainly to get you to understand our active daily living (routine) is far different from that of the people we spend so much time copying and idolising, so when your coach says you are not ready, then you are not ready. He will, of course, provide you with the best route of action to take to be successful, whether you listen to that or decide to skip the steps is up to you but consider your (ADL) active daily living routine and also whether you enjoy being in pain.

Earn the right to be successful in your movements by putting in the hard work and the time to allow your tissues to understand load and stress. I am confident your sporting heroes have done, so what makes you any different?

Prevent injury by; Listening to your coaches this will allow you to learn, develop and grow.

Article by Tim Fearnett


Brukner, P. (2017). Brukner & Khan's clinical sports medicine. Principles of sports injury rehabilitation, Brukner P, Clarsen B, Cook J, Cools A, Crossley K, Hutchinson M, McCrory P, Bahr R, Khan K. Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine: Injuries, Volume 1, 5e.

Joyce, D. and Lewindon, D. eds., (2015). Sports injury prevention and rehabilitation: integrating medicine and science for performance solutions. Routledge.

Pats Tips - 19.4


For total time:

3 rounds of:

  10 snatches

  12 bar-facing burpees

Then, rest 3 minutes before continuing with:

3 rounds of:

  10 bar muscle-ups

  12 bar-facing burpees

Time cap : 12 minutes

Another technical workout with a short time cap but slightly different this time. With rest being programmed in this is suggesting that it is sprints so if any of the movements or weights are not in your wheelhouse then you need to consider what you are going to do (whether Rx or scaled) and the mindset you need to approach this workout positively.


This workout has a 12-minute time cap with 3 minutes rest, so let's call it a 9-minute time cap to complete 6 rounds which include 30 Snatches, 30 Bar Muscle Ups and 72 bar Facing Burpees so with that in mind this is a tough workout and needs to be done at speed (particularly the Burpees)

You can step on the Burpees as long as the jump is a 2 footed jump so this is a way that could be used to slow yourself down to stay at a consistent, yet slightly uncomfortable pace on the Burpees so be prepare for it to hurt.

The snatches are at a weight where, if you're doing the Rx, you can do them unbroken and move through them at a good pace. If I did 10 Snatches and the best athletes in the world did 10 Snatches there wouldn't be a huge difference and if I could do 10 Bar Muscle Ups unbroken and the best in the world did 10 Bar Muscle Ups unbroken there wouldn't be that much difference, so with that being said the time is on the bar facing Burpees so the trick is to not go out too hard on the Burpees, particularly on the first round but go hard enough because you only have 3 rounds before having 3 minutes rest.

One of the things that defines CrossFit on the level 1 course is that it is repeatable and measurable. Bare this is mind when deciding what to do on this workout. If you can't do muscle ups or a 43kg Snatch is 95% of your 1 Rep Max then you should scale this workout. If you can't do Pull Ups this should have been expected to come up as the scale last year for Bar Muscle Ups was Pull Ups, this is further proving that you need your workouts to be measurable. So, if last year you couldn't get a Pull Up, maybe this year you can and this is showing you that you are improving and if you still can't do a pull up then it's still something that needs improving.

Make sure you warm up properly if you're trying to get your first Pull Up or especially for Muscle Ups. Please don't just come in from sitting down at work all day, sitting in your car on your way to the gym and then jump up on the bar, swing around and see if you can do a Muscle Up straight in from your car, it's a recipe for disaster, there are coaches for you to ask and a warm up on the board if you're not sure how to get yourself warm.

For the final point and the same as last week, be positive! You can do 3 rounds before any technical gymnastics’ movements come up so no matter what you get the chance to finish half of the workout and that means that you are going to get a good workout in no matter what and if you get to the second 3 rounds you get a good chance to surprise yourself.


Key Points

-    Be prepared for it to hurt

-    Make sure your workout is measurable

-    Don't Rx if you can't!!!! (Please)

-    Warm Up

-    Be positive



We will aim for the heats to run on a 15-minute clock and the workout has a 12-minute time cap so this is quite a quick turnaround so make sure you're ready, know your weights and scales and have a judge. There is a warm up on the board again which is 20 minutes if you decide to do that. See you soon!



Newsletter February 2019

Member of the Month

We wanted to announce our latest Member of the Month. It's always a hard task to single out individuals when everyone is absolutely smashing their goals. 

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However, as is tradition, we are naming Shonagh Kinnear as our MoM. 

Shonagh, joined us from another Crossfit affiliate when she moved the Staffordshire region.

She initially joined the conditioning class after injuring her shoulder, she attended the classes and had therapy at the box. She listened to her body and scaled the movements back to help her rehabilitation.

She has recently joined the Crossfit classes and is progressing so well, still scaling movements to build up her shoulder.

She’s a great personality to have in the classes always supportive of the other members and listens to the coaches.

Well done Shonagh

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It is that time of year when members and friends of Central Staffs CrossFit take part in the Stafford Half Marathon. Due to access restrictions and road closures, we will be closed on Sunday 17th March.

We want to wish everyone a great event and hope to see you on the course.

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The 2019 open is well underway, and we have seen a fantastic response from our members. Coach Pat Lucas has been providing some tips on how to tackle the workouts which have been fantastic. If you have not seen these, we have published these on Boxmate. If you don’t have access to Boxmate, send a message to to get enrolled.

Check out some of the pictures below. If you missed out this year or didn’t know what the open is, make sure you make a note in your diary for next year.

The Open is a great way to test yourself, and test how your coaches have prepared you for the movement standards and demonstrated consistency in the workout expectations.


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Our May 2019 foundations course is just around the corner. If you want to take part in our Crossfit Classes then you will need to complete a foundations course. The course is designed to give you all the understanding and teach the movement standards you need to hit the ground running. We run the course over 8 workshops in 4 weeks. Starting at 8pm on a Tuesday and Thursday you will learn how to move, understand how to build a long lasting relationship with fitness and conclude each workshop with a friendly workout to keep the blood flowing. We offer introductory memberships which give you the foundations course for free. For more information click the button below.

The link between muscle growth and body fat loss

How many of you know the link between muscle growth and body fat loss?

We often hear stories of friends, but more so, a majority female’s avoiding their weight training sessions or reducing their protein intake to prevent gaining ‘muscle’.

However, did you know that the higher muscle percentage on your body the lower your body fat stores will be? So how does this occur simultaneously?


When your body gains muscle, you burn more calories maintaining that muscle tissue. Unfortunately, with cardio training, you stop burning calories roughly 12 hours after you have finished your session but with resistance training, when you increase protein synthesis (growth), you can turn your body into a fat burning machine with up to 72hours or fat burning post session. When lifting weights, damage/micro tears occur to the cells in muscle tissue, which results in the body producing more protein to repair these tears which entail stipulate growth of new tissue which increases strength and mass.

Sigal, et al. (2014) in a randomised control trial that a combined aerobic and resistance exercise training regime, tended to be superior to aerobic training alone in decreasing percentage of body fat and waist circumference. While resistance training alone had (quantitative changes in skeletal muscle mass or fibre diameter and increased muscular strength). Sigal RJ, Alberga AS, Goldfield GS, et al. Effects of Aerobic Training, Resistance Training, or Both on Percentage Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers in Obese Adolescents

In addition to weight loss, building muscle can also do the following:

Reduce injury probability - Through the growth of tensile tissue strength.

Reduce blood pressure – Weight training increases your heart rate and works on building the strength of your heart muscles. A stronger heart can pump blood around the body more efficiently with less effort. The less your heart has to work to pump the blood around the body the lower your blood pressure.

“The Systolic Blood Pressure lowering effect of exercise among hypertensive populations appears similar to that of commonly used antihypertensive medications”. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018

Increase happiness – Studies have shown that weight training can reduce the development of depression and other mood disorders. During weight training, your body releases opiates, which is a powerful anti-stress messenger to the brain.

Reduce the risk of developing diabetes – Weight training has shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in recent studies. Lifting weights can improve the bodies response to insulin release and also balance blood sugar levels.

“resistance training has the potential for increasing muscle strength lean muscle mass and bone mineral density, which could enhance the functional status and glycemic control” American Diabetes Association 2006


Pats Tips ... 19.1

19.1 is...

15-minute AMRAP:

19 Wall Balls 9/6kg

19 Calorie row

CrossFit Open 19.1

CrossFit Open 19.1

I am a huge fan of this workout and you all should be too. It’s a simple workout with simple movements and a great chance to test where your baseline conditioning is at.

As I have said this is a simple, 15-minute breather and definitely one for the taller athletes to excel.


I personally would attack this as an EMOM however, shorter people and women struggle to get the 19 calories in the 2 minutes. For me, I know I can hit 40 Wall Balls and 20 Calories on the rower at a steady pace. So that being said, I know 19 would last around 40 seconds, I’d use the 20 seconds as rest and transition and then I’d go for a steady pace (big pulls) on the tower and if I have it left it the tank I’d use the last 3 minutes and just go for it.

With a number like 19 on the Wall Balls, it is a frustrating number as it’s just on the other side of comfortable. However, I would say always aim for unbroken on the wall balls and use the rower as the rest period as I have studied rowing calculators before, no matter what pace you are going at on the rower it won’t make a huge difference so therefore, just jeep moving (it’s better pulling at 200 calories a minute than not moving at all).

As always have fun. This is the most important part, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, this is a great chance to test yourself against yourself and have a little friendly competition at the same time.

Key points

  • Manageable CONSISTENT sets
  • Keep moving
  • Have fun


We will aim for the heats to run on a 20-minute clock. There is a warm up on the board which lasts around 30 minutes so start your warm up as the previous heat is going, there will be a coach there to help. See you all later!


Tempos and why you should be doing them


There are many reasons you should be exploring the world of lifting tempos but first how to understand them.

Tempos are often seen written as four number for example 3-2-1-0, each number is expressed as a part of the lift in seconds

1.    The first number (3) represents the eccentric (lowering phase of the lift).

2.    The second number (2) is the pause.

3.    The third number (1) reflects the concentric (upward phase of the lift).

4.    The final number (0) therefore stand for any pause at the end of the repetition before the next.

This is all well and good until you come across an exercise where the start of the lift initiates with a concentric (upward phase) such as a pull up or ring row however, if you remember the first number is the eccentric and the third number is always the concentric then you’re set.

But why should you be doing them?

  •  Improved proprioception (awareness to sense your body in its given environment).

  •  Increased stability leading to greater control in lifts.

  •  Increased tendon strength due to stimulated collagen production (Wilson & Best, 2005).

  • And of course, the important one, HYPERTROPHY

Hypertrophy, or growth leads to an increase in muscle size. This occurs due to the increased time under tension of the muscle and because of the increased amount of force that can be produced by the muscle during the eccentric potion of the lift.

(Schoenfeld, 2010)States many studies have found tempo training to yield the greatest hypertrophic response.

So next time you’re doing your ring rows, pull ups, squats or bench press why not give it a go! Do it properly and reap the rewards that tempo training has to offer you.



Wilson, J. J., & Best, T. M. (2005). Common overuse tendon problems: a review and recommendations for treatment. Am Fam Physician72(5), 811-818.

Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(10), 2857-2872.

On-line Coaching vs Coaching

The new “buzz word” in fitness at the moment is online fitness programming, and everyone one wants to sell us one if it’s for marathon training or Crossfit.

How many times have you looked through Instagram or Facebook and seen someone selling their services or an online programme that will get you to the Games? Some people will go looking for the "Smolov” Squat programme, or the “Russian” Squat programme thinking it will improve their squat, and yes it will if the movement patterns are correct and all the muscles are firing in the correct order. Some even go to their favourite athlete’s page and follow what they did, just cause it looks tough and it will “raise them above everyone else”.

Matt Fraser

Choosing the correct program to follow is tough, many people look into what Matt Fraser is doing. Matt is at the top of his game, so everyone thinks “if I do that, I’ll be at the games too!”.

We as humans want to jump too far ahead of ourselves take the quick route in the hope we’ll get the results quickly. What we need to do instead of doing what Matt Fraser is doing now, is to do what he did five years ago, the endless hours of technique, practice, endurance work and recovery.

Following an online programme is hard work, hours on your own doing things you don’t want to do. How many of you would honestly do a 60-minute row if it was programmed?

Having a programme which is too advanced is not going to help you, it’ll probably harm you! If you don’t have muscle ups why follow an advanced programme that has them in. Acknowledging your own ability level is tough. Make a list of your weaknesses, then plan appropriately. It will improve your psychological strengths too.


Having someone watching over you every class and coaching the session you are doing, will benefit you more than just blindly following a plan. Some days you’ll need cajoling and some days you’ll need someone to push you or critique your positioning.

Coaching isn’t about cheerleading and pushing you to your limits, it is saying to you “drop the weight, your body isn’t ready for that” or “lets just scale that back a little bit and fix the positioning first”. It’s not because we don’t want you to improve! it’s to say take it easy and improve the technique then push the weight, your general health and prevention of injury is far more important than weight chasing for followers.


Tom Landry

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be”.

Author - Paul Shelley
Coach - Central Staffs Crossfit

Member of the Month

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If you are new to Central Staffs CrossFit, we would like to explain our member of the month award. The award is to recognise those who have gone above and beyond to be the best version of themselves. This month we have decided to award Sara Morley our Member of the Month

Sara joined Central Staffs since February 2017. Like most Sara initially started on the conditioning classes, a great way to build stamina and increase performance. Sara then progressed to our foundations course to move her fitness into a new domain. Sara successfully completed the course and moved on to the Crossfit classes. Sara is always keen to learn and is very open to instructions from the coaches. She always comes in with a smile on her face even on the 6:30 classes. Sara has increased her membership and now attends the gymnastics classes. By attending gymnastics, Sara is learning greater body control and is actively working on her perceived weaknesses.

Understanding that it takes work and there are no quick fixes is a real sign of dedication to your own development.

Sara well done and keep up the excellent work.

24 Hour Charity Workout

Today’s the day..

On Friday 28th December, which is only a few hours away. We will be holding an open day and a 24 hour charity event. The event starts at 9am with a quick run down of the day, and the first WOD starting at 9:15am. At 10am we will be having a 50+ workout, then anyone can join in throughout the day up till 3pm when we will be having a kids workout.

There WILL be cakes, there WILL be tea and coffee, there WILL be a raffle and more.
To take part, sign the waiver below, be prepared to donate then choose your hour to workout and turn up. To see why we are doing this, watch the video below

Rich Bell, one of our members, has taken up a challenge to complete a 24hr workout to raise money for Penny’s Army and Blood Bikes. The event will take start on the 28th December at 9am where a WOD will be started at the top of every hour. We are opening our doors to anyone who wishes to take part.

We have appealed to as many Crossfitters as we can, in the hope we reach our fundraising target of £10,000.

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If you want to take part, please hit the button below and add your name to the list. Once we get the finer details sorted we will send out an email giving you a breakdown of the day.

This is an amazing feat of endurance for Rich, so the more people help us out and do a workout here and there to keep him company, the easier it will be for him.


Name *
Address *
Agree to waiver* *
By ticking this box you are agreeing to be personally responsible for your own health and safety during the event. By agreeing you waive any rights to claim against Central Staffs Crossfit or any other participants in named event. If at any time you change your mind, you can opt out of this agreement and you will not be permitted to take part.