My name is Matt, and I am not your typical Crossfitter.
I’m the current World Champion of the Highland Games, an ancient strength sport about as old as our species. I’ve had the pleasure of tossing heavy stones, tree trunks and chunks of metal around the world. I’m not huge by Strongman standards, but at 6 feet, 270 pounds I’m probably the last person you expect to see stringing together muscle-ups at your local box.
Part of today’s metcon. 5 rounds 2 muscle ups, snatch complex, 3 pulls, 3 power snatch, 3 oh squats. #hviii #strengthlab @violentgentlemen @reebok @reebokone @sorinex @usplabs
The Games season is long and heavy. I travel to compete about 20 times a year all over the United States, Canada, and usually to United Kingdom or Iceland at some point as well. Keeping fit and staying ready for anything that comes my way is key for my success.
Years of barbell training for throwing sports has made me very strong and explosive. But I wouldn’t say it was keeping me healthy. All of my fellow road warriors know that travel is the one thing that will kick the shit out of a good athlete. As much as I’m in and out of airports and rental cars, I still keep a heavy training schedule. But for years I wasn’t doing enough of the other things. I wasn’t as balanced of an athlete as I needed to be.
In many ways I was getting out of shape.
That all began to change when I joined my local Crossfit gym, Red Stick Crossfit, which is here in Baton Rouge. Being around my home box and other Crossfit gyms around the country has put me in touch with some amazing coaches and athletes. They all have incredibly unique perspectives when it comes to strength and fitness.
Check out video with me and @suppleleopard at mobilitywod.com. Was great hanging with everyone at @sfcf. @mobilitywod @dianefu #hviii #strengthLAB #driftalifta View on Instagram
Here are a few of the critical lessons I’ve learned so far on my fitness journey:
1. You have to be mobile
This is something I never addressed properly before. I always just figured my first couple sets were my warm-up and whatever was jacked up would get broken loose by the weight. This worked for a considerable amount of time. Then like any machine you run too hard, the wheels start to come off.
Without Crossfit I would likely never have met Kelly Starrett and learned how to properly address the nagging bullshit I was dealing with. His info has changed me for the better. I am a stronger athlete because of it. I’ve also manage to avoid injuries for the most part.
2. Warm-up properly, fat boy
Warming up properly sound obvious and seems like something I should know how to do at this point. But like most lifters I am a lazy fuck at heart. I need to immediately see the benefit of something if I’m doing to do extra the shit. Well, that caught up with me. I started to wear down.
I’ve changed my tune now. Beginning my training with 5 minutes of cardio, then band stretching and soft tissue work gets me ready for the task at hand.
I like the idea of being ready for anything all the time, like a wolf. But the reality is that I have to make sure I communicate with my body before I ask it to perform at maximum effort. Doing light, crisp work with an empty barbell for a bunch of reps and breaking a sweat is critical.
You should do that every single time you train, no matter how strong you feel. You might feel like skipping it from time to time, but don’t. There isn’t a top strength athlete in the world – Across the Games, Strongman, Powerlifting, Weightlifting, Crossfit – that would ever consider skipping it.
From now on my Games training will always feature a WOD-style warm-up. It prepares me for those stones and logs.
Don’t miss Matt’s book, Strength Lab.
3. Be well-rounded
Strength athletes must be well-rounded. I mean, more than being obese and literally round in shape.
I want to be prepared for anything. When I think “Strength Athlete”, I think of guys like Mikhail Koklyaev, even
Rich Froning. Both can perform near the top-end at a variety of skills and disciplines. For me, that’s the most impressive thing you can do. It keeps me looking for ways to get there. It keeps me curious.
I like getting to new boxes and spending time working with a Weightlifting coach, if they happen to have a good one (not all coaches are created equal). Matt Bruce, at Red Stick, has been awesome. I’ve also had the pleasure of learning from Diane Fu, which was amazing.
I want to learn as much as I can. Yes, I enjoy learning gymnastics moves. Do I think muscle-ups make me a better thrower? No, I don’t. But I am athletic enough to throw well. I can control my body well enough to do it.
Athletes have to learn to manipulate their body in space. Having total control is key to displaying power and force optimally during complex movements. Stuff like handstand push-ups, hand walks, kipping pull-ups (Yes! This is a totally different skill than regular pull-ups), muscle-ups, and Olympic weightlifting will allow you to build that skill and awareness.
What do you do in your Boks? #reebok #reebokone @reebok @reebokone @marksmellybell @jesseburdick @silentmikke @suppleleopard @mobilitywod #hviii #HighlandGames #strengthlab #caberView on Instagram
I have been fortunate to travel and train all over the world. I have met World Strongest Man competitors, National Weightlifting Champions, World Record Powerlifters, and now a lot of very talented Crossfitters. I want to learn as much as I can from these athletes and spread that knowledge during my travels. I want people to get outside of their comfort zones and learn from everyone they can.
Take in all the information you can. When something speaks to you, use it. If it doesn’t, toss that shit! Keep pushing forward and be the best you can be at everything you do.