Become a True Pool Powerhouse

Special Guest article from our very own Swimming Instructor Liz Fowler who owns and runs Swim Mechanix.

Thanks to Liz for providing us with these little swimming tips!


These are the problems…..

You can swim a couple of laps but am struggling to breathe.

Your legs sink.

Your arms hurt

You create more drag than propulsion


Let’s address them.


Most adults have developed their own breathing rhythm, or haven’t which is worse!  Swimming is not like any other sport as you cannot breathe when you like or need to….unless you have a plan. This advice will help you develop that plan.

The average lung capacity with some exertion is for the reasonable count of 1, 2, 3. As in Yoga or Pilates, we encourage a normal intake of breathe followed by an audible breath for the full count of 3. AUDIBLE – this allows for more relaxed breath control as a short quiet exhale will often finish up with water up the nose.

Sinking Legs

Chicks and dudes are built differently. When a guy tells me his legs/feet sink it’s basically because you have a heavier lower half than us child bearing ladies.  Men and boys have a denser pelvis and usually less fat (floating aids!) than women below their mid-line.  Men also tend to swim more upright in the water as they have developed an over exaggerated upper body arm stroke to compensate for their leg drag.

When a woman tells me her legs/feet sink it’s usually because she’s flexing her feet and is creating more drag than propulsion.

Sore Arms

Never a good thing, more often than not this is either because of overuse in men or improper arm stroking in general.  Flailing your arms about like a “windmill” not only makes me want to slap strangers, but can also do some serious damage to your shoulders. It’s not about rotation, it’s about the correct technique to ensure you don’t get an injury while being able to swim efficiently with speed.

Ideally you should be swimming within a corridor no wider or higher than your elbows when your palms are pressed together. Think about your hand extending forward, catching the water to be moved and with force, pulling and then pushing it towards your feet before recovering forward. Hand should stay an elbow bend away from the body while in working and resting phases.

Drag vs Propulsion

Relaxed ankles and no toe pointing! As soon as the feet flex, the drag, or pull from the feet stop making eddy resistance – the thing that pushes you forward. Developing a natural fast, floppy kick assists in the primary movement for Freestyle and Backstroke.

Lean forward on your collar bone to create a more streamlined body position. Head down, feet up, elongated limbs.

Actual Real Swimming

A good warm up should include propulsive drills and breathing exercises.  Many adults do not swim well because of their breathing technique, or lack thereof!  Concentrating on your breathing timing during your warm-up will relax your body for drills and stroke development swimming.

  • Kicking tune is a great starter for improving kicking strength and technique.  With arms outstretched and palms flat against the wall, the aim is to kick efficiently enough so as to not move backwards from the wall. Aim to keep your feet and ankles relaxed – fast, floppy feet.  The top 30cm is the fastest part of the water and once you get your feet there it’s easier to keep them there with the relaxed but speedy kick.
  •  Laying "on your side" (Lateral Kick) with your eyes looking about 75 degrees off the water, kick from one end of the pool to the other, focusing on kicking output compared to the breathing.  This is a relaxing but very good warm up drill that will improve and strengthen your kicking technique, allow you to time your breathing – 1, 2, 3, and develop the great body position for all strokes and the rotations needed to swim efficiently.
  •  Underarm crawl is exactly that, freestyle without the out of water "recovery" phase.  It allows the swimmer to concentrate on upper body strength, using the lat, back & shoulder muscles to their full potential.  Use with either a pool buoy (knuckle or peanut) between the knees or allow your legs to drag to get more out of the drill.  Breathing should be timed for every 3rd stroke towards your "recovery" arm side. This drill is designed to elongate your arm stroke to deliver streamlined and efficient work & recover parts of Freestyle.

Depending on what you’re after, the next phase would likely be endurance or distance.  It is not necessary to use a formal stroke for this phase, in fact I would recommend not swimming a stroke at all until your efficiency drills have been completed in warm up. Consider your warm up laps part of your distance as they all include skills progressing towards actual swimming of various strokes.

Sets may include;

  1. 25m kickboard kick
    25m backstroke
    25m kickboard flutterkick
    25m Freestyle
    Repeat for 5 rounds
  2. 25m lateral kick left hand side
    25m Freestyle breathing every 2 strokes breathing to the right hand side
    25m lateral kick right hand side
    25 m Freestyle breathing every 2 strokes breathing to the left hand side
    50m max effort back kick
    Repeat 4 rounds
  3. 25m Backstroke
    50m kickboard flutterkick
    25m Backstroke
    50m Freestlye
    2 minutes rest
    Repeat 6 times.

And so on, anything you want to work on, insert in your warmup and then develop it in your endurance set. DON’T skip progressions! They are important and can help to develop natural states of your body position, propulsion and strokes.

Something else bothering you that I haven’t covered? Want to catch up for a chat and a skill session?  Feel free to contact me or find Swim Mechanix on Facebook.

Liz Fowler

Swim Mechanix

Learn to Swim… Better!

How to avoid a niggle turning into a serious injury!

INJURIES......That dreaded eight letter word that ultimately prevents us from reaching our goals. Injuries are a big part of sport in general, talk to any athlete in any sport and they will no doubt have a long list of injuries they have suffered throughout their career. While injuries are something most athletes are going to face throughout their sporting journey, be it Football, Soccer, Boxing, Cricket or CrossFit, there are certainly ways we can prevent them from becoming a major roadblock in our pursuit of achieving said goals.

I am now going to break it down in my top 7 tips to help prevent injuries.

1.     Preparation 

This first point dates back to the old saying “prevention is the best cure”. If we can prevent the injuries before they happen by preparing the mind and the body adequately, this can go a long way in staying healthy. This point will be very different for each individual. We will touch on these further on.

2.     Investing in the proper gear

Having the correct clothing, and no I do not mean the latest Lululemon shorts. More along the line of correct footwear for the task at hand, if your $20 trainers from K-Mart are causing you pain, then think about investing in a more suitable pair that suits your body type. If you are having a problem keeping your knees warm or back tight when squatting you may want to think about investing in a pair of knee sleeves or weightlifting belt. These small purchases can make a huge difference in keeping you consistent in your training.

3.     Rest and Recovery

This is the most important point in the prevention of injuries in my opinion. Thinking back to your Motor Vehicle, in order for your car to perform at its best and ultimately last its longest for thousands of kilometers it is it important that we book it in for regular services, washes, etc. Our body is no different. In order for us to perform to our best, we must take precautions; here are some of my personal favorites:

Regular Massages from a professional Myotherapist, Hot and Cold Therapy (Ice Baths and Hot Showers/Baths)Mobility and Maintenance (Trigger point Rolling, Stretching, Mobility, Stability)Mental Preparation/Restoration (getting your head in order through meditation)Preventing Overtraining, SLEEP (Minimum 8 hours per night of continuous sleep)

4.     Warm Up and Cool Down

This is something everyone hates and moans about on a daily basis. It is very frustrating to have a 30mins warm up for a 5-10min workout, don’t worry we know, but it is vitally important that we prepare the body for the punishment it is about to endure. Through the warm up the priorities are to move the joint, increase the core temperature(especially in these cold mornings) and get the body and mind ready for the specific task at hand, whether that be through the use of a barbell, cardio movements or any other equipment. Secondly the cool down is something that we see so many of you all miss, we understand you all have families to rush home to, dinner to cook, your too tired and the list goes on. That being said all it takes is a further 5-10 minutes of doing some of the above recovery methods after your workout and you will be feeling much better and more importantly much better prepared for tomorrow’s punishment. So make an effort to get to class on time and stay behind after for some stretching with a coach.

5.     Seeking Advice

“If you don’t know.....ask”. This is a huge one, if you’re having some issues, something just doesn't feel right, you aren't sure what the problem is; make sure you ask one of the Coaches. Although we may not be able to diagnose the root of the problem, we can certainly monitor your movement patterns, suggest possible stretches and advise you on the best profession to see.

6.     Nutrition and Hydration

This is something that is underestimated and most often overlooked. Preparing the body well through nutrition and hydration will first of all make sure we have sufficient fuel and energy in order to perform the task at hand safety and efficiently. If not then the machine that is our body will not be able to perform to the best of its ability and that’s where things get sloppy and we can get hurt. Our second purpose of a solid Nutrition base comes down to consuming the foods that prevent inflammation and have many anti-inflammatory ingredients, not unlike our Paleolithic Lifestyle. Some of these anti-inflammatory foods include Green Vegetables, Turmeric, Ginger, Garlic and Blueberries. Now for some Inflammatory inducing foods we want to limit/avoid are Dairy, Sugar, Alcohol and Refined Grains.

7.     Listening to your Body

Finally finishing with the easiest point, yet it’s something we all find so difficult. Listening to your body, you know your body better than any Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath out there, if something doesn't feel right then rest it, get it looked at, rest or work around it. Don’t fall into that trap of “but I love Pull Ups so I have to do them today because that is what the workout says, even with my shoulder not feeling right”. As you become more experienced in CrossFit you will learn more about your body and what it can and ultimately cannot handle, learning when the right time to pass on that movement is, how much training you can handle each week. The biggest problem of CrossFit athletes is their longevity in the sport, for me personally I want to be continually doing CrossFit until I am old and frail. What we do now will affect us in our later life!

Well there you have it folks, hopefully there’s some pointers in there to help you stay injury free and ultimately enjoy your CrossFit journey to the fullest, if you have any questions about any of the above pointers or any concerns you have with your training please don’t hesitate to seek advice.


Written by Coach Scotty

Neutral spine, what is it and why you should care about it.

 Have you ever heard a coach say to ‘keep your back straight’, or to ‘bend at the hips and not through the back’? Well apart from hearing the beautiful sounds of our own voices, there is a very good reason for these types of comments. That is to keep you uninjured and enhance your ability to tolerate workload.

You see, when your spine is in a neutral position (see Figure 1.), it is incredibly good at withstanding and balancing out external forces. However, when your spine repeatedly enters into a flexed position, which is the loss of normal lordosis (see Figure 2.), then the ability of it to withstand force in a safe fashion decreases and spinal ligaments are put under strain (Claude, Solomonow, Zhou, Baratta & Zhu, 2003).

(Figure 1. Neutral back position during lifting)

(Figure 1. Neutral back position during lifting)

When lifting heavy stuff, the more you lose this neutral position, the less effective you will be at doing the movement and the more stress you will be putting on your back. While we are focusing on a flexion based movement error, it is worth keeping in mind that an opposite error is also possible, that is cranking the back into overextension. While this is also a worthy topic, to keep this article to a sensible length, we are just going to look at back flexion (mostly lumbar). 

 When and why does this happen

(Figure 2. Loss of neutral back position through the lumbar and thoracic regions)

(Figure 2. Loss of neutral back position through the lumbar and thoracic regions)

This flexed position (figure 2) is likely to happen when we perform any movement that involves a significant hip hinge and places a forward moment (pull) on your torso. If the weight being lifted is close to our force production maximum or surpasses our ability to apply correct stabilization, we will be more likely to end up in a bad position. In my experience, most of the time athletes lose neutral position is during heavy, grinding barbell lifts such as the deadlift and squat. Usually, these athletes also have a noticeable lack of hamstring mobility to match the high level of hip flexion that goes with many of the full range barbell lifts. With immobile hamstrings, any hip hinge motion is subject to extreme restriction as the angle of inclination increases and the lower back will flex in a compensatory fashion.

What is bad about this?

We know through some interesting studies that involve copious abuse to pig spines that repeated movement through lumbar flexion and extension is one of the main mechanisms through which disc herniation can occur (see Callaghan & McGill, 2001; Balkovec & McGill, 2012). The takeaway finding from these studies is that repetitive flexion can lead to disc troubles and when load is increased with this movement, it is even worse. If that was not bad enough, repeatedly hanging out in a really flexed position is more than likely to cause the erector spinae group to experience a degree of deactivation and provide less support than what they should normally provide (Dickey, McNorton & Potvin, 2003).

While this might sound scary, don’t let it freak you out, in all probability, if 98% of the time you lift with a neutral spine with an occasional glitch, this will probably not cause too many issues.

The real problems occur when you let sub-optimal back positions become habit, occur regularly through many workouts and subsequently try to load these flawed positions. 

What we can do about it?

The good news, is that there is a lot we can do protect our backs, the first one is no surprise, can you guess what it is? Yep, you guessed it, listen to the coaches! All of the coaches know what a good/bad back position will look like and will let you know if they see a problem, make sure you take this feedback seriously and address the issue. If you experience, or get this type of feedback consistently, the first port of call would be to either a) scale the workout (decreasing the weight, reps or substituting in a more manageable movement), and b) come and see the coach after the class and ask for further recommendations specific to your issue.  Many of these problems can be due to a lack of mobility through hip/leg musculature or even just a lack of bodily awareness.

All the coaches at SXF will be able to help you work out what is going on, create a preventative strategy, and give corrective exercises for minimizing sub-optimal spinal movement during lifting. 

As well as talking to the coaches, here are a few recommendations to get you out of dodgy back positions;

  • Perform hamstring mobility with a neutral spine so you can get the work where it needs to be and not overflowing to the lower back.
  • Practice the activation of lats to help with bracing during any slow grinding strength movements.
  • When maxing out, holding your breath will help you to resist buckling through the midsection and increase stability; if you use a belt, it will allow even more intra-abdominal pressure and enhance this effect.
  • Warm up with perfect form.
  • Never be in a rush to load up the weight at the expense of position and form. Strength, skill and ultimately results, will come from practicing good movement over a long period, never from a single ego-driven workout.



Balkovec, C., & McGill, S. (2012). Extent of nucleus pulposus migration in the annulus of porcine intervertebral discs exposed to cyclic flexion only versus cyclic flexion and extension. Clinical Biomechanics, 27(8), 766-770.

Callaghan, J. P., & McGill, S. M. (2001). Intervertebral disc herniation: studies on a porcine model exposed to highly repetitive flexion/extension motion with compressive force. Clinical Biomechanics, 16(1), 28-37.

Claude, L. N., Solomonow, M., Zhou, B. H., Baratta, R. V., & Zhu, M. P. (2003). Neuromuscular dysfunction elicited by cyclic lumbar flexion. Muscle & nerve27(3), 348-358.

Dickey, J. P., McNorton, S., & Potvin, J. R. (2003). Repeated spinal flexion modulates the flexion–relaxation phenomenon. Clinical biomechanics, 18(9), 783-789.



Are you stopping short of the finish line? Consistency is the difference between failure and success.

What is the most important element of training? …. My answer; Consistency is the most important aspect of athletic success and forward progress.

Whether you are someone looking to excel in CrossFit, looking to bulk up or loose a few kgs, your efforts will be hugely effect by how consistent you are with your training and lifestyle.
Well-balanced athletes have their priorities in line, which in the long run helps their success. It's important to stick to a training program that fits your lifestyle and can be followed consistently without upsetting other areas of your life.

Consistent Training

A well-designed training plan followed consistently will maximize results. A well-designed plan has the proper mix of stress and recovery and ensures the right type of training occurs at the right time.
Consistency doesn't just apply to frequency of workouts, but how consistently you adhere to the workout format. A five-day-per-week plan where each training day is executed with maximum energy and precision followed by sufficient rest days and mobility is better than a Non-stop plan that is cherry picked, leaves you tired, unmotivated and ultimately affects other areas of their life. Listening to coaches and following the Southern CrossFit program will ensure your training is as consistent as it can be.


First of all, we as coaches can only do so much when it comes to your lifestyle consistencies. Let’s be honest, the majority of you are spending  1-2 hours per day at the gym under our wing.  Yes good on you for being consistent in your training, it is a huge factor in getting good results, BUT there are still another 22 hours in the day! Not sticking to a somewhat consistent lifestyle (which you, yes YOU are in charge of) may be holding you back from producing that extra 10-20% in all areas of your training and therefore pumping the breaks on your long term goals.

When I say “consistent lifestyle” I mean keeping your diet consistent (trying to keep it as healthy as possible, eating clean), the amount of sleep you get, keeping on top of your stressors, water intake, supplement intake (the good stuff; fish oils, magnesium), the list goes on and might need to be the subject of further posts. If you do not stay consistent and on top of these things your training and results are going to suffer regardless of how many hours you are putting in the gym.

Lifestyle consistencies are in your hands.

If you are still unsure of why consistency is important…  Well, it makes a situation run smooth. Consistent means to flow continuously, so if something flows in sync, everything runs correctly.

Apply some consistency into your training and lifestyle, stick at it and I am sure you will see results.

Written by Coach Fin

Creating Positivity in Training

How do you normally approach a workout?  Excited, nervous, scared to death or just plain unenthusiastic?  Chances are these feelings change from day to day and more importantly from workout to workout, depending on what the workout is.

Creating positivity in training doesn't just happen during training.  There I said it.  Just like coming to the gym to do your training and then going back out into your life, a lot of damage can be done in between.

First of all you need to identify why you are being negative about something.  Generally negativity comes from fear.  Fear of failure, fear of what other people think, fear of letting yourself or other people down and sometimes it can even be fear of success.

Secondly you need to change the way you think and talk to yourself both inside and outside of the gym.  If you constantly tell yourself you can't do something, your body will agree with you and won't do it.  Just like lots of good repetitions of a movement in training, repetition of good self talk will gradually eliminate all the bad self talk.  You can do this by way of positive affirmations.  Try it!  It's all about the way we phrase something.  Instead of saying things like "I'm not strong enough".  Change it to "I am strong and capable" and repeat it to yourself 10-20 times a day.

Thirdly in training itself.  Do a workout session and at the end of that session make note of what you said to yourself during that training session and when.  Then replace this with with positive self talk.  Don't be afraid to tell yourself "good work" during a workout when you hit that target number of reps.  Your body will thank you for it by continuing that good work over and over!

Its our ability to change the way we think, that will in the end benefit us the most.

Written by Coach Claire.

Encouraging others to be awesome!

We all want to be awesome. We all want to continually improve and hit PR's and help each other be the very best versions of ourselves. It's contagious. We all get excited about this wonderful thing called CrossFit that we spend a fair bit of our life doing and want everybody else to experience how great it is too. Who wouldn't, it is amazing. People lose weight, get stronger both physically and mentally, and improve their quality of life to levels they didn't think were possible. That's what we're all here for. As a gym we love that - a community that supports and pushes each other. 

Sometimes however, there is a time and a place for certain things that may detract from the overall goal. I'm referring to the distinction of coaching versus encouraging other classmates during classes. Everyone has ideas and things that they think about, or have seen, that have helped them nail a skill, like double unders or snatches, that they can't help but want to share with others if they see them struggling. It's a natural extension of the great supportive community we have at Southern CrossFit, and that's fine. We get that. During coached classes however, we ask that the technical coaching be left to the coaches. The coaches do mention the technical points when going through the movements, sometimes we just get numbed to them because we hear them so often, or we're zoning out waiting for the wod to start. Offer words of encouragement sure, throw a couple of quiet nuggets of gold in here or there sure, but trying to help fellow class mates with technical coaching points - during a class - can distract other athletes and even disrupt the whole class if the lead trainer is trying to explain something.

We know everyone means well and just wants to help. By all means cheer-on and encourage fellow classmates as much as you want. We encourage that. If you find yourself in open gym throwing down a bro-sesh and you see your bro with an early arm-bend on their snatches, sure you can pull them up on their less-than-ideal technique (even if Rich Froning does it).

We just ask that during classes it be left to words of encouragement. Let the Coaches coach, it’s what they do best!!

Written by Coach Calen.