I hate the term hack.
Whenever I see that word used on a blog, I expect to read about how to make something out of a bunch of junk or toast multiple pieces of bread with coat hangers. No thanks.
For those hacks that actually have merit, the hack is more of an efficiency. And if you know me, you know I love efficiencies.
I have four efficiencies that will improve your Helen WOD time. No funky accessories needed.
I really enjoy Helen. In fact, Helen was the first benchmark workout that made me feel like a true CrossFitter. The WOD is:
3 rounds for time of:
- 400m run
- 21 kettlebell swings (53/35)
- 12 pull-ups
My last Helen was in August when I finished with a time of 10:52. With the passing time between then and now, I undoubtedly grew stronger and faster… At least I hoped so! (Spoiler alert – I did)
I had a strategy going in to go unbroken the entire WOD. (Spoiler alert – I didn’t) However, I used some simple efficiencies to easily shave precious seconds off my Helen time, bringing me closer to my goal of becoming an average CrossFit athlete.
Four Tips To A Faster Helen Time
First off, I’m not going to use the obvious… but let’s face it the best way to improve your time is to go unbroken. (And run faster.) Once you pick that KB up, don’t sit it down. Once you hop up on the pull-up bar, don’t drop.
I cannot complete Helen unbroken yet, but each time I do, I progress deeper into the workout before having to break. Building that strength and endurance is what CrossFit is all about, so naturally every WOD will bring you closer to that pro tip.
In the meantime, you can still chop valuable seconds off your time with the following four hot tips!
Efficiency Number 1 – The Kettlebell Pick-Up
Guys, this one alone is worth the cost of reading this article!
Let me ask you this question: how do you approach and pick your kettlebell off the floor when you do kettlebell swings?
This is what I used to do; I would step right up next to the KB, squat down and grab the handle, then deadlift it to standing position, then dip and start my swing. Sometimes I would start with only a half-swing to build up momentum.
You know what I was doing? I was wasting time!
When you step to your kettlebell, stand about an arms reach away. That way, when you bend down to grab the KB, you have to pull it back towards you. As you pull it back to you, what happens? You are in the bottom of a KB swing, ready to start your first swing! You got there with zero wasted effort!
If you are like me and have to do a partial swing to build momentum, this tip will literally save you seconds every time you do it! Dragging the KB towards you will build the momentum, and being already in your hip hinge will allow you to explosively lift that KB just like you are supposed to. Remember to of course keep your back straight – it’s still never ok to round your back when lifting your kettlebell!
Efficiency Number 2 – Chalk First
If you’re a chalker and you know it clap your hands. Don’t you just love that little cloud of chalk that comes off when you clap? It’s somehow so satisfying!
Anyways, I’m a fan of chalk as I tend to get pretty sweaty when I WOD. Chalk helps hold on to things, like a heavy kettlebell for instance.
With Helen, the non-chalk part of the workout comes first. But, there is no reason to wait until you get to the latter part of each round to chalk.
Get your hands good and chalky before the WOD even starts! That way, when you get back from that first run, you can go straight into your swings. For me, one chalking will last me the entire workout, so this
hack efficiency eliminates any wasted time chalking during the entire workout.
Efficiency Number 3 – Just A Few More Steps
I know. That second and third run gets spicy. You don’t want to run any more steps than necessary, yet I’m about to tell you to run a few more. Hear me out.
Let’s assume you do your swings and pull-ups inside your box and you run your 400 meters outside your box. When you are completing your runs, what do you do? Do you slow up when you get to the door and basically are walking when you cross the threshold? I did – and that’s a big fat waste of time.
I’m not going to say run all the way to your KB. I understand needing to catch a couple breaths and gather yourself. Tip Number 3 is to run just a few extra steps than you want to. Run all the way through the door instead of slowing up just in front of it. Take 3 steps inside the box before pulling up to walk and control your breathing. Three steps might not seem like that big of a deal, but using that as an impetus to run all the way back inside will save you multiple seconds per round.
Efficiency Number 4 – Relax That Grip
When I finished Helen, my forearms felt like they were going to explode. Seriously, my pump was so extreme it actually hurt! I couldn’t even make a fist to fist bump my fellow CrossFitters!
I know I grip my kettlebell too tightly. I blame part of it on my large hands and the fact that I can’t optimally grip our KBs without my hands spilling over the side of the handle. Whatever. The thing is, a lot of us grip the bells with a death grip.
When you are near the top of your swing, you can relax your grip. I’m definitely not saying let go of the kettlebell – I’m saying relax. Stop squeezing. You have momentum and gravity working to keep the bell traveling up while staying in your hands even without applying super death grip. Relax a little and save your forearms.
Relaxing your grip won’t save you second by itself, but that forearm strength saved may be the difference between completing all your swings or pull-ups unbroken versus having to break because your simply couldn’t hold on any longer.
To recap, those four little second-shaving tips are:
- KB pick-up
- Chalk pre-WOD
- Run further
- No death grip
So how’d I do? Well, given that I didn’t stop for chalk during the workout, I didn’t do any half swings with the kettlebell, I ran a little bit further, and I tried to relax my grip… I did set a new PR. How about… 10:09, a solid 43 seconds faster than last time. I’ll take it!
Your Turn -> What do you think about these tips? What “hacks” do you use in your daily routines? Any efficiencies you’d like to share?
If you want more tips and hacks for all your CrossFit WODs, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll keep them coming!