As the sport of CrossFit has grown, many CrossFit gyms have implemented competitors' programming for their elite athletes. These programs are an intense combination of strength training, metabolic conditioning, gymnastics and accessory work. If you have been around CrossFit for any length of time, then you've probably heard of top competitive training programs such as Invictus and CompTrain. My team, CrossFit Terminus, is one of the top competitive teams in the country and we are always looking for any programming edge that will help us reach our goals.
When we first started competing we followed some of the better known competitor programs. Three years ago, things changed. My teammates and I were presented with an opportunity to be part of a new competitive training program. This program is on the rise not because of its ease of access, but because it has produced exceptional results. Curious? Good. I present to you the history of Squat Mafia and the origin behind #pandastrong #yearofthepanda #thejourney.
Squat Mafia started back in 2011 with one coach named Ben Benson and one CrossFit Games athlete named Emily Bridgers in Atlanta, Georgia. What I admire most about Emily Bridgers is her patience and mental toughness. Her disappointment over not qualifying for the Games three years in a row after three years of finishing top in the world during the Open did not crush her spirits one bit; it fueled her to push harder, focus on the bigger picture, and as Ben likes to say, "trust the process" every single day. Clearly, her attitude and approach has proven successful. We can't wait for Carson.
When my teammates and I first came together in fall 2012, we were following CompTrain programming. We were brought together to form a Games-level team, but we weren't very serious about it in the beginning. The day after Thanksgiving we were introduced to Squat Mafia and our priorities began to change. Drastically. I'll never forget reading the program's mission statement while waiting for MARTA (public transit) to take me to my first Squat Mafia workout:
"What is this? A comprehensive strength and conditioning program geared toward competitive CrossFit athletes. Specifically this is geared towards individuals I am currently working with. This is not a one-size fits all program. This could be used as a stand-alone program, but may or may not address your specific weaknesses or skill set. Scale appropriately for yourself. The goal here is production of power, not falling asleep. When you see a + sign next to a prescribed weight go heavier unless it will interfere with your power output.
Ideally this program would be best if completed with an AM/PM split. If you are low on time, try to prioritize your weaknesses. Rest days can be used for make-up depending on how you are interacting with program. Speaking of Rest- you need rest days- know your body and your tolerances. Training tears your body down, rest and recovery is about rebuilding. If you don't know what you're doing, please seek out a qualified coach. If you don't like being in the pain cave, this is not for you. If you want to be mediocre, this is not for you.If you don't want to over-reach, this is not for you.If you will not work on your mobility, stability or physical restrictions; this is not for you.If you are not willing to push beyond your limits, this is not for you.If you don't fight for an extra rep, stop early in a time priority WOD, never go to failure, this is not for you.If you have a huge ego and will not admit that you need to fix your shit and practice, or never ever want grow up and evolve as a human being. THIS IS NOT FOR YOU!If you seek to maximize your potential, this might be just what you need....."
I will also never forget my first Squat Mafia workout, which is a Ben Benson original entitled, "The Black Lung." I won't spoil our secret but it is basically like enduring a version of "Fran" three times over. You will puke or come close to it (have done so twice) if you give 100% effort.
Well, the 2013 Games Season proved very successful for the athletes of Squat Mafia as we qualified for the Games that year. We finished top 30 at the Games (28th), which was exciting given our initial cross-Regionals comparison of close to last (42nd). However, we weren't ready to settle.
In 2014, the athletes of Squat Mafia made the decision to go individual. A good friend of mine, Krista Owens from Savannah, Georgia became our first remote athlete. That year, all four girls doing Squat Mafia qualified for the Southeast Regionals. At Regionals, the Squat Mafia ladies finished in the top half of the Region (Sonya McMillan, 7th; Krista Owens, 16th; Allison Brager (Me!), 22nd) and of course, Squat Mafia OG Emily Bridgers qualified for the CrossFit Games after a 1st place finish. Emily's success last year is nothing short of amazing. We all cried at some point during her performances at the Games because we knew how many years of work, sacrifice, and adversity had been behind those efforts.
It was also in 2014 that Squat Mafia decided to adopt a mascot: the panda. Many people think that we got this idea from a viral Youtube video of a red panda nonchalantly doing strict ring muscle-ups. The truth is that Squat Mafia OG Eric Pyne said he felt like a panda during sets of clean pulls one day. From this came #pandastrong, an entire community both local and afar (#seaofpandas), and continued success (#yearofthepanda).
And now we arrive to 2015. In 2014, Emily's amazing success in the Open, Regionals and Games certainly paved the way for the continued rise of Squat Mafia programming. We have a handful of on-site and remote athletes across the country, on the island of Puerto Rico, and CrossFit Games veterans--Becca Voigt and Stacie Tovar--on board. With Regionals behind us, the success of the program has been “proven”. Emily and Crossfit Terminus dominated the first-ever super (Atlantic) Regionals with 1st place individual and 1st place team victories. Becca Voigt placed 5th in the California Regional and earned her remarkable 8th trip to the CrossFit Games. After a heartbreaking 2014 season, Stacie Tovar fought for a 3rd place finish in the Central Regional and a 6th appearance at the Games.
Outside of the CrossFit Games season, every remote and on-site athlete has become a better athlete and most importantly, a better person from this journey. I'm always astounded at the huge anatomical and physiological changes that I have gone through since undertaking this journey in 2012. But most importantly, our training has pulled us closer and made us into a family beyond the four walls of our gym. We are there for each other physically and emotionally in all facets of life. We are Groot.
Learn more about Squat Mafia here.
Connect with Squat Mafia on Facebook here.
Follow Squat Mafia On IG @squatmafia
Want to help support Team Terminus at the games? Click on the link below. 20% of all proceeds go to I AM ADAPTIVE Athlete.
About Allison Brager:
Professional: Academic Researcher with a focus on neurobiology @ Morehouse School of Medicine and professor at Morehouse College
PHD Info: Kent State with a focus on neurobiology (PHD from Department of Biological Sciences)
CrossFit Games Experience: 2015 Regionals - Team, 2014 Regionals Athlete, 2013 CrossFit Games - Team, 2012 Regionals Athlete
Collegiate Athletic Background: Brown University Track & Field, 4 year varsity letterman, specialist in pole vault and hurdles
Facebook: Meathead: Unraveling The Athletic Brain
Allison's Blog: www.dormivigilia.com
Instagram and Twitter: @beastlyvaulter