Developing Strict Strength

Developing Strict Strength


Developing Strict Strength

photo by Mark Probst

A New Standard

The 2019 Crossfit Open and Age Group Qualifiers are over and boy did we have a major change. Strict handstand push-ups were introduced to both competitions for the first time. This high skill strength movement stands as one of the most difficult tests for athletes aiming to perform their best in the open, and beyond. The way the competition is structured punishes us greatly for any glaring weaknesses. My intention with this article is to help you understand why strict strength is important, and how to develop it.

Whats with the change?’s daily workouts have always featured strict gymnastic movements as an essential part of the program, and lately more than ever. It is clear that in the last 18 months the training staff at Crossfit HQ has been prioritizing this more than in the past.

Crossfit’s founder Gregg Glassman recently stated that he would “devalue the Kipping Pull-up” if he could, and that if you’re doing Kipping Pull-ups when you don’t have strict pull-ups you’re “wrong”.

The strict pull-up should be mastered before kipping. This ensures we’ve spent enough time under tension and have developed enough strength in positions to move through the movement at full speed. As a general rule of thumb in my coaching practice, kipping is not introduced until athletes can complete 5 unbroken strict pull-ups(females) or 10(males).

Owning strict movements before we move on to kipping is essential for shoulder health and longevity, but convincing athletes to practice strict movements outside of WOD’s can be challenging. Throwing these movements into regular programming AND competition will go a long way to solve this problem.


“If you’re doing kipping pull-ups when you can’t do strict, you’re wrong.”

Gregg Glassman, Founder of Crossfit

How do I develop my strict handstand push-up?

Back to Basics: Fundamentals before Explosivity

A few keys to performing strict gymnastic movements like the handstand push-up, pull-up, or muscle up are

  1. A strong core that connects and controls your upper and lower body.

  2. Strength in tight strict pressing and pulling positions.

  3. The mobility required to move through each phase of the movement ;not just to full range of motion.

Do develop your overhead strength for strict handstand push-ups; try these strict pressing movements. The half-kneeling single arm dumbbell press, and the full kneeling filly press. (Click each exercise for demo videos)

Doing these movements 2-3x a week slow and controlled with impeccable form will help you build the pressing strength you need to get closer to that first strict HSPU.

Add a tempo to develop strength THROUGH full range of motion instead of rushing TO full range of motion. Take your time…… Success here comes from meticulous form and attention to detail, not how quickly you’re finished.

  1. Press normally up,

  2. Hold the dumbbell over head in the lockout position for a full second.

  3. Take three seconds to carefully lower the weight down and hold an active bottom position for another one second pause.

Master these movements for 2-3 months and move up in weight as your form allows.

As you’re increasing strict pressing strength with the exercises above, follow this progression for the handstand push-up. Practice moving through this list and develop mastery in each position before you move on to the next. The first three are static positions that will develop balance and control inverted. Steps 3-6 are dynamic pressing positions building you towards the strict HSPU.

  1. Down Dog Hold < click for demos

  2. Pike Hold from Box

  3. Handstand against wall

  4. Master the pike push-up. Work up to 10 reps unbroken and then move to the next step. .

  5. Add a box to the pike push-up, build to 10 smooth reps.

  6. Attempt a strict handstand push-up!

Don’t get discouraged! This process can take years for talented athletes. Break it down piece by piece by following the steps above and you’ll get a little closer every day.

Have any other questions? Don’t hesitate to comment or send me a question here.


Supplements, kept simple and affordable

“Coach, which supplements do you take? And what do I need to be taking?”

Good question, and an important one to ask of the right person if you want to see progress and save yourself from throwing away tons of money. If you didn’t know already, supplements are BIG business. The vitamin and supplement industry in the U.S. brought in almost 31 Billion dollars of revenue last year alone. Unfortunately this industry faces little to no regulations, and many companies make claims they simply can’t back up. Some even go so far as to sell you unhealthy “fillers” that are completely different from the product listed on the label.

Hopefully this article will help you cut through the bullshit. My intention is to help direct you to supplements that will address needs that all of us have. This list is neither exhaustive nor individualized; you probably have a need that is not listed here, but these are safe bets for most and a good foundation to start with.

We should only take supplements to enhance our daily diet. These products are NOT intended to be your main source of nutrients. If you need some simple guidance on healthy eating check my post here.

However these are a few common areas my athletes typically need an extra boost; shoring up these deficiencies can help you take your health to the next level.


Many of us simply do not eat enough protein to support muscle growth. Studies show that 0.6-0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight will allow you to gain and maintain muscle while on a consistent exercise program. Track your protein intake for a full week to see where you’re at so you can determine how many grams short you are.

Once you’ve determined the amount you need its time to choose a source. If you tolerate milk proteins well whey is an affordable and effective source. Whey protein Isolate is the purest form available, and make sure there are little to no fillers or sugars; keep the ingredient list as short as possible. ON Gold Standard Whey is a great example.

If you’re as sensitive to milk proteins as I am (I’ve learned I can either consume whey or have meaningful relationships, not both) then I suggest you use egg white powder or hemp protein. The bioavailability (ability your body has to use it) for both are extremely high and both are complete proteins.

Quick note* I’ve seen a lot of folks recently with a collagen peptide obsession. Collagen is great but it lacks the appropriate amino acid profile to build muscle, so make sure you’re not using it as your primary source of protein post-workout. This also rings true for most plant proteins, so ensure that you are supplementing with a “complete protein” (contains all essential amino acids) Examples- Animal Meats, Milk Products, Eggs, Quinoa, Hemp)

Once you’ve chosen your protein simply mix it with water and enjoy 25-35g within 30 minutes of completing your workout.


Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for fighting inflammation, heart disease, and mental health disorders. They are mostly found in fish and seafood so it’s easy to see why most Americans aren’t getting enough in their diet. If you are consuming fish less than three times a week then you should supplement with quality Omega 3’s. Ensure that your supplement has both EPA and DHA in it, and shoot for a source from smaller fish or seafoods(anchovies/sardines/krill), as they have less time to accumulate toxins like mercury.


Creatine is a natural nutrient found in animal foods, and is an essential aid in strength and muscular development. Stick with creatine monohydrate and keep levels consistent at 5g/day. Take it before or after exercise by mixing it with water or a protein shake. Taking more than 5g may cause bloating and or diarrhea due to extra water retention.


Are you eating 7-9 servings of a variety of vegetables a day? Me neither, though I try my best it is time consuming and expensive to eat the array of veggies we need to fulfill or antioxidant and micronutrient needs. Enter Chlorella and Spirulina. These ultra dense superfoods pack an unmatched nutritional punch. They ensure a healthy alkaline balance, fighting the heavily acidic diet most of us westerners have. Both are also rich in essential amino acids and easily digestible protein(needs mentioned above)

Lastly, Chlorella and Spirulina are packed with vitamin B-12 a nutrient only found in foods(your body doesn’t make it) that is needed to make red blood cells and DNA. These superfoods can be found as a pair, by themselves, or in convenient drink mixes with other vitamins like this option from Trader Joe’s I’ve been taking.


This is an inevitable question working in this industry. “Pre-workout” supplements are caffeinated powders that are often expensive, highly stimulatory, and loaded with fillers and dye’s that I frankly don’t want to pay for or consume 5-6 days a week. If you struggle to get out the door for your workout and need an extra boost keep it simple and have a coffee or caffeine pill 20-30 minutes before exercising. It’s effective, safe and easier on your wallet.


-Ensure you’re getting enough protein(0.6-0.9g/lb bodyweight); if not supplement w/whey/egg whites/hemp

-Take an Omega 3 supplement with DHA and EPA to keep your heart, head and skin healthy.

-If weight training take 5g of creatine a day to help build muscle and increase strength.

-Take chlorella/spirulina to ensure you get your micronutrients/antioxidants.


Don’t hesitate to comment below with any questions or reach me through the contact page through the link above.


A Simple Guide to Daily Eating

A Simple Guide to Daily Eating

“I wish someone would just tell me what to eat.” I hear this statement with regularity. Frustration from a lack of clearly defined nutritional guidance is prevalent in this universe of information. Unfortunately internet searches are highly overvalued. They often give us answers close to the ones we wish to hear, not the answers we need to hear.

Bio Hack Yo-self

My Daily/Weekly Rituals and the why behind them.


Super Water- I start every morning with 500ml of super water. This concoction can be made quickly and is an essential part of my morning routine. It serves us by lubricating and alkalizing the body leaving us more capable of proper digestion and healing. The ginger will help to limit inflammation which is the underlying factor in most chronic disease. Make this part of your daily routine to increase hydration, energy levels, proper digestion, and to fight morning appetite.

Super Water Recipe-  500ml Filtered water(Filtered tap water is best)

                                        2 pinches Pink Himalayan Sea Salt-

                                    Juice of ¼ Fresh lemon

                                    Freshly shaved ginger to taste


Intermittent Fasting- Want to burn more fat without cutting calories? Too busy for that “all important” breakfast you’ve been told you need? Skip it. If you’re currently meeting your calorie needs and want to burn more fat without going into a caloric deficit then try intermittent fasting. By shifting your eating window just a few hours you can enjoy hours of productivity spent in a fat burning state. Added bonus… you don’t have to cut out your morning coffee, just the cream. For more on intermittent fasting read my blog here.


My Daily Supplements and Herbs-

(Note: Just as humans need diverse diets for different body types your supplemental needs may be much different from mine please reach out with any specific questions)

Amino Acids- Amino acids are the basic building blocks of the body. They are also sources of energy, like fats and carbohydrates. However, amino acids are structurally characterized by the fact that they contain nitrogen (N), whereas fats and carbohydrates do not.

Therefore, only amino acids are capable of forming tissues, organs, muscles, skin and hair.

The importance of amino acids as the precursors of enzymes and neurotransmitters is often underestimated. As such, amino acids regulate almost all of the metabolic processes in the human body, and they are essential for a healthy body.

Most Americans are not getting enough amino acids through their diets. To get the correct amount of the right amino’s you have to eat a pretty diverse group of proteins. A good way to supplement this need is with ESSENTIAL Amino acids or EAA’s. Essential amino acids contain all of the essential amino’s for repair and growth. I prefer to use MAP Amino. Which has the most bio-available(highest absorption rate for humans) source of essential amino acids.

Fish Oil- According to research conducted at Harvard University, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is officially one of the top 10 causes of death in America, claiming the lives of up to 96,000 people each year. Out of the 12 dietary, lifestyle and metabolic risk factors examined in the study, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency ranked as the sixth highest killer of Americans. 

The fish oil benefits include decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke while also helping reduce symptoms of depression, hypertension, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), joint pain, arthritis and chronic skin ailments like eczema.  Fish oil intake has also been associated with aiding the body in weight loss, fertility, pregnancy and increased energy. Prescription fish oil has even been approved by the FDA to lower unhealthy high triglyceride levels.

I prefer to use Dr. Tobias’s Omega 3 because of it’s great quality and affordability. However, if you are concerned with the possibility of high mercury in fish oil Krill Oil is an outstanding choice.


Ashwaganda- also known as Indian Ginseng, has a wide range of health benefits, including its ability to fight against cancer and diabetes, as well as reduce inflammation, arthritis, asthma, hypertension, stress, and rheumatism. Furthermore, it boosts your supply of antioxidants and regulates the immune system. This herb is incredible at fighting anxiety and giving you what many call a “calm focus.” It’s effects are cumulative so I’d suggest supplementing daily. 


Transformation- Stacy Victor

I would like to share the incredible transformation underway with my client and friend Stacy Victor. Stacy and I met in July when she inquired about starting personal training. She had no regular exercise routine and had been slowly gaining weight for the last few years. At the time her diet consisted of frozen meals, take-out, restaurant lunches and dinners, sandwiches, sweets, liquid calories and other processed foods.                                                                                                                                

                                                                          11  July 2016 174lbs /8 October 2016 149lbs

She was very honest with herself from the start. I consider that the biggest factor in her transformation. She knew that big lifestyle changes would be needed to achieve her goals and she was open-minded to change and so-called "un-conventional" nutrition and training.  

The objective was clear. A complete diet overhaul was the first priority. I instructed Stacy to cut out all of the following for 30 days, a nutritional reset if you will. No processed foods, no sugar, no dairy, and no more than one glass of red wine a day. She started tracking everything she ate, a practice she continues to this day. 

There have been struggles. After our first few workouts Stacy had a hard time walking up and down stairs because her legs were so sore. We had to take large and frequent breaks in training to let her recover. Many exercises had to be modified and customized to be completed. There were tons of exercises that we tried and couldn't do in the beginning. She couldn't press a bar or dumbbells overhead, she couldn't squat below parallel without any load and running for more than a few minutes was a serious challenge. 

11 July 2016- 174lbs/ 8 October 2016 - 149lbs

11 July 2016- 174lbs/ 8 October 2016 - 149lbs

These were simply obstacles in her way. One by one, Stacy has hurdled, leaped, flew and flat-out crushed every single one. After losing 10lbs/4.4kilos in her first month Stacy decided that this whole-foods diet was right for her. Now when she went to the grocery store the check out attendant told her she made him feel bad about his diet when he rang up her cart. Before she started the program she was soda, sandwiches and chips five times a week. Now she was cooking lean meats and healthy vegetables. Her energy was up as well as her confidence and she became much more active outside of the gym.

As Stacy's weight began to drop we started taking much smaller breaks in her training. She was running longer, squatting heavier, and she was now pressing dumb bells and bar's overhead. It's now October, just three months since we started and Stacy is down 25lbs/11.3k. She's now squatting 123lbs/55.9k. Her waist measurement is down 4.5 inches. The circumference of her arms is down 3 inches and her legs are down 4. Stacy had also been struggling with migraines for years, since shifting her diet they have almost completely disappeared. 

I would like to thank Stacy for her all of her hard work and dedication. She's patient, positive, relentless and always has a can-do attitude. In every training session she has given her all and pushed herself past her former limitations. She's been eager and willing to increase in weight and repetitions. Stacy's approach is simple. She believes that you can accomplish anything when you put in the effort and little by little you will see you will see the results. 

~Jonathan Hanna





Client Spotlight- Von Tran


I would like to share with you an incredible transformation that is under way with one of my dedicated clients, Von Tran.

I recently sat with Von for an in depth interview on his transformation. He offered some great insight on how he has shed >45lbs/ 20.45K in just 7 short months. I’ll bring you the specific steps he has taken in his journey towards optimal health.

JH: Tell me a bit about yourself?


VT: I'm from a little town called Mesquite, Nevada. I'm originally from Thailand but my family immigrated in search of a better life.


JH:  What brings you to San Francisco?

VT: I'm a student getting my master of fine arts here in fashion design at the Academy of Arts University.


JH: How long before you’re finished?

VT: One more year!


JH: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

VT: I want to be working for a big design company in SF, NY, or LA. I'd like to do London after that.

 JH: With what being the end goal/purpose?

VT: To have my own line!


JH: How did you find BM?

VT: I was looking for a gym at the start of the year and I didn't want to go to a typical gym. I looked online and found Body-Mechanix. I was scared at first. I thought I was going to suck. I thought it might be too intense for me. It was actually really fun and I could decide how hard I was going to push myself. I really enjoyed it and started going several times a week.


JH: When was your first group class?

VT: February this year.


JH: If you don’t mind sharing, how much did you weigh back in February?

VT: Oh it’s ok. I weighed 240lbs.


JH: And what is your current weight?

VT: 195lbs.


JH: Wow, that’s a massive transformation. Congrats.

VT: Thank you!


JH: What was your regimen like in the first few months?

VT: I started with classes only in February and I felt like I needed a little more help. So I started personal training in mid-February.


JH: How has your experience with personal training been?

VT: Its showed me the value of having that 1-on-1 attention from someone that you know is invested in your health. Group classes are great and you can push yourself really hard. But I feel like everyone goes harder when they know all the attention is on them and their trainer is there working just as hard to get you where you want to be.


JH: Besides the massive weight loss what else is going on with your body?

VT:  I’m really excited about all the muscle I’ve gained. I have never had this much muscle so when I see myself in the mirror or a window it makes me smile because of how far I’ve come.


JH: Where have you seen the biggest changes?

VT: I’ve gained size and definition in my shoulders and back and I’m really focusing on taking that further.  I’m also excited to see the growth in my legs and even my calves from all the squatting, lunging and sled pulling.


JH: What have you changed about your lifestyle outside of the gym this year?

VT: I started eating very clean right after I started personal training. I was motivated. Some weeks I would literally only eat chicken , vegetables, nuts, and fruits.


JH: Can you explain what you mean by eating “clean”?

VT: No junk food, processed food, sodas, alcohol, or sugars.


JH:  What about carbohydrates?

VT: I’m currently limiting them to pre and post workout but in the beginning I ate almost none. I'll go crazy on the weekends sometimes now, but I try to eat the right things 80-90% of the time.            

JH: Do you take any supplements? If so what are they and why do you take them?

VT: I take MAP Amino’s. It’s an essential amino acid blend that I feel helps my recovery. I feel like my muscles aren’t nearly as sore when I take them. I take 5 of their pills before a workout and 5 after. 

JH: Do you have any morning rituals?

VT: I walk right to the mirror each morning and I smile at myself. Even if I have to force it I do it anyway. I feel like it helps me start each day in a positive way. I also don’t eat breakfast ever. I practice intermittent fasting so I guess that’s a daily ritual of mine.

JH:  So you’re fasting every day? For how long?

VT: I fast for 16hrs and can eat for 8.

JH: What is your weekly training schedule right now?

VT: Monday I do personal training.. On Tuesday’s I'm going to your  Strength class at 1074 Folsom St. at 6PM. Back for more personal training at on Wednesday evening then your strength class Friday at 12PM

 and then I’m back over at Soma for Saturday mornings 10AM Body-Conditioning class.

JH: So you are working out 5-6X a week?

VT: Yeah.


JH: what have you most enjoyed about BM?

VT : At first I didn't know anyone and I was new to San Francisco. Some of the first people I talked to were the trainers at BM. They made me feel comfortable because they are all so nice and welcoming and it genuinely seems like they want the best for you.

Later I got to be part of the bigger client community at BM and I started meeting more people and made a bunch of friends. I started

becoming more social as I started to feel more confident about myself. The community helps you stay at it and gives you that extra push. That’s probably the best part about this environment.

 JH: What are your biggest goals moving forward?

VT: I’d like to get down to 12% body fat, get my first muscle up and I’d like to be stronger all around. My next short term goal is a 300lb back squat which I think will happen any day now.                                         JH: Well thank you for your time and for your incredible work ethic. I'm looking forward to updating everyone on your progress sometime in 2017. I'm sure we'll have a whole lot to report.                                                              

What is intermittent fasting?

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What is intermittent fasting?

Eat six small meals a day, choose low-fat options when at the grocery store, drink slim fast for a meal replacement as often as possible, etc, etc. After spending years sifting through the plethora of diet and nutritional information available I’ve learned some important lessons. The food industry is in the business of selling you food, that’s the bottom line. We’ve known for years that sugar is toxic and that cholesterol is not the underlying factor in heart disease, yet this information is still lost on 90% of the population, this is not a coincidence.


What is Intermittent Fasting? First of all IF is NOT a diet. I will not ask you to cut your calories and starve yourself for the short term accomplishment of losing weight. Many “diets” are unsustainable and end up hurting the self-confidence or those who use them.
Intermittent fasting is restricting your eating window instead of restricting your caloric intake.
Simply put we will have you fast for 16 hours of the day and eat for 8.

The science behind this method is simple. Our bodies preferred energy source is glucose. It takes 6-8 hours for your body to fully deplete all of its glycogen stores and make the switch to burning body fat. The International Journal of Obesity has touted IF as the number one way to fight chronic disease. Metabolic disease markers shoot down drastically. IF brings amazing results when it comes to blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, heart rate.
Some of the benefits include
-Normalized Insulin Sensitivity
-Boosts mitochondrial energy efficiency
-Increases human growth hormone production
-Lowers levels of inflammation
-Sheds unwanted fat/ eliminates sugar cravings
-Reduces oxidative stress
-Increases brain function
-Cleans and detoxes the digestive system, turning it into a finely tuned machine.
I won’t bore you further with the why, but as always if you have any questions feel free to shoot them to me in an email. 


Starting IF
Starting IF will be incredibly simple. For most individuals eating right when they wake up is a struggle. Just listen to your body and skip that morning meal. Uneducated skeptics will say that not eating several small meals throughout the day will put you in the “starvation zone” slowing your metabolism in an attempt to store body fat for a period of less abundant food. This is a complete misunderstanding. The “starvation zone” is real, but you don’t reach it until 72 hours after your last meal. We won’t get anywhere near it.

The first 6-8 hours of your day are usually spent sleeping, so by the time you wake up you’re already burning body-fat. For the next 8 hours we will fast. The only calories I suggest consuming(optional) is organic unrefined coconut oil. Coconut oil contains heart and brain healthy fats, it will help tremendously in controlling your hunger in the first few weeks of IF, and most importantly it contains zero carbohydrates, so you will continue to burn ketones instead of glucose(I blend it into my coffee, sounds weird but it’s amazing).

After your 16 hour fast it’s time to feast! I will ask you to eat a diet that consists of meat, vegetables, fruit, little starch and no sugar. Have a large meal at lunch time, snack on fresh fruits and veggies(as much as you desire) throughout the day, and then finish your last meal by 7pm. If you can’t have your last meal on schedule you can adjust the 16 hour fast window as necessary.

Here’s what my client Will Dennis(Left Handed Pitcher/2015 MLB draft pick for the Baltimore Orioles) has to say about his first month of training while intermittent fasting.
“I’ll be honest, I was very skeptical when Jon asked me to start intermittent fasting. I was certain that I wouldn’t have the “fuel” to complete the workouts that are required of a pro-athlete, but I lost 4lbs in the first week and 11lbs in one month! Even better we tested my body fat and not only did I lose 3.5% of my body fat in one month but increased my muscle mass as well. I have finally returned to my high school playing weight! I will never eat the same again.”

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