Yesterday, I posted about the importance of strength to each of your overall levels of fitness. We have received many compliments, questions, and concerns about our programing over the past several weeks (thank you all for your feedback!) and I've decided to that's important to give you all some deeper insight into some of our decision making processes and the philosophy behind our programing.
As always, if you ever have any questions about your fitness and training, your coaches are here to help you in any and every way we can, so please don't hesitate to come talk with us!
This is a really long post (thanks Armen for the meat and potatoes), so enjoy!
Our definition of fitness allows us to very clearly measure and define where each of us is. The person who's best across a broad spectrum of physical tasks and challenges is the fittest. Where you hit the wall and fail is where your weaknesses lie and the only way to improve your fitness is to get better overall. All that basically boils down to the idea that you're only as fit as your weakest link and you're only going to get fitter by reducing or removing your weak links.
This comes up every day in our programming. Someone will crush a workout one day and get crushed the next day. You may be able to squat double bodyweight, but if you can't do double unders then you're missing an important part of your fitness. You may be able to do 25 pull ups in one set, but if you can't swing the big kettlebell, then you're missing an important part of your fitness.
Attacking weaknesses generally comes in two forms: training and practice. Training is the type of action that causes long lasting, systemic, physical changes to our bodies. Practice is about creating more efficient movement patterns or learning new movements patterns. Think of it this way: you train to get a double bodyweight squat, but you practice to get double unders. Our program provides both, pretty equally, but training takes a much larger toll on the body than practice does so we tend to feel those effects a lot more.
So why strength? Of all the physical capacities we can train, strength is king because strength makes everything easier, whether it's training or practice. More importantly, strength sticks around. The strength gains you make will stay with you for your entire life, where your conditioning will disappear after a few weeks off. At the same time, strength take a long time to develop, requiring a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, that effort results in lifelong changes to your body that make you more useful in every facet of your life.
Another way to look at it is this way: when you practice skills and get more efficient and get better skills you're adding to the stuff in your "fitness cup"; and when you get stronger, the cup gets bigger.
On the opposite side of strength, we have conditioning. Conditioning is notoriously fickle. After a few weeks off, you'll lose it, but after a few weeks of getting back into the groove of things it'll come right back.
Even further, training strength is probably the best way to spend your time in the gym as far as bang-for-your-buck goes.
To put this in context, let's look at the some of the most common goal on the goal board: strict pullups. What's the best way to get better at pullups? Why is it you can't do a pullup yet? Is it because we don't train it often? Because that's certainly not the case. More likely you're not able to do pullups because you're not strong enough and you're not strong enough because you never push yourself to use less help and strict ranges of motion.
How about other movements? Toes-to-bar: requires some coordination, but if your core and lats aren't strong enough you've got no chance. Kettlebell swings: using the stretch reflex is key, but without strength you'll never swing the heavier kettlebells. Push ups: struggling to get out of the bottom? That's a strength issue.
You'll definitely get stronger by just coming into class and doing the workouts, but this isn't the most efficient way to get stronger. On the other hand, if I were to ask you to do what you needed to in order to get stronger in the most efficient way possible, you'd leave the gym because you didn't sign up to squat 3x5 three times a week, press 3x5 three times a week, deadlift 1x5 once a week, etc. You signed up for CrossFit. You joined us so you could do a ton of burpees and pullups, do cleans and deadlifts, run a bunch, squat heavy and light, and get your fitness on in a cool space. If we put you on a pure strength program, we'd be doing you a disservice by providing you with something completely different than what you asked for. It'd be like ordering a cheeseburger and getting a slice of pizza instead. But you did ask for this because we're a strength and conditioning program, not one or the other.
Armed with the knowledge that increasing our strength is both desirable and necessary in order for us to get better, but that we're also looking at developing more than just pure strength, we've entered into what can loosely be called a "strength cycle". Once a week we squat heavy, press heavy, and pull heavy. In every three weeks, we have one heavy clean day, one heavy snatch day, one clean skill day, and one snatch skill day. Beyond this, our programming is very closely controlled for push to pull ratio, overall volume, overall load, time under tension, and balance between weightlifting, gymnastics, mono-structural movements, and loaded carries.
Our program is still not the best way to get strong, but it is a great way to get strong while addressing all the other important factors in our members' goals.
Size vs Strength, Recovery, and Nutrition
The human body responds to stimuli and it's our job to give you the right stimulus to elicit the desired response. When training for strength, a lot of people, especially women, assume they'll also get much larger, and become these hulking behemoths of bulkiness. Luckily for all of us, this is not only not the case in actual strength athletes, it's actually not possible given the volume of work we're providing and the volume of work you're actually doing.
Yes, you'll notice some changes when doing even the small amount of strength training that we are. Usually this is things like being very tired after these workouts, feeling really sore and beat up, and maybe even not performing so great in the conditioning aspects of the workout. Remember, strength causes lasting changes in your body and requires hard work. The demands of strength training are significantly different than the demands of doing a conditioning workout every day. Strength training requires way more rest and recovery.
This means that you've gotta take the time to roll out, care for your joints and muscles, and find the time to actually shut down all the stress from work, play, and exercise a couple times a week. This demand on the body also usually means that what was working before in the recovery and nutrition area may not necessarily work now.
The 80/20 rule is great for someone who's working out a couple times a week and wants to have decent results without really putting in too much effort. It's designed as a way to have lifelong compliance without going crazy. But sometimes that 20% is gonna make a huge difference and you've gotta move to 90/10 or 95/5. Remember that your body needs constantly more aggressive stimuli in order to improve. If you've been 80/20 for the past two years, maybe it's time to make 90/10 your new norm so you can kickstart the process again.
If any of you or any of our other members would like to email me a week's worth of your food logs, I'd happily look it over and offer my suggestions as to where you can improve things.
There is a plan, and I think between these posts, the blog posts we've written in the past few weeks, and the conversations I've had with each of you and more people, we've pretty explicitly covered that plan. This is not the new norm of our programming. At some point soon, this programming will come to an end and we'll retest a specific set of events to see what the end results have been. Then, we'll adjust the programming again.
As far as getting back to the levels of conditioning or leanness that you may have lost, I promise it'll come back significantly faster than you realize and you'll be way better off having improved your squat, press, and pull over the long term.
10 rounds of
3 snatch (135/95)
15 wall ball (20/14)
Posted by Zareh.