the spaz of fitness has arrived

To Scale, or Not to Scale?

In Food, Training on April 2, 2012 at 12:38 am

I’ve decided that, for now, I’ll skip the tedium of posting my (or my box’s) daily WODs. If there’s interest in the future, I’ll incorporate them in my posts. If you’re curious, today was pretty much death-by-shoulders. And then some.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this article that appeared on Again Faster. For those that don’t want to do more reading, the gist is this:

For maximal power output, some sciencey smartness suggests that you should select a weight “that you can move with 30% speed, one that tends to occur somewhere around your 50% of one-rep maximum. ” With those calculations, men shouldn’t do an Rx’d Fran unless they can achieve nearly a 200 lb thruster.

For me, the use of Rx’d weights for actual competitions makes sense (how else would we create measurable competition?), but I’ve often wondered why more gyms don’t design WODs based on percentages of one rep maxes. Then wouldn’t the workout be better customized to each individual athlete– without demanding too much additional programming?

I’ve also noticed a lot of discussion recently about the use of “women’s” weights– particularly many angry protests that this perpetuates the history of sexism in sports. I don’t see it as inherently discriminatory as others do. I just see it as a lazy, inadequate “solution” to a larger problem: different athletes have different needs/capabilities. On average, women lift less weight than men. Yeah, it sucks– trust me. I want to deadlift 500lbs too. So I assume the use of different standards for women is a way to deal with the typical inequality in strength/size/height, etc. Again, this makes sense to me in a Games context where we need to create measurable standards in order to create rankings, give trophies and glory and Rogue sponsorships and all other such stuff. But for gyms, for daily WODs when most participants are there to improve individual health/ability, shouldn’t the workouts be scaled to their health/ability?

Now if the athlete were preparing for the games, it would make sense for him/her to train with oft-prescribed weights– such as the weights for cleans and thrusters (135lbs ,95lbs…) that reappear over and over again in heroes and girls. But until that point, if we programmed based on percentages, wouldn’t it help the athlete achieve that “max power output” that Gilson discusses?

Of course, the other way to look at this is to put the responsibility on the athlete and not the box. If the weight is too damn heavy for you to move at a reasonable pace in the metcon, lose your pride, drop some plates. If you’ve been push-pressing the same, easy 45 lbs for the past three months, grow a pair and add more plates. In my first months of CrossFit, I didn’t even think about the Rx’d weights because I knew I couldn’t lift them. Then, when I reached that borderline where I could sometimes just barely manage it, I’d try the Rx’d weight and feel disappointed because I completed maybe 3 rounds of what should have been an intense AMRAP. Own your workouts; make of them what will serve you best rather than what was designed for someone twice or half your size.

I know I’m far from an expert on these things, so if there actually is a good athletic principle for maintaining prescribed weights, I’d love to hear it– these are just my current thoughts on the matter. Personally, I don’t care if the whiteboard prescribes it as the “women’s weight” or the “Daisycup Pansies.” If that’s what I need to get a good workout, that’s what I’m lifting.

On an entirely tangential note: Coffee supposedly helps relieve post-WOD soreness?
Let’s be realistic: this report is questionable, at best. For one, a study of nine subjects is hardly conclusive. Additionally, I don’t understand why they only examined women. But, I’ll take any excuse for my daily addiction that I can.

Actually, for those of you who know of my horrible crutch, I can proudly report that I’ve reduced my coffee intake to ~ one cup a day– and this time, I actually mean roughly 8 fluid ounces (for me, “one cup” used to be everything I could fit into the largest thermos size at Starbucks). My reasons for wanting to shed my addiction actually have nothing to do with the vacillating opinion of health professionals on the supposed benefits/harms of caffeine. On principle, I don’t like being so dependent on a substance– something that I need to have at a certain point each day. Unfortunately, four years of a fairly study-intensive undergraduate career, a semester of 18ish-hour work days in New York City, and then graduate school have all conditioned me to rely on a regular dosage of wakeup juice.

… speaking of which, time to sip some coffee and teach some poetry.

  1. Hey, just found the blog and love it! I’ve always thought the same thing about scaling

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