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Posts Tagged ‘Strength Bias’

CrossFit: Nothing New

In Training on August 13, 2012 at 9:57 pm

It seems to me that when CrossFit is poorly planned and haphazardly applied, it’s accused of being a dangerous wreck, but when it’s smartly implemented as part of a focused training program, it’s suddenly an innovative, cutting-edge approach to athletics.

Recently, I came across this video about the training regimen of MMA athlete George St-Pierre. It shows St. Pierre using gymnastics to work on his strength and agility. He uses O-lifts to hone his explosive power. There are also shots of him doing sledgehammer strikes and plyometric jumps. What are these techniques if not the same components of CrossFit? With all this Olympics press, I noticed everyone fussing over Ryan Lochte’s “unconventional training” methods. He does tire flips and keg throws. He tests his vertical jump. Actually, this isn’t new and remarkable. This isn’t innovative and unconventional. CrossFit isn’t even new.

Athletes have a long tradition of borrowing training protocols from other sports. Tabata intervals were invented long before CrossFit. “Cross-training” appeared long before CrossFit. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman simply tacked a name to something coaches have been doing for their athletes for a long time now. It’s not “dangerous” and “crazy” if done correctly, nor is it some revolutionary new system. It’s just that CrossFit suffers from poor quality control and some gyms do haphazardly incorporate techniques for which their members aren’t prepared… but, correctly implemented, it can help a middle-aged working mother get off her couch, it can help a 16-year-old football player get faster, bigger, stronger, and it can help MMA champions up their game in the ring. It’s just about thoughtful program design.

But designing programs for a CrossFit box has its own unique challenges. Whereas most athletes at a boxing gym are probably training to be competitive (even if just in a recreational sense), the members of a CrossFit gym are often more diverse than that. A lot of CrossFit boxes have competitive hopefuls as well as desk jockeys just looking for a good workout or to lose a little weight. Is there a way to design an overarching program that can cater optimally to both extremes? Or do boxes have to find a strange middle ground that doesn’t fully serve either individual? Or, is it appropriate for the individual to take his/her goals into his/her own hands? For the competitive athlete to stay after WODs and work on skill and technique? All this thinking about programming has really developed in me an admiration for people who do this well.

Speaking of programming, it is at last time for me to move on. I thank Justin of 70’s Big for his strength and conditioning program that helped me add 60 lbs to my deadlift, 25 lbs to my squat, 20 lbs to my clean, and 20 lbs to my press. My lifts, however, have slowed or stalled on everything and I feel that this strictly linear progression isn’t working for me anymore. I’m trying to decide on an intermediate lifting program that suits my needs. Here’s my evaluation of where I am:

– I like that I’m stronger, but I’m actually about 10 lbs under where I’d hoped to be for each lift, so strength is still important to me… but I’m no longer tragically below where I want to be.

– I like that I’m stronger, but I’ve lost my ability to carry that intensity into my new strength. I fatigue a lot quicker during WODs. I think there’s two reasons for this: 1) I’ve entirely avoided long WODs/metcons for the past five months, and I’m not accustomed to anything that demands endurance anymore. 2) Being able to lift more means that these lifts are now more demanding for me, and I’m not accustomed to carrying that intensity for multiple reps

– I can do a lot of movements, but can’t link them smoothly. My toes-to-bar and knees-to-elbow involve a weird half-kip between reps, and I max out at 8ish butterflies before I lose the rhythm and start swinging wildly. When I’m tired, that number’s closer to 3-5.

– I still don’t explode. I lift slowly… I’m not aggressive enough in my movements and I just… somehow have difficulty recruiting all my strength potential in a single movement. I often feel like I still have something left in the tank, I just don’t access it at the right moments.

I’d like to think that CrossFit Strength Bias can help me with that. Particularly, I appreciate this snippet from the CFJ article:

So, for the CrossFitter who has a need or desire to get much stronger much more quickly, who is unable to decrease his time on a benchmark “girl” because he just can’t move the weight any faster, or just can’t do the “hero” WOD “as Rx’d” because she can’t lift the weight, we introduce CrossFit Strength Bias.

That’s me. I can Rx Fran, but I don’t even want to test my time because the weight would have me moving much slower than the intense, sprint-like movement that the programmers had in mind. I have a slight misgiving about CFSB in that it doesn’t work the power clean– and I’d like to, in order to both build on my technique and to work on my explosive power… but I think people have successfully incorporated it before. I’m thinking about subbing it in for the front squat day. Anyway, I’m going to be finessing the details of my regimen in the past few days, and I’m sure I’ll update you on that. Another “wild card” for me is that I know I want to participate in Penn State’s powerlifting open and to do that I intend to train a little bit with the powerlifting team and I’m not sure how that will work/what sort of training I’ll do with them…

Anyway, happy Monday to everyone.


Practical Programming and Progress

In Training on August 10, 2012 at 10:31 pm

It’s been a long week of many goodbyes. I miscounted in my last post… apparently, by the end of this week, I will have bid farewell to six friends who are permanently leaving this city. There are small things about State College that irk me– its isolation, the expense of housing, the long winters and the lack of sun…– but really, this city would be livable if it weren’t for the transience of it. I’ve only been here for two years, but I’m already tired of watching people leave. So many times now, I’ve witnessed the beginnings of a promising friendship, but seen it stretched too thin over great distances and snapped… Anyway, that’s irrelevant to most of you, but it’s my excuse for the lack of updates lately. The lifts are still progressing, albeit slower now. I can only add about 2.5lbs to my squat per week and my press has stalled yet again. My deadlift increased according to plan, but my form is decaying, so I’m sticking with this weight (195 x 5) for at least another week.

I’ve also finished reading Practical Programming, which was an enlightening experience. Though the book starts slowly, the latter half is rather useful. It’s divided usefully into programming techniques for “novice,” “intermediate,” and “advanced” athletes. It’s also helped me understand a bit about the current training stage I’m in. As these weights get heavier, I’m noticing that the lifts are also becoming a bit more taxing– nothing serious. I still don’t feel debilitatingly sore the next day, or exhausted… but I’ve noticed I can screw around less after my lifting. Before, despite all the coach’s warnings against overtraining, I felt all right messing around the gym after lifting because I didn’t feel much impact from the strength work… but now, after only 5 deadlifts, I can sense a bit of energy drainage. I find this encouraging… at least, what I’ve gathered from Practical Programming, it means I’m finally working a bit closer to my genetic potential… whereas before, I was so entrenched in the “novice” stage that most of what I could do just wasn’t as physically exhaustive.

What was heartening for me is that Rippetoe provides a chart at the end of Practical Programming detailing the lift statistics for a “novice,” “intermediate,” and “advanced” athlete. According to my internet research (Google wisdom, if you will), I believe that Rippetoe removed these charts from the second edition of Practical Programming because they were often misapplied. They were meant as general guidelines and not necessarily in direct correspondence to the training phases that he describes in the book. Nevertheless, keeping in mind that these are very rough standards, I’m happy to see that all my lifts are firmly beyond the “intermediate” minimum– creeping towards “advanced.” Technically, my deadlift is well within the “advanced” range, and my max bench should be close, but I haven’t tested a 1rm in a long time.*

[*I’ve included a copy of Rippetoe’s charts at the end of this post in case you’d like to look up your own lifts]

This is my roundabout way of circling back to the topic that I feel I need to switch up my programming soon. My squat progress is slowing, my cleans have slowed to moving up 2.5lbs every three weeks or so, etc… I think instead of doing two heavy back squat days a week, I may change to either one back squat and one front squat day, or one heavy day and one light day for speed work. That’s another observation I’ve made– I definitely lack in just power production. I move everything slowly– or at least it feels that way. I don’t “explode” when I lift… or when I run, or kettlebell swing, etc. It’s why I’ve felt like I never quite tapped into my potential… I need to practice tapping into that explosive force more– which is why speed work appeals to me. But front squats may help my clean, so those are also tempting.

The lifting protocol detailed by CrossFit strength bias incorporates the basic lifts, giving you room to play with 3×5 or 5×3 as needed, as well as work with lighter loads and higher reps for explosiveness and endurance. I like that it works both the back and the front squat, but am perplexed that they neglect the bench. It makes sense, though, as CrossFit workouts rarely include the bench press… I may review the CF Journal article on its programming again (here for those of you with CF Journal subscriptions) and report back. Also, their metcon lengths are 20 minutes or less as opposed to my current program’s (70’s Big S&C) 15 minutes or less. I won’t switch over until I’m confident that I’ve exhausted my linear progression… Another thing I have to keep in mind: I want to participate in the Iron Lion Open– Penn State’s annual powerlifting competition– later this fall, and hope to train partially with the powerlifting team in preparation for that… so who knows how my training will shift to accommodate that. I’m pretty sure that, surrounded by actual powerlifters, I have a solid chance of coming in deead last… but the experience will be good for me– even just the few months of training with athletes seriously committed to getting stronger.

Anyway, happy Friday. Hope you all have lovely weekend plans 🙂

Rippetoe’s Practical Programming Novice/Intermediate/Advanced Standards (remember, these are very rough guidelines)

Foodstuffs and Linear Progressions

In Food, Training, WOD on June 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Welcome to Day 5 of my “Whole 14” challenge. Breakfast is served:

I’ve found that a really easy, convenient breakfast is to mix canned seafood (today, crab… yesterday, salmon; the day before, tuna…) with an egg and fry it in a pan with some olive oil. It turns into something between an omelet and a burger patty. You can also play around with seasonings. Today, there was oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Yesterday I went with something spicier– chipotle and paprika. Also reheated leftover veggies from last night, and whipped up a quick paleo mousse for the hell of it. I didn’t use the maple syrup since it’s not “whole 30 compliant,” and I added coconut oil as well as… wait for it… mashed cauliflower. I know it sounds weird, but I had leftover, unseasoned cauliflower and it’s utterly tasteless when you blend it in, I promise. It just tastes like coconutty chocolatey goodness. … really.

Stop judging me.

I may have licked the food processor.

And the food processor blades.

I also only used 2 TBSP cocoa powder, which is why it’s a lighter color than the one on the recipe’s website. Personally, I thought it tasted plenty sweet without the maple syrup, but if some of you are trying to stay Whole 30 compliant and need the touch of sweetness, I imagine dried fruit (dates? figs?) could do the trick– or maybe some applesauce or 100% fruit juice of some kind.

I also still wanted something starchy, so I ate a 1/2 microwaved sweet potato. I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to eat more starches than most people on the Whole 30.

I had a pre-WOD snack of turkey + almond butter (yes, I combine deli meats with nut butters… I actually didn’t think this was strange until I started telling people this), then the gym.

Today, I managed to pull 1.75x bodyweight for 5reps for my Deadlift, but I know my form was hideous before the end, so I’m actually going to stay at this weight and repeat it next week, hopefully for better form. I did some more research on linear progressions, particularly the CrossFit football template (since I’m doing the 70’s Big S&C Program and the two are very similar). According to the CFFootball experts, most of their athletes require a reset by week 12. They recommend that you then take the lift back to where it was 3 weeks ago and start back up. Most linear progressions peter out around 20 weeks, when all the lifts stall out.

I’m actually creeping up on week 12, so it makes sense that my lifts are starting to feel a little wobbly. I hope to push this for at least another month or two. My press has already been reset once… my clean is getting wobbly, and we know I have concerns about my squat. However, I hope to still see gains on my bench. They recommend that you ride the linear progression until all lifts stall out, which I intend to do . After that, I hope to look into another strength-focused program, but probably one less linear (I mentioned before that I really like CrossFit Strength Bias).

Anyway, after the deadlifts, I did 3 sets of pull-ups, and actually participated in the box’s WOD today. It’s been a while since I’ve done a more traditional CrossFit workout and I’ve been missing them. Besides, today looked quick and like it would clock in well below my 15 minute time cap:


50 Double-Unders

40 American Kettlebell Swings (1.5/1pd)

30 Walking Lunges with plate overhead (45lbs/25lbs)

20 Med Ball Cleans (20lbs/14lbs)

10 Squat Clean Thrusters (95lbs/65lbs).

A quick, fun chipper.

After the WOD, I repeated the post-WOD snack of a hard-boiled egg and a nuked sweet potato:

Confession: I’m a sucker for oddly-shaped produce…

Then shower and lunch. Still feeling more sore than usual. I don’t actually miss or crave the taste of my recovery shakes anymore, but I’d still like to reintroduce them after the Whole 30 to see if there were actually helping with my recovery… otherwise I can’t explain the increased achiness of my past couple of days.

Anyway… yesterday was actually a surprisingly productive flurry of writing for me. Let’s hope today I can maintain some of that momentum. Happy Monday, folks.