March 25, 2018
We’re just coming off the tail end of the CrossFit Open, and likely have seen some of our own personal weaknesses exposed. Most of these weaknesses may be attributed to skill, examples including muscle ups, handstands, and double unders. In these cases, taking time before class or during open gym to practice, perhaps even setting up one on one time with a coach would be appropriate. However, general strength is the foundation of movement and thus plays a big part in CrossFit training, not only with the barbell but also technically demanding movements. Take the bar or ring muscle up, for instance. There is an entry level of strength and timing required. Although, an athlete who has a greater amount of pulling and core strength will be able to perform more consecutive reps, as each muscle up will require a smaller portion of their relative strength. Increased strength coupled with proper technique will result in greater muscular endurance, which means more fitness, y’all. As such, a three month long strength cycle will be incorporated in class.
Let’s consider why it’s necessary to temporarily readjust our focus in order to make progress. Keep in mind, too, that traditional CrossFit training will not be abandoned entirely. Simply, a new focus will be placed on developing strength and making technical adjustments. That being said, most members are aware that I am following a strength program, and do not train in CrossFit. I do believe that CrossFit is the best way for the everyday person to become well rounded and healthy, while also broadening their horizons. However, it’s common for brutal MetCons and near death exhaustion to pop into one’s mind when contemplating what makes CrossFit what it is today. After all, those characteristics have almost become its trademark. Rarely do people think about practicing specific skills, or developing strength through basic movements. It’s important to remember that all of these things make up CrossFit; skill, strength, and intensity. Try picturing it as the intersection of multiple sports and training modalities. We incorporate monostructural exercises, such as rowing and running. We program gymnastics movements, from push ups to handstands to muscle ups. We train the snatch, clean and jerk, deadlifts, squats, pulls, and presses. With such a broad range of in depth skills, time needs to be dedicated to properly learning and strengthening these movements. In short, learn to lift like a weightlifter, and move like a gymnast. While CrossFit has become its own sport, it is at its core a hub, a place of learning, practice, then attack. A MetCon is a great opportunity to hit it hard, even dial in your pacing, but it’s not a conducive environment to learn. It’s better to learn and practice the snatch before training it in a fast paced workout. In addition to this principle, there is a biological reason to focus our time on developing foundational strength.
We need to discuss the General Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S. for all of you jokesters). This is the observed pattern in which the body adapts to stress through hormonal changes, and is divided into three stages, the first of which being the Alarm Phase. This phase lasts one to two weeks and occurs when introduced to a new stressor, characterized by excessive soreness, stiffness, and a drop in performance. I will commonly hear members remark that soreness is their reassurance of an effective workout. Admittedly, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with feeling sore, and it is common for specific accessory work to illicit soreness. However, in CrossFit, one is constantly faced with movements that they rarely practice and likely aren’t enthused with. Often times, this will result in soreness affecting later training sessions, making it hard to comfortably attain necessary positions. The body has not adapted and become efficient in the given movement pattern because it has not been given enough time to do so. In general, our body requires a week or two of consistent practice in order to adapt, which will then carry into the next stage, the Resistance Phase, lasting from four to six weeks. The body has now become adapted to the stimulus and has returned to normal function, ready to train with a steadily increasing load and intensity. In other words, we will reap the training benefits without fatigue interfering with later workouts. So, contrary to popular belief, the lack of soreness is actually a good sign! This means that the body is becoming efficient in executing the demands placed upon it. However, if one attempts to train in this phase for too long, they will enter what is called the Exhaustion Phase, in which the body exhibits symptoms of the Alarm Phase. Performance will actually start to regress. So, in order to effectively progress, consistent training and practice with adequate rest, is required. Likewise, our upcoming strength cycle will reflect these principles. Most members are adapted to squats, pulls, and presses. This, we will start with six weeks of loading, starting at relatively light loads in order to make room for a steady progression. This will be followed by a week long deloading to avoid over training. We will then spend another six weeks of progressive loading, starting a little heavier than the previous six weeks.
I hope this article has given you all insight as to why we are taking a slight detour from traditional CrossFit programming. I really believe everyone will benefit from it, not only in numbers but also performance in WODs. If anything, take away that it’s okay, even beneficial, to not feel sore on a regular basis. Thanks for reading!