I still can’t believe how few CrossFit gyms are doing this.
It’s kind of appalling.
I’m referring to one of the main variables involved in any strength-training prescription.
First you have sets, reps, and load.
These are the things that get all the love –
the variables that determine how much total work you’re doing.
But nobody (well, outside of OPEX gyms it seems) thinks of…
It’s so fucking basic it makes me want to shake people by the shoulders.
Why, oh why, do you NOT think to control how each rep is executed?
(I’m also speaking to my younger self – before about two years ago,
I had only a feeling this was important but it didn’t occur to me as to how.)
But this is 2016, people.
That margin for error we used to have, in terms of programming?
It’s gone now.
You need to dial in HOW they do things if you expect them to get the
best possible results.
I will make a few points toward this.
It’s a one-way street – the benefits of training with slower negatives improve your ability
to lift quickly (by virtue of positional stability at each point in the movement
improving your ability to generate maximal tension),
but if you never slow down the negative you have NO control over it when you’re forced to.
Am I saying that you should implement slow negatives in WOD’s?
I suppose you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it for “Nancy” or anything.
Although I have used it for assistance-work-type WOD’s with good success.
But no, this is primarily for skill-based strength development work.
And if you’re an Olympic weightlifter where that “bounce” out of the bottom of the squat
is a necessary part of the lift to perfect, you do need to practice that.
But I would submit that at least during a “hypertrophy” block of training
(assuming you’re following a periodized weightlifting program),
your squatting and pressing movements should include slower negatives.
Anyway. That’s the end of my rant.
Go try squatting with a controlled three-second negative with just 75% of your max.
If you’re not used to it, it will absolutely humble you.
In the past, I’ve gone on record saying that you NEED heavy strength work to be a successful CrossFitter.
I still do think that.
But I’ve come to understand that there’s more nuance to it than just “lift heavy thing get strong oogabooga.”
When you look at the musculoskeletal implications of workouts, there are three main types:
If you really want to, you can smash all three types of workout into a single training session…
but I wouldn’t recommend it, at least not at high dosage for all three. You’d be pretty wrecked.
Here’s what each workout type does.
[Note: I’m assuming you’re focusing on one of the three – not like “okay I did one rep at 90%,
then five at 75%, and ten at 50%! I did a super awesome workout!”
No you didn’t. You did three mini-workouts and didn’t really achieve anything.]
I will borrow from the late great Bill Starr and propose an adaptation of his “heavy-light-medium” model.
We need each type of workout for different reasons, and putting them in the correct order
will maximize the gains we can achieve.
We need the heavy workouts for max strength.
Light workouts help the connective tissues regenerate after being beaten to hell.
The medium workouts build the most total muscle, and prep the nervous system
for the loading of the heavy workouts.
We want more muscle, since a bigger muscle has more strength potential.
For example, using the squat…
Here we have Monday as the “heavy” day,
Tuesday is a very light day followed by another “light” day on Wednesday,
Friday is our “medium” day, and Saturday is a light-medium day.
This is obviously omitting any heavy upper-body work,
which could also follow a heavy-light-medium pattern offset to complement the squat.
Anyway, to answer the question posed by the title of this article:
Can you, in fact, get stronger with light met-cons?
No. Not by themselves, anyway.
You need them to HELP you stay healthy and in-shape as you get stronger.
I’ll describe a situation I’ve been in a few times, that maybe you can relate to.
Imagine: You’ve been invited to a party, gala event, or other non-barbecue social function…
and regular (read: non-lifter) folks comprise the majority of attendees.
Two thoughts go through your mind:
1. There won’t be nearly enough meat there.
2. Etiquette dictates that I bring something to contribute,
lest I devour all the meat like a rampaging locust swarm.
We can address both of those problems with one easy recipe.
Prep time: AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FO DAT
Cook time: 20-30 min
Dump cans-o’-pork into a large skillet coated with bacon grease (or butter).
Coat the pork with dry rub and stir-fry until crispy.
While the pork is cooking, rinse the sweet peppers and cut the tops off.
Pull the seeds out.
There are three ways to present this:
Another option could be to have barbecue sauce as a side condiment.
Any kind will do, but I’d recommend a sweet mustard-based Carolina-style sauce.
Put that on the pork before the guac, or perhaps cook the pork with it if you like.
Anyway! You end up with a simple, delicious appetizer that can double as a meal in a pinch.
Because who doesn’t like sweet peppers, guac, and pulled pork, right?
What I’m about to detail pulls double duty as both a great steak marinade
AND as the most amazing salad dressing I’ve ever consumed.
I like to use it for both at once. You don’t have to.
But you should.
INGREDIENTS – MEAT MARINADE:
Combine all those in a bowl, then dump into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag along with your steaks.
Marinate for 30-60 minutes.
Pan-fry your steaks with the extra marinade.
When the steaks are done (blood starts seeping through the surface after flipped),
continue cooking down the marinade until you get a viscous reduction.
You should have about 1/2 cup or so when it’s done cooking down.
Be sure to caramelize some of the marinade on the steaks – trust me.
INGREDIENTS – SALAD DRESSING (additional):
Combine those in a bowl, then add your reduction from the steak pan and stir.
Chill in the freezer for a few minutes, then stir and toss in the salad.
If you had to describe these to a foodie, you could call them a
“red wine/Dijon marinade” and “red wine vinaigrette.”
I just call it RDS – Ridiculously Delicious Sauce.
Enjoy. I sure do.
It’s Open season again…
So let me get something straight.
If you can do the following list of movements,
you should sign up for the Open:
Those are the entry requirements for the “Scaled” division,
based on last year’s workouts at that level.
Any well-rounded CrossFitter past the novice stage can do all of those.
For Rx’d division, the list is a bit tougher (and kipping is allowed):
This is based on previous years’ Open WOD’s.
If some of those are out of reach it’s okay –
that’s why the Scaled division exists.
So now that we have that out of the way…
Reasons why someone would be reluctant to jump in:
1- Can’t do one or more of the movements on the “Scaled” list
(The pull-up is probably the most common limiter.)
I would still suggest doing the Open and plowing through what you can.
It will show you what you’re good at – and not so good at –
compared to your peers worldwide.
And chances are it will light a fire under you to fix your weaknesses.
2- You aren’t a competitive person
Yeah…I used to think I wasn’t competitive either.
Turns out I’m HIGHLY competitive…just cool-headed about it.
You might learn something similar about yourself.
And regardless of any competitive aspect, the Open is still a
valuable assessment tool to evaluate your progress.
3- You’re afraid of embarrassing yourself with low scores
Do your best and you have everything to be proud of.
There’s no better feeling after a workout than looking back
and knowing you gave it everything you had.
While high scores earn you props,
low scores do not merit disrespect from anyone.
All we care is that you tried.
Besides, you can’t win if you don’t play.
4- You can’t do any of the movements for the scaled workouts
This concern is actually legit.
At least get the basics down before throwing your hat in the ring.
Look, the Open is not like a regular competition.
If you can’t string together chest-to-bars,
squat snatch 150/100+, or run a mile under 8 minutes,
I’m not going to advise you to enter a normal comp.
But this is different – this caters specifically to
beginners AND elite exercisers, on a large enough scale
for anyone to figure out their peer group
and strive to beat them wherever they can.
I’m doing the Open.
Who’s with me?
Why should you track workouts?
…Wait, you aren’t already tracking your workouts?
Okay. Deep breath.
1. The best way to get results is with a structured training program.
This differs from aimless “exercise” by doing
everything with a purpose, towards a set goal.
A coherent training program builds on itself over time to achieve that.
If you don’t know what you’ve been doing,
you have no idea how to continue the program
and thus won’t get to your goals.
2. We can prove whether or not we’re making progress
by documenting what we put in and what we get out.
If any issues come up, we can then diagnose
and effectively troubleshoot them.
3. Seeing your progress over time is a great way to
stay motivated when things get shitty.
If you take this stuff seriously, eventually
it won’t all be sunshine and kittens.
When that happens you need something to keep you going.
Things to write in your training log:
Personally, I use a Word document that is 263 pages long as of 1/28/16.
(Thanks to the magic of Ctrl+F, I can flip through to
compare lifts and workouts instantaneously.)
It dates back 6 years.
I started logging PR’s after about three months of CrossFit
– which was three months too late – , and
I didn’t thoroughly document my training until 18 months in.
That was a HUGE mistake.
Learn from it.
Moral of the story:
You never know when that information will be useful.
Growing up, I was a multi-sport athlete (field hockey, track, and softball)
and trained dancer in a variety of techniques.
In my adult life, not too much specific training apart from
running a few miles a day on a treadmill.
I learned how to eat better and more efficiently to consume
the nutrition my body needed to withstand the rigorous workouts.
First and foremost, my eating habits.
Correctly calculating and tracking my macros was a little tedious at first.
I ended up creating a spreadsheet for myself with a list of typical
foods I ate on a daily and/or weekly basis as a quick reference guide
so I wasn’t constantly forgetting to read the nutrition label.
I made entering my food into my spreadsheet a part of my eating routine,
entering in the macros either before I ate or immediately after.
That way I didn’t lose track or forget.
I took my spreadsheet with me at all times if I knew I would be having
a meal away from home so I knew exactly how much I had left for the day.
Weighing my food was extremely beneficial.
Not just for easily calculating macros, but also
training my brain/eye to see what 4oz of food actually looks like.
Hitting my protein was never an issue since I’m such a fan of
chicken, Greek yogurt, and protein powder.
The carbs, not terrible considering the number I had to hit was pretty reasonable.
But the fat, on the other hand, proved to be a bit challenging.
I ate more peanut butter in those 6 weeks than I think I have my whole life.
Good thing I’m partial to Jiffy.
Overall, I just learned how to eat better and more efficiently to consume
the proper nutrition my body needed to withstand the rigorous workouts.
I am conquering my fear more each day and can feel myself
become a little less apprehensive when it comes to
trying a new workout or increasing my weight.
If you really want to make a change,
“I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” simply doesn’t work.
Aside from everything else I’ve mentioned, I learned
the importance of meal prep and workout scheduling.
If you really want to make a change,
“I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” simply doesn’t work.
I put 5 days’ worth of lunches together and threw them all into
separate tupperwares for the grab-and-go convenience.
I knew I had to get to workouts during the week and
if I couldn’t make it to my usual time, I’d figure out
which other time worked best for my schedule.
There really are no excuses, and I humbly admit that
since I used to come up with every excuse in the book.
If I can do it, you can do it.
There’s no better feeling of accomplishment than
hitting and exceeding goals you set for yourself.
For the first time I really FEEL like an athlete.
Let’s get this cleared up – we actually DO test 1RM’s in class.
Just not for newbies, unless it’s in a tightly controlled and supervised setting.
(That’s where our lifting meets come in – every max attempt has numerous pairs of eyes on it, along with plenty of spotters for safety.
It’s just not feasible to have that level of control during a regular class with a bunch of people doing stuff simultaneously.)
So why not?
1. Newer peeps often don’t have the structural integrity, core strength, or skill to safely handle a missed lift at max loading without someone watching them like a hawk.
2. New peeps have not developed the nervous system to the point where a true 1RM can even be displayed.
3. We can pretty accurately determine a hypothetical 1RM from a 5RM (for novices) or a 2RM (for intermediates).
4. Your 1RM’s don’t mean shit except for bragging rights. I had to learn this the hard way.
In CrossFit, and in training for your goals, the spectrum of strength endurance (5-20RM) means a lot more than single-effort strength.
(A lot of people with lower 1RM’s than me kept whooping my ass during the Open, and it took me years to figure out why. When I started training with an emphasis on volume instead of loading, low and behold I started PR-ing all my WOD’s and placed closer to where I should in the Open.)
5. It’s a waste of training time on account of 1-4.
A 5RM test has a potent training effect for an athlete at any level.
However, a 1RM test is only meaningful for an advanced lifter.
Here’s the thing – you should test what you train.
To train for a 1RM test, you have to practice heavy sets of 1-3 reps to build nervous system efficiency.
This is not smart if your lifts aren’t at least intermediate-level (like repping out bodyweight on back squat).
You end up with a much higher risk of tweaking and/or injuring yourself because you aren’t building up connective tissue and muscle mass commensurate with your nervous system development.
You might notice with our programming, I have it designed so that novice-level folks do more reps per set than intermediate-level, who in turn do more reps than advanced folks.
This is deliberate.
That’s how we adapt the program to different levels of advancement, and our quarterly testing cycles are matched up to those levels.
So yes, you will eventually test 1RM’s in class.
But you have to EARN it.
Welcome to the latest incarnation of our nutrition/fat loss challenge!
Here are the rules.
If you don’t have access to the Google sheet for whatever reason,
you must email screenshots of MyFitnessPal data (Saturday – Friday)
by 11:59pm Sunday night.
Points: up to 40 each day
Macro points (15 max)
Protein: up to 7 points
100+% of target → 7
90% of target → 6
80% of target → 5
70% of target → 4
60% of target → 3
50% of target → 2
<50% of target → 1
Not tracked → 0
Fat: up to 3 points
MOE < 10% → 3
MOE < 20% → 2
MOE > 20% → 1
Not tracked → 0
Carbs: up to 5 points
MOE < 10% → 5
MOE < 20% → 4
MOE < 30% → 3
MOE < 40% → 2
MOE > 40% → 1
Not tracked → 0
Workout points (10 max):
RWS WOD or 10:00+ intense effort → 6
WOD: 5:00 – 9:59 intense effort → 4
WOD: 1:00 – 4:59 intense effort → 2
Supplemental cardio → 4
Supplemental guns & buns work → 4
No activity → 0
Sleep points (10 max):
8+ hours → 10
7.5 hours → 8
7 hours → 6
6 hours → 4
<6 hours → 2
Not tracked → 0
Supplement points (7 max):
Fish oil (2000+ mg EPA/DHA) → 1
Multivitamin (must contain zinc & iodine) → 1
Vitamin D (2500+ IU) → 1
NightTime Recovery → 2
Herbal Cleanse → 2
Photo food journal points (3 max):
3+ meals photographed → 3
2 meals photographed → 2
1 meal photographed → 1
No pictures → 0
Scoring for the winners:
50% points (by ranking)
25% fitness improvement (via baseline)
25% inches improvement (waist & hips)