Well, we did it. We made it through the 2020 CrossFit Open! I’m so proud of the way that our members fought through these workouts. Many of us got their first Toes-to-Bar, or Handstand Pushup (or both!). Some of us did more Muscle Ups than they had done cumulatively in the past two years (guilty). The last cycle featured many movements that popped up in the Open this year, and I’m thankful that we were able to put in the work to make it a successful Open.
This week is the culmination of the Open cycle, and the next cycle starts next week. Turning the page, I’d like to spend some time explaining the thought process behind what the next 11 weeks will bring: what we’ll be working on, and why.
The Holidays are around corner, and we’re headed full steam ahead into Thanksgiving week. We’ve got an opportunity to put all those calories that you’ll be consuming to good use. We’re going to get strong. Very strong indeed. This doesn’t mean we won’t work off those calories, of course. We’re going to be doing a lot of lifting and building a foundation of strength that will help us in all other areas of fitness – personally, and at the gym. So, when you’re going back for seconds at the office holiday party, think about it as ‘going back for gainz!’
I do want to take a minute to address the Holidays, and the many opportunities to eat and be social with family and friends. Enjoy it! There is no reason to feel guilty because you went to a party and ate a lot or had a beer with your family. You didn’t derail your progress or ruin the work you’ve done in the gym. I could write an entire post about this: a truly healthy life is about finding balance. When you’re gone, no one will care how much you squatted. Or what your body fat percentage was. The time you shared and the memories you created – that’s what they’ll remember. Too often we lose sight of this in pursuit of the perfect body. Thanksgiving Dinner is just one of the 21 meals you’ll be eating this week – relax, have fun, then come work it off the next day!
Ok, back to the cycle…
I’ve spent some time recently taking the Opex Fitness Programming Principles Course. It’s been very informative and has given me a lot of insight on aerobic vs anaerobic pathways, what it takes for a physical adaptation, and how to program for the individual fitness needs of a client. We are not moving to an individual programming model (though it is likely something that will be offered in the future). It is valuable information that has allowed me to look at our programming in a different light. I already had the cycle programmed and looking at it through this light has confirmed the work that I had already done.
One of the more interesting topics that was covered was the ‘Strength Continuum.’ Essentially, there are four types of activities that you can use to build strength as an athlete.
Absolute Strength: These are slow movements, under massive load and high intensity. Think the Deadlift or Squat. A true, one rep max Deadlift is a very intense movement that your body needs significant time to recover from. For the purposes of the discussion, let’s say that an athlete has a one rep max Deadlift of 400 pounds.
Strength Speed: These are exercises in which we move less weight, quickly. You guessed it – the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. During a snatch, you’re still lifting the bar to your hips – in this way it’s the same as a deadlift. The difference is, you’ve also got to get it above your head in one motion. You don’t need to have any background in fitness to know this cannot be done with the same loads we just discussed. That same person I referred to with the 400-pound deadlift might be able to Snatch 205 pounds, and Clean and jerk a little more than that.
Speed Strength: In Speed Strength movements, we’ve lowered the weight even more. These are movements that can typically be performed for reps, with very little recovery time in between. Think wall balls, box jumps, and kettlebell swings.
Absolute Speed: This is an expression of pure speed – Sprinting. On the Rower, the Echo Bike, or just running really fast.
Admittedly I’m paraphrasing this and interpreting it on my own (while I could be butchering it, it makes sense to me). The idea behind the continuum is that Absolute Strength is the foundation for all other types of strength. Say I had a member come up to me and say “Rob, I want to be the best at doing Wall Balls,” I wouldn’t turn around, start the clock, and have this person do endless Wall Balls, every day into perpetuity. As a coach and programmer, the key to overall fitness and improved performance would be to work on an overall increase of strength, and work from left to right on the continuum. It certainly makes sense if you think about it. If you deadlift more, the weight on the bar for a clean will feel lighter, too! We’d be doing wall balls and would be doing other things to complement it. In this case, ‘Functional Fitness’ would be doing exercises and movements designed to improve the ‘function’ of doing wall balls.
‘Gainz are coming’
So, we’ll be building our foundation of ‘Absolute Strength’ over the course of the cycle. The tempo squats you’ve all come to know and love are staying. We’ll be deadlifting regularly and will also be doing tempo shoulder presses. As a reminder, there is a purpose behind the tempo work. As I’ve covered in previous posts, daily intensity leads to burnout and injury. Maintaining tempo forces us to slow down, allows us to maintain proper positions and movement quality, and has us spending more time under tension. This will ultimately lead to adaptation and muscle growth, which will lead to an increase in strength. Those of us who’ve been training at CrossFit Webster to this point have hopefully bought in to this by now.
There are four major movement patterns that we can train. They are:
1. Lower Body Push (Squats)
2. Lower Body Pull (Deadlift)
3. Upper Body Push (Bench Press, Shoulder Press)
4. Upper Body Pull (Bent over Row, Pull-Ups)
While it’s difficult to eliminate entirely, we’re going to avoid taxing the same movement pattern (ie: ‘upper body push’) in consecutive days. There will be times where we Squat (lower body push), and then deadlift (lower body pull) the next day. The ‘Push/Pull’ Combo day will continue into the next cycle in the form of a Deadlift/Overhead Press combo. We will also be building unilateral strength (to even out strength imbalances) using movements like lunges, and dumbbell or kettlebell presses in the metcons.
You may have noticed the decrease in Olympic lifting over the past several weeks. This coincided with The Open, and my responsibility to make sure I didn’t burn you out for the workouts. I made a concession for the unknown. We don’t have to worry about The Open for 10 months, and it’s time to get back into it! For this cycle, the Olympic lifting will primarily focus on the Clean and Jerk. We’ll be doing “1 ¼ Front Squats” on Oly days. These are speed and explosive force focused, not for lifting a ton of weight. We’ll be coupling them with Power Cleans and Jerks, either as a separate lifting session, or in the metcon for the day. As the cycle moves forward, we’ll move to a Squat Clean and Jerk Complex that is just fire. I’m excited to get some Olympic Lifting back in to my life!
See you at the gym!