A threshold is a limit, a point that must be exceeded in order for favourable adaptations to occur. One of the thresholds to consider in fitness is the technique/intensity threshold. When you go beyond that threshold in training, technique diminishes at the expense of power output (intensity). Technique is essential to maximising power and therefore fitness, but good technique without optimal speed will in fact stunt fitness.
It’s like motor sports.The best drivers are the ones who find that balance between speed and accuracy. But they only find that balance by tempting speed and by learning to take the vehicle all the way to almost losing control before reigning it in.
That’s what you need to do in training. Just like we stress your cardiorespiratory system for endurance adaptations and your muscular system for strength gains, your “control” must be stressed for it to improve. Fortunately, in training, the consequences aren’t as severe as in motor sports!
Most of this practice refers to metabolic conditioning and not strength work, because in strength work time is generally not an essential factor. So to train your conditioning workouts, develop your control just as the race care driver.
Start off by ensuring you’ve scaled the loads, movements and volume appropriately. The programmed workouts you see on the board are a guideline. When the workout starts, work quickly to a pace you feel you’re able to maintain for the duration of that workout. Once you’ve settled in, up your speed – lower the time cycle of your reps.
Here is where your gray matter – your conscious brain – comes in. You have to be able to feel the difference between good and bad technique. If you haven’t felt your technique going with increased speed, you’ll soon find out. You’ll miss lifts and reps, lose control of your swing on the pull-up bar or rings, land up in the box instead of on top of it. It’s the tail of the race car going too wide for the driver to bring it back, leaving the car in a spin.
You’ve got to slow down before that happens. Regain traction to bring that tail back in, and then ease back on the gas again. This time, holding your speed just under the previous attempt.
As you develop this control your power output begins to increase, and that’s where the results lie.
Will it result in some less than optimal technique? Absolutely, but that’s how you find your control. Will that place you at risk of injury? Unless you keep moving at a speed that is uncontrollable, it shouldn’t. That control is a tricky thing to develop. It’s partly what we as coaches are there for. But it’s important for you to develop it on your own too.
Finding that threshold is also finding the point of most discomfort. Find it, and hang out there for as long as you can!
Nutrition and training are only pieces of the health and fitness puzzle. If your eating and training are consistently good, but you still don’t look and feel the way you’d like to, one of the other pieces may need fixing. Most often, it’s the result of poor sleep.
Your body composition, mental acuity, digestion, skin health, mood states and physical performance are some of the components heavily dependent on sufficient sleep. Seven hours of peaceful sleep every night is the minimum needed to keep health and fitness problems at bay. If you’re getting less than that but feel like you’re getting enough sleep, you’re kidding yourself.
These are some signs that your sleep habits may need tweaking:
You’re Struggling with your Body Composition
Poor sleep can:
- Increase excess body fat
- Disrupt your feelings of hunger and satiety
- Increase caloric intake, especially from comfort foods
- Excess body can in turn reduce sleep quality making this a negative feedback loop
Your Mental Performance is Shaky
Sleep is especially important for the recovery and development of the central nervous system. Insufficient sleep can cause:
- Low mood states
- Attention deficit
- Impaired judgement
- Reduced alertness
- Mental acuity during exercise
You’re Prone to Sickness
Sleep is also responsible for keeping your immune system in check. Insufficient sleep results in:
- Increased inflammation
- Vulnerability to viruses and bacteria
- Greater stress to the cardiovascular system
- Inability to recover from colds and flu
Does any of this sound like you, but your eating and training is fairly on point? If so, your sleep habits may need tweaking. You should be aiming for seven hours of restful sleep a night. That is, seven hours of shut eye. Not seven hours from the time you get into bed until waking 😉
“Why do I still suck?” It’s a common question. One that I’ve been answering for far too many years! Despite the negative connotation, there is a positive to the question if you’re asking it–you care about your progress.
I generally answer with another question: “But do you suck?”
Yes, training was really difficult and it almost feels like your first week of training, every week! Take a moment to reflect on where you’re at, though. Would you have been able to complete that week of training with that technique and intensity three months ago? No, even if you’ve already been training with us for five years.
You are fitter now than you were three months ago. That means you’re able to do more work for a given amount of time, and it sucks when you’re doing that. It’s uncomfortable and it hurts. You aren’t going backwards, you’re just able to push yourself more.
Our programming is also progressive by design. That means it gets progressively more challenging–more load, more reps, more technical. Just one year ago I couldn’t program strict pull-ups for the L1 (fitness-base) track of our programming. Now, I have to!
I won’t let you adapt to the stimulus. Everytime you feel like you’re starting to “get there,” I’ll hand you a simple rowing and sled workout that will have you on your ass in less than 5 minutes. And that’s when you might feel like you’re going backwards, or that you still suck. You aren’t, it’s harder because you’re fitter.
There’s also something really cool that’s driving your improvement. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, said that “the magic is in the movement.” He was referring to the movements we program. But I also think that the magic is in the people. The people are uplifting–they push you to be better.
So no, you don’t suck and you aren’t going backwards. Unless of course you’re eating shit, not sleeping, and scaling poorly in training.
This outlook requires a shift in mindset. Reflect on the good instead of focusing on what doesn’t feel so good. Be grateful for what you are able to do instead of focusing on what you ‘can’t’ do yet.
The purpose of strength training is to enhance your ability to apply productive force. Whereas metabolic conditioning (metcon) improves endurance and stamina–your ability to gather, process, deliver and utilise oxygen and energy. Strength, endurance and stamina are all important pieces of fitness with each skill requiring unique training methods. Hoping to achieve the benefits of one skill through training in another skill is like eating an apple but expecting it to taste like an orange.
This is often seen in metcons that include weightlifting movements. You want to get stronger so you opt for the prescribed load because you understand that to get stronger you need to be able to move heavier loads. You know that you can manage the heavier load too. And you do manage it–you get through some rounds and reps, but because the load was relatively too heavy for the metcon, you either didn’t complete a decent amount of reps or came well short of the time cap.
You ate an apple hoping for it to taste like an orange. But you got neither apple nor orange.
Metcons improve your endurance and stamina. That’s precisely what they are programmed for, even if they include weightlifting movements. That is why, depending on the goals of the workout, the guideline loads are relatively low to moderate–to enable you to get lots of work done in minimal time. When you opt for a load that is too heavy, you don’t get enough work done. You don’t improve your endurance and stamina. No apple.
Metcons do not make you stronger. They are not programmed to make you stronger. No orange.
Strength days are programmed to make you stronger. So on strength days, go as heavy as form permits. Even risk failing a lift here and there because that’s part of the strength process. But go into a strength-based session with the go heavy mindset and with consistency and persistence you will get stronger.
In contrast, go into metcons with the hard and fast mindset–get as much done as you can in as little time as possible. That will improve your endurance and stamina.
There certainly is some carry over between training methods, but it’s indirect and minimal. Strength training gets you strong, metcons improve your endurance and stamina. Apples and oranges 😉
I’d like to interrupt the nutrition and lifestyle blogs for an update on the programming. I’ve been slack with giving you insights into the programming, so back to it at the start of new training blocks.
A quick review on the previous two training blocks first. The 12-week block that began in April had a strength focus. We managed that by keeping strength work to the the first piece of a session IF there were two pieces to that session. Everyone knows that the barbell is a strength development tool, but gymnastics also plays a massive role in strength development. We therefore performed a lot of strict gymnastics work for the L2 stream, and either static or eccentric work for the L1 streams.
The 13-week block that followed that (the most recent block) continued with a strength focus but with less overall volume to make way for better intensity.
Remember, a focus is NOT a bias, because a bias would require sacrificing other components of fitness. Our aim is a broad and inclusive fitness so although we focused on strength, we didn’t overlook conditioning work. And the great results we had in tests of stamina and endurance during Test Weeks proved that all components of fitness improved.
Here’s what you can expect over the current training block:
- Firstly, every time we do strength work it will continue to be max effort work. That means you’ll go to the heaviest load you can manage, for that day, and for that rep scheme. You’ll typically see “heavy single/double/triple” in the notes. The differences between a heavy single and a 1-RM, for example, is that on a 1-RM attempt you may end up failing a lift because you’re attempting a PB. Whereas on a heavy single there should be no misses because you aren’t maxing out. This develops confidence in the lift, which in turn develops strength, and stronger people are harder to kill.
- The strength movement will change on every max effort day. For example, a sumo deadlift today for lower body strength and a squat next time. This helps to prevent or break plateaus, and also give you more exposure to different strength work more often.
- There are always differences in the L1 and L2 streams here. L1 athletes will simply have more volume and relatively less load.
- Strict gymnastics movements will still be used for upper body strength development, but the L2 stream will have these movements in conditioning workouts too.
Endurance & Stamina Conditioning
- This will be the new focus. It doesn’t mean more conditioning workouts than previously, in fact, we’ll be doing less overall work because we want good intensity (power output) in metcons. But metcons will be the first piece IF there are two pieces in a workout. IF there are two pieces, the barbell strength work will come after the metcon.
- As always, there’ll be a good variety of low, medium and high rep workouts along with a good dose of long interval-based workouts.
- The Endurance Club is going to hit a running cycle. This will be interval-based training and it will include a lot of accessory-based metcons as part of the sessions. I’m also going to program a ‘Day 2’ for anyone who wants to do a second day of running in a week (this will be self directed, though).
- The amount of gymnastics work we’ve done in previous cycles remains largely the same but moves from being a part of the strength pieces to the metcons. There’ll be high volume gymnastics movements in metcons and they’ll often be combined with interfering movements.
- Gymnastics comes before weightlifting in the hierarchy of athletic development, so we’ll never sacrifice it.
- As noted above, instead of just strict gymnastics work you’ll be doing more gymnastics-based metcons in order to improve upper body endurance and stamina. Sometimes a gymnastics movement will be coupled with a weightlifting movement that will interfere with the working muscles. You may not feel the lungs work much on these, but you’ll feel a lot of local muscular fatigue. Aside from swimming and cross country skiing (like the ski-erg), this is the best way to improve the endurance of upper body musculature.
- On other days, gymnastics conditioning will be more skill-based. This is where you’ll learn the progressions for a new skill, improve a skill, or improve your capacity in a skill. As Greg Glassman says, a fitness program devoid of gymnastics practice and skills is deficient. This is also the sort of stuff you can’t do anywhere else. Even many CrossFit affiliates don’t have the space or resources for gymnastics skill work like rope climbs.
- For those who are able to perform the more technical gymnastics movements, we’ll be increasing technicality and growing your capacity in those movements.
- The Barbell Club will have a low volume on-the-minute style program to develop consistency under heavy loads. This format also develops your ability to complete technical movements under tight time restrictions and fatigue — that carries over in to every other aspect of fitness too.
- The UpSkill plan is there for anyone who needs individually tailored work. We have people working on gymnastics, weightlifting, strength, conditioning, and even rehab or basic skills like skipping. If you’d like more info on this plan, get in touch!
- A good CrossFit program should be injury prevention by design. However, I do still believe that there is room for accessory work. Such work is intended to keep you injury free by preventing any imbalances from developing while keeping the areas of most use (shoulders, midlines, knees) strong and stable. This work will be programmed on occasion to keep you healthy. You can either ass around while we do this, or you can care about your health and performance and apply yourself just as you do in metcons.
This 12-week block will take us right into the December holiday season and when we’re back in the new year we continue the conditioning focus to ensure that you’re all ready for the Open!
To remind you yet again, the big picture is to continue developing a broad fitness throughout life. We’re always working on all aspects of fitness.
Sometimes, you need a more tailored approach. That’s why we have Tayla, the Client Services Manager, to help you with goal setting, but more importantly to direct you to the best services we have to offer for YOUR goals. So if you’re feeling a bit stuck, get in touch!
Posts tagged with ‘performance’