Blog – LEGION Strength & Conditioning

Pyramid schemes are just misunderstood.

Sure, having people pay money to join some sketchy organization just so that the person above them can recoup their buy-in cost is bad. But in training? A pyramid approach is vital to success.

For the athletes at the top of our sport, the peak of their training is on show at competitions.
the very top of the pyramid is what we get to see and what aspiring competitors aim for. But the foundation of the work is unseen by the masses. The foundation is the key to how high the peak of the pyramid can get.

When you break down the skills and attributes required to be successful in the sport of CrossFit, there are so many components to the foundation there. Want to get to 20 unbroken ring muscle ups? You better have shown the ability to repeat sets of 5, to perform a strict rep, to master control of a kip on the rings, to develop the pulling strength to get high enough, to build stability and control to hold the catch position, to ensure your grip endurance can match your reps…

So many pieces go into creating that set of 20, but often get overlooked by the Instagram followers just looking for the next feat to be achieved.

Starting at the foundation for any movement is stability and motor control. If you can’t maintain a good torso position during an air squat, how can you hope to squat 500lbs? If you can’t show perfect bar path, timing and control on a snatch with a PVC, how can you expect to win a snatch ladder event? If you can’t hold a handstand with control, how can you expect to walk 100ft on your hands under fatigue?

Strength and muscular endurance plays a huge role in the foundation of an athlete. Does your lower body work consist only of squats and deadlifts? Or are you doing single leg work, movement through different planes of motion, uneven loading, glute and hamstring focused work, and joint stability work?

If you think you only need to work squats to have high power leg strength in a competition, then think again.

Under fatigue, in a high-paced situation, you’re not going to be moving in a perfect pattern every time. Your body needs to have done the foundational strength work to handle less than ideal bar paths, loading, or fatigue, to be able to perform in that setting.

So while we look at the peak of our sport and admire the performances, don’t forget the foundation that was built to get there. Don’t forget the hours and hours of work that led to the peak of performance.

Join a pyramid scheme and build for your peak.

Tempo Strength Work.

For some it’s the stuff of nightmares, for others it’s the road to improved strength, function and performance. The theory of tempo within training means designating a period of time to perform the eccentric, pause at the bottom, concentric and pause at the top in any movement.

There are many benefits to using a tempo when training but one of the biggest is the ability to keep your results accurate and measurable. The last time you performed a 5RM back squat did you take :05 at the top of the 4th rep to compose yourself? Did you drop to the bottom and bounce back up or did you control the descent and drive up? Without that data, it’s hard to understand the efficacy of your training.

There are several studies highlighting the benefits of increased time during the eccentric loading during strength training when measuring strength increases. A systematic review found that eccentric training led to higher strength and muscle mass levels across 20 different studies. This study found that doing sub maximal eccentric work led to higher levels of strength increase in comparison to overload eccentrics (negatives).

Another advantage to using a tempo is allowing for better movement mechanics. Ever find yourself hitting a heavy lift and you get slightly out of position? If you perform a lift with a set tempo, you’re more likely to stay within the ideal movement pattern as you will notice the difficulty increase as you move away from that position. Once you start to divert from an ideal pattern, the movement becomes less efficient – and therefore harder. Take a :02 eccentric phase on a back squat and you’re likely to be in a better position when you reach the bottom. Pause at the bottom for :05? It’s hard to do that unless your squat position is ideal.

The final thing we’re going to cover is the relation between tempo work and performance within CrossFit. On the surface, you may think that we don’t perform lifts at a tempo and we don’t extend the eccentric or concentric loading times on any lifts in competition. While that is true (other than saving lifts in our catch position) the ability to work in an anaerobic setting under load and maintain stability under muscular fatigue is hugely important. That feeling you get after a :30 max effort assault bike sprint is referred to as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Fran Lung? EPOC. This study highlighted the increased EPOC following increased time under tension from lifting – that’s how you make your set of 5 front squats relevant to improving your anaerobic capacity for a competitive workout (We’re ignoring the obvious benefits of increased 1RM here, as that’s kind of obvious.)

So next time you see Tempo 3112 in your training, stick to it. The suck of turning your lifting sets from :15 of work to :30 are going to help you in more than one way.

A question I often ask my athletes is, “Are you satisfied with the result?” In reality, whichever way you answer I’ll be judging you, but the thought process behind satisfaction gives us important information to build on.

Often people will view being “satisfied” with an outcome as quitting. It’s a popular stance to claim you’re not satisfied despite winning, giving the implication that you’re going to go back and work even harder to become even better. The missing link here is the relation between satisfaction and motivation. Being satisfied with a result doesn’t mean you don’t want to improve, it just means you can appreciate the work it took to get where you are.

The potential downfall of the “never satisfied” attitude is a spiral of negativity towards the outcome of your work. Whether in or out of the gym, never allowing yourself to be happy with the results of your work takes away a lot of the meaning behind the journey. We always hear people talking about the importance of the journey. In the sport of CrossFit it’s perhaps more relevant given the time we spend training in comparison to competing. But, if you can’t take any satisfaction from the outcome of your journey, how can you motivate yourself to continue the journey?

We’ve all experienced at some point (or at least know others who have) a lack of enjoyment in training. One day you’re in the gym and you have a realization that you don’t enjoy being there and can’t wait until you’re done for the day. Maybe it’s just a one day thing when it’s just not clicking. Maybe it’s something that’s been building for a while and you suddenly realize it’s been there for the last month. That’s the time to sit down and re-evaluate your goals, figure out why you’re doing it, and what the journey has given you so far. In all likelihood, your enjoyment is stemming from the amount of satisfaction you’re allowing yourself to take from training and competing.

So, next time you’re frustrated with your training or question why you’re at the gym, take the time to write down the improvements you made in the past 6 months of training. Write down the things you’re proud of doing and what goals you’ve been able to achieve. Before you set yourself new goals, allow yourself to enjoy hitting the old ones.

Allow yourself to be satisfied.

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