In competitive CrossFit, most people tend to either consistently go out too hot on every workout (and have a melt down a few minutes in), or they tend to overpace everything and always feel like they had more in the tank to give.
Based upon this, a coach needs to be able to understand what kind of prescription will give each athlete what he or she needs in order to improve understanding of the appropriate effort for a given situation.
So, is the best way to do this by giving athletes freedom to feel things out? Or is it to give them prescribed paces and weights so that they have to learn how the feel when tasked with accomplishing a specific prescription.
Todd, Jon and Luke break down:
•Why the chaos of CrossFit can disrupt some of the principles of linear progression from traditional endurance and strength training models
•Why prescribed paces and weights can work to hold athletes back in training – so that they can spend their adaptation currency elsewhere
•How to know when athletes don’t know how to pace and need to learn to calm down – and when athletes overpace and need to learn to push themselves
When it comes to “effort” in skill training, it seems that less is more.
Athletes who compete in CrossFit often thrive on giving full effort. They enjoy the process of pushing themselves – and they also believe that, unless they’ve given everything they had in a session – that they did not maximize their time on the gym floor.
In skill acquisition, however, full effort is not necessarily full victory.
In fact, many athletes need to learn to relax as they perform skills like muscle-ups, handstand push-ups, and barbell cycling. Being too tense during workouts with high volumes of these kinds of movements is one of the easiest ways to get really, really tired.
It can be challenging for folks to take a step back and work on improving the quality of their movement through consistent, low intensity practice – and it can also be difficult for them to work on movement in an unstructured “play” type environment without prescribed reps and sets.
On this episode of the Legion podcast, Todd, Jon & Luke discuss the process of skill acquisition in CrossFit athletes:
•Why it’s dangerous to think that you’ve “graduated” past skill work
•The difference between purposefully training movement quality in a fatigued state vs attempting to acquire and improve skills
•The intuitive capacity of the best to correctly select an appropriate movement strategy for a specific demand – and why the rest of us need to work harder at this skill
•The value of unstructured skill work – and why this is so difficult to do for the archetypal CrossFit athlete
Todd and Luke continue to talk through the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season.
The incentives for people to participate in the different competitions will change significantly – and we will see people having to put much more thought into their training as they decide which competitions to truly peak for.
No longer is everyone on roughly the same schedule in terms of shooting to make it through the Open to Regionals, then shooting to make it through Regionals to the Games.
Now, we will see some gamesmanship as far as attempting to schedule the season in a way that makes sense.
We will also see variation in athletes between those who actually have a plan for how to approach multiple events in a season compared to those who just want to throw down all year.
Todd and Luke break down:
•What will the toll of repeated online qualifiers be on athletes?
•Is it possible to create a points structure that allows athletes to bypass the typical qualifying process?
•Is there an opportunity for a crowdsourced peer review process to cut down on the amount of dishonesty in online qualifiers?
•How many teams can an athlete peak in a season? And how will athletes game which events and which qualifiers they choose to do?
•How will programming for the sanctioned events be handled? Will this change the dynamic of how athletes are able to train for and prepare for these events?
Jon and Luke talk through some of the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season (which are still not fully clear yet) – but we do have enough information for athletes to start planning their training.
The structure of the season for most athletes will likely change as the focus shifts away from the Open and more toward the sanctioned CrossFit events.
We will see how this continues to shake out, but here’s our initial thoughts in terms of how to structure training and what to expect.
Jon and Luke break down:
•What do these changes mean to the training structure throughout the year for athletes?
•How much will Open participation change?
•What can bubble athletes on the edge of qualifying for Regionals or the Games look forward to in their training?
•What will change for people who have an opportunity to qualify directly to the Games from the Open?
For many athletes, every training session is a competition and they’re constantly evaluating themselves on their results.
While having an idea of where you sit and what you need to work on is generally a good idea, this can also swing too far.
Athletes often find themselves getting caught in negative emotional spirals when their training results don’t match up with their expectations.
However, there is also a natural variation in daily results. How do you know if you’re outside of that range of acceptable variation? And how do your emotions surrounding your results impact your ability to improve over time?
Todd, Jon and Luke break down:
•How to know when you’re actually overtraining – and when you’re just having a bad day
•What percentage of your max you should be able to hit consistently on your lifts
•Why being overly focused on the outcome of your training sessions can make it more difficult for you to actually get better
Athletes love to get wrecked by a really difficult workout.
People training hard often feel that they didn’t do anything productive unless they’re completely destroyed at the end of a session.
While this desire to push to maximum potential can often be helpful, there is a point past which it is no longer adaptive.
The best in the sport are often pacing just under an all out effort – they’re able to do most of their training at a high but controlled effort. Things that look like crazy difficult EMOMs are actually a blend of skill work and muscle endurance work.
So, how often should an athlete push to full on, rolling on the ground, can’t walk afterwards redline in training?
Todd and Jon break down:
•The dangers of redlining too often
•When in the season to push hard – and when to dial it back
•The psychological reasons that athletes feel that they always need to push themselves as hard as possible in their training sessions
Tempo training has recently become quite popular in the functional fitness space – probably thanks largely to Marcus Filly’s popularization of Functional Bodybuilding.
The folks at OPEX have long been teaching and prescribing tempo training, and Marcus’s functional bodybuilding training started with his work with OPEX head coach Mike Lee.
As I said in this podcast, I kind of like it when solid training principles end up reaching a more “mainstream” level of recognition and acceptance. However, there’s the danger of people starting to take tactical pieces from the internet like tempo training without understanding where it fits in the bigger picture of a training plan.
Todd and Jon break down why we might use tempo training for a competitive fitness athlete – and some of the common pitfalls and errors that athletes run into when attempting to apply the use of tempo in their own training?
At South Loop Strength & Conditioning, we have regular coaches' meetings.
During these meetings, in addition to the standard boring business stuff about new protocols and pending equipment orders, we also spend a lot of time on continuing education.
The prescriptions that we give our clients and our athletes require a subtle understanding of training goals to prescribe correctly – and to coach correctly.
So, we want to ensure that all of our coaches are on the same page in terms of, not just understanding the moment-to-moment of coaching good movement, but also the higher order thinking that goes into designing a training session to get a specific dose response as well as the progression of sessions over the course of a training cycle.
Since a lot of valuable information-sharing and discussion goes on in these meetings, we figured that we'd start sharing some of that with the world.
At one of our meetings earlier this month, we went through a discussion on how to prescribe training for the CP Battery – and how to correctly coach this in both an individual and a group class setting.
A rough explanation of the CP battery is that it is the ability to restore the creatine phosphate pathway (think heavy squats, fast sprints, high jumps, etc.) in order to repeat high percentage efforts.
This capacity is very relevant for people wishing to compete in fitness as a sport (think "heavy" metcons or gymnastics bottlenecks) as well as those looking to compete in repeated sprint sports like soccer or rugby (Check out this paper on repeated sprint athletes.
This video goes pretty deep in some technical aspects of program design, so, if you're into that, I hope you find this very valuable and you get some good insight from it.
Take a look here for some of the notes from the video.
I wanted to put some of the content from the whiteboard right here so that you guys can see some of the concepts written out easily.
8 min to find a max power clean for today
Rest 2 min
8 min AMRAP:
Power cleans @ 90% of today's max (don't use all time personal best)
*For Regional level fitness athletes, you will often see a relatively "high" power clean (~300 pounds for males and ~ 200 pounds for females) and 30+ reps at 90%.
*Top level fitness athletes will start to approach 40 reps in 8 min while also having a "high" power clean.
*For beginners, this test is misleading since they don't have a "true" 1RM power clean based upon either technical issues or based upon total CNS recruitment in the movement pattern.
Training the CP battery: Every minute on the minute
A common way to train the CP battery is through "every minute on the minute" sessions.
We crowd-sourced an EMOTM session for a mid-tier fitness athlete that looked something like this:
1st min: 5 front squats @ 60-75% of 1RM
2nd min: 4-7 kipping handstand push-ups to deficit – tough
3rd min: 3-5 strict chest-to-bar pull-ups – add weight if possible
4th min: 10s airdyne @ 100%
The ranges of percentages and reps allows an athlete in a group training environment to find the right prescription for them. Based upon an individual's capacity in battery work as well as their tendency towards being either explosive or enduring, the relative weight that they're going to be able to use in barbell movements relative to their 1RM is going to be very different.
For the gymnastics movements, giving the athlete a rep range and also allowing an athlete to adjust the deficit on the handstand push-up or the weight on the chest-to-bar pull-up gives them room to find the right degree of difficulty for them relative to their capacity.
We also discussed using watts or rpm to track output on the airdyne, since that is much more sensitive relative to the timeframe of 10s than something like calories or distance.
Training the CP battery: "Grinders"
We also crowd-sourced a grinder chipper as another way to train CP battery for fitness athletes.
The idea behind this workout is that we have "road block" movements in the heavy-ish clean & jerks, the muscle-ups and the wall climbs that force pacing on the rest of the workout. If someone were to go at an all out pace on the wall balls, KB swings, box jumps and airdyne, they would significantly impede their performance on the muscle-ups and wall climbs. So, this type of training session forces pacing and keeps people from going to far past redline, since they intuitively understand that they have to keep their output a bit lower when they have a road block coming up.
Common pitfalls when training the CP battery
When designing this type of training or coaching it, there are a lot of common pitfalls that come up.
*Many people pace this incorrectly – either by not finding something that's hard enough relative to their capacity or by going too hard and falling apart. When doing an EMOTM session, for example, the output should be consistent each minute – or at least within the prescribed rep range. If it's not, the athlete may have selected something that is too difficult, or gone at too hard of a pace on their first few rounds.
*Consider the total volume of a training session. I often use 5 minute AMRAPs as CP battery benchmarks for people. 5 min AMRAP of handstand push-ups, strict chest-to-bar pull-ups, muscle-ups, deadlifts (315/205), etc. Based upon these numbers, I will try to prescribe a battery session that has volume not too far from the total reps that an athlete was able to complete in a 5 minute AMRAP.
*Don't be afraid to manipulate rest periods or work periods. If someone is having a hard time on an EMOTM session, it's perfectly acceptable to either increase their rest so that they're doing work every 90s, or to decrease their work time from, say, 10s on the airdyne to 6s. This is more about getting the correct dose response than completing a workout as written.
I also want to apologize to you guys for some of the questions and responses that you can't hear. We ran this like a normal coaches' meeting without fully taking into account that it would be posted online for viewing consumption. In the future, when we do this type of video, we will do a better job of making sure that we either mic the audience or repeat the questions.
Ask any questions you have on this stuff in the comments as well. I know there can be some subtlety and confusing points here, so let me know and I will do my best to clarify anything that isn't fully explained.