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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?

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Note: This post originally appeared on the South Loop Strength & Conditioning blog.

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.

Testing the CP battery

This is a classic CP battery test for fitness athletes courtesy of James FitzGerald and Max El-Hag.

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:

EMOTM 20:
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 workout we came up with was the following:

For time:
10 clean & jerks @ 55-65%
30 wall balls (20/14)
30 KB swings (55/35)
10 muscle-ups
30 box jumps, step down (24/20)
30 airdyne calories
10 wall climbs

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.

At this point, many coaches and athletes understan...

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Jon, Todd and Luke break down when to modify training and when to do it as written.

People tend to either constantly tinker with their training – making modifications without understanding what they’re doing or why they’re doing it – or they tend to relentlessly follow every letter written in their program – regardless of how they’re feeling on a given day.

The best are able to find a happy medium, which results in them getting the best training in for them over time. How can we find that sweet spot?

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Are you excited about the CrossFit Games Open? Do you want to produce a video giving out advice to athletes after the workout is announced? Well here it is – the ultimate guide and breakdown to building your own instructional video.

This is a crucial aspect of any coach’s online repertoire. And, no one will respect you as a coach unless you’re out there at least seeming like you’re giving out some solid advice to the fitness enthusiast community on the world wide web.

If you want to get updates on newly released videos from the Legion coaches click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Since the Open is often very heavy on conditioning and high repetition gymnastics, many athletes looking to do well attempt to reduce their bodyweight and their body fat percentage leading into the Open.

Is this a good idea? Coach Dan Magalhaes has some insights here into when an athlete may want to focus on their body composition – and when it can have a catastrophic effect on performance.

[0:27] Should I lose body fat and cut weight going into the Open?
[2:06] Do I need to hit a specific body fat percentage in order to be competitive?
[3:36] Is there a time for performance-based athletes to focus on changing body composition?
[4:24] Why do many high level athletes claim to “forget to eat all day” while training with high volume and high intensity?
[5:05] What can I expect to happen to my performance while I’m trying to do a cut?

If you want to get updates on newly released videos from the Legion coaches click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

The 2018 CrossFit Games season is just around the corner and the excitement is growing in gyms around the world as people get ready to show how much they’ve improved in the last 12 months. But how much does your open placement tell you about your progress? How much can an athlete expect to jump in the rankings after a year of hard work?

Check out this discussion between coaches Todd and Jon where they discuss athlete improvements and expected results.

If you want to get updates on newly released videos from the Legion coaches click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel!

With the endless stream of Facebook and Instagram videos of athletes performing various trick and skills, you’re bound to have seen some athletes performing movements that you wouldn’t usually associate with CrossFit. On the surface it might seem like these are gimmicky and more to do with show than performance, but there are a lot of things you can be doing in the gym that you typically aren’t going to see in a CrossFit competition but will benefit your performance out on the floor.

Check out this discussion between coaches Todd and Jon where they get into the benefits of non sport specific movements for all athletes

If you want to get updates on newly released videos from the Legion coaches click here and subscribe to our youtube channel!

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.