Podcast – Legion Strength & Conditioning

Marques Chaplin

A lot of people want to work on their strength. So, what do they do?

They Google something like “squat program” and come across a Smolov cycle, or a Hatch cycle – or they layer on a weightlifting program on top of their metcons and an additional running program that they found.

While it can be valuable to have dedicated time to work on strength, cyclical aerobic work and mixed modal conditioning pieces separately in a training plan, people can get themselves in trouble by simply stacking these programs on top of each other.

It’s not enough to just “get stronger” – that strength must integrate into your fitness if your goal is to be better at mixed modal sport.

Even for athletes who are well under the “strength threshold” necessary to compete at their desired level would do better to train multiple traits at once to allow the strength adaptation to occur in the context of a training program building multiple capacities of fitness at once.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • The difference between block periodization and concurrent training – so you understand how to get stronger and better conditioned at the same time
  • Why training for powerlifting or weightlifting is different than training for CrossFit – and how to extract the principles of training for strength sports to getting stronger in CrossFit
  • How to think about total stress on your system – and how to best spend your “adaptation currency”

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Mark Stenberg

Athletes tend to get themselves in trouble in two opposite extremes when it comes to pacing.

They either become rigid and fixed on split times, rep counts, and exact rest intervals – or they allow “negotiations” to occur and they deviate from the planned stimulus of the day. And, many times, rigidity and overplanning leads to this kind of renegotiating behavior in athletes prone to streaks of perfectionism.

In training, the goal of specific pieces is not necessarily to hit exact split times in a workout – instead, the goal is to create a stimulus that pushes a certain type of adaptation. This could be easy recovery work, highly uncomfortable threshold training, sprint repeatability, or any number of other things.

Decide the “feeling” that a workout should have before you start, then adjust your pace up and down throughout to achieve your desired outcome. You can negotiate the pace that will best get you your desired outcome, but you shouldn’t be changing the overall goal of the training session once you start.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke and Todd to learn:

  • The difference between pacing to get your best possible score, pacing to get a desired stimulus in a training program and pacing to maximize learning – and why principles from one style of pacing may not be applicable to another
  • Why going faster in training is not always the best way to build the capacity to go faster in competition – and how to learn the specific gears in your engine
  • Why pacing on cyclical work is different than pacing in mixed modal work – and what strategies are best for each modality

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Phil Mansfield & James Jowsey

Many coaches diligently apply the recommendations and best practices that they’ve learned from certifications, mentors and the vast world of internet fitness information…only to see athletes fail to achieve the promised results.

Is it because athletes aren’t compliant?

Or because they’re not focusing enough or trying hard enough?

What’s the secret sauce that’s missing?

Anyone who has coached for awhile has had these feelings – and, at some point, you realize that real life is much more complicated than a lot of fitness information makes it seem. And, that a lot of the protocols and advice out there simply do not work as advertised for most people.

In this conversation with Phil Mansfield and James Jowsey of RedPill Training (probably best known for coaching Sara Sigmundsdottir and Samantha Briggs, respectively), we cover some of the most common misconceptions regarding coaching athletes to improve their movement patterning and mobility, as well as their mindset towards working on the “little things” in training that aren’t always fun or sexy.

Check out the full conversation with Phil and James to learn:

  • How to recognize the root causes of your “mobility” problems – what you think of as tightness may actually come from a lack of stability
  • How athletes should progress through the process of correcting dysfunctional movement patterns or returning from injury – since it’s not as simple as doing some glute-band exercises, nor is it about just throwing some weight on the bar and jumping right back into high rep squat snatches and burpees.
  • Why overcoaching is not just Phil’s pet peeve, but can be toxic to athletes – “If you need someone to shout at you to do five more reps, you’re not going anywhere anyway.”

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Check out more from Phil, James and RedPill Training

Show Notes

  • [0:31] Clarifying the mobility/stability continuum in fitness athletes. “When we walk on ice, we have a smaller step than we do when walking on a stable floor”
  • [16:46] After going through an assessment, how do you work in corrective work for things that come up as a problem? And, the difference between “can’t get into” vs “can’t get out of” range of motion problems.
  • [26:11] How do you peel apart an assessment when someone has a range of motion in an unloaded situation (like reaching overhead with their arm) but struggles to achieve that position in a loaded situation (like hanging from a pull-up bar)?
  • [32:14] “The functional continuum” – how to return to sport from an injury, correct dysfunctional movement patterns, and move well under high metabolic fatigue
  • [39:31] How do you get buy-in from high-level athletes to take steps backward and work on basics?
  • [48:31] “If you need someone to shout at you to do five more reps, you’re not going anywhere anyway.”
  • [57:58] How do you structure an environment for competition amongst competitors? And how much competition do you encourage between athletes?

Allie Boudreau DB Front Squat

People love training their strengths.

And people love training their weaknesses.

But what about the stuff that isn’t fun?

Stuff like movement quality work, corrective exercise, pacing strategy, and skill work.

These things don’t have clear testing protocols, don’t have a clear return on investment in terms of improvement for training time spent, and they have a long time horizon for improvement.

So, how should athletes work on improving these pieces that can be real limiting factors in their performance – but aren’t terribly fun to work on?

Check out the full conversation with Todd and Luke to learn:

  • How to find the right balance in training between stuff that you’re good at so you can maximize your strengths – and “weakness” work so you can shore up your weaknesses
  • How to think about progression in boring work that doesn’t have a clear ROI – like mobility work, corrective exercise, and subtle skill work
  • Why “what got you here won’t get you there” is applicable to the training of high level CrossFit athletes – and the dangers of trying to just always do more training sessions and eat more paleo

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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MaryKay Dreisilker @ WZA

What’s up with the programming at the Sanctional events?

Are events doing a good job of selecting and testing the athletes that are going to be moving on to the CrossFit Games?

Should HQ step in and create specific standards surrounding how they want the testing to run?

Now that we’ve seen a few of these Sanctionals – and Jon and I were at Wodapalooza in person soaking it all in and jostling for position to be able to see our athletes compete – it’s time to break down some initial thoughts on how these things are going.

Check out the full conversation with Jon, Luke & Todd to hear:

  • How athletes will decide which Sanctionals to compete at – and how the variation in programming for events and quality of athletes will impact who qualifies for the CrossFit Games
  • What we think the most common pitfalls are in the programming for high level competitions – and what the implications would be of HQ taking on some regulatory role in what the testing looks like
  • How the “haves” and the “have nots” will react to the need to qualify and compete more regularly – and what this means for structuring a competitive season

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Phil Mansfield

Great coaches are not always known for being the best with e-mail, scheduling, and calendars.

I’d had an intermittent e-mail thread going with Phil Mansfield and James Jowsey about scheduling a podcast or webinar for several weeks – but we’d never managed to nail down a time. Travel schedules for competitions like the Dubai CrossFit Championship and Wodapalooza – as well as time differences between the United States and Europe – impeded our progress in getting something scheduled.
For those who don’t know, Phil is a multi-disciplinary coach with a history competing and/or coaching in rugby, cycling, swimming, triathlon and more. In the CrossFit world, he is best known as the coach to multi-time CrossFit Games podium finisher Sara Sigmundsdottir.

But, sitting in the lounge at the Intercontinental Hotel across the street from Bayfront Park at Wodapalooza, I saw Phil walking past and shouted him down.

Rather than re-entering the chaotic fray of attempting to align international calendars, we picked a time early the next morning to do a recorded, audio discussion on coaching.
We snuck into a conference room that we didn’t belong in, and had a great discussion on Phil’s perspectives on building mental toughness in athletes and how to rebuild athletes who have been “fast-tracked” and skipped key stages of development.

Check out the full conversation with Phil to learn:

  • How pretty much all training can be broken down into two categories – skill acquisition training and threshold training – and how he find the appropriate balance between each
  • How athletes can back off from focusing on their immediate training results and detach their identity from their results so that they can focus on getting better long-term
  • His best trick and exercise for teaching mental toughness and self-awareness in competition – and how he progresses athletes from developing the capacity for self-reflection to being able to apply this skill on the competition floor

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Check out more from Phil and RedPill Training

Show Notes

  • [00:14] A proper coffee
  • [01:34] What are the consequences of fast tracking an athlete – and having someone who is very good in sport but who has skipped steps during athletic development?
  • [06:04] Almost all training can be broken down to either working on skill acquisition or threshold training.
  • [09:51] How to find the appropriate amount of variation in skill acquisition training. “Once we say ‘for time’ everything changes.”
  • [20:49] How do you convince an athlete to potentially back off and focus on rebuilding if they’ve “skipped steps” in their development?
  • [33:18] The value of mindset coaching in competitive sport – and where a lot of people go wrong with their approach to mental toughness.
  • [44:04] How do you help athletes create organization and structure for their thoughts? And how do you translate practicing meta-cognition into training and competing?

Links and Resources Mentioned

Assault Bike

As soon as someone training in CrossFit gets past that initial hump and starts to see some improvements in their training results, a common question starts to haunt their thoughts.

A question vocalized by Peter Steele in Type O Negative’s 1996 classic “Love You to Death.”

“Am I good enough?”

And….”How long until I get good?”

Like most of these kinds of questions, there’s not a clear cut answer. But there are some lessons to be learned from the typical trajectory of development observed for thousands of athletes over time.

There are also some psychological quirks involved that can trick athletes and give them a distorted perspective on their improvement and what their maximum potential may be – and these tricks function in both the positive and negative direction.

In this conversation, Jon, Luke and Todd discuss:

  • The hedonic treadmill – or Assault runner – of adaptation, and why it feels like yo’ure always just short of being at the level that you want to compete at
  • The fast feedback loop of the internet and social media and why this may be great for elevating performance…but terrible for fulfillment and sense of well-being
  • A disagreement in how long it typically will take for an athlete to be able to transition from beginning CrossFit into doing full fledged “competitive” training
  • And finally…Jon’s philosophy of coaching based upon disappointment, regret & shame

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Brigham Squat Clean

You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 hour rule.

And it probably sounded really good.

Put in 10,000 hours of work and become a world class expert at anything!

Problem is, the common explanations of the 10,000 hour rule miss the mark.

The rule originally came from some of Anders Ericsson’s research on deliberate practice and world class performers – then gained notoriety through Malcolm Gladwell’s distillation of the rule in his book “Outliers.”

Now, we’ve got all kinds of goofballs throwing around the “10,000” number in CrossFit like it’s the secret to success.

Not only do they not understand the true discomfort of the deliberate practice concept (meaning that you have to spend an inordinate amount of time deeply focused and right on the edge of your ability with constant feedback and correction), but they’re also improperly applying a concept related to skill acquisition to a sport that is more determined by physiological adaptation (ie how quickly can you recover between a heavy set of power cleans, how much oxygen can you transfer in and out of your muscle cells while doing chest-to-bar pull-ups and burpees, etc.).

We’ve had enough!

In this conversation, Jon, Luke and Todd discuss:

  • Why the amount of data available on the performance of elite CrossFit athletes is both a blessing and a curse – and how people use this data to confuse themselves about where they sit relative to the elite
  • What are the true key performance indicators for CrossFit performance
  • Why adaptation to training over time isn’t linear – and why the rate of adaptation is true “talent”
  • And finally…why everyone should quit talking about 10,000 hours
  • Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Amanda Heuser on the Assault Bike

The training of many elite athletes involves seemingly endless intervals suffering on the assault bike and the erg.

While there seems to be a general understanding now that the flashy 1RM PRs clogging up our Instagram feeds don’t necessarily translate into improve performance in the sport of CrossFit – what about the long hours of grunt work spent rowing, running, biking and skiing?

Are you wasting your time sweatin’ to the oldies on the assault bike? Does hard work actually pay off here?

There is certainly value in putting in work in cyclical modalities, and we use running, rowing, biking, etc. regularly in the training programs for our clients.

However, the link between improving aerobic capacity in something like a 5k row and getting better at twenty minutes of burpee box jumps and DB snatches is a bit more tenuous than one might think.

So, how should we think about integrating running and rowing into our programming?

Is it enough to do some “CrossFit metcons” and layer an interval-based endurance program on top of that?

What is the relationship between improving scores on tests of cyclical aerobic capacity (like a 2k row, 3k run or 10 min assault bike test) and improving mixed modal tests (like Open workout 18.1, 17.1, or named workouts like Kelly or Eva)?

In this conversation, Luke and Todd discuss:
•How cyclical pieces like running and rowing can be used to teach pacing and improve the ability to be sustainable for powerful athletes
•When aerobic capacity is a limiting factor for performance – and when it is not
•The difference between building an aerobic base and training with cyclical modalities to improve performance in CrossFit

Listen below – or in the podcast player of your choice.

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Kristin Miller (CrossFit Mayhem)

Jon and I both worked with Kristin during the NPGL’s amateur GRID tournament – remember GRID? We put together a team of misfits and went out to LA to compete, and we actually did pretty well. We took second overall, which meant that we got an automatic bid to the next year’s tournament. Still waiting for that invite…

Kristin has gone on to make two CrossFit Games appearances with OC3 Black (in 2017) and CrossFit Mayhem Independence (in 2018). She will compete with CrossFit Mayhem Freedom in the 2019 season – which is shaping up to have quite the interesting structure.

Todd & Jon have a conversation with Kristin and discuss:
•How training is planned and structured at CrossFit Mayhem (Hint: There are minimal schedules and Rich programs every day on the fly)
•How Kristin went from starting CrossFit from distance running to competing at the CrossFit Games twice with OC3 Black and with CrossFit Mayhem Independence
•How important team dynamics are during competition – and how to prevent emotion from getting out of control during a competition

Listen Here

Show Notes

  • [0:14] How did Kristin end up at CrossFit Mayhem? And the anxiety of “trying out.”
  • [7:03] Commuting several hours to compete with OC3 in 2016
  • [13:19] Kristin’s dietary restrictions
  • [19:44] Getting started with competing in CrossFit
  • [23:42] What actually happens at Mayhem on a daily basis (There are no schedules)
  • [34:53] Mayhem athletes mostly train individually – so how do they develop the team communication skills necessary to compete?
  • [46:36] How is Mayhem approaching the changes to the 2019 CrossFit Games season?
  • [52:21] How do Mayhem athletes work on their own individual weaknesses while still training as a group?