WODs & News
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Yesterday marked the completion of our 3rd round of testing and our first complete training year. I have gotten quite a few questions about the “method behind the madness” in our system so what I thought I’d do is share some overview of how we program, and what we were looking for in our most recent batch of testing.
(Bear with me as this gets a little technical)
In our programming what I like to do is look at 3 month blocks or what are called “mesocycles” within each mesocycle are “microcycles” that contain different training points of emphasis. While certain training systems claim to be able to boost all attributes of fitness equally all the time, I find this is just extremely difficult, and more often than not ends with very slow progress in each fitness pathway. What we like to use is a variation of the conjugate system, in which all attributes are trained (strength, power, speed, endurance etc.) but certain ones are favored in a cyclical manner. With all this exercise science “geekery” in mind here is what happened the past three months and why it was such:
Lower Body Strength and The Squat:
I want to talk for a minute about why we do so many squats here at CFR. The squat is, quite simply put, the king of all exercises. A strong squat builds the basis for all athletic movements and is unrivaled in its ability to “bulletproof” the body when performed properly. It is rare that we will have a training day that doesn’t involve some type of squat, from a warm up to strength work to a WOD component. I am a firm believer that movement patterns that we deem essential should be practiced and “grooved” everyday, which is why we almost always have some type of squat and hinge incorporated somewhere in the workout. I concede that not all of us are ready to squat with an added loaded, but the fact remains that striving towards that and continuing to groove that pattern will be hugely beneficial. Another often forgotten point about training in the era of gizmos, gadgets, and quick fixes is that getting stronger in the big lifts fixes ALOT. Getting stronger allows one to be much more resilient, and handle a much greater volume of work.
With that said a huge part of our training in this past cycle was geared around the back squat and as a result the gains there were collectively ASTOUNDING. If I had to pick one test which would be indicative of all others this would be it… I personally guarantee that the athletes who show up on our leader board in the back squat will show up elsewhere too. This was one test that I hoped to see the most progress on and I certainly did. Just about everyone who was regular 3+ days a week made huge strides here, which is awesome.
Squat Vs. Deadlift
Deadlifts are a truly wonderful and primal test of strength. Get tight, load your posterior chain, and rip the weight off the floor… Doesn’t get much better than that. Only problem with deadlifting is that it can absolutely fry your nervous system for up to 2 WEEKS (!) if you go heavy. With that in mind I wanted to see if we could boost our deadlift, while deadlifting once every 2-3 weeks, and squatting more frequently (which is far less of a strain on the CNS). The result here was also excellent… When I see both veteran athletes (with whom progress becomes more challenging) and newer athletes (who will make bigger strides at first) PR I know we are on to something. So what we saw here is that we can still make progress in the deadlift while saving our bodies’ and nervous systems, by squatting more frequently and using accessory hamstring training.
Horizontal Vs. Vertical pressing
This was purely curiosity on my part but if you have been paying attention we had done NO horizontal pressing (externally loaded at least) for the past two months. I wanted to see what would happen to our horizontal pressing strength if we instead focused on various bodyweight pressing movements and olympic overhead derivatives… The result was exactly what I was looking for. The majority were able to maintain if not slightly gain on the floor press (which while not identical is certainly comparable on a macro level to the bench press), which means we can continue to favor standing, gymnastic, and overall more “functional” pressing variations (while still benching on occasion for balance and enjoyment).
This is still (as is completely expected) an area where we need to build comfort in our technique, and learn to use that technique rather than muscle to improve our numbers. What is good is that now the errors we are collectively making are more “advanced errors” and more small scale. This is an ongoing process that we are in no hurry to master, but will remain at the forefront of our sights because of its tremendous benefit.
What I was looking at here was not so much how many reps our score improved by, but how many people were able to now do the full prescribed movement. To improve on an already good gymnastic score requires a hefty amount of volume, which we hadn’t dedicated in this cycle. I did see that our total number of individuals able to do things like Pull-ups, toes to bar, and hand stand push ups increase dramatically. This I believe is a carry over from the overall strength gained from heavy barbell movements, and now we can strive to solidify that with more gymnastic volume.
Short Term Threshold Conditioning (Bike+Row tests)
These are tests that look at our maximal non-oxidative energy systems (short term “go” system) are very variable with what you have been doing within the immediate training cycle. They de-train VERY quickly (within a matter of days) and require very targeted and calculated training to improve above a certain point. Our training the last three months has NOT been geared towards this and as such many of us saw a drop off here… THATS OK! It was meant to be such. As we prepare for the “Open” and get into the winter, these pathways will be focused on to a much greater degree.
So to sum it up:
-What we wanted to go up…went up
-What we expected would drop off slightly, did just that
-We are ALL moving in the right direction
Our next phase of training will have the following focal points within different realms:
–Build the front squat and improve torso angle while front squatting
–Improve comfort in the overhead squat and overhead position in general
–Master Double Under (or continue trying!
–Learn to be comfortable dropping under bar in olympic lifts
-Improve ability to repeat truly maximal efforts in the 2-3 Minute range
Let me know if you have any questions, or if there is anything else you would like to discuss