Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Word About Heavy Lifting

Hey Gang,

From time to time, Coach A and I are approached by an athlete who has questions about why we are spending class time lifting heavy weights. As it usually turns out, the athlete feels like performing heavy squats for example, isn't very "Crossfit". Typically, the athlete is referring to the fact that while traditional powerlifting and olympic lifting exercises are challenging, since their heart rate didn't hit 200 during the session--they must not really be crossfitting. It is true that Crossfit programming typically blends strength training and metabolic conditioning. It is also true that because we usually "unweight" the athlete in "typical Crossfit" workouts and thus train the athlete for power, we are able to increase speed, some strength, and the components of aerobic and metabolic fitness. However, we believe that solely performing these kinds of workouts will leave the athlete with potentially gaping holes in their "general phyical preparedness", and will ulitmately not advance the athletic capacities of that athlete. But, what we believe the athlete is really saying is that; "The workout didn't feel hard and so it must not be that effective", and that "I feel like I can squat on my own". If Adrian and I have failed to make the case for heavy lifting clear, the fault is our own. We will try to explain ourselves here:

1)As we have now been training with most of our athletes for longer than a few months, it is clear to us that as a group we are most limited by our peak strength.
Many of you are incredibly fit, metabolically that is. But without changes in absolute strength, we will begin to spin our wheels and loose the potential to increase our total work capacities. We must continue to push our strength totals higher so that we can begin to train at lower total percentages of these movements. For example, if we have two runners moving at the same speed, one moving at 90% capacity, and one at 50% of their capacity, which one will be able to increase speed, time, distance, etc? Clearly the athlete with the bigger capacity working at a smaller percentage of their total capacity wins. Many of you are beginning to approach the limits of your strength capacities. So, in order to take the next quantum leap in performance, YOU MUST GET STRONGER. Why do we want to develop a high poundage Clean and Jerk in our atheltes? Because we know that this will increase their capacity to perform a high poundage-HIGH rep Clean and Jerk. And now we are really back talking about "Crossfit" again. If anything, Adrian and I believe we sometimes fail our athletes because we don't lift heavy enough, OFTEN enough! We are never going to be able to deadlift 225 pounds for reps, unless we can deadlift 400lbs! Strength is the next frontier for the athlete looking to improve all of their capacities. For example, it is not an accident that as Pam Lauper's front squat got stronger, her Fran timed dropped. It is also not an accident that the fastest athletes on the planet are also some of the strongest. Most importantly though, we believe that this strength frontier is the most effective way we know to ensure that our athletes are the safest, most injury proof people we can create.

2)The problem with dropping in. We strive to create an atmosphere at the training house that is free from the guilt ladden pressures to attend. We want our athletes to come train with us because they choose to, freely. We believe that our athletes live complex, dynamic lives and can't always train with us when they would like. So if an athlete happens to attend class on days when we are working on the strength aspects of developing our total physical prepardeness, this is quirk of attendance. In the near future will will be addressing this need when we are able to grow and expand. We love that many of our athletes drop in on us only once a week. We believe that we are still able to help them with their training. This is especially true because we believe that our athletes need more strength training than we, or they typically program for.

3)Human athletes tend to reinforce their strengths and put off the training of their weaknesses. One of the reasons our programming works so well, develops the absolute monsters it does, and reduces injury and dysfunction in our athletes so well, is that our athletes are not in absolute charge of their programming. Crossfit works because our programming methodically forces our athletes to address their weaknesses head on, be they issues of flexibility, aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity, power, and so on. Coaching works because your coach is keeping an eye what they believe you need to exceed you own physical and mental capacities. Specifically, if it were up to you soley, you would tend to do the things you are great at more often than you'd do the things you weren't great at (like squatting).

4) Finally, Strength is one of our ten components of fitness. To neglect it is like saying I don't need "Cardio". Strength, times speed is power. Training for power is one of the biggest assets we have in our training tool box. To neglect half of the equation is to neglect our potentials as athletes.

Finally, we also believe in the concept of try it to believe it. You are your own best experiment. If you have been lifting heavy (really have been-with us) and you don't feel like it is improving the other aspects of your fitness, talk with your coach.

coach K


Aaron said...

Great recap of what we were talking about Friday afternoon. Finding the limits of pressing was a good glimpse into where I stand in the strength realm. Looking forward to more if it.

One thing that I feel hasn't been touched on as much, however, is flexibility. While I don't feel it takes a front seat in importance (maybe incorrectly), I don't want to be the "I don't need X" guy. Let's chat about that Tues.


Nicki said...

That was beautifully put!

Heavy said...

Great Stuff Coach K
Robb W.

Carrie said...