Last weekend I visited one of my oldest and best friends in Germany. One of the great things about our friendship is that the conversation naturally flows from toilet stories over politics, society and parenthood and crude inside jokes. We pretty much cover everything.
My friend works with some real characters and one of them recently offered this little golden nugget of wisdom:
Winner in highschool, loser in life.
While this obviously doesn’t always hold true, I really like the underlying message. While the “carpe diem”-cliche may seem attractive at first, long-term planning is the way to go. In training and in life.
Training for today, this week or even this month is better than not training at all, but if you really want to kick it up a notch, you have to think long-term. How hard and how heavy you can go this week doesn’t really matter if you’re not training next week. Slow and steady wins the race.
Develop a philosophy over time and stick to it. Results will come.
A couple of years ago I ran into that mantra from a good friend of mine. It was a reference to a movement in CF where athletes became increasingly focused on appearance and, more specifically, abs.
Crossfit was originally marketed as a performance based counter movement to the appearance-based fitness culture. What a load of shit. I don’t think I know anywhere as appearance-centric as Crossfit gyms.
The problem is, if you want single digit bodyfat, performance suffers. For optimal strength and recovery you simply need to focus your eating on performance and not appearance. There’s a reason the only professional athletes that are super ripped are the ones competing in sports with weight classes. Exception to that is extreme endurance athletes, but then again it’s hard to label them as “ripped”. 🙂
Now you’re probably thinking “but Rich Froning….” and that’s a good point. Except for the fact that you’re probably not 1) a mutant and 2) on PEDs.
Simply put – if you’re sporting super chiseled abs, you’re probably hurting your own performance in a major way.
Remember to make the goal the goal. If your goal is to have razor-sharp abs, then that’s fine – I aint judging. If your primary goal is performance though, then try training in the 12-18% bodyfat area for six months and see how much better you’ll perform.
Fuel that engine! 🙂
A couple of days ago, I ran across a statement by a local Crossfit instructor: “doing WODs is not gonna make you weak, until you squat 200 and deadlift 250”. While this statement has some truth to it – it’s problematic in many ways.
First of all – pretty much no training related activity will make you weak if you already are. But any training activity will make the road to getting strong longer – some more than others.
Crossfit – like the fitness concept “BodyPump” or similar concepts are marketed as strength based, but that’s just flat out a lie. The body adapts to the challenges we put it through – Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands – the SAID-principle. Doing something (with or without weights) for ten minutes is not gonna have more carryover to real strength than running a 5k will have to running 100m dash.
Strength is expressed in seconds and is trained in seconds.
Crossfit (and similar fitness concepts) will make you stronger than other cardiovascular training that involves less resistance, but Crossfit is an endurance sport – NOT a strength sport. At least not in the “WOD” form.
What Crossfit will do very well though is stress your system and make you sore – not exactly a great way to get stronger.
While I do think short sessions of metabolic conditioning is a great way to maintain a baseline level of cardiovascular capacity – it will limit how fast your strength can progress.
In the book Fit the authors go in-depth with how three different training modalities (strength, endurance and “metcon”) affect each other. It’s well worth a read if you haven’t already.
Since cardio is a physical quality that’s relatively fast to develop, I always recommend people to build a strength foundation first, and then build cardio on top (if you need/want it) – strength is the slowest physical quality to develop, so it should always be the baseline of a training program. Not through 3-, 5- or 10-minute WODs, but through sets of 1-10 reps with adequate rest.
Don’t buy the marketing hype – they’re lying to you!
Today’s post is about one of the most common cues I hear in the CF community in particular. While the idea behind the cue is good, it’s often used at random and on people it doesn’t apply to at all. Or even worse – on people who aren’t ready for it.
It’s one of the main reasons novices and intermediates get out of position in the beginning of the deadlift and it leads to rounded backs as well as tough lockouts.
Before I reveal the big secret, I’ll share a smaller secret.
A rounded back in the deadlift is often caused by the bar being too far forwards. To compensate and get it back in line (and/or because the upper back is too weak to stay straight with the bar way out in front) – the upper back rounds. This often happens when the hips get too high.
On to the big secret: a result of this cue is that the hips get way too high, the legs too straight and tension in the upper back is lost. But what is this cursed cue?
“Rip it off the floor” or similar cues that promote as much speed and ferocity off the floor are BAD. BAD BAD BAD. While the intention to pull explosively and finish strong is good, what happens 99% of the time with inexperienced lifters is that they lose tightness and positioning. They trade the good position and the easy lockout for a bad position and hard lockout. They stiff-leg it off the floor and burn all the power in the lower back and hamstrings before the lockout.
Most people will deadlift much better if they focus on “squeezing” the bar off the floor and THEN pulling as aggressively as possible. That’ll help you maintain good positioning throughout.
Oh and one last point – pulling fast and heavy is a) mutually exclusive for most people and b) wildly overrated compared to perfect positioning and correctly applied tension.
Over the years I’ve read a silly amount of books on training. I’ve followed quite a few programs and have applied different philosophies to my own training.
Recently when preparing for a presentation at Spartan Mentality Crossfit on strength training, I realized that I’ve developed a philosophy. A system. A way of doing things.
Having a strong belief in a system makes everything less complicated. Just like habits in all other aspects of life – automatized thinking frees up mental capacity.
But – and this is a big but. You don’t want to be too set in your ways either. You have to keep an open mind – that’s how the system will evolve.
My system is based on something as simple and old-fashioned as submaximal training. I don’t believe in killing yourself with the heaviest possible weights on a weekly basis but rather in building yourself up over long time. I have little interest in the short-term success of a program – all I care about is long-term and longevity.
Instead of wondering how fast you can put another 5kg on your squat, I try to figure out how long I can put off adding weight to the bar. The longer I can gain strength at a given weight the better. The slower I can build my strength up, the better. The Chinese philosopher Confucius said something along the lines of:
it doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop
and that’s become somewhat of a mantra for me and my philosophy. Continual progress over time will not only bring great results but it’ll also make the process all the more enjoyable. After all being stuck isn’t all that funny.
- Slow down your progression – even the tiniest progress will add up over the years.
- Instead of thinking sessions and weeks, think years or even two-year periods.
Have a great day. 🙂
I’ve recently found a great and simple way to build up my press. However simple it may sound, it’s been very effective for me and I recently managed to hit 4 solid reps at 95kg/210lbs.
While the number one fix to all pressing movements is simply to gain weight, that’s not practical for most people. Either because they’re happy with their weight or because they’d rather stay somewhat in shape than add bodyweight.
I’ve always enjoyed overhead pressing more than benchpressing and my press is pretty decent (at least compared to my miserable bench press). It’s also been a priority of mine for several years to get the press up.
Realizing my benchpress was shit I decided to give a little more attention after the danish powerlifting championships this year. What I discovered has changed my entire training philosophy.
The fix that unstuck my stubborn press:
I currently train a pressing movement three times each week. Whereas before I’d probably overhead press twice or alternate the movements, I’m now benchpressing twice a week and overhead pressing once.
What I’ve found is that benchpress variations effectively build upper body pressing strength (duh) which has a good carry-over to the press. The press itself obviously has great carry-over to the press, however it’s such a stubborn lift to build, that building overall pressing strength has a better return on time invested (for me at least).
I’ve also changed the way I look at progression entirely. I don’t use any kind of set progression and I’ll often do the exact same workout for several weeks in a row. More weight is not the only kind of progression. Increase quality and speed of reps is even more important.
Finally I’m doing way more reps per set than what I used to do and keeping it way easier. It doesn’t mean I half-ass my training, as I still put maximum force into each and every rep. However I’ll usually finish a set with a good couple of reps in the tank.
Three quick tips:
- A ratio of 2:1 benchpress to press ratio seems to be the sweet spot for me. For support I’ll do inclines and shoulder presses with dumbbells and dips. This builds both presses.
- Don’t just pile the weights on mindlessly. A GREAT set of 5 reps is better than a sloppy set of 7 at the same weight. At least for long-term strength building.
- For both presses (bench and standing) I like to keep the vast majority of my work in the 5-8 rep range at 70-80% intensity. More reps also have the added benefit of making you more swollerestest. Yay.
Get that press up!!
So you’ve booked your summer holiday and you just know you’re gonna get a bit of post-holiday gut going. Gaining about 3-5 kg is pretty much standard for me even though I take precautions. One of the main culprits is ice cream but eating out every day will put weight on most people.
So in addition to the tips in the post mentioned above, I’ve added another weapon in my arsenal – the proactive damage control diet. The goal of this diet is to a) make you look better for the holiday pics and b) minimize the amount of weight you have to diet off when you get home.
What it is:
When you have a planned period of overeating it makes sense to have a planned period of undereating. This is a panic diet and not a long term solution. This is for when you’re flying out in 10-14 days and need damage control.
You’re gonna drastically limit the amount of food you eat for the last week or two leading up to the holiday. Don’t go full retard, but try to get into a deficit of around 1k kcal/day. Key points:
- Keep protein high. Protein saves muscle. Muscle is good.
- Eat as much veg as possible. Veg fills you up, has few kcals.
- Limit carbs as much as possible.
If you do this right, you can drop 3-5 kg in about 14 days. Now some of that is gonna be glycogen and water but that’s unavoidable in a low-carb type diet. Unless you’re an eating machine like I am, that’s gonna be hard work to put back on over a week or two in the sun. Especially if you follow these guidelines.
Please don’t be an idiot and use this is an excuse to starve yourself. A big calorie deficit will over time break you down and get cravings. That’s what the holiday is for. Eat with a passion and enjoy the delicious food, wine and ice cream.