Too thin to win?

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”. 🙂

marathoner

 

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! 🙂

You are being lied to part two

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.

you-are-being-lied-to

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!

Active recovery – what it is and what it isn’t

With Crossfit, blogs and the never-ending search for that something extra you can do to be better than the burpee-boi next to you the term “active recovery” is getting a lot of attention lately.

First of all, let me make one thing clear – the best way to get better than the next guy is 1) to stop comparing yourself to others and 2) to have a great training foundation – not to look for the “next big thing”.

That said – active recovery techniques have been used for a very long time to good effect. They obviously have their merit

I don’t usually do this, but I decided to throw up a couple of links to some studies:

Cold water baths not better than placebo. I’m not really sure how you can immerse people into water that they think is cold but isn’t. But! The study shows that neutral temperature water doesn’t work but cold and placebo works.

Positive effect of specific low-frequency electrical stimulation during short-term recovery.

So some of the common techniques do work and others don’t. Great.

The main problem with active recovery is not actually active recovery – it’s really not that much of a stretch to recommend walking, very light calisthenics or similar for recovery. The problem is a very common one – in the CF community in particular, it’s becoming increasingly popular to do “active recovery”. Only problem is – most CFers are already doing so much they don’t need “active” recovery, they need full recovery.

I regularly say that for most CFers the best training session they can add to their program is a nap. What most do though is take an idea that’s good on paper (active recovery) and use it as an excuse to train more.

Active recovery is NOT training. Active recovery should barely make you sweat.

As with anything it’s important to analyse your programming and look at what you’re trying to accomplish with a given element of the program. What are you trying to accomplish with a 2K swim? A 10k run?

A recovery day should put back points on your recovery “account” – not take away from it.

In direct response to a question on FB from Lasse about where to draw the line between active recovery and training, I’ll throw out a couple of guidelines:

  • If you have to go to the gym to do it – it’s probably training, not recovery.
  • Anything more than a light sweat and you’re probably training.
  • Unless you’re a semi-pro athlete, there’s probably no real reason to do AR (and even if you are, complete rest might be better).
  • If you’re not sure if it’s AR or training, it’s DEFINITELY training. 🙂

To sum up: you probably don’t need “active recovery” physically, but some people feel they need it mentally. Do as little as possible – a nap is probably better than pseudo-training for an hour.

Have a great (rest) day. 🙂

I really dislike this exercise with all of my heart

And yet here I am suggesting that you do it.

But why would I recommend an exercise that:

  • Probably doesn’t really build strength or muscle
  • Isn’t “fun” or “sexy” to do
  • Requires quite a bit of space
  • Would gather a crowd at any commercial gym

The answer to that question is really quite simple. This exercise helps put me in a position where I’m able to get stronger and build muscle – while remaining injury-free. And no – it’s not an annoying mobility drill.

The exercise I’m thinking about is the turkish get-up. It’s annoying because it’s slow, requires more balance than brute strength and doesn’t give you a great pump.

What it does really well though is teach you how to move as a whole, teaches stability and it makes me feel good.

TGU

What really bothers me is that I can’t even make a short list of bullet points to sell the exercise to you. Because that’s not really what it does for me. It’s beyond and above exercises, muscle groups, progressions and mobility.

It works well as the last part of a warmup right before you hit your main exercise – 3-5 sets of 1 pr side is plenty. If you want to spice it up a bit, combine it with a waiter walk so you get up, walk 5-10m and get back down. This will fire up your entire system and provide some extra stability work for the midsection and shoulders.

Do it a couple of times a week for a small handful of sets. I promise you it’ll be a good thing.

Must-read book on physical fitness

The sun’s out in beautiful Copenhagen and I’ve been hanging out with the baby and a good book. My wife works every other Saturday which means I’m at home with the baby. I pretty much always go for a long walk and as soon as Laura falls asleep, I sit down with a good book. Great way to spend a morning.

Recently I’ve had this puppy in my pack:
Fit is authored by Kilgore Hartman and Lascek – names you may or may not recognize, so I’ll give you a (very) brief bio on them.

Kilgore: Wrote Starting Strength and Practical Programming with Mark Rippetoe.

Hartman: is a doctor in Exercise Physiology

Lascek: Studied under Rippetoe and worked for him for a couple of years and runs 70sbig.com. Has written a small handful books.

These guys are not just random bums, they know which way is up on a barbell for sure.

What ties them all together in a way is their connection to Mark Rippetoe, though they’re very far from being mini-Rips. You’re not gonna find any “YNDTP” statements in this book, and you’re not gonna find any insults. These guys are very nice and the book is great and informative.

What really sets Fit apart is the parts on cardiovascular training and specifically multi-modal or cross training. This book has none of the “DO STARTING STRENGTH OR BE AN IDIOT”-bravado, but instead focusses on meeting the reader at a common ground. For most people, simply squatting, deadlifting and pressing all the time is not gonna get them to where they want. Most people want something that gets the heart beating a little faster now and then.

This books describes in a detailed but readable way how to implement different kinds of cardiovascular training or even (*gasp*) CrossFit into your training without killing your precious GAINZ.

I’d recommend it to anyone interested in strength, health and fitness. Check it out here:

Crossfit is a shitty training program!

It’s all over the internet: Crossfit is a shitty training program, and CFers are idiots who lift with poor form. And it’s true. I know because I’ve been in CrossFit for a long time.

 

But, the internet-gurus that hate on Crossfit are really 1) missing the point and 2) not really up to date with what goes on in CF.

Crossfitters lift with poor form:

The easy and short argument first: the lifting form. Back in 2009 the lifts in CF looked like shit. In 2014 if you sit down and look at the Games, you’ll see 40 lifters who not only lift very well but also move very efficiently. Anybody with one eye and half a brain can see that. Obviously beginners often don’t lift well and some coaches need to be better at teaching movements, but compare it to the idiocy you’ll find a commercial gyms and you’ll see that CF actually isn’t that bad. More often than not, you’ll walk into a gym where the majority knows how to squat.

OHS

CrossFit is a shitty training program!:

It is. Or well, no – it really isn’t. Depending on your perspective. See CF isn’t a “training program”, so logically it either can’t be a bad training program or it definitely is. Sort of like a bicycle is either a bad car or not a car at all depending on your perspective.

Crossfit in the pure mainsite-WOD (or WOD at your box) sense is not training. Training is personalized and goal oriented. Crossfit is in its own words “the sport of fitness” – if you don’t compete in the “sport” what’s left is simply fitness.

Crossfit is a fitness “system”! It’s that simple. Might I add – it’s a good fitness system.

Crossfit shouldn’t be compared with a personalized strength training program anymore than soccer and volleyball should be compared. Crossfit is an alternative to Zumba, pole fitness, spinning and fitness boxing classes – a great alternative that has more people than ever training with free weights. I don’nt really understand how people who want to train hard and use free weights is ever gonna be a bad thing.

The goal of fitness is to make you sweat and burn some calories. Maybe also give you a good endorphin rush. Anything else is a bonus. Crossfit actually (to a certain degree) gets you stronger and teaches you basic movement patterns.

Instead of ridiculing the endless stupid videos of CFers doing stupid shit on Youtube, how about this video:

 

 

Your questions answered

I regularly get all kinds of questions, and I often promise to answer them in future blog posts. Then I make a draft and I forget about it.

So I figured – why not just do a couple of Q’n’A posts?

Obviously, it’s gonna be hard to answer questions without questions, so I’m gonna need a bit of help if we’re gonna do this. Please send me your questions or put them in a comment and I’ll try to bunch them together in a way that makes sense.

Hopefully, there’ll be enough interest to do this regularly.