Beyond the Whiteboard : Strength is More Than Getting Stronger

About 90% of our classes follow the structure of having a warmup, a strength portion, and a conditioning portion. The programming our community follows is a system I have developed through 5 years of guessing, trying, stealing, failing, re-trying, and settling on what I feel works best. As usual that statement has a bit more self deprecating humor than the truth actually is, but any good strength and conditioning coach, or coach in general, must admit that their methods while certainly (or hopefully) finished into something that is their own, we all create “our way” from previous programs and coaches who had success before us. Science isn’t something you can create, it’s already created.

 

Hopefully you remember from my scaling post that the most important thing to building fitness is intensity, and intensity can be quickly defined as moving large loads long distances quickly. Lifting heavy weight for sets and reps in our working threshold stimulates hormonal reactions that work during and after our training. The most important of these being the production and release of Human Growth Hormone. Growth Hormone has a lot of negative connotation these days with all the talk about it’s abuse in almost every sport, but it is actually a naturally occurring substance in our body! It is responsible for repairing and rebuilding tissue, burning fat, and even repairing and improving brain and nerve stem tissue. It is basically the hormone of hormones, and WE ALL need it working for us.

 

Through my time developing our programming I fell in love with the idea that building strength is paramount in importance to one’s fitness. This is unequivocally and universally true. People who spend some time each training session focusing on building absolute strength through multi-dimensional lifts (using multiple body parts) drastically increase their intensity and energy usage (aka burning calories) compared to sessions that just involve conditioning and bodyweight movements. The biggest mistake a person can make is thinking that strength training is only for building big, bulky muscles. Strength training the way we do it each day is an important piece to burning fat and improving cognitive functions and builds lean, strong bodies faster than it builds big, bulky ones anyways.

 

STRENGTH FOR THE DAY

 

With all that said let’s get into how I program STRENGTH each day. There are two important things to look at beyond obviously what movement we are doing. First thing to notice is the set and rep scheme dictating how much work is on the table. Second and most important is notice what the focus of the strength for the day is. This can be either to “get your work in” or set a new PR for the given rep scheme.

 

Let’s look at an example of Back Squats.

 

WORK FOCUS STRENGTH SESSION

STRENGTH : High Bar Back Squat

5-5-3-3-2-2

 

The quick analysis is we are performing the high bar back squat with 6 sets. The sets are specified as two sets of of 5, 3, and 2 reps. When the sets and reps are written out this way, the focus is for each  set to be performed at around 80% or higher of your max for that lift, increasing throughout the 6 sets. These would be called “working sets”. It is proven that lifting at 80% or higher is when we create the greatest hormonal response especially in the production and release of GH. So, we want to lift a significant amount of our reps in our cycle at and above this threshold to get all the aforementioned benefits of increased GH in our system. You get your work in throughout the 6 sets.

 

PR FOCUS STRENGTH SESSION

STRENGTH: High Bar Back Squat

Find a 2 rep max

 

The difference again is in how you approach and perform the work. These days the goal is PR,  on the “work” days the end result of a PR or not doesn’t matter as much as the 80% or higher rule.

 

The point is that getting stronger is about an overall accumulation of volume performed at a structured pace throughout a cycle, in our case 7-10 weeks on average. If we always lift with big increases conserving our energy to hit a PR, we might be performing barely any work that is significant in terms of getting stronger. PR days are important for strength building but also the mental game as it’s always good to know we are improving through our work or at least know what we need to focus on through failure. What is hidden in PR days is they are often times hidden de-load days which are important for our mental and physical recovery. Since we perform much fewer working reps we walk away from these sessions with less impact on our bodies, keeping us working but healthy at the same time.

 

As always, when going through your strength work ask your coaches for advice on how to approach. Always remember that no matter what your goals are, big and strong or lean and built, strength training accomplishes these goals. Adapting nutrition to your training usually is the difference between that end result in physical appearance.

 

 

FRIDAY 

 

Strength : Push Jerk
Find a 1 rep max

 

WOD : 15-12-9
Squat Snatch 95/65
Strict Ring Dip
Strict Pull-Up
Lateral Bar Burpees

 

 

S/L1: 75/55 Power Snatch, Scaled Rips and Pull-Up

 

Rx+: 115/75, Dips from Muscle Up, L Pull-Up

 

 

The Program : “16.4”. Strategy will be posted here tomorrow during the day.