Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Way You Train is Not "Insane" Part #3

Be sure to read Parts #1 and #2

Quite a few facilities make the claim of ‘top-level’ fitness, ‘hard-core’ training, and the like.  While some gyms/trainers actually do provide these services, they rarely are out banging the gong, announcing to the world about their ‘ultra-elite’ status.  Mostly because they’re too busy in the gym actually training, doing work and achieving results to care about an image.  These results-based gyms are good places to train.  The facility where I train my athletes is such a place.
Peak Performance Personal Training
The Colorado Kettlebell Club
A commonality of these image-boasting gyms is a coaching staff that guarantees to crush you with training.  While it’s important to be encouraged and pushed to reach your maximum performance, it needs to be done following safe, effective and intelligent methods.  It makes no sense to drop someone into a challenge for time, or max reps with technical lifts when the participant hasn’t ever performed the lifts, or has minimal experience and little practice time to master even the most basic lifts.  Not only is this the farthest from elite, or hard-core as you can get, it is dangerous and serious injuries can occur.

Unless a facility/coach has you participate in a beginner program and/or follow a basic strength plan to get you to a level where you can start participating (safely and effectively) in these high-intensity challenges/work-outs, do not work out there!  For further amplification of what qualities to look for (and avoid) in a coach, read "Who is Your Coach?" Parts #1 and #2.
Taking the Time to Learn Good Form for a Lifetime of Lifting
Consider as well that just because these facilities, continually proclaim that their method of training is the best of all time for everyone for any reason, doesn’t mean that it’s actually so.  For example if you wanted to train to compete in (and win) at the CrossFit Games, you might think, and would probably be told by many involved with affiliates, that you should do CF wod’s and only CF wod’s to achieve your goal.  I don’t agree.   Even if you’re already a top athlete in terms of strength and conditioing just doing a bunch of random wod’s in a row leading up to the event will not give you what it takes to win.

For example, in looking at this year’s CF Games, there is a steady diet of Olympic style lifts and variations of Oly lifts across the board in the Individual, Team and Masters’ Competitions.  Which in my opinion is great.  But, you don’t get good at Oly lifts, like the Snatch, or other variations (think Overhead Squat, Front Squat, Thruster, etc.), by doing them once in a while, or whenever they show up randomly in your training regimen.  These types of lifts are extremely technical and difficult and are skills that require mastery, not a novice-level acquaintance. 

Just ask any veteran Olympic lifter how long it took them to master the snatch or the clean and jerk and how much time they spent practicing the technical aspect of the lifts before working on lifting more weight.  Chances are that they did the lifts almost every day of every week for years.  What I’m saying here is that a specific, progressive plan with ample frequency is required to achieve mastery, not a random method or one that’s founded on ‘ultra-variety’.     

And while we’re talking about it, what exactly is elite?  In the Olympic Lifting world this guy is at the top of list:

Nothing like snatching 205 Kg (that’s 451#) in a practice session.  In looking at some stats for top CF athletes, their best snatch tops out in the 300# range, only 136 Kg.  While that’s still an impressive load to be hoisting over your head, it is not quite the same standard. 

What about other weightlifting domains, such as powerlifting and strongman competitions (Deadlift, Squat, Bench and Weighed Carries)?  The best in the world are putting up some huge numbers in the main lifts.  The video below is a typical example of a strongman event:

The dude just squatted 715# (324 Kg) for 7 reps like it was nothing.  Compare that to the low-500# (226 Kg) top max squat range for some popular CF athletes.  Nowhere near the best.

So under what circumstances are CF athletes actually elite then?  Look around your gym today and tell me if you see anyone squatting in the low-500’s, doing deadlifts in the mid-to-upper-500’s and then stepping over to the rower (ERG) to pump out a sub-1:20 500m time and you’ll get your answer.  Top CF athlete stats are very impressive, but only when compared to your general gym population.  When you compare them (as my previous examples demonstrate) to the best in the world at each specific category or style of lifting, or in a top high school, college, national team training facility setting, they’re stats aren’t so impressive anymore (“there’s always someone out there better than you”, right?).

Does this mean that their style of training or their fitness stats should be discounted?  No.  If more people had the overall fitness abilities I mentioned before, this world would have a much fitter, stronger and healthier population.  And for most people it does indeed represent a higher standard to achieve. Just understand that many top CF athletes have a background in competitive sports/weightlifting before getting into CF.  They developed their top-end strength and conditioning while participating in college athletics or national sport programs, not in a box gym down the street. 

When attacking a training/sports goal there are several styles of training to choose from (strongman, powerlifting, bodybuilding, metabolic, high-intensity, CrossFit, Boot Camp, etc., etc.).  In order to achieve a specific goal, there needs to be an appropriate blend of the applicable training styles that matches the needs of the athlete.  So again, someone says they’d like to do a CF Games and asks me how should they train?  I’m going to assess their overall strength, stamina/conditioning, Olympic lifting skills, plyometric and gymnastic talents before assigning a specific plan of action to get them to their goal.  That means a unique program, not just a prescription to attend 4 days of group class each week.

Don’t settle for an over-hyped, pre-packaged product.  Seek out a quality coach and get a specific, personal program designed to help you achieve your goals and work toward a higher standard.

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