I want to start out by saying CrossFit is great. It is something that people look at as a challenge to get in shape. Its fun, it’s constantly varied, it doesn’t seem to get boring and you always feel like you got a good workout. The feeling of camaraderie when working out with a bunch of people and trying not to be last, creates strong bonds and friendships between people who have the same interests. The fact that it is functional movement and not “beach body fitness” is even better!
Most CrossFit gyms include a strength program of some sort before their “met-con” training or “WOD”. However, most people don’t like the strength and prefer the beat down of the WOD. The problem with this is that there comes a point when you start to realize that you’ve just about topped off at the level of conditioning you’re currently at. It becomes very hard to go faster and you feel like you’re at a plateau. I have also heard many CrossFitters say that they wish they had a stronger squat, or they are terrible at weightlifting (snatch, clean & jerk and the most common variation seen in CF…the overhead squat). Some people will complain that they are no good at handstand pushups/ pull-ups/ ring dips and double- unders. When I have heard this directly from the source in the past, I would ask, why? Typically there would be one or two answers. Most commonly would be that it’s never programmed and secondly is because the coach is incapable of teaching it, which is typically why it is never programmed. Well, if you haven’t seen improvement over the past few months in any weakness of yours, what is the reason? To answer that question, you can create a list with Yes or No boxes next to each one of these questions, in this order:
- Does the program you are following give you the opportunity to work on what you need to prioritize (your weakness)? Yes or No
- Are your coaches qualified and able to correctly teach the technique and progression to help you turn your priorities into strengths? Yes or No
- Are you putting in the sincere effort to improve? Yes or No
If you looked at those questions and have an answer other than Yes to any one of them, you need to make a change. Question #3 is really the only one under your control, so I am only going to address #1 and #2.
We do things a little different at Fulcrum than many other CF gyms. We have taken CF down to the individual by offering four different base level programs from which training age and skill level are initially assessed. From that initial assessment we can then help our clients to determine, and work towards attainable fitness goals rather than just tell them that “three on and one off” of CrossFit will get them there. Goals are specific to the individual; therefore, not everyone should be doing the same thing if they wish to achieve specific individual goals. We don’t waste time teaching beginners how to snatch or C&J (or any movement that doesn’t correlate their skill level for that matter) until certain criteria are met. For us, it is more important that you are able to perform the basics safely before increasing the intensity either by weight, volume or tempo. Just decreasing the weight for a certain movement is not enough to elicit the appropriate (or intended) training response.
Our initial assessment helps us and our clients figure out their skill level, training age and training priority. From here, you will know exactly where you need work in order to train at a level optimal for you. Our first and most important focus is a relative strength balance.
A balanced athlete can generally (squat) clean 70-75% of their deadlift, snatch 80-85% of their C&J and 90% of their overhead squat, front squat 85-90% of their back squat, overhead squat 65-70% of their back squat and press 70-75% of their push press. These are relatively broad ranges but are worth thinking about from a balanced strength standpoint. The previous movements are obviously measurements for the advanced athletes; however, they are some of the primary movements from which all other exercises stem from. The basics of these movements are also tested unilaterally and with basic bodyweight movements which are used to test the beginners and intermediates as well. The more balanced you are, the easier it will be to increase your level of fitness with less risk for injury from training. This is why we have focused strength priority training and supplemental programming within the basic levels.