Sunday 7.08.12

The only reason we train with barbells is because our insurance doesn't cover calves.  

"Training for strength is as old as civilization itself. The Greek tale of Milos serves to date the antiquity of an interest in physical development, an understanding of the processes by which it is acquired. Milo is said to have lifted a calf every day, and grew stronger as the calf grew larger. The progressive nature of strength development was known thousands of years ago, but only recently (in terms of the scope of history) has the problem been tackled by technology."

This quote is from the opening paragraph of "Starting Strength" by Mark Rippetoe. If you haven't read it, stop what you're doing and go read it. I'll wait.

Today, we don't need to lift calfs to get stronger, we have barbells, but the lesson still holds true. If you force yourself to lift a continually heavier load week after week, your body will adapt to the stimulus by getting stronger. This style of strength training has been called "linear progression" and "progressive overload" training. This is the best way for novice lifters to develop a base of strength and lean mass, and unless you have been lifting for years and years and possess a 3x Body Weight deadlift (which is ALL of us), than you are still a novice and can benefit form this style of weight training.

In order to force our bodies to adapt and become stronger in a more progressive and linear fashion, for the next three months The Compound will run an experiment in our strength workouts. We are going to focus on the Back Squat, the Deadlift, the standing Shoulder Press, and the Power Clean each week, with the goal of adding weight to the bar each and every week. We will work in the 5-rep range, as this has been found to be the optimal range for gains in strength and lean muscle building in most people, with the exception of power cleans which will be worked in the 3-rep range.

For everyone who has come to a class for the first time when we deadlifted, squatted, or pressed, you have seen this. We start you with a very light weight (usually just the bar), and work a set of 5. We repeat sets of 5 adding small increments to the bar until we see the weight start to slow down. Please note, I did not say we work to our max, but simply we watch for the bar to slow down. At that point, we do two more sets with the same weight and call it a day. The next time you come in to do the same movement, we will use the number that you set the prior week as a guide. So for all of us over the next few months our weeks will look like this:

Monday: Back Squat 3x5 (3-5 warm up sets, 3 working sets of 5 reps, adding weight each week)
Tuesday Deadlift 1x5( 3-5 warm up sets then one set of 5 reps, adding weight each week)
Wednesday: Skill work
Thursday: Shoulder Press (3-5 warm up sets, 3 working sets of 5 reps, adding weight each week)
Friday: Power Clean 5x3 (3-5 warm up sets, then 5 working sets of 3 reps, adding weight each week)
Saturday: Skill Work

Each strength session will be followed by a conditioning circuit, the way we always do. The only difference is that the strength lifts will be the same each week. The conditioning will have all of the other movements (overhead squats, push presses, kb's, pull ups, etc.) so our abilities in those areas will not diminish, and skill work will still be programmed twice a week as well. We will also program de-loading weeks where we don't do any of these lifts, so that we give our muscles and nervous systems a break, then we'll get back to progressive overload.

We will start off with relatively light weights. Back Squat and Shoulder Press 3 sets x 5 reps at 70%, Deadlift 1 set x 5 reps at 70%, and Power Clean 5 sets x 3 reps at 70%. If we are talking about squatting or deadlifting, we will add 5lbs to last week’s number working 3 sets of 5 for the squat (all at the same weight) or one set of 5 for the deadlift. If we are pressing, we will add 2.5lbs for 3 sets of 5). But if you can only add 1 pound, that is fine and you are still progressing. The goal in this program is to continue week after week adding these small increments to increase strength dramatically over time.

You may think after a week or two that you can lift more and you're just going to jump 15lbs the next week. Making bigger jumps only sabotages you and the program in the end. If you make a big jump, you are pushing yourself to your true max too quickly and we will have to re-set the weight back down. Also, hitting your true max too often teaches poor movement and you do not learn to lift properly. Remember, if you add 5lbs to your squat each week for 6 weeks, that is 30 lbs. Don’t make big jumps, follow the program and the strength and weight on the bar will increase.

By following this experiment, I believe that we can push our CrossFit Totals up and improve our abilities all around for everything we do in the gym and out. The thinking will be done for you, but this article is meant for those who want to understand the thinking behind the process. Get ready to get stronger.

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