Competitive fitness is a complicated – it’s hard to think of a sport that requires a person to be proficient at so many different things in so many different ways.
For example, being able to lift more weight than the competition is great, but unfortunately one needs be able to lift lighter weights more time more quickly over longer durations in order to win. Also unfortunately, these qualities of fitness lie on opposite ends of the spectrum of fitness and this is where things start getting complicated. Training absolute strength at the expense of enduring strength is expensive and can lead to a teeter-tottering of capacity; strength goes up, endurance goes down and trying to play catch up leads the opposite to happen.
Trying to train both qualities to their maximum potential simultaneously can be devastating. This is your programming that looks something like this (I’ve also included the coach’s thinking behind prescribing each):
30 snatches at 80%
Six year old Chinese weightlifters do like 1000 reps a day and eat only sushi, so we should too. Plus this is “30” and Isabel is 30 so this will help me not think of too many numbers.
Clean and Jerk – Max attempt
GO FOR A PRRRRRRRRRRRR F YES POST THAT SHIT ON INSTAGRAM
Smolov Week 4 95% 7×5
Dude i totally saw this program on the internet when i googled “squat program”
Double Heavy Fran
Fran sucks so let’s double it and then double the weight to make it quadruply suck. People will think I know what i’m doing
Half Marathon Row for time
They had this at the Games so yeah.
200 pistols for time
Just a little burner – if you want to be the best you have to beat the best and the best can do 200 pistols in, like, 60 seconds or something crazy like that
Programming like this comes from coaches copy/pasting from Games athletes, copy/pasting from multiple sources and claiming it is a Super Program (“I have taken the best from Westside, Russian weightlifters, Invictus, Outlaw Way, and my own expertise and created the only way people should ever train”, or from coaches who simply don’t know that they don’t know.
MORE IS MORE IS MORE YAY FITNESS I’M GOING TO THE GAMES BABY.
People start training like this because it’s fun because training is fun. Then they get pissed because they take a giant brick to the face called “We are but mere humans”. Strength goes away, endurance goes away, fitness goes away – and in their place is injury, constant fatigue and lack of progress.
To be clear, I’m not hating on people using other people’s programming – in fact I encourage it! Especially in cases where coaches expertise lies in coaching and not in programming (yes, these are two completely different things). Being humble enough to know that someone else may help your athletes better than you can shows great character and is a mark of a good person and great coach.
So, we’ve established what a training day should NOT look like in an effort to address the needs of the competitive exerciser.
So what should it look like?
**Pause for a moment and consider that in fitness, there are many ways to the Truth. If you look at what CJ Martin (CrossFit Invictus), Ben Bergeron (CrossFit New England), and James Fitzgerald (OPEX, formerly OPT) prescribe for athletes, they are going to look different. They agree in some areas and disagree in others but they are still very successful. So when you read this and want to fight me, that is AWESOME as long as it’s a conversation supported by knowledge, fueled by conviction, and carried with the mindset that opinions aren’t inherently true.
Here’s an example from this week of training:
Work up to a heavy single back squat – heavy but fast, no grinding
Warm-up to starting snatch weight, then to starting clean and jerk weight
EMOMx8 – 2 Snatches – Go up in weight as able
Rest 3 minutes
EMOMx8 – 2 clean and jerks – go up in weight as able
1 minute break, then
4 Rounds for time:
10 Toes to bar
10 C2B Pullups
Cash-out A: 4 minutes strict HSPU ladder – deficit if possible
Cash-out B: Row 14x 500m Rest 60s
A Cliff Note version of today’s workout in energy system speak would look like this:
Alactic (Absolute strength) – leg
Creatine Phosphate Battery (while improving Olympic Weightlifting technique)
Lactic Endurance – Gymnastic – Density and Skill under fatigue – Upper body emphasis
Aerobic Base Development
The beauty (and the effectiveness) comes from how these things fit together.
Absolute Strength: Notice the high intensity/low volume of the Absolute strength – get something heavy on your back, but not for too long so that it doesn’t affect the snatch/clean and jerk or the row. Boom, you have addressed your strength without interfering with the other work that needs to be done.
Creatine Phosphate Battery – This is your ability to repeat powerful movement over time. Too many reps at once and it starts to become lactic/aerobic – which we’re getting to with the gymnastic work. Too much rest and it becomes alactic which has already been addressed with the Back Squat.
Lactic Endurance – Gymnastic Density: Here we’re challenging local muscular endurance. Notice the lack of a barbell movement or leg dependent work. After the back squat and olympic work there is going to be some accumulated fatigue, and in order to continue training at a high intensity, we focus on the upper body, specifically density work, aka doing more reps in a small amount of time. Even though athletes will be working hard, this also allows a break for the legs which is benefit the rowing work coming up.
In other words, JUST THROW IN SOME THRUSTERS AND THAT WILL MAKE IT SUCKKKKKKK is not a smart approach.
This workout is scored – if the midline is weak, the t2b will burn it out and degrade the C2B, if the grip/arm/shoulder is weak everything will degrade. If neither are weak but there is no skill, fatigue will cause inefficiency. If you are great at everything, you win.
Aerobic Base Development – Ah, the stuff everyone hates but everyone needs. Sit on the Rower for 45+ minutes and row. Because of how today is designed, it is very possible to do well here, but you have to want to, and while it seems obvious, not everyone does. Yes, it is physically challenging, but the mental challenge here is what will cause most people to say “…..umm i have to, like, go and stuff….”
Everything and the kitchen sink. To improve in this sport, everything needs to be improved, but in a way that honors how the human body functions and adapts to stressors (more on this later), and progresses and is prescribed in a cohesive way. Smart programming is not voodoo, but a mixture of knowledge and common sense are keys to ensuring your athletes’ long-term success.