So, you’re two days into the cycle and already experiencing symptoms of WOD withdrawal.
Conversations at dinner sound something like this:
Addict: What is I lose my gains?
Significant other: It’s a six week strength cycle, you’ll be fine.
Addict: …yeah, but like, what if I lose my gains…?
You’re starting to forget what the smell of your gym floor is like because you haven’t had to lie down after a workout. You’re already trying to guess the workout split for the rest of the week to figure out where you can slip in a Grace or a Fran or an Isabel.
A little quick one, just to get a taste.
So it’s time to review some things:
What This Cycle is For
Priority 1: Strength improvement in the back squat, deadlift, strict press, push press, and strict gymnastics.
Priority 2: Maintain aerobic capacity. If it decreases slightly, that is ok too, but we want mostly maintain GPP to transition back to sport specific training more easily.
We address both these specific priorities concurrently. Why?
- Because the combination of high intensity (strength work) and low-intensity work (aerobic work) is sustainable over six weeks and are able to be performed with the quality necessary to make progress. Imagine crushing yourself through an hour and half “leg day” – this was Monday – and then having to do Macho Man, IWT, or some other intense interval. You might survive it once, maybe twice, before you quit, get “a weird pain” in your hip, or explode in a pile of broken flesh and tendons. And even if you possess a freakish ability to withstand punishment, the quality of effort wouldn’t be there. The amount of recovery it would take would be enormous, hurting or stopping progress in the cycle because we’re “just tired”. But ending a leg day with 30 minutes of aerobic work is a doable thing with the quality effort necessary to make progress in that area of fitness.
- Higher intensity metabolic work can interfere with strength progress because of the need to dig deep into the same muscle fibers and movement patterns, hindering adaption. Think about pounding your legs, hips and back during strength work and then having to perform 21-15-9 Front Squats 185/135, Burpees, and 400m run. You might think you’re hitting the piece fast, but you’re hitting it only as fast as you’re able considering the difficult strength work that came before it. In other words, not fast at all. James Fitzgerald said something once like, “We’re training fitness, not fatigue.” Train fast, be fast. Train slow, be slow. Tired doesn’t mean intensity, intensity means intensity. We want to pound muscle fibers and then allow them opportunity to recover in order to build strength – not just constantly be tired.
- Aerobic work can improve the effects of strength work. See this and this
- Strength work is awesome. Metcons are awesome. But one of the most beneficial but “least awesome” pieces of work people neglect is aerobic work. So if anything, this cycle will expose you to the benefits of going “long and slow”. Note: CrossFitters talking “long and slow” is different from endurance athletes talking about long a slow. When I talk about CrossFit long and slow, I’m thinking the 30-60 minute range. When endurance athlete talk long and slow, they’re thinking 60 minutes to multiple hours.
What to expect
You can expect to get stronger. How much so depends on a lot of variables: your genetics, recovery, training intensity, and adherence to the program. It also depends on the efficacy of the program and proper instruction of execution.
You can expect some decrease in conditioning. The kind of conditioning you’ll lose thought comes back quickly, so the goals here is to create a sizable leap in strength to allow more progress to be made when you return to sport specific work.
You can expect lots of strength work, lots of longer pieces of aerobic work, and lots of rest and recovery. You can expect to improve muscle control and tension, especially and end ranges with our PAILS/RAILS lower body and upper body prep work. You can expect that I will transition you back into sport-specific work in a gradual and intelligent way so that we can reap our strength gains and then hit the ground running with CompTrain or whatever generalized programming source you use.
Who This Cycle is For
Person 1: Your conditioning is superb, your strength is not. You’ve tried different sources of CrossFit specific programming and your conditioning continues to get better, but your strength is stuck. You need strength, but strength that will carry over to your sport post-cycle.
Person 2: You’re the above person, and you need to start gaining functional body mass.
Person 3: You’re a competitive CrossFitter looking for a quick strength cycle before you start getting too close to the Open.
Person 4: You’re into CrossFit, but want to explore a different approach to training, or are just looking for a fun six week change of pace.
Who This Cycle is Not For
Person 1: You constantly bastardize programs in a quest to “make them better”. I’m not hating you for this, and you can do what you want. But don’t say “I’m going to follow your program but add more work in”. Then it’s not my program, don’t drag me into this.
Person 2: You’re generally weak in all areas.
Now if your want to do this cycle because it’s fun, that is awesome. Fun is awesome, a totally legitimate reason for choosing a certain program or cycle, and something more people should do. But if your goal is to improve your competitive level of performance and you have poor conditioning, strength, barbell skills, and gymnastics, you’re better off in a more generalized program. You’ll make strength gains here, but the time off from the other work combined with the time it will take to improve those other areas post-cycle makes this cycle not a great fit for you.