CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program. STRENGTH and conditioning. Obviously, strength will be part of everything we do, but how and why?
If you are at Decoded Training Center, strength days are programmed, on average, about one out of every 6 days. It is important to remain focused on strength these days. Strength is much harder to build than cardio or other measures of fitness. As an example, I can take someone who is used to sitting on the couch watching I Love Lucy reruns and have them ready to run a marathon LONG before they can back squat 500 pounds. Cardiovascular endurance comes relatively easy; strength takes years, maybe decades, of dedicated practice to build.
First, let me go on a tangent and clear up a common misconception about strength. There is a difference between muscle strength, or contractile potential, and muscle size, called muscle hypertrophy. Strong muscles don’t necessarily mean large muscles and vice versa. So, first and foremost ladies, stop worrying; GETTING STRONGER WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULKY. There are many examples of athletes who are very lean but can move lots of weight, and there are just as many huge, ripped bodybuilders who can lift relatively little weight. I’ve met yoked-out, professional bodybuilders who could only squat 315 pounds, and not even get below parallel! Muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy are trained in different ways. Strength is formed through smaller sets of 3-5 reps, while hypertrophy is gained through sets of 8-15 reps.
When a strength day appears on the whiteboard, I often see athletes frustrated because they are not leaving pools of sweat on the floor and gasping for air at the end of class. Guess what! You are not supposed to. Strength training requires small sets with lots of rest between. Here is some bad news for all of you athletes that think you must follow a strength day with a metcon or a mile run; you are wasting time and effort. Research has shown that mixing strength training with cardio will negate much of the potential gains in the strength portion. It is advisable to wait several hours to a day between strength and cardio sessions.
If you need more convincing, here are a few reasons focusing on a strength day will benefit you:
Delay Effects of Sarcopenia Sarcopenia is a condition that begins around your 40th birthday. Your muscles start to deteriorate. As you age, this makes you grow weak. Eventually, if you survive long enough, you will not be able to balance yourself or perform simple, every-day tasks. You will be in a wheelchair and need a caretaker (hopefully you didn’t piss off your children too much). Strength training acts as a buffer and fights the effects created by sarcopenia.
Prevention of Osteoporosis Similar to sarcopenia, osteoporosis is the weakening of your bones as you age. Resistance training is the best way to fight and prevent osteoporosis. Look in the CrossFit journal for several stories of elderly persons who had their osteoporosis diagnoses reversed (they were cured) after starting CrossFit. There is not a single drug in all of modern medicine that can make that claim.
Improved Performance Strength training will help your daily WODs. The ability to move heavier weights will help you move lighter weights faster. Also, strength training targets your phosphocreatine metabolic pathway, helping you use carbohydrates stored in muscle cells more efficiently.
Weight Loss Muscle tissue, especially the muscle fibers created by strength training, is very expensive. It takes a lot of calories to build and even more calories to maintain. Stronger muscles increase your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories while you sleep. Over a 24 hour period, you will burn many more calories from a strength day than you will from a 3 mile run. Depending on your eating habits, most of these calories will come from stored body fat!
There are many more benefits of strength days than the few I listed here. I urge you to treat these strength days with the respect they are due. Come to the gym. Lift heavy shit. Don’t run or do a metcon afterwards. Go home, get stronger, and watch the body fat disappear!