CrossFit's Definition Interpreted
I was recently asked about programming, specifically about strength exercises and whether they should be done before or after a metcon, if even at all. This is a super interesting topic with different schools of thought, opinions, and applications. Since CrossFit came to be in the early 2000’s, they have left it to each affiliate to determine what their programming would be. Just like a story passing 5 sets of ears and mouths, as more and more affiliates came to be and more and more personal/opinionated biases presented themselves, the essence of CrossFit had been changed. All of a sudden their were CrossFit gyms that focused on Olympic Weightlifting everyday (Snatch & Clean & Jerk), or Powerlifting (Squat, Deadlift, Press), or whose average metcon length was 30 minutes with no rests. In the goal to be jack of all trades and a specialist to none it appears that many gyms calling themselves CrossFit gyms were actually extremely biased to one facet of fitness, the opposite of what CrossFit prescribes.
We believe in the roots of what we interpret CrossFit to be. CrossFit defines itself as:
Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity
CrossFit’s goal is:
A Broad, General, and Inclusive Fitness
CrossFit defines fitness as:
Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains
We interpret all of this as:
Non-routine, exercises that mimic everyday life movement patterns, performed with relative speed, across an array of time intervals
CrossFit further defines Power as:
Power = (Force x Distance)/Time
Power output therefore becomes one’s ability to:
Apply force = move a weight
For a distance = repetitions or actual distance
Over the time it took to complete the task = Various Times
Putting all of this together, the root of fitness is one’s ability to create power in many different ways for numerous amounts of time. In my head this is screaming metcon or WOD, the Workout of the Day. With that said, if a gym is truly a CrossFit gym, the majority of their programming should be biased towards the workout of the day. Anything that would substantially decrease the intensity of the workout would therefore be negatively affecting one’s ability to create power and in turn be negatively affecting their fitness.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love strength training. I love the feeling of lifting something heavy. I love the PR and how powerful it makes me feel. Strength sessions definitely have their place within CrossFit. They are great for increasing maximal strength, strengthening the Central Nervous System, and also at building Power, although over just a very short time interval. But they should hardly be the sole, let alone majority focus of proper CrossFit programming. If you follow CrossFit.com, they put up a workout everyday and often have days dedicated solely to one particular lift. However, not every day, not even close. They know that the fitness rests in the ability to have work capacity across broad time and modal domains. I myself have been a part of particular CrossFit programs where the programming was “strength biased,” mid-heavy lifts prior to the workout, 5-6 days per week. I got stronger. My ability to create power over time suffered although my ability to create power in 15 seconds or less improved. My benchmark workout times either remained stale or got worse. And...my body felt broken. Strength sessions wouldn’t affect WOD’s as much if they were performed as stand alone workouts with rest and meals before the WOD. But, that would mean that we’d be at the gym numerous times each day, essentially what Professional CrossFitters do. Most of us only have 75 minutes a day and it has to be the most effective 75 minutes.
To answer questions asked of me:
“Why do we perform strength lifts after workouts sometimes or not at all?
The key focus for that day is likely the metcon. We don’t want to program anything prior that will hinder your energy output for that WOD and negatively affect you getting fitter. On top of this, we must understand that we should be capable of lifting relatively heavy under fatigue, so we’ll mix that in occasionally. We’ll also do some bodyweight strength and or static position work post workout which may not be affected by fatigue as much.
“Why do we have strength sessions prior to the workout then?”
Strength sessions prior to the workout can be for several reasons. One, it may be that the focus for that day is strength. We want the majority of your energy going into that and we’ll typically follow with a brief “burner” style WOD. Two, it is possible that the strength is more technique based and a load up to your workout which may still be the key focus of the day. Technique is important and so is loading up to working weight properly. Three, sometimes the focus of the day is a particular movement and not necessarily strength or the WOD. In these cases, you may see a lift at heavier loads followed by the same lift or a similar one at lighter loads in the WOD.
In all, there are various reasons for programming anything. What, when, where, how? Everyone has their own take on what is best. What’s most important is that you properly serve the needs of your clients. Many of us wrote our goals on the board for this year and many of those goals were strength related. However when we ask why someone does CrossFit, the overwhelming majority of the time, the answer is based in the desire to live a happier, healthier, more capable life. Wants versus Needs. We say we want PRs but in our heart we know we need Fitness. Fitness is the fountain of youth. It’s what hedges our bet against Sickness on the continuum. Get yourself as far to the right as possible so when life gets in the way you have more time.
Sickness ---> Wellness ---> Fitness
To wrap it up, trust in CrossFit. Trust in A Broad General and Inclusive Fitness that will Increase Your Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains. In my life, whenever I’ve focused on what I need I often also get what I want.