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Fitness Theory and Practice. CrossFit's rationale & foundations. Who is fit? What is fitness?

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Old 11-12-2013, 08:47 PM   #1
Jo Hsu
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Balancing Strength/Weight Gain with Conditioning

Due to a really bad case of IBS, I had a lot of trouble gaining weight at the beginning of my CrossFit career. I was severely underweight when I began and sometimes, when I had a really bad flare, I would lose my hard-earned gains rather quickly. However, it seems like I've finally found a diet and routine that works for me. Since late April, I've consistently put on weight. I've gone from 100lbs to 121 (female, 5'2"). My lifts have seen significant improvement. A good deal of what I've put on is muscle, and I'm damn proud of that. However, I've also gained a bit of fluff-- at least I can see that I've lost definition, but that wasn't hard since I was a stick before. What really bothers me is that my bodyweight movements are now not nearly as efficient as they were when I was a spindly little thing. Whereas I used to be able to do 10-12 strict handstand push-ups, now I need to kip to link 10 together, and any strict HSPUs feel rough. Chest to bar pull-ups, which weren't a problem before, I now have to break into clusters of 2 and 3. Burpees used to be a joke and now I understand why everyone says they suck. What kills me as a matter of personal pride is that I got a single muscle up prior to the weight gain and haven't been able to do one since. Now they feel pretty much impossible again.

I'm not worried about being "too bulky." All that crap about women and bulk makes me laugh. If I could squat over 200 and have a sub-4:00 min Fran and look like She-Hulk, I'd be perfectly happy with that. But I am concerned about putting on dead weight that will slow me down, impede my overall progress in CrossFit, and that'll be difficult to take off later.

For now, strength is still a priority. I'd like to continue getting stronger until sometime closer to the 2014 Open, whereupon I'll eventually return to conditioning with the understanding that that's a lot easier to regain than strength.

However, I'm wondering how people "pace" themselves with strength and the accompanying weight gain? I'd thought that, theoretically, as I got stronger, even though I would weigh more, the increased muscle would be able to keep up with my new mass. But... that hasn't been the case. In the past, when I've tried to be more "careful" with my gains, I've just wound up gaining nothing because I wasn't eating enough and was doing too much conditioning. So... if I keep working on getting stronger and doing regular conditioning, is it possible that eventually things will balance out? Or, how should I gauge my progress? Right now, a bit of backsliding on my HSPU and C2B maxes doesn't seem like anything worth sounding the alarm over... but at what point should I worry? I realize these are vague and difficult questions. In general, I'm just seeking more insight or perhaps just reassurance about the process of going from scrawny-to-less-scrawny... I'm hoping it's normal to have some bodyweight benchmarks backslide. I'm hoping that's those numbers will be easier to recover than the long, demanding process of serious muscle gain.
The Wandering Jomad - The spaz of fitness has arrived
CrossFit Level 1 | USAW Sports Performance Coach

Last edited by Jo Hsu : 11-12-2013 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 11-13-2013, 08:21 AM   #2
Lee Ogden
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Re: Balancing Strength/Weight Gain with Conditioning

I'd be really interested to hear peoples thoughts on this as I suspect I'll be the same boat. I'm very new to CrossFit coming from a background of triathlon/cycling so my strength needs a lot of work.
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Old 11-14-2013, 08:37 PM   #3
Robert Fabsik
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Re: Balancing Strength/Weight Gain with Conditioning

Like many questions, how aggressive you want to be with your bodyweight will depend on your overall training goals.

Sometimes when you gain a little mass, it will take time for the bodyweight exercises to catch up since in a sense you've increased the weight on the bar. If today you benched 115 for 5, you wouldn't expect to bench 125 for 5 next week, but maybe in a few months.

Also, the leaner the gain is the better, but it you were a skinny person without much muscle you may have dominated bodyweight movements but once you put on just 100% muscle, the muscle to the parts of the body that don't directly work pullups/dips etc will make them harder even though you added muscle. A lot of people don't have muscular gluetes, hams and spinal erectors and training can add some mass that can make life tougher. A lot of gymnasts have huge and ripped upper bodies, they still have low fat on their lowerbodies but often time they don't have legs as extreme to their upper body.

When do you begin to fret?

If bodyfat is pushing 20% for men and 30% for women, I'd start to worry about the fluff.

If your conditioning has really tanked.

For most, I think it is best to maximize strength at a certain bodyweight before really worrying about conditioning and bodyfat. Strength is harder to build but often easier to retain compared to conditioning which can build up and down faster.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't watch what you eat or give up on conditioning.
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