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

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Old 06-17-2005, 03:30 PM   #1
Eric Moffit
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so today i tried the Escalating Density Training (EDT) style of training. w/ EDT you take two (normally antagonistic) exercises and basically try to increase the reps you can do in a given amount of time when you repeat the workout. basic CF stuff focusing on increasing power output. Staley, the creator of EDT, recommends using your 10RM weight for each exercise but starting at 5 reps in an attempt to get as many reps as possible in the 15 minute 'PR Zone'. more reps in the same amount of time equals more power.

well, after the WOD i did a PR Zone coupling front squats and KTEs. not exactly antagonistic exercises but finding functional, multi-joint, antagonistic leg exercises is difficult since the leg functions as one i kinda went hip extension vs. flexion. it went well. i was able to maintain 5 rep sets for a total of 16 sets in 15min. perhaps i shouldve gone a heavier but it definitely wasnt easy. i finished sweaty and pretty beat.

and then i read a post referring to Coach's policy of achieving a score of 18-20 on Tabata squats before doing anything with weight. since i suck at squats, ive been trying to work on them. just last Saturday i did some Tabata squats and got a score of 16/129 (minimum/total). i know, i Coach's standard, i should not be lifting. regardless, this got me thinking. just as CFJ 31 went into great depth comparing different versions of Fran, i wanted to compare my power output during my EDT PR Zone to my most recent Tabata squats. i was interested to see how they compared but, more importantly, i dont want to waste my time w/ less effective protocols. so heres how it went...

205lbs (BWT) X 2.5ft (squat distance) = 512.5ft-lbs/rep
95lbs (barbell) X 2.5ft (barbell's distance) = 237.5ft-lbs/rep

BWT squats - 512.5ft-lbs
95# front squats - 750ft-lbs

now we can compare my performances using the two protocols:

Tabata squats - 512.5ft-lbs/rep X 129reps = 66112.5ft-lbs
EDT front squats - 750ft-lbs/rep X 80reps = 60000ft-lbs

I DID MORE TOTAL WORK DURING THE TABATA INTERVAL!! moreover, it took nearly a fourth of the time to complete my Tabata interval as it did my EDT PR Zone!! that has incredible implications for my power output during the two...

PROTOCOL_____WORK_____/_____TIME_____=_____POWER OUTPUT
Tabata squats - 66112.5ft-lbs / 240sec = 275.5ft-lbs/sec
EDT front squats - 60000ft-lbs / 900sec = 66.7ft-lbs/sec

even if you argue that the power output of the EDT PR Zone is lower because it utilizes two exercises, this simply does not account for a fourfold difference.

so...conclusions...the data definitely illustrates the superiority of the Tabata interval over a weighted EDT PR Zone with regards to power output IN THIS CASE (for me w/ this weight doing this exercise). in all honesty, it says more about me than it does about the protocols. if i want to max my power output, i should do plain old BWT squats, not 95# front squats. similarly, how does this reflect on Coach's policy of Tabata squats prior to weight? i think it perfectly supports it. if we assume that my body supercompensates in some relation to my power output, even though i might think im doing great things for myself with weight, i can produce more power using the Tabata interval and, therefore, become a better squatter faster w/ the Tabata protocol. of course, as CFJ 31 suggests, my power output at any given weight for any given exercise has a ceiling because i can only perform a repitition so fast. once i can repeat that max speed over the entire workout, ive maxed my power output for that exercise/weight combination. thats when i need to add weight and judging by Coach's policy, im guessing its somewhere near one squat/second for the Tabata interval.

in summation, dont squat with weight until you can score 18-20 on Tabata squats...i just love rediscovering the already discovered.
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Old 06-17-2005, 07:30 PM   #2
Ross Hunt
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Way to really pull out the calculator and get to work!
However, while power and work measurements are great starting points for the analysis of exercise, they have certain limitations.
For instance, by the same logic on the basis of which you have insisted that tabata air squats are 'superior' to weighted front squats, I could argue that running 1600 meters at a good clip is superior to doing 'Grace'. For me, running 1600 meters requires moving 175 pounds a distance of (can you guess? :lame:) 1600 meters. Grace requires moving a barbell forty pounds lighter than a meager 200-250 feet or so over the course of the workout. Even if you could somehow figure out how much I move my bodyweight during Grace and factor that in, the work performed during the mile would still dwarf that of Grace. And since it takes me about 5 minutes to do either Grace or the mile, the power requireement of the mile dwarfs that of grace as well.
But we both know that running a steady-state mile is certainly not superior to doing Grace; it is simply a different kind of stimulus, a more monostructural stimulus and (with respect to fitness in general) perhaps a less useful stimulus.
The problem with using work and power output as the basis for an analysis of usefulness of an exercise for fitness becomes dramatically apparent when one tries to compare exercises that chiefly train the CNS to exercises that chiefly train strength-endurance and wind. Marathoners do a lot more 'work' than oly lifters and sprinters.
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Old 06-17-2005, 08:29 PM   #3
Eric Moffit
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great point...comparing exercises solely based on power and work overlooks other merits of the exercises. max strength efforts are the most obvious exception, where, for example, benching 300 twice in 1.5s does not necessarily imply the ability to bench 400 once in 1s (even though theyre equal with regards to power output).

however, i wasnt quite comparing apples to oranges. i was comparing BWT squats to front squats and, therefore, i think im justified in basing my judgements on such calculations. both protocols (my EDT front squats and my Tabata squats) involve the exact same with additional weight and one without. what the differences i noticed in power output imply is MY decreased ability to apply force over a distance in a specific amount of time (i.e. apply power) with additional weight for a squat. im not really comparing two different exercises, just my ability to perform two variations of the exact same exercise.

your point is well-taken, though. it is important to avoid getting caught up with 'the numbers' at the cost of losing sight of the big picture. plus, CrossFit's method of judging an exercise's value (based on functionality, line of action, etc etc) is already plenty sufficient.
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Old 06-17-2005, 08:36 PM   #4
Neill S. Occhiogrosso
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Great post, and I often think similarly. As Ross pointed out, though, there are many difficulties inherent in measuring the output of a workout. Another illustration compares overhead squats to back squats. In your analysis bodyweight squats move your entire body 2.5 feet. Your lower legs barely move, though, and your hips probably cover 2/3 the distance your head does.

Work and power calculations can probably show a lot when analyzing a single exercise and varying the weight, time and volume.

That's just my $.02.
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Old 06-17-2005, 09:03 PM   #5
Eric Moffit
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youre right about the lower legs. but its true in both the BWT squats and front squats, so i considered it negligible. as for the hips compared to the head, i actually made two measurements: one from slightly below my belly button (my 'center of mass') and another from my shoulder (where the barbell lies in a front squat). the measurements were the same. intuitively this makes sense, though, if youre doing a full ROM squat with an upright upper body (since two points on a line are equidistant relative to an axis no matter where they are in space so long as they are positioned with the same angle to the axis). im not saying i maintained perfect form throughout either of my sessions but i would consider the discrepancies in both comparable and, therefore, negligible.

regardless, the point i was trying to make was the fact that i was more effective in creating power with the BWT squats (and, therefore, justifying the 18-20 Tabata score before adding weight), which i think is matter what the exact numerical difference.
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Old 06-19-2005, 12:01 AM   #6
Kalen Meine
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Again, kudos on doing the math. Tis a winner. And good point everyone bringing up the limitation of doing the math. However, I have to say that the two situations are relatively equivalent, and that Lord Tabata has emerged victorious. First off, they are the same exercise. The air squat, unless you're practicing with a broom for overheads, is a front squat. Furthermore, both are density protocols, not strictly strength, but work volume, with the connected increases in strength, endurance, and "lungs." Charles Staley did head in the right direction- when he talks about EDT, he mentions the simple thinking that led to the protocol- excessive weight limits the amount of work that can be done for an activity not exclusively strength-related, mixing rest (in the form of the antagonistic exercise) can increase total intensity, and more work in the same time equals better condition. Sounds like a Tabata protocol call to me. Tabata just found a special arrangement of that work and rest that has other exciting effects, and Coach has found an exercise and a score that seem to represent an important conditioning benchmark. Here's to training smarter.
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Old 06-20-2005, 06:20 AM   #7
Brian Hand
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Eric, I like these kinds of calculations and analyses. I think your work calculations are sound. Although to be a total nerd, I am not sure the center of gravity of the body moves the same vertical distance that the barbell does. Another point is that work done other than against gravity (e.g., stabilization done by postural muscles) is neglected. But I think those things really are negligible in this case.

However, I think the main point of the calculations is to demonstrate that, all other things being equal, you can almost always do more work over the course of a workout with the lower momentary power output, done at a steady pace. The more the momentary power output fluctuates, the less the average power output and total work done will be.

You won't cover as much ground in twenty minutes of sprint intervals or walkbacks as you would running at a hard, steady pace. (If you could, people would run races by walking 100 yards, then sprinting 100, etc.) The steady pace workout will have a higher average power output, but that doesn't mean intervals are inferior.

If you did EDT with bodyweight, you could certainly match your Tabata power output. It's not Tabata vs Staley, it's bodyweight squats vs weighted squats.

Varying the intensity of the load, in this case the amount of weight, will have different training effects. Total power output isn't everything. (If it was we'd just run at a steady pace, at our lactic acid threshhold, and be done with it.) As you noted, a workout of all singles can be pretty paltry in terms of power output.

I still agree with your conclusion that the Tabata scoring rule is an excellent rule of thumb. A good, specific mark to hit before adding weight.
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Old 06-20-2005, 09:33 AM   #8
Jeremy Jones
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This is probably why Dan John advocates Tabata front squats. . . I have a love/hate relationship with them.

If you did them and were able to pull an average of 14 reps per round for a total of 112 reps you would have a work output of 70,000 ft.lbs and a power output of 292 ft.lbs/sec.


FWIW you can't compare carying work some distance horizontally to lifing (as comparing running to grace). For humans, it is hard to model the work of standing, walking or running because the effor of standing is ignored (according to these equations, we could stand up for ever). If the exercises are similar in nature (like lifting different amounts of weight) a relative comparison can be made.

For a loose example: doing grace would be more relative to climbing a distance on a ladder or rope (although still not the best comparison).
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