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

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Old 04-23-2008, 10:31 AM   #1
Tim Luby
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A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

As we all know, WODs such as Fran follow a protocol of progressively fewer reps per round (i.e., 21, 15, 9). Well, is this a good thing?

I argue that a protocol such as this lacks real-world applicability. Why? Because in the real world, the challenges we face are not necessarily going to lessen as we progress through them.

This came to mind for me in the context of trail running training. Most of the time, it doesn't matter whether you're at the beginning of a run, or near the end, you can still encounter huge climbs or other nasty stuff. The difficulty remains relatively consistent throughout. In other words, it is an unrelenting activity that does not get progressively easier--no matter how tired you are.

My personal solution to this is to keep the work (reps) exactly the same throughout the sets. My thought is that this is a more realistic way to gain both GPP and sport-specific preparadness.

Now, I know I'm using a metcon [Fran] and an LSD activity [trail running] to illustrate my point, but please don't get caught up in that. The overlying theme here is whether or not reducing work done over the course of a workout is a good GPP principle.

Please share your thoughts.
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Old 04-23-2008, 10:43 AM   #2
Nick Cummings
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

My opinion is that you may be losing sight of the forest for the trees. I am pretty sure all the people who beat me in a normal Fran can still beat me in a 21-21-21 Fran.
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Old 04-23-2008, 10:54 AM   #3
Nick Wilson
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

Only some of the WOD's use a reducing rep scheme. Some use constant reps (e.g. 4 rounds of xyz), others alternating ladders (1 rep of exercise x, 20 of y, then 2 of x, 19 of y etc.), still more are "chippers" using the same rep count of different exercises. You get a wide variety of workouts, only some of which use the reducing rep scheme.

Even using the example of Fran, I've seen a WOD come up that was the same volume of work (45 thrusters, 45 pullups) but organised differently; in fact one of the first workouts I saw on this site consisted of the 45 thrusters / pullups performed in any order you liked. Another (called fractured Fran I believe) splits it 9 rounds of 5 thrusters / 5 pullups.

If every single WOD used a 21-15-9 scheme, I'd agree it wasn't optimal. But using your own logic, that (and I'm paraphrasing here) "in the real world, not every challenge is the same", surely it's better to use a variety of methodologies than one single one? So by choosing to keep rep ranges constant in all your workouts, you're falling foul of limiting your training. I personally think you're best off with variety, and with Crossfit that comes built in.

Last edited by Nick Wilson; 04-23-2008 at 10:56 AM.. Reason: Fixed typos
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Old 04-23-2008, 11:13 AM   #4
Tim Luby
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

My point is how can you increase work capacity by progressively decreasing work done? This does not seem like the optimal way to prepare for real-world challenges.
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Old 04-23-2008, 11:31 AM   #5
Tom Fetter
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

Fran's rounds are, for me, fairly arbitrary. If I'm increasing work capacity over time, the measure for me isn't 21 thrusters, then 15, then 9 - interspersed by pullups. The measure's 45 thrusters/45 pullups, split up in a way that makes it relatively possible.

I'd be more in agreement with you if we didn't have things like Michael, or the Filthy Fifty, where the rep count stays the same throughout.
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Old 04-23-2008, 11:38 AM   #6
Derek Weaver
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

You are increasing work capacity by decreasing the amount of time it takes to do the 21-15-9 reps. If it takes you 12 minutes to do Fran the first time, and over the course of a year or two you get it down to 4 minutes, how much have you improved?
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Old 04-23-2008, 11:59 AM   #7
Tim Luby
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

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Originally Posted by Derek Weaver View Post
You are increasing work capacity by decreasing the amount of time it takes to do the 21-15-9 reps. If it takes you 12 minutes to do Fran the first time, and over the course of a year or two you get it down to 4 minutes, how much have you improved?
I'm talking about work capacity in a time period, not a linear increase in work capacity over time.

Your point is valid, but it still doesn't answer the question: why gradually decrease the workload if you want to increase work capacity, especially if you want real-world applicability? Would the decreasing rep protocol not condition the body to respond to a gradually decreasing workload?

But then again, as some have pointed out, crossfit doesn't rely soley on this type of protocol so this would not necessarily be a problem.
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Old 04-23-2008, 12:00 PM   #8
Tim Luby
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

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Originally Posted by Tom Fetter View Post
Fran's rounds are, for me, fairly arbitrary. If I'm increasing work capacity over time, the measure for me isn't 21 thrusters, then 15, then 9 - interspersed by pullups. The measure's 45 thrusters/45 pullups, split up in a way that makes it relatively possible.
Interesting way to think about it!
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Old 04-23-2008, 12:25 PM   #9
Scott Ponte
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

I think about it in terms of intensity. 21-15-9 instead of 15-15-15 is more of a sprint than a marathon in my eyes. Mentally if I know I only have 9 left on the last set I'm going to go all out because I started with less. I know we are always going all out all the way through, but how many of us get bogged down by the numbers and mentally saying "Dude I got like... 50 more of them suckers go through, better pace it a bit better".

Maybe im just validating being a wuss :/
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Old 04-23-2008, 12:29 PM   #10
Tim Luby
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Re: A thought on progressively fewer reps in WODs

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Originally Posted by Scott Ponte View Post
I think about it in terms of intensity. 21-15-9 instead of 15-15-15 is more of a sprint than a marathon in my eyes.
Maybe im just validating being a wuss :/
No, your point is well taken. I suppose I have a bias toward endurance. I see each round as a "sprint" but the WOD on a whole as a "marathon."
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