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

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Old 12-05-2005, 04:27 PM   #1
Travis Mulroy
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I was re-reading The Paleo Diet and it got me thinking...

Have there been experiments with athletes doing Crossfit style workouts, but focusing on one type for a couple months at a time? I mean something like: doing heavy O-lifts for three months, then gymnastics for three months, then high intensity conditioning for three months, then powerlifting for three months? The same variety, but stretched out over longer periods of time.

I ask because it seems to me that our ancestors would be doing different types of work at different times of the year. (Perhaps this is based on a romantic but false image of cavemen lifting heavy rocks in winter and sprinting through fields in summer).

I also remember reading that often the Crossfitters with a solid foundation in a strength sport (O-Lifting or Powerlifting) excelled more easily at the intense conditioning WODs. Perhaps focusing for a couple months at a time would allow one to build a strength base off of which to work? Just my own late night musings. Any thoughts on this?
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Old 12-05-2005, 06:42 PM   #2
Don Stevenson
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What you are talking about is pretty much the standard periodisation model used in lots of sports.

Step 1 is build a base of strength
Step 2 Build power
Step 3 Build speed
Step 4 refine skills and compete.

It looks good in theory but a lot of coaches are now moving away from that model to one where fitness attributes are developed simultaneously throughout the pre season and into the season.

The problem is that the human body adapts quickly to what it is doing at the time and quickly forgets what it did 6 months ago. Sure there will be some longer lasting carryover but it won't be enough that you can go 9 months without deadlifting and expect to do well at it.
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Old 12-05-2005, 07:00 PM   #3
Jesse Woody
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This would pretty closely mirror the traditional periodization template, though it wouldn't necessarily begin with an endurance base and work up through strength, power, power endurance, etc.

I think the reasoning behind the abolutely random nature of crossfit is that from day to day you don't know what challenges you might be thrown. It's ludicrous to say that you should do one mode of exercise for a prescribed amount of weeks, then switch to the next mode, being that life doesn't work so cut and dry.

Along the lines that you're thinking, I believe it might be an interesting experiment, not to stick entirely to one type of exercise, but to shift more towards that for a certain amount of time. Perhaps do the Max-effort black box idea for a month or two, doing the regular met-con workouts, but throwing in one or two days of maximum effort lifting per 3 day cycle. This would still keep your workouts relatively random, while shifting the percentage of focus more towards maximum strength. You could also do the same thing with endurance, power or agility.

It's an interesting idea. I've actually begun to work my way into the max-effort days every cycle in order to get my strength to a more acceptable level on the core lifts. They talked about this a bit in the crossfit live interview with Mike Rutherford, as far as increasing a participant's strength through this type of template to make certain aspects of the WOD more effecient for them. I'm going to try adding a bit more max-strength work (whether bodyweight, through the static holds or through deadlifts, squats, cleans and bench-presses) so I'll post up once I've been at it enough to see some results!

Edit: Don, we were typing at the same time, DOH!

(Message edited by gear on December 05, 2005)
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Old 12-06-2005, 10:45 AM   #4
Ben Kaminski
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I think the best way to build your strength base is to start the WOD and scale it to your current abilities. Your abilities will quickly increase with regard to strength and conditioning.

I disagree that the body quickly forgets what it did 6 months ago. I think the neural control is present for years after development, but the strength and conditioning vanishes quickly with no maintennance. How many former gymnasts can do great handstands? Do you really think you would forget how to clean a weight if you didn't do it once a week?

To me a good periodization scheme would focus on and rotate neural training. Practice the snatch for three months, then the iron cross for three months, and then another move with a large neural component.

Furthermore, I find that these neural control skills do not develop themselves without this kind of practice. Nobody is going to do Crossfit so hard that one day they suddenly can do an iron cross, or a planche. Ain't gonna happen.

Finally, this periodization scheme can complement Crossfit: add the practice to the warm-up, and scale the workout to your ability so tomorrow you can still practice the skill requiring neural control. Practicing an iron cross is impossible if you did too many pullups yesterday, you'll just hurt yourself.

This way you can build & maintain the S&C which vanishes so quickly if left unattended, and still develop the neural control that is essential to a high level of skill.
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Old 12-06-2005, 08:56 PM   #5
Don Stevenson
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Sorry I guess i should have been more specific.

Ben is right in that you don't really forget the skills but a lot of the conditioning goes fairly quickly
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Old 12-07-2005, 12:43 PM   #6
Ross Hunt
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Good question, Travis.

I think linear periodization (what you're describing) has been abandoned by just about everyone because one deconditions too quickly.

Pavel Tsatsouline often tells stories about Russian weightlifters or powerlifters who took months off heavy weight and high intensity, and then came back into training to set huge records and win great victories. The kind of technical ability, willpower, and focus that it takes to do this seem to me to be great goals to shoot for. Nevertheless, for me these goals are quite distant. If I go for more than a week without snatching a weight eof 80% 1RM or a harder variation of equivalent intensity, I see my performance and technique take a nose dive.

Similarly with gymnastics: If I take five days off practicing my static handstand, I don't expect my handbalancing coordination to be tip-top.

Frankly, in my experience S+C is far easier to maintain than strength. The difference between doing no S+C and doing just a little is huge. Right now I do one WOD after my weekly oly max (usually one of the girls involving a barbell) and do high-rep KB swings a couple times a week. My S+C is only improving, and it wasn't exactly abysmal to begin with. Could I keep my snatch or c+J with only one workout a week? I doubt it.

- - - - - - - -

Edit: Here's a link to a very interesting article on the role of volume, intensity and work capacity over the course of an athlete's development:

http://www.higher-faster-sports.com/pathofchampions.html

I guess I'm intermediate. LOOOOOOW intermediate.

(Message edited by Orestes122484 on December 07, 2005)

(Message edited by Orestes122484 on December 07, 2005)
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