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Workout of the Day Questions & performance regarding CrossFit's WOD

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Old 01-03-2005, 03:37 PM   #1
Matt Schwartz
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Hi all,
I was wondering how flexible the workout order is in the WODs without compromising the workout goal? That is, in some timed WODs, there are one or more exercises that are the bottleneck for me. I have to break up the sets of a certain exercise because I can't complete the presecribed exercise in one set. Sometimes it takes me 4 or more subsets to do the prescribed amount, whereas other exercises in the same WOD I can do easily in one set. And, while I am breaking up the aforementioned difficult sets, I am just walking around breathing. Wouldn't it be better to actually do some of the other exercises in the WOD while breaking up the subsets? This provides a twofold advantage. One, you do more total work in less time because instead of resting in the broken sets you are working on a largely unrelated exercise, and two, you are still breathing hard and taxing your system while recovering your locally exhausted muscles that were used in the exercise that required you to break your set.
For example, if I can't do do 30 handstand pushups (HSPUs), I can do squats while resting between HSPU subsets. Otherwise, I get to a point where I am not breathing that hard in the workout but I can only do sets of 1 or 2 HSPUs. My systemic workload is lessened while I am recovering my shoulder/arm/etc. muscles for HSPUs. If I did squats or some other exercise on that day's WOD list while breaking up the HSPUs, wouldn't that be more beneficial in achieving that WODs metablic goals, which usually embrace performing maximum work in a given time? Seems like this is more in line with the CrossFit "get it done" philosophy rather than blind adherence to an exercise order. Just wondering of this is a logical inference or if there are reasons I don't understand for adhering strictly to the exercise order. If so, could someone explain those reasons? Thanks for your input,
Matt
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Old 01-03-2005, 04:24 PM   #2
Paul Theodorescu
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Hey Matt,

I've asked this question before, so I'm curious to see what the answer is (you've phrased it more cleverly than I did by referring to work density).

In a very similar vein, for example in Fran I alternate sets of 3 on 95lb thrusters and pull-ups. If I were to do all 21 thrusters then all 21 pull-ups the workout would easily take twice as long for the same amount of work!
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Old 01-03-2005, 08:59 PM   #3
David Wood
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Matt, Paul: This is a good example where I hope you will get a variety of answers, because I'm not sure anyone (except possibly Coach) has *the* answer.

In general, I would agee with you that mixing up the exercises is a good way to ensure a high level of systemic (metabolic) stress and adaptation.

But it also misses some of the other adaptations that come from specifically fatiguing a particular motion (which may involve many muscle groups at once), and then continuing to demand performance in that same groove (motion) in the fatigued state.

An example is the workout "Elizabeth": 3 rounds of 21, 15, and 9 reps, each round consisting of 135-lb Clean, and ring dips . . . so the first round is 21 reps with the 135-lb clean, followed by 21 dips, etc.

I won't deny that if you truly can't do that number of reps with that weight, you're going to have to break it up. And (following a certain perfectly reasonable logic), if you're sitting there recovering, you might as well work some other part of the body.

But I think this misses the huge stress (and adaptation) that comes from pushing your body to perform even when it doesn't want to. If you can't complete 21 reps (and there's no denying that this is a VERY tough workout, I can usually just barely get through the first round), I think it would be better to lower the weight below 135 (to 115? 95? 75?), to whatever it takes to *just barely* allow you to complete the specified reps. You should be "hurtin'" (fatigued) as you complete the set . . . maybe even doubtful about whether you'll make it.

I admit, this advice probably makes more sense when the exercise (the motion) that we're talking about is a) a full-body stressor, and b) easily adjustable so that you *can* reduce the weight in order to complete the reps.

When the motion doesn't meet those two elements (e.g., handstand push-ups), well, then I can see your proposal making more sense. I can't do much more than 4 or 5 consecutive HSPUs when I'm fresh; then I've got to drop down and take a breath, shake out the arms, etc. before I can do another. If a goal in my workout is to keep up a high heartrate / metabolic stress level, then it would probably make sense for me to do a set of air squats while I'm recovering for the next HSPU . . . but I don't think I should count that as part of the WOD, even if the WOD also called for squats.


It finally comes down to trying to stress the body (over time) in a wide variety of ways, to produce a wide variety of adaptations. It's certainly true that doing the maximum amount of work in the least amount of time (for maximal metabolic or "systemic" stress) is one of the hallmarks of CrossFit. Your proposal of mixing up the movements as soon as fatigue in any one motion is felt will achieve that. But CrossFit (and fitness) is also about extending the time to fatigue (and the amount of work that canb be done before fatiguing) as far as possible . . . sometimes, that may mean doing less total work, and more work in a near-exhausted state.

This is pretty much just my $0.02, and may not be worth even that. Take from it what's useful, and ignore the rest.

Dave
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Old 01-03-2005, 09:03 PM   #4
David Wood
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Oh, I forgot to mention: take note of Michael Lee's very interesting post http://www.crossfit.com/discus/messa...html#POST25324

He's basically noting his discovery that doing the full WOD was a *lot* different than taking parts of it and doing those parts in isolation.

I think that maybe he's discovering the same thing I'm trying to say in my previous post.
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Old 01-03-2005, 09:34 PM   #5
Joshua F Hillis
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I'm definately not an expert, but from what I've read in the "getting started" sections here and on the CrossFit North website, it looks like the standard response is to lower the weight.

That being said, I always cut the reps, usually in half. In the past strength has been more of a weakness for me than endurance, so by keeping the weight the same I'm working on my weaknesses.

Actually now that I think about it, I'm getting pretty strong so it might be time to flip flop it. Or if I wanted to get really CrossFit, I could flip a coin to see if I cut the weight or the reps. (I do have to cut one of them though, or I'm wrecked for Jiu Jitsu class)
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Old 01-04-2005, 04:28 AM   #6
Matt Schwartz
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Thanks guys! Interesting and informative.
Matt
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Old 01-15-2005, 08:01 PM   #7
Matt Gagliardi
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My $0.02...

I think that CF is as much about mental toughness and discipline as it is about physical performance. While I understand the argument you're making about splitting up exercises when you reach a failure point, I think that actually holds you back from developing the mental aspect of performance. I believe that people should do their best to avoid looking at CF WODs as a competition (and in doing so looking for any way possible...splitting exercises, subbing like crazy...to lower their times) and instead concentrate on the idea that the WODs are a path to fitness. Your times WILL drop...your strength WILL increase...though perhaps not as quickly as you'd like/hope. But the gains will come. As I see it, when you hit an exercise that you know/suspect you're going to have to break up, you should say to yourself "I AM going to do this all in one shot, though I may have to break it up. I WILL take as little rest as possible, perhaps even starting back from a break before I feel totally ready." Bargain with yourself..."I will break it up, but I will only take 10 seconds of break." Decide on these things before you start, and stick with 'em. Don not cut yourself slack. No one else will.

It's about pushing yourself both physically and mentally. While you may be pushing yourself physically by breaking off of one exercise and moving on to another (coming back to the first at some point)...I think you cheat yourself out of the mental component. And IMO that's every bit as important to develop.

I saw a comment several weeks ago about a WOD...there were sets of 50 dips involved (3 sets IIRC). The comment was "There was no way I could do another set of 50 dips, so I moved on." IMO, that was one of the saddest/lamest things I've ever read. The mentally tough athlete would have found a way...even if it was to take 1 set of 50 reps and turn it into 50 sets of 1 rep. That person (50 sets of 1 rep) is a man/woman to be reckoned with.
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Old 01-16-2005, 09:19 AM   #8
Paul Theodorescu
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"IMO, that was one of the saddest/lamest things I've ever read. The mentally tough athlete would have found a way..."

So no pain no gain? Overtraining is a very real concern when training. If I reach a point where I have to do 50 sets of 1 I know my training is going to be counter productive.

I agree with the sentiment of your thought, I just don't think it really applies to training most of the time (except on competition day).
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Old 01-16-2005, 09:28 AM   #9
Matt Gagliardi
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Sorry Paul...but I completely disagree. Overtraining is not an issue at the volume of 1 WOD per day. It just isn't. It's not even a problem at considerably higher volumes given a proper ramp up to the increased workload.

This is purely a question of mental toughness.
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Old 01-16-2005, 11:11 AM   #10
Paul Theodorescu
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I think it would be more accurate to say overtraining is not an issue for you personally at 1 WOD per day.

There is significant evidence that training to failure and beyond is contraindicated for maximum performance. If I feel like **** after training till I feel like puking I'm not going to be inclined to train again for a long time. Call it mental weakness if you like. IIRC you made a post once about ripping calluses and having bleeding hands... I think maybe you have a much higher tolerance for pain than most people.

Even great athletes like Larry occasionally do weeks at 50% volume.

So yes, perhaps some people aren't being mentally tough enough. That probably includes me because I like to keep my training fun and progress (not pain) is my prerogative. With that said, I really see no reason to, for example, start doing 50 singles once you're completely burned out. I have not heard of any professional athletes training that way. In fact, many stay far away from failure until competition day.
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