CrossFit South Rockland

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Extra Work vs. Extra Workouts

There has been a lot of discussion around the gym lately about the need or perceived need of “extra work,” especially with the Legion of M.E. competition raging.  We need to address this topic directly because I think a lot of folks are not clear in their understanding of CrossFit in regards to concept and method.

First, let’s talk about CrossFit.  What is CrossFit?
Defined simply; constantly varied functional movement executed at high intensity.
  • Constantly varied:  No recognizable routine or pattern to the order of training or the selection of movements.  Why?  To develop a body that is physically prepared for the unknown and unknowables of life, we must implement a training program the mirrors the goal.  We view routine as the enemy and embrace randomness.
  • Functional movement: Movements that are inherent in nature.  No one designed them.  They are effective and, more importantly, efficient.  They are safe, even at post maximal loads.
  • High intensity:  This is relative to the individual and subjective.  That is why we scale (reps, distance, time, load, etc.).  To ensure that every individual doing the WOD is getting a high intensity workout, relative to their current level of work capacity and tolerance, using the same movements.  We scale intensity, we don’t modify the routine.
What is the goal of CrossFit? Increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.
  • Work capacity: The ability to do work (force x distance).  Therefore; increased work capacity obviously means the ability to do more work (more than you could before).
  • Broad time domain: In relation to work capacity, the ability to do more work no matter how long the duration…or the ability to do more work in a given amount of time.
  • Broad modal domain: In relation to work capacity, the ability to do more work no matter the format, or mode, of the work.
Do you need to do “extra work” to get better?
To answer that question, we must first make sure we have a clear understanding of the difference between extra work and extra workouts.
“Extra work” would be practice, refinement and attempts at improvement of form and technique and/or additional work on severely lacking areas of flexibility, core strength or technical execution of biomechanics.  All “extra work” should be done at low to moderate intensity only!
“Extra workouts” would be the attempt (more on this shortly) to do a 2nd high intensity workout on the same day as a scheduled WOD, or on what should be a rest day.
Now, let’s re-address the question; Do you need to do “extra work” to get better (fitter)?
Need extra work?  Well, that completely depends on the individual and the question is impossible to answer absolutely and objectively in a post.  So, I will generalize with some examples and hopefully you will have an idea of what the answer is for you.
Most beginner CrossFit athletes (1-6 months, depending on the individual) do not need much extra work, certainly none at anything approaching high or even moderate intensity.  What they do need is absolute dedication to trying to master the fundamentals.  That being said, a beginner CrossFitter would benefit from 5-10 minutes of movement and technique practice after the WOD.
Most intermediate CrossFit athletes (6-18 months, depending on the individual) should certainly explore spending time perfecting movements and adding low to moderate levels of strength training (basic core lifts like Back Squat, Press and Deadlift) 1-2 times per week.  They should not, however, think they will benefit from from adding significant amounts of extra strength training or running or whatever to a high intensity 4-5 WODs per week.
Most advanced CrossFit athletes (18+ months -ish, depending on the individual)…you are probably thinking I’m going to say they need, or at least can do, a bunch of extra work or even extra workouts.  WRONG.  The answer here is pretty much the same answer as for the intermediate.  Address areas of weakness, be it a particular mode or movement or set of movements and spend some time after the WODs, or at another time of day, or on skill days, perfecting movement.  Depending on the athlete, 2-3 times per week of some additional strength training may produce some beneficial results.
Remember, if you are training consistently, you will be hitting WODs that are heavy lift days and you will be hitting WODs that are multi-modality that include a moderate-heavy component.  For 99% of the population out there, and certainly at CrossFit Champions, that is more than enough to elicit a significant adaptation.
You see, here is what happens all to easily.  You do the WOD knowing you will be doing some extra work later in the hour or later in the day.  Let’s say you are going to work on your rowing, or a lift, or pull-ups or whatever.  Whether you know it or not, you leave a little in the tank during the WOD cause you know you are going to be doing the extra work later.  Then you do the extra work and you put to much emphasis, energy and intensity into it.  Want to guess what you just did?  You just did 2 lower level intensity workouts than you were capable of and you would have gotten much more out of just hitting the WOD with maximum intensity.
Now, having said all that…I will address the question again. Do you need “extra work” to get better? Need?  NO.  You don’t need the extra work.  What you do need…everyone reading this…is the WOD.  Hit the Workout Of The Day with maximum intensity with excellent mechanics on a consistent basis and see what happens.  The other thing you need is proper nutrition.  Dedicate yourself to eating properly and giving the Workout Of The Day everything you have consistently and I assure you, you will be amazed at the results.  Wait a minute…come to think of it…THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THE LEGION OF M.E. CHALLENGE IS ALL ABOUT!

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