M, C, I...V Revisited

by Arena Ready on August 18th, 2015

This is a great post that Coach Sarah wrote two years ago, and it's a nice little piece due for a revisit.  Enjoy!

Some thoughts on the evolution of a CrossFitter...

Step 1: Mechanics
Learn the movements.  Learn the difference between what the movement is supposed to feel like and what it is not supposed to feel like.  What does the coach mean when they say "get tight"?  Which muscles drive your knees out, and why should you do that?  What about chest up?  Or elbows fast?  Or external rotation?  All of these words and phrases should be meaningful to you (and you should be able to apply them to your movement before you consider moving on to consistency in those movements).

Step 2: Consistency
They say that practice makes perfect, but the truth is only perfect practice makes perfect.  Not until you understand what you should be doing should you strive to make what you are doing habitual.  But, when you do, each movement in CrossFit should become like breathing.  You should practice so much that you are able to execute a perfect air squat without a demonstration or description, without thinking about it, and honestly, without even warming up.  Same goes for every other movement (unweighted).  Every time you execute a movement it should look and feel the same.

In addition, consistency applies to consistency of workouts.  If you are working out inconsistently (i.e. 4 days on, 17 off, or 1-2 on, 4-5 off), you should hold yourself at this level.  If you aren't working out consistently, you don't know how your body will respond to workouts, you don't know how hard you can push yourself on any given day, and you can't expect your joints and muscles to withstand a beating in which you're trying to make up for lost time.  Establish a workout schedule and stick to it so that you can earn progression into Step 3.

Step 3: Intensity
Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, defined CrossFit as "constantly varied, functional movements executed at high intensity."  Some make the mistake of thinking that that means everyone from newbie to competitor should approach each workout with maximum fire and enthusiasm, fighting for each and every rep, rolling on the floor afterwards.  The truth, in a better executed scenario, is that intensity must be earned.  If you don't have the mechanics nailed down in a movement consistently, you have no business doing that movement with intensity.  If you aren't working out consistently, you can't expect to safely push your limits (since you don't know where your limits are at any given point in time).  Now, let's say there's a workout involving burpees, power snatches and situps.  Let's say your burpees and situps are at Step 3, but your power snatches are still well at Step 1.  In this case, you may want to push yourself super hard on the situps and burpees (to maximize your performance and results), but hold back, slow down, and concentrate hard (at light weight) for the power snatch.

Step 4: Volume
At Arena Ready, we program with the expectation that people will work out AT LEAST 3 and as many as 6 days per week.  We believe that most people who CrossFit less than 3 days per week will fail to achieve meaningful results, will struggle to learn and properly execute the movements, and will likely not get sufficient volume.  We believe that people who CrossFit more than 3 days in a row are likely to experience the symptoms of overtraining - insufficient recovery marked by consistent fatigue, susceptibility to injury, and declining performance.  In between is a sweet spot of consistent improvement due to thoughtful training and recovery.

Many among us at Arena Ready are solidly in Steps 1-3, and that's fantastic.  If you find yourself primarily in one of those steps, your goal should be to build your understanding of the mechanics, begin to consistently execute on them, and finally, to start pushing yourself by adding increasing levels of intensity to your workouts.  Another way to measure your intensity besides how hard you feel you're working, is to check where your times/scores rank on the board, and at what level you typically perform workouts.  For most people, working to be in the top half of scores consistently within the black or red level is all the fitness you need to meet your goals and win at life.  That's awesome, and that's what we recommend for the majority of our clients: strive to perform all workouts at the red or black level with competitive times or scores, and be here 3-5 times per week consistently.

Some Arena Ready members are at a point where the above is true, and they are able to work out 5-6 times per week and still feel like they need or want more training in order to meet their goals of becoming competitive CrossFitters.  This is the competitor group for whom we sometimes program extra strength, skill, or accessory WODs.  If you are in (or want to be in) the competitor group, the above all remains true.  Every element of all workouts should be performed with consistently good or excellent mechanics, and as fast as possible. 

Finally, what are Gladiators class(es) all about?  These classes are designed to prepare our Rx-level competitors for CrossFit competition.  If you're an aspiring competitor not yet consistently at the black level, or even just a CrossFit fan, you're welcome to hang out and watch a session, and see what some of our top athletes can do!  You may notice that some of our athletes go by their "Gladiator name" - as such, ALL Arena Ready members are encouraged to select Gladiator names independent of level.  If you haven't already noticed, we love nicknames at AR!  And we're all in this together after all, as the Arena is a metaphor for life, not just the CrossFit arena!
Photo courtesy of oh happy dawn photography

WOD for 08-19-15:

Strict Press:


Push Press:


Push Jerk:

If your push press and push jerk technique is rock solid, then increase the weight every set across all three movements, for a total of twelve climbing work sets (i.e. the bar only goes up in weight).  If that is unreasonable (be honest with yourself!) decrease the weight when starting the next movement, then climb back up again to a single in four sets.

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