Theoretical Hierarchy- Sat 6.17.17
We’ve been using CrossFit’s first article, What is Fitness? to discuss their definition of fitness. Below we finish the article with CrossFit’s view of how to integrate their program to build a healthy athlete. Even though it doesn’t speak on it too much, the underlying belief in CrossFit is that we are already eating right!
Skill: movement review and warm up
Conditioning: Come in and find out! Bring a Friend!
A Theoretical Hierarchy of Development
A theoretical hierarchy exists for the development of an athlete. It starts with nutrition and moves to metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting, and finally sport. This hierarchy largely reflects
foundational dependence, skill, and to some degree, time ordering of development. The logical flow is from molecular foundations, cardiovascular sufficiency, body control, external object control, and ultimately mastery and application. This model has greatest utility in analyzing athletes’ shortcomings or difficulties. We don’t deliberately order these components but nature will. If you have a deficiency at any level of “the pyramid” the components above will suffer.
Every regimen, every routine contains within its structure a blueprint for its deficiency. If you only work your weight training at low reps you won’t develop the localized muscular endurance that you might have otherwise. If you work high reps exclusively you won’t build the same strength or power that you would have at low rep. There are advantages and disadvantages to working out slowly, quickly, high weight, low weight, “cardio” before, cardio after, etc.
For the fitness that we are pursuing, every parameter within your control needs to be modulated to broaden the stimulus as much as possible. Your body will only respond to an unaccustomed stressor; routine is the enemy of progress and broad adaptation. Don’t subscribe to high reps, or low reps, or long rests, or short rests, but strive for variance.
So then, what are we to do? Work on becoming a better weightlifter, stronger-better gymnast, and faster rower, runner, swimmer, cyclist is the answer. There are an infinite number of regimens that
will deliver the goods.
Generally, we have found that three days on and one day off allows for a maximum sustainability at maximum intensities. One of our favorite workout patterns is to warm-up and then perform three to
five sets of three to five reps of a fundamental lift at a moderately comfortable pace followed by a ten-minute circuit of gymnastics elements at a blistering pace and finally finish with two to ten minutes of high intensity metabolic conditioning. There is nothing sacred in this pattern. The magic is in the movements not the routine. Be creative.
Another favorite is to blend elements of gymnastics and weightlifting in couplets that combine to a dramatic metabolic challenge. An example would be to perform five reps of a moderately heavy back
squat followed immediately by a set of max reps pull-ups repeated three to five times.
On other occasions we’ll take five or six elements balanced between weightlifting, metabolic conditioning, and gymnastics and combine them in a single circuit that we blow through three times
without a break.
We can create routines like this forever. In fact our archives (http://www.crossfit.com/misc/arc.html) contain four or five hundred daily workouts consciously mixed and varied in this manner. Perusing them will give you an idea of how we mix and modulate our key elements.
We’ve not mentioned here our penchant for jumping, kettlebells, odd object lifting, and obstacle course work. The recurring theme of functionality and variety clearly suggest the need and validity for their inclusion though.
Finally, strive to blur distinctions between “cardio” and strength training. Nature has no regard for this distinction or any other, including our ten physical adaptations. We’ll use weights and plyometrics training to elicit a metabolic response and sprinting to improve strength.
Scalability and Applicability
The question regularly arises as to the applicability of a regimen like CrossFit’s to older and deconditioned or detrained populations. The needs of an Olympic athlete and our grandparents differ by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms. We’ve used our same routines for elderly individuals with heart disease and cage fighters one month out from televised bouts. We scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.
We get requests from athletes from every sport looking for a strength and conditioning program for their sport. Firemen, soccer players, triathletes, boxers, and surfers all want programs that conform to the specificity of their needs. While admitting that there are surely needs specific to any sport, the bulk of sport specific training has been ridiculously ineffective. The need for specificity is nearly completely met by regular practice and training within the sport not in the strength and conditioning environment. Our terrorist hunters, skiers, mountain bikers and housewives have found their best fitness from the same regimen.