Over this last weekend some of you may have tuned into the 2017 CrossFit Games to see who would be crowned the title “Fittest on Earth.” One thing you may have overlooked is what those athletes have in common. Can you guess it? Spoiler, they’re all (or once were) elite level weightlifters who are really, really strong.
For a long time, I’ve been one who has been really vocal about CrossFit athletes who get addicted to the metcon. In fact, there have been some who seem to metcon everyday and even use the term “active recovery” as an excuse to just do another workout – I mean, does laying on the floor gasping for air resemble anything active recovery? Does a 30 to 45 minute AMRAP resemble anything active recovery? The truth is, high level and elite level CrossFit athletes spend a lot of time getting strong. In fact, most still utilize block periodization to get better and better, but why? Well, in CrossFit there are too many variables to simply work on all of your weaknesses at once and it’s bad to say, “One day I’ll practice handstands; one day, I’ll practice pistol squats; etc.” That would be like saying, “Monday I’ll learn spanish, Tuesday Vietnamese, Wednesday, German, etc,” you simply are just trying to learn a lot of things at subpar levels.
If you’re looking to one day compete in the CrossFit games, how should you go about your training? Well, for most of you, your off-season started after the CrossFit open. So here’s how to segment your training.
- April, May, June – Hypertrophy & Skills: Yep, you read that right. There are many benefits aside from looking great by adding more muscle mass. Benefits include, performance, health and injury prevention. While you will get stronger, that’s not the main emphasis. In this block, you might “metcon” 2 days per week, but you want to add slabs of muscle on. Choose 2 skills you don’t have and 1 you need to improve. Anything more, is too much and you’ll burn calories you need to grow.
- July, August, September – Strength & Weightlifting: In my mind, if you’re going to CrossFit, you’re gonna have to do the Olympic Weightlifting movements rather frequently. But if you needed a break, it’s time to add it back into your program. This block is centered around getting stronger and improving your weightlifting. Again, you’ll maybe metcon 2-3 days a week and 1-2 days a week you’ll also do something I consider low intensity constant pace – like pushing a sled, hiking wearing a weight vest etc. You don’t want to do too many metcons and constant pace work because you’ll sap calories you need to get stronger.
- October, November, December – Strength & Gymnastics: Your program should still include weightlifting but you’re going to spend more time getting strong in your gymnastics movements and stronger overall. Still you’ll only metcon 2 days a week and 2 days of constant state work at moderate intensity.
- January, February, March – BUILD THE MOTOR: Yep, you read this right, this is when you’ll start doing metcons more often. building up the # of high intensity metcons per week and doing 3-4 days of constant state moderate intensity work. Goals here are to build up the motor and to maintain the strength.
Why? Well, as aforementioned, metcons and too much cardio saps out the calories you need to get strong and grow muscle, which happens to also be the best method at keeping off body fat. Also, it doesn’t take very long to peak cardio, especially in comparison to getting stronger. If you want to waste a training year and do some self testing, test to see how long it takes you to improve your 5k run time vs. adding 50 pounds onto your back squat.