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Rest Day


Liese thinks all you yanks are a bunch of lazy bollix for getting any fouls.

Understanding Sets Across
As you all know, we've been telling all our level 1 athletes to perform "sets across" during our lifting days. For those of you just jumping on board or who might be a little confused, here's the 101 on what we're talking about.

Essentially, "Sets Across" just means that you'll be doing the same weight for all your work sets on a given lift. For example, if you're Back Squatting 5x5, you'll do 3-4 warm-up sets at increasing weights and then perform all 5 reps of all 5 work sets at the same weight. This is in contrast to "Maximal Effort" lifting in which you'd be gaming for a maximal weight at a given rep range.  Many of our newer athletes are not ready neurologically or structurally for this type of lifting and need a ramp up period of sets across to avoid injury and set themselves up for larger gains in the future.

At CFSBK, we pick a pool of 2-3 movements and rotate them for a period of 4 weeks.  In the upcoming cycle that starts tomorrow, you'll be seeing Back Squats, Presses and Deadlifts quite regularly.  Because you know that you'll get 4 exposures to each of these lifts over the next couple weeks, you can game out a strategy for 4 successful lifting sessions.  Here are two examples of what we'd love to see in your log books at the end of the cycle.

Week 1 75x5x5
Week 2 80x5x5
Week 3 85x5x5
Week 4 87x5x5

Week 1 135x5x5
Week 2 145x5x5
Week 3 155x5x5
Week 4 160x5x5

This hypothetical athlete completed all 4 exposures and was able to increase their weights each time.  They never went to failure because they had a plan and were not greedy with weight.  The next time these lifts come up, they'll be able to start at the 3 or 4 week weight and continue to linearly increase their numbers.  Again, with sets across, you'll have to put your lifting into a larger perspective than just what you're doing that day.  You're building a foundation of strength, one brick at at time.

How do I know what weight to start with?
Simply start with something that feels light. Too light.  If you pick a weight that has you struggling to finish your reps the first couple weeks, you've gone too heavy.  Remember that you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of weight lifting and there's no need to rush into big weights.  If you've had some lifting exposure and want to try Sets Across, take your existing max at that rep range and subtract %~20 off of it for a starting weight.

What if I start missing reps?
Eventually you will start to miss reps, ideally this won't be for a full 2-3 cycles of the movement in question.  When this happens, you need to ask yourself and a Coach the following questions: "Was I too greedy with weight?", "Is my technique/mobility on this movement sufficiently developed to handle larger loads?" "Am I having an off day? Did I plan my warm-up sets correctly?" Once we dig a little, we can find out what's going on and help you strategize to keep moving forward.  Sometimes you just need to try the same weight again the following week and sometimes you'll have to drop some weight off the bar and start building back up.

What if I don't come often enough to hit all of these lifting sessions?
If you can only make it to CFSBK a 1-2 times per week, choose one of the movements (Ideally the squat variant) and focus on it for the next four weeks.  You may have to come in a little early or stay late to get your lifts in which is okay with us as long as it doesn't interfere with the running class before or after your own.  This scenario becomes a little more case by case.  If you don't know what to do, consult with one of the coaches and we'll steer you in the right direction.

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Reader Comments (31)

Fantastic tips. Thanks very much. The take-away line for me: "Remember that you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of weight lifting and there's no need to rush into big weights".

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra
So last night Jeremy said that for folks with more lifting experience, sets across "should kick the shit out of you." So at his encouragement I did 120# x5 for 5 sets of front squats. It was GREAT. I got a lot of practice working *hard* to get the bar up while maintaining form. I think I learned a lot about where in the movement I have weakness, and what I need to focus on--all while working a weight that I became intimately familiar with over the course of the workout. I think when I do max effort workouts, I get scared of lifting something I've never pulled before, and sort of forget what to do. Last night taught me that I *can* get it up when it's hard, which I think will be a huge mental help next time.

I also think that having lifted 120# 25 times will make 135# feel pretty light next time!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte
Made up the front squats this morning.

WU = 45x5, 95x3, 135, 165185, 205, 215, 215 (shallow)

I think I've hit 215 once before, but this was much better form. Maybe with more rest, I could have gotten 220, but I'm happy with a tie.

And Tamson got her first pull-up!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

David - thank you very much for posting that detail. It left me wondering what the optimal strategy is for someone who is not new to the movement and has not stopped making gains doing the graduated lifting scheme that used to be our standard structure. Is it better to do sets across or to go for a max? Basically, what are the benefits of doing the graduated lifting relative to sets across and when should people shift into doing the graduated sets?

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel
Thanks, guys.

WU: 45x5, 75x5, 95x5, 105x3

Work: 115x5x5

A little wobbly in the knees for the last set, but otherwise this is feeling much, much better.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertam
Tamson! That is great.

Also more back squats!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm
Interesting point about planning the weights across 2-3 cycles of a movement. Or at least a point I hadn't realized before.

On the other hand, I'm looking forward to seeing Paulie deadlift 8 kajillion pounds soon.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Oops, those were front squats that I posted. Perhaps I should have said that.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertam
Very nice write-up, thank you. But you all know me, I always have a million questions. So here goes, if I've been lifting for over a year now and always doing increasing sets, what should I think about when deciding to change to sets across versus sticking with what I've been doing?
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
Congrats, Tamson!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
David, I too am wondering about how to balance sets across with increasing sets. For that last round of deadlifts, I did 3 rep sets across for the first 3 exposures and then went for a 3 rep max on the last exposure. It "worked" in so far as I got a big PR--is that a good way to go in the future? Does it matter that I'd be doing the same rep scheme for the whole cycle?
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatie
So glad to be back at the Lyceum this morning after a rough couple of days with that god-aweful stomach virus.

Chose to do deadlifts:WU: 95x5, 135x5, 165x3, 185x3Work: 200x3x5

Although the weight felt heavy, all reps felt good.

HOBOKEN: (I know I'm behind...)

WOD 1--7 rounds 5 C&Js/7 Burpees10:03 (modified to 63lbs--thinking it was 73lbs but that's a whole other story...)

WOD 2--AMRAP Pushups/Squats10 rounds + 3 pushups (mod pushups after 1st round)

WOD 3--1500m Row6:26.5 (this sucked)

According to the results, I tied for 16th place, but this is not accurate since I didn't do the WODs rx'd.

I know it's been said, but really awesome efforts by all!!! And of course, big thanks to our fans that came out for support.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJess
2 more things:

*Nice job Tam on the pullup!!! I'm soooooooo jealous.

*Anyone heading out to CFQueens for their nutritional workshop tonight?
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Yeah Tam! Celebrate good times, c'mon...

I like sets across; they've been a good confidence builder. Although, I am glad I started out doing max reps, because now I can say, "here is where I maxed out/failed" and calculate (or rather, have one of the coaches calculate) the sets across weight.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteph "Snip" W
Jess, I'm going to CFQ's nutrition workshop, too.

Congrats, Tamson!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAndy
Charlotte - Nice work, that's exactly the lesson that's supposed to be learned under the bar. That a lift isn't over when it's hard and you have to totally focus on grinding through it to get it up, in fact that's when lifting begins.

Laurel - Set's across are a great tool for experienced lifters because they directly address the other component of lifting, volume. We are more interested in intensity because we are all about moving heavy stuff, but a great deal can be gained by adding some volume to the mix. As an example, a lifter has a 200lb 5RM for a lift. The workout is a 5x5. She could go max effort style, try 160x5, 180x5, 200x5, then maybe 205x3 and then back off to 180x5. If you add the weight of all those reps up, you get 4215lb of volume. Alternatively she could try 190x5x5 which is 4750 if she hits every rep, and extra 500+lbs of volume. It's a trade off, increasing volume at the expense of some intensity (since you're working with lighter weights than you would have in the first case). They are both useful approaches and which one you turn to will be determined by a bunch of factors such as your goals, recent lifting history, how you're feeling, etc.

Sarah - A quick way to figure out which of those two approaches is better is to look at your logbook. If you've been stalling out and not hitting new PR on that lift, then some extra volume might be the way to go, if your still clocking PR's almost every time you get under the bar then have at it and load the weight.

Katie - That's actually a great approach. Using the first couple times the lift comes up to focus on some extra volume, and then ratcheting the intensity up later in the cycle.

Sorry for the long post, hope that helps.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
The long post is much appreciated Jeremy!
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJess
I didn't feel it yesterday so I opted to do sets across, especially since it's been some time since we last did front squats. After a few warmup lifts I settled on 135# which actually felt heavy enough for 5x5. It was only until the 4th set that I racked the bar in a comfortable enough position so it didn't feel like my wrists were gonna break off from being bent back so far. So form is ultra important on lifts, at least for me.BTW, the Fox mobility class was really good last night, we really got to roll out some heavy kinks.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjack
anyone want to run?

i am going to either run a 3-5k today in prospect park (p=85%) or run hill sprints, 8th ave to PPW. (p=13%). at 6:30. email me if interested.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleonid
I find everyone's questions and both David's and Jeremy's information to be really helpful. I was concerned that I went "too light" last night but I probably made the right decision, especially since I have almost no experience with the Front Squat. I really like thinking about the volume as an aspect of lifting that should be considered, too. I'm looking forward to this next strength cycle, especially because I missed most of the last one.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBecca
Excellent write-up, David and Jeremy both. Publish worthy even.

Katie & Tamson - Nice!

Glad those actually were moans of enjoyment coming from the M&R class last night. Good work fellas.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFox
I have a couple questions.

How does the commitment to spend many days doing three lifts affect the remainder of our programming?All these days are in the phosphogenic energy pathway. Should the remaining WODs attempt to balance this out, or is the intention to give the whole program a bias towards strength?

Additionally, these are relatively low power movements because the bar simply cannot move quickly. Would O-lifting movements be eligible to be part of a strength cycle? I know weighted bodyweight movements have been used. What about jumps, sprints or sled pulls?

Finally, how do the movements themselves affect programming decisions? For instance, this last cycle we did Front Squats and Presses. Attempting "Fran" in the middle of this might be rough.

It seems like a lot of our non-lifting day WODs are technical or have not easily quantifiable power outputs. For instance, handstand practice, bar hangs/DU, spring 250 meters.

This is in no way intended as criticism or even suggestion. I am very happy with the progress I've been making at CFSB. I would just like some insight on why we do what we do. (I was the kind of kid who took his toys apart)

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWillie
Willie: actually they are very high power movements. Hence the term "powerlifting" =)

take for example a 1RM deadlift, from our own Paulie T-Shirts.

1RM, 500lbs

F = 500 lbd = 2 ftt = 2 s

Fd/t = 500 ft-lbs / second

That's just under one horsepower.

I don't know the answer to your questions, which are good ones. Just a minor correction. =)

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSameer Parekh
Sameer -

I have to side with Willie.


For a good discussion of the power output of an olympic clean versus a deadlift.

If we were talking about a power clean it would likely be even more dramatic because the lift would be even faster.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm

I agree with your calculation and that those are reasonable assumptions for distance and time. However, I just don't agree that "just under 1 horsepower" is all that much power when it is maintained for only 2 seconds. Particularly for a guy who can generate 500lbs of force over an ROM of 2 feet.

A solid heavyweight male rower can maintain "just under 1 horsepower" for 6 minutes, (but he probably can't pull 500lbs no matter how many seconds you give him)

Plus, if you throw on another 10 pounds on a deadlift and the pull takes 4 seconds, that's half the power but it's still a better performance. (The only time you care how long a heavy deadlift takes is while you're doing it)

It's been said by others that powerlifting is a misnomer. An Olympic lift absolutely dwarfs a max deadlift in power production.

Deadlifts are functional movements so by definition they can generate high power but not when loaded to a 1 rep max.
December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWillie

Q1. (Energy Pathways and Strength Bias)I wouldn't say that the two to three dedicated strength movements bias the whole programming towards strength. Theres certainly not an intention to commit to shorter metcons across the board. Often, there is somewhat of a logistic requirement to program shorter/interval based metcons to accommodate for the volume of folks we're seeing per class. With an expanded schedule and more room to move on Degraw st. this will change. Not too long ago I was trying to program some longer metcons to try and crush people a little more. I'll keep an eye on it regardless, because yes we need to dip into short, medium and long distance durations.

Q2. (Power Output)The Fast lifts are certainly part of the movement pool. The only reason we're seeing Deadlifts again is because the olympic lifts at max effort consistently cause headaches and yelling due to their need to be bailed and the Lyceum's conflicts with that. Once we're in the new space you'll see a LOT more olympic lifting. Last cycle we did a lot of Handstand skill work and in this one you'll see a lot more Snatch work. The intention is to (spoiler alert) program Power Snatches as the "PULL" in the upcoming cycle. I've drifted away from the MEBB exercise pools (Total Body/Lower Body/ UpperBody) in favor the following arrangement I came up with:

Squat Variants:Back SquatFront SquatOverhead Squat

Pulls:Power SnatchPower CleanDeadlift

Upper body Exercises:Press/Push JerkBench PressWeighted Pull-UpRing StrengthHand Balancing

This, intentionally limited movement pool will be enforced more for level 1 athletes. Level 2 athletes will be encouraged to play with some of the more esoteric and squat versions of the movements. We're going to put up an optional Snatch Grip Deadlift variation in this cycle, for example.

Sled Drags, Box Jumps and Sprints will make their appearances as assistance lifts and in metcons. (and when we buy some sleds or someone makes them for us)

Q3. (Interference)The movements certainly affect the exercise selection of the subsequent conditioning days. This is one of the main reasons I chose to focus on the power versions of the olympic lifts and included some less quantifiable gymnastics skills as Upper body exercises. I found that with the original MEBB template there was usually either an overhead press or a weighted pull-up which really limited our programming options. Regardless, it can still be difficult to program without superimposed fatigue and some movement redundancy. Generally, the lower body exercises in max efforts and metcons are differentiated into some being more quad or hamstring dominant in nature then trying to alternate them somewhat. Honestly, my biggest concern is not going overhead too often as the shoulder is the most susceptible joint to injury. Otherwise, compromises are made and you yell “CONSTANTLY VARIED!!!” when people whine.

December 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid
Man, I love the nerdiness on this blog.
December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra
In other words, thing are gonna change when we finally get to Degraw Street! I can't wait!!!

Also, this is what I want for my living room. I would love to be pushing this up and down Degraw Sreet:

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaulie T-Shirts
doh, i have been corrected. =)

thanks guys.

December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSameer Parekh
I just want to go on record with this: the discussion above is way over my head, but I am SO GLAD that people who are more expert than I am are thinking/talking about it. The amount of thought that goes into programming and exercise selection at CFSBK is like one-third of the reason why I love this place.

(Another third is the community. The final third is the coolness of everyone's tattoos.)
December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNino
Update on the Rob Wolf situation.


Hate to see the community ripping itself apart.
December 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMalcolm

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