Not For Time, A Primer
By: David Osorio
CFSBK programming often includes “Not For Time” (NFT) assistance work either on top of or instead of traditional CrossFit “For Time” conditioning. We usually use this method of training 1-3 times per week as a supplement to our primary lifts and conditioning tests. The value of this work can’t be overstated and in this article we’ll discuss the rational behind NFT work.
Most NFT workouts generally fall under the title “assistance work” because their intention is to help develop the muscle groups and movement patterns used in our primary lifts and WODs. Sometimes a lagging muscle group might prevent you from properly executing an exercise, especially at load or intensity. For example, if your chest regularly drops when trying to squat heavy, you might benefit from some concentrated low back/hip extension work like good mornings, RDLS, perhaps even heavy kettlebell swings. NFT work is our opportunity to program in different exercises that may not lend themselves well to being timed or performed at maximal weight, but do help you get into better positions when you need it most.
Work on imbalances
NFT work also uses more unilateral (one side at a time) bilateral (alternating sides) and stabilization exercises to promote symmetry and balance. An imbalance in your pressing strength might not be apparent with a barbell, but it can become comically obvious when working with dumbbells. Perhaps your imbalance is actually neurological, you know how to “set your back” but proper abdominal bracing strategies still elude you. A healthy dose of hollow rocks, planks or a variety of other holds can help you identify how to engage and develop different parts of your body. Mobility work would also fall under this category, if you’ve ever done a workout that included holding a stretch or performing something like an “inchworm” you know we’re sneaking in some active flexibility training.
Same movements, different focus
Sometimes we even will take movements that you regularly see in WODs like push-ups, jumping rope and rowing and take the clock away. These are great opportunities to troubleshoot the movements themselves and aim for perfection with every rep without the stress of worrying about what your time or load will be. Instead, you can still get a significant stimulus by focusing on whatever you struggle with most about that movement. It could be coordination, range of motion or strength at a particular position in the lift. What ever your case may be, slow down and do it right so you can speed up and do it right later.
Not “Max Effort”, but still very heavy
That being said, if you’re looking good, start pushing! NFT work is usually 3-4 rounds with at least 1 dumbbell or barbell movement in it. Take this opportunity to work up to a top set of that exercise. If your form is dialed in, don’t be complacent to use the same weight for every set. A recent example would be the reverse lunges we did on Wednesday, each time you complete a round at a given weight go up in weight, you may be surprised at how much you can move.
The take home message is that the better you can become at a wide variety of exercises and types of workouts, the more well rounded and successful of an athlete you can become. We hope this gives you some food for thought the next time a NFT workout comes up and what our thought process is behind it. As always, we’re always experimenting with new concepts and protocols to help you guys and gals achieve get better inside and outside the gym.
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