5 Rounds for time of:
10 Deadlifts, 225/155
Post time and Rx to comments.
Training vs. Testing
by Coach Noah
Originally Posted 8/1/12
All last week attempted One Rep Maxes (1RMs) here at CFSBK. People moved some impressive weight, beat old PRs, and gained insight about their training and their performance. Going forward into Crush Week, now that many of us have some experience exploring the outer margins of our strength, let us discuss what testing is, as opposed to training, and where both of these concepts fit our development as Crossfitters.
When we train a skill or movement, we perform with a direct and focused outcome. At CFSBK we mainly use a “linear progression” model for our strength training, which allows us to slowly and steadily increase our strength and avoid plateaus. We mix this with conditioning and muscular endurance training that is designed to complement our strength training while drawing from a deeper pool of movements and time domains. Our training is never random- our coaches spend a good deal of time and energy to make sure that each movement we do in the gym makes us stronger, more mobile, and works to address weaknesses and imbalances. At CFSBK we train submaximally 90% or more of the time- basically if it is a workout without a “Girl” or “Hero” name or a One Rep Max test, consider it training, and handle yourself accordingly, as described below.
Good training is generally submaximal, which means we use loads or rep schemes that are lower than our absolute ability. Training submaximally is great for a number of reasons. It allows us to train with proper technique, avoid injury, and recover better. Training submaximally also lets us “own our exercise” and perform our reps with good speed, authority, and confidence.
Your own training should draw on these concepts. Your training should be submaximal, with an eye on the larger outcome your training session will have on your general fitness. During training, failure should be nearly non-existent (I will discuss this further at the end of the article) and we should reflect about what today’s work means to our greater plans both before and after our training session. We should leave each training session feeling that we accomplished our goals and are moving forward with our bigger plan.
Testing is the rare and exotic unicorn in direct opposition to the common utilitarian draft horse of training. Compared to training, testing is rare. At CFSBK we have programmed crush weeks, during which we will program more “named” workouts, or generally tougher workouts that are related to the training cycle we have just completed, with an eye on testing how effective our training has been. Unlike training, where we have a full understanding and direction for our daily toil, a day of testing can be a bit of a wild card. Coach Jeremy has referred to it as a “performance,” and just like on the stage, sometimes during a test we bring the house down, and some days we fall flat. Part of the value of training lies in this mystery and our reaction to it.
Why train so frequently and test so rarely? Testing taxes your body and has little progressive effect on your system. Moving extremely heavy load or at breakneck speed can lead to diminished accuracy in technique, technical misses, and is extremely taxing on our CNS. Incessant testing leads to poor recovery and less adaptive stress on our system. Adaptive stress fuels growth, so the more we test, the less we grow.
Why test at all then? Tests are necessary for benchmarking our progress, identifying weaknesses, and gaining experience and confidence in performance under pressure. The very reason the “girls” and “heroes” are referred to as “benchmark” workouts is that we should only perform them every so often as a yardstick for our strength and conditioning gains. Don’t be the guy who does Fran every friday. That said, every so often you should pick a workout and say “I’m gonna really get after this” and lay it all out there. It’s best to make sure it’s a workout we do semi-regularly so you will have some comparative data, and it’s good to pick a workout that incorporates movements you have been working on during your training so that you can reward your hard work with progress.
Failing and Bailing
This conversation is a long time coming, and an attempt to clean up some lax training habits and psychology that have become a bit too hardwired at the gym. The difference between training, where we very rarely fail, and testing, where we very well may fail, necessitates a discussion of when, why, and how failing/bailing should occur.
During training we should virtually never fail. We should be working submaximally, with a plan, and in control of the weight. Part of our plan is a plan to succeed. If we do fail it should be a technical fail- lost balance in a squat, hitting ourselves in the chin during a press- a mistake. Repeated failure during a training phase is a not-so-subtle message from our CNS that we are training too hard and need to back off or deload entirely. During a 6-8 week training phase you should be able to count your missed reps on one hand, with fingers to spare.
During a test, we may very well fail as we brush up against the ceiling of our strength, conditioning, and skill. This could be as simple as not being able to stand a squat back up after taking it down, or can be biting off more than we can chew in a WOD and realizing that we either won’t be able to complete it at all, or at least not before the next equinox. These failures will inform our training going forward, as they set concrete benchmarks about what where we currently stand. A missed lift or slow metcon shouldn’t be a cause for frustration, demonstrative shouting, or thrown weight belts, but as useful data that will inform our next training cycle.
Bailing is a luxury that weightlifters went without for many years. Bumper plates are an invention of Olympic Weightlifting, where technical misses occur fairly often due to the high skill demand of the movements. Powerlifters for years toiled away in “iron gyms,” without the ability to bail every time they got stuck in the hole. This week we had everyone get spotted during 1RM attempts, and asked that they hang in there and finish their lifts, even if it had to be with the aid of the spotter. Fighting through a rep is a learned skill, and often the feeling of “oh no, this will never go up” can one second later become “I’ve got it” with the application of a little tenacity. The converse is true- people can become so comfortable bailing the bar that the second their squat feels less than stellar they toss if off their shoulders. While there are some WODs and specific workouts where a (CONTROLLED) bail is ok (Grace for example) these bails usually happen at the TOP of a lift so the athlete doesn’t tire out or have to fight through a suboptimal position. Learn to fight out a rep, finish what you start, and don’t get comfortable with the idea of bailing the bar.
The best athletes have a larger view of their training, and don’t simply walk into the gym each day without a plan, throw some weight on the bar, and see what they can do. Careful plan
ning, listening to your coaches and your own body for feedback, and picking your times to test a lift or skill will all lead to greater success, faster recovery, and less injuries.