AMRAP 20 Minutes:
Hang Snatch 95/65
The Snatches should be on the light side and are Rx’d as full squats. Only scale to Power Snatches if mobility necessitates it. If you have 5 Ring Dips at a time, then go for it. If not then scale to Push-Ups. If you complete through the 3 Ring Dips, then stop there and score time to complete.
Post rounds, reps, and Rx (or time and Rx) to comments.
- The second event of this year’s Subway Series will take place at CrossFit Gantry this Sunday, August 14th. The action kicks off at 12:00pm, and workout info can be found here. Head to Gantry to support CFSBK’s athletes!
The Sweat Spot: Balancing Precision and Intensity for Maximum Gainz
Editor’s Note: We’re about halfway through Crush Week, when turn up the intensity to cap off our current 8-week training cycle. So now’s a good time to revisit this piece on training intensity by Coach Noah (now of CrossFit Lumos in Austin, which we can only assume is a cowboy gym). “The Sweat Spot” was originally posted on 3.30.2015.
By Noah Abbott
At CFSBK, we always tell people that from their first day of Foundations through the first month or two of group classes, their loading, pacing, and intensity should be at roughly 60-70%. Things should feel easy and athletes should leave each class feeling like they had more in the tank. This is incredibly important advice—your first few months and few thousand reps are crucial for motor patterning. Your body learns the positions and pathways you move through, and if you are assuming imperfect positions or moving inefficiently from point A to B, you will gradually condition yourself to keep repeating those patterns. You can always go back and re-learn these patterns, and to some extent they evolve over time, but starting with great positioning is key to continuing to move well as weights go up and intensity increases.
That covers the first few months, and most of our members are great at following that advice. Everything still feels a little foreign and clunky, so people are happy to stay well within safe and proper parameters while they slowly gain confidence and familiarity with the movements. However, after the first few months, many people struggle to find the proper balance between precision and intensity as they begin to develop as an athlete. Often people fall toward one of two extremes, both of which blunt performance and progress. Either they want to do everything as fast, heavy, and hard as possible, or they are so focused on doing everything perfectly that they rarely work hard enough to elicit a neuromuscular adaptation.
The Three Pitcher Analogy
This analogy was first described to me by a coach in Arizona, using three target pistol shooters as the example. Since (legal) competitive gunplay in Brooklyn is about as rare as a pair of Nike Metcons (ohhhhh snap), and since baseball season is right around the corner, I’m going to modify the example a bit, and use three baseball pitchers as our test subjects. Instead of just calling them A, B, and C, I’ll call our pitchers Alex, Bo, and Chris.
It’s a hot summer day when our pitchers report to the practice field to throw a practice session under the watchful eye of their coach. Coach tells each pitcher to throw five pitches before regrouping and discussing what they need to work on.
Alex is up first, and really wants to impress. He rears back as hard as he can and every pitch is a flurry of elbows and knees. No two windups or deliveries look the same, Alex is falling all over the mound, but he’s throwing HARD. Half the time his cap falls off as he throws—he’s almost throwing himself at the catcher. Further, he’s rushing—the moment one pitch thumps into the catcher’s mitt Alex is already winding up for the next one. He finishes his five pitches, huffing and puffing, with sweat pouring down his face, his hair sticking up in ten different directions, one of his shoes untied, and limps to the bench, totally exhausted.
Bo is next up. Bo looks much more in control than Alex from the get-go. He’s working hard, and obviously putting his all behind each pitch, but he is taking a little more time between each pitch, and looks markedly more in control of his body. Still, you can tell Bo is working, and he audibly yells after his third pitch (“Shucks” or “Rats” or some other folksy, W.P. Kinsella-like exclamation). By the end of his session, he’s breathing hard and sweating, but still fairly composed. He walks to the bench slowly, and looks happy to rest for a bit.
Chris is up last, and wants to outshine Alex and Bo. He’s cool and collected as he walks to the mound, and takes his time getting ready. He is smooth and controlled as he throws, fluid and easy through all of his movements, and takes a lot of time between each pitch to carefully reset his footwork, make sure all of his mechanics are correct, and that he is ready to go. Every pitch looks like a mirror image of the one before, but the catcher’s glove doesn’t pop quite as loud as for Alex or Bo—it looks like Chris is taking a bit off each pitch in an effort to be perfect.
Here’s how their sessions look when overlaid on a batter and strike zone:
As we can see, Alex is pretty wild, with two of his pitches well out of the strike zone, and no real consistency to any of his efforts. Bo misses the strike zone once, but just by a bit, and most of his pitches are pretty consistent. Chris groups all five of his pitches very close with no misses (for sake of illustration, the pitches are probably even more scattered so they can be seen individually).
Who Is Training Correctly?
While all three pitchers will gain something from practice regardless of intention and intensity, the athlete coach would reward with a “good job, keep it up,” is Bo.
Alex needs to slow down! He’s wild, overthrowing, putting himself at risk of injury with undisciplined mechanics, and isn’t learning much. He is confusing unbridled intensity with hard, disciplined work. He should go back to basics, take a little longer between pitches to make sure he is set, and work on consistent mechanics and technique.
Chris needs to work a little harder. He can obviously throw a fastball over the plate when he takes his time and throws a bit softer than his upper limit. Chris should work on throwing a little harder, working faster, and maybe throwing in some more “advanced” pitches. He won’t develop if he just keeps doing what he already obviously knows how to do. He is too concerned with being “perfect.”
Bo is our ideal athlete, taking his refined technique and then pushing it right to the edge. He is very effective and efficient, but is working hard enough that one in every five to 10 pitches is slightly less than optimal. Note that when Bo misses, he misses small, and then can make a correction the next time to get better. Bo will grow the fastest of the three because he is pushing the limit of his ability.
In CrossFit, we call this Threshold Training.
Threshold Training and YOU
The concept of Threshold Training is as old as CrossFit, being cited early by Greg Glassman (hallowedbehisname) in one of those weird old videos where he draws stick figures on a chalkboard while Tony Budding leers at him. Simply put, the concept is similar to the Pitcher’s Analogy above, that during training athletes need to push themselves hard enough that their accuracy may slightly suffer, but not so hard that it goes totally out the window. There is a sweet spot to find in your training, and falling too far on either side will slow or blunt your progress.
Do you go as hard as possible every workout, only to be outperformed by others who look like they aren’t trying too hard? Do you often have to strip weight or scale movements mid-WOD? Do you feel like your progress is lagging behind your intensity? If so, you might be like Alex in the Pitcher’s Analogy. You need to slow down, go a bit lighter, and focus on being more consistently accurate before ramping your intensity back up.
Do you often finish WODs without really breaking a sweat? Have you never felt that gut-punched, world-spinning feeling after a workout? Do you use the same weight all the time, or hover in a narrowly prescribed range? Do you repeat lifting exposures or avoid adding weight during Olympic lifts if you felt the lift wasn’t 100% perfect? You might be training like Chris the pitcher—you need to push a little further out of your comfort zone. Perfect practice has its place, but during work sets and WODs, a small bit of deviation is expected and encouraged. Pro football players certainly practice perfect running mechanics, but come gameday, nobody praises how perfectly a player runs with the ball, only that they get to the end zone.
A Contextual Approach to Threshold Training
All that being said, the different training modalities, prescriptions, and resulting intensities need to be approached contextually. While we generally avoid “being Alex,” there are rare times when that approach is appropriate. Similarly, there is value to sometimes slowing things down and “pulling a Chris.” Here are some loose guidelines:
Alex (100% intensity, regardless of technique): Last few seconds/final attempts of a competition where there is some real sort of prize on the line. Money? Prestige? Qualification for Regionals/Games/American Open, etc.? You have to decide if it’s worth it.
Bo (90% intensity with 90% perfect technique): Benchmark WODs, Open workouts, competitions, and any WOD where you feel very comfortable and confident with the movement and you have built a sufficient base of perfect practice. Movements should feel like they are on “auto-pilot” and that you don’t need to do a ton of thinking about how to execute them.
Chris (sub-maximal intensity with 100% perfect technique): Warm-ups, skill practice, new or rarely seen movements, any movement that you don’t feel super comfortable with, are trying to iron out a “kink” from, or any time an old or recent injury or mobility restriction is taxed or bothered during execution.
Aaaaand I’m Done
Okay, enough sports analogies, this is getting ridiculous. Stay tuned for my next article, in which I create a hackneyed and longwinded analogy between muscle-ups and nineteenth-century Russian literature.
Train smart, train hard, and don’t be afraid to explore the outside edge of your comfort zone.
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