Welcome back to “I Make Mistakes So You Don’t Have To, The 2015 Edition.” In Part II, we’re discussing gymnastics and energy systems development.
If you haven’t read Part I yet, you can find it here.
1) More Development of Strict Variations
In past years, my programming has included plenty of work on developing fundamental gymnastics strength (hollow rocks, anyone?) and skill, but relatively little on strict variations of the actual movements commonly seen in competition.
Two years into seeing a strict gymnastic movement (handstand pushups) on the Regional stage, I’m left wondering if other movements, such as pullups, muscle-ups, and toes-to-bar will head down the same path. Just in case, I plan on a slight tipping of the scales towards strict movements.
This is particularly important, I think, for particular athletes. Disregarding the obvious case of athletes with a significant weakness or disparity with regard to strict movements, it seems that female athletes and long- limbed athletes see substantial carryover into their kipping movements from strict development.
This does not suggest that there is any less importance in developing efficiency and capacity with kipping movements, which will continue to be an integral part of competitive CrossFit.
2) More Max Effort Work
With regard to developing capacity, my gymnastics programming has typically focused on pacing, volume tolerance, and reducing rest periods between manageable sets with relatively little focus on being able to do very large single sets. The last few years of the Games and Regionals have demonstrated that there is a great advantage in having a high threshold for top end sets, through events like the pullup/overhead squat at 2014 Regionals, the Muscle-Up Biathlon at the 2014 CrossFit Games, and the muscle-up/squat clean ladder at 2015 Regionals.
Accordingly, this year I will spend more time helping my athletes develop that max effort capacity in the “big three” gymnastics movements.
Muscle-Ups: These will see the most focus in this area, because they have the highest cost of failure (breaking a set of muscle-ups has a higher time cost and fatigue cost than breaking a set of pullups or handstand pushups) and the lowest cost of training (max sets of kipping muscle-ups present far less total volume than max sets of kipping pullups or kipping handstand pushups.)
Pullups & Handstand Pushups: These will see less max effort work than muscle-ups. Pullups have arguably the highest cost of training for top sets, due to the risk of tearing the hands, which can impede training for days. Handstand pushups for max sets can present a tremendous amount of stress to the shoulders, in a sport which already emphasizes a lot of work overhead. Both pullups and handstand pushups have a relatively low cost of failure compared to muscle-ups.
1) Row for Calories
As much as it must irk the rowers amongst us, in competitive CrossFit calorie rowing is at least as prevalent as rowing for meters. Since the first inclusion of rowing in the Open in 2014, both Open workouts (14.4 and 15.5) and both Regionals workouts (the 50s chipper in 2014 and the row/chest-to-bar pullups/strict handstand pushup in 2015) involving rowing have been performed for calories, with only the rowing event at the Games (Triple 3) being contested for meters.
If specificity is king, and it is, then it’s time I start programming rowing for calories as seriously as I program rowing for meters. Athletes will find value in developing familiarity with their calorie per hour rate, just as they develop familiarity with their 500m split.
It is also important to bear in mind that the Concept 2 rewards input differently for distance (linear increase relative to input) and energy (exponential increase relative to input.) This chart illustrates the concept nicely. As such, it is important for the athlete to know what to expect when they choose to work harder, or not, when rowing for calories.
2) Up the Intensity (Where it Counts)
In the 2015 Games season, one of the major changes to my programming was regular, focused, progressive low intensity steady state training. This type of work was accomplished through two primary means: Firstly, classic, steady state efforts, such as 60 minutes at a low rate of perceived exertion (around @ 6), and secondly, long intervals at a moderate intensity (around @ 7-8) with short rests, such as 3-5 sets of 5-7 minutes of work with 60 seconds moving recovery between sets.
I strongly believe that this has been a great improvement in my methodology. Not only does it have a direct impact on athlete’s performance in aerobic dominant events, it seems to be allowing them to handle higher training volumes across domains.
However, several of my athletes have noticed that while they are able to maintain consistent intensity for longer durations with relatively little fatigue, they find themselves unable to really push themselves to a near redline effort when the time comes.
As a result, I’m taking a more cyclical approach to the programming of monostructural aerobic training, to allow for greater translation of basebuilding work into higher intensities, moving from low to moderate/high to high intensity phases. An easy way to think of this is to make it analogous to commonly used strength training phases, transitioning from hypertrophy (low intensity) to strength development (moderate/high intensity) to peaking or intensification (high intensity.) Below are possible examples of rowing interval workouts for the three phases.
Low Intensity: Row 4×6 minutes @ 7-8, Rest 1 minute between efforts
Moderate/High Intensity: Row 6x500m @ 8-9, Rest 1:1 between efforts
High Intensity: Row 1x500m @ 8 Rest 1:1, 1x500m @ 9, Rest 1:2 3x500m @ 10, Rest 1:3-4
It is important to recognize that while nearly all athletes will benefit from periodizing in this fashion, the top level of intensity which they train at will vary.
I’ve long espoused the importance of creating competition like scenarios in training, especially close to the competition season. I’ve particularly spoken about lifting on a clock and/or under fatigue.
However, I’ve done relatively little of this type of work with energy systems development, instead allowing sport practice to play that role. This year, I’ve decided to take more multimodal work into fully organized, repeatable energy systems development training, particularly for higher level athletes and particularly approaching competition.
As written above with more conventional methods of energy systems development, this multimodal approach can be applied at low, moderate, and high intensities. Below are examples example of a short (three workout) progression for all three.Although the workouts are not identical through the progressions, they contain elements which are similar enough in terms of time domain to be comparable from week to week. It could just as easily be done with identical elements, increasing certain elements each week, such as more repetitions on a particular movement or adding a round.
In the third and final installment of this year’s edition of “I Make Mistakes So You Don’t Have To,” we will delve into concerns of sport specific preparation.
Jacob Tsypkin is the owner and founder of TZ Strength, a company providing programming, coaching, and consulting for competitive CrossFit athletes. He is dedicated to an athletes-first philosophy designed to give the athlete access not only to expertise in the sport, but a network of specialists in other domains, as well as a support structure built around a microcosm of the strong community CrossFit is known for. Jacob focuses on improving athletes inside out, from snatches and muscle-ups to mindsets and gameplans.