Everyone want’s to know how to do more or what they can add to supplement their training. Sometimes the best answer is to do less and for most simply getting their life on track outside of the gym (diet & sleep) will make the biggest difference.
There is a fine line between enough work and too much work and by simply browsing Instagram you can watch CrossFit athletes that are absolutely hammering themselves on a DAILY basis.
Don’t fall into this trap and know that MOST people are not afforded the same levels of resiliency as others. This is one of the biggest problems in CrossFit; everyone wants to mimic the training of the elite.
Look at the comments section of the next brutal (sometimes ridiculous) workout a high-level CrossFitter is performing. You’ll see 20+ comments of people tagging friends stating, “this is what we are doing tomorrow.” Sounds like a well-thought-out and sound plan!
Think about like this, how many athletes that play college football make it to the professional level? And even if you’re only considering those that are playing Division 1A College Football, the number is miraculously low.
If the odds of making it to the elite level in a sport that is immeasurably more popular than CrossFit, I think it’s safe to say that making it to the CrossFit games for someone in their 30s that just started CrossFit 6 months ago is highly unlikely. Your chances are probably better at winning the lottery.
This isn’t meant to discourage anymore, it’s merely to bring the reality of statistics into play so we can start training with reasonable goals and use a reasonable training plan.
If you’re a coach, being realistic with your clients is vital for their long-term success.
Additional Work Options
Wanting to do more and being motivated is awesome, BUT before you consider doing more in the gym ask yourself if you’re doing “more” outside of the gym i.e. getting consistent sleep, managing stress, sticking to a clean diet 90% of the time.
If you can “yes” to all of those questions then let’s talk about what extra work you can do to improve your fitness and that won’t leave you overtrained and invariably miserable.
- Sledwork: I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise to many of you. The sled is the MOST valuable piece of equipment many gyms don’t have. Of course, a barbell is pretty valuable but you simply cannot squat and deadlift every day. The sled, on the other hand, would be tough to “overdo.” Additionally, the sled can serve a multitude of purposes. Let’s take a closer look.
– Warm-up: The sled can be used as both a lower-body and an upper-body warm-up. For instance, starting your lower session with a 200m sledpull OR your upper-session with 10 minutes of sledpull rows/tricep extensions is an incredibly effective way to prepare for your training.
– Anaerobic Capacity: This can be trained on max effort training days, but should be separated from other high-threshold work by 72 hours. An example of this is 6 sets of 60 yards sledpush sprint resting 3:00 after each.
– Aerobic Capacity: This can be trained 2-3x a week. An example of this would be pulling a sled for up to 60 minutes with a light-load at a continuous pace.
– Posterior Chain Development: This can be trained on any heavy lower day (Max Effort or Dynamic Effort Training.) An example of this is 10 sets of 60 yards heavy sledpull powerwalk with sled straps attached to your weight belt resting 60s between sets.
– Recovery: This can be done between your harder sessions. An example of this would 30-40 minutes of sledpull powerwalk at a sustainable pace alternating between forward + backward + laterally.
– Mixed Sledwork challenges: These can be a fun way to change things up and will challenge your endurance both locally and globally. An example of this is pulling a sled with two KBs overhead for 400 meters.
- Recovery Work: There is plenty of evidence to confirm that more is not more and that there IS a point of diminishing returns. So, what can we do to make the most out of the training sessions we do have? Parasympathetic breathing has been a game changer for my clients over the last 12 months. Reason being is we can effectively expedite the recovery process by driving the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and recover) post-training. For a small investment of 5 minutes, you can improve your recovery significantly.
- Assistance Work: Clearly a lot will fit into the “assistance work” bubble but I’m referring specifically to small exercises that help improve lagging muscle groups. If you’ve been training for a decent length of time you’re probably well aware where you’re weak. Adding additional work with the goal of targetting your limiting factors can serve you quite well. For example, for myself, my left glute is weaker than my right so I perform extra single glute hip thrusts on that side multiple times per week. My left quad is weaker than my right so I perform extra single leg work for my left quad a few times a week. Lastly, my adductors are weak so I perform extra band abduction/adduction a few times a week. For an additional 15-20 minutes a week you can improve your symmetry, performance and decrease the risk of injury.
- Skill Work: Taking the time to work on perfecting your Olympic Lifts with a light barbell or even your squat and deadlift with a light barbell will improve faulty movement patterns. It’s very easy to avoid this type of work though because it’s “easy,” but there comes a time that even the most experienced athletes develop “bad habits.” To give you an example, recently I realized my deadlift technique had gone to shit after watching a video of my speed pulls. I took the next 3-weeks to perform “speed pulls” with loads that I could only perform perfect reps with as well as slowing down the speed of each rep in an effort to be more intentional. Interestingly enough I was sore in muscle-groups that I’m not usually sore in after deadlifting. Keep in mind, your overall goal is health and longevity so reinforcing good movement and breaking bad habits is the only way this can happen. Take a step back a few times a month and spend 20 minutes perfecting your squat or pull. And don’t be surprised if you get sore from this “work” as you’ll likely fire new muscles that may have not been previously working.
- Loaded Carries: I’d love to say that you can’t “overdo” these, but I’d be hesitant to go that far. In this case, we’d want to include this after your main training session 1-2x a week if you’re not already doing so. The benefits include core and grip strength, posture improvement, as well as providing an “aerobic effect” when intervals are 60s or longer.
- Band Work: This is another piece of the puzzle for Conjugate programming that has proven it’s weight in gold. Why? Because training soft-tissue such as tendons and ligaments are important for your health. It’s no mystery that blood flow to tendons can be sparse so having a simple strategy to ensure the quality of your soft-tissue is maintained is important. The best part of this work is that with an inexpensive set of bands this can be performed just about anywhere. Performing 300 reps a week of pushdowns, pull-aparts, facepulls, leg curls, and pull-throughs will allow you to stay bulletproof and less likely of having a soft-tissue injury. Not to mention, the “pump” is legit!
- Split your training sessions: If you’re able to, breaking up your strength and conditioning work will serve you well and allow you to focus on one training element at a time.
Putting it all together
Everything listed here will provide a high return on investment. For an additional 2 hours of total training time a week you can improve your limiting strength and conditioning factors as well as have a prehabilitative strategy to ensure your longevity.
Obviously, this article is for people that are looking for “more” or coaches that have clients that request more work.
Overall, this work should certainly be a part of your normal plan though; all of these measures we utilize weekly with great success so I’m quite confident you and your clients can incur the same results.