Mechanics, consistency, Intensity

mechanics consistency intensity

“Learn the mechanics of fundamental movements; establish a consistent pattern of practicing these same movements, and, only then, ratchet up the intensity of workouts incorporating these movements. ‘Mechanics,’ then ‘Consistency,’ and then ‘Intensity’– this is the key to effective implementation of CrossFit programming.” -COACH GLASSMAN

It’s easy to get carried away in crossfit and want to jump right in with awesome looking movements like Clusters, muscleups, and butterful pullups. But the reality is the vast majority of us spend so much time seated in front of a computer that our mobility and muscle imbalance means we’re at best not ideally conditioned to handle such movements and, at worst in a position where doing these movements are likely to cause injury.

Crossfit also attracts very ambitious eager indivduals, not the kind of people who take well to sitting in the remedial class and having to re-learn everything, in fact, the hardest athletes to coach are generally those who have previous athletic back ground. It takes huge amounts of self-reflection and humility to be willing to admit that starting from scratch can sometime be a good thing.

Safety underpins everything in Crossfits  Constantly varied, functional fitness, at high intensity, that is universally scalable definition. And the first step in ensuring safety is to ensure that the points of performance for any movement are clearly explained to, learned and adhered to by athletes regardless of intended stimulus or time and modal domain.

Sound technique ensures good safe and efficent movement mechanics. the next level up is to ensure that this technique doesn’t falter as external stresses are place up on it, be that weight, share of the object or any variation in time and modal domain.

The final point is Intensity, once the athlete can demonstrate that they have consistent technique through a wide range of  time and modal domains, the factor of time and competition can be applied.

by progressive increasing the challenge in this controlled 3 step manner we can ensure that the athlete progresses through movements achieving the points of performance, whilst minimising risk of injury.

Intensity versus Volume

“be impressed by intensity, not volume” – Greg Glassman

marathon runners and distance walker often focus primarily on volume, i.e. the distance run/walked, in a weight lifting context we see ladies with baby weights lifting for hundreds of reps.

“volume” refers to how many reps or sets are performed, and “intensity” indicates how much weight is lifted, a relative percentage of your maximum capability. so in the debate between Intensity versus Volume what it comes down to is – who is the better athlete – the athlete that can lift 100lb 100 times, or the athlete that can lift 1000lb 1 time. On the surface its a hard one to debate 100lb is a reasonable amount of weight after all and 100 reps is a lot. but what if we add in the variable of a time frame? 1 rep takes a second, if that, how long would 100 reps take? does it include breaks? what if you rested 5 minutes between each 100lb rep, would it still be impressive to do 100 reps?

Generally the relationship between volume and intensity as being inverse, i.e. the more reps that you do, the lower the weight that you can lift, where Crossfit Differs however is that the element of time is added, intensity in Crossfit isn’t just about how much weight is lifted, but also how quickly its lifted. if we take the example about as fix the volume – which athlete is stronger the athelete that can do 100 reps at 200lb in one day or the athlete that does 100 reps at 100lb in 10 minutes?

as you can see, intensity (in the context of limiting time) changes the dynamic of who is the ‘stronger’ athelete significantly. The reason for this comes down to physics – power = work/time. conventional training typically doesn’t fact time.

In Crossfit, we strive to increase work capacity (work) over broad time and modal domains (time/weight etc) – simply put – get more powerful.

now, we’ve only focus on strength and perhaps cardiovascular endurance, but don’t forget the other general physical skills. with time not being a factor, maintaining these general physical skills is relatively easy, once you add time as a limiting factor, fatigue plays a significant role and you’ll see various aspects of the general physical skills begin to deteriorate, being a strong athlete also means being able to sustain the quality of general physical skills over the intensity of the workout whether that is weight or time.

The secret to Crossfit – Intensity

be impressed by intensity not volume
Intensity is the secret to progress in Crossfit

Crossfit has revolutionized our view of fitness, and transformed the industry, from body building gyms focused on isolation exercises with countless rows of treadmills and machines, to open spaced functional spaces with rigs and Olympic lifting platforms. From aerobics classes to high intensity training with weights.

Part of the reason for Crossfit’s success is no doubt the community aspect and the unconventional methods, introducing gymnastics, competition and oly lifting to the masses, and simultaneously making the whole package welcoming to beginners and women.

But Really, the Secret Sauce is in the methodology of the training. When you look at the definition of Crossfit its summarized as – ‘constantly varied, function fitness, performed at high intensity, designed for universal scalability’ – within this phrase is the magic words ‘high intensity’

The reality is that even if you ignored the rest of the phrase and just focused on ‘high intensity’ you would see immediate gains in strength, muscle mass, calorie burn and fat loss. but why?

In  simple terms, intensity is the result of effort versus time, the more effort in less time, the higher the intensity. The higher the intensity, the more the body needs to adjust to cope, that adjustment comes in the form of muscle growth, heart rate and hormone changes in the body as it responds to the change in environment.

The problem with intensity is adaptation, the body needs time to adjust to the intensity, lift too much as you’re going to compromise your form/technique. run too fast and your form/technique also suffers. This is where Crossfit gets a lot of its negative association with injury, high intensity with out regard for form/technique integrity invariably leads to injury, but this is already changing within the Crossfit community, the introduction of scaling down weight and movements makes Crossfit far safer without overly compromising intensity. Indeed the mark of a competent Crossfit coach is how they keep the intensity managably high without compromising on technique and movement quality, whilst progressively increasing the external resistance (be that weight, time constraint or movement complexity).