The Rhyme, The Reason, The Results
A Rationale for Parable Programming Focuses for Fall/Winter
There are so many ways to progress in CrossFit because there are skills, strengths, energy systems, and movement patterns that are constantly adapting. Below is a rationale for what we’ve been working on in the gym, and what you can expect to see coming down the pike.
We are currently on week 8 of our 16-week squat cycle, which rotates 7 weeks ON, 1 week OFF. There are many methods, and each person is either a low or high responder to each method. What we’ve been doing is training our relative strength with % based on bodyweights, and working to increase our absolute strength with various squat focuses (see below for description and programming skeleton).
For reference, absolute strength is the maximum amount of force exerted, regardless of body size. Greater amounts of absolute strength favor those with higher body weight. Greater absolute strength will improve relative strength capabilities, and can best be defined by a 1-Rep-Max lift. In training styles like CrossFit, where member-athletes are competing without a score dictated by their weight, absolute strength is key to success.
Relative strength refers to how strong someone is compared to their size. All things being equal, smaller individuals have higher relative strength. This is why despite both athletes being very fit, a 115-pound female with an equal absolute strength to a 160-pound female will apply greater relative forces into the ground and be able to jump, sprint, or power clean faster/more. Another example would be two athletes doing bodyweight-only workouts and the one with higher relative strength will fatigue much later than the other athlete because they will be more efficient at moving their body through space.
Recently, we tested our neuromuscular efficiency by taking 85% of your 1RM back squat and perform a maximal set at a given tempo of 30X0. We saw anywhere from 3-11 reps. The insight: everyone responds to sub maximal loading differently. This is a tool to show how efficiently your brain can cause muscle contraction. We are gaining insight into the “essence” of each member-athlete. Sometimes, someone who has a high NME will have a lower absolute strength than someone of equal ability. NME tests simply tell us how loading will impact you; should you be hitting 3-4 reps, 5-6 reps, or 8-12 reps for optimal strength gains?
Once we hit out last squat in the 16-week cycle, we will deload and then test our 1RM for the back squat. If we know what a true 1RM back squat is for an individual, then we have predictive data for where the deadlift, power clean, bench press, and more should be. This insight prioritizes where an athlete’s relative weaknesses are in lifts so we can balance out the member-athlete. A balanced body will avoid progress plateaus, stay bulletproof, and enjoy fitness outside the gym walls as well.
As you’ve noticed, we have been varying between overhead squats, front squats, back squats, and a few others using different tools. Sometimes there is a difficult tempo applied, sometimes there are specific pauses designed to strengthen “sticky” spots, and sometimes we do squats after the metabolic conditioning piece. Below you will see some of the rationale behind some of the squat workouts we have been doing.
Description: Maximal strength can be displayed by lifting as much weight as possible for 1-5 reps.
Appropriate Training Percentages: 85-100% 1RM
Best Set & Rep Scheme: 3 x 3
Rationale: 3 sets of 3 reps allows the lifter to handle near maximal loads without pushing to the point of a true one repetition maximum (1RM). In doing so, the lifter can achieve an adequate strength stimulus without worrying as much about technical breakdown.
Speed and Power
Description: Speed and power can be displayed by lifting a sub-maximal weight with the highest attainable speed. Bounce the last rep in each set. But make sure you don’t bounce first two reps.
Appropriate Training Percentages: 40-80% 1RM
Best Set & Rep Scheme: 9 x 3
Rationale: delays the onset of fatigue, and teaches to body how to recruit from within the neuromuscular system more efficiently.
Description: Muscle hypertrophy can be mediated by two primary factors: mechanical tension and metabolic stress. While a variety of set and rep schemes have been shown to promote muscle hypertrophy, some methods are more convenient – and possibly more effective – than others.
Appropriate Training Percentages: 65-85% 1RM
Best Set & Rep Scheme: 4 x 8
Rationale: A moderate range of 4 sets of 8 reps allows the lifter to handle loads that stress the muscle quickly while facilitating sufficient time under tension. Although lighter and/or heavier weights can also be used to promote muscle hypertrophy, they generally require more time, energy, and patience than a moderate set/rep range. This is where we see cellular fullness, also known visually as, “gains.”
Description: Muscle endurance can be displayed by repeatedly lifting a sub-maximal weight without accumulating fatigue. Training for muscle endurance holds numerous benefits including improved athletic performance, general health, and even recovery.
Appropriate Training Percentages: 20-60% 1RM
Best Set & Rep Scheme: 3 x 20
Rationale: A set and rep scheme of 3 sets of 20 reps allows the lifter to work for extended periods of time, thereby improving muscular endurance. For the best results, rest between sets should be minimal (30-60 seconds). Endurance work also helps practice the “skill” of strength by executing perfect reps for each set, especially under fatigue.
Recently, we tested our weighted pull up to strict press strength ratio. You can expect to see a few more strength ratios, as these are GREAT objective insights into which part of our structures (pulling muscles) or training adaptations (decelerating in a power clean) need some focus.
These tests have been rolled out on thousands of athletes and have been shown to have ideal ratios when the athlete expresses optimal percentages. Optimal= Barbell Strict Press/(Bodyweight + Total Added Load in a weighted pull up) = 65%.
You can expect to see an emphasis on strict pulling with various methods: overhead, horizontal, grip changes, tempos, pauses, levers, and positional holds.
You can also expect to see an emphasis on power cleans, with many variations of complexes in order to pursue mastery.
The previous cycle of Back Squat will feed into right into the Power Clean emphasis perfectly, as we will be unveiling the optimal strength ratio in each of us with regards these two lifts. According to extensive research done by Opex, the Power Clean should be right around 66% of your Back Squat. Higher than 66% means that you are faster/more powerful than you are strong and the Squat should be prioritized. Lower means you are stronger than you are fast and the Power Clean should be prioritized.
Bulletproofing Methods will continue, with a focus on unilateral strength. When you took the assessment in Parable 101, one of the tests is to see what your left side versus your right side shows in a single leg wall sit. Usually there is an imbalance, which is normal. If you don’t assess, you are just guessing. We assess. Then we create programs around the assessments, and then we test, look for patterns, and then recreate. Here’s a good ratio: one should be able to bottoms up kettlebell press 90% of what they can dumbbell strict press. Here we look to align stability with strength, and avoid the injury that can ensue from caricatures of strength and minimal stability. You might know your back squat, but do you know your 8RM Bulgarian split squat, or your Suitcase RFE Split Squat? Often, people are sound movers in the gym, but pull a muscle bending over to pick up a piece of laundry (been there). So let’s rotate, and work in the SI joint in a way that prepares us for life outside the gym as well.
You can also expect to see an emphasis on weight-prioritized workouts (For Load), as opposed to time prioritized workouts (AMRAPS, For Time, etc)
For example, on Thursday, October 31, this was programmed:
For Fun and Skill:
Min 1- Handstand Walk, Cartwheels, or Bear Crawls
Min 2- L-Rope Climb, L-Raises, or Toe Taps
Hang Pause in Clean
Receive clean EXACTLY at 90 degrees, pause 1 sec, then finish squat
Find heavy 1, then (90/1)3, then (80/1)2
Squat Cleans @60-65%
*AFTER each set of cleans, do 10 alt box step ups w/ 20% BW per hand
Longevity- 15% or less per hand
Performance- as written (20/12″)
Compete- TNG (22/14″)
There is a time and a place for going “HAM,” for setting the clock, and driving hard into the dark place. It is our belief that to care for our members rightly, these kinds of workouts should take place in a dose of 1-2x/week. There are ways to increase volume, load, rest intervals and change exercise selection, but intensity is a powerful tool that should be used with wisdom and rationale. As you consider what you are discovering with your body and gaining insight into the essence of you, please reach out and continue your thoughts with one of your coaches. We are here to care for you, with the way we program, coach, and show up for you!