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CrossFit Legend Chris Spealler Q&A 2nd Installment

CF snatch

Question: Chris, how do you alter your training immediately following a competition?

The competition that you have just completed and the time of year largely dictate the recovery process afterwards. By the way, and to digress from the question for a moment, if you are serious about being competitive in CrossFit it’s a good idea to do some local or larger regional competitions. What that does is give you a chance to “test” your plan for tapering, warm-ups at the competition, meals between workouts, and so on.

For the local/regional competitions your rest/recovery time can be as short as a day, and no more than two. You should be able to quickly get back to your training cycle that will allow you to progress for your main competition. If you are feeling run down it’s a good idea to initially get back to the gym with lower intensity and loading in your workouts. Examples of this might be something that provides built-in rest like and EMOM (every minute on the minute). This can also be great to work on some simple skill development or longer cardio respiratory endurance days since they are by nature of lower intensity.

Following the main competition of the year I typically recommend a week or two off from the gym. Personally, I am usually back in the gym within 5-7 days, but with similar principles mentioned above. Even if you placed well in the competition, coming off of the intense pre-competition cycle can often lead to a let-down. In such scenarios it is best to give yourself the time you need to recharge your batteries. Do some fun physical activities which are not stressful. If a couple of weeks have gone by and you are not yet physically hungry to be back in the gym take another day or two and it could lead to a better week or month of training.

CF gals
Question: What do you recommend to get someone up to Rx as quickly as possible? Is it better to use Rx weights sooner and try to build from there, or scale and then work on strength independently?

This is a great question and exposes what many people fall victim to when starting out CrossFit. First of all, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not just a conditioning program. With well varied programming you will find a variety of loadings, rep schemes, and movements throughout a week that will help increase strength for most beginner to intermediate athletes.

CrossFit has 4 models that help support our definition of fitness: “work capacity across broad time and modal domains”. One of those models is The 10 General Physical Skills. This list was developed by Bruce Evans and Jim Crawley, track coaches in Texas and is as follows:

1. Cardio Respiratory Endurance
2. Stamina
3. Strength
4. Flexibility
5. Speed
6. Power
7. Coordination
8. Accuracy
9. Agility
10. Balance

Our belief is that he or she who is most fit will be best balanced across ALL 10 of these General Physical Skills. If we have excess capacity in one area it usually means we lack in another. Many people make the mistake of assuming that one of these is more important than the other. This would be true for a specialist such as a power lifter, or marathon runner, but for a generalist that is looking to have GPP (general physical preparedness) none is more important than the other.

It’s easy to think that we need to increase our strength to do workouts Rx’d, which may be the case, but the same could be said about coordination, ctamina, flexibility, or any one of the 10 GPS.

Doing a workout Rx’d is a huge achievement for many and should be celebrated. Having said that we still want to maintain the intended stimulus of the workout the majority of the time. Take the following workout for example:

3 Rounds

Run 400 meters
21 Pull-ups
7 Front Squats (225/155)

If you don’t have a baseline to start with regarding how long this should take an athlete think of a Regional level CrossFit competitor, or even the “fire breather” in the gym. The workout listed above for a Regional Level athlete should take anywhere from 7-10 min.

-Run 400: roughly 1:30/round
-21 Pull-Ups: roughly 45 sec/round
-7 Front Squats: roughly 45 sec/round

Each round taking approximately 3 min

These times allow for transition, chalking your hands, breaks between the bars, etc. Some athletes will be able to do it faster, some a bit slower, but the intention behind the workout is for power output. That means that the athlete should be able to move through the workout with a strong pace. Below would be two different athletes that although capable of doing the workout as rx’d, would be missing the stimulus.

Athlete 1:

This athlete may lack strength and have difficulty with the front squat. They may be able to get them done, but the rep scheme for the front squat is singles or doubles with long breaks between reps from the start to complete the set of 7.

The run and pull ups may not be the issue at all for this athlete since they suit his strengths, but if the front squat weight holds him back so much that the workout now takes him 15 min, we have lost the intention of the workout.

Athlete 2:

On the opposite end of the spectrum this athlete may have no issue at all with the front squat but the combination of the run and pull ups slows them down. Their cardio respiratory endurance for the run which is now taking 2:30-3 min, and stamina on the pull ups which forces them to do sets of 5 and less with long breaks to get to 21 holds them back from getting through the workout quickly. If this causes them to finish the workout in 15 min we have lost the intention of the workout.

The majority of the time the workout should be scaled to allow for a similar time domain and power output to be reached. Athlete number 1 should scale down the weight on the front squat to something where they can get at least the first round in consecutive reps. Athlete number 2 may scale down the distance on the run to 200 meters, or the pull up repetitions to 15/round, and if needed, scale both of them.

From the examples above you can see that strength may not be the glaring weakness. And if it is, well varied CrossFit programming including one strictly heavy day/week will increase the athletes strength over time. If our stamina or CRE is the limiting factor the same could be said. Well varied CrossFit programming providing a variety of rep schemes, loadings, and distances will increase this athletes capacity in these areas.

On occasion it is ok and recommended that you give your athletes a chance to perform workouts as Rx’d without worrying about the time. It will give them a victory, and baseline to work from for improving their fitness. Most of the time, in most situations, and most scenarios the workouts should be scaled down appropriately, first with load, then reps or distance, and lastly the movement, in order to maintain the stimulus intended.

Author Chris Spealler
Author Chris Spealler
Chris Spealler is a multi top 10 finisher at the CrossFit Games and one of the sport’s legends. He currently works for CrossFit HQ and owns his own facility (CrossFit Park City) in Utah. Chris’ amazing strength endurance, endurance, and work ethic always made him a fan favorite.

Nitrean Natural Has Launched!

WWW.ATLARGENUTRITION.COM

Our new Nitrean Natural
Our new Nitrean Natural
For years our customers have been asking if we planned to offer an artificial sweetener free version of our wildly popular Nitrean series. The answer has always been no, but that answer just changed!

As many of you know we have recently begun manufacturing our own products for the first time in our 12 years history. Our new plant has given us the freedom to delve into new, and previously unexplored facets of the supplement business. The first example of this freedom is our release of the Nitrean Natural series.

We are incredibly excited about the release of Nitrean Natural. We have always felt that we offer the finest protein supplements available, but this product line truly sets the industry standard. Here are just a few of the highlights:

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ALN Gobble-Gobble Sale!

ALN Gobble-Gobble Sale!

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Hypertrophy Specific Training CAN Have a Direct Effect on Maximal Strength

Hypertrophy Specific Training CAN Have a Direct Effect on Maximal Strength

by Chris Mason

Dennis James seems to know something about hypertrophy specific training...
Dennis James seems to know something about hypertrophy specific training…

On my drive home this evening my mind wandered as it often does.  During the process I came to what should be an obvious, but was instead a bit of an epiphany, at least at the conscious level, conclusion about hypertrophy training as it relates to maximal strength.  That conclusion was that hypertrophy training can have more than an indirect effect on maximal strength.

Holly knows the importance of hypertrophy specific training for strength.
Holly knows the importance of hypertrophy specific training for strength.

It is absolutely true that hypertrophy training indirectly aids maximal strength assuming the trainee also includes maximal strength training in their regimen.  This is due to the fact that a percentage of any hypertrophy that occurs in skeletal muscle is comprised of an increase in the size, and thus potential force production of the contractile myofibrils (actin and myosin).  Maximal strength specific work in the form of high intensity, low repetition training then permits the nervous system to harness the increased force production potential of the larger myofibrils and the athlete is able to lift ever greater maximal loads.

Branch Warren has some serious size in his lower body.
Branch Warren has some serious size in his lower body.

With that said, my epiphany relative to a direct effect of hypertrophy specific training on maximal strength stems from the fact that I realized that hypertrophy training is also a form of strength endurance training, and that strength endurance can play a role in a one repetition maximum attempt.  The connection lies in the fact that any maximal strength demonstration, by definition, will move relatively slowly.  The success or failure of a given max attempt can thus partly depend on how long the athlete can produce maximal force, or the rate of reduction in maximal force production.  In theory, enhancing strength endurance can enhance the length of time the athlete can produce maximal force.

Think of it this way, and I will greatly simplify for the sake of argument (taking joint angles and varying forces etc. out of it); if it takes 301 lbs of force to bench press 300 lbs and the lifter starts the press by producing 310 lbs of force which then rapidly declines to 305 lbs, and then 301 lbs, and finally 298 lbs before the completion of the press, they might miss the lift.  Conversely, if via hypertrophy specific training the lifter has built their strength endurance to the point they can prolong their ability to produce maximal force, and or mitigate the rate of reduction of force production, the likelihood they can grind out a maximal attempt increases.

Jeremy Hoornstra is one of the best bench pressers in history.
Jeremy Hoornstra is one of the best bench pressers in history.

The above begs the question of how a strength athlete can use this concept to their benefit.  At face value it might seem that hypertrophy specific training would be counterproductive for the strength athlete relegated to a weight class other than superheavyweight.  When it comes to the human body that which seems obvious isn’t always the case.  An important component of skeletal muscular hypertrophy when considering an individual whose level of muscular development is anything beyond a rote beginner is total caloric intake.  If the athlete controls their total caloric intake and practices hypertrophy specific training not much in the way of actual hypertrophy will occur, but the adaptation of increased muscular endurance will still be manifest given proper rest etc.  So, even for the strength athlete that does not want a significant increase in skeletal muscle mass, hypertrophy specific training can be of benefit to their absolute strength and performance.

If you have followed me or my companies at all for the past several years you already know I am a firm believer in Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell training system (www.westside-barbell.com).  I have known his system is highly effective for some time, but the more I learn and contemplate the ramifications of what I learn, the more I begin to understand why.  Relative to this article, Westside includes hypertrophy specific training directly alongside maximal strength training, and I think that fact is lost on a lot of trainees.  The accessory work which is at the core of the Westside system is, for all intents and purposes, bodybuilding.  Its inclusion aids maximal strength in exactly the manner I have defined above.

To further illustrate the effects of hypertrophy specific work and enhancing strength endurance for maximal strength we need look no further than one of Louie’s disciples and a story Louie loves to relate when telling about his system.  Travis Bell is a natural athlete who is a tremendous bench presser (570+ lbs raw and nearly 900 lbs shirted at around 260 lbs body weight).  Travis began training at Westside several years ago and has made amazing progress since being there.  At one point, when Travis’ training had stagnated, Louie had instructed him to add sets of 100 repetition band pushdowns supersetted with lying extensions after his standard triceps work.  As Louie tells it, Travis’ triceps blew up to over 20″ in short order and his bench press followed suit.

Travis Bell at Westside
Travis Bell at Westside

Bottom line, if you want to be as strong as possible do not shy away from hypertrophy specific/strength endurance work.  Make it a part of your regimen and optimize your training results.

Shock Your Legs!

Time to grow some legs – already got them..? Time to make them even better. This

program will shock your entire lower body into growth very quickly. Be warned, it

isn’t easy and at times you may feel the urge to quit – don’t do it!

Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!
Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!

If there are two things that stop guys or girls training their legs hard, they are:

• It’s hard, and you don’t like hard

• If you have weak legs or under-trained legs, it seems embarrassing to start with

smaller weights

If you are guilty of the first point, this programme probably isn’t for you… unless you

want to make a change and challenge yourself (which I highly recommend).

If you are guilty of the second, there is one solution – face your fear and get down to

the nitty-gritty of a supremely effective leg shocker.

On the other hand, if you do hit the legs hard but they have stopped growing, other

factors come into play:

1) Exercises used for too long a time with insufficient variation have caused a

plateau

2) Too few exercises choices that are preventing the needed muscles getting the

attention to grow

3) Over-training – using high volume or high intensity training methods too

frequently or for too long

If points 1 and 2 apply, no need to worry – this program is your ticket. If point 3

applies, take 2 weeks of downtime, or easier training to gain sufficient restoration

before starting this routine.

Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.
Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.

This is not a traditional bodybuilding leg training program – it is a little different, and

the reasons for this are:

• There are a greater selection of exercises that are often not used in a traditional

body-builder’s arsenal

Now, what will this program do for you? It will:

• Build crazy amounts of muscle

• Raise your squat

• Raise your deadlift

• Increase your sprinting and jumping ability

• Allow you to do all of this year round with a very high time economy

Sound too good to be true? Let’s test it out and get cracking on the nuts and bolts of

the matter.

The program is performed 2 times per week, preferably with 72hrs in between

sessions.

Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.
Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.

Day 1:

Warm-up – choose from one of the following:

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal height

jumps

• Seated vertical jumps(on box/chair/bench) with light dumbbells – 3-4 sets of 5-

6 maximal height jumps

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) with light ankle weights – 3-4 sets

of 5-6 maximal height jumps

Maximum strength – Choose one of the following and work up to a 1RM

• Deficit deadlifts (wide or close stance)

• Below parallel box squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Snatch grip deadlifts

• Below parallel pin squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Rack pulls

• Full Olympic squats (with brief pause at the lowest point)

Assistance work: choose from one of the following:

• Exercise A: Deficit deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts – 6-8RM

• Exercise B: Hanging bent leg raises or hanging straight leg raises – 8-15RM

• Exercise C: Below parallel wide stance front box squats or below parallel wide

stance front pin squats – 5-6RM or 3RM

• Exercise D: Alternate arm dumbbell suitcase deadlifts or alternate arm barbell

suitcase deadlifts – 6-8RM(per side)

One heck of a seated good morning!
One heck of a seated good morning!

• Exercise E: Seated good mornings or thoracic extensions – 6-10RM

Day 2:

Warm-up – choose from 1 of the following:

• Maximum broad jump – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light ankle weights – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light dumbbells – 10 sets of 1 rep

Follow immediately by:

• Sub-maximal broad jumps – using about 70% of your max broad jump do 8

sets of 3 reps emphasizing short ground contacts. Use the same resistance as

the max broad jumps used in each session. Rest 15 seconds between sets.

Assistance work:

• Exercise A: Broad jumps or rope pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal

distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise B: Kneeling broad jumps or kneeling pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6

maximal distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise C: Backwards sled drags or leg extensions -16-20 steps/8-12RM

• Exercise D: Straight leg sit-ups or decline straight leg sit-ups – 8-12RM

Pallof press
Pallof press

• Exercise E: Pallof press or pallof press & static hold – 8-12RM/15-30 second

hold

Notes:

• The amount of sets can be decided according to your ability to recover – as a

guide, with the amount of time you will have for your workouts, 2-4 sets will

work well. Rest periods should stay at a maximum of 2 minutes.

• If you need extra work on a weaker muscle/muscle group, simply increase the sets by 1 or 2

and reduce the sets by 1 or 2 from an exercise/muscle that is a strength.

• Seated vertical jumps are performed by sitting on a surface then jumping up from

that surface as high as possible with maximal vertical leg drive. Immediately

descend to the surface and do another rep. There should not be long pauses

between each rep. Rest 60 seconds – no more, no less between sets of all

5-6RM jumping exercises, rest 15-60 seconds for 1RM jumps and rest 15

seconds for sub-maximal broad jumps.

• The limits of a persons maximum strength will cap whatever they can do for

reps. The best way to build maximum strength is to work up to the heaviest

weights that can can moved with volitional, controlled effort

• Maximal strength is best trained where you are weakest. For example, if

you fail out of the hole when doing Olympic squats or fail to lockout heavy

deadlifts, rack pulls and below parallel squat variations are very sensible

choices. On the other hand, if you are weak to start heavy deadlifts off the

floor, snatch grip or deficit deadlift variations are sensible choices.

• Working up to a 1RM is great. It doesn’t have to be done every week, but

it can be done if you want to. A 1RM max that trains your particular weak

point should be attempted no less than once per month. Other weeks can

consist of 2 or 3RM maxes or occasional deloads.

• Work up to around four or five 1RM or near 1RM attempts once per week at

around 90-100% of your max for that day.

• If you would like to continuously progress on this program simply

rotate the rep ranges of the exercises here or slightly change the exercises e.g.:

Change from body weight broad jumps to broad jumps with ankle weights

or switch to dumbbells. Switch from deficit deadlifts for 6-8RM to deficit

deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts for 3RM etc – this will help prevent excessive

accommodation

• Keep training sessions to 60 mins at most

• You can do each session once per week or once every 6 days. For example, day

one on Monday, day two on Thursday, day one again on Sunday and so on.

• Don’t spend forever maxing – allocate 10 or 15 minutes at most to this section

– any more time will eat into other work that needs doing. Rest 2 minutes

between sets of 1RM.

• Before commencing high intensity jumps in a warm-up, do one set of 10 easy

jumps and one set of 10 moderate jumps

The author, Will Vatcher
The author, Will Vatcher

Will Vatcher is a strength & conditioning coach based in Cambridgeshire, England. He has published articles online on several major websites, including interviews with experts such as Louie Simmons, Fred Hatfield & Natalia Verhoshansky

You can contact Will at willvatcher@hotmail.com