Doctor’s Orders

Prescribed, or not prescribed?

You walk into the box and head straight for the whiteboard. Your coach has thrown up a Met-con and you begin to run through the workout in your mind as you skim through.


25 Double Unders

15 Back Squat 155#/105#

5 Pull ups

5 Rounds

“Hell ya, 25 Double Unders I got that no problem. 15 Back squats – I got that – 5 Kips… No issues. I feel pretty good, Coach had me work on Double Unders the other day i can get like 10 in a row now, Ill just break them up and go 10-10-5 and they’ll be done. Back squat I just maxed out at 205# the other day I can hit 155# no problem. Pull ups, no big deal I can do 5.”

Does this running dialogue sound familiar? Sure does, I hear it all the time. Athletes verbalizing their way through a workout. In many cases it can get them in trouble. Yes, we are capable of completing all of these movements – but in what time frame? For the physiological adaptations we are trying to elicit, is it effective to take 30 minutes grinding out this workout?

First of all, what physiological adaptations are we looking for? Simple, we are looking to bridge the gap between fitness and health. Meaning – By effectively pushing the limits of our physical fitness concerning our Phosphagen, glycolitic, and oxidative energy systems we elicit positive responses on our bodies related to body composition, blood pressure, triglycerides, cholesterol, etc.

Second, what is the most effective way to produce these benefits? The most effective way to produce these benefits is to increase our capacity for work. Capacity for work can be used to define both fitness and health. It is defined as your ability to move large loads, long distances, quickly, through modal domains. Fitness, and health can be described through this as well in a fitness setting and throughout life, respectively.

Third, to bridge the gap between fitness and health we have to increase capacity for work. How do we increase our capacity for work? We increase our capacity for work with INTENSITY. Intensity can be described as our average power output.

Power (average) = Force x Distance / Time

So, how does this relate to us completing the workout posted on the white board? Let us apply this equation to one set of back squats within the workout and the results of two different athletes. Both athletes are 6 feet tall, and weigh 200 lbs and perform the workout Rx. However, Athlete 1 clocks in at 1 minute (60 s), and Athlete 2 comes in at 3 minutes (180 s). Let us solve for Average Power, or Intensity. Our force is the weight of the athlete, as well as the load they are carrying, distance is the difference between the start and the end point of the load, and time is how long it took them to get that from point to point.

Weight of Athletes + Load – 355 lbs

Distance of Travel from bar start position to finish position – 4 Feet (Only work done in the concentric movement is taken into account – gravity is free.)

Reps completed – 15

Time to complete all reps – Athlete 1 = 60 s Athlete 2 = 180 s

Athlete 1 – 355 lb x 15(4 ft)/60 s = 355 ft-lb/s

Athlete 2 – 355 lb x 15(4 ft)/180 s = 118.33 ft-lb/s

As you can see, Athlete 1 registers a higher intensity than Athlete 2. This being because they simply completed more work within a shorter time period. Now, how do we relate this concept to programming for every athlete? We can take this same equation and try and reproduce a higher intensity within athlete 2. To do this, we need to change one of the values within the equation that is under our control. We do not want to change the range of motion, we want the athlete to still complete full ROM which in this case is crease of the hip below the knee to full extension at the hip. We cannot control the pace in which the athlete completes the movement, so the time variable we cannot change. However, we can change the load which will in turn affect their total time. So, let us knock off 40 lb from the bar which will allow the athlete to complete their reps unbroken. This will allow athlete 2 to now complete the task in the same time frame as athlete 1 – 60 s.

Scaled Athlete 2 – 315 lb x 15(4 ft)/60 s = 315 ft-lb/s

With the use of the scaled weight, athlete 2 now has a comparable average power output (intensity) to athlete one. This increase in intensity will allow athlete 2 to create a greater physiological response to the work completed in the workout.

In conclusion, when an athlete is establishing loads and movements to perform in their workout be sure to take into consideration their proficiency with each movement. Remember that when programming is written in a CrossFit box it is more often than not programmed for the most fit and proficient athlete who trains there.  In turn this means most athletes may have something that needs to be scaled so they can reap the intended benefits of the workout. Take into consideration the exercises, loads, order of movements, length, and intended adaptations. This will make every workout and experience more beneficial and gratifying for everyone. Plus, it is fun to feel strong and fast!

Check the ego at the door and get more fit!

Coach Josh

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