In the Game of CrossFit, Intensity beats Volume
By Derek McDermott
Recently I had a client ask me if I was on PED’s. He chuckled. He was kidding, but I was also flattered. Neil is a longtime client of ours and he noticed that my name has recently been at or near the top of the leaderboard. Now, ill preface with this by saying I am not a stellar athlete by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am relatively well rounded. There was a 3 or 4 day stretch where our gym programmed row sprint intervals, a heavy met-con and a longer chipper and I happen to do well in all of them.
My performances in these workouts even surprised myself a bit. I’m not the best at barbell cycling and we surely have better rowers in our gym (Yes, I’m look at you Geoff!) but I still did well. Neil’s question caught me off guard and got me thinking. What’s changed?
My diet has been the same, my sleep has been similar but my training seemingly has been erratic. I’ve recently transitioned into this new job where I’m now coaching full time. Some days I’m up at 330am where some days I sleep till 8am. Plus, I’ve been banged up from some nagging injuries preventing me from going overhead as often as id like.
So what’s been the biggest difference? I’ve been really trying to go hard. Call it the “pain cave,” call it the “dark place” or call it “all out,” but that’s been my goal. Since my training has not been at consistent days/times like I prefer, I’ve just been trying to crush every workout whenever I can get it in. Even if I find myself scaling around an injury, I’m going after each workout, with the best form and intensity possible. Surely some days you just don’t have “it,” but focusing on ratcheting up the intensity each and every session is where the payday is.
So that’s what I told him. But I don’t think he believed me.
As a CrossFit coach, we see you guys and gals numerous days a week. Its pretty easy to tell when John Doe is coasting or if Jane Doe is giving it her all. Usually a telltale sign is how you finish the workout. If you finish that last rep and within 15 seconds you find yourself taking the clips off your barbell, you likely could have gone harder. Not every WOD needs to be followed by the “Fran Cough” but each workout should be difficult, no matter how easy it may seem.
Intensity really is KING, as long as its accompanied with proper form. If you find yourself plateauing, dig deep and have an honest conversation with yourself. Are you going as hard as you can? Do you sprint that last 50m or do you coast? Were those last 15 burpees exhausting? Did you HAVE to put the barbell down that last time? Do you treat every repetition with respect or do you mindlessly hit the lighter sets?
I’m not here to say increasing volume is bad or dangerous. For some, it’s necessary. However, don’t over think it. Tabata workouts are prime examples of how less can be more. Dr. Izumi Tabata developed his famous training protocol by working with the Japanese Speed Skating team and it centers around maximal effort. Each 20-second block should be done as hard and fast as possible, while maintaining form. Those four minutes can be brutal, as well as being brutally effective.
Lastly, since its summer, we do a lot of running in our workouts. We often get questions on how to get better at running. One way to do so is to hit some Tabata intervals on the rower, ski erg, or even the Air Dyne. Numerous studies have shown increased anaerobic AND aerobic capacity after performing sprint intervals (In layman’s terms, it makes you better at sprinting AND distance). Specifically, Dr. Tabata did his study with world class speed skaters and saw impressive gains from top level athletes, and this is after ONE Tabata cycle of only four minutes. Just remember, hit it hard… Intensity is KING!
See you in the gym.