Some background here…be good to read that before reading this:
Training smart. That’s been on our minds recently, for a number of reasons. And that’s also a gigantic subject. It’s not the intention of this post to be completist and provide you with a laundry list of ways not to hurt yourself here–we do our best to hammer these things home on a daily basis. Rather, we’d like to provide some food for thought on a couple of sortakinda intangible topics that might claim safe, smart training as their ultimate aegis.
The first is the thorniest:training without ego. It’s thorny because it’s a bit of a cliche by now, and it’s also nebulous enough to resist easy explication. That old semiotic bastard Barthes (RIP, Roland) would have a field day with this one–I’m not even sure ‘ego’ is the right word here, but it’s the closest we’ve got for what we need.
And what we need is to internalize the idea that none of us are here to impress anyone; more still, none of us are here to be impressed. We are here to get better. This has to be the root cause here, folks. You can all take it from there (and most do)–if getting better makes you want to get even better because you’re hard to satisfy, awesome; if getting better scratches that Invictus itch, have at it. But whatever the attenuation, getting better is the sine qua non of our little Latin-graffiti’d Woodshed experience. If you’re not here to get better, you’re not really present.
And getting better means two things vis a vis training without ego: 1) You can’t get better than you are now if ‘now’ isn’t accurately represented, and 2) In CrossFit parlance, you need to make an effort to get better at the things you suck at.
How do you handle those two things? Simple and we won’t belabor it: do what’s on the board (e.g., 50% means 50% of YOUR max, not 50% of your training partner’s, aaaaand….it also means 50%, not 60 or 70%), be honest with yourselves about whether ‘now’ is actually now (if you deadlifted 300 six months ago but haven’t been coming in very often lately, then 300 is probably not your max anymore and it’s time to retest), and do the shit you don’t want to do because you’re self-conscious, it’s slightly unpleasant, etc. (i.e., if it says ‘Roll Out and Stretch’ on the whiteboard, walking around looking busy isn’t an adequate substitution). You’re here to get better, and this may mean you don’t look like the fully-formed You Version 2.0 all of the time.
Now, our second topic: training to your capacity instead of your ceiling. We can actually get pretty specific here. We want you using maxes that represent real-world lifts. For those of us who compete, this means working from legit reps we’ve hit in the gym–better equipment and insane adrenalin add a little bit to our ceilings in competition. And for all of us, this means that legit means adequately and safely controlled through a full range of motion.
That last little bit varies by lift in our experience. Squats need to be taken below parallel and brought back to the rack under control. A one-rep max squat will be a bit ugly but we should be working here from movements that ultimately still resemble squats rather than colon blow good mornings. Presses need to be done straight-legged and without tiptoeing towards the top. Benches should be brought back to the rack under your own control with minimal leg flailing. And deadlifts…ah, the deadlifts. If you look like a candy cane (and your low back feels as fragile as one) during the rep, it may be a PR but it sure as shit isn’t a number you ought to work from.
In that regard, the powerlifts need to be thought of in terms of working capacity, not ceiling. More still the Oly lifts, which rely on precision and speed as well as strength. Most often we work technique and speed here on Oly days, so it behooves us to work from lifts that demonstrate more precision than muscle. If you snatch 125 and hit your positions, then hit 140 and nearly destroy half of the racks in the gym standing up to the finish…well, we want your 60% to be 60% of the positionally and neurologically sound movement. We want to practice success here. Your PRs can–and should in most cases–be ugly, but your maxes should not be. Capacity, not ceiling.
So…let’s endeavor to train even more smartly and safely. Train without ego and to your capacity. Keep those two ideas at the front of your brainpan every time you get in here to put the pedal to the metal.
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