How often do we fall into the trap? The idea that simply showing up and doing the WOD at our favorite box will give us everything we need to get stronger and faster? This is absolutely true by the way, to a certain extent. If you’ve been fairly sedentary in life, or are coming from a different form of training you will find that your times get faster, your lifts get stronger, almost on a weekly basis, without even trying that hard. It almost seems like you are becoming super human in a very short amount of time. Then something odd happens, we start reaching plateaus. But how, is that possible? This programming has created athletes like Rich Froning, Ben Smith, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, and Katrin Tanja Davidsdottir, shouldn’t that be enough? We will let you in on a secret, no it’s not.
Even Superman Lifts Like a Mortal – Sort of
Top athletes in the sport of CrossFit didn’t get that way by strictly showing up day in and day out doing the WOD. They added strength training days to their routines, Olympic lifting days, power lifting, borrowed from other programs, whatever they needed to get stronger and faster.
A lot of CrossFit Boxes have strength or skill training programmed into the WOD. This is usually a few minutes dedicated to getting better or stronger at a movement. The only issue is you need to do more than deadlift or squat a few times a year for more than 10 minutes at a time to truly improve and get stronger if it is your weakness. Rich Froning, in an interview with Mens Fitness after winning the 2012 Games talks about working on your weaknesses, “You’ve got to look at ‘what are my weaknesses? Is endurance my weakness or is it strength?’ Then you can go (train) a bit more bias one way.” If your strength is holding you back time to get into a program to improve.
Top CrossFit athletes are at the top because they are strong as well as fast. They have motors that can run non-stop, but they also can lift small trucks (ok so that may be a bit of an exaggeration…but only a bit). They got this way by working on lifts and working on strength. Recently at a USAW Sports Performance Coaching certification course I heard the instructor say “the single best exercise for improving your lifts is the squat”. This led to a general nod of approval around the room.
Find your program
There are a lot of theories on building strength, and even more training programs it seems like. You can go to any number of trusted sites such as Breaking Muscle, Barbell Shrugged, T-Nation, or Bodybuilding.com and discover a wealth of knowledge and information on strength building. There are those who swear by Jim Wendlers 5/3/1 program and the Boring But Big program as well. I like both and tell people these are a great place to start.
If you are looking to improve your Olympic lifts specifically you can try Chad Vaughn’s Bigger Olympic Lifts or look for the training manual from Bob Takano on BreakingMuscle.com (though that one is one you will pay for, but its worth it). Of course sometimes athletes can find a million programs and still not be sure which direction to go. If this is the case ask your coach at the box.
Use Your Resources
Your coaches at the box are there for a reason. They are knowledgeable, educated, and constantly learning. The whole reason that they are there is because they want to help you get stronger, faster, and healthier. Day after day they program, study, coach, and work to make sure the athletes are all provided with the best opportunities for success that they can receive. At our CrossFit gym in Naperville we are starting a “My Coach” program where every athlete is assigned a coach to help them in achieving their goals.
Your coaches are more than happy to dispense their professional thoughts on training programs and help you understand how to maximize your potential if that is what you want to do. Take advantage of their knowledge and see what they can recommend to help improve strength across the board. Remember ladies, getting stronger doesn’t mean you have to get huge, unless you want to. Whatever your goal let your coach know and they will help you design a program that will create a clearer roadmap to your goals.