The Importance of Strength by Christopher Murphy

What do you want to get out of your Crossfit experience? We are all here for a reason; what is yours? What is important to me is getting better each day; improving in some way every workout. 

A key aspect of improvement can be obtained, in my opinion, by improving ones strength. To quote Freddy Camacho of Crossfit Fremont, “Get stronger and EVERYTHING in life gets easier.” 

First and foremost, the stronger you become the easier your conditioning work will become. You will be able to tap into the strength you have developed and see improvements in your WOD times. However, not only will the weights prescribed for your conditioning workouts feel lighter, but there are other pieces of the puzzle that will come together with strength.

Confidence: You will be more confident in pushing yourself to overcome fear. Your confidence will grow with your strength. Getting under a bar with some super heavy weight on your back can be extremely scary! And it should be, if you are really challenging yourself. But you will find that the more you do it, the more confident you will become in pushing yourself to increase your weights. 

Work Capacity: You will find you have the ability to do more work. Strength will carry over to everyday functionality in life. For example, you will find you have the ability to unload and carry multiple grocery bags from the car at one time. You will also be able to push open heavy doors while carrying multiple grocery bags with ease. Finally, carrying your children or grandchildren upstairs to bed after they passed out watching “Frozen” for the ninth time will be a cinch. Pretty soon you will be able to decrease the amount of time it takes to mow the lawn with that old push mower. Am I the only one who tracks these stats?

This is a perfect segue into the most important point of this post: If you want to get stronger, you have to track your progress. You NEED to make sure you record your lifts and WOD times. When starting out, I have found that following a linear progression works best. A linear progression is where you start with relatively light weights (~60-70% of what you think your 1 rep max is) and add 5lbs to your lower body (squat & deadlift) and 2-2.5lbs to your upper body lifts (bench & overhead press) every week. This is another reason recording your results is important; to ensure you get the weights right each week. Consistency here will help you improve; do not miss scheduled lifting days.

Here is how it goes: Hit the gym and do 3 sets of 5 reps for your scheduled lift at your starting weight. The next week, get in the gym and do 3 sets of 5 reps with 5 (or 2.5) more pounds than the previous week. Continue this process every week. When you fail to get 3 sets of 5 reps (and you will fail), DO NOT WORRY! Failure breeds success. All you have to do is back up 3 weeks from the weight at which you failed and start back on the 3 sets of 5 reps again. You should bust through that plateau when you get back to that weight. Continue on adding weight each week and when you fail again, reset the weight back three weeks, but start doing 5 sets of 3 reps and proceed again. You want to milk this system for all the gains you can get. After about 20-24 weeks, you will have likely drawn out all the adaption from this type of program. Then, you are ready for a more sophisticated strength program as gains from this point forward are harder to achieve.

Here is a sample chart I developed to track maxes for what I think are key lifts. Feel free to use it to start your own journal of results.