This month CFA group classes will be completing a number of tests often used in our assessment of all new clients. Following these tests we will include educational pieces to inform you what your test results mean and how you can use that knowledge to further improve your abilities while avoiding limitations and plateaus.
How to Use this New Knowledge in Group Classes
CrossFit Group Classses include a constant variation of lifts. Those that attend classes consistently (particularly same days week to week) will receive a spread of the various lifts. If over these next few weeks you discover you are low in one lift/skill relative to another it is advised that you put the most effort/focus into these new found areas of opportunity (be it squatting, overhead pressing, static hangs, etc). When lifts come up that you are stronger in relative to other lifts it is advised that you stay conservative with weights (avoid pushing your upper limits) and focus on crisp technique. In time, your numbers should begin to approach an appropriate balance at which point you can put equal efforts into all lifts.
This week was a Back Squat 1 Rep Max at 3 seconds down and 1 second up as well as a static bent arm hang (just like middle school!!)
The Back Squat Goal - The back squat is used to determine hip and leg strength relative to your body weight. The control of 3 seconds down as well as the acceleration of 1 second up means that we can support a certain effort correctly and then reverse it safely… just like jumping! The standard we use before we have our beginners do much jumping activity is 10-15% over their body weight for said Back Squat. Someone who weighs 120# we would like to develop a back squat of 135# or someone 180# a back squat of 200# before we introduce jumping (Box jumps, olympic lifts, etc). When we are not strong enough to control and accelerate a load of 10-15% over our body weight through the full range of motion, we likely do not have the strength in the muscles of our hips and knees to control our own body quickly in a jumping fashion.
The Back Squat and Injury Prevention -If someone does not have the recommended strength of a back squat before introducing jumping we tend to see them use their calves and ankles too much for jumping. Over time this can lead to ankle, calf, plantar fascia and achilles irritation/injury/pain. As well, if your body tends to compensate in the back squat test, say a forward lean, or a shift of the hips to one side, or a knee diving in, we can do these very same things while jumping and cause back or knee pain as a result.
Back Squat and Olympic Lifting -Snatch, Clean, Jerk, and all variations are in essence, jumping with weight. As such, we do not often prescribe olympic lifting to our incoming clients before they have achieved a strong back squat. If this is not done prior, we are unable to use heavy enough weight with the olympic lifts to allow for any significant hormonal benefits/strength gains. Unfortunately, olympic lifting with light weights (under 70% of your own bodyweight) does not make you stronger/better at squatting, but developing a strong squat does improve your olympic lifting capacity. Certainly you get better technique with light weights but we are limited in true strength development without the solid squatting basis first. Compensations noted above with the jumping pre-requisite (back, hip, knee, ankle) are also noted here.
Bent Arm Hang – Static strength endurance before dynamic. With the bent arm hang, we like clients to have approximately 60 seconds prior to dynamic (kipping) pull ups. Without a solid endurance base first we are likely to fatigue quickly. This fatigue of the muscles means they can get damaged more easily and once the muscles are damaged we can start damaging the joints. As such we like to see people have at least 60 seconds in the bent arm hang before they attempt to train towards pull ups on a regular basis.
How to improve the tests – The simple answer is do more or put in more effort. Your body adapts to what we do with it, that’s how you’ve gotten so much better already! As such, to improve your back squat we must back squat. If we do little squatting and a lot of olympic lifting, we won’t get much better at squatting. As well, if we do the same amount of each but put more effort into the olympic lifting (because it’s FUN!) we won’t get much better at squatting.
If we can do 3 pull ups but can only hang for 25 seconds, it will be difficult to get better at pull ups… HOWEVER if we can get some better endurance for hanging first we will more quickly add a few pull ups to our repertoire.
Note – We CAN do too much of a good thing. Don’t think that if your test isn’t where you’d like it that you can do the movement every day and get better without risking an overuse injury. Guidelines for improvements of these specific skills will be given in classes as they come up.
Feel free to post questions on here or discuss with Corey or any of the coaches as you see fit!