I was recently in the gym coaching my SouthSide athletes and overheard Danny make an interesting comment. He said “what’s the downside to being strong? Give me one situation where being strong is a bad thing.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and the good news is you’re in the right gym if this is a part of your belief system. If being strong isn’t high on your priory list, hopefully it will be after this article.
Here at CrossFit Austin, and in SouthSide Athletics, we use concepts in our programming that relate to the idea that “being strong is better”. In reality, all high quality strength and conditioning programs believe in a strategic plan of progressive overload, it’s called Linear Periodization. Think of it like this, if we are going to build a pyramid we’d start with the base. The larger the base is the taller we can build, and the same goes for training. The better our base strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance is, the farther we can go in our fitness ventures. Once we hit a certain height, we need to come back and work on the base before we can continue on. This is happening everyday in our training, making us very unique. Getting stronger can literally help you in all aspects of your training, let’s look at a few.
Wait a minute here, getting stronger for endurance? You better believe it. Now we must understand that specificity will always reign supreme in training. To get better at running, you need to run. To become a better cyclist, you must cycle. There are other things we can do in your training to make you more EFFICIENT. What does this mean for a endurance athlete? The stronger you are, the more efficient your stroke or stride becomes. Which means the athlete is able to do the same amount of work with less effort, or more importantly, more work with the same amount of effort. We see this a lot with top CrossFit athletes.
This can be a wide variety of movements and skills, from weightlifting to handstand walks. Sometimes in the CrossFit world people are obsessed with little “tricks” during skill practice to just “get the movement”, we see this constantly in kipping pull-ups and muscle-ups (ect). So, is it the fact that they have bad technique or they are too weak? I believe that it is BOTH! You can’t just separate technique and strength because you are too lazy to get stronger. I believe that strength and technique are “intertwined”. Is an athlete losing the position of the lumbar spine during a lift because they have bad technique, or because they are not strong enough? I think you should know the answer by now. Whether you are new to CrossFit, or have been in it for years and need a little wake up call, remember, conditioning takes weeks, strength takes years. Just because you are feeling “in shape”, and believe you should be able to do all of the skills in CrossFit, does not mean you are strong enough.
Let’s be honest, most people in our facility are not in it to compete in anything. They want to lose weight and feel better. We LOVE this population of our clientele, and highly respect them. Which is why we put such emphasis on strength. No matter how good you look, no matter how good you feel, it’s worth nothing if you are getting hurt in the process. An increase in strength has been shown to increase Bone Density, Coordination, Balance, Flexibility, Joint Health, the lists goes on and on. Studies have shown up to a 68% drop in injuries with groups that do strength training. We can maximize these benefits, especially Tendon and Ligament strengthening by working around the 85% range. Here is the kicker though, if we work around 85% and the goal is to get stronger, we cannot do all of that work in a quality manner at high intensity. That is why we have our strength specific days in our training, which are not our most popular days by any means.
So, when you are struggling with movements or feel like you have hit a wall you need to ask yourself two questions. Have I done the proper strength base work for the given movement. If the answer is no, then ask yourself if you have been coming to the strength workouts in the programming. These days may not be the most entertaining training days, but I hope you now see the importance and why we value strength so much in our programming.