Don’t be Afraid to get Strong

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“A weak man is not as happy as that same man if he were strong.”
-Mark Rippetoe

There are many different expressions of strength, and many different ways to get stronger. In my experience most people, or training programs will train strength endurance. Commonly light loads, for high reps, or long duration, and rarely (if ever) train absolute strength (ie. 1RM). How often did you lift something very heavy in singles before you started CrossFitting? I’m not saying that strength endurance isn’t important, but I am saying that it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Absolute strength is critical for the continued development as an athlete. It’s just not strength training, if you don’t lifting heavy things, often.

These are the three most common concerns I deal with as a coach:

It’s Dangerous/ I’m worried about getting hurt: Know and learn the lift, do a proper warm up (ie. a set of 5 with an empty bar and a couple sets with sub maximal weight), know your limits, and once you put your hands on the bar apply yourself to the lift (this is both mental and physical). Things can go south on a 1RM, just like they can anywhere else in your life so be smart: know and practice ditching the bar, and use spotters when it’s heavy.

I don’t want to bulk up: This is usually a comment from someone who couldn’t “bulk up” if their life depended on it. You will not bulk up unintentionally. It just doesn’t happen. What you may find is you lean out, gain some muscle, and your body weight gets to where it probably should have been in the first place.

I don’t want to slow down: This usually is a reference to running. What this usually means to me is: “I’m better at running long slow distance than lifting heavy things, so I would rather do that”. If you aren’t strong, your not fast either.

Being strong doesn’t have to mean you suck at running, and it certainly doesn’t have to replace it either. Get stronger and you will get faster.

Out of interest on this topic I leafed through my own training logbooks. Below is my CrossFit Totals from January 2008 through December 2009 along with any WODs that I did within a two week range near the Total.

Jan 1st 2008 CrossFit Total: 225-115-285=625 (body weight 175#)
Elizabeth: 18:00, Cindy: 20 Rounds, 400m Run: 1:16, Grace: 11:50 @ 95#, Fran: 6:41, Annie: 9:40

May 30th 2008 CrossFit Total: 285-115-315=715 (body weight 170#)
Angie: 20:12, Cindy: 23 rounds, Fran: 5:44, Fight Gone Bad: 320

July 9th 2008 CrossFit Total: 305-135-355=795 (body weight 170#)
Angie 17:20, Fran: 4:10, Fight Gone Bad: 353, Helen: 7:53, Griff: 10:21

Jan 24th 2009 CrossFit Total: 309-143-353=805 (body weight 175#)
Elizabeth: 7:19, Nicole: 154 (7 rounds), Murph: 38:20 (with vest), Max pull-ups: 45

March 10th 2009 CrossFit Total: 314-143-358=815 ((body weight 175#)
Murph: 37:02 (with vest), Karen: 5:21, Nicole: 157 (7 rounds), Nancy: 12:41, Jackie: 6:24

Dec 15th 2009 CrossFit Total: 315-165-385=865 (body weight 180#)
Fran: 4:03, Annie: 7:42, Griff: 10:45, Grace: 3:27, Max Pull-ups: 48, 400m Run: 1:07

There are many things that contributed to the improvements I made in the different WOD’s, but the point is: as I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve only continued to get faster. In January I pulled a 420 Deadlift and a 320 Back Squat within a week of a 6:57 2000m Row. Don’t limit yourself, or be afraid to get strong. You’ll like it!

Jesse

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