intensity

15 May 2019 - Throwback Thursday: Making Progress - Intensity vs. Technique

It’s Throwback Thursday, which means its time for one of our Throwback Thursday blog! This week, we’re re-visiting a blog we first published on 16 January 2015, covering the incredibly important topic of “Intensity vs. Technique”.

Intensity can be defined as "exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time)”. In other words, how much real work did you do and in what time period? The greater the average power, the greater the intensity.

Technique can be defined as “a skilful, correct, safe and efficient way of performing movements”.

Intensity and average power are the variables most commonly associated with optimising favourable results. Do more work in less time (without overdoing it), and you’ll get fitter, faster, Fact. In order to improve, we have to be prepared to push ourselves, often to 'uncomfortable' levels.

There is a fine line between intensity and technique.

If we are focused on absolutely perfect technique every time we train, then our intensity will be much lower. On the flip side, if we go super hard all the time, it's likely that our form will suffer and we are at risk of injury. The key is finding the middle ground where you can go hard, but stay safe.

So where is this fine line between intensity and technique?

Let's use CrossFit's favourite example.... let's take a look at three imaginary athletes who are all going to do "Grace" (30 clean and jerks at 60 kg, for time) and they all finish exactly on 3 minutes.

Athlete A hits it first. He puts on heavy metal to work out to and gets himself all pumped up by running around the gym screaming and grunting, slapping his chest and face and throwing chalk everywhere. 3, 2, 1, GO!

The clock starts and he proceeds to yank the bar off the ground with a rounded back, he reverse curls it with little to no technique. He then strict presses overhead while heavily arching his lower back. Every rep is performed in the same way. He finishes his workout in exactly 3 minutes and drops to the ground in the fetal position, a sweaty, heaving, panting mess. He doesn’t move for the next 30 minutes.

It's Athletes B's turn, so he changes the music to his 'Chillin' on a Sunday' playlist. The clock starts and he calmly walks up to the bar, he spends what feels like an age getting into a perfect set-up and proceeds to clean and jerk with perfect form. He drops the bar to the ground and takes a couple of steps back and assesses his next approach. As the workout continues, he takes time to talk to the coach about his day. He too finishes at 3 minutes, he has not broken a sweat and he walks away feeling refreshed.

Finally, it's Athlete C's turn. He changes the music over to his favourite workout tunes and hits some dynamic mobility drills while he’s waiting to begin his workout. When the clock starts, his clean & jerk technique isn’t perfect – he has an early arm bend, and could probably open his hips up a little more – but it’s pretty good. His coach yells a few lifting cues, the athlete corrects his technique and strings together 10 good reps before dropping the bar. He gives himself 15 seconds before forcing himself to pick the bar back up and finishes the workout in 3 minutes, flat. When he’s done, he is sweating and breathing hard. He composes himself, takes a gentle jog and brings his heart rate down to normal levels in a few minutes.

All of the above athletes finished at exactly the same time and all the athletes lifted 60 kg so we can say that the athletes all performed "Grace" with the same absolute intensity. What we see in our descriptions is a big difference between the athlete’s relative intensity: the ability for each to push themselves physically and mentally.

For Athlete B, his movement was perfect, but his intensity was very low. Do you think his performance will improve his overall fitness in the future? He may have looked technically perfect, but because he lacked the intensity, his fitness is less unlikely to improve in the future.

On the flip side we have Athlete A aka 'Mr Intense'. He went so hard that he had no form, he was at risk of hurting himself and probably those around him. Although the intensity was super high, his lack of technique will likely result in little improvement next time he does this workout as he did nothing to work on his efficiency.

Athlete C is right on the money as he balances CrossFit's requirement of high intensity and good technique. He had a few technique errors, but nothing serious and he was able to correct them when cued by the coach. He was also able to push himself hard. If he performs like this on every WOD do you think he will improve faster than the other two athletes?....Yes!

Here are some tips that we have found helpful in our training...

Strength days

Aim to lift more than last time. For example, if I am doing front squats for sets of 5 reps, I check back in Beyond the Whiteboard of what my 5 rep max is. If the last time I did front squats for 5 reps my heaviest set was 100kg, then I always go into the session with the goal of my last 1-2 sets being above this weight. Even if it's just by 2.5kg, it’s still an improvement and every kilo counts!

Embrace the suck. I know that as I approach a new rep max, I may lean forward a little more than I would like and I will be in a battle to keep my knees tracking my toes perfectly. Provided it's only very minor deviations in form, the last couple of reps of each set should have you wondering whether your are going to make it! If you're unsure, speak to your coach if you have any questions or would like feedback on your form before you add weight, that's why we're here!

Met-cons

Keep rest periods short. The more resting you do in a workout the lower the intensity will be. One tip is to decide that each time you rest, it's only going to be for X seconds (10-15 seconds is more than enough). Keep an eye on the clock and time yourself. No matter how you feel, you will get back to work once those seconds have passed time and you will surprise yourself at how much more you can do.

Go in with a strategy. Decide how you are going to break up the work...make it a challenge!

Have a mantra. It's easy to convince ourselves to take a rest, but it's much harder to convince ourselves to keep working! When the going gets tough and I want to stop I just focus on the next rep, and nothing else. I actually say "another rep". Once I do that rep, I say again "just one more rep". Before you know it, you've done 5-10 more reps before you actually rest.


WORKOUT OF THE DAY

A) Strength: Power Clean
Establish a 5 rep max (touch and go)

B) Conditioning

"Big Bang"
50 Cleans (102.5/70 kg)

* Modify to 90% of your 5RM
* Time cap: 10 minutes

01 Feb 2016 - The Window of GAINZ: Part 2

preworkout1864.jpg

The 'Window of Gainz', the 'Anabolic Window’ the 'Window of Opportunity’ (always the window?!)...

Supposedly, the Window of Gainz is a period of time after your training session when your body and muscles are particularly primed to accept food and shuttle it towards conversion into lean muscle mass. Bro-science traditionally puts this window somewhere between thirty minutes to two hours after your workout.

In Part 1 we looked at the REAL window of GAINZ, so make sure you check it out!

So, surely now it’s time to look at that post-workout window?! Time to tell you the magic ingredients to stick in your protein shake? Weeeellllll, not quite.

Before we look at post-workout nutrition, it makes sense to first look at pre-workout nutrition!

What are you fuelling yourself with BEFORE your training session, and how will this help towards your long term goals?

Training Intensity

The intensity of your training is what gives you results. We have used this quote time and time again:

“Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return of favourable adaptation” - Greg Glassman

Intensity is equal to average power (or Phil's gurn face). The higher the power output in your training session the higher the intensity. This can be boiled down to lifting more weight, doing more work and moving faster than last time. 

(Caveat: Intensity must be pursued relative to the physical and psychological tolerance of the individual.)

So how do we train with intensity? Well in order to do this we need to have the fuel that allows us to operate to our maximum capacity. 

Enter, pre-workout nutrition….

Pre-workout nutrition

When it comes to building muscle, losing fat, becoming stronger and faster, recovering better, WHEN you eat is as important as WHAT you eat. If we are properly fuelled we can train with maximum intensity to ensure we continue to develop. 

So what does this look like?

CrossFit is a high-intensity exercise program, and high intensity exercise needs certain macro-nutrients if we want to perform at our best.

Glucose: This is the main fuel source for high intensity exercise, and we ingest this when we eat carbohydrates. Without adequate carbohydrate consumption to fuel intense exercise we will not be able to generate maximum power. Without adequate carbohydrates your energy levels will be low and you will sandbag that met-con you were so looking forward to. 

Sandbagging = lack of effort (intensity!)
Decreased intensity = decreased results

To compound matters, if we are in a state of glucose/glycogen depletion our levels of the hormone insulin will be low. As a result it is thought that glucagon (another hormone) steals amino acids from our muscles so it can convert them to glucose to provide energy. 

Low insulin makes it possible for catabolic hormones to "steal" your gains! 

So carbohydrates are important for exercise, especially for high intensity exercise! But our bodies need more than just carbohydrates, they also need protein.

Protein: Protein is the building block of muscles and it is used to rebuild and repair muscle tissue during stages of recovery and to keep our bodies functioning.

By ingesting protein before a workout you will spare muscle protein, negate protein degradation, and set the muscle up for regeneration and remodelling (aka recovery).

So we need protein and carbohydrates before we train, but how much and when?!

This is hugely variable depending on your weight, body composition, goals, length of training session, what’s involved in the training session etc etc. But we can provide some general guidelines....

How much?

Generally you want a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein

  • Trying to lose or gain weight: Protein wants to be around 0.44g/kg of target bodyweight
  • To maintain weight: Protein wants to be around 0.44g/kg of present bodyweight 

So if I am looking to maintain by present bodyweight of 75kg, my pre workout protein would be 33g (75 x .44). For carbohydrates I know I need a 2:1 ratio, in this case it would be 66g (33 x 2).

When & What?

  • <60 minutes prior to a workout: This will probably need to be in the form of a shake or smoothie as it takes less time to digest and enters your system faster.
  • 60-90 minutes: Eat real food where possible 

So that's your lot for today! Still no closer to the post-workout window yet...but hopefully you are beginning to understand that there is more to this than simply a post-wod shake!

Stay tuned for Part 3...and just maybe we will address post workout nutrition ;)

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

A) Conditioning: Watch the Clock

A1) 21-15-9
Deadlifts (125/82.5 kg)
Box Jumps (30/24 in) 
* Time cap: 8 minutes

When the clock hits 10:00

A2) 4 Rounds for time
12 Pull-Ups
12 Burpees
200m Run
*Time cap: 14 minutes


Are you ready to see if you're better than you were last year? To test your limits? To exceed your expectations?  To smash 5 weeks of epic WODs with your fellow Crazy Ones?

There's only one way to find out... Sign up for the 2016 CrossFit Open and join Team CrossFit 1864!

Check our recent blog post for more details on the Open.

Register via the CrossFit Games page here and make sure you choose CrossFit 1864 as your affiliate!

21 Jan 2015 – WOD

Remember that blog Phil wrote recently on intensity and how you can make progress in your fitness?

Now's your chance to show your coaches that you've read it....

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

16 x 40 seconds on : 15 seconds off, alternate between A&B

A) AMRAP
5 Burpees
10 Wall balls (9/6 kg)

B) AMRAP
5 Power cleans (40/30 kg)
10 Tyre jumps

The goal for both A & B is MAX EFFORT for the entire 40 second interval! The only time you should be resting is during your 15 seconds off.

WLC Lounge WOD:
15 x 40 seconds on : 15 seconds off:
Jumping lunges
Push-ups
Hollow hold

16 Jan 2015 – Making progress: Intensity vs. Technique

Wow, that's some serious intensity there Arnie...

Wow, that's some serious intensity there Arnie...

Intensity can be defined as "exactly equal to average power (force x distance / time). In other words, how much real work did you do and in what time period? The greater the average power, the greater the intensity."

Technique can be defined as a skilful, correct, safe and efficient way of performing movements.

Intensity and average power are the variables most commonly associated with optimising favourable results. Do more work in less time (without overdoing it), and you’ll get fitter, faster. Fact. In order to improve, we have to be prepared to push ourselves, often to 'uncomfortable' levels.

There is a fine line between intensity and technique. If we are focused on absolutely perfect technique every time we train, then our intensity will be much lower. On the flip sid,e if we go super hard all the time, it's likely that our form will suffer and we are at risk of injury. The key is finding the middle ground where you can go hard, but stay safe.

So where is this fine line between intensity and technique? Let's use CrossFit's favourite example.... let's take a look at three imaginary athletes who are all going to do "Grace" (30 clean and jerks at 60 kg, for time) and they all finish exactly on 3 minutes.

Athlete A hits it first. He puts on heavy metal to work out to and gets himself all pumped up by running around the gym screaming and grunting, slapping his chest and face and throwing chalk everywhere. 3, 2, 1, GO! 

The clock starts and he proceeds to yank the bar off the ground with a rounded back, he reverse curls it with little to no technique. He then strict presses overhead while heavily arching his lower back. Every rep is performed in the same way. He finishes his workout in exactly 3 minutes and drops to the ground into the foetal position, a sweaty, heaving, panting mess....he lies there for the next 30 minutes.

It's Athletes B's turn, so he changes the music to his 'Chillin' on a Sunday' playlist. The clock starts and he calmly walks up to the bar, he spends what feels like an age getting into a perfect set-up and proceeds to clean and jerk with perfect form. He drops the bar to the ground and takes a couple of steps back and assesses his next approach. As the workout continue,s he takes time to talk to the coach about his day. He too finishes at 3 minutes, he has not broken a sweat and he walks away feeling refreshed. 

Finally, it's Athlete C's turn. He changes the music over to his favourite workout tunes and hits some dynamic mobility drills while he’s waiting to begin his work out. When the clock starts, his clean and jerk technique isn’t perfect – he has an early arm bend, and could probably open his hips up a little more – but close to it. His coach yells a few lifting cues, the athlete corrects his technique and strings together 10 good reps before dropping the bar. He gives himself 15 seconds before forcing himself to pick the bar back up and finishes the workout in 3 minutes, flat. When he’s done, he is sweating and breathing hard. He composes himself, takes a gentle jog and brings his heart rate down to normal levels in a few minutes.

All of the above athletes finished at exactly the same time and all the athletes lifted 60 kg so we can say that the athletes all performed "Grace" with the same absolute intensity. What we see in our descriptions is a big difference between the athlete’s relative intensity: the ability for each to push themselves physically and mentally.

For Athlete B, his movement was perfect, but his intensity was very low. Do you think his performance will improve his overall fitness in the future? He may have looked technically perfect, but because he lacked the intensity, his fitness is less unlikely to improve in the future.

On the flip side we have Athlete A aka 'Mr Intense'. He went so hard that he had no form, and he was at risk of hurting himself and probably those around him. Although the intensity was super high, his lack of technique will likely result in little improvement next time he does this workout as he did nothing to work on his efficiency. 

Athlete C is right on the money as he balances CrossFit's requirement of high intensity and good technique. He had a few technique errors, but nothing serious and he was able to correct them when cued by the coach. He was also able to push himself hard. If he performs like this on every WOD do you think he will improve faster than the other two athletes?....Yes!

Here are some tips from me and Maria that we have found helpful in our training...

Strength days

  • Aim to lift more than last time. For example, if I am doing front squats for sets of 5 reps, I check back in Beyond the Whiteboard of what my 5 rep max is. If the last time I did front squats for 5 reps my heaviest set was 100kg, then I always go into the session with the goal of my last 1-2 sets being above this weight. Even if it's just by 2.5kg, its still an improvement and every kilo counts!
  • Embrace the suck. I know that as I approach a new rep max, I may lean forward a little more than I would like and I will be in a battle to keep my knees tracking my toes perfectly. Provided it's only very minor deviations in form, the last couple of reps of each set should have you wondering whether your are going to make it! If you're unsure, speak to your coach if you have any questions or would like feedback on your form before you add weight, that's why we're here!

Met-cons

  • Keep rest periods short. The more resting you do in a workout the lower the intensity falls. One tip is to decide that each time you rest, it's only going to be for X seconds (10-15 seconds is more than enough). Keep an eye on the clock and time yourself. No matter how you feel, you will get back to work once those seconds have passed time and you will surprise yourself at how much more you can do.
  • Go in with a strategy. Decide how you are going to break up the work...make it a challenge!
  • Have a mantra. It's easy to convince ourselves to take a rest, but it's much harder to convince ourselves to keep working! When the going gets tough and I want to stop I just focus on the next rep, and nothing else. I actually say "another rep". Once I do that rep, I say again "just one more rep". Before you know it, you've done 5-10 more reps before you actually rest.

Do you have any tips on how you push yourself in WODs? Let us know in comments!

WORKOUT OF THE DAY

A) Beginner
A1) Deadlift: 6 x 3
* Add load as technique allows
A2) Horizontal Push

A) Intermediate & Advanced
A1) Deadlift: 2-3 reps @ 80-90% totalling 15-20 reps
A2) Horizontal Push

B) 5 rounds for time of:

"Skill Focus"
3 Hang clean (70/45 kg)
5 Shoulder to overhead (70/45 kg)
7 Front squats (70/45 kg)
Rest 1 minute between rounds

"Fitness Focus"
5 Front squats
5 Shoulder to overhead
Run 200m

A Visit to the Archives: Heavy as Form Allows

As coaches, one of our jobs is to help our athletes pick the appropriate movement or weight to use for their workouts. Sometimes we do this by writing down the scaling on the board (e.g. Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced); sometimes we start you off with warm-up sets, see how you're moving and help you pick a weight from there; and other times, we let you pick your weight, based on your training experience.

As you do the workout, another part of our job is to call you out when you're not moving well – to tell you to drop the bar when your back is rounded, or take the weight down or scale you to a different movement if you're not hitting the movement standards.

Today we re-visit the BroSesh Sundays archives to read an article that explains why we do this and why we have such a strong focus on skills development in our programming:

Bros, it's ALLLL about Mechanics, Consistency and THEN Intensity. 

When we learn movements, whether gymnastics or barbell-based, we should follow a set principle: Mechanics, Consistency, Intensity.

Why is this important? Well just like Bros don’t let Bros skip leg day, Bros also don’t let you get away with shoddy movement or partial ranges of motion.

Proper mechanics leads you to being able to lift more load over more reps. This means you get bigger, stronger and faster.

Let’s break it down a little further….

Mechanics refers to the technique of the movement and your ability to move your body and/or an external object (a barbell for instance), through full ranges of motion in a safe and efficient manner. Once we can do this for single reps with light/no load, we layer on consistency.

Consistency simply means that you can consistently perform the correct movement mechanics. We begin by learning movements through progressions to create patterns of motor control (the ability to perform movement patterns). We then seek to re-create this motor control consistently over multiple reps. It will take many reps to get to this stage, particularly for highly skilled movements like Olympic Lifts and higher level gymnastics. Of course, this is also dependent on your individual movement issues, strengths and weaknesses.

Intensity is added last. Intensity is there to challenge the mechanics and consistency of the movement patterns in question. This intensity can be in the form of load, speed/tempo, range of motion, stability etc.

If you can perform movements with proper mechanics, both safely and efficiently, over and over again you will lift more weight, get stronger, fitter, faster and generally be more badass.

Which leads us back to part of our Bro-code: ‘heavy as form allows’. When performing any movement the intensity should not be such that it causes a breakdown in correct mechanics. Bad movement mechanics will not make you better at good movement mechanics, it will only make you better at moving badly. Bro, don’t be that guy.

You have to earn the right to lift heavier loads, and you earn that right by moving well, consistently.