If you don’t already have at minimum a 1x bodyweight Back Squat, a 1.5x bodyweight Deadlift, or a strict pull up, then your priority should be to get stronger. How? Attend a Strength class 1-2 times per week. In Strength classes, our members follow one of a handful of different 5-6 week strength training programs, and many people receive customized or altered programs specific to their goals or needs.
But why do strength training? Here are 3 reasons:
1. Look Better Naked
Strength training is an essential piece to initiating weight loss, busting through plateaus in a continuing weight loss journey, and getting the sexy body you want. And almost everyone says they want to look better naked. (“Keep it sexy!” as Courtney says.) Skinny-fat is unhealthy and definitely not sexy.
“I loved this class from day one. I have seen major results in not only my strength, but my performances in WOD’ s for fitness! Doesn’t hurt that I have shed inches and pounds off my body and really seeing muscle definition. You really get to focus on your self, your progress and your next goal. Adding this class has renewed my excitement for CF and I’m looking toward to starting my next cycle of the 6-week program.”
Most people say they want to look “toned” and lean. To achieve that, you need to build lean muscle mass through strength training.
Increasing your lean muscle mass will also raise your resting metabolic rate; that is, with more muscle, your body burns more calories while doing nothing. Combine that with some simple shifts in your diet to emphasize fat burning, and you will get that toned look that you want.
2. Improve Your Health and Live Longer
How strong you are determines how capable you are in life. Your level of strength determines whether you can rescue a human or animal in distress. Whether you can keep up with your kids or complete your backyard landscaping project. And whether you’ll be an independent elder or one in a nursing home.
Stronger people are healthier and live longer. Resistance, or strength training, decreases risk of injury in sports and in daily life. It improves your posture, mobility, and balance. It increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It also increases insulin sensitivity thereby decreasing risk of diabetes and heart disease. Strength training eases back pain, other bodily pains, and joint problems like arthritis. Need I go on?
3. Get Faster and Better at CrossFit
One of the definitions of CrossFit is: increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. How do you increase your work capacity (i.e. complete CrossFit workouts faster, or complete more work in given period of time)?
As Mark Rippetoe says, “…[T]raining specifically for conditioning in the absence of a well-developed strength base is a waste of time. There is simply no better way to increase your work capacity than increasing your ability to produce force. If your primary interest is being more effective at moving yourself and/or submaximal or maximal loads more efficiently, training for strength contributes much more to your ability to do this than training for endurance….The bottom line is that strength improvement for people who are not already strong is the rising tide that floats all the other ships in the physical performance harbor.”
I go to strength class because it keeps me honest. It is more than a great opportunity to get very personalized attention from coaches on form; it provides an extremely focused environment in which I can push every sinew of my body to its maximum potential. All to the tune of genuine and raucous encouragement from coaches and fellow crossfitters alike.
Think about it this way: a 21-15-9 CrossFit workout has an Rx’d Front Squat weight of 135#; Guy A has a 1RM Front Squat of 200#. Guy B has 1RM FS of 315#. Who’s going to move 21-15-9 reps at 135# faster? The lower the percentage of your max for a given lift in a “WOD,” the faster and more reps you can complete, and the more work you can do in less time.
If you’re somehow not convinced, just look at the strength numbers of the top CrossFitters in California or the top 10 finishers worldwide in the CF Open in 2012 and 2013.
What is strong enough?
Check out this chart, from Rippetoe, breaking out the numbers for each lift: Deadlift, Back Squat, Press, and Power Clean. Where do you place for each lift? Are you in the same category for each lift, or is there any apparent imbalance?
If you’re not in the Intermediate category at minimum for these lifts, we believe you should be in a Strength class. If you’re only CrossFitting, without these basic levels of Strength, your fitness gains have been (right?) and will be slow. Add 1-2 Strength classes and take away the same number of Fitness classes – and you will see greater progress, we promise.
If you are in the Advanced or Elite columns, then your programming and which classes you take depend on your current goals.
But, but, but….
Don’t I need cardio?
Of course a comprehensive exercise program includes aerobic work, as ours does. But it is not and should not be the foundation. If you want to look good and be healthy, start with strength training.
Won’t I get bulky?
Ah, the perpetual myth that getting stronger will make you ‘bulky’. The standard answer given to this one is: look, those images of bodybuilders that you see, where some of the women look like men? Those people are taking some special sauce to look that way, ok? You will never look like that without some external help.
I will also add that a high rep (8-12) scheme with moderate weights is designed for hypertrophy, or for building muscle mass. A low rep scheme with heavy weights (80% or more of your 1RM) is designed to increase your absolute strength. Our general strength programs are designed to get you stronger, not make you ‘bulk up.’
Finally, your genetics can not be denied. If you’re naturally lean and have a hard time getting stronger or putting on muscle, or if you easily put on muscle and tend to get fat when you do so, you may need to work a little differently than others, and make some specific changes in your diet to support getting stronger and/or leaner. Ask us how. It’s actually pretty simple, but you need to have the commitment to do it if you have specific performance or aesthetic goals.
[Here’s a good piece for more reading, specifically regarding women: Strength without size: how to get stronger without getting bulky.]
I don’t feel like I get a workout unless I’m out of breath and sweating!
If your strength training doesn’t make you sweat or take your breath away at times, it sounds like you need a proper strength training program, or that you need to increase the intensity of your training. We can help you with that. Our current schedule has Strength classes MTThF at 10:30 am and TTh at 6:30 pm, and we are increasing the number of classes soon.
More to the point, please refer to #3 above. You can increase your work capacity in multi-modal conditioning workouts by getting stronger. Get strong enough, then have at it with the CrossFit.
You’ll get more out of your CrossFit workouts by being stronger.