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Dave’s Dialect – CrossFit Chichester Programming

Happy New Year everybody!

Dave here with a little piece about our Programming, why we use it, how to use it and how to get the most of it.
First things first, the trial period for the programming is well and truly over and all coaches are in agreement that Thrivestry Programming is here to stay at CrossFit Chichester. The planning and thought process that goes into programming like this is second to none, and that’s where I want to start today.

The strength/skilled elements that we work on in class, and the workouts we all have a love hate relationship with are not random. They are not just chucked together to make you suffer a gymnasticy, high jumping, weight throwing, burpeefied death!… (although when laying on the gym floor in a puddle of your own sweat, it may feel like it…!) Believe it or not, there is method behind the madness!

When nearing the end of a strength cycle, with weights getting heavier, you will find the workouts getting slightly shorter, so to not tax the central nervous system too hard. When the strength cycles are in transition or at the beginning, this is where you will find the longer metcons, that test your cardiovascular fitness and endurance more.

JJ has been designing gym programming for years and years [Since 2004], from helping newbies achieve their first press up, to developing and preparing highly skilled athletes for competition. The diversity of abilities means that the programming you see every day on the big screen in the gym can be whatever you want it to be.

Progression – The process of developing or moving gradually towards a more advanced state.

You may have heard me at the beginning of a class say “this is session 2 of 12 of our Front squat cycle today guys” … Most cycles run for 12 session and get progressively harder from 1-12. This is no accident. Session one will generally begin with a medium rep range and a somewhere between 50-70% of your max effort (in this case front squat) throughout the cycle the rep range will have varied and towards session 12, have shortened, with the % of your max effort increasing to around 75-85%.

Managing to attend most of the sessions and completing each rep with good form, should see your numbers increase in that particular lift by the end of the cycle. Only however, if we are working off the correct percentage, this is why it is so important to find out what our 1 rep max efforts are to make sure we are working off the right numbers.

So why not have a look at the cycles coming up this year (ask a coach to show you if we haven’t already displayed it) and work up to your 1 rep max in an open gym session before the cycle begins. You will reap the rewards from working with your correct numbers and get best out of your training!

Context

Every session we run has its own context, Practice, Competition and Mental Toughness. ‘Coach’ will tell you at some point during the session which one it is for the workout that day. The Context is the recommended overall approach to the class that day. Without a planned approach you will likely stick with the same approach you are comfortable with and you will not get the most out of your training.

Below is a diagram explaining the primary focus and output required for each context:

The goal is always to get better overall, not just win the workout that day. It is like trying to win every battle… but losing the war.

To understand the problems with getting stuck in a particular mode are as follows:

If you do Competition context all the time you will get hurt.
If you do Mental Toughness context all the time you will burn out.
If you do Practice context all the time you will get bored.

But how to you apply this to your training? If all you know when the timer beeps, is “Go Hard”!…
It starts with taking notice as to what the context is for the day, then approaching each part of the class with this mindset.
Pay close attention to the days that aren’t your default mode. If you are someone who always goes as hard as possible, constantly remind yourself on Practice days that the primary focus is quality form, learning, and mastery (not crushing yourself or beating someone else).

If you are someone who is always extremely cautious, someone who always needs the coach to force you to ‘go up’ (in load or skill), be more deliberate on Competition and Mental Toughness days. Push yourself to attempt a heavier load or higher box (with the coach’s agreement). Always record your score on Competition days. Take the time to look up your old score so you have a target to beat. Throw caution to the wind and learn some new skills that might embarrass you on a Mental Toughness day (taking you out of your comfort zone).

Working on weaknesses

The last subject I want to touch on is about working on your weakness, or in another sentence… knit picking the workouts/exercises you like.
I can speak from personal experiences as I used to train this way, lunges… NOPE, overhead squats… NOPE, thrusters… HELL NOPE!
I knew this was wrong, I knew I would not develop as an athlete if I avoided the exercises or training methods I disliked. So I followed a new approach of turning my weaknesses into strengths.

Instead of avoiding them I would work on them, more so even than the exercise I did like, so that I would get better, stronger, fitter and eventually turn them into strengths, meaning I no longer sighed or groaned when I saw they were in the workout of the day!

One of the main things you realise from this approach is that you develop other aspects of your fitness along the way without even realising it. The more lunges I put into my programming, the stronger my legs got individually, which meant I achieved my first ever set of pistols!.. I also felt stronger in my running and other endurance aspects like high calorie assault bike or high rep wall balls.

Ok… So you may not see yourself as an athlete, you may just enjoy the gym and enjoy what you enjoy… but you are never going to experience new ‘Joys’ if you do not open that door and keep developing as a human being. Our bodies are extraordinary, so don’t limit it to what it can do.

If you have any more questions about the programming, or anything else for that matter, please feel free to give me a message of pull me aside in the gym for a chat ☺

Dave is a Coach at CrossFit Chichester. He takes the mid morning classes, and Day time PTs. If you’d like to book an assessment with him, then go here and ask for Dave when we call you! 

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Getting (or perfecting) Your Pull-ups

The bar needs to stop your chest from going any higher.

I remember way back when I was 10 years old, and I first discovered out how hard it was to even do a pull-up, after 4 weeks, I’d worked up from 1 to 5, doing them every day. When I was 16, I could do 50 push-ups comfortably. I could do just 7 pull-ups. Pull-ups are hard. The muscles we use for them are relatively small compared to the rest of our body, so it’s harder to develop significant strength in a short space of time. They are also very easy to strain. The tendons are small. The blood supply is relatively limited. In order to get a decent hormone response from them you have to be consistent, BUT you have to be careful not to over do it.

I know many who have decided they want to improve their pull-ups, and start doing them (or a progression) every day, and end up getting a tendon strain because they’ve pushed them too hard. It’s really easy to do. Unlike the legs which can recover, and handle a decent amount of volume (such as 100 or 200 air squats in a session) unconditioned doing that many reps is a recipe for disaster with pull-ups in the beginning. You simply cannot train them in the same way.

First of all, what exactly is a perfect pull-up?

My definition, is one where we keep our body, dead in line, abs, glues, and lats switched on. All stretched out, hanging, with toes pointed. Then, we pull down with our shoulder blades into what we’d call a ‘scap pull-up’. Then, you drag your elbows down and behind your body, keeping your body completely in line, until your collar bones (or chest) hits the bar. Pulling to a point where your body is physically stopped by the bar, is the only way to properly strengthen the lats, back and shoulders (and core) to a point where you’ll be robust enough to attempt certain movements such as the coveted muscle-up (going from below to above the rings/bar).

Developing an excellent pull-up, takes practice. It also takes persistence, because progress will be sometimes slow and frustrating. What it also asks, is that we are at a low enough body fat percentage so that we aren’t lifting up any unnecessary weight (to do a number beyond 15-20 reps).

Becoming proficient in the pull-up is a sign of pure athleticism and health. If you can do set’s of beautiful strict pull-ups, then you’re part of the healthiest percentage of people in the world. Especially if you are female.

The challenge of developing strength is the muscular strength isn’t just necessary to be able to do it. It also takes denser bones, stronger ligaments, thicker tendons, and tougher connective tissue. You’ve also got to have enough flexibility in your thoracic spine to be able to raise your arms fully over head, without any pain, or impingement.

Needless to say we love training pull-ups because they are so effective at producing healthier people. There is so much work involved it is a constant cycle of strength, mobility, strength, mobility, conditioning. To say that the effort is worth it, would be an understatement. The sense of achievement that I see when people pull themselves over the bar, unassisted for the first time, is almost as good as seeing their first muscle up. It’s amazing, and one of the main reasons why I started training people in the first place. We deserve, all of us, to be stronger. No matter where we are. The pull up is one of those movements that defines our sense of well being more so than other movements.

Over the last few years as a coach, we’ve helped many of our clients to achieve unassisted or improved pull-ups. Our method is simple, and has been derived from Pavel Tsatuline’s training principles. This particular program can take you from no pull-ups, to at least 1,2 or more, provided you follow the progression as written and do your best to keep up with it for as long as is necessary to achieve it.

Here are the basic rules:

If you have less than 1 or two pull-ups, then consider using a progression to assist you with getting between 3 and 5 reps as a minimum.
Every set has to be executed with perfect form (no cheat reps). If your form is less than perfect in your first set, use an easier progression.
Make contact with the bar every time to ensure proper range is being trained through.

Start with a max set. Rest. Then do another set with one less rep*. Repeat for a total of 5 sets doing one less rep each set.

*If you can do more than 10 strict pull-ups, then you will need to reduce the reps by more than one. From 10-15 reps, reduce by 2 reps. From 15 to 20 reduce by 3 reps each time. From beyond 20, reduce by 4 reps. More on this later in this article.

Here is the progression:

The 3RM Program

For those who have 3 pull-ups here is how you’d progress (or if you want to add weight to this you can add enough to bring your reps to 3):

Day 1     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 2     3, 2, 1, 1
Day 3     3, 2, 2, 1
Day 4     3, 3, 2, 1
Day 5     4, 3, 2, 1
Day 6     Off
Day 7     4, 3, 2, 1, 1
Day 8     4, 3, 2, 2, 1
Day 9     4, 3, 3, 2, 1
Day 10   4, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 11    5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 12    Off

By this point you’ll be ready for the next step which is the 5 rep progression.

5 RM Progression:

Day 1     5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Day 2     5, 4, 3, 2, 2
Day 3     5, 4, 3, 3, 2
Day 4     5, 4, 4, 3, 2
Day 5     5, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 6     Off
Day 7     6, 5, 4, 3, 2
Day 8     6, 5, 4, 3, 3
Day 9     6, 5, 4, 4, 3
Day 10    6, 5, 5, 4, 3
Day 11    6, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 12    Off
Day 13    7, 6, 5, 4, 3
Day 14    7, 6, 5, 4, 4
Day 15    7, 6, 5, 5, 4
Day 16    7, 6, 6, 5, 4
Day 17    7, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 18    Off
Day 19    8, 7, 6, 5, 4
Day 20    8, 7, 6, 5, 5
Day 21    8, 7, 6, 6, 5
Day 22    8, 7, 7, 6, 5
Day 23    8, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 24    Off
Day 25    9, 8, 7, 6, 5
Day 26    9, 8, 7, 6, 6
Day 27    9, 8, 7, 7, 6
Day 28    9, 8, 8, 7, 6
Day 29    9, 9, 8, 7, 6
Day 30    Off

The principles are simple. The execution is the hard part. It get’s boring, but you get really really strong. It’s not unusual to add a serious amount (2.5 times) of reps to your max.

Again if you’ve got more than 10 strict chest to bar pull-ups then go Pavel’s website and use his progression to work out exactly the reps that you’d be doing.

If you’d like a print friendly sheet, to cross off days, for when you complete them, go here. Having a record make this, makes it much easier to complete. The print friendly is here –  Pull-ups Strength Progression. But if you’d like a blank PDF to print off go here – Blank Pull-ups Strength Progression.

Let us know how you get on!

Archie,
Head Coach,
CrossFit Chichester.