Thursday, September 23, 2010

My experience with Crossfit - Part 2

It was October of 2009 when I decided to pull the plug on my Crossfit program. I had been trying to follow the main site ( WODs (Workouts of the Day). They were hard - probably too hard at my level. And I was still scaling. (Scaling is when you reduce something in the workout, either the weight, the time, the number of reps, etc. Usually, you reduce the weight.)

In the meantime I had heard about the Starting Strength program by Mark Rippetoe. At the time, Mark was the weightlifting subject matter expert associated with Crossfit. He had written several articles for their online journal and was considered their go to guy for questions about how to squat, deadlift, and overhead press. They've since had a falling out and Mark is no longer associated with Crossfit.

After reading the Starting Strength book, and his other book called Practical Programming for Strength Training, I decided I just wasn't strong enough. (Note: these are two of the best strength books available - I highly recommend both) Mark asserts that strength is the foundation for all athletic endeavors. It made sense in my case. Something was holding me back in Crossfit. I had already noticed that all the hard core, high performing, Crossfit guys I knew were already strong before they started Crossfit. So I decided to just worry about getting strong and come back to Crossfit later.

Marks program is breathtakingly simple. There are two workouts that alternate. The first day you squat, shoulder press, and deadlift. The second day you squat, bench press, and power clean. You workout two to three times a week. I worked out twice a week being an older dude.

For each exercise you work up to your goal weight and then do three sets of five reps (except the deadlift where you do one set). Every session you add five pounds to your last working weight. You eat a lot and sleep a lot when you aren't working out. That's it.

If you do it right, it starts out easy. But it get's hard fast. At a certain point, 3 to 9 months later, you can't do the program anymore. Your body can't keep up. Congratulations, you're not a beginner anymore! You've also likely added 20 - 40 pounds of muscle and are literally twice as strong as you used to be. If you started out squatting 135 pounds you're now likely squatting 275.

Now my experience was not "classic" as far as Starting Strength goes. I was not a skinny teenager, and I had already been Crossfitting for a while so I was not a complete beginner. I started my squat at 185 pounds and started working up. By the end of the year I was squatting 255 for three sets of five. It started getting really hard. I made it up to about 275 and couldn't continue. It was frustrating since you want to keep getting those fast gains, but at the same time I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was a hell of a lot stronger. I had gained 15 pounds of muscle.

I switched over to Rippetoe's intermediate program for a while. I eventually hit 315 pounds for a single set of five. Then I returned to Crossfit. This time I was a lot stronger. And this time the results were much different.

Stay tuned for part 3.

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