If you’re out and about and people steal glances at your physique, you’re probably following a training program. If you struggle with achieving standout muscle definition or building strength, you’re still plugging away with random exercises.
If you’ve ever looked back over old workout logs and been amazed by how far you’ve come, you’re following a training program. If you’re confounded about how to progress your goals, you’re still stringing exercises together hoping for results.
This week I saw a controversial article about CrossFit that really brought home the differences between exercising and a training program.
In the article, Mark Rippetoe outlined the good, the bad, and the ugly of CrossFit. According to Rippetoe, the “bad” of CrossFit is that it’s random. As he points out, if you’re looking to just get exercise and maintain your health, randomness is fine. But if you’re working towards a specific goal, such as building more strength or muscle, randomness is your enemy. Rippetoe says:
Rippetoe also points out that athletes who win and place at the CrossFit games don’t use CrossFit programming to get there. I agree with everything in the article (including the “good.”)
I’ve had two online coaching clients who didn’t have basic foundational strength after a year of doing CrossFit. They couldn’t do full pushups (not hand-release), unassisted pull ups, and didn’t know proper form for many basic weightlifting movements. Fortunately, they did know their weaknesses and sought help with filling in the gaps so they could progress safely.
I’m super proud of both my CrossFit clients, who continue to CrossFit but on a lesser scale and while developing strength outside the box. One of those clients had a lot to say during her program about the value of simply following a conventional strength program:
“I stopped crossfitting for nearly 4 months and made serious gains, thanks to @WorkoutNirvana.”
“I just was so upset that I could put 100# barbell over my head, but couldn’t do 10 good-form regular push-ups after a YEAR.”
“@WorkoutNirvana it is a struggle to get out of the CrossFit “beast mode” mindset. You mean I don’t have to bleed to get a great workout???!”
Training Programs are Goal-based
The SAID principle asserts that all training is specific to a particular task. In other words, the stress you place on your body will result in very specific adaptations. This stress has to be the right amount and the right type to produce results.
The SAID principle is important in sports, weightlifting, or any physical activity in which you’re aiming for a specific result.
Before I became certified as a personal trainer and began my lifelong fitness education, I pieced together exercises I found in books and magazines. I did them in a random order that would hopefully produce meaningful results. Here’s what one early chest workout looked like:
I found exercises in magazines that looked “interesting” and didn’t keep track of how long I did them. I thought “mixing it up” was best, yet my body never had the chance to make neurological adaptations – improvements – because the stimulation was changing too often.
And I never got bigger or stronger.
I give myself credit for at least bringing a cheat sheet to the gym back then, and kudos if you do this too. But at some point, if you haven’t already, you’ll plateau. What will you do then? Give up? Accept that you can’t do more? Or will you learn how to progress, by hiring a personal trainer or becoming educated about progressive weightlifting?
(By the way, online personal training is extremely accessible and produces fabulous results.)
Questions to Ask Yourself
The point of this article is not to harshly judge CrossFit. My goal is to show the importance of following a structured training program IF you want a certain result. It’s just fine to take classes that do the same movements each week or completely different movements each week. But be aware that neither of these types of training will continue to progress you. After a point, you will stop seeing those fantastic changes in your body.
Think about your progress in the last six to eight weeks. Can you answer these questions?
- How many more pushups or pull ups can you do now compared to six weeks ago?
- How much more can you bench, squat, or deadlift?
- Do you know your weak areas? What have you done in the last six weeks to strengthen them?
- When was the last time you changed your workout?
If you can’t answer these questions, you aren’t tracking your progress and/or aren’t following a progressive program.
Need help? Hit me up. I’m here for you.
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.