Using our Basic Strength Series
Sometimes we encounter beginning athletes who are confused about what to do during the Strength Workout of the Day (SWOD) and how to follow our strength program. We spell out the basics in our awesome WODbook, but since space is limited there, we thought it might be worth elaborating upon here.
First of all, why do we have a Strength WOD? We believe, that among the general skills of an athlete, strength is foundational. What we mean by that is: You need strength to optimally perform CrossFit WODs with the intensity required for favorable adaptation. You won’t get the most out of “Fran” if you are so weak you can’t perform thrusters with any significant weight or pull your chin over the bar. Strength is not more important than endurance or flexibility, but it has to be developed first.
Once you have passed the Level One test, you will begin the Basic Strength Series. You stay on this series until you can demonstrate “intermediate” strength on all of your lifts as defined in the charts in the WODbook. The purpose of this series is the gradual, progressive, linear acquisition of strength through adaptation to increasing loads. This is a system and if it is followed, it will work. If you do not follow it, you will not get results. It’s that simple.
On your first workout after you have passed the Level One, you will work with a coach to establish the appropriate starting weights you will be lifting. For the back squat, press, deadlift and bench press, this will be your five-repetition maximum or “5 rep max”. This means the weight that you can lift five times, but not six. It should be a challenge to complete. You should be as afraid of this workout as you are of your regular WOD. For the power clean you will determine your “3 rep max”. This determination of weights may take one or two sessions.
After your weights have been established, you will begin with “Workout A”. The next day you are in the box, you will perform “Workout B” and so on. Wednesdays is usually a long WOD and no time is allotted for the strength WOD.
The workouts consist of two movements each. In the WODbook each movement is given a set and repetition range for you to perform. The notation “3×5” means to perform 3 sets of 5 repetitions. There is no prescribed amount of time to rest in between sets, but usually 15 minutes are allotted for each strength WOD, so you need to move smartly to get it done. If for any reason, you do not finish your SWOD in the allotted time, ask your coach if you can finish it after class.
The main feature of this series is the consistent, progressive addition of weight. Successfully performing a SWOD means you are able to lift the prescribed weight the prescribed number of sets and reps. If you successfully perform the workout, you will add weight the next time you perform that workout. This is critical to your success. If you wander aimlessly, decreasing and increasing your weights on a whim with no apparent purpose, you will not make progress. Also, you will anger your coaches and you will be made fun of.
The amount of the increase is laid out in your WODbook. As a rule, it is 2.5 pounds per week for presses (both bench and shoulder), 5 pounds per week for squats and 10 pounds per week for the deadlift. Do not exceed these prescribed increases. If you fail to make progress, talk with your coach about what to do next. He or she may have you decrease your weight, decrease the amount of weight you increase weekly or otherwise change the program to help you get stronger.
Journaling is critical at this stage. It’s easy to forget what you lifted during the previous workout. Don’t try to commit it to memory. Write every workout in your WODbook and bring your WODbook to every class.
Stick with the program, be consistent and work hard each and every lift. Before long you will be graduating from the Basic Strength Series into the Continuing Strength series and even higher PRs. More importantly, you will be stronger.