Friday, September 11, 2015

Ptolemaic Programming Part II

How high can you pile sand?
The angle of repose is, roughly, the steepest angle that you can pile something up.  How high can you make a sand or gravel pile?  Since you're fighting gravity, the tallest piles are necessarily the ones with the widest base.  You can't pile sand too high before it falls down and makes the base wider.

Just like the sand pile, your strength and conditioning depends on the size of your base. If you're lifting too heavy without putting the volume in, you'll be getting a shoulder or knee or back injury.  You need the strong base before you push up. You also can't (shouldn't) go all out in a sprint without a good aerobic base to support that.

Lately, in the gym, we've been joking about cherry-picking, especially when it comes to skipping the rowing workouts - especially when they line up with the rowing program (yes, even I did the 5 x 750m this week, and yes, it was horrible). But there is a method to my madness.

First, take a quick review of my introduction to my programming philosophy over here. Today's topic is the what makes up that 2-day cycle that you see. I cycle us through two strength days followed by two conditioning days. Over a 5-day week (Saturdays are special), strength and conditioning workouts drift forward by 1 day so that the 2-day/week, 3-day/week, and 4-day/week folks all get to sample everything on average.

There's something extra in that cycle that you're not seeing: one conditioning workout is varied and generally on the high-intensity side, like today's workout. The goal is to go fast and we switch movements quickly so that you can rest some muscles while you get the others worked out - this way you can keep a high metabolic intensity without muscle failure. These are the fun workouts, the "sexy metcons." But what about that other day in the conditioning cycle? That's the monostructural workout.

What's a monostructural workout? Those are the grinds, the necessary evils, the workouts that build your base, your foundation. We pick one movement and focus on that (sometimes I throw something else small in there to keep it exciting - but the real meat of the workout is a single movement).  Lately that movement has been rowing (earlier in the summer it was running). Why do I put you through this? You need these workouts so that you have a good aerobic base to build on. Just like you can't lift super heavy without building a good base of strength (though I do know lots of people who do that, they're just always injured), you can't go super intense without a good aerobic base.

Scott Hagnas from CrossFit Portland wrote a great article about this topic earlier this week (I know I generally make fun of CrossFit, but Scott is one of the good ones).  You can get really good at the metcons, you can get really skilled at being efficient at the movements, but unless you're putting in the time on the monostructural work, you're leaving a big hole in your fitness.  That's why I make sure that this is part of our regular programming. It's not sexy, but it's critical for your safe, injury-free, progress. (It's also why those of you on a strengh program spend so much time putting in the reps at low percentages - I don't want you pushing those 90%+ lifts until you really have a good base.)

Don't cherry-pick. Don't skip the boring stuff. Everything we do is designed to safely step you towards better fitness.
Workout
Complex for time:
5-5-3-3-1-1
Hang Snatch
OHS
Squat
Good Morning
Row
Deadlift