Wednesday, November 30, 2016

You can't improve what you don't measure

I hate that quote, I hear it all the time in my mangement stuff at my real job. Most useful work is really unmeasurable. The stuff that actually gets measured (like number of hours at work) is what people look at and it is only tangentially related to being productive.

I think the same thing goes in the fitness industry. People pay too much attention to their PRs in a lift, or their best 10k time. If you're a weightlifter or a professional runner, then those numbers have a direct relation to how good you are. Even if you're a power athlete (like a football player), getting a bigger squat may not necessarily translate to the field - it probably can't hurt, but it's not the metric to judge you.

Too many times I've seen people put way too much stock their PRs or specific times in arbitrary workouts, so we decided when we started the gym we wouldn't track those things. We would rather people come in and simply get fitter and stronger without worrying about scores.

However, over the last year and a half, I have noticed that there is some value in knowing if you're improving. Or better, seeing that you're not improving in a specific area so that you can turn your attention there. So I'm going to modify my stance on the no-measuring rule. I've got the bones of the programming for 2017 done, and I put in some regularly scheduled strength tests so that you can track if you're getting stronger. Don't play NCLB and practice the test - use the test as a gauge if you're getting fitter and stronger.

Most of our tests are pure strength tests, since we believe that's the most important skill. However, we're not just a strength gym - we're a strength and conditioning gym - so you'll also need some tests to see if your conditioning is getting better.

What will you see? Over the next year, you should have about 1 test per month on one of our core strength movements. We'll rotate among movements so that you're not spending too much time testing. As you progress, you really only have 2-3 true max efforts a year on any one movement - we don't want to overdo it.  You'll also see some conditioning benchmarks come up, about 1 per month.

Strength is easy to quantify: how much can you lift? For conditioning, we have to make some judgment calls. We picked three workouts as our core benchmark workouts. You'll see these throughout the year, and we'll make a special note in the blog posts when they come up so that you can be sure to get in and get a score.

Row 2k - ugh, more rowing? Yes, the 2k is the perfect test for how much suffering you can handle. It's short enough that you can go really hard, but it's long enough that you need to trick your brain into continuing. You can't do a good 2k row without being well conditioned - it's impossible to fake.

21-15-9: Burpees, KB Swing 24/16, Box Jump 20" - this is a classic benchmark that I've used for years. It is fast and painful, a great test of power output.

AMRAP 20: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 air-squats - I stole this one from CrossFit, but it's a good one. It's a great way to test sustained cardio output.

So in addition to the 1RM tests that come up, pay attention to these conditioning workouts. We'll do them the same way each time and you'll want to log your scores to keep track of your progress.


snatch push press 5x3
2 TGUs between sets


3 rounds for sense of urgency:
row 1k
20 squats (empty bar)

Endurance Option

snatch push press 5x3
2 TGUs between sets


3 rounds below AeroMAX:
row 1k
rest 1:00

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