Get Strong, Use Your Journal

Jocelyn nails 228#,

And narrowly misses this 233# jerk.

Great to have you in class, John.

By Jocelyn

Many of you have taken us up on our free “goals assessments” which have been a huge success.  The staff here at CrossFit West couldn’t be prouder that so many of you are getting serious about taking training to the next level and taking advantage of this excellent opportunity.  The goals have ranged from wanting to do workouts Rx’d, refining technique in Olympic lifts, and getting stronger, to learning kipping pull ups, hand stand push ups, and muscle ups.  What I have found is that no matter what the goal is, the answer from me has been essentially the same–use your journal.

But what does it mean to use your journal?  Sure, we urge everyone to keep track of their numbers–know your Back Squat 1RM, for example, and all 1RM’s for major lifts, keep track of your WOD times along with the weight used, and log all loads and reps lifted during our strength training sessions.  But it has occurred to me that many people have resorted to simply logging 1RM’s and named benchmark WODs in order to simply use the journal to reflect whether or not you’ve PRed on something lately.

Now, that’s great if all you care about is finding out after the fact if you’ve gotten any better at today’s benchmark or major lift.  But how about using the journal to have control over your fate of getting better every day, and being able to say ahead of time that today, when I go for my 1RM on my Back Squat, I’m going to PR and it’s going to be by 20lbs?  The real magic happens when you use your journal as a “weapon” (Sam’s metaphor).

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say we are doing Back Squat 5×5 today (worth noting: the Back Squat is one of the most important lifts for getting strong and it will come up about once per week).  You should:

1.    Pull out your journal and flip to the last 5×5 Back Squat and check your loads.
2.    Increase the load by 5lbs this week.  For example, if you lifted 150lbs for 5 sets of 5 this week you will be doing 155lbs.
3.    Continue this 5lb addition each week.

If the last time you Back Squatted you pyramided up in weight each set (ie: 140lbs, 145lbs, 150lbs, 155lbs, 160lbs) then try to finish your last set 5-10lbs higher than before, again using your journal to do this.  Furthermore, if the lift is being done in a different rep range, find the page in your journal that indicates the last time you were in that rep range and add 5 lbs to that.  This can be done with most lifts (except perhaps the Olympic lift in which technique becomes a bigger issue than strength- expect a post on this at a later date).

Imagine how many weeks it would take you, at this rate, to smash your old record.  Eventually you will be doing your old PR for sets of 5 and when it’s time to re-test you will be able to say that, without a doubt, “my new max will be at least 20lbs heavier.”

Random strength training does not work beyond beginner adaptation.  Eventually your beginner adaptation will run out and if you are arbitrarily loading the bar with weight there will come a point when you absolutely WILL NOT  get any stronger.  Using your journal to track your loads will help guide you in making calculated jumps in weight on a regular basis.  As Louie Simmons of West Side Barbell says, “lifting weights and getting stronger is mathematics and bio-mechanics.”   There’s nothing arbitrary about it.  Train harder, train smarter, get stronger.  Use your journal.


Weighted Pull Ups


Weighted Ring Dips


For time:

100ft Broad Jump

5 Rounds

5 Deadlifts (275/185)

15 Wall Balls


100ft Broad Jump