Get to Class, Get Stronger

Although much lighter than his competitors, Anatoly Pisarenko dominated the superheavyweights in the 80s.  While he might not look like the modern vision of strength–bulging biceps, taut skin rippling with veins, orange tans–don’t fool yourself, in his prime he was one of the strongest and fastest men to ever walk the planet.

There will always be disagreements about what constitutes CrossFit.  There is also the perception that if your heart is not pounding against your ribcage then it wasn’t a good workout.  Just yesterday I was told by an athlete that she only wanted to do gymnastics movements and didn’t really like the barbell.  She didn’t think it held much value for her because she was never going to be a weightlifter.  If you don’t appreciate the value of strength and power in CrossFit, then it is my fault.  Hopefully this post will clear the matter up.  Heck, hopefully the next sentence will clear the matter up.

Once an athlete has learned the movements of CrossFit–the lifts, the kipping pullup, some of the more advanced bodyweight movements–to some level of competency, the single most needed aspect of CrossFit in order to increase performance and decrease times on the benchmark WODs is strength.  That’s right, after basic technique, strength is the most important factor to getting better at CrossFit.  It is also just about the hardest to gain.  Muscle stamina and cardio-pulmonary endurance, usually what wipes most beginners out, can be built up fairly well in a matter of months.  Strength, in unfortunate contrast, takes years to build.

Folks, high level CrossFitters are strong.  Most can rep out double bodyweight in the deadlift, jerk 100 pounds over bodyweight, snatch at least bodyweight, bang out 40 pullups, overhead squat more than bodyweight, and the list goes on.  And yes, these are the people who have fast times on the bonchamrk WODs.  It is not a coincidence.

And you can too.  But you have to get to class and train hard.

At CF West, we have the unusual system of the punch card.  Most CrossFit boxes simply have unlimited memberships, but Santa Cruz is different than most places and we want to be able to accommodate everyone.  However the punch card sometimes leads to the practice of holding onto one’s bought classes and doling them out periodically, such as once or twice a week, and training on one’s own the rest of the time.  And that is OK.  I am stoked that someone will train with us even if just once a week and I firmly believe that we can still help anyone get fitter.

However, and I am going to be blunt here, this really retards one’s gains.  You will not progress nearly as fast attending class once or even twice a week and training three days on your own as you would attending class all training days.

At the core of the preceding paragraph is programming and intensity.  Intensity is a no brainer.  You don’t train as intensely on your own as you do in a group class.  We all  may think we do, but we don’t.  No way.

One of the reasons that CrossFit works so well, produces such well balanced monsters like the athletes described above, is that one’s programming is done for you.  This forces you to constantly be training strengths, weaknesses, and everything in the middle.  Yes, you could roll a die for your workouts, but it is not the same as an experienced coach forcing you to push your mental and physical limits.

A good coach doesn’t program each day’s class in a vacuum.  He or she will look at a week or so at a time and program sequences that include heavier days, technique days, lighter metcon days, and many combinations of the three.

So, come to class, get stronger, watch your performance increase. I promise.

The countdown to the aniversary workout and party has begun. Are there any suggestions for the WOD? Please post to Comments.


5 sets of 5 reps in the clean pull.  Use a weight 10 pounds heavier than your 1RM clean. Really jump the bar high.  Be sure to shrug the shoulders to the ears.


15 deadlifts.  Add 100 pounds to the weight used for the clean pulls. Take some breaths between each rep, even stand and shake out your grip, but don’t dawdle and don’t walk away from the bar.

Post WOD completed and score to Comments.