Most coaches agree that strength, conditioning and skills are the foundations on which fitness athletes are built. Our sport will test your strength at minute 15 of a WOD, and demand precision by testing gymnastics after dozens of heavy barbell lifts. While we generally agree on the importance of strength, conditioning and skills, our approach to athlete development is a little different than some other programs.
For one thing, we do a lot fewer MetCons. Conventional MetCons rarely align with the time domains or work/rest ratios useful for comprehensive conditioning, and they rarely permit sufficient development of skills. The time most programs devote to MetCons is used instead for skills, conditioning and accessory work. MetCons are incredibly taxing and, done too often, impede strength gains. Improving your strength, skills and conditioning will improve your MetCon results, but the reverse is simply not true. Let's talk about how we deliver results for athletes at all levels:
Strength: Strength tests in our sport are getting more creative (sandbags, heavy kettlebells, “worms” etc.) but the basics of strength training remain unchanged. We squat, deadlift, press and carry. For weightlifting, we program lots of submaximal reps, until great technique becomes a habit. Classic strength training paired with lots of lighter weightlifting reps makes our athletes stronger and faster. Outstanding strength rarely occurs without outstanding form, so we incorporate accessory work to correct imbalances and eliminate specific weaknesses. Common targets include core and back strength, joint stability, and force production at the end-ranges of motion; our athletes accomplish big things because they work on little things. If you can squat without the bar shifting forward, stabilize a snatch overhead and maintain great posture during a 100-yard unbroken heavy farmers carry, then overhead walking lunges, sandbag events, and various other odd objects will be no problem.
Conditioning: We use a combination of endurance training, speed work and intervals to elicit the desired conditioning adaptations. Building capacity, like building strength, takes time. Once you’ve got some serious capacity, we introduce applied conditioning. Applied conditioning is a mix of classical conditioning (run, bike, row) with low-complexity exercises such as burpees and lightweight barbell exercise. The intent of applied conditioning is to introduce and measure mixed-modal conditioning without worrying about complexity or skills. Rowing a sub-17 5k indicates a great aerobic engine. What happens to your 1k splits when you have to do 20 burpees every 1k? And how long does each set of 20 take? Applied conditioning tells us a lot about how your capacity will carry over to competition.
Skills: We do more skills work than most other programs. Much of it is done at moderate intensity, off the clock. Here, we emulate other sports. A basketball player working on their jump shot is better off taking 300 shots a day at moderate intensity than simply playing a game every day. Shots taken in practice train the body to shoot without thought at game pace. We believe that toes to bar, handstand pushups and the other movements common to our sport should be developed the same way: at moderate intensity, using lots of reps, until you can execute them thoughtlessly at game speed. Too many programs confuse skills development with conditioning, and end up with exhausted athletes who progress slowly. You don’t need a huge engine to do 50 toes to bar. You need efficient movement. This is the key idea around our skills development.