Friday, 16 October 2009

A Post For Dutch

Dutch denies that one can make improvements in all aspects of fitness at once.

Improving all aspects of fitness at once is CrossFit’s goal and claimed effect.  By arguing against the efficacy of non-specific fitness training, Dutch must come to face with the ever growing body of evidence of the success of non-specific CrossFit training, as best exemplified by 

Every person I have known since 2003 who has followed programming and nutritional recommendations has made impressive progress in many different aspects of fitness. 

Furthermore, beyond the main page programming, Dutch’s statement would imply that gyms which aim to improve all aspects of GPP at once will fail. 

Let us consider some data points specific to the experience of EYF’s authors.  We have trained one athlete, Toren, who exemplifies the efficacy of general fitness training.  Over the course of two years of CrossFit programming, coming in with no background in serious strength training, Toren raised his deadlift to 565 lbs., can do 300 jump rope rotations in 1:03 and did Nasty Girls (3 rounds of 50 squats, 7 muscle-ups, 10 hang power cleans at 135 lbs.) with bar muscleups in 6:50.  At 225 lbs. Toren can do 16 consecutive bar muscleups, more than some experienced gymnasts have achieved, as witnessed by EYF's authors.  He made this improvement with no strength or power focus in his training and despite a knee injury which prevented him from performing many of CrossFit’s most effective exercises.  

On the female side, Kari is a former semi-pro soccer player who started CrossFit in March of 2008.  When she started CrossFit, she had a max deadlift of 125lbs, a max back squat of 100lbs, and a max press of 40lbs.  After a year and a half of CrossFitting, and at a bodyweight of 128lbs, she deadlifts 270lbs, back squats 210lbs, and presses 82lbs.  Those are some pretty (read: very) significant strength increases.  She has also taken her 5k from over 25 minutes to slightly over 22 minutes, as well as decreasing her times in running at all distances (she is now faster than she was while playing semi-pro soccer.)  These improvements, on opposite ends of the power/duration spectrum, seem to indicate that Kari has successfully improved all aspects of her GPP over the last year and a half. 

At Evolve Your Fitness’s headquarters, CrossFit Monterey, our athletes are regularly making the very progress that Dutch denies is possible.  Our muscle-up club board has 19 members.  We have guys deadlifting above 400 and often much more within the first year of consistent training without specialization.  In the first week of October, six separate athletes got their first bar muscleups.  Again, if Dutch was right, these broad improvements in fitness would not be happening.

However, we do not bring up this data to show that EYF is unique in its application of effective general fitness programming.  We have found general fitness programming to be effective anywhere coaches and their athletes have pursued it intensely and intelligently. 

For example, a good friend of EYF, Serge Sarkissian, started training CrossFit in August of 2008, but his first reliable stats come from October of 2008:  
No pull up
135 Clean
500m Row 1:50
Couldn't run a mile
FGB 161


After a little over a year of training, primarily on his own in a globo-gym environment, Serge is a dramatically fitter man, in as general a sense as is possible:


15 CTB Pull Ups
235 Clean and Jerk
500m 1:32
25 min 5k
FGB 275

None of the athletes we have mentioned are finished products, but it should be obvious from this data that it is possible to improve many different, seemingly contradictory, aspects of fitness at once.

Dutch advises to focus training on weak points.  This is good advice, however, there is not necessarily a contradiction between this goal and a general fitness program.  As we have covered previously, one can perform consistent skill work on weaknesses while also performing more varied and intense WOD's.  This option allows an athlete to shore up weak points while still making dramatic improvements in all aspects of fitness.  If this impossible, then we at EYF must be hallucinating our results.

Though we don’t deny that specially programming WODs can be effective, we disagree that it is necessary for progress.  Generalized CrossFit programming coupled with targeted and consistent skill work will be sufficient.  We also disagree that the currently available performance data so far has demonstrated specialized training’s superiority to standard CrossFit programming.  General CrossFit programming works exceptionally well. We will keep applying and refining this method of programming until the data indicates that we should change course.


Jay Ashman said...

you make a great argument and so does Dutch about your respective styles of training. If a new trainee came in and had to choose between the two, they would have a very difficult choice.

Both work well, but which one depends on the athlete. In GPP for CrossFit, mainsite is still the standard, for sport specific training and more specialized goals, a different approach is needed.

John Frazer said...

To me, there's no question that a person with little serious strength training background (and especially a relatively young athlete) can make dramatic progress on strength by doing mainpage-style CF. I did that (starting days before I turned 38).

The question in my mind now (5-1/2 years later) is at what point the gains slow down, especially in terms of an older athlete's recovery ability. Currently I follow Coach Rut's programming, partly because it's very sustainable in terms of both scheduling and recovery.

One question I've answered to my own satisfaction is that longer metcons aren't necessary to maintain metabolic conditioning. (Muscular endurance is another story.) This summer I ran a 4.5 mile race that I'd previously run in 2006. I hadn't run 4.5 or longer since fall 2007 (I think; it may have been 2006), and hadn't run a 5K in nearly a year. After three years of short metcons my time only dropped about 20 seconds.

John Frazer said...

Should clarify that last phrase -- my time this year was only 30 seconds worse than my 2006 time.

Russ said...


Yes. It depends on the specific sport and the athlete's role in that sport, obviously. Some sports will require more short-duration power focus, some will require focusing more on long-duration power.

I disagree with Dutch on the necessity of very specialized programming for the goal of general fitness. There's not enough data supporting Dutch's way to conclude it's the most effective method, and more than enough to conclude that this method is not at all necessary.

Dutch also errs by generalizing based off of his own experience as a smaller guy. There is no doubt that many smaller and weaker guys doing Crossfit should lift heavy weights frequently and get stronger. I disagree that they need to bias their training fully towards that end, but I completely agree with the goal of training individuals' weak points.

I have trained, however, with many Crossfitters who come in already reasonably strong on the slow lifts. I trained a former high school football player, for example, who had a 300 lb. bench, high 2's clean, and mid 4 squat. Contrary to what most people think, I've never seen the guys who come in with more strength in the slow lifts progress much faster. They almost always have glaring deficiencies in other aspects of fitness. These guys do NOT need to do strength or power biased programming for the goal of increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains!

Everyone should regularly work on improving their weak points. We should not assume, however, that everyone should bias their training towards barbell lifting.

Russ said...


Strength gains in Crossfit are very highly correlated to effective nutrition and effective technical instruction and practice.

Unfortunately, most people doing Crossfit aren't eating Zone/Paleo and haven't trained with Coach Burgener or read Starting Strength cover to cover.

Furthermore, some Crossfit affiliates don't put much emphasis on teaching the slow and olympic lifts. This is a grave mistake, equal to their lack of emphasis on sprinting and gymnastics).

As I mentioned previously, I am not opposed to strength-focused programming in general. I disagree with Dutch on when and how to use it.

It may work for you. In that case, do it.

But to say that it's strength-specialization is the key for everyone, and thus make it the standard at your affiliate, is another story.

Lastly, slightly losing longer-duration work capacity is clearly inferior to improving it. And the loss in muscular endurance which you alluded to, is a big problem as well. Improving at activities exclusively within short time domains is not what Crossfit's about.

John Frazer said...

I should have made the point in my first post that the approximate 1% decrease in my performance is, in my view, so small that I can't necessarily correlate it to an increase or decrease in fitness.

Among the factors I can think of that would easily cause variation of that small magnitude:

*Paced myself wrong;
*Obstructed by other runners;
*Too much or too little water;
*Hadn't broken in my new shoes;
*The previous night's sleep;
*More stress at work;
*Too much or too little warmup;
*Like it or not, going from age 40 to age 43.

I'll willingly trade the 1% decline in distance running performance (mistyped it in my clarification post) for a 5% increase in both the slow and fast lifts.

Tsypkin said...

John, you say:

"I'll willingly trade the 1% decline in distance running performance (mistyped it in my clarification post) for a 5% increase in both the slow and fast lifts."

The problem is that you're stating a personal preference. We at EYF have no problem with that: If you like lifting heavy stuff and don't care as much about longer stuff, great! Go for it, and we are glad you've figured out what you like doing and are getting after it!

However, the question we're discussing is not "what do most people prefer," it is "what do most people need in order to most effectively create greater work capacity across broad time and modal domains." Nothing you've said indicates that your increased focus on heavy lifting has done a better job of attaining that goal than straight up CrossFit style programming would have.

I realize you're not making the generalization that all athletes need strength biased programming, but a lot of people do make that generalization, and that's what we're refuting.

John Frazer said...

Actually, I would argue that the 1%/5% trade has increased my work capacity across ... (etc.).

Very short-duration strength/power efforts (max singles) -- definite increase.

Medium-duration efforts (say 8-15 min.) -- well, I got a PR by two minutes on "Jackie" vs. when I did main page programming. (I did have to sub running for the row but don't think that made the whole 2-minute difference.)

Longer-duration efforts -- steady, at least.

So, I would say the overall area under my work capacity curve has increased.

I'd also say part of the increase is due to the increased opportunity for technique improvement. On Coach Rut's program, doing the same lift for max effort once a week for 2-3 weeks (sometimes more if he does a sequence like 2 weeks each of hang power clean/power clean/squat clean) tends to focus my mind better on cues for particular lifts.

Based just on my experience, mainpage CF works great for beginners and especially for younger athletes. I'd certainly endorse it for the already strong athlete who lacks endurance or metabolic conditioning.

On the other hand, when strength gains become more elusive, or for athletes notably lacking in limit strength, a focus in that area pays dividends.

Tsypkin said...

John, you say:

"I'd also say part of the increase is due to the increased opportunity for technique improvement. On Coach Rut's program, doing the same lift for max effort once a week for 2-3 weeks (sometimes more if he does a sequence like 2 weeks each of hang power clean/power clean/squat clean) tends to focus my mind better on cues for particular lifts."

This is a HUGE point. Many, if not most CrossFitters lack not only the technical capacity necessary to make progress past a certain point, but the lack of willingness to train that technically.


"On the other hand, when strength gains become more elusive, or for athletes notably lacking in limit strength, a focus in that area pays dividends."

Again, we're NOT arguing against the idea that some people need strength biased programming. But saying "for athletes notably lacking in limit strength, a focus in that area pays dividends" is no different than saying "for athletes notably lacking in running speed, a focus in that area pays dividends."

Our point is that everyone has weaknesses, and everyone's weaknesses are different. Dutch et al have claimed that EVERYONE needs to place an increased emphasis on limit strength and/or heavy Olympic lifting, and I just haven't seen the data to back that claim up. However, as Russ said, we have plenty of data to show that strength biased programming isn't necessary for everyone.

John Frazer said...

OK, my comment on limit strength was a truism.

I should have put some value on it by saying that my definition of "lacking in limit strength" would include a person who is unable to perform WODs as rx'ed due to the inability to move the rx'ed load safely for the rx'ed number of reps (or maybe to move it at all).

Dutch said...

Let me start out by saying that i am flattered that you would spend the time and effort to address these issues. The fact that trainers need to address individual weaknesses seems to have passed right by many affiliate owners. Thank you Russ and Bullfrog for making a point to recognize this. We need to figure out how to get this point out to the crossfitting masses.

To begin my comments on this post and its comments i want to refute one statement which i find truly troubling. Among others posted here but i don't want to get aggressive so i will speak in a general sense about them.
"Strength gains in Crossfit are very highly correlated to effective nutrition "
have you ever hung out with a competitive power lifter or olympic lifter?? Let me assure you, their diets are far from what even a moderate Crossfitter would claim to be effective...

This statement in itself proves the inexperience you have when talking about strength training. I can't claim much more but i am trying to learn about these training methods as i think they are the key to fitness.

My main point without reposting my previous thoughts is that if you have a directed approach to training with a focus on your weaknesses you can achieve a better GPP than if you take a randomized method such as Crossfit main page does and i assume ya'll do too.

The bottom line is that Crossfit done wrong or ineffectively ( i am not accusing you of this, i am sure you are very safe with your teaching and maintaining strict standards, I know this because of your dedication to knowledge. Nobody i have met in this community with your attitude has run a shitty operation; Thank You) is still better than anything else out there. This simple fact can contribute to much of the recorded success you are having.
One thing i would like to point out and have seen over and over is that high level crossfitters or high level athletes getting into CF tend to plateau much quicker on randomized training. This is when an organized attack comes in to play.

If you don't know where you are taking someone in regards to fitness, how do you get them there?
You don't get in your car to go to work and take a random route everyday do you?

Russ said...


There are two main points you have misunderstood.

For one, I did not say that strength gains in general are highly correlated to nutrition. I said that strength gains with Crossfitters are. Why is that?

CrossFitters have a relatively high volume of muscularly intensive work to recover from, in addition to their lower rep strength training. If heavy deadlift day is friday, then it's likely they've already done some high rep calisthenics, sprinted, lifted with higher reps, and worked on some higher skill and strength gymnastics already in that week.

It is possible to make strength gains on a schedule such as this, BUT your recovery and thus nutrition need to be spot on. Olympic and powerlifters, while they work very hard, do not have to recover from the same quantity of varied and muscularly challenging work in order to make strength gains.

The second misunderstanding you have is that if someone does randomized programming they therefore cannot also work on weak points in a focused manner. Nowhere on does it say that you can ONLY do the main page workouts. At our gym, by the time the athletes have started the wod, they've already gone through extensive practice with skills we've found them to be deficient in.

We have covered on the topic of individualized skill practice on this blog. For example, a trainee deficient in handstand pushups may practice three submaximal sets every day. Someone who is a poor runner may do a second running WOD every other workout day. We can thus conceptually divide training between randomized Crossfit WODs and consistent, individualized work on weak points.

Our disagreement with you is not on the topic of the necessity of individualized work on weak points. Let me be clear, if you have a movement you suck at, you should practice it very frequently.

We disagree, however that individualized work on weak points necessitates less variation in time or modal domains in the rest of that athlete's programming.

I also find strange the accusation of inexperience in strength training. People who have train with me consistently have gotten a lot stronger, very quickly.

Just off the top of my head, Justin has gotten a 450 lb. deadlift in 5 months of training at 175 lbs., Toren is up to 565 after 2 years of training at 225 lbs., Jacob has gotten 460 after 3 years of training at 186 lbs., Alex took his deadlift from 205 to 355 in a year of training at under 150 lbs. bwt, Shareef got 425 at 158 lbs. bwt. We have a bunch more guys, and girls, with similar results, but I'll save your time.

Dutch said...

re: Making improvements in all aspects of fitness.

With this we can look at it two ways. Micro (individual workouts), and Macro (a given amount of time, 6 weeks, 6 months, 6 years...)

If we look at workouts individually and lets take an example of extremes. A 5k followed by Max effort Deadlift 7x1.
Essentially with the 5k, you have made the individual you are training weaker and slower as well as less flexible. This is all evident if you have ever worked with a "runner." Decreased capacity in a couple important components of fitness.
The Deadlifts, depending on the individuals exposure to heavier weight as i mentioned before, will make the individual stronger, but not really any of the other 10 general physical skills. This is due to the the low degree of skill and flexibility needed to be successful in this lift.
Lets say the third workout is Fran. I will use my system of scaling to make the workout take between 4 and 6 minutes. A good workout with the potential to improve the majority of the the 10 GPS. So in effect we have gotten 1 quality workout to really improve ones conditioning in all aspects of fitness with a second making us stronger and a third taking away from the previous two.

So the question is, did we get more fit as CF defines it?
Sure, a little. Thats not ok with me anymore.

On a macro view i think this method is not as efficient what i have talked about previously. If we are going to be fitness whores, we might as well try to get the most out of our training.

My training would take this same person and determine where they are weak (most likely, flat out weakness) and where they are strong, and develop a program to advance the weaknesses quicker while maintaining the strong points. once the weakness is improved, we move on the the former strength which has become less strong relative to the former weakness.

So yes i stand behind my statement. In the long run we can inch up capacities with traditional CF but if you take a more planned approach and understand what you are training and why then you make more aggressive gains and end up with a much better base of fitness and quicker.

Jay Ashman said...

Both Russ and Dutch have come to similar conclusions using slightly different approaches.

Coach Rut's blog today:

I agree with Dutch as far as his methods go, but it is damn hard to argue against CFM/EYF's results as well...

John Frazer said...

Since I argued with Russ earlier, I'll even it out by arguing with Dutch.

It seems to me that Dutch's argument (that the 5K/deadlift/Fran sequence isn't optimal) is based on the assumption that the athlete is a classic "runner" with an endurance base but a strength deficit.

If we assume instead that the athlete is a bodybuilder or powerlifter, we may have a very different story. Fran still kicks butt, the deadlift improves or maintains limit strength, and the person will gain needed endurance from the running.

The question isn't really about what's the best program for any particular athlete, but what's best for athletes in general, especially in the context of affiliate programming. Not "What's John Frazer's weakness?" but "What's the most common weakness of the largest number of people walking in the door?"

Russ said...


Let me begin by reviewing how we have reached this point in the debate. We established that Crossfit's goal is increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Then we established that both a generalized training program combined with weak point work and a specialized training program are capable of improving work capacity across broad time and modal domains, to various degrees. I think you will agree on both these points.

Now the question is, which method is most effective at increasing work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Do you agree that the only way we can intelligently compare the efficacy of two separate methods is by looking at performance data?

You are a smart guy, so I will assume that you agree to this point as well. Therefore, let us begin to compare your assertions to the available performance data.

There is a special irony in the example you chose in an attempt to illustrate the inefficacy of general training. The cycle you described, of a max lift, distance running workout, and a classic Crossfit metcon, very closely resembles the daily training of many of the fittest men in the world.

You have brushed Crossfit Monterey's results aside, since any Crossfit routine is better than the available alternatives. OK. So let's look at some athletes working at a higher level. Though you disagree that the Crossfit Games offer us perfect information about how to train, surely you accept that the athletes who reached the second day have reached a very high level of fitness? Isn't it worthwhile to see how they have trained?

Let's look at Mikko Salo,

"My basic training day starts with running or rowing 30-45 min with high intensity (interval training) in the mornings. In the evenings, I do some kind of strength training (different squats, cleans, snatches, deadlifts, all major lifts), with sets of 5x3, 5x5, or 5x10.

After the strength training, I usually do two different metcon workouts with 5-10 minute rest in between. For these, I use broad time domains from 1 minute to 30 minutes. I also try to use big weights and my body mass in the metcons. I always hammer the metcons with full intensity."

Hmmm. Well that could be an accident. But Moe Kelsey, #3 at the games, likes to lift heavy weights, but he also competes regularly in triathlons. He also doesn't seem to be entirely cancelling out his improvements in fitness.

Jason Khalipa had a very impressive performance at the games as well, especially if you look past his disappointing distance run. How did he prepare for the games? He did .com for 2/3 of the year leading up to the games. In the four months leading up to the games, he added more olympic lifting AND hill running to his training, including runs of 5 to 7 miles. Again, his training very closely resembles the exact methods which you have argued against.

Blair Morrison, number seven at the games, trained for and ran a marathon in the year leading up to the games. In the meantime he also developed a 215 lb. snatch, 2:40 Fran, and 405 lb. back squat.

Maybe these athletes would have reached a higher level of fitness with more specialized training. All assertions to that end, however, are mere conjecture until the available performance data supports that assertion.

Russ said...

John Frazer,

Thank you for your measure participation in this debate. Your background as a lawyer is evident. I will attempt to address the point you raised about general programming on the affiliate level

The average person coming into Crossfit absolutely sucks at the barbell lifts. He or she also will be goddawful at gymnastics, horrendous at sprinting, comical at double unders, and will take somewhere between an afternoon and a whole day to row a 10k. Their weakness is fitness.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we could improve all aspects of fitness at once?

And it seems, indeed we can.

You have stated that "To me, there's no question that a person with little serious strength training background (and especially a relatively young athlete) can make dramatic progress on strength by doing mainpage-style CF."

The performance data I've seen and elaborated on earlier all supports this assertion.

John Frazer said...


Thank you for the compliment.

Re. double unders, I resemble the remark. Until Greg Amundson's article mentioned that they improved his firearm manipulations, I could see no reason whatsoever to spend any time on them. Someday I'll actually spend that time ...

Dutch said...

Agree to disagree.
Great debate fellas.

Once again you can see this as a dismissal, but that is not my goal. I see the CF games as a bunch of freaks getting together to test how badass they are. More than likely they have been badass for a while and are just applying that to CF.

The real investigation should look at the affiliate games. These are the real tests of a program. Lets look at the teams that were successful:
Because i know them personally i can comment on the programs of CF Invictus and Norcal (both top 5 finishers). I also know about CF Calgary and CF Central's training protocols. I know for a fact that Norcal and Invictus lift heavy and do metcons under 15 minutes as a rule everyday. I have personally witnessed Calgary lifting heavy on a regular basis as well as Central.

So who did not make the top 5? CF Marina whom i love dearly but i know does .com programming almost exclusively finished 48th. CF NYC does the same thing and finished 84th.

There are several more in the top 10 that i know use the same protocol i recommend and am sure more than i suspect do as well. The ones i know of are CF Omaha, Front Range CF and CF East Sac. If this isn't evidence i don't know what is.

Dale Saran said...

Dutch -

Respectfully, your example isn't evidence. It's not even close to evidence. I'll forgive you because you're not a lawyer. And didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn express last night. ;-)

The reason it's not evidence is because you've simply dismissed all of Russ' evidence and data by saying "it's just freaks getting together, etc." That's a non-response. It's actually less, but let's be kind.

As to the Affiliate cup, I know that many athletes did not enter CF individual competitors in the Affiliate cup. So, the data eliminates the very people who would make a difference. Additionally, the workouts were team competitions and that doesn't necessarily tell us anything about efficacy of individual training. i.e. Could a team with two great athletes and two middle-of-the-road athletes still win over a team of four better conditioned (overall) athletes? The variables are just too great to say seriously.

One point of concession, however. we would expect the affiliates that are consistently programming well to have a better stable of athletes overall, correct? Maybe, but this ignores the business success aspect of being an affiliate. i.e. Let us suppose hypothetically the greatest Coach and programmer of WoDs has a small affiliate, no capital to put into his business, and lives in a town of less than 12,000 people. His affiliate team shows up and comes in 90th. Do we therefore deduce that his programming sucks and the affiliate in a large metro area with great success and a large client base with 2 good athletes must necessarily be "better" at programming and training?

The only real measure of programming efficacy is individual fitness, (the very thing you pooh-poohed), but one would think that over time, affiliates that program well should produce more athletes with excellent fitness; but let's not then jump to the conclusion that success at the affiliate comp somehow must mean better programming. That just ignores a whole lot of other variables that may be at play. I would say that the affiliate that has 4-5 athletes coming in high standing in the individual comp might well claim they've got the programming thing down. (And this may well mean Calgary, Invictus, et al. are doing it well. In fact, we all know that they are.) But what you've cited as evidence, well, it just isn't on the issue of what programming produces better individual fitness.

John Frazer said...

Dale makes some good points.

To flip one of his arguments briefly, if all affiliates were equal in size, equal in growth potential due to local population, etc., the Affiliate Cup results would fairly reflect the quality of affiliate programming.

However, he's right about the Affiliate Cup results not reflecting top individual competitors.

On the other hand, do all the individual competitors reflect the programming of their respective affiliates? In my personal observation, some of the top individual competitors may work out at an affiliate, but don't regularly participate in the group workouts there.

It would be helpful to compare the results for qualifiers, for the Affiliate Cup, and the individual results; an affiliate is probably onto something if it produces multiple finishers in the top 20% at all three levels.

Unfortunately, the individual results on the Games site doesn't show affiliate names. I guess we could go back and look at the qualifier results and find those--a good project for some dedicated CF blogger to take on (hint, hint).

Tsypkin said...

John, you said:

"On the other hand, do all the individual competitors reflect the programming of their respective affiliates? In my personal observation, some of the top individual competitors may work out at an affiliate, but don't regularly participate in the group workouts there."

I don't think Dale's point was that the Affiliate Cup wasn't an accurate measure of a gyms programming as such, but rather that it's not an accurate measure of whatever programming those athletes are doing. On the other hand, the individual competition is an accurate measure of each athletes programming, regardless of where it comes from.

You also said:

"Unfortunately, the individual results on the Games site doesn't show affiliate names. I guess we could go back and look at the qualifier results and find those--a good project for some dedicated CF blogger to take on (hint, hint)."

We have seen and referenced the programming of athletes including Mikko Salo, Moe Kelsey, Jason Khalipa, et al. To the extent of our capacity to correctly interpret the data, they are following generalized, non-biased CrossFit programming.

John Frazer said...

Dutch's argument was that the affiliates that did best in the Cup were the ones with a strength-biased program. I took Dale's argument to be that this wasn't necessarily proof of the merit of their programming because of (a) population variables, and (b) the fact that the individual competition "skims the cream" from some affiliate teams.

Therefore, my point is that if we look for affiliates that produce both top individual performers and top Cup teams, we should be onto something. Maybe not perfect but it would be the best data available, as far as I know.

I'm not sure how I'd categorize the training of some of the competitors you refer to. As described on the Games site, Salo's massive training volume includes both extended monostructural work and apparently daily heavy barbell work. Kelsey's training sounds similar, though at a lower volume.

Tsypkin said...

John, you said:

"I'm not sure how I'd categorize the training of some of the competitors you refer to. As described on the Games site, Salo's massive training volume includes both extended monostructural work and apparently daily heavy barbell work. Kelsey's training sounds similar, though at a lower volume."

You hit the nail on the head. "extended monostructural work and daily heavy barbell work." We never said you shouldn't lift heavy things. I am a very big fan of lifting very heavy things. However, the vast majority of people cannot handle the volume Salo can, which allows him to do as much work in one day as many people do in a 3 day training cycle. This is a conjecture, of course, but I believe that if Salo COULDN'T handle that volume of training, a 3 day training cycle for him would look like 1 day does now, for example:

Day 1
AM: Monostructural metcon
PM: Heavy lfts

Day 2
CF style metcon

Day 3
CF style metcon

Obviously with variation, but you see what I'm getting at: Salo's focus on the various domains of fitness is balanced, it's just that he can handle much, much more volume than most people.

Dale Saran said...


I think we agree. If an Affil is producing both top-level individuals AND a pretty good team result (AND we assume that all of those participants are participating in the "usual" Affil programming as training for the Affiliate Cup) then it would be reasonable to say that the Affil is onto something. That makes sense and is supportable, although it still isn't conclusive as I've tried to point out in the hypo. Populations to choose from (density) can have a huge impact on an Affil's ability to have clients to work with, as can business acumen, capital for training, training space, etc. But I would say that over time we would expect those Affiliate owenrs who "get" programming to show repeated success at both with their athletes.

That's why I have no quibble about folks like CJ at Invictus, or OPT at Calgary, because I'm aware of their training methodologies generally and their athletes.

One thing that should also be considered WRT programming is the person's background, as well. Affils tend to need to tweak their programming based upon their clients' needs and abilities. For example, if my athlete is a middle-distance runner in college, but weak as a kitten, I'm likely going to spend some more time with him in strength because he simply already has a high level of fitness in one or two domains and we don't need to work there beyond what he's got. In fact, we may have to ask him if he's willing to sacrifice some of what he's got in one domain for improvements elsewhere - are his goals consistent with that kind of GPP/broad-based fitness?

This is what may be missing from the discussions with Dutch that center around strength-bias and shorter metcon bias, etc. The mainpage programs for a very broad base - everyone. CF HQ or doesn't have "clients" that it needs to meet with face-to-face, but instead is working at a very macro-level to program effectively across the 10 domains of fitness over a longer time range. It's not in a buildup phase for a particular comp or race or a de-train period before a jiu-jitsu tournament. I think sometimes this gets lost in the discussion.

Dutch said...

You can improve GPP without doing .com.

All i want you to understand is that i can train smarter and with less volume and still get the same effect you get by doing "constantly varied" workouts.

I am not tracking your reasoning behind dismissing the affiliate results.

The affiliates are forging fitness from ordinary people while the people that win the CF games are former athletes and current badasses, not because CF necessarily, although it is the most recent tool.

Russ said...

"You can improve GPP without doing .com."

No doubt. We do our own programming at Crossfit Monterey and we improve GPP. I don't doubt that you improve GPP at your gym, either, Dutch.

"All i want you to understand is that i can train smarter and with less volume and still get the same effect you get by doing "constantly varied" workouts."

I agree that you can improve a lot with less varied workouts. I see little reason to agree that you can "get the same effect," however. In shorter and heavier workouts, sure, you can get good results. As the time domain moves past 8-10 minutes though, I have seen that short-domain dominant athletes start to suffer. Ask Josh Everett for corroboration.

Neither I nor my athletes are willing to give up performance in activities lasting longer than 8-10 minutes. I also see little evidence to support the assertion that those who train past 20 minutes weekly or slightly more frequently are spun down endurance athletes. I regularly do so and just in the past week I got my first one arm kipping pullup, pressed to handstand, one arm muscleup with one finger support on the other hand, 17 consecutive bar muscleups, and did a one leg squat box jump onto a 29 inch box. I have been nursing a back injury for the past 3 weeks, but prior to that I power cleaned 265 at a bodyweight of 178. Our athletes continue to markedly improve their strength, power, and speed, as well.

If you can show me a bunch of impressive 5k and 10k rows, runs, and Murph times based exclusively off of short workouts, then I will give your assertions more consideration. Otherwise I see no reason to weigh 20 minute activities less highly than 20 second activities (or vice versa.)

"I am not tracking your reasoning behind dismissing the affiliate results."

I am not dismissing them. They are data. All data should be taken in context, however. Relying primarily upon Dale's post, I will raise several issues with relying primarily upon the affiliate cup results at the expense of the individual results:

1. With the exception of Glory Dawson, no individual competitors also competed in the affiliate cup. Therefore, many gyms sacrificed their best athletes to the individual competitions.

2. Access to clientele varies greatly according to location. An amazing trainer in a small town may produce less impressive athletes than a less skilled trainer in a large city, simply because he has access to more people. This impedes our ability to correlate affiliate cup success directly to programming or any other similar variable.

3. Most importantly, the structure of the 2009 affiliate cup hurts our ability to assess a gym's ability to produce individuals fit across broad time and modal domains. This is because teams were able to divy up the work according to various athletes' strengths. Mr. Muscleup could handle the bulk of the muscleups, fast runner dude could double up on the run, etc. Specialization on the athlete level thus was not as heavily punished and in some ways was rewarded. This structure may have made sense in creating a team competition, however it does impede our ability to assess any one gym's ability to produce individual athletes with very high work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

Lastly, I do agree that the athletes in the individual competition were freaks. However, I am not going to ignore the results of athletes simply because they have reached an elite level of fitness.

John Frazer said...

For the 2010 Games (qualifiers and national, affiliate and individual), CFHQ should have a competitor questionnaire that asks whether each athlete is a member of an affiliate and whether the person follows the affiliate's programming.

For non-affiliated competitors or affiliate members who don't follow their home affiliate's programming, the questionnaire could ask athletes to list other sites they follow, or even to describe their self-programmed training. How many days a week do you perform barbell lifts for sets of 5 or fewer reps? How many days a week do you perform metcons longer than 20 minutes? How many days a week do you practice untimed gymnastic moves? How many days a week do you participate in non-CF sports, and which ones? Those are just a few that occur to me off the cuff.

Additional questions (such as training/rest cycles and nutritional habits) could also be useful.

Russ said...

I agree, John. I want to know as much as possible about how the fittest people in the world got that way. At the very least, it could point to some areas to experiment with in our own training.