This post follows on from the previous one, so I would suggest having a read of that and follow the guidelines outlined before upping your training.
While it’s impossible to get too specific here, as we all need different training programs. there are aspects of your training that you can significantly improve in 6 weeks with a few simple changes. This sort of duration allows for some major adaptations, as long as you're smart about it, and don't overdo it.
Firstly you need to focus on your weaknesses. Once you have listed those, then work out what category they fall under in section below. For example, snatches will likely be technical movements, while butterfly chinups may be technical (if you're still learning them) or they may be more of a 'specific muscular endurance' if you can do them but fatigue quickly. Once you have established those weaknesses, use the guidelines below to plan out your next four weeks (the last two weeks will be more for recovery).
E.g. Olympic lifts, double unders, muscle ups, handstand walk. If you've been having trouble with these for a while, now is the time to do something different. Like grab a specialty coach, video yourself, or try some different drills. Don't keep trying the same thing and expect it to make a difference.
Remember though, if you do increase your volume of a specific movement, be mindful of how it affects your body. Adding 5 mins of DU every 3rd session is a fantastic idea, but keep a check on those calves. Build up gradually over the next four weeks. E.g. 3 sets of 20 DU first week and increase it by 10 reps every week. That means by week four you’re doing 3 sets of 50. Another way to improve may be to add one or two wods a week where those moves come up. For example, if you don't like squat snatches and muscle ups - do Amanda once a week.
Dedicate some quality time after your warmup, and before your WOD, to these skills. For technical loaded (i.e. use weights) skills. such as Olympic Lifts, the main thing is to do them at a weight that you can successfully lift about eight times out of ten. More than two failures every ten attempts is getting too many. You don’t learn from doing multiple failures.
I like to do these sorts of skills as singles or doubles. So if you’re working your squat snatches go 10x1 with a minute or so rest between each. Don’t do so many that you get tired. You’re after a neural adaption, so you shouldn’t get sore muscles or be puffed.
If it is something like a bar muscle up, then use a band (or a box etc) that allows you to go through the movement pattern. If you’re hitting 10/10 attempts, then make it a little harder e.g. use a thinner band or heavier load. If you’re not hitting that 8/10 success rate, then stop and change it so you are. The last thing you need to do is letting those failures become your normal movement pattern. You want to go into the competition with a heap of successes locked away in that brain!
Specific muscular endurance:
Can you only do 5 T2B before you start failing? Do you blow up after 20 wall balls? Do 10 bar facing burpees give you jelly legs? If so, then 6 weeks is more than enough time to make some nice improvements. However, this type of training needs to be planned carefully as it has the risk of burning you out very quickly.
Over the next four weeks aim for one big session per week for each movement. And don't try to improve on more than two or three movements. Also, make sure you account for your normal wods here.
For example, let’s say your weaknesses are thrusters, C2B and box jumps. You know if these movements come up in any big numbers in a wod then you're going to gas out quickly and/or your competitors will demolish you. I would program a big set of them once a week. So, you may do Thrusters on Monday, CTB on Wednesday and BJ on Friday. You could do an EMOTM for each one, starting with a number that is challenging but will not total smash you. For example, the first week you may do a 10 minute EMOTM of 5 rep/minute. If that feels okay, the next week go to 7 rep/minute, then 9, then 11. Make sure you hold your pace and your form. Work out what is the best technique for you in Week 1 and then stick with that.
The main thing is to build the numbers up gradually over the four weeks. And don’t be too ambitious. You’re trying to become more comfortable with the move, not become Games Champion.
High intensity, short duration aerobic fitness:
If short duration WODs destroy you, then rest assured, four weeks is more than enough time to develop these components as well. Anything lasting between 60s and about 5 mins calls for a combination of energy systems, however it is the anaerobic component that hurts us the most. By doing sessions that focus on 1-4 minute repetitions, and allows you to maintain a very high intensity throughout, you will improve your ability to manage those energy systems. For example, doing tabata rows or airdyne are perfect. Something like 5x150m rows with a short (less than 30 seconds) rest in between each one.
The main thing is to get (very) puffed early on - within the first minute, and then maintain that. You’re asking your body to develop a lot of energy very quickly, and then to deal with the consequences. You know if you have done this right if you are left gasping on the ground, thinking you’re going to die. Don’t do more than two of these sessions a week, as they are so demanding. And if you do a WOD that is similar to this, then drop it to one session. This type of training is very tough on your body, so don’t overdo the frequency of it.
Medium and longer duration type WOD’s:
This duration demands a lot from your aerobic system. However it is still going to be high intensity. Think of something like a 20 min AMRAP. Don’t get this mixed up with specific endurance movements – that fatigue is coming from your muscles. This one is coming from your metabolic conditioning - your cardio-respiratory system.
The best way to improve this system is to do longer intervals which allow you to maintain a high intensity. Something like 5x1000m row (or run, or swim) with a minute or so rest between each. You should be able to get your heart rate up nice and high (i.e. be very puffed) but you should be able to maintain your pace. Maybe on the last one you might fade a little, but once you do I would stop the session there.
If you’re stopping due to muscle soreness, then you are hitting the wrong thing. You’re trying to put your heart under a lot of stress (i.e. get a high heart rate) and keep it there You're not trying to stress the muscles (though they will get stressed - you cant help that). Keep the sessions between 10 and 20 minutes in duration. You can also do things like light thrusters, wall balls, burpees etc as long as you are able to maintain that high heart rate and not slow down too much because of muscular fatigue.
These sessions are also very tough on the body, so keep these to one or two a week as well. And once again, consider your normal programming. If you are doing a 5km run time trial for a wod, then drop one of these sessions.
So your cardio is great, your gymnastics is awesome, but your strength sucks! With only 6 weeks to go, I would recommend something like a cycle of Wendler. This program fits in well with CrossFit training as it doesn’t require a lot of volume and it is conservatively progressive. There is an app called Wendler Log that allows you to plug in your PB’s (make sure they are recent and not some lift you did 18 months ago!) and it works out the program for you.
I would suggest selecting the following movements: Deadlift, Backsquat, Press, Front Squat and Overhead squat. If you only do 3 sessions a week you can double up and do the DL and Press together, and even the FSq and OHS together. Follow the program – it starts off quite easy but by week 4 it should be very tough.
You could also do something like a 5x5 program. Choose your main lifts and do them once a week using 5 sets of 5 reps. The weight should be as heavy as you can to get those 25 reps in. Keep a record of your lifts and get heavier every time. You should be able to that for the full four weeks - again that leaves you with two weeks recovery
The main thing is to nor overdo it. The volume you are already doing means you can’t add in too much more at this stage. Also, you may have noticed I have only been giving a four-week program. The reason for that is, it then leaves two weeks to recover, and and allows you to put the final touches to your preparation. You won’t be able to get much adaption in those last two weeks, I will repost later on to give some guidelines as to what you can do to peak at your competition.
Remember, focus on your recovery! Keep a record of what you;re doing so you don't over do it. And stay focused. These four weeks will be tough, but they will go quickly. And then you have two weeks to do all your fine tuning. And what can you do in those last two weeks...? I'll save that for my next post!
Six weeks out from a big competition... time goes very quickly at this stage. Obviously you want to be peaking for your big day, so what are some of the things you can do that will get you to your first wod firing on all 8 (or 12) cylinders....
1) Stay healthy and injury free: This sounds obvious, however, it does seem that a lot of athletes turn up to comps with a sore this, or a tight that. So here are some tips to reduce the risk:
2) When it comes to training improvements, pick the low hanging fruit! What are 2 or 3 things that you DON’T want to come up at the comp? Well, that's probably what you need to work on. And be accountable. Write down a goal for the next four weeks and stick to it. E.g. Two sets of 40 bar-facing during your warmup three times a week. Or squat snatch practice after two of your sessions per week.
3) This is part of the first two, but utilise your warmup time to really work your mobility. For us Masters this is one area that you need to do every day!
4) Try to predict if there may be anything unusual that is likely to come up at your comp. For example, at the State of Origin there's very likely to be a run and a swim. So add in one or two of those a week into your training. There’s also likely to be some crazy heavy type of OL complex cause Joe loves those. Make sure you're practicing your paused hang high pull snatch into a squat clean complexes
5) Make EVERY rep a GOOD rep! This is essential. There’s nothing worse than being in a Comp where you can't get depth or reach full extension because you never do it in training. And it's even worse if you're in a team comp! Get your coach or training buddy to keep a careful eye on you when you’re wodding (especially at the end of the WOD when you're tired) and give them specific instructions to be super harsh on you. You don't want to give your judge any question about your standards.
If you're not considering the above in your daily training, then now is the time to do so. Six weeks will fly by, so make sure you're ready!
In the next post I will outline some specific things you can add to your training to improve your weaknesses, We all have those, but by changing your training slightly you can definitely make some nice improvements.
Dion Walmsley, Head Coach at CrossFit Kanga, Richlands