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Why is there such a focus on strength development at CFD?
Why the ‘strength bias’ at CFD?
This is Part 1 in a two-part series, and in this first part, I want to address the people who have decided that training at CFD is not something they want to do because of the prevalence of weight training. I’ve come face-to-face with this objection before, in the form of ‘I don’t like lifting weights,’ or ‘I just like to run,’ or ‘I do other things for my fitness.’ In the following paragraphs, I’m going to do my best to articulate why I think this line of thought is a mistake.
I focus a lot on developing strength with my members at CFD. I don’t do it because I’m ‘naturally strong,’ or for other personal or selfish reasons. Anyone who knew me growing up would attest to the fact that I was an awkward, skinny kid. I had to work really hard to get as strong as I am today—I did NOT have a genetic predisposition to it. I have a heavy focus on developing strength in my athletes for a few reasons:
1. It’s what most people are the most deficient at. (Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule, but my observation is that we live in a cardio-dominant society where the masses pursue a training modality that reinforces a catabolic state, and then simultaneously wonder why injuries are frequent, body composition is poor, and health markers are failing. This is a topic for another discussion.)
2. It is necessary to meet a vast majority of goals people tell me when they walk through my doors. To do my best to avoid redundancy, I’ve blogged about this before.
3. I would argue that it’s the most functionally useful general physical skill to have. It is literally useful to be strong multiple times a day, every single day, for the rest of your life. Having muscle is healthy. Being strong keeps you from getting injured easily. Having a good strength base is just simply great to have, period.
Let me give you an example—this is an avatar of a person I have met dozens of times over the last (almost) 4 years. Let’s say a female walks through the door: She’s spent countless hours on cardio, but has very little strength development at all. She can’t clean 55 pounds (move a weight from the floor to her shoulders), nor can she even deadlift over 100 pounds safely. Mobility and/or stability in a squat leaves a lot to be desired, let alone the ability to be absolutely strong throughout a good range of motion. The implications of this suggest that explosive movements are precarious and largely inappropriate–something as simple as jumping and landing safely isn’t yet developed and leaves the person at a higher risk for injury because of this deficiency.
Think for a moment the real-life limitations this individual has because of her lack of strength development. Not just limitations within the walls of the gym; lots of things weigh over 50 pounds in the real world. Things you might want to move on your own without the aid of someone else. Things you may NEED to move, and move QUICKLY, in an emergency situation, that may weight close to or over 100 pounds. Are you limited by your physical capabilities if a situation demands you perform such a task?
If you don’t see a problem with willingly submitting to this fitness profile, we can probably end this conversation here. If you do see a problem with it, please read on…
Take that same person, have them train appropriately for a period of time. Turn that 55 pound clean into a 125 pound clean. Get them safe and strong enough to pick up over 200 pounds off the floor in a deadlift. Get them to squat their bodyweight and then beyond. It doesn’t take steroids to make this happen. It doesn’t make feminine figures look like juiced-out meathead dudes; I WISH strength came as easily as most women fear it does! It takes lots of effort, and it takes appropriate training, and it takes time (months that become years, not days that become a handful of weeks).
Spoiler alert: this person is now not only so much more capable of independently performing a task, but capable of doing so without nearly the same risk of injury as before. This person—my female example I gave earlier—is so much more independent and empowered.
- This woman’s functional application of her fitness just made some things that used to be HARD now EASY.
- Some things that used to be IMPOSSIBLE are now POSSIBLE.
- Coaches: YOU LITERALLY JUST HELPED CHANGE THIS PERSON’S LIFE.
You don’t get there by pounding miles out on the treadmill or pavement. You get there by putting weights on your skeleton and and working your muscles.
I don’t know about you, but when faced with the choice between capability and IN-capability, I will choose the former every time.
As a disclaimer, I need to be clear about some other factors: I’m not saying it’s as simple as ‘hold a weight in your hand’ and everything else falls into place. You need to be training appropriately. You need to be fueling appropriately; continuing to fuel like you’re a marathon runner when you have a drastic shift in training modality and become more of a weight lifter will lead to problems (I have written an entire other blog about that topic). All of these other factors need to be in place as well in order for success to be had.
In the second part of this blog, which will be posted 25AUG, I’m going to further address some of these issues, and my points will be more directly geared towards existing CrossFit athletes as well as coaches.