One of the best books I have ever read, when it comes to strength training, has been “Supertraining” from Mel Siff. One of the quotes attributed to Dr. Siff that really stuck out to me is, “You don’t train minimally, you don’t train maximally, you train optimally”. If you have never read Supertraining, and you are a strength coach, you need to! This is a very detailed and thorough manual on how to best train the human body for physical performance. One of the most common faults I tend to see from athletes is either overtraining or under training. This is a common theme and often misunderstood, especially in the CrossFit and military community. What is the best way to train?
Lets talk CrossFit for a minute. As I wrote in a previous article, there is a huge difference in training for competition and training for life. Often times people get confused and just want to be fit for life and train for competition. If you do not want to compete then I don’t suggest more than one workout a day. Here at DCL we always do a strength/skill and a workout and that is more than enough for someone who just wants to be fit for life. Because of the work we do you are getting more than enough volume in. If you are training for competition that you have to periodize your training. Just jumping in to workouts and going as fast as possible and doing three and four metabolic conditioning workouts a day is not the answer. You have to get a coach and set a date on the calendar. From that date sit down with your coach and go over the best way to peak at the competition. Currently in the CrossFit world there are hundreds of competition programs to follow and most are made by very qualified coaches (some not so qualified). The problem with following these programs is they are designed to have you peak around the CrossFit Games season. Now if you are a beginner competitor and just getting started, yes follow these programs as anything is better than where you were, but as you get more advanced you have to start looking at more specific programs geared around your weaknesses. Another giant distinction to make is, there is a huge difference in seeing results and training at your optimal potential. I work with many athletes and try to stick away from generic competition programs as they tend to lack focus on a specific goal. You have to have goals if you want to train optimally. Throwing random movements on a white board and going as hard and as fast as possible is fun for some and can be useful in some scenarios but if you are truly trying to be a sport specific athlete you have to think longer and harder about your training objectives. Do we have a DCL competition program? Of course we do. The beauty of our program is I constantly monitor everyones times and results so I am able to point out deficiencies in their training. From there, instead of programming multiple metabolic conditioning workouts I can program specific cash out workouts to make them better. These can be in the form off EMOM’s (every minute on the minute) or slower body building type workouts. Whatever they are they have to be well thought out and address your weaknesses to improve your abilities and prevent injuries. Most injuries, I believe, can be prevented if your training was better thought out. When it comes to competition CrossFit training, I believe your program should be tailored around you and your competition so as to peak at the proper time for you, not at your coaches convenience. Remember “Constantly Varied Functional Movements Executed at High Intensity” does not mean and can not be random!
Next lets talk about military training. This type of training can be no different. I work with many military officers and they all have well thought out training programs from field training exercises and JRTC or NTC rotations all the way through deployments and i have met some of the best in the world stationed here at Fort Campbell but when it comes to their physical fitness programs, there is no organization what so ever. In my years in the army, it was mostly the blind leading the blind when it came down to physical fitness. We wonder why the VA is so backed up, and most injuries are not even combat related. When you plan your PT calendar, there has to be some sort or periodization. Plan for strength, plan for conditioning, plan for tactical movement preparation (special physical preparation or SPP). When it comes to most Physical Training program or PT we tend to see soldiers make their subordinates compete in movements that they are good at so as to look better in front of their subordinates and show their “superiority”. We tend to see so much volume because if we didn't do 1,000 flutter kicks and push ups and it didn’t take 1 1/2 hours than it wasn't a good workout. I saw this is the form of mass formation runs for long distances. Why did we do this? Because the Sergeant Major or Commander were good at running and they wanted to show us how “in shape” they were. Problem; most were not in shape they just controlled the pace so that we all had to stay with them and normally the pace was so slow that most feel out because their running gait changed so much that they were forced out of runs because the pain in their knees became too great. Am I saying that these runs should be completely knocked out? I hesitantly say “No”. I say this because I do see how their can be value in camaraderie building in some units, my personal opinion was they just made me a disgruntled soldier rather than a motivated one, but thats just me. I do say they should be more limited. Why do professional athletes have strict periodized training programs but when it comes to the greatest military in the world we have yet to figure out that we should plan our physical fitness better. In most cases its very easy as you know when and to what environment you will deploy to. We have to think about our physical preparation for deployment as hard as we plan to actually fight the enemy.
Do not confuse higher volume with higher quality! When it comes to training for a fight or competition you have to be smart about your training. Proper planning can and will go a long way in your training. Know what your weaknesses are and build them up. A military unit is only as strong as its weakest link and so will your body be. Take a step back and look at what you are training for and for what purpose. Once you establish a meaning to your training, then start taking steps to build up your strength then condition your body around your new found strength. It doesn't have to be complicated but you do have to think about it. I promise you you will see better results when you look at things through a process rather than just throwing movements on a board.