Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday WOW (Words of Wisdom)

I'm still mired in video and other tasks for a few days. So in the meantime, if you've got CrossFit on the brain, it would do your mind and body good to check out this piece by Greg Everett of The Performance Menu.


Orie S said...

Some nit-picks and some observations converning Mr. Everett’s article.

“…if instead of work capacity we consider productive effort capacity…”

This strikes me as a distinction without a difference. Doesn’t the latter determine the former? How could we possibly not consider productive effort when we consider capacity?

“We select movements based on their functional value; that is, we select the squat not because of its potential for work and power output, but because of the motor qualities that train the body to move in a manner conducive to healthy life and performance in sport. That these motor patterns are also capable of producing more work than their isolation exercise counterparts is extremely important but coincidental. Work capacity and power output improvements are to a large degree specific to the movements with which the training effects are attained.”

Isn’t there a problem squaring the last sentence in this paragraph with the first? Would we not expect squats to give us a fairly non-specific, general improvement in performance over various modalities? Isn’t that why “we select movements based on their functional value?” Isn’t that why we do squats? Isn’t the reason why so many athletes train O-lifts that the illusive second pull of the O-lifts translates so widely to countless athletic movements?

“Work and power are useless terms in the absence of a medium—the medium through which these physical abilities are expressed is movement.”

Work and power are determined by noting mass and distance or mass, distance and time. A change of position, necessary for distance work and power to be non-zero, is the definition of movement. How on Earth could we possibly talk about work and or power without talking about the “medium” of movement? This is a tautology.

I’m a bit puzzled by the technique vs. time debate. I understand the worries concerning the possibility of injury when exertion makes O-lift technique suffer, but the loads that are prescribed for Met Con workouts involving O-Lifts or other big-barbell movements are 1) scalable and 2) very low compared to the loads a specialist O-lifter would be lifting. How likely is an average adult male CrossFitter to be injured by sub-standard clean and jerk form using loads of 135 pounds or less? Must a CrossFitter display good form before he or she can reap the conditioning benefits of a workout like Grace (30 clean and jerks for time)? I think most of us can decide for ourselves which loads and movement combinations feel safe and which should wait for improved technique.

The advantage of concentrating on Work and Power measurements is that these are well-defined and agreed-upon measures that can be compared for an individual over time or between two individuals doing the same task. Proper form and technique, though many agree on what that is for a particular exercise, is much more difficult to define. A watt will always be a watt; a joule will always be a joule. But no two athletes will have the same thruster form. No one disagrees with the contention that good technique is necessary to increase work and power. I’m not sure what the controversy is here.

Anonymous said...

I don't necessarily buy that work capacity is the ultimate proxy of fitness. Here's an example of why not. Let's say you've got two 200-lb athletes. One can do X reps with 135 lbs, the other can do Y reps with 95 lbs in the same amount of time (Y > X, surely). Maybe athlete-2 can do more reps at 95 lbs than can athlete-1, but athlete-1 can do more at 135 than athlete-2 in a given period of time.

You scribble some numbers on the back of an envelope and figure out Athlete-2 has done more work. Is he more fit?

Fit for what? Other than crossfit, what are these guys actually doing? What are they training for? It could likely be that Athlete-1's sport or job requires him to throw around more weight, or that Athlete-2's does not. The second athlete's inability to toss around an extra 40% weight might be completely immaterial to what he has to do. Ditto, athlete-1's apparent lack of endurance with a lighter weight.

I know this isn't what you're asking about, but sometimes I'm annoyed by crossfit me-too-ism where people take what "coach" Glassman says without really thinking about it. Has there been any empirical evidence at all that work capacity is good proxy for fitness? That seems like a postulate Glassman basically pulls from the ethers. I keep coming back to, fitness for what?

It isn't just that the work capacities needed by a middle distance runner are different than a line-backer's, which are different than MMA wrestler's. (Which are different than a firefighters, which are different than a soldiers, etc.) It's that whether that work takes the from of moving a lot of little weights quickly or one or two big weights slowly also varies.

FWIW, I see occasional crossfit vids and cringe at the form: someone stiff-legging and round-backing 135 lb cleans for two minutes straight, for example.

Orie S said...

But you've missed my point entirely. The advantage of these metrics is comparing performance for the same task, not for two different tasks. If my power output for a 135 lb clean and jerk has increased, my fitness has increased. It's that simple. If two people are doing thrusters for 30 seconds and one person gets 4 more reps than the other, he has done more work, he is the fitter of the two that day. Again, what is problem with that?

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the article. MANY great points given. I have a training buddy who REFUSES to fully lock out at the top of anything; thrusters, barbell/dumbell/kbell jerks etc. (he is strong as an ox but slow on timed events, and inflexible) Two years into CF'ing, he still cannot do any overhead stuff NEARLY as heavy as I can (even though he has about +75# back squat over me) because he STILL doesn't have the mobility to lock it out. He is stronger than he was when starting, but I am stronger, more flexible, more skilled etc. than I was before, due to diligent attention to Form. Since we are not "sport" CF'ers, it is plain to see that I have gotten MUCH more from my training than he has.

Chris Topher said...

Nit picking Orie S comments: no such word as "illusive". "...that the illusive second pull..." If you are going to pick at nits, be ready to have your nits picked. Performing Cross Fit movements makes you fit for performing Cross Fit movements. There is little carry over to specific sporting movements. IMO that is why Cross Fit is enjoying "popularity". Enthusiastic workout personnel, good workout variety, but c'mon how long will people last doing this type of fitness activity when most people have a hard time walking a few extra steps to the local store? Or, won't take the second flight of stairs but will take the second helping? And, why is there a lot of fighting going on about who is better and why it's better and blah blah blah? I notice at the local Cross Fit places that the pictures don't change much and that, if anything, blog activity has gone way, way down. How does that help anybody?

Orie S said...

There were many nits to pick in my post. It was sub-literate. You'll get no argument about that from me. I mean what could "converning" possibly mean? Regardless, I stand by what I said about power and work, and haven't yet heard that addressed by anonymous or you, Chris.

But but knowing a single crossfitter who does not lock out (anonymous), or a local crossfit affiliate that doesn't post new pictures on their website (Chris) is a pretty weak condemnation of a system that is working wonders for lot's and lot's of people. Who is crossfit helping? Just check out how many people are posting their performance every day. Now go back and look at how many posted a year or two ago. Your suggestion that crossfit web activity is going down is just silly. I guess what I am confused about is how upset crossfit methodology makes people that don't crossfit themselves. Could someone explain that to me?

And Chris, where did you get the idea that anyone was calling their system better? I was trying to join a discussion about a provocative article and the value of Power and Work measurements to gauge how one's fitness is progressing (or not).

And as for me-too-ism, I'll just remind anonymous (whoever you are) that there's plenty of debate among crossfitters about these things, just check out the discussion boards, which I assure you are as popular as ever. Some of us actually agree with some of Glassman's assertions after thinking long and hard about these things for ourselves.

Jen said...

Chris, It's Crossfit, one word. I don't care about the fighting and all that crap.
Crossfit can make fitness fun and is very effective that way.
As for carry over for athletes it has proven to carry over very well for a lot of different athletes.
Mr.Everett's article is spot on in a lot of ways. It's a focus that CF needs to have for the people who are in it for the game of it. Greg is a supporter of CF and only wants it to be the best it can be.

At lest that's what I got from him when I spoke to him last.
He's pointing out that poor form within the CF community needs to be controlled and the only way to do that is via having coaches make sure they are teaching movements well and not excepting poor form.

fusion224 said...

Honestly, I find all of this talk a bit concerning. CrossFit still builds on good foundation movements. That there is reason enough for me to like it. These movements are lacking in most other fitness protocols. Where it goes from there can be only limited to one's imagination. For me, it has provided something I need to keep myself fit....FUN! The variety, unpredictability, and intensity makes it damn fun. When I'm in the gym, I'm living. Christopher, performing CrossFit movements has no carry over to sport? What is a "CrossFit" movement. Aren't squats, presses, deadlifts, and gymnastics CrossFit movements? How long will people last doing this program? You compare them to people who can't take extra steps? It is very clear you know nothing about it. One of the key elements is the scaling. This is obviously needed in any program. This program has helped more people than the industry standard "body building" programs set up by millions of trainers...for everyone they work with. If CrossFit does not help anyone, please define "Help" and tell me what does help people. Certainly an attitude like yours does not help people. I have a 420 pound woman with 2 total knees that could not walk those few extra steps you mentioned. I have a 76 year old man with Parkinsons who could hardly get out of bed. She now swims, walks with a cane, and can get up off the couch. The man can deadlift and squat better than most people in the gym. I imagine they can last doing this type of activity.