Ascending strength sets are a popular format for lifting in Crossfit and are very beneficial when applied correctly. They can also easily be misused and/or misinterpreted. Here are a few key points to keep in mind when you have an ascending strength in class.
Don’t Count Those Easy Sets
“I don’t count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count.”
― Muhammad Ali
If your work out calls for 5 sets of 2 reps, that means all of those working sets should be hard. Taking it easy on the first two or three sets to set a high number on the whiteboard is not beneficial in the long run and can be a recipe for injury if the jumps in weight you are making are too high.
For example, let’s say your strength for the day is The Back Squat and your current 2 rep max is 200. Sure, it would be great to hit that number again and/or set a new PR, however that’s not the task at hand. The task is to train the back squat at a challenging load and increase the load as you go. That is how your overall fitness will benefit.
Your sets should look something like this. Work up to 180/185/190/195/200, instead of 165/175/185/195/205. Which of these two scenarios do you think yields more strength gains? Sure, 205 would be exciting to hit and it’s really cool to see that number on the board, but lifting closer to your max for all 5 sets would make you much stronger in the long run. In addition, if your 2RM is currently 200 then how challenging was the set of 165 and 175? In the second example you’ve actually performed 3 working sets instead of 5.
In the first scenario you’ve moved 950lbs total. In the second 925lbs total, so you’ve performed less work with the higher end number. Which may be ok if the work out called for “Establish a new 2RM”, but again, that’s not the task at hand.
Use all of your allotted time
If you’re given 20:00 to lift that’s because it should take all of that time to lift. Make sure you’re taking your prescribed rest. If you’re going hard enough on each set, you should need at least 90 seconds to 2:00 of rest. When you have a lifting partner you don’t have to do your lift immediately after they’ve finished, use the clock to time your own rest.
One reason why an athlete may not want to lift close to their max is that they are afraid they’ll fail a rep/set. This is a valid concern, your body feels different on any given day. What feels light and easy one day can feel not so light and easy on another. If you do happen to fail a set, first off, great job because that means you’re pushing yourself. Second, take a little weight off, rest and try again. If the weight is suppose to be ascending but you’ve reached your limit and still have two more sets to do it’s fine to stay at the same weight or back off 5lbs as long as it’s still challenging for you. This would be a better method, than going back and counting your first three easy warm up sets as “working sets” to then be done with your strength.
Gaining strength is a large component to fitness and you want to make the most out of your time in class. Next time you hit the platforms for your strength keep a few of these points in mind. You can always ask for help, any of the coaches can guide you towards what your lifting numbers should be for the day.
3 Inchworms w/ Push Up
50’ Bear crawl
3 Moon the Sky
Bulgarian Split Squat
3 x 10 – 5 Reps Each Side
25 Hang Power Cleans (135,95)
50 Box Jumps (24/20)
25 Hang Squat Cleans
Level 2- (115,75)
Level 1- (95,45)
ADV- (165,115) (27”,24” Box)
10/7 Cal Bike
1 Sandbag Clean (150,100)
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