How to Get Stronger

There are three methods that the strongest guys in the world, West Side PowerLifters, use to get stronger.  If any one of these are neglected, our potential strength gain is severely limited.  Lets delve into them.

The Max Effort Method – heavy sets, typically singles doubles and triples done above at or above 90% of the athletes 1RM with as much rest as necessary between sets.  It’s important to note on max effort day power-lifters very infrequently do the same lift in a month to 3 months time frame. Each week typically consists of only one max effort day for the lower body and one for the upper body.

For example:
Week 1 – lower body session would would be a 2 rep max low bar squat to below parallel with 2 sets of chains and upper body session would be a 3 rep max close grip bench with a football bar.

Week 2 – lower body session would be a 3 rep max good morning with a safety squat bar and upper body session would be a 1 rep max floor press

Week 3 – a 1 rm deficit dead lift and a 2 rep max wide grip bench press with 1 set of chains.

The take home point being, our body adapts if we always train the same movement.  The only time a power-lifter does a 1 rm back squat and 1 rm true deadlift is during competition, yet they almost always PR their lifts without training that specific lift.

Since these guys keep getting stronger we are going to follow suit.  We will squat/dead/press with chains bands, with different bars, stances to different depths to produce a stimulus to get stronger.  The most important thing remember on these days is to go HEAVY!  Don’t leave anything in the tank.  We are limited with time during classes, so build up fast, cut down your rest time between sets and make sure to get heavy quickly to stay in the suggested time lines.  For many of the lifts, it’s going to be difficult to determine where to start at first as we don’t have many numbers to go by so go by feel and start keeping a journal, or better yet post to comments, so you know where to start next time we do see a 3 rm banded deadlift for example.

The Dynamic Method – These days are for developing speed/strength through the middle and for refining/improving from/technique. If we are always going heavy, we tend to get slow and our form falters.  On dynamic day, we work on accelerating the barbell as fast as we can with perfect form.  If you are not using accommodating resistance (chains/bands) on your dynamic days you are severely limiting your strength potential.  That is why we don’t use cleans, clean pulls, snatches, etc.. as our sole dynamic work.

Dynamic squats are almost always done in a high bar fashion to a box with chains.  Reach back on the box as far as you can with a vertical shin, keep the chest up and come to a complete stop on the box.  Explode out of the bottom, pushing the traps into the bar and driving up fast.  Speed is key.  If you are moving slow, take weight off.  Typically on dynamic squat days, 400+ squatters should use 2 sets of chains.  350-400lb squatters can dabble between one set and two sets and less than 350 should use 1 set of chains.

For deadlifts use bands or chains, again speed is king.  Play around with the weight but it should be somewhere around 50-60% of your true deadlift 1rm, not including the band/chain resistance.  The same weight is true for the dynamic squats.  Rest between sets is only as much as you need to keep the weight moving fast.  With limited rest we can also get a lot of work capacity work in with our dynamic days.

The Repetition Method – aka the Jacked and tan method.  Overload the muscles with high repetition and force them to adapt and get stronger.  Traditionally this is done in high reps sets after the max effort or dynamic work for the day.  They complete burn out sets of their main lifts, classic bodybuilding sets (10-15 reps) with classing bodybuilding lifts as well as incorporating stability exercises such as the banded kettlebell bench press amongst other exercises.  Mainly we get this in our good old fashion Metcon but from time to time we will hit our after party of plank up tabattas or 5 min AMRAP bench press to smoke the shoulders/tris/upper body.

quick note:  Make sure your metcons are your repetition method and don’t turn into your max effort training – 1, 2 reps at a time all the time or you will be stunting your progress.

Strength and Burnt Toast CrossFit Competitor Training
Strength is obviously a big factor in competition and we need to figure out a way to get all of this in while still leaving time to work on our oly, skills, gymnastics, conditioning, etc…  Traditionally, dynamic and max effort work are done on different days during the week.  In our program we will hit them a lot of the times on the same day, for sake of time and convenience.  This should also help to keep dynamic sets faster and more technique driven and leave us time to work on our Oly lifts on other days during the week.

For max effort lifts, we only have a few specialty bars so we wont prescribe a specialty bar for a lift but feel free to grab one and mix it up once in a while.  Also, change up your stance, the height of the box you squat to, your deficit, etc.. Provide a new stimulus and get stronger as a result.

One last thought on strength.  Strength is quantifiable in a number so it is very impressive when we see CrossFitters with huge lifts. Truth be told that the guys with the best strength numbers are not typically the guys that do the best in competition comparatively.  Strength is one of the 10 components of fitness and does tend to have a bigger influence on competition outcome than some of the other aspects but is not the end all be all.  Just because you have the best 1RM deadlift doesn’t mean you are going to have the best score for a 2rm of deadlifts at 275.  Remember, one bad workout can take you out of contention in a competition.  With that saying, don’t lose sight of the main goal be a better competitor.  If you are strong already instead of adding in extra strength work add in extra what you suck at work.

More on accommodating resistance
Take a deadlift for example, getting it off the floor is the hardest part for most athletes.  Once you get past those first few sticking points, off the ground and below the knees, the weight becomes easy to lockout.  By adding chains and bands, the lift becomes more difficult, the further the bar gets from the floor, as more weight/resistance is added to the bar from the chains and bands.  This promotes strength gains throughout the entire movement and helps to increase speed through the middle.  When squatting with chains the same is true.  We want nearly all of the chains to be resting on the ground when we are in the bottom position of our squat.  At the top of the squat only a few links should be in contact with ground (to prevent swaying). Weight is added to the bar throughout the movement to ensure that the athlete is working hard throughout the entire movement.

Warmup – 15 minutes
Tabatta double unders – score is your lowest # of any of the rounds

Worlds greatest stretch – 4 minutes on each side

Strength – 25 minutes
Back Squat

heavy set of 1, heavy set of 10, etc…

WOD – 15 minutes
5 Rounds
10 Front Squats
30 Double Unders

Games (165/115)
Regional (155/105)
Open (135/95)

*This weight is meant to be fast and unbroken.*

Cash out – Stretch out your leggies and work your paleo chair for 10+ minutes