The Method Behind the Madness

So you all love CrossFit training and are hopefully liking the programming.  We’ve seen a lot of gains at our box, countless success stories, and people are getting more fit every day.  So why do we train this way?  For many of us, we like the sense of accomplishment, feeling stronger, and pushing ourselves to the limit.  But what’s the method behind the madness?  To answer that question, let’s first start with words straight from Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit:

Fitness in 100 Words:  Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc., hard and fast. Five or six days per week, mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports. —Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder

There’s a lot to digest there, but I want to focus on the “Routine is the Enemy” statement.  Why do we constantly vary the WOD’s?  Well here’s the reader’s digest version….

Metabolic Pathways:  Our bodies have three metabolic pathways from two cardiovascular systems:  Phosphogenic, Glycolytic, and Oxidative.  Here’s how these systems work:

-Phosphogenic (Anaerobic):  Short period of time (30 seconds or less).  High power, explosive movements.  Think 100M dash or a 1 rep max power clean.  Very strong, not very efficient.  Redline quickly.
-Glycolytic (Anaerobic):  Short period of time (30-90 seconds).  Still high intensity.  Think 400M run.

-Oxidative (Aerobic):  Long period of time.  Low intensity.  Think running a 5K or 10K row.

What does this mean?  Our bodies will adapt to whichever of the metabolic pathways gets trained the most.  If we constantly lift heavy but don’t run/bike/ski, we will get strong but have no engine.  If we constantly run/bike/ski, we will have great endurance but lower strength.  For that reason, we choose to train all 3 metabolic pathways, with the bulk of our work in the 2 anaerobic systems.  we primarily target these two pathways with shorter, more intense workouts in order to get the “most bang for our buck” in terms of training time and improved work capacity. By constantly varying functional movements of the three main fitness activities of CrossFit (gymnastics, weightlifting, metabolic conditioning) and performing these movements at high intensity, we effectively target these pathways and build our anaerobic capacity as well as our aerobic capacity  As CrossFitters, our ultimate fitness end-state is general physical preparedness (GPP). This end-state combines power, strength, speed, and muscle mass along with a strong cardio capacity to move large loads over long distances, quickly.   Therefore, we focus more on the Phosphogenic/Glycolytic (Anaerobic) systems and occasionally tap into the Oxidative (Aerobic) system.  The mantra behind CrossFit is to not be the strongest or have the best 5k time:  It’s to be the best you can be at all modalities of training.  That being said, you will see a mixture of WOD’s and strength that tap into all 3 metabolic pathways.  You’ll experience the short WOD that is a redline sprint.  You’ll experience the “Murph” that grinds you down over 40+ minutes.  You’ll see couplets hitting the middle system.  All of these are beneficial for you and will make you an overall better athlete.  

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