Part I of this post was supposed to be an entire article about how to break through plateaus and some of my recent attempts at benchmarks. Instead you were all treated to a walk down memory lane, some embarrassing pictures, and a reminder of how old I am. So Part II will be a bit more substantive.
Read Part 1 of this series.
We are pretty lucky that CrossFit allows people to train and improve almost continuously for years before they start to hit really difficult barriers. Nevertheless, we hit those barriers and eventually need to find a way past them. If someone comes to me and says they have plateaued or hit a barrier to progress, I will run through a checklist.
Step 1: STFU
You: I have been here for 6 months and I still can’t do a pull-up.
Me: You started out on a black band that could sling shot a bowling ball to Mars, moved to a green band that could only sling it to the moon, started using smaller bands for higher reps, and now can support your weight above the bar and slowly lower yourself through negatives. STFU.
Step 2: Address the Obvious
You: I have been stuck using the thin red band for pull-ups for three months.
Me: You were on vacation for two weeks, started a new job that gives you four hours of sleep a night, and eat at McDonalds for lunch. You really want me to “put you on a pull-up program?” Sleep right, eat right, and tell me if you don’t improve.
Step 3: That’s what the Warm-up is for
You: I finally got a pull-up after I improved my eating, but I really want to get good enough to do them in a workout.
Me: Well how often do you work on them? Only during WODs? During your warm-up do a couple of pull-ups, do 3 sets of negatives, or do 5 minutes of kipping practice. Do that for a month and come back to me.
Up to this point I have not changed your programming, added significant time to your workouts, or even greatly increased the amount of coaching you need. In spite of this, I often have people in one of these three stages want to quit CrossFitting and start a gymnastics program just so they can do Fran RX’d. This tendency is even worse amongst guys who come to me with barbell numbers that are lower than they would like them. The words are different for those guys, but the sentiments are the same. I want to stop CrossFitting and do a barbell program because my CrossFit Total is too low. STFU, start eating and sleeping, and I usually don’t need Step 3 because at Potomac CrossFit we squat, press, and pull once a week.
However, here is a real life version of Step 3 that occurred in our gym with an advanced athlete. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
S. Assassin: My deadlift just isn’t very good. I think I need to start doing some dedicated work.
Awesome Coach: Ummmmm, we regularly deadlift on Thursdays and usually have a conditioning workout with deadlifts in it when we don’t.
S. Assassin: Thursday is my day off because I have to travel for work.
Awesome Coach: You are just now figuring this out?
Point is, the solution to this problem was, “maybe you should deadlift.”
Once again, I have run long. But you know what, I’m ok with that. Why? Because 99% of you are in stages 1, 2, or 3 and can address your problems appropriately without special programs and intensive coaching. So STFU, get to sleep, eat right, and get to work. I’ll be back soon to sabotage my coaching career by writing an article for the remaining 1% of you that uses me and a few of our other athletes as examples.
(Editor’s Note: When I upgraded my blogging program I lost the personalized banner art. There is, as far as I know, no connection between anything I say and the banners with bi-planes and old Japanese flags. I am working to fix this).