One of the more successful athletes to pass through the doors here at Bua was a guy named Stephen Barrett. He placed 3rd in Ireland in the Open in 2014, won the first ever Filthy 150 and competed on a winning Team Ireland at the 4 Nations, a competition that was a pretty big deal back in the day. The interesting thing about Stephen was that he wasn’t very strong with a barbell and his gymnastics were only middle of the road. So how did he do it?
Well, it all came down to being good enough.
And that may sound obvious, but the point is that he wasn’t trying to win the lifting event or beat everyone at the 30 ring muscle ups for time. Instead, the goal was to become the athlete that was good enough to compete for the top end of the leaderboard in every single event of any competition he showed up to. That meant his gymnastics being good enough without being exceptional. It meant lifting numbers that would keep him in the hunt. And most importantly, it meant not having a bogey event that would put him out of contention. And for a guy with a background in endurance, it proved very successful. I will also point out here that Justin Medeiros won Filthy 150 last year without winning a single workout and the two athletes he beat to the top of the podium both won two apiece.
So, as you take note of the capacity of athletes who win the lifting event or go unbroken on the Muscle Up Biathlon, they are probably not the athletes you need to benchmark yourself against. Being great at one thing is always nice, but being competitive across the board is the whole point of our sport.
In the gym, this strategy looks pretty simple. Identify a weakness, then beat it to death. And when that’s dead and buried(or good enough!), go find a new one and start again. Our approach to competition training over the next period will take this approach. Below I will lay out an overview of how you might use our programming as you prepare for the Open and the competition season that will follow.
And it all starts with the Performance Dashboard.
We have created a performance dashboard which lays out a collection of numbers that describes a well-balanced athlete. We have two versions, one for an athlete who is ready to enter Intermediate-level competition, and another for an athlete who is ready to enter an RX competition. If you achieve all 9 performance standards on the RX dashboard, you are probably ready to sign up for your first RX event.
So, how do I use it?
The dashboard performs two main functions. It should first help you identify the areas which need most attention. It should show you clearly what you need to focus your time on and what to stop wasting your time on. If you are 2.5kg away from the clean & jerk standard but have a zero in another category, you should probably put the barbell away for the time being. That’s not to say that you don’t need to get stronger, it just means that there are other areas which may end up costing you dearly on competition day.
The other main function of the dashboard is for motivation. With so many performance numbers to chase, it can quickly become overwhelming and rather unfocused. Driving your attention into one or two narrow areas and seeing real and meaningful progress there can be among the most energising things you can do for yourself.
Warning : there might be bad news
This dashboard may well tell you things you don’t want to hear. You may quickly realise that the areas you need to focus on are the areas you like to practice least. It will also tell you that your favourite movements probably need to be left alone for a while. Most of us enjoy practicing things we are good at, and hate spending time with our weakness. I would also say that that’s true right at the beginning of the process, but it won’t last long. When you take a weakness and give it some attention, it starts turning into something new. Something that is giving you a lot of fast progress and plenty of go-forward. Eventually, it may even become something you love. So, get started and see where it takes you.
So you have identified your focus-areas. What next?
This is where the programming solutions come in. We will take a look at each area one at a time, but before that, there is one general point that’s important to remember. The daily CrossFit class will take care of a large percentage of all progress in the sport and is a vital component of the overall programming picture. Just showing up to class every day will move you forward in all areas, with the focused programmes simply accelerating progress in one narrow area. How you approach the class matters, and I would expect that anyone who wants to compete in the sport would approach each class with a little extra focus and intensity.
Snatch and Clean & Jerk
If these numbers are next your focus area, you should do the barbell strength programming on Wodify. When you look at the open gym programming every day, you’ll see some strength work and some conditioning work. You should focus all of your energy on the strength work. Take your time to prepare your body well for the session, find good positions, activate the system. Then, give your full effort and attention to getting stronger and improving your lifting technique.
Pull-Ups, Muscle-Ups, Handstand Push-Ups and Toes-to-Bar
For gymnastics, we have individual programmes for each movement. If one of these movements is your next focus-area, just select that program and start hammering on it. Each of these programmes will have two days of work each week. One is for improving strength, the other is for improving skill and speed. If you need both, do both. If you think your strength is ok but your skill needs work, you could double up on the skill day each week, or vice-versa.
If all four of these areas are on your list to improve, I would consider selecting one or two and focusing there. It might be a good idea to pick one hanging movement along with the handstand push-ups to save you from overloading.
Fran, 5km Run, 17.1
Let’s take a look at the three conditioning benchmarks and what they might mean for you. Fran is a short, high intensity, high complexity, high power output test. If this is your focus-area, more of this style of workout should be on your target list. If the 5km run is what needs attention, you know that lower intensity, lower complexity, sustained work is something you need more of. If 17.1 is on your list, its longer, high-rep, complex loaded work you may need.
The solutions are also straightforward enough. If any of the three are next up for you, a big focus on the daily CrossFit WOD is a must. Finding the relative intensity each day is a big part of the solution. From there, we have a running program for those of you that want to improve your 5km time. Then, the open gym programming will have a conditioning element each day too. This is where you should direct your energies. A class plus an extra conditioning piece will make a huge difference to these benchmarks.
So, the overall approach again is simple. Identify an area that will change your game as a competitor, then immerse yourself in the solution. Try not to get distracted by new things, and try not to stress about the things you are not doing. You WILL get to them.