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Brian Wilson
03-16-2010, 12:03 PM
Goals:

I'm looking for some general or specific guidance in order to become a better Crossfitter, and am a big believer in building strength to produce strength endurance.

Background Part I:

After tabulating my data, I've noticed negligable strength gains since March of 2007, six months after starting Crossfit.

My weight and body comp have changed slightly since then, but I've been between 215-205 lbs at 15-20% BF since October 2006, and today.

As food for thought, here is a graph of my 1RM, 3RM, and 5RM for the low bar back squat:

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_JHxqX0Vnny4/S5_TVaEJCZI/AAAAAAAAEuI/MhuqqaRIWRA/Picture%202.png

Here is a graph of my 1RM Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift and Press:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JHxqX0Vnny4/S5_TVkiB7cI/AAAAAAAAEuM/nI1zGeoMJa8/Picture%203.png

Here's my increase in % of Squat, Front Squat, and Deadlift over a period of time:

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JHxqX0Vnny4/S5_N6-zUB4I/AAAAAAAAEuA/O0rv3bM9DAw/s912/Picture%201.png

Background Part II:

Without graphing this data prior to today, I still knew that I needed to improve strength.

In October I decided to try six weeks of Catalyst Athletics WODs. I came in with a PR of 176 in the Squat Snatch, and 215 in the Clean and Jerk.

I only made it through two weeks of training. I started at the end of a 12-week cycle and discussed what happened with Greg at an event. He said it was a bad time to jump in because it was the heaviest load with the heaviest volume.

I was overtrained and had to take a week off. However, my Clean and Jerk did improve to 230. My squat snatch did not improve.

Background Part III:

In mid-November 2009, I moved to a MEBB model and was doing two purely heavy days per week along with shorter/heavier WODs on non-heavy days, with two rest days per week.

I stuck with this plan as well as I could, but I often had to change my plan because of a nagging elbow injury (which was subsequently diagnosed by an ART practitioner as an issue with my entire shoulder/neck girdle and is still nowhere near fixed).

So while I tried to incorporate as much overhead work as I could, my issues with my elbows continued to hamper me.

Switching to lower body movements (squat, front squat, deadlift) and sticking with a minimum of two exclusively heavy days per week has not made any significant improvements in my lifts. I'm not even able to match PRs set 1-1.5 years ago.

Background Part IV:

My diet is very clean. I eat a low-carb Paleo diet. I weighted and measured my food for nearly all of 2009 and was around 19P/7C/45F (in Zone blocks) for most the year.

I have been doing some unweighed and weighed Paleo since January 2010 and have averaged 175g Protein/50g Net Carb/150g Fat.

I would rate myself in the 90th percentile as far as flexibility, I am one of the most flexible male crossfitters I've seen - so I don't think that's an issue.

Background V:

Here are my current bodyweight and benchmark WOD numbers (for ref):

m/6'1/213/31/approx 17% BF
Fran: 4:00
Christine: 11:59
Helen: 9:34
Isabel: 3:16
Grace: 3:46
Elizabeth: 12:39
Jackie: 8:40
Tabata Something Else: 361
Max HSPU: 6
Max Pullups: 45 (butterfly)

Conclusions:

I don't really have any, that's why I wrote/graphed all this. I figured this was the place to go to get some good info.

It doesn't seem to add up in my head how stagnant I am on heavy lifts.

Questions:

1) What do I need to do to be a better Crossfitter?
2) Has anyone seen this type of shoulder girdle issue significantly impact all lifts?
3) What am I not thinking of that could be a factor?
4) In short, what the f*@% is going on?

This was really long, but maybe a good coaching exercise for somebody. Plus shiny pictures and graphs!

Thanks in advance.

Derek Simonds
03-16-2010, 12:34 PM
I truly and I mean this enjoyed the way you laid everything out. That being said. I got nothing for you productive except for asking is improving your lifts more important then being a better crossfitter?

If so you need to back off your weights by starting at a lower precentage, focus on lifting heavy stuff by using a template that works (5/3/1, Texas, Mass Gain) and make incremental linear progress. I decided that was the route I was going to take and have made marked improvement in everything since I stopped trying to be a crossfitter and just focus on lifting.

Looking at your numbers we are fairly close in everything except BS. I have had struggles with my shoulder girdle as well this last year. I was diagnosed with scapular dyskensia and went to PT. That made a huge difference. After that I trained with David Whitley in TN and he taught me how to press without moving my scapula. Those two things helped a ton. I know how frustrating it can be with a movement problem.

Joe Hart
03-16-2010, 02:06 PM
So at first glance I would say just focus on lifting some heavy weights...but then I remembered the Performance Menu. Greg has written and article that is for preparation for the CF games. Check out issues 44 and 46. There is some stuff with ref to CF in there. Maybe scour the Forum for WODs with the Power Bias.

Nice graphs you are way more meticulous than I am.

Grissim Connery
03-16-2010, 02:18 PM
have you always just had 2 rest days per week?

Patrick Donnelly
03-17-2010, 08:33 PM
I'd just like to chime in with two things.

Firstly, nice graphs. That really lays out things in a simple manner, both for anyone reading this thread, and more importantly, for you.

Secondly, you're likely stalling because you're following an inherently scattershot program that won't ever let you get good at any one thing. (Sorry, but it's true.) Get some goals (the S.M.A.R.T. kind, not "improve functional fitness"), then do workouts that seem reasonably well suited to helping you reach those goals. Six weeks later, evaluate and see how well suited those workouts really were. Tweak as necessary then rinse and repeat.

Michael Hartman
03-18-2010, 08:06 AM
What is your current training situation? Affiliate, garage, training partners, coaches, etc.? Sometimes it is less about the program and more about the training environment.

Gant Grimes
03-18-2010, 08:32 AM
The graphs tell a story, but it's not the one you think.

The first problem is that you don't have enough data points here to regard these things as trends. Your squatting graph contains 26 data points over 3+ years. Your 1RM BS/FS/DL/P contains 24 points over the same period. When you consider this small number of points occurs over a large period and within a 3/1 scheme, you can't explain anything here. You had a difference of 80 pounds on 5RM squats. That could be due to fatigue, poor planning, no warmup, hangover, rickets, day after FGB, whatever. Not descriptive.

Second, and more importantly, you don't have enough F'n data points PERIOD! You plotted 12 points where you did a 5RM squat over a 3-year period. A novice does that in 4 weeks of linear progression. You stretched a month into three years. No wonder you're not getting stronger.

Finally, that graph is exactly what I'd expect from unsupervised CF training (I say unsupervised because there are some good CF trainers out there). Going along and throwing some strength movements in there doesn't get it done.

Your benchmarks aren't bad for a guy your size (other than Elizabeth; you need more power endurance).

Your questions (my comments in bold):

1) What do I need to do to be a better Crossfitter?
Stop crossfitting for a bit and get stronger. You need to eat at least 50g more protein to do this.

2) Has anyone seen this type of shoulder girdle issue significantly impact all lifts?
Yes. Prehab, rehab, and do mobility work on the joint. My shoulders are messed up, too. It's our cross to bear.

3) What am I not thinking of that could be a factor?
You get better at what you practice, pure and simple. If you practice everything, you get a little better at everything, assuming you practice it well. There is something missing, and it's strength and/or coaching. Practice getting strong and practice performing the lifts properly and conditioning at the proper frequency and intensity.

4) In short, what the f*@% is going on?
Hard to say without seeing you.

Garrett Smith
03-18-2010, 08:46 AM
I say get stronger, and I think 5/3/1 would do you some good for a while.

I can't even begin to look at your graphs for too long. For me, that gets too much into mental masturbation. You want to get stronger, pick your goals and devote your time to getting stronger. While I could give a hoot about longer than 10 minute metcons, I personally know that by getting stronger (and reaching my strength goals) that metcons will become easier with a little acclimation time.

DeFranco's "Simple Six" plus a lacrosse ball for the teres minor (think back of shoulder), outer pecs, and lats, along with Ido Portal's band scapular routine would do your shoulders a lot of good, most likely.

Eat more. Lift heavier. Assess yourself for metcon addiction.

Gavin Harrison
03-18-2010, 09:38 AM
I'd have to agree with the 5/3/1. You may be able to get stronger faster from other programs, maybe, but 5/3/1 is really laid out to let you maintain/build conditioning level while building/maintaining strength/hypertrophy/etc. Would probably be a good fit if you're looking to build strength without lossing all of your conditioning (which is pretty easy to get back, but since you're a crossfitter and conditioning is your lifeblood so far, it may be a difficult barrier to hurdle).

Another thing to look at for the shoulder is try higher bar placement on the squats and/or moving your hands wider during the squats. This can help relieve some of the problems. It could also be somewhat of an overuse type problem if you're doing cf and following the mainpage or some similar blanket mass programming.

Patrick Donnelly
03-18-2010, 09:23 PM
I'm not getting why everyone's jumping on the 5/3/1 bandwagon. I've heard a lot of people are making great progress on it, but isn't it just slow, sensible, dedicated progression? It sounds to me like the "magic" part of it is that it forces you to swallow your ego and accept that things take time, which you could do with other programs too. Similarly, the "magic" of Starting Strength is that it forces newbies to do useful lifts with consistency and a gradually increasing poundage.

I'll jump on the "be consistent" bandwagon for sure, but I've never understood the attachment that people have to specific programs.

Your squatting graph contains 26 data points over 3+ years. Your 1RM BS/FS/DL/P contains 24 points over the same period... You plotted 12 points where you did a 5RM squat over a 3-year period. A novice does that in 4 weeks of linear progression. You stretched a month into three years. No wonder you're not getting stronger.
Oh, wow. I had misread the first post and thought these were over a six-month period; didn't look at the graph axes closely enough either. Gant has a very valid point here. If you want to improve your squat, going heavy less than 9 times a year isn't going to work, and your graphs do prove that.


Are you the same Brian Wilson from Potomac CrossFit? Good to see you here.

Gavin Harrison
03-19-2010, 11:13 AM
I'm not getting why everyone's jumping on the 5/3/1 bandwagon. I've heard a lot of people are making great progress on it, but isn't it just slow, sensible, dedicated progression? It sounds to me like the "magic" part of it is that it forces you to swallow your ego and accept that things take time, which you could do with other programs too. Similarly, the "magic" of Starting Strength is that it forces newbies to do useful lifts with consistency and a gradually increasing poundage.


Yes but.. it really takes the thinking out of program design, for a lot of goals. Everyone seems to want to "do SS with conditioning" or whatever, well... 5/3/1 has conditioning built into the program, from there it's just deciding how much weight you want to allocate to conditioning vs strength vs .. etc. In that sense it seems a fair recommendation for someone who has less homogeneous goals.

If everyone recommended SS, Bill Starr, Practical Programming, etc the next question would be "when/how much/how often to do conditioning? I really want to keep the awesome conditioning I already have from crossfit, preferably by keeping the 3 on 1 off cf.com schedule on top of SS, thanks!". With 5/3/1 it's just buy and READ the book, the answers are in there. There's a chapter in 5/3/1 about "5/3/1 with conditioning" it's called "North of the Vag". It's also non-retarded programming for the average gym rat, but then again, so are a lot of things.

To me, other programs almost expect the reader to think critically way more than I'm willing to assume people will..

Brian Wilson
08-22-2010, 01:52 PM
Intro and Background:

First, thanks to everybody for contributing here, it's much appreciated.

I began Wendler 531 on Monday 100419. My baseline tested 1RMs were from Nov 2008 and were:

Squat 335
Press 160
Deadlift 418

I substituted Power Cleans for Deadlifts and didn't do Bench Press for the first 16 weeks. Starting on week 17, I put Deadlifts in and also added Bench Press.

Data

Using both a 1RM Test on Week 10 and the formula Wendler writes about in his ebook:

Theoretical 1RM = (Weight * Reps * .03333)+Weight

I came up with the following graphs to show my progress over the last 18 weeks:

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_JHxqX0Vnny4/THGMqm0IlnI/AAAAAAAAFMs/ZOcpJKMRWhI/Picture%202.png

Tested 1RM: 355 at Week 10
Current Theoretical 1RM: 386 at Week 18

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_JHxqX0Vnny4/THGMqy5CeDI/AAAAAAAAFMw/wRh26vp8Q-g/Picture%203.png

Test 1RM: 167.5 at Week 10
Current Theoretical 1RM: 184 at Week 18

Comments on the Data

As Gant points out, I hadn't done a ton of Squats, Press, Deadlifts, etc., over the course of my Crossfit career. So a novice affect could certainly be at work here.

I was very excited to see a 20 lbs PR on my Squat and a 7.5 lbs PR on my Press after only 10 weeks. What was even more exciting however, and you can see this clearly in the graphs, is how my lifts have taken off even more since then.

Comments on Assistance Exercises, METCONs, and General Compliance with the Program

I have not been diligent in completing the Assistance Exercises or METCONs (what Jim Wendler would generally consider "Conditioning") during the last 18 weeks. I have tended to mix in METCONs at my box or Assistance Exercises, but never both in the same day.

I have never missed a Squat day, but I have skipped 4 out of 18 Press days.

I find the general Wendler Template fairly easy to follow and am much more diligent and excited about my training then before. My box follows a basic Monday/Squat, Wednesday/Press, Thursday/Deadlift template, but it was difficult for me to come in on those days because (psychology of the athlete being what it is) my perception was that I was bad at those movements (true) and that I wasn't getting any better (partly true prior to Wendler 531).

The Back Off week has been a tremendous boon to me psychologically as well. I've found myself much more recovered mentally and itching to get to heavy squats and even (god forbid) hard METCONs by the middle of the Back Off week.

References

My full Wendler Tracking Sheet (https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AsEYa6vYhiD7dE1SVEZ1SVFhQ1pDV251Si1TaWFxV 3c&hl=en&single=true&gid=10&output=html)

My old Lifting PRs (https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AsEYa6vYhiD7cERyOGt3NTM5dHpxbThvQTJ3ZS1US EE&hl=en&output=html)

Power Cleans, Deadlifts, Bench Press

Just like (seemingly) 90% of those that try Wendler 531, I had to change something. I decided I wanted to do Power Cleans vice Deadlifts so I could improve or maintain some "speed strength".

I went into Wendler 531 with a 225 PR in Power Clean and when I retested at Week 10 it was 235 lbs.

Reading more into this issue, I found that doing the Wendler Template for Power Cleans was pretty dumb (duh!), and if performed should be done after Squat or Deadlift and according to Prilepin's Table or a similar periodized program designed for the Olympic Lifts.

For right now I'm just scrapping the Power Clean and putting Deadlifts in. Because of the great progress I've seen, I decided to add Bench Press in as well. This will also give me another day that I can work on my pressing strength and especially Handstand Pushups (HSPU) as assistance exercises, as I am terrible at these.

Conclusions

Couldn't be happier with my decision to try Wendler 531. Every aspect of my training (including METCON performance relative to my cohort) has dramatically increased. I'm fired up to get to the gym because I see tangible progress and I have high hopes that those big numbers that I saw other Crossfitters putting up (400+ Squat, 500+ Deadlift, BW Press) are within reach.

Brian Wilson
08-25-2010, 12:20 PM
I created a Wendler 531 spreadsheet with some additions to what's commonly out there:

-Rounds work sets to closest 2.5 lbs
-Automatically calculates weights for 24 weeks
-Graphs Theoretical 1RM based on last sets

For more info, check out the explanation video. (http://www.vimeo.com/14408450)

To download a copy of the Potomac Crossfit Wendler 531 Spreadsheet, click here (https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B8EYa6vYhiD7ODVmYTVhNjUtNDgwNC00ODJlLWJlY TMtZWU0NDI3ZjdmYTFk&hl=en).

henry whitaker
08-25-2010, 12:52 PM
This spreadsheet looks very helpful. Thanks for posting and congratulations on your gains.

It would be interesting to compare how you would have progressed if you had tried a straight linear strength progression and then jumped into 5/3/1. I agree with you that some or all of your strength gains so far may be because of the novice effect -- but heck, gains are gains.

It would also be helpful to have an idea of the frequency/kind of metcons and assistance exercises, nutrition, etc. Did you change your eating?

Incidentially, I believe that most people recommend doing the quick lifts before doing the slow ones if you are doing both on the same day. Also, Wendler himself recommends using the 5/3/1 scheme for cleans, but I have not found that to be productive.

Gant Grimes
08-25-2010, 08:42 PM
Couldn't be happier with my decision to try Wendler 531. Every aspect of my training (including METCON performance relative to my cohort) has dramatically increased. I'm fired up to get to the gym because I see tangible progress and I have high hopes that those big numbers that I saw other Crossfitters putting up (400+ Squat, 500+ Deadlift, BW Press) are within reach.

Those numbers ain't from Crossifttin'.

Good work, bud. Stay the course and lift heavy weights with consistency. Congrats on your gains.