PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.
Crossfit workouts are something that have gained a lot of attention over the past few years. The concept of crossfit has taken on a cult-like identity of its own, but not many people stop to question its effectiveness or compare it with other systems of thinking when it comes to the world of fitness and athletic development.
What I would like to do is to briefly discuss and compare crossfit with more traditional training systems and training that is highly specific. There seems to be a great divide between strength and conditioning coaches and crossfit coaches when it comes to the idea of applicability. But not many people seem to see it from both sides and appreciate the validity of combined thinking.
So which is better, crossfit workouts that focus on extremely broad and inclusive training that tries to capture every aspect of fitness or highly specific and periodised training in a set programme format? Hmmm, tough one for most to answer.
Unleashed Training offers a combined approach. Allow me to explain…
When a person starts training they make fast adaptations in the very early days. The problem is that this does not continue on in the same fashion. Most athletes will train a highly specific way with little regard to general physical preparedness (GPP). As the years roll on the gains in performance become smaller and smaller and quite often hit a wall that prevents the athlete from progressing further.
Crossfit workouts offer a somewhat random approach with very loose programming and absolute zero periodisation. But here’s why I love crossfit workouts to a certain degree, it’s because they provide a means for developing GPP and allowing the body to direct its recovery efforts toward other energy systems and a wide array of movement patterns. Many crossfit workouts, when applied regularly to any programme, can achieve impressive results in increased work capacity of an individual.
So what is the point in all this? Well in my experience it is the answer to athletes that fail to indefinitely progress and continue to get faster times, lift more weight or whatever it is that their sport requires. Unleashed Training works on a ground-up approach to athletic development. We start with the broad foundations.
So by ground up I mean we begin with GPP and develop a solid grounding in all components of fitness before moving on. At each level we build into higher specificity for the task or tasks at hand. Once all the foundations of strength, power, speed, endurance, agility etc have been created we can be confident that all bases have been covered. We then just have to maintain that high level of GPP while focusing more intently on the specific training required. This involves most programming being focused on specific training and a portion reserved for GPP, a la crossfit. This is where we differ and this is where the science and art of strength and conditioning come to life.
But why not just specific?
First of all highly specific training is what is required in order to improve on a specific task. Take 100m for example, the athlete will never need to run a decent 10K time or move around a basketball court with superior agility. However this level of specificity has its flaws. Plateaus occur and results begin to wane over time. This is where many athletes find their potential has been reached and no further progression can be made. By installing a component of GPP into the athlete’s programme we are able to trick the body somewhat into believing it is capable of further adaptation and hence we are able to bypass many plateaus. It is making use of a principle that I like to call lateral progression.
The second factor here is that the athlete does not just need to perform a specific task well, they also need to be able to train to do that. The athlete needs to be able to cope with the demands of the training itself, not just the final event. Too often athletes experience overuse injuries and they burn out. GPP, such as in crossfit workouts, provide the body with a means to adapting to the actual training, not just the end result itself. It is about developing physical capacity.
Overall, this approach should be implemented into every athlete’s training programme. As a 100m sprinter I spend a great deal of time building and rebuilding the foundations by using crossfit workouts and a similar approach. This is structured around the specific skills and drills required for sprinting itself and I never include any training that could prove to be a hindrance to my efforts in my specific area of focus.
So here’s a run-down…
- Begin by building a solid foundation with the bare basics and don’t be afraid of broadness. This is a stage where you can indulge in crossfit workouts every day as rxed. However don’t stray too radically from what it is you’re looking to achieve eventually. Obviously a shot putter is not going to set off on a 10K run just because it is the WOD.
- Once this broad base has been developed the athlete can move onto more specified training.
- This is the highly specific phase. This is where about 75-90% of your training will occur. Unlike other coaches, I recommend you dedicate a portion of your peak season training towards developing GPP. Everything outside of this should be geared toward the task at hand.
- Once all phases have been passed through it is time to spend time unloading, training easier and basically just recovering and letting the body repair itself.
Ok, that’s a little run-down of where I believe, based on research and experience, that modern athletic training is headed. Records are becoming harder to break and training methods can only take us so far. By approaching things this way, by making GPP an important part of your overall strength and conditioning efforts, your body has a greater capacity for recovery and adaptation. You are essentially giving yourself greater physical resources and training your body to cope with a broad range of stimuli.
This is the approach taken by Unleashed Training. We are experts at what we do. We design training systems that work.
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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.