3 Ways Crossfitters Can Improve Their Engine (without getting too beat up)!

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We’ve all been there. Lying on our back in a pool of sweat gasping for air after a brutal workout.

We’ve all got the sweat angels and ripped calluses to prove it.

We’ve also all sat and watched the Regionals and Crossfit Games in complete awe as the athletes motor through workouts with what looks like minimal effort.

Athletes like Brent Fikowski make long chippers seem like an easy jog.

Mat Fraser doesn’t seem to be phased by anything that’s thrown at him.

Samantha Briggs could quite possibly have a third lung!

Do you need to just suck it up and go harder? If not, how do these guys and gals build such magnificent engines?

Great genetics and hard work are definitely part of the equation but also knowing how to get the greatest return for your efforts without destroying your body in the process is critical.

Here are 3 ways crossfitters can improve their engine without getting too beat up in the process:

1. EMOMS – EMOMS (every minute on the minute sets) are one of the best ways to develop pacing for various movements and loads.  EMOMS can be used to develop strength, strength endurance, and pure conditioning.

Here are some examples of various type of EMOMS:

  • every minute on the minute for 8mins: 10 burpees

this is a great way to build a solid aerobic/anaerobic base of conditioning.

  • every minute on the minute for 10mins:

2 clean and jerks @ 75% 1RM

this is a great way to develop strength endurance.

  • every minute on the minute for 8mins: 5 deadlifts and 10 wall/balls

this is a great way to learn how to pace mixed modality work.

The key is to program enough recovery time into your EMOMS so you can sustain the effort throughout the workout.

2. Giant Sets – Giant sets are where you perform a large amount of work (i.e. 3-5mins worth) and then rest. Your work to rest ratio should be anywhere from .75 -1:1.

For example, if you were to do 4 rounds of 20 wall/balls, 20 burpees and row 20 calories and it took you 4mins to complete a round, your rest would be anywhere from 3-4mins between rounds.

In either case, with EMOMS and giant sets, you can work at high intensity and then have the opportunity to recover.  This will increase the quality of work that you put in without taxing the body too much.

3. Monostructural Interval Training – Good old fashioned interval training is still one of the most effective ways to improve your overall conditioning. By using monostructural methods such as running, biking, and rowing, you minimize eccentric and overall loading (i.e. no barbell) on the body which results in far less muscle soreness and faster recovery times. Here are some examples of some effective interval training workouts:

  • Treadmill – 1min on/1min off for 10mins at 15% incline
  • Rower – row 500m x 5 with 2min rest between rounds
  • Sled Pushes – 40m sled push x 10 with 45-60sec rest between rounds

These are excellent ways to get the heart rate up and feel a good burn without frying your muscles and nervous system.

Without a doubt, the heart and soul of Crossfit lies in it’s eloquent yet painful metcons.  This is and always will be an important part of your training. However, this can be a slippery slope if you aren’t careful.  Using a more controlled and systematic approach to build your engine will help you make more gradual improvements without burning out.

Whether fitness is a sport or a lifestyle for you, training smart, listening to your body, and always being a student of the game will make your efforts more rewarding.

Stay Strong,

Isaac Payne




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