There is no such thing as “firming and toning.” There is only stronger and weaker. -Mark Rippetoe
Strength is the ability of a muscular unit or combination of muscular units to apply force.
Many people have the misconception that strength training equals huge muscles and spray tans.
While bodybuilders look and can certainly be strong, their goal is generally aesthetics rather than overall General Physical Preparedness (GPP) training. (Not that there’s anything wrong with bodybuilding…it’s just not what we’re after.)
In CrossFit, we’re looking for balance. We want to be strong and flexible. We want to have a 500lb deadlift and a 6 minute mile. Strength training that leads to major muscular hypertrophy (ie. big muscles) doesn’t really help us a whole lot. It certainly hinders gymnastic type movements. So ladies, stop worrying about getting bulky! And guys, if you need to get bigger to lift more, trust me it’ll happen.
So as far as strength goes, again our overall goal is to increase force production without adding a lot of size. We accomplish this by our typical rep scheme of 1-5 reps at 75-90% of our 1RM for 4-7 sets. If I were interested in bodybuilding, my workout would look more like 4-6 sets of 6-12 reps at 60-80% of my 1RM. Basically more reps at a lower weight asking my muscles to grow.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the last few years of doing CrossFit:
Lifting as a novice is fun! I came into CF weak. My strength numbers went up and up and up. Then they stopped. I’ve worked harder over the last few years and seen some increases but not like when I was a novice lifter.
Strength training is hard work. You’ve got to consistently focus on strength and keep pushing yourself to drive the numbers up.
Strength training requires rest. You’ve got to take adequate time to to rest and recoup especially after a pretty hard session or two. I even take a full week off every now and then if I’m particularly beat up. I always come back fresh and ready to go at it again!
You need to track your numbers. Strength training is all about the numbers. You’ve got to know what you’ve done previously and base future lifts accordingly. Even in a heavy metcon, an idea of your relative strength plays an important role.
So, whether you’re new to CrossFit or been at it a while, strength is your friend. Get as much as you can and then get some more. Why? Because Fran really sucks if your 1RM thruster is 105#.
Dr. Chris Biles, DC is the head trainer and owner of CrossFit Waxahachie. He is a Level 1 CrossFit Certified Trainer and is passionate about all things fitness. He has competed for many years in adventure racing, mountain and road bike racing, and marathons. His main sport now is the new Sport of Fitness- CrossFit.