Monday, January 4, 2010

DEFINITION: Performance-Based Workouts

I throw around the term PERFORMANCE-BASED quite liberally. Without giving a clear definition, I recklessly leave room for misinterpretation. So what does the term mean to me? I'll first discuss it by way of theory and then practical application. By being overly-inclusive with theory, I would risk being too abstract for any intellectual material to actually find application or study in the gym. That's why I include some very nuts-n-bolts talk about this topic.

Performance-based workouts demand increases in output. This output is sometimes quite measurable. Some obvious examples of measured performances are:
  • How quickly can you run one mile?
  • How much weight can you back squat for one rep?
  • How high can you box jump?
  • How many times can you lift 50# from ground to overhead in 5 minutes?
Increases in any of those "tests" are seen on the stopwatch, the scale, the tape measure, or the tally sheet. Though most participants of workout programs do not care to measure their performances. Instead they measure themselves! They step onto bathroom scales. They wrap tape measures around their waists, hips, or biceps. They pinch their fat folds with calipers. Their journals are filled with body measurements of all types. This casual approach to training is flawed.

We must first understand that functional workouts are quite measurable. There are certain aspects of our workouts that can be quantified: reps can be counted, the duration can be timed, and the loads can be weighed.

We must look at some other terms. WORK CAPACITY is the ability to do work. No kidding? Work is actually a highly quantifiable numeric value determined or measured by how far a defined force is moved or displaced. The weight of an object is actually a "force," measured by mass and gravity's pull. (Since we most all live entirely in the earthly realm with a constant gravity, many of us improperly interchange mass and weight). So WEIGHT = FORCE. The distance of movement or displacement is a change in position. For example, if I lift a box off the ground onto a shelf seven feet up, then I have displaced that box seven feet. The work I completed is determined by how much the box weighs multiplied by the distance I lifted it. WORK = FORCE X DISTANCE. A nine pound box would yield work equal to 9x7=63 work units. (NOTE: The unit of measurement is not important here. While scientists use Newtons, Watts, Joules, meters, and kilograms, I won't fog up this already cloudy topic anymore. Any unit of measurement, whether officially-accepted or made-up will do.)

Now, there are five boxes each weighing nine pounds. I lift them each onto the same 7-foot shelf. The work I completed is equal to 5x9x7=315 work units.

So with this box-and-shelf case study, how can I increase the work performed? Well I either have to increase the force or the distance. How do I do that? Well I can increase the overall force by making each of the five boxes heavier. Or I can increase the displacement by two ways: First, I can make the shelf taller. Second, I can lift more boxes. The taller shelf option is an easy one....the change is displacement is obvious. However, more boxes? Lifting five boxes seven feet is the same as lifting one box 35 feet. When more boxes are added, all that really changes is the displacement! If I add three boxes, my new displacement is 7x8=56 feet with 504 work units.

Keeping a journal is a fundamental step in measuring changes in output. Finding repeatable benchmark workouts is also important. Websites such as LogsItAll or BeyondTheWhiteboard have been developed by CrossFitters who wanted ways to track progress. They include rankings and graphs for and charts and all sorts of eye-candy.

Here is my charge to you:
  • Commit to a journal, whether computerized or pad-n-pencil.
  • Select a couple of benchmark workouts to focus on.
  • Pick benchmarks with different demands (speed, stamina, pure strength, absolute power)
  • Perform the benchmarks over the course of a week or so.
  • Set short-term and long-term goals for those benchmarks (ex: 5-min FRAN).
  • Develop a plan to reach those goals.
  • Record all your workouts in the journal.
Performance has nothing to do with how you look. It has everything to do with how you execute tasks. This does not mean that losing fatty weight is bad. Actually, losing fatty weight turns your body into a more efficient machine pound-for-pound....think about how a lighter body can move during pullups!! Set your goals to be performance goals. Not appearance goals.

You will not be disappointed.


Jacky C - OBPD said...

My goal in working out was always to lose weight (because I really needed to!). Now (and for the first time in my life), I don't need to lose weight. I now need a new direction, a new purpose to working out. I'm taking your advise and have come up with a plan to "train" for some upcoming events ... the first being the OBT Fight for Air stairclimb. Do you have any training advice?

Louis Hayes said...

Go fast during training. Match the intensity of the event. It's not efficient to climb steadily for 30 minutes during training, when the event is 5-6 minutes long. I'd much rather see a higher intensity during training sessions lasting less than 10-12 minutes.