Friday, June 11, 2010

MSU Programming - Part 6 - "It sucks; it must be good" thinking

For all parts of this series of posts, click here.

One of the stupidest workouts I've ever heard of is the Burpee Mile. (Right, Schlik?) Basically the Burpee Mile is as many burpee broad jumps as it takes to complete one a standing long jump at the end of a burpee, and repeat. For a whole mile. Stupid. And no, I haven't done it. Yet. I've heard it takes over 600 burpees and over 90 minutes. My questions are these:
  • Why?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What is it conditioning?
  • What is the goal?
  • What is the test?
  • Besides the mental conditioning of winning or completing the task at hand, what else does it promote?

This is one example of a workout or event that has a high Suck-Factor with what seems to be very little return. Sadly, I see lots of guys programming certain things into their workouts that do suck. But when I ask them why, they grumble some lame excuse about how much it sucks. OK, I believe you that it sucks. So does hitting my thumb with a hammer. But how does the Suck-Factor help reach some level of fitness, or help sculpt some measurable aspect of fitness?

The more I learn about physical fitness training, the more I realize I don't know. While I might know more than some, there are many MANY with more experience and research than me. As I write this rant, I am following a program through CrossFit Phoenix Fire. The trainer is a fire department Captain with a near lifetime of fitness training experience. For the last eight weeks, I have been participating in his workouts (online of course). I met the Captain and spoke to a handful of his clients. I appreciated the methods and philosophy of his programming and scheduling. And he knows a helluva lot more about this stuff than I do. Some of the days' workouts are absolutely grueling. Others are merely challenging. Quite honestly, some just DO NOT SUCK. But they are hard!

I trust Capt Pauly's programming. He knows more than me. That's why I have decided to follow him. And I'm quite OK that not all his workouts "suck."

For some CFters, the Suck-Factor is in direct correlation to one's desire to throw up or barf during or after the workout. "Pukie the Clown" is a revered mascot of many CFters. Stupid. If you are one of those who put Pukie on a pedestal, grow up. Just because you feel like barfing does NOT mean you had an effective or efficient session. And just because I did not feel like throwing up does not mean I did not have a great workout.

  • Here is an example: The CF Phx Fire program uses a lot of Olympic lifting skill practice and development. It also uses a decent amount of strength work (5x3s, 5x5s, 3-3-3-1-1, and 5x1s). Each of these sessions requires plenty of recovery time between heavy sets. And I usually do NOT feel like puking on these days. Thinking this was a less-than-100% effort because of my lack of desire to puke = complete idiocy.
  • Another example: Three seemingly different exercises might be Hanging Knees to Elbows (HK2E), deadlifts, and pullups. Each works a different movement pattern and musculature. So how does a workout that includes each of these rate? Part of me says, "Poorly." Each of those three exercises taxes the gripping of the hands and forearms. There is little doubt that the grip will give out before any of the other body parts....afterall each of the three groups of musculature can be recovered during a MetCon....well except for the hands and forearms!! So in effect, none of those three exercises are actually stressed to a point of failure. The early loss of grip prevents hitting a point of efficient adaptation. In summary, unless your goal is Popeye Forearms, the HK2E/DL/pullup combo is not a very good one.
  • "Skill" or "Technique" work in GPP programs cannot be over-emphasized. These are sessions where a specific movement or routine is practiced in an attempt to perfect it or learn how to perform it. One example might be the progressions to perform a gym ring muscle up (MU). The MU progression series is a relatively low-intensity session that concentrates of proper grip, transition, and overall form. There is not anything that "sucks" about it. It is extremely technical in nature. The same can be said of Olympic weightlifting skills. Form is king. Low intensity practice allows us to use proper form during higher intensity conditioning sessions.

Think about what your programming is trying to accomplish. Ask yourself if there is a purpose to the workout, or just has a high Suck-Factor for sake of pain and discomfort.

MANY good workouts suck. But don't equate "sucking" with "good."

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