Tuesday, July 6, 2010


The above short video clip was taken during a recent tire flipping session. (Don't blink, or you'll miss all the action. The camera was stuck in video mode, so sorry...no still pictures.)

Tom M and I had some extremely interesting conversation, debate, and pondering about Power Output and how it related to flipping this 500# rubber tire. Here was some of the talking points we'll share:
  • We did Continuous Flips for as long as each of us could keep up. The rules are: flip the tire once in the first minute, twice in the second minute, etc. and continue until one could not complete the necessary number of flips in that minute. I got 6 in the 7th minute. (score = 6+6, total of 27 in 7 minutes). Tom survived 8 minutes (36 flips in 8 minutes).
  • The "Continuous _______" workout for any movement demands more work each additional minute, and less recovery time. More work and less rest is a rough combo. Those first minutes are actually quite easy. Those minutes nearing the end are brutal, especially knowing that when you succeed, it gets HARDER.
  • So the questions arose. These are simple questions, and one should not ponder the intent of the workout or the physiological or neurological advantages of reaching failure. Just listen to the objectivity of the questions poses: Could Tom do more than 36 flips in 8 minutes, if he changed the structure of the workout and averaged more than 4.5 flips per :60? Or could Lou do more than 27 flips in 7 minutes, if he averaged 4 flips per :60? We believe the answer to be yes.
  • We both agreed that keeping a strict pace could in fact increase our AVERAGE power output over those minutes. We concede that the "Continuous Flips" workout allowed us to reach higher (though not optimal or maximum) power output in that last minute of survival, even at less than full rest. The only way to increase power output over a short duration (let's say :60) would be to front-load the work -- such as doing MAXIMUM flips in :60, then MAX minus 1 the second minute, etc. However, I doubt anyone could keep up the power output to last more than 3 minutes! Challengers??
  • It is firmly my belief that sustained substantial power output in many ways is superior to a peaked optimal or maximum output followed by (or preceded by) a reduced output. It is my experience that for a finite workload or time limit, paced and sustained produces a higher performance (more area "under the curve.")
  • In summary: balls-to-the-wall approach to many workouts is poor planning.
There is much to discuss with regards to this. I have only limited data, so any conclusion would be purely anecdotal in nature. And I agree with the below statement:

"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." -- Sherlock Holmes

Let me know if you'd like to participate in a study of sorts to gather data, and reach some personal CrossFit records along the way! This does not have to do with flipping tires. One can actually do some experimenting with almost any movement or exercise. Some named CrossFit workouts that would be easy to begin with are: Randy, Karen, Cindy, Grace, or Isabel. There are plenty of other options too -- 100 pullups for time. 100 burpees for time, etc.


Louis Hayes said...

There's a current CrossFit Journal article called "To Game or Not to Game" posted this week. I'll do a separate post announcing this, but it is right up my alley with a lot of the data collection we've been up to.

Rich said...

Great post! Anecdotally, I've seen the results of increased power output by NOT going to failure. I look at tabata workouts as a perfect example:

If I go "balls to the wall" for the tabata sets I notice that my overall rep count is drastically reduced. However if I pick a challenging # and try to maintain that # throughout all 8 sets, my # of reps increases, thus overall power output is larger.

I'm currently rehabbing an acl tear but count me in as far as future data collection.


/also, do you mind if I reference this post in a future post on our site regarding power output in functional fitness WODs?

Louis Hayes said...

Thanks. Feel free to reference/link to the post, or any others you see fit. I'll shoot you an email about data collection and experiements.