The quest for fitness is fraught with struggle. Although the road is treacherous, most of us have grown accustomed to the speed bumps we encounter along the way. We train, eat, sleep and repeat. All we have to do is keep showing up, right?
The nature of our bodies is such that we continue to adapt to the stresses we expose ourselves to. That adaptation is the process by which we continue to grow stronger, faster and ultimately more physically fit. But, as we get fitter, our rate of progress slows. Why? Because our bodies are constantly fighting to protect what it's got. Biologically speaking, we call this homeostasis. Practically speaking this means it takes more reps and more weight to cause our muscles to grow, what us coaches call progressive overload.
One of the most difficult hurdles we see in CrossFit is strength development. We hear it all the time from both athletes and coaches. Beginner strength gains last anywhere from six to eighteen months depending on the individual. And, without having a strength focus, you can quickly find yourself in an indefinite stay at plateau city (the food sucks and the people are rude). So, for all of you looking to get stronger, I've listed my top 5 suggestions for how to get strong fast.
I wouldn't send you on a road trip without directions and expect you to arrive on time. Strength training is no different. You need a plan. You need to know where you're starting, and have a clear idea of where you want to go. We recommend finding a strength program tailored to your needs and goals.
Current strength, body composition, age, sex, previous injuries, etc. all need to be taken into consideration when developing a strength program. Most effective strength programs are prescribed and supervised by a coach with the knowledge and experience to keep you on track. Your goals need to be realistic in nature. If you asked me for a map that would get you from California to Florida in 12 hours, I would tell you to pound sand. Strength goals are no different. You have to be willing to put in the time and work, only then will you arrive at your final destination on time.
You can usually expect more training volume when adopting any type of specified program. Keeping your nutrition on point is key while your body adjusts to increased volume and learns to recover from the new stimulus. One of the most common pitfalls we see in athletes is falling short of your daily caloric needs. We suggest getting an accurate measurement of your basal metabolic rate and ensuring you hit your caloric benchmarks on a daily basis.
We suggest a diet of mostly whole foods, colorful and varied plates, little to no sugar and limiting your liquid intake to water only as much as possible. You wouldn't put unleaded gas in a learjet...do your body the same kindness. You should also start tracking your caloric intake to get a broad idea of how much you’re eating each day to ensure you aren't missing the mark. Tools like myfitnesspal.com can go a long way in assisting your keeping track of your daily intake.
Sleep is one of the most important factors in recovery. Some of the most serious problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Also, research links a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol decreases testosterone production - bye bye gainz city. Take a look at the below chart to see how much sleep you need. For the majority of us, it's 7-9 hours. If your sleep isn't right and you notice you can't seem to get stronger, well...you know what the issue is.
Mobilizing on a regular basis will help you achieve full range of motion, prevent pain and mitigate the risk of injury. We’ve all see the videos of olympic weightlifters cleaning weight. The pelvis is far below the knee, back straight, knees tracking over the toes, elbows pinned high, etc. Partial depth squats, lumbar/thoracic rounding, knees collapsing inward, and elbows falling forward aren't conducive to moving heavy ass weight.
Achieving the level of mobility necessary to efficiently move weight takes work. ROMWOD, Mobility WOD, Yoga and flexibility classes are all excellent ways to increase mobility and by proxy move weight more efficiently. With mobility comes strength. The two are not mutually exclusive, but correlative. In order to identify your own mobility needs, you should take a functional movement test and incorporate a regular prescriptive mobility practice based on your specific needs. We don't just talk the talk. We put every new athlete through a functional movement screen before being allowed to train.
This is the hardest part. Find a coach, get a plan and stick to it. Consistency is one of the toughest things we encounter outside the gym. It’s almost always what separates champions from the kids riding the pine. The willingness to not just work hard, but work hard day in and day out. The road to hell isn't paved with good intentions, it’s paved with unfinished to-do lists. One of CrossFit's most important aspect is its community. Knowing your fellow athletes and actually having fun while you're training will go far in keeping you engaged and accountable.
If you're thinking you're more of a lone wolf, remember, not even professional athletes go it alone, and they’re among the most disciplined individuals alive. So why wouldn't you get a coach?
Getting strong takes hard work, but it isn't high science. The blueprints are there, but it’s up to you to be the architect of your own life and build something you can be proud of. If you're serious about your goals, get a coach, or at the very least, a workout buddy.
If you're curious how working with a coach can help you, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll point you in the right direction.
Happy lifting, Athletes!