Coach’s Corner: Absolute Strength is the Key

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In our Coach’s Corner this week, we have renowned coach Rick Scarpulla of Ultimate Advantage to answer your training questions. Here he explains why the name of the game — regardless of your sport of choice — is absolute strength, especially for CrossFitters who are looking to lower their WOD times.

Be forewarned: Coach Rick keeps it real, so gird your proverbial loins. Who’s up for his challenge?

Dear Coach: Is it “normal” to experience a drop in performance during a strength cycle? What should I expect and how do I deal with it mentally? How should coaches guide their athletes through this?

“CF is fueled by absolute strength; it is not fueled by WODs.”

Strength is the catalyst to most sports, and by no means should it cost you any decrease in sport performance.
By “a drop in performance,” I’m assuming you mean your CF sport-specific skills, and the answer is no, you should not experience a drop-off in performance. That is another myth of training to which you must pay no attention. My athletes constantly get faster, more agile and better at sport performance — all the while getting stronger. In fact, it is a prerequisite of our training and our facility; it is the whole purpose. How could I stay in business if you came to me and got worse at your chosen sport to get stronger?

Think about it: a collegiate track athlete comes to me and wants to get faster. What do we do? Along with other methods, we make them have greater absolute strength, so in turn they get faster and stronger. If I made them slower and stronger, would they come back? That is a ridiculous concept to me that I never understood. More B.S. training myths. Strength is the catalyst to most sports, and by no means should it cost you any decrease in sport performance.

Met-cons serve to build your aerobic capacity…Yet neither met-cons nor WODs will address absolute strength.
As far as a strength cycle goes…get real —  you should always be in a strength cycle. CF is a strength game, and if you should understand and approach it as such any other way, that does not make sense. If any one coach tells you, “You must sacrifice sport-specific skill to get strong,” run away as fast as you can. They have no clue of what is really taking place.

CF is fueled by absolute strength; it is not fueled by WODs. WODs will not help you gain absolute strength, though they will help you with strength endurance. Absolute strength, however, is the catalyst to all strengths. The greater the athlete’s absolute strength, the greater the capability for all other types of strengths. Met-cons serve to build your aerobic capacity, which is obviously also necessary. Yet neither met-cons nor WODs will address absolute strength. But both of the aforementioned will increase as you raise your absolute strength levels, which will automatically raise your workload capacity — which will, in turn, allow you to do more work in less time. This equals better WODs and met-con performance, right?

Therefore you must constantly work on your absolute strength and individual strength weaknesses, or else your WODs and met-con times will improve only minimally. The reason you fail in most cases is strength-based, not endurance-based.

You want to have explosive-in-your-face-hardcore-you-can’t-stop-me-if-you-had-to strength.
Your endurance is also fueled by absolute strength. The stronger your GPP is functionally, the less energy is required to complete a prescribed task. If you are strong enough to complete a task using only small amounts of effort, then you will be able to do it faster, easier and longer than someone who has to use greater effort due to weakness to complete the same task. Sport-specific skill is greatly aided by absolute strength. It is simple to understand why you always need to be getting stronger and should always be in a strength cycle.

Your attitude and confidence will also get a big boost also knowing you are stronger than your opponents. As I’m sure you know, confidence plays a huge part in your psyche. That too is derived from absolute strength and knowing you are much stronger then your opponents. Absolute strength is not the only skill required in CF, but it is the #1 weapon on the list of needed skills.

Absolute strength is not the only skill required in CF, but it is the #1 weapon on the list of needed skills.
You must work all parts of your game to become a complete athlete but… You want to have explosive-in-your-face- hardcore-you-can’t-stop-me-if-you-had-to strength, and there ain’t a damm thing your opponent can do about it. Sounds like it might make your CF life much easier.

Quit making excuses on why you don’t need to be strong and start moving some heavy iron. Yeah it’s hard, and yeah sooner or later it will hurt. Suck it up or go sit down. I’m getting all fired up, so I need to go train….

Have a question for our coaches? Email
Contact Rick Scarpulla at or 914-443-1110. 
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