The Case for Continuous Progression in CrossFit and in Life

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by Michael Branch

The Case for Continuous Progression in CrossFit and in Life
My martial arts system founder once gave a lecture to our class about the difference in training philosophy of the traditional Eastern martial arts masters vs. many athletes (in this particular situation he was addressing MMA and boxing, but the lesson can be extrapolated) in the West. In particular, the martial arts masters of olden days preferred a small, but continuous, progression in skill, strength, technique, etc.

[M]any Western athletes go through a period of “peaks” in training and/or aim to kill themselves (metaphorically) in their daily workouts trying to achieve huge gains in short periods of time, the sustainability of which is questionable.
In fact various firsthand accounts verify that these masters were more skillful in their “twilight years” then they ever were in their youth. Because survival and longevity was the name of the game, and competition was eschewed because one couldn’t train/teach if they were hurt, their training was consistent but incremental.

However, many Western athletes go through a period of “peaks” in training and/or aim to kill themselves (metaphorically) in their daily workouts trying to achieve huge gains in short periods of time, the sustainability of which is questionable.

Peaking (excuse my poor MS Paint art, but you get the picture)

For the competitive CrossFitter (or other athlete) at the higher levels, peaking and intense training is a staple of most programs and with what is at stake (titles, money, fame, etc.), maybe rightfully so.

But for the everyday athlete, those of us looking to simply improve our well being, health, and become better versions of ourselves over the long haul then steady incremental improvements is the better methodology.

Now, a few formalities. By peaking, what am I referring to? Peaking is the practice of preparing for your best (peak) performance within a specified timeframe, after which performance levels can (and usually do) decrease to some extent across one or more fitness domains.

Peaking by its very nature is a temporary phenomenon where physical and psychological levels are maximized. In addition to things like strength, speed, endurance, agility, and flexibility it may also encapsulate things like achieving optimal body weight and altering the diet.

By killing yourselves in training, what am I referring to? Pretty much just what it says, “overdoing” your training such that you don’t feel like you’ve had a good workout unless you’re on the floor crumpled in a puddle of sweat
By killing yourselves in training, what am I referring to? Pretty much just what it says, “overdoing” your training such that you don’t feel like you’ve had a good workout unless you’re on the floor crumpled in a puddle of sweat with a bucket next to you for puking; and the next day you’re so sore getting out of bed is a painful and intensive process … and then doing it all again the next time. It can include high intensity and high volume for prolonged periods of time (which can lead to the phenomenon of overtraining).

[Read our previous coverage of overtraining here]
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