Let’s face it: CrossFitters claim to be the fittest people on earth — not the strongest people on earth — yet the top upper echelon sure are strong as well as fit. That is because they are working on absolute strength more than worrying about met-con ability.
Re-order Your Priorities: “Strength First, Then Cardio”
Think about this: If you get off the couch and start working out, you will be able to run a 10k race competitively long before you will be able to squat 500 or bench 400. Why? The human body will adapt to the stresses of aerobic training much more quickly than it can adapt to anaerobic stress. In other words, you will get “in shape,” so to speak, faster than you will get strong.
Cardio shape is quickly gained and begins to diminish just as quickly. In only a few weeks you can get in decent aerobic conditioning. Equivalent strength gains take much longer to build, but they also hang around much longer after you slow down or stop focusing on them as a priority. If you don’t train strength for two or three weeks, you will still be okay strength-wise, whereas you will feel it much more missing the same duration of met-cons…and that is where the trap lies. Athletes panic, put all their eggs in the met-con basket, and the result is fit athletes who are not as strong as they need to be in order to be competitive.
Let’s say you are a coach and working on putting together a team for the Games. You have athlete A who is 170 lbs and can whiz thru the met-con phase of training, yet he is weak in all the strength movements. He likes bodyweight movements only and light Oly lifting WODs. He concerns you in events where you need to be strong.
If you have eight weeks to get them ready to compete, which athlete will you choose to represent you? Most of us will say Athlete B because you can get him in pretty good shape and deep down you know Athlete A is not going to get strong enough in eight weeks.
The Reality of Strength
I work with college coaches who recruit players and offer large scholarships to play for them. If you are strong and fast, they feel they can make you a player; on the other hand, if you have skill but no speed or explosive power, they show little interest. That is because they know that process takes a long time to build and to teach you a position is an easier task. Same concept as CrossFit.
You are far better off, as I have said repeatedly, to get strong — really strong — first, and then worry about getting in shape. Strength train like you are possessed. The order of focus must be switched around: strength first, then cardio.
Just to prove my point: I had two of my guys at UA do “Lynne” for fun: 5 rounds of bodyweight bench into bodyweight pull-ups. They were both in the 20’s on both throughout the workout, and neither of them have ever done it before. How can it be? Absolute strength is the answer. Stronger with a greater power output rating.