Well, we made it! The 2018 Open season is over, and again on behalf of the Five Alarm staff, I want to tell you all how proud we are of all of you. Whether you participated in the Open or not, you’ve committed to improving your health and fitness, and we’re committed to helping you achieve your goals.
So, let’s chat about the next phase of our programming here at Five Alarm. Essentially, we’re now entering a long “Off Season.” This long off season will cycle through three similar (but different) foci. The first of these is a Strength Focus, where even though we continue working on all 10 General Fitness Skills, we’ll have a bias more toward our Strength (barbell and bodyweight). And THAT is the what we’re going to talk about in this post, the upcoming strength cycles for both Fitness and Performance.
BOTH FITNESS AND PERFORMANCE
As mentioned above, both Fitness and Performance will be undertaking their own unique strength cycles (while still working on skills and conditioning). Once you’ve read about each one of the cycles, it will be up to you to determine which cycle you’d like to do. Once chosen, you should not switch between cycles! (You can still go back and forth between Fitness and Performance for MetCons.) If you have any questions at all, please ask a coach. We are more than happy to help you make any decisions.
Also, if you don’t already keep a workout journal (in an actual journal, on a cellphone app, etc.), then I recommend starting one. Even if you only keep track of your strength numbers, it will be useful to look back as the weeks progress.
Lastly, regardless of what strength cycle you may be doing, our focus is and always will be on technique! Whether it’s a max rep or max effort set, we want to limit any technique breakdown. This allows us to stay safe and continue to make progress over a long period. Fitness and health are a marathon, not a sprint. We’re looking for that “low trajectory toward a distant horizon.” (Ben Bergeron) Now, let’s dig in!
FITNESS (Wendler / 5-3-1)
Fitness’s strength cycle is based on the popular Wendler or 5-3-1 strength program. Here’s how it works…
You recently found (or will find) your 1RMs in Back Squat, Strict Press, and Deadlift. Maybe it was a true 1RM, maybe a Heavy Single, or maybe you calculated it after finding a 3RM or 5RM. Now that you’ve got that number, we’re going to multiply it by 90%. The resulting number we will call our “Training Max.” Effectively, for the duration of the cycle, we will consider our Training Max as our 1RM.
From there, the cycle will provide specific reps and percentages each week. At the risk of being redundant, the percentages provided by the cycle are based off of your Training Max, NOT your 1RM number. Let’s work through an example…
Regardless of how I came about it (true 1RM, Heavy Single, or calculation), I’ve got a 1RM Back Squat number of 200#. I multiply that by 90% to get a Back Squat Training Max of 180# for the duration of the cycle. In Week One, my reps and percentages are 5 reps @ 65%, 5 reps @ 75%, and 5+ @ 85%. So, on Back Squat Day, my strength work will look like this…
- 5 reps @ 65% (120 = 180 x 0.65)
- 5 reps @ 75% (135 = 180 x 0.75)
- 5+ reps @ 85% (155 = 180 x 0.85)
This is essentially 3 x 5, climbing across the sets. The “+” on the last set implies a Max Rep set. In these cases, you should strive for as many reps as possible at that weight, and at least the given number.
Fitness’s strength will be organized weekly as…
- Monday = Back Squat
- Tuesday = Strict Press
- Friday = Deadlift
Fitness will also move through 4 different phases over its course. Without going into excessive detail, I’m calling the phases Settle In and Get to Know Wendler, Extra Volume, Speed Work, and Retest. I hope this all makes sense! It’s not as complex as it seems! Please don’t hesitate to email or ask me or another coach if you’re unsure on anything!
PERFORMANCE (Conjugate Variant)
Performance’s strength cycle is based on an advanced method of strength training known as conjugate. Unlike Fitness, Performance’s weekly numbers will not be based on your 1RM numbers (regardless how you got them). Rather, those numbers will be primarily used as a baseline to show progress at the end of the cycle. The Performance cycle will be organized this way…
- Monday = Max Effort Lower Body
- Tuesday = Alternating Max Effort and Dynamic Effort Upper Body
- Friday = Dynamic Effort Lower Body
Max Effort Lower Body days will move through several different exercises in 2 week increments, working back toward our specific tests of Back Squat, Strict Press, and Deadlift. One week will build to a 3RM of a given exercise, and the following week will build to a 1RM of the same exercise with two max rep back off sets at 80%. The week after that, the exercise will switch and be back to building to a 3RM. For example:
- Week 1: Sumo Deadlift 5 x 3, building to a 3RM.
- Week 2: Sumo Deadlift 1RM, then 2 x AMRAP @ 80%
- Week 3: Front Squat 5 x 3, building to a 3RM.
Upper Body days will alternate weekly between a similar Max Effort like Lower Body and a Dynamic Effort. The Dynamic Effort exercises will also rotate, but will be at light percentages for a large number of sets and few reps, with minimal rest between. The focus on any Dynamic Effort day is SPEED. An Upper Body Dynamic Effort example would be: Strict Press EMOM 12: 3 Reps @ 50%.
Lastly, the Dynamic Effort Lower Body days will consist of Olympic Weightlifting, primarily Snatch and Clean variations and/or complexes. For these, the focus should be proper technique and the SPEED of the Pull or the Squat.
The Performance cycle is one long cycle, with a peak/retest at the end.
SO YOU WANT TO BENCH PRESS
In general, the Bench Press serves very little purpose in CrossFit or life as a whole. However, we understand that it does have some carryover, and more than that, it can be fun and people love it! If you think you’d like to add Bench Press into the programming during this strength cycle, it’s recommended to try to fit it in on a Saturday Open Gym. Here’s how you’d go about it…
- Fitness: Bench Press won’t be programmed into the general programming. It can be added in fairly easily by following the same reps and percentages for each week. Keep in mind, in order for this to work, you’ll have to establish a 1RM or Heavy Single (and a Training Max after that).
- Performance: A little more complex. For the most part, you’re going to be looking to do the OPPOSITE of whatever you did on Wednesday for Upper Body. If you did a Max Effort Upper Body on Wednesday, you’d do a Dynamic Effort Upper Body on Saturday, and vice versa. If you’d like a little more guidance on specifically how to handle something like that, see or email me (49%).
Hopefully this has all made sense to you. Again, if you have any questions at all, please ask a coach. We’re here for you, and want to help you succeed in any way we can!