By: Jeremy D. Howard, Head Coach Crossfit Estero,
CF-L2, PES, CES, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT, USAW-ASPC
Whether you are training to run a marathon, take down a bad guy, tap out your opponent, put out a fire, or just hit a homerun at the next softball game, it is well known that strength and conditioning will be a key component to helping you perform better in your chosen sport or career. Every sport, be it professional, recreational, or tactical, requires the proper application of speed to outrun the other players, power to throw, kick, or hit something far, strength to hit harder, agility to escape and evade, and skill in order to perform the sport well. The thing is, just going in to the local gym or fitness center and doing the traditional 3 sets of 10 repetitions of isolated movements for hypertrophy (increased muscles size) will not necessarily get you to those goals as efficiently or quickly as could an all-inclusive full-spectrum strength and conditioning program, such as CrossFit. After all, when do you do just a bicep curl in sport? More likely a mixed martial arts fighter would use his or her biceps, latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and other muscles in a functional synergy to pull down their opponent. So, why not train your muscles to be more efficient in their functional synergies? CrossFit focuses on more than just hypertrophy, in fact CrossFit addresses 10 General Physical Skills to obtain optimum physical competence in its programming, and they are: Cardiovascular Endurance, Stamina, Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy. All these skill play a vital role in sport and life.
We may all perform as Athletes in our day-to-day lives, you may be the recreational softball player out on the diamond every Thursday night, the Fireman responding to a brush fire in the dry season, or a part of the work group that decides to go run a Tough Mudder as a team for the first time. These are all different versions of Athletes, they may not be on ESPN signing to a professional team for millions of dollars, but they are still, recreationally or tactically, an Athlete. Now, if Athletes only do their sport as training, they will increase their sport specific skills and sport IQ, but it takes the proper dosage of strength and conditioning to increase an Athlete’s performance in their sport. CrossFit’s modality of training is constantly varied, functional movements, at high-intensity, this expose Athletes to sport-like conditions while training the 10 General Physical Skills in order to get the Athlete to be able to use the acquired skills in their sport.
Anyone who has played a sport at least once in their life will attest that there is a psychological aspect to sport. The same is true for CrossFit, it takes an amazing amount of will power to endure a benchmark Workout of the Day, or WOD, such as “Fran” or “Diane”. Now, in order to be the best possible Athlete, maintenance of what the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) refers to as the “ideal performance state” during athletic performances, is required. This ideal performance state is characterized by: an absence of fear or a lack of fear of failure, automatically reacting to situations rather than thinking or analyzing performance, narrowing focus of attention to the tasks at hand, an involuntary sense or effortlessness reactions to situations, sense of personal control, and a sense of slowed time. Fortunately, these are all mentally-toughening adaptations CrossFit Athletes are exposed to through CrossFit’s style of High-Intensity Interval Training. We all know that if the mind is not right, we will not perform well. So, allow the psychological by-product of CrossFit’s programming to help you be as calm and collected as possible under the pressures of your other sport.
CrossFit defines health and fitness in three dimensions, they say the goal is to increase work capacity over broad time, modal domain, and age. Now, to the lay person this may sound like a bunch of jargon meant to sound cool, but let’s take an in-depth look at each of those statements and how they relate to helping anyone master their sport. Increased work capacity simply means to do more things before exhaustion sets in. Imagine being able to perform more plays in a row at your charity football game before having to step-off for water and rest, or imagine having more time on the court during your pick-up basketball game before calling it a day; those are examples of how increased work capacity will help you to be a better Athlete in your sport. Broad time refers to different time ranges and training various energy systems. The NSCA describes three bioenergectic pathways or energy systems of the body, they are the phosphagen system (short duration, high-intensity energy system), Glycolysis (medium duration, medium intensity energy system), and the oxidative system (long duration, low intensity energy system). Each of these pathways reflects to different aspects of sports. Think of the phosphagen system as your ability to work hard and fast, glycolysis is the ability of speed-endurance or the continual turnaround of plays, and finally oxidative as the ability to last the whole game. Next, there is modal domain, this means your work capacity will be increased in everything you do, be it CrossFit WODs, fighting MMA rounds, kicking in doors, or running plays on the soccer field; you will see increases in your performance across everything you do. Finally, CrossFit increases work capacity over all aspects of age. In other words, the outcome of training in CrossFit is a decrease in the degeneration associated to aging. No, CrossFit is not the fountain of youth or cure for aging, but it can mute the degenerative effects of aging through adaptation to activity. This way, when you advance to the master’s division of your sport you will still be performing well, or worse-case scenario, you will still be performing.
We all want to stay active, be it to make friends, to continue the fun of sport competition, or to deal with the stresses of everyday life. Many of us chose sport as a way of staying active and healthy, now we have to make the decision of what strength and conditioning plan will best prepare us for mastering the sport we chose. Traditional training is good, but not great at obtaining athletic prowess, it will get the job done but not as effectively as other methods. CrossFit, by definition, demonstrates a full-spectrum total conditioning plan designed to address all aspects of athletic performance, as well as addressing the psychological components of what a good Athlete needs, thus it seems the smart choice for a strength and conditioning plan for Athletes of all levels to master their sport.
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