It Takes Time and Reps

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Give it a 1,000 reps and you’re halfway there.

When it comes to muscular development there are four main characteristics to improve in fitness; hypertrophy, strength, power, and muscular endurance. Since CrossFit programming is based around General Physical Preparedness we develop all of these characteristics in our programming. One of my favorite ways to describe CrossFit athletes is “you can outrun the weightlifter and outlift the runner”. Though it may sound a little simplistic there is a lot of truth to the statement. Whereas weightlifters’ focus may be on developing muscular strength-power and runners’ focus is on muscular endurance there is nothing left out in the CrossFit GPP prescription. Within a single week we could have a 1rm back squat, strength, box jumps, power, and even “Murph”, muscular endurance. The only one that is not purposely planned into training and more of a direct result of total volume is hypertrophy. By nature we perform multiple reps and we work within higher percentages of 1RM weights allowing us to develop increased muscle mass with the proper intake of food.

Below is a chart highlighting basic conditions of each characteristics

Characteristic Rep Range % of 1RM Type of Exercise
Strength <6 >85 Basic Lifts1rm Back squat5rm Deadlift
Power 1-23-5 75-90 Olympic WeightliftingBox Jump
Hypertrophy 6-12 60-85 21-15-9Style workouts“Diane”
Endurance >12 <65 “Murph”100 pullups200 pushups

Within CrossFit we are chasing physiological adaptation across all of the 10 General Physical Skill created by Bruce Evans and Jim Cauley who created the Dynamax ball.

The 10 General Physical Skills are listed below:

  1. Cardiorespiratory Endurance
  2. Strength
  3. Stamina
  4. Flexibility
  5. Speed
  6. Power
  7. Coordination
  8. Accuracy
  9. Agility
  10. Balance

The first four are considered organic in nature and are changed via training.  Think of this as more weight, more volume and faster

The last four are neurologic in nature and are changed via practice.  Think about skills exercise, double under drills, transition work for muscle ups and the Bergener Warm Up.

The middle two, Speed and Power are both organic and neurologic and are changed via both training and practice.

These physical changes in our body take time. When those new to CrossFit join they may see what appear to be immediate results, a linear growth in development. Typically these gains are due to the neurological system. You perform a new task a few times and your body responds by being slightly better at the task each time. Whereas the muscular development typically takes several weeks of training, 6-8 weeks as studied by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Neurological change occurs when we increase the amount of muscle fibers working at a time, greater motor recruitment, and or the sensitivity and neurological competency to a specific task. The old adage of “practice makes perfect” is true here. The more reps you perform of a barbell snatch the more you increase your neurological sensitivity and competency to that task. In terms of characteristics, the percentages and load you train that snatch with will increase your muscular power and strength.

Physical muscular change can occur either in increase in total muscle fibers, hypertrophy, or increasing individual muscle fiber size, hyperplasia. Muscular endurance as well occurs due to more cellular components, increasing total mitochondria in individual muscle fibers or capillary innervation.

Does this all sound like a lot of information? The point is, you really do need 1,000 and 1 reps to improve any of these. As we go into the New Year remember that our goals take time. Use this information to boost your commitment to your goals and the dedication it will take going forward. As always all of our staff at CrossFit Rife is here to help you reach them, whether it is to squat 500# or just be able to do the workouts Rx, ask us today how to implement this knowledge purposefully into training!

Nicole Tsetsilas

CF-L2

CSCS

Works Cited:  Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign: Human Kinetics.    Crossfit Level 1 Training Guide.