Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nobody told me there was gonna be math

Yesterday was the first day of the 603's new programming. Dallas sent me a preview of the week on Friday. I didn't even get all the way through Monday's workout before I was swearing at him. See, my programming is pretty good. He taught me well. But he just puts things together in a manner that I wouldn't even consider. In fact, there are some workouts that I look at and think, "I don't get that at ALL". Then I try to do it, and THEN I get it. He's really, really good.

Day one was nothing but overhead squats. These, in general, are at the top of my Goat List, but I was at least excited to work on some more strength stuff. Until I read these two little words... "for time". Ah, crap. From the CrossFit 603 site:

"Overhead squat (OHS) a total of 20 x your body weight (BW), for time.

For example, at a BW of 180#, that’s 80 reps with a 45# bar, or 20 reps with 180#, or any combination in between. Sorry for the complex math (no, not really). Here’s the equation: (20 x body weight) / OHS weight = # Reps. Do ‘em. Fast. Record BW, weight on the bar, and time."

Damn. At a body weight of 135#, that means I have to move 2,700#. I was planning on hitting a few reps here and a few there, working up to the last few reps at my previous 1RM. But clearly, that wasn't going to get me done with this workout fast, so I had to rethink. See, the weight I move is going to be the same no matter what rep scheme I use. I can move 45# x 60, or I can move 65# x 40. Either way, it's still 2,700 pounds, but I have to figure out how to do that in the most efficient manner. Which means I can't work with a weight that I'm going to dump a bunch of times... but I also can't work with a weight so light I have to do a stupid number of reps to get through. As Gant put it, "If you lower the reps, the weights get too high. If you lower the weight, the time under tension is too high." The part of my brain that handles math and logic hurts.

Despite giving this some consideration up front, I still didn't play this one right. I knew I should have stuck with just the bar, because I knew I could do sets of 10-12 at that weight with little rest in between. (Gant agrees, saying, "Between 8-12 reps is a good target... 4 sets of 10 is a good scheme for something like this.") But I decided to start at 50#, thinking 5# isn't enough weight to make much of a difference. Wrong. I got through 17 reps at 50#, and it took me around 4:00. I was doing 5-6 at a time, but with the overhead squat, every time you stop, the "get the bar back up there" process is both time consuming and physically tiring. Finally, I took time to drop the plates and started working with just the bar. And the remaining 41 reps went just as fast as the first 17.

I finished in just over 9:00, but if I did this workout again tomorrow, I would cut my time in half, just knowing how to play it. And it's a good lesson to learn, because we're going to have a LOT of these types of workouts in our programming. I'm not sure what to call them. They're for time, but not really a met-con, because rarely will cardio capacity be your limiting factor. They're muscularly fatiguing, but not pure strength work, because you have to create a manageable, sustainable load for yourself. It's certainly not a brand new concept, as CrossFit programs these types of workouts as well. But I've never worked the Main Page, so this is kind of a new challenge for me. High five, Constantly Varied.

If you're looking for something to do this week, give this one a shot. You can find the full program (including today's buy-in and cash out) on the 603 site. Let us know how you do - and what your strategy was going into it. As for me, I still moved 2,700 pounds overhead squatting, so I'm okay with a little bit of strategy melt-down. But you can bet your booty that the next time this one comes up (and it WILL come up again) I'll be ready.

My OHS form still needs serious werk...


Jay C said...


Looks like a brutal WOD. You're OHS form looks pretty tight.

Great blog, great comments on the CF boards.

Hope new box is going well.


Dallas said...

This workout was distinctly un-fun for me because OHS are a serious un-strength of mine. At least I can get them done fast, right?... Umm, not so much.

Anyway, what I wanted to catalyze was an examination of one's own strengths prior to the workout, and to use that awareness to plan the workout. And since I can't do 20 unbroken BW OHS, I had to settle for several dozen (much) lighter reps. But I knew that I couldn't blow through a bunch of heavy OHS, so I had to scale the weights so I could keep moving, i.e. maintain a high average power output. This workout was about sustaining maximal power output during a technically-challenging movement. Think "Isabel". I compare the weight chosen with this workout to the damper settings on an erg: the lower the weight (damper setting) the faster the cadence you have to maintain to keep your power output high. But if you crank the weight (damper) up TOO high, you won't be able to crank out enough reps FAST enough to maximize your power output. Excluding the extremes of body size and fitness, most of us will maximize our performance at a moderate weight and a moderate-but-consistent pace. Gant planned it well. And beat me by almost a minute. Nice work, man.



t-dot sio said...

this is brilliant!
to be quite honest my math stinks and i didn't quite "get" it until you posted the break down and your theory.
i love that you did it wrong! lol! just seems like i am always reading stuff on perfect form, perfect technique...so nice to start from where most of us are at. here's where it went wrong...here's what and how it'll get fixed!
got me thinking, we advocate journaling so much but it's kinda useless if you aren't using your journaling after the fact to analyze performance and plan gains. like data collecting without analysis and trending...what's the point.
like dallas said above, you have to be aware of how much you can move and at what point it gets too much..or is too little.
i don't think i have REALLY taken the time to review and apply my journaling data. shame...cuz i got books full! this has inspired me to do just that...and perhaps give this terrifying WOD a go.
pleeeeeze keep posting these badass WOD's and blogs! i heart em!

Brian DeGennaro said...

CF needs more WoDs like this, to the point that it remains simple and effective. That's the most attractive part of CF I feel. Keep up the good work Melissa!

Oh and try to not shrug the shoulders in the ear, instead try to pinch the shoulder blades together and then up. That should help.

Melissa Byers said...

Brian DeG!

Thanks for that shrug tip. I've always lost the bar forward on these, and recently I figured out on my own that if I shrug AND pull back (as you are suggesting), it keeps the bar in place AND keeps my upper back way tighter. Thanks for the tip.

You and Rachel need to come visit me! Seriously - we'll put you up and everything. Although I'm not sure my fridge can hold that much food all at once... maybe you should just sleep on the floor of our local Meat House. That would be easier.

Bob Guere said...

Oh... I have to say this is metcon at it's best. (think met. pathways)... great one, I'll be using it very soon in my gym.

Jay Ashman said...

this was a very good workout, for sure. I think your form looks pretty good from that picture as well, I see little wrong with that, of course it is one rep and I am not expert... but it looks good to me.

My best reps were when I was doing the whole "shrug/pullback" thing Brian talks about, and it works well.

word verification - poings... kind of what you could envision hearing as I went up and down 41 times during this workout.

LincolnBrigham said...

I have done similar workouts in the past and ran into a problem. The problem is that if the trainees are allowed to self-select the weight, the trainee who picks the lightest [relative] weight ALWAYS FINISHES FIRST and gets a crappy workout.

What I did to solve this is to score the workout for points instead of tonnage:
1/3 bodyweight gets 1 point.
1/2 bodyweight gets 2 points.
2/3 bodyweight gets 3 points
3/4 bodyweight gets 4 points.
Bodyweight gets 8 points.
NOW pick a weight.

Melissa Byers said...


First of all, I'm psyched that you dropped in here. :)

Interesting, and creative. But I don't see how the light-weight trainee who still, in fact, moves 20xBW the fastest, gets a "crappy workout". I used light weight, but I had to move it more times, so my time under tension was longer... and that workout didn't feel crappy.

You always share good stuff, so let me hear it.


Brian DeGennaro said...

Hah, we will definitely stop by one day. I have friends in NH to visit anyways and Rach used to live in MA so I'm sure we'll be up in the NE area sooner or later.

By the way, you said you were going to be helping at the NE qualifier in Albany? Also, are you going to Everett's May seminar?

Jason Struck, RKC said...


And I will tape it.


Tonnage; 3160

? Weight?

I am weighing about 158lbs. 95lbs basically means 34 reps. How about I go that route?

LincolnBrigham said...

Hey Melissa,
"Crappy" was shorthand for a much longer description. By that I meant a pure endurance workout with little strength benefits. Light weight/high rep bullshit. "Toning and pumping." The risk is setting up a workout where the result is that some monster working with 70 kilos will get crushed by some noob doing a million reps with an empty barbell. T'aint right, even though the power output for the workout is mathematically higher for the noob. We want serious weight on the barbell.

I once had an elderly husband/wife do a "Push Press for Tonnage" workout, 10 minute limit. Grandma had the much more tonnage. How? She picked 10 kilos and he picked 40. She was breathing a bit but he was wrecked. He got the better workout yet lost.

If the workout is programmed correctly, the monsters should NEVER get outscored by the noobs. If you actually desire a light weight/high rep workout, then go ahead and program the workout in such a way to encourage the trainees to 'game it' that way. But if you want a typical Crossfit metcon with heavy weights over an extended time, find a way to encourage trainees to self-select heavy weights.

Make sense?

LincolnBrigham said...

More thoughts:
Let's use Jason Struck from above as an example. He's got to lift 3160.

72 reps with just the barbell
34 reps with 95 pounds
20 reps with 160
14 reps with 225

I'm betting he can get 72 reps with the barbell in about 2 minutes. (I've done that Tabata-style in 2.5 minutes and I'm old, tall, and a crappy squatter.) Half a Tabata, not much effort and not much of a workout. But if he uses 160? He'll be in much more serious metabolic distress if he manages 20reps in 2minutes. And 14 reps with 1.5x bodyweight? Hella workout but Fuhgettaboutit. He'd have to be the most fit guy in Crossfit and still he'd finish last.

Dallas said...

How badly did you smash the OHS workout?


Bob Guere said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Guere said...

I'll chime in with our experience with this WOD. Three of us did this last night, none of us are "beast" by any definition. I'm at 205# and have some shoulder flexibility "challenges"... so I opted for 76# and 54 reps. My OHS is comfortable at 100 and even a little above, but at speed, I was worried about my shoulders. (don't want any re-injury) Another of our athletes is 181#, he did 40 reps at 90#. And a third athlete, who is not as experienced, and weighs 141#. She went with the 45# bar at 63 reps. Both myself and the other guy experienced about the same thing. Fast reps, both finished in the 2-3 minute range and the only limiting factor was grip/wrist fatigue. Our 45# bar girl, however, experienced good shoulder fatigue and core tasking to keep the bar overhead. She took about 9 minutes, and her sets were broken down into 6-8 early on... by the end she was having a hard time keeping the bar in the frontal plane and her sets were 2's and 3's sometimes. This workout highlighted her shoulder and core weakness very well.

I fully agree with those that say this should be a ~40 rep workout, but even at that I'm guessing for me (at 205#) it wouldn't have been too terribly difficult. It was really just a "as fast as I could go" WOD. I do plan on doing this again at that weight (105#) as soon as I feel comfortable with my shoulders. It served as a great warmup for us before we did Helen. The 45# bar girl did not do Helen, however.

My .02

Bob Guere said...

Correction, our female athlete took 6:30 to do this... my bad, I short-changed her a bit there.

Jason Struck, RKC said...

haven't done it yet.

I will do and tape tomorrow AM.

I have done 45lbs for 100 reps in about 4:20 before. While I can say that it wasn't a 'great' workout, I was so incredibly sore two days later.

I also know that at one point I could do 20+ reps with 115 in a straight set, but I haven't tried that in a while. I consider the possible weight range to be 45lbs through 195lbs(current 1RM). 30-40% of this F is about 90-100lbs, so that's where I think I will get the highest power output. I will do it at 95lbs.

Jason Struck, RKC said...


LincolnBrigham said...

Nice job. I think you picked an good weight.

On your blog you said,
"Intermediates should be forced to do 50-70% of their current 1RM. Advanced should be allowed to self select a weight 95/65lbs or greater"

I think that's the trick. Make them select loads 50% and above. If you don't FORCE them to pick a decent load, in a large class the fastest time will always be whoever picks the lightest load, not who is in the best shape.

I'd be really curious to see what you could do in this workout with 20 kils (44 pounds). I bet you'd go sub 2:00 EASY. If you went with a 75% load (~22 reps) I'm guessing you'd go well over 3:00.

Jason Struck, RKC said...

I could not complete 20kgs by 80~ reps fast enough to beat this time. My form and technique would be terrible.

I could maybe do 115lbs, and not drop the bar to the floor, and do it in 80-100 seconds. Maybe.

Jason Struck, RKC said...

so, empty barbell would require me to complete 71 reps. I think that would take too long. it might be about the same time (i have done 100 in 4:21)but it wouldn't be significantly faster.

I have done a straight set of 21 before with 115lbs, so I'd need another 6 to finish it. I would probably just do 15 and 12 and be done.

At one point, I was training to do 15 reps at BW and to hopefully have a good showing in a Nicole Carrol cert. squat off, so I am actually pretty well prepared for this WOD.