Sunday, July 22, 2012

CrossFit Geeking: Fran

In this post I explored "Linda" and how one can play around with Force*Distance/Time to make calculations of power output (good demos of Linda here by Speal in 11.33(!), here by Gillian in 14.51 (!), and here by one of the original CrossFit beasts, Nicole Carroll.

The next day I completed "Isabel" (30 repetitions of the power snatch, prescribed at 135#, and seen here with two CrossFit monsters, the action starts at about 3.30), and yesterday Fran (45 thrusters at 95#, and 45 pullups, done as a 21-15-9 rep scheme).  These are classic CrossFit benchmark workouts.  Their significance is as measures of increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.  Isabel and Fran are both "short", relatively speaking; my last Isabel was 3.52 @ 115#, and Fran is consistently around 4.30 at 95#.  Linda is much longer at 30+ minutes.

Isabel uses a heavier weight across a huge range of motion - ground to overhead is about 70 inches - for 30 reps.  Fran uses two shorter movements - thrusters move the bar about 48", pullups move body weight about 28" - and lighter weights, for 90 reps.

For me, that means Fran expresses far more power than most any WOD - 186 foot pounds/second.  Isabel comes in at nearly double Linda at 133 fp/s, but well below Fran.  The difference in metabolic impact is profound - Fran is misery.  I know athletes who feel like puking before they do Fran, never mind after.  How can a less than four minute workout that uses pullups and a 95# barbell be such a horrible experience?  The power output answers the question - Fran is a combination of weight and range of motion and type of modality that allows an athlete to generate immense power output. To drive that power output the athlete is obviously using fuel rapidly, creating intense deficits of oxygen and ATP.  The body will warn you when you "act like that" - it will send you pain signals, to, in effect, ask "do you really want to do this?"  As I type this, I can almost hear the line "So do you, punk?" Until I started yesterday, I did not, but then, I did it anyway.

For Isabel, my time has decreased from my first effort at almost 12 minutes, to under 8 with 135#.  Fran has dropped from my 2007 baptism of 10.26 to my last five efforts the last three years all being under 4.40s.  Linda is hard to use for comparisons since I've used so many weights over the years, but my first two efforts were both over 50 minutes.  In other words, I have increased my work capacity (more work, less time) over broad time (short and long efforts) and modal (thrusters, pullups, snatches, cleans, deadlifts, and bench presses in these three workouts) domains.

By far the most rapid gains are in metabolic tolerance of anaerobic efforts, and that capacity by the way, is the most useful in sport, combat and life.  The next source of gain comes from improvement in the use of the hip to make force (skill and new muscle/nervous system adaptations with the application of skill to a variety of stimuli).  Last comes more general adaptations like strength, and specific skills, such as butterfly kipping pullups, olympic lifts, and/or slow lifts like the deadlift.

In this post, I advocated that training be focused on obtaining desired physical outcomes - shoot for more than larger muscles, more than just calories burned; shoot for improved performance in the arenas you value most.  Hopefully, this short discussion illustrates how CrossFit provides improved outcomes in many if not all arenas.

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