Thursday, July 19, 2012

WOD: Linda (Three Bars of Death)

Did battle with Linda tonight - my 9th effort.  Met Linda in 2007.  Tonight was the heaviest attempt that I have completed in reasonable time - under 35 minutes.

Linda is prescribed as 1.5 bodyweight deadlifts, bodyweight bench press, and .75 body weight cleans (which can be done as squat cleans or power cleans - the latter is considerably easier).  The rep scheme is to do 10 of each movement, then 9, etc, until 55 reps are complete for each movement.  The goal is to complete all 165 reps as fast as possible.  The workout has been nicknamed "3 bars of death".  Pulling those heavy deads after the first round is a bear.

I did not "RX" the WOD tonight - 295 deadlift, 195 bench, and 145 squat cleans (-9.5#, 8# and 8#  from the RXed weight respectively).  I used to think I could never complete this WOD as RXed in a reasonable amount of time, but I'm close now, five years older and five years more experienced in CrossFit.  An RX'ed Linda in 30 minutes would be very satisfying.  Just to keep this in perspective - I bet that CrossFit's best could use these weights and half my time.

NOTE:  Reasonable amount of time means - I'd have time to do this on a typical day when I'm time sharing with family, work and working out.

One of the curious things about CrossFit is that you can measure your workouts by time, by load, or by power (mathematically, power is force times distance divided by time:  f * d/t).  The question then is - which matters most?

CrossFit states its methodology is to apply constantly varied functional movement at high intensity.  Intensity is defined as power.  The desired outcome is to increase work capacity across broad time and modal domains - in other words, you should be competent for short or long efforts, with weights or body weight, and whether the demand is to run, jump, climb, lift, carry or throw.  Even better if you can do all of the above with a skill component - accuracy, agility, skill, and/or coordination.  And especially better if the skill elements allow you to increase the power output - for example, the kipping pull-up (same load, same distance, faster).

So how'd I do on power output?  Tonight, the Linda Load (LL) was 635#, and power output was ~57 foot pounds/second.  You could convert that to a horsepower number if desired (I'm betting - less than 1HP).  My highest power output for Linda was 64 FP/s, but that was with a LL of only 551#, completed in 27 minutes.  Deadlifts at 254 aren't easy but I can move that much faster with less rest, thus the higher power.  

Back to the "which is better" question - the answer is, "it depends."  These are not really the same workout due to the significantly lighter load.  The fast, light Linda was more a test of metabolic conditioning, with little emphasis on strength.  The Linda from tonight required pulling a near 300 pound bar off the ground 55 times - that is a strength test for me, but a particular kind.  Specifically, could the athlete lift with requisite technique while gasping for breath, under significant metabolic duress?  Belly tight, back in position, weigh in the heels, bar close to body, and maintaining all the above while putting the bar back down.  In other words, not just strength, but strength applied under duress and with a significant skill component - like you might be demanded to do in sport, combat or life.

I can't think of no better example of Coach Glassman's premise, which is more or less, "If you segment your training into running, then lifting, then doing body weight work, you develop segmented capacity."  You can deadlift 700#?  And your friend can snatch 400#?  Great.  Try applying all that strength/power when you just had to sprint 400m in gear to catch the bad guy and subdue him/her.  Will the bad guy let you catch your breath before the engagement?  In that case, better hope he's doing segmented training too, or none.

Fair warning - if you never train at high metabolic outputs for significant time duration (starting at ~30s very high output, say 200m run speed), be ready to feel nauseated when you first try.  This, by the way, is not a desirable outcome when one is in extremis.

That said, tonight was a good compromise - significant weight, but reasonable time, and better power output than my last three attempts with slightly heavier weights.

Interesting fitness geek experiment: get together with Linda once a month for a year, using the "Light Linda" and "Beefy Linda" weights in alternating months, and see how much time you could take off of either, and/or if you could upgrade the power outputs on heavy Linda to better match the Light Linda time.  It also would be interesting to measure the relationship of power to weight as one lighted the LL even further - at what weight would the power peak and then tail off?  Likewise, at what weight would the power drop a "quantum" below tonight's 57 ft pounds/second?

Last point is - this is one of the grand things about CrossFit for me.  I can completely punish my metabolic system, train for skills while under metabolic duress, and finish with no knee pain - back when my only "cardio" tool was running I was much, much less fit simply because of the limits on mileage, never mind the lack of relative intensity.  And, you don't need barbells and plates to replicate this workout - dead lifting a heavy sand bag or odd object, push-ups (add weight too your back if it's too easy), and box jumps would do nicely.

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