I now publish regular breathing drills and give the occassional zoom seminar . However, breathing has been one of those ongoing issues where people have been able to misrepresent, twist and ignore the science.
This goes for exercise professionals, miracle healers and straight up loonies.
Here we have 112g of roast chicken, (4 blocks) 150g of boiled potato (3 blocks) . I rubbed 2 blocks of butter onto the chicken ( kate loves her crispy skin) and put about 2 blocks of butter onto the vegetables. I boiled up a “mess” of courgettes, broccoli and cabbage, served with an ” as much as you can eat” mentality. Any diet that restricts non starchy carb should be avoided. As many veggies as you can get down I say!!
Use the veggie stock to make gravy (with the juice from the chicken)
The sneaky “bad” things I did were: 1) slung a glass of wine into the baking pan, to support the juice from the chicken and the trivet ( thats the bed of onion, celery and carrot) hoping that most of the alcohol had boiled away ( check if I”m delusional, by following this thread) and 2) stirred in 2 tea spoons of gravy powder which had a bit of carb in. I’ve ignored that as it minor and life is too short.
Delicious and filling!
Straight after diner, when the chicken is cold, rip it off the bone, with your hands. Put the trivet and the bones and any remainder gravy/juice into a pot to make a stock ( you’ll need this for tomorrows curry)
Today, kate and I are off to the gym ( at the amazing Crossfit London) to do a strength workout 3 sets of 5’s of deadlift, squat and press.
If you are stuck at home can I suggest 3 sets of 10 kettlebell deadlift (holding whatever weight kettlebell you have), 3 sets of 10 goblet squats, ( with a weight you can cope with) and 3 sets of 10 dumbbell press. Do these with rest periods as a strength session, not a mad workout!
Not every workout should be a near death intense workout, you need to sprinkle in strength ( and you’ll see the odd run now and then)
If you want more hints and tips do join the mailing list. Ill be launching a free Zone course and I’ll email when it’s ready.
To see if I have time to help you personally in an around the city and the East End of london, do drop me an email Andrew@andrewstemler.com
Among a batch of reports studying the Crossfit method, you’ll find “physiological Predictors of Competition Performance athletes” by Martinez-Gomez et al worth a read ( or a quick skim).
In reality any attempt to predict an athletes performance in a specific wod is always a bit speculative as different wod’s can have massively different outputs and can focus on specific “modal domains”that can bring specialists to their knees. Wod’s can be as wide ranging as “run 5k” or “deadlift 1,1,1,1,1,1,1”.
Nevertheless this study took the 5 wods of the Crossfit Open in 2019 and evaluated the performance of 15 athletes who were also assessed against various laboratory tests: incremental load test for deep full squat and bench press; squat, countermovement and drop jump tests; and incremental running and Wingate tests. It would be a fairly safe bet to say that the athlete who scores high on all of these tests would also score highly in the Wod’s.
In 2019 the “open” wods were
19.1 Complete as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of
19 wall-ball shots
19.2 Beginning on an 8-minute clock, complete as many reps as possible of:
15 squat cleans, 135 / 85 lb.
13 squat cleans, 185 / 115 lb.
If completed before 8 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
11 squat cleans, 225 / 145 lb.
If completed before 12 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
9 squat cleans, 275 / 175 lb.
If completed before 16 minutes, add 4 minutes to the clock and proceed to:
7 squat cleans, 315 / 205 lb.
19.3 For time:
200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge
50 dumbbell box step-ups
50 strict handstand push-ups
200-ft. handstand walk
Men 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box Women 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box
For total time:
3 rounds of:
12 bar-facing burpees
Rest 3 minutes
Then, 3 rounds of:
10 bar muscle-ups
12 bar-facing burpees
Men 95 lb. Women 65 lb.
33-27-21-15-9 reps for time of:
Men 95 lb. Women 65 lb.
“CrossFit performance (i.e., final ranking considering the sum of all WODs, as assessed by number of repetitions, time spent in exercises or weight lifted) was significantly related to jump ability, mean and peak power output during the Wingate test, relative maximum strength for the deep full squat and the bench press, and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and speed during the incremental test”. However the relationship varied depending on the wod analysed. No surprise there.
In the early stages many people struggle with the deadlift. This struggle is down to many factors: hamstring inflexibility, balance, proprioception (or lack of it) or simply, pure “what the hell is this”.
Mastering the move is made harder by the fact that many people think they can only practice the move in the gym. If you struggle, more practice is useful, hence the imaginary bar drill.
Focus on holding an imaginary bar, anywhere: at home, at work, in the pub.
Like many fitness fades, the interest faded from main stream use, due in part to silly claims. A regime that promises to get you fit and trim in 90 seconds a day is bound to sell you the book or course, but fail to deliver much , if any, fitness.
This is a shame, as given the right objectives, the static hold has a really useful role to play. According to James Hewitt who wrote Isometrics for you: Get fit and trim in 90 seconds a day in 1966 “without special apparatus and without moving a muscle you can grow stronger and build, or reshape your body to nearer your hearts’ desire. The static contraction has been part of physical culture systems for a very long time. Hatha yoga contains postures held without movement”.
Put simply, isometrics are a system of physical exercises in which muscles are caused to act against each other or against a fixed object. It’s a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint.
The popular regimes focused on basic body building type exercises and suggested a 6 second static contraction with a maximum, or comfortable maximum contraction. This bicep curl picture gives you a good idea.
Whilst this had some value, the use of the extended static hold in functional fitness is probably in developing the capacity to simply hold postures which contribute to actual exercises. The reality is that if you want to kick up to a rock solid free standing handstand, or do 20 plus pull ups, you better be able to hold a static ( albeit “leaning” ) handstand against the wall, and hang for 60, 90, 120, 180 seconds. Extra grip strength is always useful!
Btw you could find yourself struggling at 10 seconds when you start. Just do what you can and build up
So think about your regime and hunt out obvious postures to practice: the side planks, lunging pushes against a wall and deadlift holds spring to mind. Adding the L sit, a horse stance ( the old martial arts favourite) and a “hip up” hold can , when combined, make a really useful home exercise regime.
Successful Strength training like marriage is measured in years not weeks or months
Pay attention to the basics . Lift often, lift heavy (5 plus, but vary from 5 to 1) be happy with small increases. Every relationship or “thing” in your life requires consistency
Don’t panic if you plateau.
In what other part of (real) human existence do we expect to have increases all the time . We can tamper with economics and pretend we have yearly growth: some NHS workers ( apparently ) get a grade increase each year , but that always. always unravels. “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow…….’
The hall marks of successful strength training (marriage) is patience and maturity: watch for the opportunity to improve but don’t obsess, be happy with consolidation, treasure consistency and above all, be confident enough to rest and take it easy.
Eat well and sleep well
Bear in mind that all advanced programming is dedicated to one phenomenon, failure. Many marriages fail because one partner isn’t happy with the perfection they have, and instead indulges in fantasy . Don’t let the strength porn of a few gifted ( psychotic) individuals deprave and corrupt your normal image of how things are.
Failure is rushing at fantasy target too hard and fast.
Having preached consistency, it’s equally essential to mix it up and be creative. Add some strongman training, add and vary assistance exercises.
Variety has always been the spice of life But variety is still just a spice. It makes the fundamentals seem a bit different that’s all. It still needs the fundamentals/
In short, don’t see strength as something geeky or the preserve of experts. See it as the perfect romance or marriage, demanding consistent loyalty commitment and work , along with romance and variation.
So to be successful, research how to be romantic and simply build it into your strength regime
Assuming you get to a decent gym, that allows you to do some barbell movements, how do you go about developing the strength you so long for? The reality is that the average Gym instructor may know a bit about hypertrophy ( ” 3 sets of 10 mate!”) but that’s about it. Sitting in a Globo gym among a pile of machines does that to people. It’s tragic. But, let’s say, you have something heavy and you want to lift it, how many sets, how many reps?
One of the secrets of elite trainers, like me, is that we are quite well-read: we look at British, American, and Russian strength training literature. ( mind you, if Tabata is Japanese, add Japanese literature to that list).An interesting piece of research was carried out by soviet Sports scientist, AS Prilepin, who studied the training logs of 1000 leading weightlifting champions. The table below is an averaging of these logs and shows the % of 1 rep max, the number of reps performed per set, the optimal amount of reps per workout, and the range of reps used indicated by the research. This table is specifically for gaining maximal strength
The Prilepin Table:
Reps per set
Recommended optimal Total of Reps
Range of reps seen in research
3 – 6
70 – 79%
3 – 6
12 – 24
80 – 89%
2 – 4
10 – 20
90% and above
1 – 2
4 – 10
There are of course a few points worthy of mention. These tables were extracted from the training journals of Olympic weight lifters and it’s possible to argue that this would not apply to other lifts ( the slower lifts like the squat, deadlift press, etc).
This also assumes you have a reliable 1 rep max figure, and for that matter, an up-to-date one.
What I don’t know ( and if anyone does, please let me know) does he use the idea of a 1 rep max as your best ever lift. If you look at Zatsiorsky and Kraemer, they establish a difference between a training max and a competition 1 rep max. They suggest that the difference is about 12.5% +/- 2.5% in superior weightlifters. The further makes the distinction that a training max is a load you lift with no emotional arousal which can be monitored by your heart rate. If someone says, lift that weight, and your heart rate zooms up in anticipation, that load is (probably) above your training max. This,of course, assumes some experience. Stopping the average sedentary person and saying, lift that weight, will probably get most people’s heart rate up!
These tables and information are, of course, a snapshot. I’m not discussing long-term fatigue, issues of scheduling.
In this article we visit the basic language of weightlifting and how it relates to the concept of relative intensity.
When it comes to using weight; in simple terms, people think this: lift the heaviest weight you can, that’s your 1 rep max; then based on that you can lift 90% of it 3 times (3reps), 85% of it 5 times, 75% 10 times. If you do 3 rounds of 3 reps, that’s 3 sets.
So weight lifting is a mix of percentages, sets and reps, all based on a one rep max. Simples!
This is a great place to start, but to develop your strength head, you need to develop your knowledge and insights into the strength game.
Some time ago, Zatsiorsky pointed out there are two types of one rep maxes you can have: a competition 1 rep max, and a training 1 rep max.
A) A competition max is where you get hyped up and get a PB and scream a lot.
B) A training 1 rep max
However, often people skip the full definition of a 1 rep training max.
A maximum training weight is the heaviest weight you can lift without substantial emotional stress.
Damn. No screaming.
For athletes, the difference between the two is great. The example Zatsiorsky cites is that for athletes who lift 200 kg during a competition, a 180kg is typically above their maximum training weight. As a possible indicator, if your heart rate increases before your lift, that’s a sign of emotional engagement. Weightlifting is meant to stress your body, not your mind.
That’s the job of your partner and employer.
In short, if you screamed it up – it’s too heavy to use as a basis for regular training.
So, if you are calculating reps and sets using a 1 rep max, please, please use the right one; otherwise you’ll break. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon… If you want to properly test your 1 rep max, book a PT session with one of the training team.
If you have been lifting regularly for a while, you have probably begun to review strength literature and you are probably aware that lifting 80% of your 1 rep max provokes strength gain.
So, when lifting sets of 5, you’d probably like to put 80% of your 1 rep max on the bar. Everyone does that, but think about what it is you’d are actually be doing.
Let’s forget weightlifting for a moment, and talk about bricks. Imagine you are a labourer on a building site. Lets say we run a test to see how many bricks you can move in a day. For argument’s sake, let’s say you can move 1000.
Normally in training we wouldn’t want to move the 1000, we would do 800 ( 80%) but many people want to set 5 reps of that. So there you are, lifting 5 x 800 =4000.
If you tried to do that in a day, you’d probably die.
Back to the weight room. So you can lift 100kg calmly as your 1 rep max. You’ve been told if you lift 80% and over of this figure, you are strength training. So, to keep the maths easy, if you lift 80kg, you are strength training. But do you lift that 80% five times?
As you see from my poor labourer example, the first 800 was probably easy, but the next 800, isn’t easy, the 3rd 800 is getting you to breaking point.
In short, 80% lifted multiple times, isn’t perceived by the body as 80%. It sees it as much, much heavier because of the volume. The bricklayer, is of course a silly example – but try and get the message rather than be sidetracked in the endurance aspect of the example.
In simple terms, because you are lifting in sets of multiple reps, a load of 67% of your 1 rep max lifted 5 times has a relative intensity of 79%. It feels like 79%, your body thinks it’s 79%. It is 79%
Putting 76% of you 1 rep max on your bar for 5, has the effect of being 88%.
70% feels like =82%,
73% feels like = 85%.
80% on the bar for 5, is like lifting 91%.
Relative intensity is the simple observation that volume, load and rest effects how your body feels and adapts to weight.
Remember your muscles are dumb, they don’t know or care about percentages. They just know what feels heavy.
According to Mike Tuchscherer; “The body responds to things like the force of the muscle’s contraction, how long the contraction lasts, and how many contractions there were. A percentage isn’t necessarily a precise way to describe this, as different lifters will perform differently.”
In take-home terms, if today you went to CrossFit London or CrossFit SE11, and during the strength session, you only got to 68% of your (proper) 1 rep Training max for 5; you actually hit the 80% in relative intensity. That’s the 80% you need to nudge your strength along.
For now, in our general programme, we are not obsessing about percentages; but those who do know their lifts, I hope will be grateful for this insight. For the rest of you, simply work to a set of 5 that you can comfortably lift, bearing in mind these RPE (rates of perceived exertion) as guidance.
On a scale from 1 to 10:
9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep. 8: Could have done two or three more reps, but glad you didn’t have to. 7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied 6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort
After a while, I suspect a “five” you can do in class will be at an RPE between 7 and 8.
Once you bedded this concept of relative intensity into your head, you can look forward to many years of safe, effective lifting.
More insights coming soon.
Grateful thanks to Coach Chet Morjaria @ Strength Education and to Coach Anthony Waller @ CrossFit London for the numerous corrections and observations they supplied