With CrossFit there is often a honeymoon period of change when an athlete first begins to train.
- Many exercises are new and techniques are exciting to learn.
- The body responds positively to this new stimulus and PRs fly up quickly.
- Strength numbers increase as exercises feed into one another.
- Overall progression develops at a good pace.
For example: Amplified core strength from raising your Front Squat PR and WODs involving high repetitions of Toes-to-Bar may also allow your Back Squat numbers to shoot up as you become stronger .
Then the plateaus may emerge as you begin to hit your natural ceilings with strength work and WODs. So how do you break through them and give yourself the competitive advantage?
1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
‘During training you listen to your body. During competition you tell your body to shut up.’ Rich Froning: The fittest man in history and 5 times winner of the CrossFit Games
It is a difficult skill to master, to be able to understand the difference between your body telling you to stop because it is in genuine pain, or that it just doesn’t want to finish the WOD – but it will let you know. Make sure you listen to it and be proactive in your training.
Good form and the willingness to constantly improve your technique, mobility and movement, will help you to prevent injury in the long run. This is a philosophy that is shared by Rehband and their tireless work to help athletes reach their goals, be proactive and think about the future.
2. FOCUS ON LONG TERM TRAINING GOALS AND SHARE THEM
Sharing a goal and working together with a coach, a team, or a group of your CrossFit friends can often be a great way to smash through these plateaus and enable your full potential. It can be a way to focus together on a single accomplishment, and you avoid the – often destructive – reality of sometimes not hitting hastily made short term goals. If you give yourself a week to add 10kg to your Snatch PR, in all honesty, it’s probably not going to happen. But if you allow yourself a year, and program accordingly for this timeframe, then you will be able to achieve your target.
When you share your goals with others around you, your peers and coaches, they will help you to accomplish them. As you hit your targets the feeling becomes one of shared success.
3. PROGRESSION AND PROGRAMMING
Programming will give you a structure that allows you to monitor and understand your physical progress. Psychologically, it gives you a sense of scale and proportion, and enable you to understand where you stand in relation to the goals that you set for yourself.
It will help you to position any plateaus on these wider timelines, and then diminish them as obstacles. For example, let’s say you are aiming for a target of 50 unbroken Double Unders, but currently your max number sits at 15, and you are struggling to manage more before your form breaks down.
Working with your coach you go back to basics, relearn the technique, and you include Double Unders into more of your WODs. This forces you to tackle them under a variety of different conditions, levels of exhaustion and heart rates. You maintain the concept of constant variety that lies at the core of CrossFit, as well as visualising a clear idea of your progress. You can see how your programming is helping you to break through the plateau and reach your goal of 50 unbroken Double Unders.
4. TAKE PROPER REST
If you workout 5 days in a row every week, and you smash 5 consecutive metcons at 100% intensity, then although a great challenge, it will probably leave you burnt out in the long run. From Rehband athletes Josh Bridges (an Ex Navy Seal) to Mattie Rogers (US weightlifting star), all high level Sportsmen and women speak about the importance of giving your body time to rest and recover.
Paradoxically, if you are pushing to hit a certain target, but have hit a plateau that you can’t break through, sometimes the best thing to do can be to walk away from it for a short while.
Say you’re aiming for a 150kg Deadlift but it just isn’t happening, your grip keeps failing and you cannot support the weight without resulting to poor form. Take a break from that exercise for a few weeks and concentrate on accessory exercises instead. Increase your kettlebell swings and switch to strict Pull Ups (get that grip nice and wide to strengthen your back). Raise the amount of times that back extensions crop up in your WODs so that they can attack your posterior chain in a new way. When you do go back to starting a new strength cycle, you may be pleasantly surprised when Deadlifts come around again and you decide to make another assault on that 150kg target.
5. UNDERSTAND THAT PROGRESS OCCURS IN SMALL INCREMENTAL STEPS
Trust in the process, enjoy it and take pride in your progressions, however small they are. Do the same for the achievements of your training partners and peers, and use competition as a way to enable everyone to move forward. One kg added to a lift or a second shaved off a WOD time show that you are improving.
6. TRAINING TECHNIQUES: MAKE USE OF SUPPORT DURING WODS AND LIFTS
Use your equipment properly to help the natural strength and movements of your body. If you have a series of WODs that require lots of high reps of similar movements to be completed (such as Wall Balls and Thrusters combined) then use knee sleeves to relieve some of the pressure on this part of your body. It will also augment the movement of your body, and allow you to zone in on completing each WOD effectively.
7. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY AND HEALTH
It is always important to look after your body and health, but if you do begin to hit plateaus, it becomes especially important! CrossFit promotes a holistic approach to health, and it reminds us of the inter-connectivity of our bodies, mental well-being and nutrition. Improvements in one area may result in unexpected leaps and bounds in another.