AMRAP in 12 minutes:
12 Dumbbell push press
Fit It Forward:
Sincerely thank ten people for something important. Do it in person if possible, by email if necessary. Be thoughtful: what were the turning points in your life, good or bad? How did the person help you?
From October 7, 2009: “The 1-1-1-1-1”
Appropriately, the day after I write about Cherrypicking, a max effort CrossFit WOD pops up. Fun for the experienced lifter, the benefit of attempting max lefts may not be as obvious to a rookie.
This is NOT about burning calories. It’s not even about improving your strength. The 1-1-1-1-1 WOD is a test of strength, not a stimulant. Instead, it’s about something nearly invisible but definitely palpable: efficient recruitment of force.
Is this a boring topic? A bit. I’ll make you a deal: take a deep breath, and hold it. If I’m not done the description by the time you have to exhale, you can skip the rest. OK?
Your muscles are wired together, and to your brain, through your nervous system. But this system is wired to do LOTS of things, and learn NEW things, all the time. It’s not wired to be perfect at everything. This system is responsible for turning on individual muscle fibres in the correct sequence, as quickly as possible. Problem is, the first few times it has to learn a new pattern, that process is NOT quick. And since the system teaches itself to do the same thing each time it meets the same challenge, you can actually teach your muscles to be slow.
OK, exhale. The way we get the muscles to twitch more powerfully – to turn on quicker, line things up in sequence, and fire – is to teach speed. We in the game call that Rate of Force Development.
We’re dealing with units that are so tiny that you’d never see it with your naked eye – unless you’re seeing a misfire. An inefficient recruitment of force. Remember when that guy was pulling that heavy deadlift, and his hamstrings were shaking? Bingo. The body was struggling to recruit help from anywhere possible, and it was chasing thousands of rabbits at once. Do that lift a few more times, though, and you’re better at getting things lined up in the proper order.
So why do we care? Well, for one thing, this will make you stronger without making you bigger. This is exactly how little guys in the 165lbs weight class can do deadlifts over 600lbs. It will also have an ‘umbrella’ effect on your other lifts: pulling your maximum higher will make the lighter weights easier.
There’s also a cascade of hormonal release with heavy weights. For one, insulin sensitivity improves in the muscle, because it’s looking to refuel before it begins to repair itself. Second, the thyroid output of T3 improves to rush nutrients into the system. Testosterone kicks up a little, which helps in saving protein and preferentially using fat for fuel.
Things like bone density and spinal stability are also improved more efficiently through the use of heavy weights than through the use of repetition. The stimulus from a high-repetition set of leg extensions is simply not enough to trigger osteoblast (new-bone-generating cells) activity; a heavy set of squats will.
Yes, it’s the redemption WOD for muscleheads. Yes, the coaches yell themselves hoarse. But the benefits are myriad. Don’t skip “singles night.”
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