As I have said before, all of us have different goals. One of us may want to compete at the sport of CrossFit, another to look good at the beach, and others be able to play sports with their kids (or all the above!). However, one thing we all should have in common is wanting to get stronger. Lifting heavy prevents muscle degeneration, increase anabolic hormones that burn fat and increase muscle, helps us burn a ton of calories, and makes carrying the cooler to the beach a hell of a lot easier. Gaining strength, contrary to popular belief, does not make the muscles larger (muscle hypertrophy), rather increases the strength of the contractile proteins, actin and myosin, within the muscle fiber.
Our current 12 week program is based heavily on the power lifting program by Jim Wendler that he named the 5/3/1. It utilizes our 1 rep max (RM) to create a percentage based linear program that emphasizes starting light, progressing slowly, and breaking personal records (PRs). I have adapted the essentials of this great power lifting program to fit into our strength goals as CrossFitters: get stronger while still increasing our overall fitness across broad domains.
In our 12 week program, every 4 weeks we repeat a similar rep scheme and percentages of our 1 RM. Out of the 7 sets we are focusing on, the first 4 sets are performed at low load with the focus on technique. As we build, we warm up into our final 3 working sets. The last set, set 7, will be completed until failure, with a goal of hitting a new multi rep PR. This way we are essentially testing each week, trying to hit new PRs and pushing our bodies to the limit. Side note, the limit is our body’s limitations through the movement with perfect form. If technique is not achieved, load and repetitions should not be increased.
Week 1 works around working sets of 5 reps, Week 2 features working sets of 3 reps, and Week 3 features the programs namesake, 5/3/1+ reps. Week 4 is a deload week designed to give our body a rest and let our strength recover. The goal of this week is to go light and pick one thing to improve. Film yourself or have a friend film you. Check out your form and work on that one goal for the day in that particular lift. Trying to set PRs everyday will quickly lead to plateaus at best and injuries at worst. After 4 weeks, we repeat this process with slightly more loads each week.
Is this the only way to get stronger? NO WAY! There are tons of amazing programs that strength coaches utilize to get their athletes to peak performance. What they do all have in common however is emphasizing great technique, increasing loads as time progresses, adding in accessory work to strengthen secondary movers and retesting performance over time. We will use a variety of these techniques at Aspire Sports Lab with one goal always in mind: make you a better, more well-rounded, athlete.
Sean Spire is the Head Coach of ASL. He was a competitive swimmer who discovered CrossFit and Ironman Triathlons. He has his BS in Exercise Science from Florida State University.