Category Archives for "Functional Fitness"

“But bro, cardio will kill my gains!” by Coach Nick Scott

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“But bro, cardio will kill my gainz!”

How many times have you heard from “bro-scientists” that cardio will kills your muscle and strength gains? Probably as many times as you’ve seen them doing curls. So let’s drop some real science here. If you’re a weightlifter, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or even a CrossFit athlete, all you want is to get jacked, ripped, huge, buff, shredded, or “toned.” Muscles and abs are sexy; everyone knows it! Who doesn’t want to look better with their clothes off? Also, more muscle equals bigger lifts, bigger numbers, etc. So, in order to get all of this we need to find and initiate a magical mechanism called “hypertrophy”—which is a fancy word for muscle growth.

In order to achieve muscle growth, you need energy. The body uses ATP for energy to drive the muscles.
When you run out of ATP, that’s it, you reach muscle failure. That means no more reps or sets and the training session is over. If you constantly deplete this energy source, you are going to grind yourself down in the following sessions. You won’t be able to maintain the volume and intensity of training. This will very effectively “kill your gains.”

So how can we prevent this, or how can we regenerate more ATP so this doesn’t happen?

One word, CARDIO.

I know what you’re thinking “but wait, I thought cardio will kill my gainz?!” The bros have been saying this for years, citing that long cardio sessions and activity cause muscle catabolism (breakdown). This can be true… if you’re going overboard with it, say over 30 minutes or so at higher intensities.

But here’s some real science these bros don’t know. Cardio at low intensity actually regenerates ATP! Holy crap! So what does this really mean for you? It means that if you were to do a low intensity cardio session 2-3 times per week, you’d feel fresher for your weight training the following day. You’d be able to restore the ATP you used at a higher rate. Aerobic/cardio training also improves blood flow to muscles (increasing recovery), and decreases recovery time between sets.

Also, low intensity cardio training is highly effective at flushing out metabolites and toxins produced during weight training sessions. This obviously is a big winner in the recovery arena. Low intensity cardio has the additional benefit of increasing the parasympathetic state and decreasing the sympathetic nervous system activity while you rest. This means your body is under less neurological stress throughout the day, and is able to rest more effectively.

This sounds awesome right? It might be a component of training that you’re missing and could very likely take you to an entirely different level of performance and recovery.

How do we do this correctly? It’s simple, just follow these guidelines:

#1 – Start with 2 session a week for 4 weeks, then add another one in every 4 weeks, assessing your recovery. I wouldn’t suggest going over 4 sessions per week, unless you’re training for something specific that requires more.

#2 – Keep it low intensity (keep your heart rate in the 60-80% range)

#3 – Don’t go overboard, keep it short: 20-30 minutes tops!

#4 – Avoid intervals, they lend themselves to being higher intensity and creating more metabolic stress rather than relieving it.

#5 – Don’t do all running. Running is high impact and can adversely affect recovery. Use the rower, ski erg, and bike in equal parts, in addition to running, if possible.

So in closing, bro: Don’t be afraid of the cardio. Cardio will give you gains!

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“Don’t take your guns to town son.” by Coach Nick Scott

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“Don’t take your guns to town son.”

Wow my man Coach Nick makes some great points for CrossFitters, general strength athletes, and the weekend warriors out there. If you are masking pain and dysfunction with wraps, shoes, and other items, you might want to handle the pain and dysfunction before moving on. If you are not in this thing to compete or be a world champion, I hope that your main goal is health and wellness. If health and wellness is your top priority, then alleviating pain and eliminating dysfunction should be your priority.

If you like what Coach Scott is saying in his articles, you might want to follow him on Instagram:
–> @scottstrengthsystems

Now enjoy the article!

As I sit here and listen to my Johnny Cash, watching all these athletes, I notice something. An overwhelming amount of them are strapped, knee sleeves, knee wraps, wrist wraps, belts, Olympic shoes, etc. Another thing I notice, a lot of them move poorly….and I think there might be a connection here. Most of these athletes aren’t competitors; they are just training for life, health, and fitness.

So I say to myself, you should leave your guns at home son! Let’s think about this for a moment.
If you’re just the average CrossFit box goer, why on earth are you all decked out like a competitive weightlifter or Rich Froning?

All of these items are useful in the right circumstances. Knee sleeves or wraps make sense if you have a previous injury, or if you’re maxing your clean or squat, or if you’re 8 weeks or so out from a powerlifting/weightlifting competition and are really in the training grind. But, they do not make sense if you’re doing weights at 80% of your max or below, nor if you’re doing a metcon. If your knees are so banged up that you need wraps or sleeves every day, on every movement regardless of weight, then you have a problem.

You have a big problem. You are either grossly over-trained beyond your body’s ability to recover, or your movement/mobility/form is so bad that your body is about to explode. If this is the case, the answer is simple. STOP! Go back and fix your technique, improve your mobility, or simply drop the volume! The human body should not be so broken all the time, and you should be able to do most of your training without assistance.

Olympic shoes make sense if you’re doing an Olympic program, but if you can’t complete the movements at below 80% of your max without them…. then there’s a problem. You likely don’t have good enough mobility to get into position properly without the assistance the shoes give you. Now let’s think about that for a second. If you literally can’t do the movement properly without a specially designed shoe, don’t you think that at some point, something is going to give? Your body is telling you that you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed before you go down this road. Putting a band aid on it isn’t the way to go, it’ll just lead to a major failure down the road. That’s the opposite of health and wellness.

Having to wear wrist wraps every time you go overhead to alleviate pain is a no go as well. Unless you have a preexisting injury, this means your wrists are too weak. If that’s the case, how do you ever expect them to get stronger if you’re constantly supporting them artificially?

Weight belts are amazing, they can be a crutch as well. My rule for my athletes is no belt unless it’s over 80%. I do this because if you cannot confidently get under a bar at 80% or less for a couple of reps without it, then that means you probably have a midline weakness or imbalance. Putting a belt on will surely help you lift more weight, but when you take it off, are you really any stronger? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

My advice is for the average gym goer, the non-competitor. However, if you are a competitor who has no previous knee/wrist/back problems you probably shouldn’t need this stuff either. At least not on a daily basis, if you’re 8 weeks or so out from a competition that’s another matter entirely.

The fittest man alive, Rich Froning, was once interviewed and stated that when he was the “fittest” he was also the unhealthiest he’d ever been. Everything hurt, tons of nagging injuries, etc. That’s the price you pay to play the game. When it’s game time, it’s PAIN TIME baby!!!

But normal everyday training volume should not leave you in this state. Even as a competitor. A competitor understands that competing will hurt, and acknowledges that they will pay a price in the long term. For those who are gifted, they will end up reaching a level that makes a life of aches and pains worth it.

For most of us, however, that’s just not reality. Everyone must decide for themselves ultimately how much they are willing to accept for where they are as an athlete. I’m not going to preach to anyone about what I think they should do with their lives. Just remember that in today’s day and age, life is likely to be very long. Before my grandad passed on he told me “Nick, if I had known I’d have live so damn long, I would’ve taken better care of myself!” I’ll always remember this, it taught me to think more about what I’m doing, what I’m sacrificing, and where that might leave me down the road. For myself, I try to balance my life and training as much as possible.

If you have to go into the gym strapped like old Billy Joe in the song, maybe stop to think about what and why you need all this stuff to become fitter. Try to fix the issues, and leave your guns at home!

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The Necessity of Hardship by Nick Scott

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The necessity of hardship.

Below is another insightful article by Coach Nick Scott. A lot of strength and conditioning coaches criticize CrossFit for its extreme workouts. This is a unique look at where the puking and craziness might have a purpose. I have never heard anyone explain the benefits of suffering before. It definitely left me thinking.

You can follow Coach Scott here: ==> @scottstrengthsystems on Instagram

Now enjoy his article:

It was Buddha who said, “Life is suffering.” This is a stark and somewhat dark observation on life. Nonetheless, incredibly true no matter how you slice it. We live in a fascinating time, a time of technological wonders, the ability to talk to the entire planet in an instant. We have more computing power in our digital watches than the lunar module NASA used to land on the moon. Our phones are the equivalent of supercomputers from 15 years ago. We can do nearly anything our hearts desire, the power is literally at our fingertips. Herein lies the paradox.

We have the ability to do more in less time, and with less effort than human beings have ever been able to do in history. So we get used to doing less. The paradox here is this, the human body relies on stress to improve itself, and the only way to stress yourself is to do more.

In 10 years, we’ll have the technology “augmented reality,” and we’ll literally be connected to everything at all times. At this rate, people will have nearly no environmental/physical stressors in their daily lives. Sounds nice eh? Well, not so much, because by flooding our senses with social media, video games, movies, and TV, we are creating more mental stress. And you see, without balancing the physical and mental stresses in our lives, we create a lot more disparity. First, bodyfat to muscle mass ratios become imbalanced. Second, the body’s ability to control cortisol (stress hormone) is stunted. Third, since we become less active, our hearts become weaker (figuratively and literally). While there is little to no physical stress, mental stress will increase and our ability to handle mental stress will decrease.

People with this issue may become reliant on anti-depressants or self-medicate using alcohol or other drugs. This makes the issue, obviously, worse. How will people overcome this; how will we balance this? Perhaps Buddha can shed some light with his observation that life is suffering. As I said, the human body improves itself in response to environmental stress. It adapts itself to make itself more survivable. So maybe life should include a little more suffering.

When you work out, your body strengthens its muscles, nervous system, improves metabolism, improves heart function, decreases cortisol, releases endorphins (feel good hormones), improves sleep quality, etc.
Interestingly, while we have seen this explosion in technology we have also seen an explosion in certain areas of fitness. Adventure races such as Tough Mudder, Spartan race, and warrior dashes have exploded onto the scene. CrossFit now has more affiliates worldwide than there are Starbucks stores (literally). Triathlons, marathons, mixed martial arts, and many other types of extreme/fringe sports have also become more popular. There is one thing all these things have in common: They suck, they hurt, they make you miserable, seriously feel terrible. Essentially, they cause you to suffer. I think this is a natural attempt to create and find a balance between a life surrounded with the ability to do nearly everything without having to leave the couch, and the needs of the human body.

People are creating their own suffering by participating in CrossFit and other extreme sports. I think it’s because they intuitively understand that if they don’t introduce stress/suffering into their lives, their quality of life at 40 will be the equivalent of someone twice that age…and maybe even be in some cases a self-imposed early death.

Buddha said life is suffering, and maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. In fact it might be just what you need. Life is about creating, finding, and seeking balance. So, if you’re glued to your phone, laptop, or TV, get up and go seek something to make yourself uncomfortable. Go for a run, throw down on a swole sesh with your bros, drop in a CrossFit box for a meeting with Pukie the Clown, sign up for a Tough Mudder and train for it. Your body will thank you, your mind will thank you, and you’ll discover a little more of what life is about…experiences.
Create your own suffering and live.

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How to Train Optimally for CrossFit or Functional Fitness by Nick Scott

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Hot to Train Optimally for Functional Fitness by Nick Scott

For more on Nick Scott, check out his original article: “How to Improve as an Athlete”

How can you train optimally for CrossFit and functional fitness? Well, to discuss this we’ll need to go over a bit of history in this training methodology/sport. To understand where you are and where you’re going, you must first understand where you’ve been. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Back in the beginning of CrossFit, the prescription/Rx for training was the following: constantly varied, “functional” movements, executed at high intensity. The intended effect was having greater work capacity (power output), across broad time and modal domains. That’s a fancy way of saying the ability to work really hard, from a short time to a longish time, with a variety of movements. The programming/dosing suggested was 3 days of training and 1 day rest in a constantly running rotation.

The programming suggested was mostly couplets (two paired movements), triplets, go long (over 15 min) every couple of weeks, and go heavy once a week. Now, this type of programming works very well for the stated objective of “health and fitness over a lifetime.” But, it won’t be fast, and you’ll need to be patient.

Now, in 2007 people wanted to test their fitness against others outside of their own gym, for bragging rights essentially. Thus was born the CrossFit Games. The tests were simple the first year, only a few events over 2 days. Then in 2008, a couple more events appeared. Within this time and shortly after, a new twist on the traditional training method had been developed (OPEX, out of OPT from James Fitzgerald). It was non-randomized, meaning the movements were chosen and planned to elicit a particular response and adaptation. He also used the concept of periodization. Also, the “Max Effort Black Box” method of training from Michael Rutherford had begun to take root. This was the concept of performing a strength movement/component before start of the traditional “metcon.” Or multiple strength movements throughout the training week. It was developed after observing that the majority of his athletes lacked the strength to do the CrossFit WOD (workout of the day) as prescribed without scaling. Here’s two basic examples of how this looks.

Monday:
Back squat
5-5-5-5-5
+
3 RFT:
500m row
30 pull ups

Tuesday:
Push press
5-5-5-5-5
+
AMRAP 12 min:
20 kettlbell swings
40 push ups
60 air squats

Wednesday:
Deadlift
5-5-5-5-5
+
5k run

Thursday:
REST

Or

Monday:
Back squat
5×5

Tuesday:
Metcon

Wednesday:
Push press
5×5

Thursday:
Metcon

Friday:
Deadlift
5×5

Saturday:
Metcon

Sunday:
REST

Then the CrossFit Games in 2009……a LOT of events. It was in this year we saw that the training methodology had started to evolve into something more sport like in it’s specificity of preparation.
The winner Mikko Salo trained much differently than anyone had ever seen before. If you haven’t seen the documentary “Sisu” I highly suggest it. It changed my perspective on training entirely at the time. It can NOT be overstated how dominant Mikko Salo was at the 2009 Games. Everyone wanted to know his secret. At this point CrossFit was mainly an American thing, but this dude from Finland showed up and put a beatdown on everyone. He was also joined by Annie Thorisdottir from Iceland, though she didn’t win that year she was incredibly dominant (and had only been training in CrossFit for a month).

Mikko’s training was beyond what people believed was possible to sustain at the time, they literally believed it beyond the physical capabilities of a human being. But there he was, in the flesh doing things day in and day out that it was thought at the time to be impossible to recover from. This changed the sport completely, and shook the concepts of training capacities to their core. This man was training 6 days a week, and on his “rest” days was running 7-12k. He was doing 10k rows in the morning in a closet…yeah, a closet. Then a lifting session, followed by a metcon, then a track session, then another metcon or two.

With this history lesson we’ve seen extremes of both ends of the volume spectrum, and everything in between.

So, what is optimal? Well that really depends. What are you training for? What are YOUR goals? If your goal is general fitness, traditional CrossFit will get you there. It’ll just take you a while to get up to a high level. If you want to push the timeline of the “GAINZ,” the Black Box approach works really well. After all, the stronger you are, the easier everything is. This is the perfect choice for people who want a little more, a little faster…but who don’t want to really commit to a highly structured training program. In fact, this is the style of training that the majority of boxes around the world use.

Now, what if your goal is to compete at local throwdowns, and to account well for yourself. You will definitely want to do something a bit more structured like OPEX style training, or add in a bias for your training to address weaknesses (gymnastics, cardio, strength, etc…whatever your weakness happens to be).
However, the approach that trumps everything is individualized training, from an experienced and knowledgeable coach. Nothing is more OPTIMAL than having someone take an objective look at you: your weaknesses, your strengths; and then designing a dialed-in plan to enhance your training effectiveness. In my experience, even coaches need a coach. The problem with group/blog style programming is that they are designed for the general population. Yes, group programming can be effective, and you’ll likely make gains, but it will pale in comparison to someone directing the training specifically for you, your goals, and your body.

Check out one of our five E-Books:

• “Squat Every Day”
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2. Check out one of the Online Teams:

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