Today we’re dead lifting.  It’s a disheartening name for a lift once referred to as the “Health Lift”.  The new moniker arose in response to the change in competitive standards requiring that the bar be pulled from a dead-stop instead of using the momentum of rolling the bar.  Some people live in fear of the dead lift but whether or not you train it, you cannot avoid it.  Take out the garbage, carry your groceries, pick up a baby, every time you lift something off the ground, you are performing a dead lift.

As such, the dead lift is unrivaled in functional utility and only the back squat rivals the dead lift when it comes to producing full body, functional strength.  And strength is a critical physical skill.  Many mistakenly associate CrossFit with sweaty, boot camp-style cardio training circuits with some weights thrown in.  But CrossFit is a strength AND conditioning program.  And strength cannot be adequately developed in a conditioning workout.

Not everyone loves strength but it is one of the 10 general physical skills and is the most fundamental in that without it, nothing else is possible.  Without strength you cannot stand, walk or run.  You may take these skills for granted today but older adults lose skeletal muscle at an alarming rate and it is loss of strength that most commonly leads to falls in seniors and a loss of independent living.  Lean muscle mass is associated with a decrease in all cause mortality meaning the more muscle you have, the less likely you are to die of chronic disease, falls, trauma, infections, or violence.

A basic truth of fitness is that the thing you dislike most is exactly where you are most lacking and ergo, the best way to improve your fitness is to shore up your weaknesses.  For me, that means more conditioning work.  But for many of you, it means more strength work.  You may like cookies and cake better than kale and cabbage but unfortunately, eating what you like won’t necessarily make you healthier.  Same holds true for training.  CrossFit works exactly because it has no regard for what you like but instead delivers what you need.  And some days you need dead lifts.

Fun fact: Did you know that increasing your top-end strength increases your performance potential in conditioning and endurance events?  The opposite is not true.  Check out this short article if you want to better understand why this is.  Want to understand this better?  Dr. Andy Galpin discusses optimum loading for power.  As you’ll learn power is a function of force and velocity.  Your ability to produce force (strength) is a critical component of power production.  And your ability to produce power is also associated with better health and longevity.

In today’s group classes we discussed the why of training using percentages.  The short answer is that lifts below 80% of your 1 rep max are performed using a greater number of motor units as they increase in difficulty.  Once you reach around 80% of your max effort, all available motor units are already in play and additional reps or load require increased firing rate and it is this change in firing rate that elicits strength adaptations.  Here’s a good article to read if you want to better understand why training at relative intensity with sets near failure is the only way to get stronger.  Avoiding difficulty is avoiding strength adaptations.

Productive sequencing of workouts should follow this priority:  Speed, power, strength, hypertrophy, conditioning.  This is not to say that every workout needs to include all these elements.  In fact, following strength training with a conditioning workout will blunt the effects of both.  They are better trained on separate days or, if you must train them both in a day, separate them by the greatest possible time (I do my strength and conditioning WODs 12 hours apart).   But when your training includes two or more elements in a single training session, violating the sequencing above will result in diminished efficacy and increased injury risk.

That’s a lot of science for one blog post but these are the sorts of things a coach spends an inordinate amount of time researching between classes.