You Don’t Need A Harder Workout

“You don’t need harder workouts. You need to go harder in your workouts.” – Tom Hackenbruck

 As coaches, a common refrain we hear from clients goes something like this, “I feel like I’m not getting pushed enough in class / I’m not improving as fast as I’d like to / I feel like I need a harder workout.” These are of course valid concerns, as seeing progress is one of the most appealing aspects of doing CrossFit. With so many different movements and workout types, it’s not to continually see improvement by simple virtue of showing up. However, there inevitably comes a time when all those newbie gains grind to a halt, and PR’s are harder to come by. When this happens, how do we continue to improve?
All things being equal, intensity is the independent variable that determines your rate of progress in the gym. With that in mind, in order to continue to progress towards your fitness goals, you should aim to gradually ratchet up how hard you are pushing yourself in a given workout or workouts in general. Another, seemingly contradictory, fitness truism is the concept that long-term consistency will always trump short intensity. While this is accurate, it’s worth noting that this concept only works when applied to appropriate training methods done with quality technique and effort. If you are consistently doing pointless exercises with mediocre effort, your results will reflect that. Ultimately, we are looking for a combination of these two principles to see long-term improvement. Yes, you need to regularly push yourself hard, especially on days you are feeling good. You also need to take a wider view and recognize that minimum exercise volumes and loads must be met in order to maintain and build your fitness.
Broadly speaking, folks fall short in one of the following two areas: either they aren’t training hard enough when they come to the gym, or they aren’t training frequently enough to take their fitness up a notch. With that in mind, your lack of intensity has nothing to do with whether or not you are doing the L1 or L2 workout that day. In general, L1 features less technical movements than L2, and is geared more towards challenging your work capacity than your ability to execute higher order movements when fatigued. An L1 “AMRAP”, for example, places no upper limits on your ability to get out of your comfort zone and exhaust yourself. The movements may be “simple”, but the workout certainly isn’t “easy”. In fact, it’s extremely common to see people who have marginal ability on an L2 movement, say pull-ups, perform the L2 workout and perform poorly as a result. They wanted to do the “harder” workout, despite the fact that L1 would have been a much more appropriate and challenging workout given their abilities. The distinction between L1 & L2 becomes much easier to comprehend if you view them on a continuum from less to more technical instead of easier and harder. Instead of attempting to simply survive the L2 workout, strive to dominate the L1 on a consistent basis. Remember, the difficultly of a workout is almost entirely a factor of the effort you put into it.
How do we consistently push ourselves harder? First, keep a training log. If we deadlift every week, and you don’t know what you did last time we deadlifted, how can we possibly improve upon our past performances? Top performers know their numbers and keep training logs. Strive to increase the weights you are lifting in WODs, reduce the amount of rest you allow yourself between movements in a circuit, and raise your level of expectations regarding your performance of a particular workout. If you think a workout is too easy, the more likely culprit is your weight selection, pacing, and effort. Before you come complaining to us coaches, make sure you’ve taken care of those variables first.