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Scott Paltos on Power

Scott Paltos

Let me first say to you that I don’t often link to Kiefer’s site because it causes confusion for some people.  Kiefer writes to body builders and powelifters, I write to Crossfitters.  The concepts tend to be different.  That’s not the biggest reason though, the biggest reason is that people tend to buy CBL off of his site and then can’t get into the science lab as a result. The idea is simple, you can buy CBL off of my site and I back it up with support from the Science Lab specific to Crossfit.

Anyway, here is a link to buy CBL and become a science lab member.

Here is the link to Scott Paltos’ article on the Power of Power.

This is a video talking about how Crossfit is saving Weightlifting

 

A guide to modifying for Strength

Elisabeth Akinwale

This is part of the information I teach in the “Science Lab” seminars that we offer free when you purchase things that support our site (it’s mostly stuff you would buy anyway).  Click the link and it will give you more details.  

The overarching premise of CrossFit is to vary your workouts and intensity to achieve the goal of exceptional all-around fitness.  What defines “exceptional” is, by and large, unique for every athlete, so the concept of doing every WOD Rx without regard for your abilities seems absurd.  For example, an athlete training too close to his or her 1RM in a WOD (simply to perform the workout as prescribed) may sacrifice form and safety just to put up more weight, entirely missing the point of why we CrossFit.  Regrettably, this is happening every single day, in gyms all around the world.  When you look at the top competitors in our sport, they will tell you that the road to glory was oftentimes bumpy.  While they may have arrived there by pushing the limit in a gradual fashion to achieve a specific result, from time to time it was necessary to deviate from the plan.  Although I typically try to stay in my lane and write about nutrition theory, I am going to venture off that path a bit during this article and cover new ground.  There are a few points I am hoping to make, but the emphasis of this piece will be to outline effective methods of modifying your WODs for a specific goal.  Today, I’ll be focusing on strength.

Strength Goals:  Prilepin’s Table and The Conjugate Method

Strength is an extremely valuable asset in CrossFit.  Endurance is also vital, but if you put up a heavy WOD, some of the more cardio-focused participants will struggle.  The concept is simple really:  As you train closer to your 1RM, you run up against greater levels of neurological fatigue, resulting in haphazard technique or failure to complete the WOD altogether due to muscular failure.  If you’re constantly working super-heavy in relation to your ability and find that you’re having difficulty recovering from your workouts, I may be able to suggest a better approach.  In 1974, a Soviet Olympic weightlifting coach named A.S. Prilepin compiled a chart (“Prilepin’s Table”) which outlined a range of optimal load, repetition and set parameters for training maximal strength without generating so much fatigue that the athlete cannot adequately recover.  Based upon exhaustive research of thousands of sportsmen, Prilepin’s Table is a major component of Louie Simmons’ Westside Barbell “Conjugate Method,” which happens to be the foundation of the CrossFit Powerlifting certification course.  While absolute strength is not the sole goal of our sport, Prilepin’s work provides a great template that you can utilize to modify your workouts.  What I hope to introduce you to is a concept that you can easily use with your own data to get a more optimal result.  These tables should help you identify some of the trends in your coach’s programming and help you adjust.

Percent #of Reps #Lifts Per Workout Optimal # per Workout

70% 3-5 12-24 18

80% 2-4 10-20 15

90% 1-2 4-10 7

Before we discuss real-world application of these principles, I’d like to suggest that you think of the above chart as more of a guideline than a hard set of rules.  One of the reasons the Conjugate Method is taught in Crossfit Powerlifting certifications is because the concept of biochemical individuality that it’s based around is directly applicable to our programming.  There isn’t always one best way to accomplish a goal and different athletes have different innate strengths (as well as weaknesses).  To that end, theory is oftentimes not enough; to break new ground, we must take what we know works, figure out why, and constantly reassess the method to arrive at a new paradigm.  Great coaches like Louie Simmons, Boris Sheiko, Dave Tate and many more have taken this table and given it life, producing extremely strong athletes through practical application of science.
How to get stronger:  Three strength qualities for a singular goal

When I look at a WOD, the first thing I do is ask myself, “What are the coaches trying to do here?”  There are basically three types of WOD’s: “maximal effort”, “dynamic effort” and “repetition effort”.  Maximal effort WODs are the workouts that make you strain; any day that we lift slow for a 1RM or 2x2x2x2x2 is a great example.  These push the limits of your strength and provide you with insight into the progress you’ve already made, as well as how to progress in the future.  Maximal training will pit you against the heaviest of loads (90% of your max and beyond) for 1-2 reps across 2-5 sets, which will test your strength and stress your central nervous system (CNS) just enough to keep progressing.  Although rest intervals become necessarily longer when lifting in the 80-90th percentile, a well-designed maximal effort WOD will allow you to train with intensity while incorporating short rests (between 90 and 120 seconds).  Most weeks, I train maximally only once, occasionally pushing the envelope a bit more often (depending upon how I feel).  Newer athletes can usually get away with more max effort work because they have not yet learned how to recruit as many available muscle fibers during a movement.  A seasoned athlete (I will use Rich Froning as an example) training for 7-10 reps at 90% of his 1RM (compared to a deconditioned athlete doing a similar workout) will likely walk away from that workout a bit more exhausted because he can recruit more muscle.  I’m not actually sure Rich gets exhausted, so you will just have bear with me for the sake of hypothesis.  As you progress, programming every one of your workouts as maximal effort work becomes a recipe for a fried CNS, which will hinder your results.  It becomes necessary to incorporate a new stimulus.

Dynamic WODs come into play as an athlete reaches intermediate levels of advancement.  According to the Conjugate Method, dynamic effort workouts are performed between 50-70% of a 1RM for 2-3 reps, across 8-12 sets.  The goal of these WODs is to build explosive strength to power through sticking points; if the bar is moving too slowly (a great way to judge speed is whether or not the weights clink at the top of the movement), you are lifting too heavy.  Don’t be fooled; although you’re lifting “easy” weight, a great dynamic WOD will challenge your strength, coordination and conditioning.  Rest intervals should be kept as short as possible (between 30-60 seconds).  Training this way will allow you to perfect your technique while you to fine-tune the strength you built with the maximal effort method and work on your GPP (General Physical Preparedness).  Since dynamic effort work was popularized by geared powerlifters at Westside Barbell, a 1000lb squatter training at 50% may still be working with loads in excess of 500lbs on these days.  As a general rule of thumb, the stronger you are, the lighter (as a percentage of your max) you will need to train on dynamic effort days.  For our purposes, we can benefit from training slightly heavier, as long as the bar speed is maintained.

Last but not least, we come to the repetition method.  Repetition work is performed as quickly as possible, for as many reps as necessary.  These are the WODs that leave you in a pool of sweat, your muscles burning and your heart pounding.  The goal of repetition days is to work on conditioning/GPP, speed up recovery, reduce lingering soreness that may have been produced in the max/dynamic workouts, and promote muscular growth.  Many WODs seem to fall into this category (when they’re done at the right intensity).  You’ll ideally want to work at loads of 50% or less for between 10-20 reps across 3-5 sets.  Like the dynamic effort method, the weight may not intimidate you but your disposition will quickly change as you pump out 30-50+ repetitions of a movement with very little in the way of rest between sets (15-30 seconds).
Putting it all together:  Identifying where you need work

You’ve armed yourself with a few new tools to keep you progressing; the question now is, “How do I apply these methods and theories to my workouts?  How do I know when to modify my WODs?”  The best place to start is to analyze your performance during a benchmark workout like Fran.  Because it incorporates mixed movement types (a barbell thruster and a bodyweight pull-up) back-to-back for multiple rounds, Fran is a great example of a workout that can show you where your strengths and weaknesses lie.  If an athlete performs Fran Rx in 4 minutes, it is a repetition WOD at or below 50% of their max and they’d probably benefit from increasing the load on thrusters.  An athlete that finishes Fran in 9 minutes may be resting a lot to maintain good form; the bar may be moving fast but towards the end, they may be doing the last 9 reps in sets of 3 and working on their dynamic strength.  In the future they could add weight to the bar and work on their raw strength at 80% of their 1RM, or drop the load to 60% so that they can get more work with less rest.  Going further, an athlete that completes Fran in over 10 minutes at 80% of their max may struggle to complete their thrusters, burning themselves out before the pull-ups each round.  They need significantly lengthened rest intervals during the WOD to complete it at the prescribed weight.  Dropping the load on thrusters to the 70% range will even out the level of exertion and allow the athlete a bit more energy to dominate their pull-ups.

When modifying a WOD, you know that you were successful when the top athletes in the gym finish at about the same time as the athletes running the modifications.  The level of intensity will be about right for everyone involved.  Bells should be going off in your head when you read this; most days, you should use weights and rep ranges that let you finish at about the same time as the big dogs (and with energy to spare).  I was privileged to have Chris Spealler at my level 1 certification and he explained this concept very well.

In the end:  What really makes us better?

Look, if you want to grind out a WOD, you have my permission.  I do it all of the time.  The goal of every WOD is not specifically to test strength, endurance or speed.  A big part of this whole “fitness” thing is in your head; pushing the limits of your mental capabilities has as much value as pushing your physical abilities.  Strength athletes define intensity in relationship to their maximal lifts.  It’s a quantitative measurement, not some nebulous concept.  Improvement through concentrated effort should be the goal of most of your workouts; you should have a plan that works on your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths.  This does not mean you can’t improve by accident.  If you want proof of this concept, simply recall your first few months of doing CrossFit; you may have been inefficient, sloppy, training without a direction, but sure enough, you got better.  Unfortunately, that style of training has its limitations.  To continue progressing, you need some combination of a measured approach while occasionally testing your limits.  The way you do that is to modify your workouts to your abilities and check your ego at the door.

Like I said, I had a few points I wanted to cover, but as I’ve tried to emphasize throughout this article, training heavy is not always necessary.  If one of your goals is to get stronger, struggling under maximal weights 5 days a week is not going to cut it.  You need a concerted approach that tests your limits occasionally (maximal method), builds efficient technique and speed-strength (dynamic method) and also incorporates general physical preparedness (repetition method); by combining these methods, you can push your strength levels higher and higher without burning out.  When the time comes to really push it, I like to work at 90% for doubles and triples rather than true 100% maxes.  I test my maximum lifts every 2 months or so.  Since I’m not looking for massive improvements and prefer gradual and consistent gains, I move up 5 or 10 pounds on a lift and do not often try to re-test higher.  If I am stronger it, will probably still be there in a couple months, so no big deal.  Always try to leave some gas in the tank for next time.  I also train alone most days, so safety can be a concern.  If you are in a gym setting with spotters and you only train maximum lifts once every six months or so, go ahead and try to get the most weight possible without hurting yourself.  With all that said, do not be afraid to strain a bit under a heavy load.  If it is not a little hard, it’s not your max.

Scott Paltos Crossfit Games Competitor interview

Scott Paltos

Today, I’m bringing you a short interview with Scott Paltos, owner and operator of PUMP Crossfit & Performance in East Hanover, NJ.  Scott has a great background in sports ranging from baseball to powerlifting.  He’s worked as a Strength & Conditioning coach for over a decade and as of late, he’s become a top-level CrossFit Games competitor.  This interview focuses mostly on Scott’s experiences with Carb Back-Loading where he works with John Kiefer (the author of the book) in creating custom plans so he can perform better as a Crossfit athlete.  To download a copy of the book click here.  (using this link supports this site and gets you into the Q&A sessions where we dial in some of the concepts in the book)

Paul (Eat To Perform):  So tell us; how did you meet Kiefer, and why did you think Carb Back-Loading would be a good fit for you as a CrossFitter?

Scott Paltos:  You have to understand, I come from a true strength background.  So a lot of my online reading was with EliteFTS, T-Nation, and other more performance-related sites.  I read a little about Kiefer, and was kind of floored by his approach.  My whole performance career was based on small meals, frequency, balance, etc.  So when this guy came out with CBL, I had to reach out.  I reached out, and reached out, and reached out.  He responded after me being a pest for a little.  We spoke on the phone for a while.  We clicked with what we were looking to do (to raise my performance)…and bam, we are going into our third year.  Kiefer is a SMART dude, as well as a good friend.

As far as me thinking CBL would be good…it was not my first reason.  I wanted to get leaner and keep strength.  We not only did that, but also improved a good deal of my performance with it.  Since Kiefer and I started, we have done some form of CBL or CN.  Yes, we adjust me personally, but I think that is because I like ice cream and turnovers too much.  Haha!!!!  Remember CBL is not based on some theory; it is science, and Kiefer proves that in his protocol (this is Paul, and highly referenced scientific principles, you could spend a year reading the research Kiefer devoured to put this book out).

Paul:  I feel like your experience is different than mine.  When I first heard about CBL, I was just coming off of a year of Leangains, which leaned me out, but killed my performance in the gym. Since then, I’ve taken CBL and added 15 pounds of muscle. I suspect that building mass wasn’t a big priority for you considering your background.  Can you shed some light on what you’d hoped for, and ultimately what you gained from CBL?

Scott:  Listen, I am not as lean as I should be, and I don’t always perform like I can.  That’s sport…well the first part, is because I eat too much.  Like I mentioned above, I needed to get leaner.  Strength in the sport of CrossFit, for me, is not an issue.  I don’t really need to pull 600 for reps anymore…I don’t need to bench 500, but what I needed was a way to manipulate energy systems.  CBL has helped me create a better environment for my body to burn fat.  It has also helped me recover better.  Look, in this sport I am NO spring chicken.  My 36th birthday is in a few weeks.  I need that assistance.  Pure volume alone, it takes its toll on me.  Now, I can’t reverse the aging process, but I can help make sure it doesn’t get bad too fast.  With Kiefer, we have been able to do that.

Carb Back Loading is the only book we promote on this site and on the Facebook page because I think it’s the ultimate performance way of eating.  People always ask me, is it really worth the $53? Meanwhile they walked into the gym with $109 Nanos, carrying $139 Olympic lifting shoes and $47 custom jump rope.  From an athletic progress standpoint I think it’s patentedly ridiculous that people would spend that much money on gear and then balk at the price of this book.  Thoughts?

I agree 100%

Paul:  I am not a huge diet guy.  I don’t count calories,  but I tend to have a pretty good idea where I’m at most days as far as how much I expend and consume. I don’t consider CBL a diet; I consider it a strategy to integrate into my lifestyle, because (from my experience) a strategy as it relates to carbs is favorable related to metabolism and athletic progress.  What are your thoughts?

Scott:  Great point!!!! It’s a lifestyle for performance.  Do I recommend my PUMPsters to do CBL or CN…Hell yeah.  But I also will cycle their lifestyle off of it for a periods of time too.  You are manipulating hormones, metabolism, and chemically stimulating yourself with CBL.  It’s not just a ho-dunk methodology….BUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTT, you need to train correctly as well.  That whole concept sometimes gets lost.  Intensity is something that most CrossFitters are not missing, but knowing when and how much is key.  Let’s just say I am not always a fan of how some CrossFitters train, or think what they are doing is right.  The two (nutrition AND programming) have to coincide synergistically.

And the “D” word, diet…I have been on a diet since I was 12 years old and had to make weight for junior football.  Then I was on a diet to get bigger for football, then on a diet to get smaller, bigger….It is a horrible word.  I like “Lifestyle” or like you mentioned, “Strategy”.

Paul:  This is my last question, so I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this Scott.  In the book, Kiefer is openly critical of CrossFit and paleo.  Many CrossFitters prefer to eat in a paleo style (which I believe is very realistic in combination with CBL and have written many articles on this very topic). I read Kiefer’s jabs at CrossFit like this:  “Carb Back-Loading isn’t the ideal nutrition protocol for CrossFit.”  It might not be the perfect fit for soccer either. With that said, it is BY FAR the best alternative I have come upon (aside from having your own personal Kiefer design a diet specifically for you like you did). How would you describe his criticism, and how did you reconcile that once you started working with him?  Also, do you follow a mostly paleo approach to CBL, or are your energy needs just so high that it’s almost impossible?

Scott:  This is a good one.  One:  Kiefer’s issues with CrossFit, from my view, is more of improper coaching, methodology of programming, and overall safety.  Guess what:  those are my issues with it as well.  So he and I are not far from it.  My gym, “PUMP CrossFit & Performance” in East Hanover, is a TRAINING FACILITY…not just a CrossFit.  A lot of people have seen, I do not program typical WODs from mainsite.  Not to say, that they are bad, they are just not for me or my PUMPsters.  Kiefer has caught slack, and really could not care less, for being critical of CrossFit.  The funny thing is, it’s not a rant he or I will go on.  It is strictly based on things that are seen and overviewed.  I believe a good deal of coaches in CrossFit feel entitled.  Just like a good deal of MMA coaches feel entitled.  “Well we are certified, so we can teach.”  SHIT, that is not it.  It takes years to become a great blacksmith or iron worker…What, it only takes a weekend or a few months to become a great coach or trainer?  No F’ing way…it takes time.  It takes the ability to work with people.  It takes effort and hours to work with groups.  Kiefer and I are on the same page.  You cannot just get a piece of paper and consider yourself an expert.  Do I know about Kiefer’s methodology, yes.  Do I preach it scientifically like he does?  Hell no.  There are good coaches out there, the individual needs to search for them.  Just because CrossFit is in the name, doesn’t mean it’s going to be right.

Sorry, I got off target.  Back on now…Paleo…great in theory, but not for me.  I have done CBL in a paleo mindset, I have done strict Paleo, I have done adjusted Paleo…Whatever, I have not had personal success for it in long periods.  I followed it for a while; my joints hurt more, my body recovered less…and that’s when I was in my off-season and training volume was low.  Kiefer adjusts me when I need it, but I have a pretty good grasp on when we will make changes.  If you really look at Paleo, most of the CBL meals, if done right are similar.  So there are some similarities. As far as my energy levels?  I am hyped up all day long.  Whether it’s the caffeine, or just me, I am usually pretty animated.  Around competition time there is a definite need for more intake, but I am getting better and not over regulating.  Again, my main focus right now is the season, staying healthy, and just having a good time.

I appreciate the opportunity to be in front of everybody with this, and I am always welcome to answer questions or chat.  Please feel free to email scpaltos@pumpcrossfit.com or contact me.  I do my best to answer stuff if they are general, but if it gets to the “I need to know” then I usually do ask for it to become a consultation.  Oh, and as far as the other question you asked.  “If I know any other CBL followers?”  Hell yeah…but they don’t call it CBL.  They just call it paleo with refeeds and paleo with “anything I can eat at night”.  Haha.  CrossFit followers who watch some of the personal videos of others, or read blogs from athletes, should understand what I am talking about.  There are a good deal of TOP athletes who follow a similar if not exact system of CBL.  They just don’t say it.  Good Stuff….good luck to all in the Open.

Scott Paltos

PUMP CrossFit & Performance

scpaltos@pumpcrossfit.com

 

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