You Won’t Always PR (and that’s ok)

Imagine setting a personal record/personal best every time you lifted. Even if you went up by 1 lb. each time, you would be the world’s strongest person in very little time. Unfortunately training doesn’t work like that.

Tonight we ended a 6 week squat cycle at CrossFit Thermal. We tested 1RM’s 6 weeks ago and then retested tonight. Almost every single person PR’d by incredible percentages. We saw 20-60# jumps and some even had more in the tank if it weren’t for the 30 minute cap. However, there were a few people that did not PR (including myself) and we all had one thing in common – we had all been doing CrossFit for 3+ years. The newer folks (doing CrossFit for less than 1 year) made huge jumps and the more experienced did not. What gives?

Mark Rippetoe wrote about the Novice Effect and it basically says that people new to strength training will make gains because they are starting at ground zero. Doing ANYTHING will increase their fitness and strength. But it will also plateau after about a year. This is why I created BarBelles which saw great success taking women and men who plateaued and pushing them to bigger numbers over the course of 8 weeks. Those folks were around a year into CrossFit, so they were experienced enough to know the lifts, but still new enough to benefit from linear progression (simply adding weight each week)

This is the same thing we saw with 95% of our members tonight. The simple act of squatting each week and adding weight (5-10 lbs) was enough to increase their strength. Their bodies adapted to the stress and got stronger.

For the more experienced people, we can take away two things: number one is that you might need a more focused and advanced program to increase strength. Instead of linear progression, changing reps, sets, and weight each week in a program like Smolov or Hatch would be more beneficial to force your body to adapt. (I saw great success with both of these programs last summer.) The other big takeaway is to not expect PRs every time you lift. I was aiming for 400# tonight and ended up with a shoddy 365# squat, 20# below my PR. (shoddy b/c of form, not because I think 365 is shoddy)

The fact is that it’s all fun when hitting PRs, but the real training begins once that honeymoon phase is over. People train for YEARS without hitting PRs, but they still train. If your only motivation is hitting bigger and bigger numbers, you’ll be crushed when you plateau or yes, even drop. You have to push past setbacks like that and consider part of the process. The worst thing you can do is give up on the journey.