Testing, Testing…

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Next week is a testing week, in all senses of the word. That’s right, next week we are spending 85% of the week testing out various lifts and workouts. Now I have your attention I want to spend a bit of time talking about what testing means and the importance of testing in a training programme, plus a few tips on getting the most out of the week.

1. Let’s start with the most obvious point. For any training programme to be effective it has to be measurable. Otherwise how do we know if we’re making progress or achieving our goals and targets? It always comes back to goal setting and having a firm focus and direction for your training. When goals get vague or neglected, we allow room for plateaus to creep into the picture and there’s no real excuse for that. On to point 2.

2. The second reason testing is crucial relates to a point I made in my blog on Monday. Training performance is a pretty fluid concept. Thanks to the many distractions life throws at us, our levels of fitness and strength can fluctuate month-to-month, year-to-year. This means the goals we set in the Summer could be completely inappropriate now, but how do we know? That’s where testing comes in. Testing weeks and phases are the ideal time to sit down and evaluate targets and the progress made towards those targets. We rarely get things perfect the first time. So it’s no good setting a programme and never checking whether it’s actually working or not. Test, tweak, re-test. The only way to ensure progress and improvement and avoid prolonged troughs in our training.

3. In Perpetua we spend a lot of time working out with weights that are based on percentages. Percentages that require us to know our 1 or 3 rep maxes. Working to these percentages ensures we’re producing the right output based on our total capacity. It’s true to say that fuel, sleep and previous days training can impact whether or not we can reach these intended percentage zones but without them we rely predominantly on guesswork which will result in decreased output and missing the full potential of a workout.

4. There are several considerations we should make before we decide whether or not testing rep maxes is appropriate for the stage of training we’re in. The biggest one revolves around our ‘training age’. Training age refers to how long we have been doing this type of exercise. In this case lifting weights, gymnastic resistance work and metabolic conditioning. If our training age is 6 months or less then trying to test our 1 rep max clean and jerk is probably a waste of time. Instead we’d be better off continuing to grease the movement with triplets or sets of 5 at a weight we can perform with sound mechanics. This doesn’t just stop with highly technical Oly lifts. Your fundamental lifts follow this rule too like the deadlift or back squat. 3 months or less, don’t test, just work the movement, train the neural pathways required for that movement pattern and focus on building up a system that can handle the demands required of it from that lift.

5. The art of testing. As Crossfitters we enjoy moving a lot, resting a little and then moving again. We’re fit with a big capacity to keep going, so testing comes as a little counter intuitive to the Crossfitter. It’s a time where we’re forced to rest a lot more than we move. Resist the urge to perform a set of 10 at a lightweight to get warm. Resist the urge to do 3 reps at your 3RM before you attempt your 1RM. Resist the temptation to lift every percentage from 50% to 100%. Most 1RM can be achieved in roughly 6 lifts. Take the coaches advice at the board when they suggest good ways to get to your test weight. Make sure you don’t make big increments in your weights when you get past 80%, and above all, make sure you’ve rested sufficiently between lifts above that percentage too. Big increments at 80% and above don’t allow the body to be primed to lift the weight it’s faced with. Small increments, big rest.

6. The last point I want to make on testing is about your mental approach and the atmosphere in the gym; 2 things that can have a significant effect on your performance in these sessions. In theory your mental approach should be consistent whenever you step up to the bar. Determined, focused and confident are all-important mindsets. That said, when you step up to exceed a PB, and you’re faced with a weight you’ve never actually moved before – it can come down to mind set as much as physical capabilities. It’s often you’ll see someone ‘talk themselves out’ of a lift. Keep the same approach to all your lifts. Ensure you’ve rested long enough between sets. Don’t try to exceed your PB by a large increment, then throw in some aggression and feed off the atmosphere in the gym. Don’t let your mental approach be the reason your bar doesn’t go up.

By Coach Ozzie

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