How Are You Assessing Progress? Stop testing 1RMs and measure this instead…

11 Jan


Written by Coach Sam Smith

Despite what you might believe, hitting a new max in your lifts isn’t the only measure of progress. When I think about the Sport of Fitness, there are multiple measures of progress that I believe have a greater impact on your overall ability, growth, and experience than your max lifts. One of those alternative measures is being able to do more training volume each year relative to the previous year. One of the main components of the Sport of Fitness is being able to do work. This can be summarized in the following two scenarios that make-up majority of the tests within the Sport of Fitness:

  1. Doing more than the person next to you in a fixed time frame (think: AMRAPs)
  2. Doing work faster than the person next to you (think: For Time)

In both cases, there is a requirement of expressing work in such a way that adequate exposure to training volume can become the linchpin in whether someone will do better than the person next to them. If you haven’t built enough training volume to support the demands and intensity of the tests, you will not perform as well as someone who has. Therefore, ensuring your training volume is growing year after year becomes a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) to show improved fitness and proficiency in your practice.

In this post, I want to highlight a client of mine who’s training I was reviewing recently and noticed the shift in his training load over the past year. I believe it highlights the importance of progression relative to the person and ensuring that progression is maintained over a long enough time frame to see the evolution of that process. The idea of doing more work year after year implies being able to stay consistent with your training to allow for an incremental increase in training volume.

If you are program hopping or getting injured every 3 months you will have a more challenging time seeing progress over a year. If either of these do describe you, you need to ask yourself how patient have you been with your training program? Are you allowing the progressions to mature and take shape or are you rushing through the process with hopes of achieving your goal faster? There are very few things in this life where patience is not a virtue and training isn’t one of them.

If building consistency is my number one priority with clients, my number two priority is building training volume and tolerance year after year. In the example below, we will look at my client’s training split from the first week of December 2020 compared to his week of training from the first week of November 2021. Both training cycles are aligned in reference to when the Open is beginning in the following year. (In 2021, the Crossfit Open started 3 weeks later than it will begin in 2022.) After we outline the overall training weeks and look at the total volume, I will then zoom in on a characteristic that is very important for anyone who wants to compete in the Sport of Fitness: gymnastics. To clarify, gymnastics are movements that are solely bodyweight based (excluding machines or running). Without further adieu, let’s get into it.

Client

Male

Age: 29 years old

Weight: 205 pounds

Height: 6’2’’

Goal

Qualify for the 2022 Crossfit Quarterfinals in Europe (He missed qualifying in 2021 by 200 spots).

Week of December 2nd 2020

 3rd week of a 5-week cycle

Monday

  1. RNT OHS @ 2121; 4 reps x 2 sets – prep work
  2. Tall Squat Snatch; 3 fast reps x 3 sets – rest 60 sec
  3. 1 Snatch High Pull + 1 High Hang Squat Snatch + 1 Low Hang Squat Snatch @ 45kg x 3 sets – rest 60 sec
  4. 1 Snatch High Pull + 1 Low Hang Squat Snatch every 75 sec x 8 sets – Start @ 70kg, add 5kg every 2 sets
  5. Pause Back Squat @ 21X1; Build to a tough 3 for the day
  6. 3 TnG Muscle Clean + 3 Thrusters @ 50kg every 60 sec x 5 sets
  7. 3 TnG Power Clean + 3 Thrusters @ 60kg every 60 sec x 5 sets

+

3 rounds w/ 20# vest on @ skill pace:

30 Prisoner Walking Lunges

30 sec Hollow Hold

Tuesday

  1. EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 30 sec Supinated Hang from Bar

2nd min - 30 sec Knee Tuck Hold @ top of Dip - externally rotate hands

3rd min - 30 sec Pronated Hang from Bar

4th min - 30 sec Wall Facing HS Hold

5th min - 30 sec Wtd DU practice

  1. (Gym Vol ACC)

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

5 Push Ups + 5 RMU + 5 Push Ups

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

25 DU's + 5 Strict HSPU + 25 DU's + 5 Kipping HSPU

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

10 T2B + 10 C2B

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

25 DU's + 5m HSW + 25 DU's + 5m HSW

Wednesday

  1. Every 3 min x 3 sets:

5 Deadlifts @ 11X1

6 Alt Pistols

5 Deadlifts – TnG

*Start @ 110kg, add 5-10kg per set

  1. For Time:

40 Cal AB

20 Bar Facing Burpees

40 Alt DB Power Snatch @ 22.5kg

20 Bar Facing Burpees

40 WB @ 30# to 10’

Thursday

Active Recovery

20 min of Thoracic + Hip Mobility Work

30-40 min of Running/Swimming

Friday

  1. Single Leg Box Jump; 1/leg every 20 sec x 10 sets
  2. Tall Squat Clean; 3 fast reps x 3 sets – rest 60 sec
  3. 2 High Hang Squat Clean + 2 Split Jerk every 90 sec x 8 sets – 4 @ 90kg, 4 @ 100kg
  4. 3 Fast Front Squats @ 90kg every 60 sec x 12 sets – take from the rack
  5. 3 TnG Muscle Snatch + 3 OHS @ 45kg every 60 sec x 5 sets
  6. 5 Hang Squat Snatch @ 45kg every 60 sec x 5 sets
  7. Active Hollow Hold – Accumulate 2 min of Holding

Saturday

A1. Half Kneeling Landmine Press @ 21X1; 6/arm x 2 sets - rest 90 sec

A2. Single Arm Ring Row @ 21X2; 6/arm x 2 sets - rest 2 min

+

  1. 15/10/5 (Mixed; Increasing)

15 min AMRAP @ 75-80%/Sustained Pace:

21 Cal AB

15 GHDSU

9 Double DB HPC to OH @ 20kg/hand

30 DU's

+

5 min rest

+

10 min AMRAP @ 85%/Sustained Power:

10 C2B

10 BJSD @ 24"

10 WB @ 30# to 10'

10 BJSD @ 24"

+

5 min rest

+

5 min AMRAP @ 90%/High Sustained Power:

10 KBS @ 32kg

10 Burpees -no jump @ top

Week of November 1st  2021

3rd week of a 5-week cycle

Monday

  1. Seated Hurdle Jump; 1 powerful rep every 20 sec x 15 reps
  2. 1 Squat Snatch every 75 sec x 12 reps – 6 @ 90kg, 6 @ 95kg – perfect reps here
  3. Back Squat; 1.1.1.1.1 x 4 sets – rest 3-5 min b/t sets – rest 15-30 sec b/t 1’s
  4. Glute Ham Raise @ 30X0; 6-7 tough reps x 4 sets – rest as needed

+

EMOM x 10 minutes:

5 min – 2 Strict HSPU to tough Deficit – UB sets

5 min – 2 Strict C2B (weighted) – UB sets

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

5 min – 1 LLRC to 15’

5 min – 1/arm KB TGU @ 32kg

+

For Time @ 85-90%:

1000m Ski Erg

3 min Ring FLR – accumulate

500m Ski Erg

90 sec Ring FLR – accumulate

Tuesday

20 min AMRAP @ 50%:

250m Ski Erg

5m HSW

25 DU’s

250m Ski Erg

20 Walking Lunges

25 DU’s

+

5-7 min rest

+

20 min AMRAP @ 85-90%/Sustained Power:

300m Ski Erg

15 WB @ 30# to 10’

30 DU’s

*Keep the tempo up and sustained here

Wednesday

  1. 5 rounds - skill work:

1 Strict RMU + 2 Strict Ring Dip + 10 sec hold @ top

10-15 sec L Sit on Parallettes

200m Run - EZ

  1. Gym Vol ACC

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 4 UB RMU

2nd min - 4 UB BMU

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 6-8 UB Strict HSPU

2nd min - 6-8 UB Kipping HSPU

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 8-10 UB C2B

2nd min - 8-10 UB T2B

  1. Seated DB External Rotation; @ 30X0; 8/arm x 3 sets - rest 60 sec - tough sets

Thursday

Active Recovery

20 min - Hip/Thoracic Flow Work

+

30-60 min – MTB Riding

Friday

  1. Seated Hurdle Jump; 1 powerful rep every 20 sec x 15 reps
  2. 1 Squat Clean + 1 Jerk every 75 sec x 12 reps – 4 @ 105, 107.5, 110kg– perfect reps here
  3. Front Squat; 1.1.1.1.1 x 4 sets – rest 3-5 min b/t sets – rest 15-30 sec b/t 1’s
  4. Back Rack Reverse Lunge; 8-6-4/leg – rest 1 min b/t legs – Start moderate and increase per set

E1. DB Floor Press @ 11X1; 5 tough reps x 6 sets – rest 90 sec

E2. DB Neutral Grip Bent over Row @ 11X1; 5 tough reps x 6 sets – rest 90 sec

+

  1. For Time @ 85-90%:

21-18-15-12-9-6-3

Row Cals

GHDSU

Saturday

6 sets @ 85-90%:

25 Air Squats

12 Pull Ups

3 Burpee RMU

12 Alt DB Power Snatch @ 32.5kg

3 Wall Walks

12 BJSD @ 24"

-rest 1:1-

*same times per set

At face value, there is a substantial amount of difference in volume when looking at the entire week. We could easily add up the total contractions over the entire week to get a gross estimate on total work completed. Granted, not all contractions are created equal so that must be accounted for when thinking about volume and what’s inside of those reps.

I now want to zoom in on his gymnastic specific training in each week of each cycle. If we look at his week of training from December 2020, we see 2 sessions where gymnastics movements are being trained (1 very specific session and 1 mixed style session):

Tuesday

  1. EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 30 sec Supinated Hang from Bar

2nd min - 30 sec Knee Tuck Hold @ top of Dip - externally rotate hands

3rd min - 30 sec Pronated Hang from Bar

4th min - 30 sec Wall Facing HS Hold

5th min - 30 sec Wtd DU practice

  1. (Gym Vol ACC)

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

5 Push Ups + 5 RMU + 5 Push Ups

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

25 DU's + 5 Strict HSPU + 25 DU's + 5 Kipping HSPU

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

10 T2B + 10 C2B

-into-

Every 2 min x 5 sets:

25 DU's + 5m HSW + 25 DU's + 5m HSW

Total reps for B:

25 RMU

50 Push Ups

250 DU’s

25 Strict HSPU

25 Kipping HSPU

50 T2B

50 C2B

250 DU’s

50m HSW

250 reps

+

50m HSW

500 DU’s 

(In 40 minutes)

Saturday

A1. Half Kneeling Landmine Press @ 21X1; 6/arm x 2 sets - rest 90 sec

A2. Single Arm Ring Row @ 21X2; 6/arm x 2 sets - rest 2 min

+

  1. 15/10/5 (Mixed; Increasing)

15 min AMRAP @ 75-80%/Sustained Pace:

21 Cal AB

15 GHDSU

9 Double DB HPC to OH @ 20kg/hand

30 DU's

+

5 min rest

+

10 min AMRAP @ 85%/Sustained Power:

10 C2B

10 BJSD @ 24"

10 WB @ 30# to 10'

10 BJSD @ 24"

+

5 min rest

+

5 min AMRAP @ 90%/High Sustained Power:

10 KBS @ 32kg

10 Burpees -no jump @ top

His scores for these:

4 rounds

3 + 34

4 + 1

Total reps:

84 Cal AB

60 GHDSU

36 Double KB HPC to OH

120 DU’s

40 C2B

74 BJSD

40 WB

41 KBS

40 Burpees

*Some of the repetitions in this piece are not gymnastic movements but I wanted to show the total reps for when I compare it to his week of training in November of 2021. 

Now, when we shift to his training split from November 2021, we see 3 sessions where gymnastics are being challenged/trained in various ways:

Monday

  1. Gym CP

EMOM x 10 minutes:

5 min - 2 Strict HSPU to tough Deficit - UB sets

5 min - 2 Strict C2B (weighted) - UB sets

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

5 min - 1 LLRC to 15'

5 min - 1/arm KB TGU @ 32kg

  1. For Time @ 85-90%:

1000m Ski Erg

3 min Ring FLR - accumulate

500m Ski Erg

90 sec Ring FLR – accumulate

Total reps for E:

10 Strict Deficit HSPU

10 Strict Weighted C2B

5 Legless Rope Climb to 15’

10 TGU @ 32kg

(I’m not counting F even though I’m challenging scap stability and endurance with that combination)

Wednesday

  1. 5 rounds - skill work:

1 Strict RMU + 2 Strict Ring Dip + 10 sec hold @ top

10-15 sec L Sit on Parallettes

200m Run - EZ

  1. Gym Vol ACC

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 4 UB RMU

2nd min - 4 UB BMU

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 6-8 UB Strict HSPU

2nd min - 6-8 UB Kipping HSPU

-rest 2 min-

EMOM x 10 minutes:

1st min - 8-10 UB C2B

2nd min - 8-10 UB T2B

  1. Seated DB External Rotation; @ 30X0; 8/arm x 3 sets - rest 60 sec - tough sets

Total reps for B: 

20 RMU

20 BMU

40 Strict HSPU

40 Kipping HSPU

50 C2B

50 T2B

=

220 reps

(In 30 minutes)

Saturday 

6 sets @ 85-90%:

25 Air Squats

12 Pull Ups

3 Burpee RMU

12 Alt DB Power Snatch @ 32.5kg

3 Wall Walks

12 BJSD @ 24"

-rest 1:1-

*same times per set

Total reps:

150 Air Squats

72 Pull Ups

18 Burpee RMUs

72 DB Power Snatch

18 Wall Walks

72 BJSD

When we reflect on the change in volume tolerance and expression from last year to this year, we see a very different athlete. We see an athlete who is growing, evolving, and moving towards his physical potential. Zooming out to see the bigger picture allows us to recognize this progress.

There are multiple measures of progress in the Sport of Fitness. One of those that often gets overlooked is incremental increases in training volume year after year. Being able to handle larger loads of volume year after year implies better efficiency and expression of that volume (and/or grouping of movements, such as gymnastics) allowing for proper adaptation.

Don’t be quick to fix your gaze on unicorn lifts. Instead, opt for the more mature and disciplined approach by taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Are you moving forward across time towards your physical potential? If you aren’t incrementally increasing your training volume, then you are not.

CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. Big Dawgs' uses of the CROSSFIT® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and Big Dawgs is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.


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