Categorized as: Powerlifting

CrossFit Powerlifting: 2nd quarter cycle 2017

IMG_8400The end of the current cycle

It’s week 11 of 12 of this Powerlifting cycle, and that means one more chance this week to chase those gains. For those of you who have been following the cycle, we’re one week away from retesting. For those that haven’t dipped their toe yet, this week or next will be the perfect time to jump in, try out the class, and establish a 1RM ready for the new cycle.

The programme: Wendler 5-3-1

We’ve seen a steady increase in numbers over the last few months, so for those who haven’t been with us from the beginning, we’re on a Wendler 5-3-1 cycle.

We hit our numbers in 3 phases; every 4 weeks, we go back to our original percentages and add a little extra weight to our 1RM. So week 1, 5, and 9, the percentages are the same, but your theoretical 1RM goes up; adding weight slowly to push the boundaries of what you’re able to lift.

The last set of every session is a max effort set, which means you can push yourself to the max every class, and then compare your numbers against previous weeks.

If you want to read about this cycle in more detail, go here.

Tried and tested

I’ve been following the exact same cycle along with the classes and recording my numbers. Here’s what I got on back squat.
Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 15.39.43

(NB. my 1RM is calculated a little low due to a back injury, so these numbers are perhaps a little higher than I would expect)

If you’re following the cycle, you should have a set of numbers recorded somewhere a bit like this (even if there’s a week or two missing).

You can see a clear progression in numbers over the 11 weeks. In week 1, I managed 10 reps at 115kg in my max effort set. 8 weeks later and I managed the same number of reps at 120kg. Not only does this progression in numbers give you confidence to lift more, but it’s tangible evidence that you’re getting stronger and more proficient.

IMG_7352Next up in Powerlifting

Next week – week 12 – will be retesting. In all the classes over the week, you’ll have the opportunity to retest all your 1RMs, including secondary lifts like front squat, pull-up, sumo DL, etc. If you fancy starting with Powerlifting, or just want to test your 1RMs, come on down.

The following week – w/c 26.06.17 – will be SWOD week, where we’ll put our new strength to the test in some powerlifting benchmarks (“Linda” will feature).

Then, in two weeks – w/c 26.06.17 – we’ll be starting a new cycle. I’ve liked this Wendler programme so much we’re going to do it again. But, now that you’re all acclimatised, you can expect more accessory work, and some more challenging workouts. We’ll still keep our explosive work and sprinting, but we’re going to add in some more hypertrophy and bodybuilding-type exercises.

Who is CrossFit Powerlifting for?

The only prerequisites for the Powerlifting class is that you know the lifts in question: back squat, bench press, and deadlift. That’s it. If you’ve done the Level 1s, or are familiar with them from your own gym work, that’s enough.

You don’t need to have a minimum level of strength. You don’t need to know your 1RMs (yet). You don’t have to do low-bar back squats or conventional deadlifts.

IMG_4810The only thing you need is a desire to be stronger. Whether that be for CrossFit, for Olympic Lifting, maybe that was your weakness in the Open, or just for its own sake.

The lifts are all on rotation, so even if you can only commit to once a week, you’ll still hit all lifts over the cycle. Similarly, if you want to work specifically on one lift, say bench press, you know exactly which classes to come to.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be fleshing out the new programme. Feel free to email or FB message me with any questions. Otherwise, good luck retesting next week!

Finding your Strength Head: Introducing relative intensity


The CrossFit London programme has many objectives, one of which  is to  help you find your strength head – shorthand for developing your strength knowledge. In this article we visit the basic language of weightlifting and how it relates to the concept of relative intensity.

When it comes to using weight; in simple terms, people think this: lift the heaviest weight you can, that’s your 1 rep max; then based on that you can lift 90% of it 3 times (3reps), 85% of it 5 times, 75% 10 times. If you do 3 rounds of 3 reps, that’s 3 sets.

So weight lifting is a mix of percentages, sets and reps, all based on a one rep max. Simples!

This is a great place to start, but to develop your strength head,  you need to develop your knowledge and insights into the strength game.

Some time ago, Zatsiorsky pointed out there are two types of  one rep maxes you can have: a competition 1 rep max, and a training 1 rep max.

A) A competition max is  where you get hyped up and get a PB  and scream a lot.

B) A training 1 rep max


However, often people skip the full definition of a 1 rep training max.

A maximum training weight  is the heaviest  weight you can lift  without substantial  emotional stress.

Damn. No screaming.

For athletes, the difference between the two is great. The example Zatsiorsky cites is that for athletes who lift  200 kg during a competition, a 180kg is typically above their maximum training weight. As a possible indicator, if your heart rate increases before your lift, that’s a sign of emotional engagement. Weightlifting is meant to stress your body, not your mind.

That’s the job of your partner and employer.

In short, if you screamed it up – it’s too heavy to use as a basis for regular training.

So, if you are calculating reps and sets using a 1 rep max, please, please use the right one; otherwise you’ll break. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon… If you want to properly test your 1 rep max, book a PT session with one of the training team.

If you have been lifting regularly for a while, you have probably begun to review strength literature and you are probably aware that lifting 80% of your 1 rep max provokes strength gain.

So, when lifting sets of 5, you’d probably like to put 80% of your 1 rep max on the bar. Everyone does that, but think about what it is you’d are actually be doing.

Let’s forget weightlifting for a moment, and talk about bricks. Imagine you are a labourer on a building site. Lets say we run a test to see how many bricks you can move in a day. For argument’s sake, let’s  say you can move 1000.

Normally in training we wouldn’t want to move the 1000, we would do 800 ( 80%) but many people want to set 5 reps of that. So there you are, lifting 5 x 800 =4000.

If you tried to do that in a day, you’d probably die.

Back to the weight room. So you can lift 100kg calmly as your 1 rep max. You’ve been told if you lift 80% and over of this figure, you are strength training. So, to keep the maths easy, if you lift 80kg, you are strength training. But do you lift that 80% five times?

As you see from my poor labourer example, the first 800 was probably easy, but the next 800, isn’t easy, the 3rd 800 is getting you to breaking point.

In short, 80% lifted multiple times, isn’t perceived by the body as 80%. It sees it as much, much heavier because of the volume. The bricklayer, is of course a silly example – but try and get the message rather than be sidetracked in the endurance aspect of the example.

In simple terms, because you are lifting in sets of multiple reps, a load of 67% of your 1 rep max lifted 5 times has a relative intensity of 79%. It feels like 79%, your body thinks it’s 79%. It is 79%

Putting 76% of you 1 rep max on your bar for 5, has the effect of being 88%.

70% feels like  =82%,

73% feels like  =  85%.

80% on the bar for 5, is like lifting 91%.

Relative intensity is the simple observation that volume, load and rest effects how your body feels and adapts to weight.

Coach Robb Rogers gives a fuller description here:

Remember your muscles are dumb, they don’t know or care about percentages. They just know what feels heavy.

According to Mike Tuchscherer; “The body responds to things like the force of the muscle’s contraction, how long the contraction lasts, and how many contractions there were. A percentage isn’t necessarily a precise way to describe this, as different lifters will perform differently.”

In take-home terms, if today you went to CrossFit London or CrossFit SE11, and during the strength session, you only got to 68% of your (proper) 1 rep Training max for 5; you actually hit the 80% in relative intensity. That’s the 80% you need to nudge your strength along.

For now, in our general programme, we are not obsessing about percentages; but those who do know their lifts, I hope will be grateful for this insight. For the rest of you, simply work to a set of 5 that you can comfortably lift, bearing in mind these RPE (rates of perceived exertion) as guidance.

On a scale from 1 to 10:

9: Heavy Effort. Could have done one more rep.
8: Could have done two or three more reps, but glad you didn’t have to.
7: Bar speed is “snappy” if maximal force is applied
6: Bar speed is “snappy” with moderate effort

After a while, I suspect a “five” you can do in class will be at an RPE between 7 and 8.

Once you bedded this concept of relative intensity into your head, you can look forward to many years of safe, effective lifting.

More “Strength Head” insights coming soon.

Grateful thanks to Coach Chet Morjaria @  Strength Education and to Coach Anthony Waller @ CrossFit London for the numerous corrections  and observations they supplied

Blackwork by Coach Kate Pankhurst, Certificate course piece @ Royal School of Needlework


Hello to the bulgarian, rear foot, elevated split

bulgarian lunge

Its impossible to run an effective programme without some consideration of  the work of  Mike Boyle and , for this article, the way he has popularised the Bulgarian Split (see here for his view point).

All it offers is better, stronger  bigger legs, but without back stress,  balance ,  hip flexibility, and a high level of safe training discomfort.


This will be making a regular , structured feature from the 1st of June in our programmed Crossfit heavy days. Start practicing at home now  if you haven’t seen it before . It often features in our Metcon classes , but I know most of  our coaches sneak this into their training, so grab a PT session to get up to speed.

You’ll be grateful for  all that walking lunge practice you’ve had.  Pillow on the floor as a comfy knee target,   top of the rear foot on the sofa  and go!  Start off  with a lower rear surface if it helps, and “split”. If you need to revise for exams, while practicing, so be it. Do keep your torso upright if possible. Obviously an appropriate abdominal brace.

Get to 20 each side, 30 seconds rest between each leg, 2 minutes rest  then 2 more sets. Once you have  learned  this, we will be looking to load this .

The Bulgarian Lunge: apart from the fact that it isn’t a lunge and didn’t come from Bulgaria, its great.