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Topic: Training vs Testing

This topic is close to my heart. It represents a big mindset change for me roughly a year ago and the deeper I go into it the more I see the effects of people not understanding the difference between training and testing.

So let’s start with Testing.

Testing:

Stage 1: 

At the beginning of your CrossFit career, especially if you were relatively inactive or had no sporting background prior, you will receive the great gift of beginner gains. Effectively this is the concept of moving more and getting better at most skills. There doesn’t need to be too much structure around your training, you simply have to be more active and move well in order to get better. Depending on the person, this can last anywhere between 3-4 months and 2 years. We embrace this concept with open arms and by moving more, 90% of the time we get fitter and stronger. It’s a pretty sweet deal. Therefore, testing frequently gives us a good high, we’re getting better on paper in most disciplines

 

Stage 2: 

Now depending on the person and how resilient they are to training along with the other factors of stress in their life, they inevitably come to a road where progression seems to be a lot harder to come by. At this point we have to be a little more refined, you can’t simply move anymore just to get results. If fun is what you’re looking for then by all means keep doing what you’re doing. At Stage 2 we have to start looking at the overall stress that is going into the body. Testing frequently will be detrimental to your progress as the stress on the nervous system means that you simply don’t have enough in the tank to operate for the proceeding sessions. This is not muscle soreness, this feeling manifests itself in trouble sleeping, broken sleep, anxiety, having to try harder to get the same results and a slightly more run down feeling.

If you’re feeling like you “should” probably go to the gym rather than I “want” to go to the gym. This could be you.

Testing at this point will be very dependent on “how you feel”. You might PR, but there will be days when everything just feels heavier than it should.

 

Stage 3:

“I’ve got a hip/back/elbow/knee issue”
“How long have you had this?”
“Two years+”
“What now? You’ve had a niggle for two years?”

Time to start thinking about whether this is a niggle or whether this is something more chronic.

Testing now is definitely detrimental to your progression and you should be minimising the amount of load going through your body. Simply put, stop smashing yourself.

Training:

If we take a moment to stop and think about where we are in our fitness journey, analyse what really needs improving, we can then start to draw a road map.

We will take a strict pull up as an example. A big benchmark for a lot of people.

What strength is needed?

Lats, rhomboids, elbow flexors (Biceps).

What movement skips the use of a lot of these?

The kipping pull up.

It is to that end that the kipping pull up is one of the worst exercises to facilitate the growth of a strict pull up.

Most of us know by now that this is the case for pull ups, but this applies to other gymnastic movements and weightlifting movements however the idea of testing is exciting so we sometimes over indulge in it and that’s when niggles and injuries start to creep in.

So how does this apply to class?

Instead of building to the heaviest possible lift, challenge yourself to not increase the weight unless your footwork was perfect. Challenge yourself to not miss a lift. Remember your body learns from the lifts you make and don’t make. So if you make 60% of your lifts and are able to snatch 70kg 60% of the time, you’re limiting your growth potential within that movement.

In training we take the results from testing and build on those. Testing too frequently means you never end up training. Your results then drop down due to over stimulating your nervous system and when testing does eventually come around you’ve got nothing in the tank.

Testing is dependent on the person. I like to use the guideline below:


Beginner to CrossFit (>6 months):
Test frequently. You can’t easily burn yourself out through fitness so you can test frequently and likely see good results. (Be careful as you can still burn out through overload of work/lack of sleep/poor nutrition).

Intermediate to CrossFit (6Mo-5 years): Depending on what you are testing, we can test every 8-12 weeks. Management of nutrition/sleep/lifestyle is now important to keep linear results.

Advanced CrossFitter (5-15 years +): You now don’t need to be testing theoretically. It might be nice to test now and then but essentially you will get the most results from being consistent with your training. At this point you should have learnt your body by now. I often say to people in this category, you go by feel. 90% of your 1RM might feel like 110% one day so bring it down or consider not doing the session at all. Your body is telling you something. Intensity is not as important here, but more a structural foundation and a game plan as to where you want to go. Intensity is easy, being smart is not.

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