Hypertrophy For CrossFit – By Head Coach Milo

Focused hypertrophy training is often overlooked by coaches and athletes in CrossFit. Perhaps this is because hypertrophy is generally considered to be within the realm of bodybuilding, and old school CrossFit was generally juxtapositioned to this style of training (along with excessive low-intensity steady-state endurance training.)

Hypertrophy is a powerful and useful tool for any and all levels of athletes regardless of goals and aspirations.

Strength

Let’s start with the most obvious: Strength is important in CrossFit. How does one go about getting stronger?

Generally speaking, there are two types of adaptations to any kind of training. (1) Functional adaptations, which are adaptations of the nervous system resulting in improved skill in the given task. (2) Structural adaptations, which are actual physical and physiological changes resulting in an improved ability to execute the given task.

In simpler terms, functional adaptations are your brain and nervous system learning how to do what you want them to do, and structural adaptations build the things necessary to do them.

Here’s the thing: functional adaptations eventually run out. Once you’re really good at squatting, from a neuromuscular point of view, there’s only so much more you’re going to get out of getting better at it. So what to do? Well, you aim to get more out of the structural adaptations, which, in the case of strength, can mean building more muscle. Once that muscle is built, you are able to create new functional adaptations.

Is it possible to build muscle with lower reps and heavier weights? Sure! But for well-trained athletes, it probably doesn’t work as well as using higher reps and lower weights, and, for the aspiring competitive CrossFit athletes, those high reps and low weights come with a host of other advantages.

Strength Endurance

Just as hypertrophy training can lay the base for improvements in maximal strength, it can also lean towards the other end of the spectrum and lay the base for improvements in strength endurance, a critical component of performance in CrossFit Games competition. Although most (not all) events in CrossFit competition are closer to the endurance side of strength endurance, hypertrophy training can still help to create the foundation to improve the athlete’s fitness with lighter weights.

This is especially true for newer athletes. Where more advanced athletes will benefit the most from highly specific training to improve their sport specific strength endurance, hypertrophy training is an excellent introduction to strength endurance for novice and intermediate trainees, who can reap the benefits of both improving their strength potential and their strength endurance potential from a single stimulus. Hypertrophy training can serve as the prime driver of improvements in strength endurance until the athlete is at a pretty high level of sport specific development.

Technique

Hypertrophy training necessarily requires the athlete to perform a lot of repetitions with a submaximal load. This fits nicely within the context of the hierarchy of “mechanics, consistency, intensity.” Regularly implementing concentrated blocks of hypertrophy training ensures that the athlete is routinely afforded the opportunity to reduce the absolute intensity and perfect their mechanics by performing a lot of perfect reps with relatively light weights.

Additionally, more specific hypertrophy training can help to improve technical flaws. Often, when an athlete breaks down at a given part of a lift, the breakdown represents a relative lack of strength in a particular muscle or muscle groups. Fortifying the area in question with muscle mass via targeted exercises can help the athlete eliminate weak spots which improve their mechanics, thereby raising the ceiling for their strength potential and reducing the risk of injury.

Joint Health

Last, but certainly not least, is the potential impact of hypertrophy training on joint health. Competitive CrossFit athletes put a lot of stress and strain on their joints. When it comes to strength training, much of the stress on the joints is a result of how much weight the athlete is using, rather than the total volume of work (although high volume at high intensity certainly compounds the stress.) Regularly cycling in blocks of lower weight, higher rep training can help to alleviate this stress, keeping the athlete healthy for long periods of hard training.


Monday

A) Front Squat
3 sets of 12

B) 2-3 sets
5 rounds:

5 Weighted Pull Up 20/10kg
5 Box Jump (Increasing Height)

rest 3:00 b/t sets

Target Sub: 6:00
Time Cap each set: 9:00

Tuesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Press
3 Sets of 12

B) 2 sets
100 Push Up

*Start with and every time you break 10 DB Hang Squat clean 22/16kg

*A break is any time you break from a plank position

Target Time each set: 5:00
Time Cap each set: 9:00

– Rest 5:00 b/t sets

MetCon

For time:
Row 2,000 meters
50 wall balls 9/6kg
Row 1,000 meters
35 wall balls 9/6kg
Row 500 meters
20 wall balls 9/6kg

Wednesday

Classic CrossFit

A) Snatch
12 Mins to build to a heavy 3

B) Gods of the arena!
25/20 Cal Row/Ski

5 Legless

25/20 Cal Row/Ski

5 Legless

25/20 Cal Row/Ski

5 Rope Climb

25/20 Cal Row/Ski

5 Rope Climb

25/20 Cal Row/Ski

*Row should be moderate/fast pace ideally under 1:15 each set

*Legless and regular rope climbs should ideally take under 1:45 each set

Target Time: sub 12:00

Time Cap: 16:00

For those that can/want to you can sub Calories for 2 Lengths Handstand Walk

Thursday

Classic CrossFit

A) Deadlift
3 Sets of 12

B) 2 sets of 3 rounds:
10 Strict HSPU
25 Weighted Sit Up/10 Strict Toes to bar

Rest 5:00 b/t

*Strict HSPU should be completed of sets of 4+

Target Time each set: 8:00
Time Cap each set: 12:00

MetCon

5 Rounds
24 cal bike/ski
12 Bench Press DB Bench 22/16kg

Rest 5:00

5 rounds
24 Cal Row
12 Dumbbell Front Rack Squats 22/16kg

Friday

Classic CrossFit

A) Back Squat
3 sets of 12

B) For time:
150 Double Under
15 Bar Muscle Up
150 Double Under
15 Ring Muscle Up
150 Double Under
15 Bar Muscle Up

Target Time: sub 12:00
Time Cap: 16:00

Saturday

Teams of 2 to get as far as possible!
30-24-18-12

Power Clean 70/50kg
12-18-24-30
Dumbbell Thruster 22/16kg

– Rest 5 Min –

12-18-24-30
Power Clean
30-24-18-12
Dumbbell Thruster

Time Cap 35 Min

*Power cleans should be moderate and manageable quick singles or touch and go sets
*Thrusters should be at least sets of 5+