How much should I be doing?


This is a frequent question that I get asked in relation to lifting weights in workouts.

How much should I be… squatting, pressing, cleaning, snatching, blah, blah blah and the answer is obviously going to be something along the lines of:

As much as possible, with good form….or …More than you are currently lifting, darling!

The end…

Wouldn’t that be a nice blog post? Short, blunt and accurate.

Getting into this in more detail digs up a few points.

Unfortunately, in CrossFit you generally compare yourself to certain standards.

I’m going to bet that most people doing CrossFit out of an affiliate will compare their workout results with someone else on the whiteboard.

Be honest folks, we’ve all done it. I do it all the time! It makes me feel wonderful when I put up a time and compare it to someone 15 years younger than me and realise I was faster, got more rounds or reps, or lifted more weight.

The human ego is a bloody stupid thing because what we should be doing an what we actually do are frequently in conflict. We should be comparing our own past performances to our current ones to assess progress but let’s face it that is unlikely to happen because we live in the present an most people don’t analyse this sort of thing that much UNLESS you have definitive pre-set standards of performance against which to measure your results. Chances are you’ll still compare yourself to someone else, rightly or wrongly, but at least if you use the same set standards for comparison it takes personalities out of the equation.

So what standards are available?

Bodyweight or more accurately strength to weight as a ratio, is an old favourite for sports scientists and people who are interested in measuring this sort of thing.

Being able to squat, deadlift or pullup your own bodyweight is a good basic starting point. But where do you go after that? If you’ve ever completed a real, proven strength program having never done one before you can easily increase your numbers within 4-6 weeks.

I’ve put at least 80 people through my program in the past 5 years and typical results show strength that end up with athletes doing at least 5 reps of movements they could only do 1 rep of to start with, in less that 6 weeks.

Strength training with these kind of results is therefore quite addictive!

Here are a couple of quick links that are useful:

This chart based on the original work of Dr Lon Kilgore, is a good place to start.

The categories I, II, III, IV and V are: Untrained, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced and Elite.

If you can’t be bothered to look up tables and movements there is THIS link which is based on the same numbers and will spew out the same info based on your input.

There are also plenty of useful apps available based on the information that you used to have to look up on charts from thick books or ACSM or Strength & Conditioning manuals.

It’s a lot easier than it was 20 years ago!

Wanting to increase your strength to weight ratio is always a good thing, across all sports.

In specific sports like Olympic Weightlifing or Fighting Sports like boxing or MMA, there are weight-based categories. However, in Athletics, Gymnastics and all endurance sports there are no weight based categories. It’s a mixed bag for anyone taking part in these events. At the elite level athletes will typically “look” a certain way in terms of body composition, but weight, height etc are quite varied.

Let’s have a quick look at Track and Field -specifically the 100m mens race.

The 2012 Olympic 100m final was really interesting, just looking at the athletes different heights and weights.

Here are the names and times of the finalists:

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 20.04.40

Here are the athletes bodyweights and heights:

Usain Bolt 94kg (207lbs) at 6’5″

Yohan Blake 76kg (168lbs) at 5’11”

Justin Gatlin 83kg (183lbs) at 6’1″

Tyson Gay 80kg (177lbs) at 5’10”

Ryan Baily 98kg (216lbs) at 6’4″

Churandy Martina 74kg (163lbs) at 5’10”

Richard Thompson 80kg (180lbs) at 6’2″

Asafa Powell 88kg (190lbs) at 6’3″

There is a HUGE range of weights here and based on the results (assuming these chaps didn’t take any performance enhancing drugs) how much you weigh or how tall you are has little to do with results!

The tallest and second heaviest bloke came first whilst the second lightest, second shortest chap came in..wait for it..second!

Here is an interesting study on the weight, height and times. The basic conclusion is that there is no correlation between weight, height and running times. Interestingly the author of this was wrong about his prediction for mean times at the 100m final, even if you take Asafa Powells time out of the equation – he pulled a hamstring during the race and hobbled to the finish line.

This brings us back to CrossFit.

Due to the nature of CrossFit, we don’t ever just do one thing. We run, we jump, we lift, we pull, we push, we throw, we swing etc. If you’re at a gym with decent programming and your diet isn’t full of poor choices, the reality is that no matter how tall, heavy or light you are, you can ALWAYS improve your athletic performance.