Thursday 171214

Overhead Squat

Post loads to comments and BTWB

The morning crew getting that midline warmed up.












Intensity given to you in full geek mode By Courtney “the geek that ain’t weak” Shepherd

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you need intensity. I’ve spent more time on more blog posts than I can truly add up talking about intensity. . . that’s how freaking big of a deal I think it is. But more importantly, that’s how much time and energy I’m willing to put in to making sure you not only agree with me, but you basically walk in to Verve with the mind set of “intensity or death”. Before I go full geek on you, I’m going to take a few steps back to remind you all just what I mean when I say “intensity”. Intensity is the independent variable most commonly associated with maximizing the rate of return on favorable adaptation. What the what? To paraphrase, intensity is what gets you results. What results do you want? Faster times? Heavier lifts? Less body fat? More muscle? Lower cholesterol (not sexy but we should definitely all want this)? Avoid type II diabetes? Look good naked? In the words of Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, “What do you want?” Intensity is the road to all of it. 

I realize that may be very hard for some to understand. Mike Warkentin of CrossFit 204 said it best:

“Intensity burns. It tastes like a mouthful of old pennies soaked in battery acid. Intensity also brings results. Push someone out of the comfort zone and physiology adapts. Do that regularly and fitness improves dramatically. Discomfort creates adaptation, but it can be very tempting to avoid the continuous discomfort needed to keep driving adaptation—even as a CrossFit athlete who knows its rewards.

Reducing intensity can be as subtle as breaking up Fran’s 15 thrusters when we don’t have to. It’s a very minor reduction in effort, and almost no one notices—sometimes not even the athlete. Fran burns a bit less, and only 20 seconds are added to a PR time, giving him or her the opportunity to attribute the score to an off day, bad sleep or “that third burrito at lunch.”

Luckily, the athlete still stays far fitter than if he or she hadn’t done Fran, but slacking off a little can lead to slacking off a lot, which is equivalent to treating a CrossFit workout like a 20-minute roll through the sports section while plodding on the elliptical machine.

To reap the greatest benefits from CrossFit, you have to be willing to push yourself, to be uncomfortable, to suffer for reward. And most of us are most of the time. The whiteboard and the rivalries thereon are powerful motivational tools. Still, a 5-minute Fran can become a habit if you let your mind trick you into dropping the barbell well before you need to.

Remember: Objects in motion tend to stay in motion, while objects at rest tend to head to the chalk bucket.”

Do these words look familiar? I’ve posted them a few times. But here’s where I’m going to head in a different direction, we will now be entering into NerdVille. I will be the driver of the bus and this thing has no breaks. Are you ready? 

I want to show you what intensity looks like with math. That’s right, I am going to put numbers to words so you can genuinely understand intensity.

CrossFit is so different from other fitness programs because we strive for data. We log and record for measurable, observable, repeatable data. We use a power equation to calculate the power output of any task. And to be clear, in CrossFit power output = intensity. So we can calculate the intensity of any given task. 

Intensity = power output = (force x distance)/ time

Let’s take a 6′ guy weighing 180#. His task is to complete as many air squats as possible in 1 minute. 

Force = 180# (the weight he is moving)
Distance = 2′ x 60 reps = 120′
*We measure from someone’s center of mass, approx just below the belly button. For an air squat for this guy, he moves approx 2′ down and 2′ up. We only count the 2′ up, because gravity is free. 2′ is for one rep. He is doing a max rep set in 1 minute. Let’s assume he does 60 reps. We now have a total distance of 120′.
Time = 1 min

Intensity = (180 x 120)/ 1 min = 21,600 foot pounds/ min

Do you know the significance of foot pounds/ min? That is how horsepower is measured. 21,600 ft lbs/ min is approx 65% of 1 horsepower. To put this in more non technical terms, this person, doing 60 air squats in 1 minute, produced as much power as a weed wacker. 

Now that we got a little bit of math out of the way, let’s make way for even bigger math. Let’s really geek out and get relevant at the same time. We are going to use this same guy, all 6′ 180#, and he is going to do “Fran”, twice. He is going to do “Fran” RX @ 95# and he is going to do “Fran” scaled @ 75#. Let’s see what happens to his intensity.

We are going to assume the total distance being moved in a thruster is 4′ (2′ for the squat, 2′ for overhead) and in the pull-up is 2′ (from hang to chin over bar). The RX workout takes this guy 8 min to complete. When he does it scaled it takes him 5 min. Let’s crunch some numbers:

Thruster = (95# x 4′(45 reps))/ 8 = 2,137.5
Pull-up  = (180# x 2′(45 reps))/ 8 = 2,025

Grand total power output = 4,162.5 


Thruster = (75# x 4′(45 reps))/ 5 = 2,700
Pull-up = (180# x 2′(45 reps))/ 5 = 3,240

Grand total power output = 5,940

Let’s agree that both attempts at “Fran” probably hurt. I’m sure when this person was done, both times they felt like it was a good workout. The problem is that we fall into this idea that in order to get stronger, faster, better, we need to do it RX. We need to use heavier weight. But the numbers right here show you, that doing it RX, using the heavier weight, was in fact, not doing more work. It was doing far less work. And if we do less work, we do not get more fit. We do not get stronger, faster, better. It’s as simple as math. Like Mike Warkentin said, intensity hurts. We don’t always like to hurt, so we can find a way to make things just a little easier. We can drop the bar, go get chalk, go get water, break up the set again. . . . but these all add up. They add up to less intensity, less power, and fewer results. We need to get uncomfortable. Hold on to the bar, pick a weight so light you have absolutely no reason to put it down. . . and then go faster. Consistent intensity yields more intensity. As your CrossFit journey goes on, things should not get easier, ever. Because you should be getting stronger and able to push harder. If it was easy, you didn’t do it right. 


  1. Dangoia :

    I love all the math in this post.

  2. Lisa :

    Awesome post! Check that first equation… I think you meant to type (180 x 120). 🙂

  3. M.C. :

    Ahah . . . thanks for the math lesson, Coach!
    ~ Perpetual scaler and proud of it.😉

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