42-30-18 reps for time of:
20-lb. wall-ball shots
75-lb. sumo deadlift high pulls
20-inch box jumps
75-lb. push presses
Row (calories)

Intensity Strategery

Often times when I approach a WOD I find myself thinking about the best way to execute so that I can get the best score possible.  And in the directions of most WODs we encourage this.  AS MANY reps as possible or FOR TIME all indicate that the goal should be to produce the highest possible outcome.  In general, this is a great goal for any WOD and it will produce amazing results given that all other factors aligned with fitness are dialed-in as well (nutrition, sleep, stress, etc.).

Today what I want you all to consider is that sometimes the best possible score is not necessarily always the best possible goal for your individual health.  Here is what I mean.  Lets say that you’re very dialed-in to your physical capabilities and you are very good at knowing exactly how hard to push yourself so that you get the best score without ever pushing so hard that you hit a wall.  You will see some amazing gains from this strategy, no doubt, but there are gains to be made in occasionally allowing yourself to hit “the wall.”

We’ve talked about adaptation before and now we know that to continue gaining health benefits from working out we must continue throwing things at ourselves that make our bodies adapt (constant variation).  If we always approach a WOD with the mindset of pushing ourselves just hard enough to get good results but never to the point of going so hard that we end up over-taxing ourselves then we’re missing out on the benefits to be gained in pushing ourselves well outside of our comfort zone.  The same holds true for athletes who always come out of the gates wide-open and hit the wall early and then spend the majority of the WOD trying to catch their breath and lower their heart-rate. Typically these are athletes who also do not like to scale.  If you find yourself in this position most often you too are missing out on the benefits of knowing how to pace.

We purposely design WODs of varying time and load domains so that we have opportunities to try both methods.  Even still, there are athletes who attack Grace (30 clean and jerks for time) at the same intensity they would attack Cindy (20min AMRAP: 5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 air squats), so it’s not a fail-proof system.  At the end of the day, it is up to the athlete how hard they will push themselves.

There is no right or wrong on how to attack a WOD, but it should be understood that there are benefits to both strategies.  One of the coolest performances I ever witnessed was Zac Pine trying to get a score of 400 on Fight Gone Bad.  He had his reps planned out for every movement and he held that pace for the first round.  And then he died.  Kidding, he didn’t die but he certainly hit “the wall” and could do nothing but try to hold on from that point forward.  He came up very short of 400 and very short of his PR, but it was cool to see an athlete hang themselves out there like that.  And while there are no scientific studies that I can quote to prove his gains from this strategy I think we can all agree that there was some mental grit attained that otherwise would not have been tapped into.  

There are no shortage of athletes who want to go heavier, but it’s very rare that you hear one say they’re going to go after the WOD as hard as possible out of the gates and just see what happens.