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Crossfit Total

New PRs:
Squat: 335 lbs (+35 lbs)
Press: 145 lbs (+5 lbs)
Deadlift: 365 lbs (+35 lbs)
Crossfit Total: 845 lbs (1st attempt)
1000m row: 3m41.9s (1st attempt)

I've been feeling a bit unmotivated at the gym lately. I feel like my squats are plateauing. My progress on the snatch has been much slower than I'd like over the past five months or so. On the upside, my shoulder is, thankfully, feeling much better, which means I've been able to start working on the jerk again, and I should be able to get back into pressing overhead.

Yesterday, I decided to take a step back and take stock of my progress. There's a test called the Crossfit Total, where take three attempts at a one rep maximum at three different lifts: the squat, the overhead press, and the deadlift. You can take warm-up lifts before the three in each lift, but those shouldn't be maximal lift attempts. It's essentially the same as a powerlifting total, but with the bench press replaced by an overhead press. The motivation for this substitution is that the overhead press can be done with less equipment and with no spotters, which makes the Crossfit Total safer and more accessible to people working out on their own.

I set my first squat attempt at 305 lbs, 5 lbs higher than my latest max, which I had hit for 5 reps, so I was confident I could stand it up fairly easily, even though I'd never squatted that weight before. I did my second attempt at 335 lbs. My form felt great. My weight didn't shift forward, I kept my chest up, and drove out of the bottom as hard as I could. But boy was it slow! I think it took four or five seconds to stand it up. Since I didn't have anyone to spot me, I skipped my third attempt and moved on to the press. Should I have tried to find some spotters? Should I have tried anyway, and trusted my ability to bail out of it? Did I chicken out? Maybe so. But maybe I was just being smart. Six months ago, I struggled mightily with 225 lbs for 5 reps. I just squatted 110 lbs more than that, and thirty five pounds more than I'd ever shouldered before.

Press has been a frustrating lift for me. The difference between a make and a miss is very fine. Sometimes I make a weight only to struggle with ten pounds less a week or two later. Last time I PRed was six months ago, before I started focusing on strength training. I hit 140 lbs in a slow, grinding, ugly rep. Since then I worked my way up to 137.5 lbs for 5 reps, but couldn't get any further, and hurt my shoulder shortly after that, so I haven't really pressed much recently. Nonetheless, I figured I had hit 137.5 lbs, and I'm generally a lot stronger than I was when I got 140, so I made my first attempt at 145 lbs. It felt heavy, but it went up relatively fast. So I tried for 155 lbs, and the bar got stuck at about forehead height. One of my coaches, Ashley Denton, was watching, and pointed out that I was leaning back and pushing the bar forward away from me, when creates a lot of leverage working against you on the lift. For my third attempt, I lowered the weight to 150 lbs, focused on keeping my elbows up so I wouldn't push the bar out, but ended up doing it anyway. After 145 had felt so smooth, I couldn't even hit five pounds more!

My deadlift is the one lift that I've been really happy with lately. It's been going up steadily. Currently, I'm lifting 330 lbs x 5, so I made my first attempt at 335 lbs, and made it with no trouble. I put an extra 30 lbs on the bar for my next attempt, and made a solid lift at 365 lbs, but it felt really heavy, so I knew I wouldn't be adding another 30 lbs. But I was pretty sure I was good for at least a little more. The only question was, could I hit 385, or should I go for a smaller jump, and get 375? I decided to split the difference, and try for 380. I took a few minutes to let my body rest, and then got set up and pulled as hard as I could. The bar came up off the ground, but got stuck a couple inches below my knees. I kept pulling, but it wouldn't budge any further. Finally I dropped it. I'm pretty sure I could hit that weight if it weren't at the end of a lot of other heavy lifting. If not, I'm on the verge of being able to do it. Next time. Six months ago, my PR was 305 lbs for a single rep, and I had struggled and failed a couple times to get 315 lbs. Since then, I've put 60 lbs on my deadlift.

Today, I had gotten 335 lbs on the squat, 145 lbs on the press, and 365 lbs on the deadlift, for a total of 845 lbs. Every one of those was the heaviest weight I've ever lifted.

The press was still bothering me. I should have been able to get at least 150, but probably also 155. The only thing holding me back is inconsistent form, so I decided rather than working on a regular progression of 3 sets of 5 reps at a given weight, I'm going to work on progressive singles. A single at 135, another at 140, then at 145, so I could make sure my form is perfect on each one, and each session, I'll keep going until form breaks down, and then stop. I think once I can get form locked in, I'll be able to make better and less frustrating progress on it.

Before I put all the weights away, I did a couple of presses at 135 lbs, focusing on keeping my core tight, and keeping the bar as close to my face as possible. It felt good and solid. For the first time in a while, I'm looking forward to working on press.

To end the workout, I decided to do a 1000m row for time. I started with a short warm-up to focus on form. Ten easy strokes pulling with just my arms, then ten strokes with the back pull and the arm finish, then fifteen or twenty strokes with the leg drive, the back pull and the arm finish.

As I rowed, I tried to keep that form, while keeping my stroke rate around 24 strokes per minute (a moderate, steady pace), and driving hard with my legs on each stroke. My 500m split stayed between 1:50 and 1:55 the whole time, until the last 200m. At that point, I started increasing my pace to around 27 or 28 strokes per minute, and poured everything I had left into it. My split dropped into the upper 1:40s. I made sure to finish strong, initiating my last pull even though there were only 3m left on the monitor. The timer read 3:41.9. I think I could beat that time, but after the work I'd already done that morning, I was satisfied with it.

I left the workout feeling more motivated with my training. I think I need to switch things up a little bit, and I still haven't figured out what that looks like, but I know I'm still making progress, and I'm stronger than I've ever been. I'm looking forward to pushing myself even further.

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