Developing Strength: February 2016 Programming Notes

If you have yet to download the 2016 Level 1 Programming, you may do so here.

Powerlifting To Get Strong

This month, we are focused on leveraging 4 lifts for strength development: Back Squat, Deadlift, Strict Press, and Bench Press. The word “Powerlifting” is a bit of a misnomer as these lifts are typically performed without much explosiveness (i.e. power) unlike the Olympic lifts, which require a tremendous amount of power in order to be performed with heavy loads.

Why Two Presses?

These days, the sport of Powerlifting only includes 3 of the 4 lifts we are utilizing this month: Back Squat, Deadlift, and Bench Press. Way back in the day, the sport actually used the Strict Press instead of the Bench Press. But, competitors found that they could lift more weight in the Strict Press by employing excessive “lay-back”, which is essentially a hyper extension of the back that resembles a standing bench press with no bench. It then became difficult for judges to determine how much “lay-back” was permissible so they did away with the Strict Press altogether and replaced it with the Bench Press.

Both press variants are extremely valuable for upper body strength development and that’s why we’re using both in our training. 

Tempos, Bands, Burnouts, and Other Variants

You will perform variants of the aforementioned lifts in the form of changing tempo, adding band resistance, and changing range of motion. The higher level goal of all these variants are the same: to provide a different stimulus and force the body to adapt to something new. Training variance is proven to provide a much better stimulus (and result) on the body than merely performing the exact same movement pattern over and over.

With that said, whenever a new stimulus is introduced keep in mind that you should use working loads that are lower than what you would do normally to accommodate for the extra stress on the body. 

Total It All Up

I’ve programmed a couple CrossFit Total days at the start and at the end of the month. The Total is the sum of your best completed weight at three lifts: Strict Press, Deadlift, and Back Squat. It is the most commonly used Strength benchmark in CrossFit and serves as a good indicator for how you’re coming along in Strength development. While a cycle of 4 focused weeks is pretty short to develop significant Strength gains, I’m confident many of you will be able to set new PRs come month end. Keep in mind that there are 10 pillars of fitness in CrossFit. Strength, while important, is only 1 of the 10. 

There are many naysayers out there in the fitness world claiming you cannot develop both strength capacity and “cardio” capacity in tandem. Our goal this month is to prove them wrong. :)


If you have any feedback regarding the programming that you’d like to share, please contact me directly at Love it or hate it, I wanna hear about your experience.