Real World Strength

1133 N Fountain Way
Anaheim, CA 92806, USA

Why is changing your diet SO DIFFICULT?

One of the absolute hardest things as a coach is getting our clients to change their diets.
For whatever reason—lack of time time, motivation, willpower,
or a massive sugar-addiction—it’s much easier for people to commit to a gym routine
than it is for them to stop eating processed foods, or to break their overeating habit.
I’ve seen this time and again.

I’m not suggesting there’s a magic-bullet solution; we believe in different strokes for different folks,
but here is some FOOD for thought (ha!) —and various options and resources—
if you’re struggling to change your diet.
Hopefully one will resonate with you.

4. Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition’s idea of changing one habit at time really resonates with us.
Check out their website here.

The idea here is not to overwhelm a person with grandiose and sudden changes in their lives;
instead, long-term success comes from focusing on changing one small habit at a time.

Precision Nutrition offers a 12-month personal nutrition and exercise coaching program
—habit-based coaching—that focuses on LESS to help you ACHIEVE MORE.

In a nutshell, the change they suggest looks like this:

  1. Choose one habit/task per month.
    Something like no drink alcohol during the week, or not getting seconds at dinner.
    It’s important to choose an easy goal at the start, and it’s important the goal is measurable.
  1. Write down your plan, which will clearly state what your goal is each day and each week.
  1. Announce your goal publicly.
    The more people you tell, the more you will be held accountable to.
  1. Keep track and report your progress.

3. The Whole Life Challenge

Check out their website here.

Many CrossFit gyms and MadLab gyms have embraced, and have had great success with,
The Whole Life Challenge.
We did one of the first ones years ago, and it’s had a huge impact on us.

Three things we like about the WLC:


The Whole Life Challenge can be turned into a team competition.
Having teammates to lean on, who are going through the same thing as you are
—as well as having support and people to hold you accountable—
really resonates with many Whole Life Challengers, who have had
great success improving their diet and body composition.


When you sign up for the WLC, you will be asked to track not just your diet,
but also things like your hydration, fitness, mobility and sleep.
The idea is this challenge is meant to improve your entire lifestyle,
not just your body composition.


Not everyone is looking to follow the same diet, and not everyone is ready
to eliminate everything all at once.
The WLC offer various levels, so to speak, that allow you to
choose how extreme you want to be with your changes.

2. Develop a healthy relationship with food

One of the best pieces of advice comes from the owner of NutritionRx, Jennifer Broxterman.
She’s also a Registered Dietician and professor at the University of Western Ontario.

She reiterates the importance of developing a healthy relationship with food.

What does this mean?

“If you’re questioning whether you have a good relationship with food,
think about your relationship with water.
You drink water throughout the day, but there’s no pressure about
how much to drink or when to drink.
You drink when you’re thirsty,” Broxterman says.
“Most people have a natural relationship with water.”

She adds: “If you’re thinking about food every 5 minutes, if it’s always on your mind,
and you’ve lost that natural ability to listen to your body,
then you probably don’t have a healthy relationship with food.”

One way to help become healthier is to stop labelling foods as good foods and bad foods,
and to stop beating yourself up when you mess up, she explains.

“One of the things I often tell people is it’s a lot like brushing your teeth.
Everyone has forgotten to brush their teeth here or there,
but you normally don’t beat yourself up about if.
Not brushing your teeth once doesn’t lead to a spiral effect of
not brushing your teeth for a week. But that often happens with food.
Someone ‘cheats,’ and then this spirals into a week of bad eating.”

While Broxterman believes it’s important to eat whole, unprocessed foods most of the time,
she believes it’s equally as important to indulge guilt-free here and there.
The guilt-free part is the key.

It’s the wanting-what-you-can’t-have philosophy.
Preventing yourself from ever having a cheat meal will only lead to
obsessing about all the food you can’t eat more than you should.

The point is, if you mess up, forget about it and move on.

1. Nutrition Coaching with your personal Coach!

If you’re the type who needs one-on-one in-person coaching and
someone to hold you accountable, then maybe
it’s worth considering working with your coach.

If this is you, reach out and ask how we can help you reach your dietary goals.

At RWS, everyone gets basic nutritional counseling as part of their
Fundamentals program.
The idea is to give everyone a solid starting point and understanding of
what path they need to follow to reach their goals.

Beyond that, we offer detailed nutritional consultations as an add-on service.
In 30 minutes we examine exactly what you’re eating and
what fixes we can make that you’ll actually follow through with.

Again, it’s not about eating “perfectly” – it’s about eating well all the time,
occasionally indulging without completely wrecking yourself,
and being happy with your food and your body.

Happy eating!

In my last smashy-smash-related post, I talked about knowing
what to smash based on what feels jacked up.
I used common attachment points and nerve roots as a guide for
figuring out muscles that affect one another.

But what if you have no idea where those muscles even are?!

Fear not, intrepid reader…I got your back.
(Also, GOOGLE. This is 2016, for fuck’s sake.
Spend five minutes finding shit out for yourself.)
Treat this as a what-to-look-for guide.

Listed here are the main anatomical landmarks you’ll find
most (but not necessarily all) troublesome muscles.
I’ve written them both in geek-speak and layman’s terms.

Later, I’ll list exactly muscles can be found near those landmarks.
The muscles in bold are the most-common troublemakers.


  • bottom & back of skull (mastoid process)
  • underside of jaw/top of throat (hyoid bone)
  • middle/top of jaw (mandible)
  • temple (temporal bone)


  • nape of neck (posterior triangle)
  • collarbone (clavicle)

Upper Back

  • upper back (scapular spine, medial aspect)
  • mid-back (inferior angle of scapula)
  • bony part of shoulder (acromial angle)
  • back of shoulder blade (below scapular spine)
  • armpit (axilla)


  • front of shoulder (coracoid process)
  • chest (sternum)
  • ribs


  • solar plexus (costal arch)
  • lower abdomen (inguinal region)

Lower Back

  • between rib cage and hip bone (iliac crest)


  • hip bone – back side (iliac crest)
  • hip bone – front side (anterior superior iliac spine)
  • middle of butt cheek (sacrum)
  • sit-bone (ischial tuberosity)
  • bony notch at side of hip (greater trochanter)

Thigh & Knee

  • top of thigh/knee (anterior surface of thigh/quadriceps tendon)
  • outside of thigh/knee (lateral surface of thigh/lateral epicondyle)
  • inside of thigh/knee (medial surface of thigh/adductor tubercle)
  • top & back of knee (popliteal surface)

Arm & Elbow

  • inside of elbow (medial epicondyle)
  • outside of elbow (lateral epicondyle)

Forearm & Hand

  • outside forearm/wrist (radius)
  • inside forearm/wrist (ulna)
  • between thumb & index finger (themar eminence)

Shin & Foot

  • front of shin/outside of ankle (lateral surface of tibia, lateral malleolus)
  • middle of calf (posterior surface of tibia)
  • top of calf (fibular head)
  • back of ankle (calcaneus)
  • bottom of foot (plantar fascia)

And now, for which muscles can be found where…


Bottom & back of skull (mastoid process)


  • sternocleidomastoid
  • trapezius
  • levator scapulae
  • occipital

Underside of jaw/top of throat (hyoid bone)


  • digastric
  • stylohyoid
  • mylohyoid

Middle/top of jaw (mandible)


  • masseter
  • buccinator
  • pterygoid

Temple (temporal bone)

  • temporalis


Nape of neck (posterior triangle)


  • scalenes
  • trapezius – upper fibers
  • sternocleidomastoid

Collarbone (clavicle)

  • sternocleidomastoid
  • pectoralis major
  • scalenes

Upper Back

Top-inside of shoulder blade (scapular spine, medial aspect)


  • levator scapulae
  • supraspinatus
  • trapezius – middle fibers
  • rhomboid minor

Mid-back (inferior angle of scapula)

  • rhomboid major
  • trapezius – lower fibers


Bony part, top of shoulder (acromial angle)


  • supraspinatus
  • deltoid (rear fibers)

Back of shoulder blade (below scapular spine)


  • infraspinatus
  • teres minor
  • teres major

Armpit (axilla)


  • latissimus dorsi
  • subscapularis
  • serratus anterior


Front of shoulder (coracoid process)


  • pectoralis minor
  • deltoid (front fibers)
  • pectoralis major
  • coracobrachialis

Chest (sternum)


  • pectoralis major



  • serratus anterior
  • intercostals
  • external oblique
  • internal oblique


Solar plexus (costal arch)


  • psoas
  • rectus abdominus
  • diaphragm

Lower abdomen (inguinal region)


  • iliopsoas
  • rectus abdominus

Lower Back

Between rib cage and hip bone (iliac crest)


  • quadratus lumborum
  • erector spinae


Hip bone – back side (posterior inferior iliac spine)


  • gluteus medius

Hip bone – front side (anterior superior iliac spine)


  • rectus femoris
  • tensor fascia latae
  • sartorius

Middle of butt cheek (sacrum)


  • gluteus maximus
  • piriformis

Sit-bone (ischial tuberosity)


  • hamstrings
  • adductors

Bony notch at side of hip (greater trochanter)


  • piriformis
  • gluteus medius
  • tensor fascia latae

Thigh & Knee

Top of thigh/knee (anterior surface of thigh/quadriceps tendon)


  • rectus femoris
  • vastus intermedius

Outside of thigh/knee (lateral surface of thigh/lateral epicondyle)


  • vastus lateralis
  • iliotibial band

Inside of thigh/knee (medial surface of thigh/adductor tubercle)


  • adductors
  • vastus medialis

Top & back of knee (popliteal surface)


  • hamstrings
  • gastrocnemius

Arm & Elbow

Inside of elbow (medial epicondyle)


  • triceps – long head
  • forearm flexor muscles
  • biceps

Outside of elbow (lateral epicondyle)


  • forearm extensor muscles
  • brachioradialis
  • triceps – medial head
  • brachialis

Forearm & Hand

Outside forearm/wrist (radius)


  • brachioradialis
  • forearm extensor muscles

Inside forearm/wrist (ulna)


  • forearm flexor muscles

Between thumb & index finger (themar eminence)


  • adductor pollicis
  • brachioradialis

Shin & Foot

-front of shin/outside of ankle (lateral surface of tibia, lateral malleolus)


  • anterior tibialis
  • toe extensor muscles

Calf, back of ankle (posterior surface of tibia, calcaneus)


  • gastrocnemius
  • soleus

Top of calf (fibular head)


  • soleus
  • peroneals

Bottom of foot (plantar fascia)


  • quadratus plantae
  • toe flexor muscles

Happy smashing!


If you have been coming here for a while, you’ve probably heard us talk about
something called the MadLab Group.

But what exactly is the MadLab Group? And how does it affect you?

The MadLab Group (MLG) is a worldwide network of gyms,
who have worked together to figure out best practices.
In other words, to figure out how to run a gym that best maximizes
success for the clients, the coaches and the business.

5 MLG Features that Pertain to YOU—the client

5. Fundamentals/Personal Training

If you’ve been here for awhile, things were very different when you started training with us.
You most likely went through a one-on-one introductory session with a coach,
then maybe a couple on-ramp sessions, and we gradually worked you into the class.

What you might not realize is that this approach –
while it worked okay for you, and a lot of folks who have been with us for years –
most definitely did NOT work for a far greater number of people.
We tried many different variations on this, and our 6-month retention was crap.
(Folks that made it past 6 months generally stay with us until a major disruptive life event.)

So now we do things the MLG way:
Start with an introductory session with a coach, similar to before.
Then you do 10-20 personal training sessions with this same coach,
where they work with you on your strengths and weaknesses
and get you prepared for classes at a speed that was comfortable for you.
And before you graduate to group classes, you have to reach a
certain fitness level before qualifying.

If we’re doing it right, then you develop a relationship with this coach and feel like
you have someone in your corner helping you reach your health and fitness goals.

Now, our retention is FAR higher and new people get a top-notch experience.
We take in fewer people, but those we take in are very likely to stay.

It’s what we have discovered is best for performance,
for health and safety, and for longevity at the gym.

4. Coach for Life

We’re not interested in New Year’s resolutionist clients.
We’re interested in clients who are looking for a coach and fitness program
to keep them healthy and fit for life.

The same way most of us have a family doctor our entire lives,
and likely an accountant and maybe even a lawyer,
our hope is that your MadLab coach becomes your
fitness, health and wellness, and nutrition coach for life—
someone you turn to for help you when you’re 20, 40 and 85 years old.

Believe it or not, this is RARE in the fitness industry today.
What is more common are personal trainers or CrossFit coaches
who stick around for just a couple years.
The reason they leave the industry is because they can’t make a living coaching.
For the client this means the gym you’re at is often marred by a constant revolving door of coaches.

MadLabs biggest goal is to professionalize the industry so its coaches can
earn professional wages and become career coaches
meaning they stick around for years, even decades.

For YOU, this means you wont have a constant revolving door of coaches;
youll have someone in your corner for life.

3. MadLab-trained Coaches

Let’s be honest: The fitness industry is somewhat F-ed up.
Anyone can call himself a personal trainer, whether he took a weekend course
or did a four-year educational program.

MadLab coaches have all been through a two-year apprentice coach diploma program
(the MadLab PCDP—professional coach diploma program)
(More on the details of PCDP in an upcoming post).

In short, your coach knows what he’s talking about—
how to keep you working toward you goals,
and how to keep you injury-free.

2. Hybrid Memberships

Maybe you have taken advantage of our hybrid membership options, and maybe you haven’t.

But one of the features of a MadLab Group gym is you always have the option
to do extra one-on-one personal training on top of your group classes—
even if you’re a five-year veteran—with your coach to work on any
specific weaknesses or skills you want to improve upon.
Another option is to talk to your coach about getting an individual program.

1. Worldwide Network of Gyms

If you travel—for work or pleasure—there are MadLab gyms all around the world.
(Stay tuned for a map of all 180-plus MadLab facilities coming soon).

When you show up at a MadLab gym in another city and tell them where you’re from,
not only will you have the piece of mind that you’re in good hands,
you’ll get the royal treatment from the MadLab family.

Hope this clears up what the whole MadLab thing is all about,
and what it means to you!

smashy smash chartThis handy-dandy chart is a little something I concocted.

While poking my muscles in search of tight spots (I can’t fall asleep if something feels jacked up)
I deduced that there’s a connection between muscle innervation and myofascial pain.

This goes one of three ways.
1- Muscles (and joints) with common innervation can impact one another.

Example: Knots in pec major can send pain to the medial epicondyle of the humerus
(the attachment point of the common flexor tendon of the forearm).
Triceps dysfunction can do the same thing.
All of these muscles share a nerve root (C7).

2- Muscles with attachment points on the axial skeleton (skull/spine/rib cage)
impact muscles with nearby nerve roots.

Example:  The scalene muscles, if overly tight, mess with nerves going down into the
shoulders, chest, and upper back, and can completely destabilize the shoulder girdle.

3- Large muscles that connect the axial skeleton to the limbs (pecs, lats, glutes)
can distribute dysfunction to a very large area of effect.

Example: The glutes connect the sacrum to the pelvis, and the pelvis to the femur.
They are a well-documented culprit for pain in the hip, lower back, and knee.

Chart explanation:

The yellow column shows which muscle groups are innervated by each nerve root.

The blue column shows which muscle groups are active in immediate proximity
to the axial skeleton at each nerve root level.

The green column shows which muscle groups fit in both the blue and yellow columns.
Think Venn diagram.

How to use this chart:
1. Figure out what hurts or is inhibited.
Smash it from a few different angles for several minutes. Retest.
2. If it still hurts, look at the other columns on the same row(s) as the thing that hurts.
Smash them also.
3. Remember to check ALL rows where your pain/stiffness is located.
Also remember to smash THOROUGHLY.
If you don’t actually get the knot out you gotta keep at it until you do.
You might require a massage therapist to do this for you.

If you don’t know where to start, I would suggest the muscles of the chest, abs, or glutes.
Since these are large muscles with lots of leverage, attachment area, and innervation overlap
with other bodily regions, they are likely to be involved in whatever your problem is.

Example 1 – elbow pain: smash arm & forearm near the elbow, then chest & lats;
after that, hit the rhomboids, traps, and spinal erectors.
Example 2 – low back pain: smash glutes, then QL, spinal erectors, psoas, and abs;
after that, hit the hamstrings, quads, adductors, and calf muscles.

What if you follow all the steps and nothing happens – no improvement at all?
Well…something might actually be messed up on you, for realsies.
See a professional – preferably a good physical therapist.
It’s exceedingly rare for it to come down to that, but we have peeps we can send you to.

Good luck and happy smashing!

TL;DR version:

When it’s hot and humid, you may not be able to go as hard in your workouts.
Just stay hydrated and focus on refining your movement skills,
and you’ll still get good benefit from training.

Full version:
So when it’s stupidly hot and/or humid outside,
as it’s been here the past couple of weeks,
are you seriously supposed to train?!


But here’s the thing I’ve learned.
Dry heat is easy – just stay hydrated and you’ll be fine.
Overheating only becomes an issue when you run out of water.

Humid heat, on the other hand, is a problem.
Your body can’t cool itself off effectively because sweat doesn’t evaporate.
Heart rate skyrockets far more than normal as your body
desperately tries to get blood to the skin’s surface, and
you can forget PR’s on anything longer than about 5 minutes.

But you can’t just NOT train longer time domains, or skip training altogether.
Fitness backslides, you get into a rut, and then you have inertia to overcome.

Here’s what I suggest.

While heat is terrible for “cardio,” it’s fantastic for strength and power work.
Warming up is near-instantaneous, staying loose is a breeze,
and overheating is much less of an issue by default.
This means it’s easier to hit a PR on your lifts.

So hit your lifts hard, staying hydrated the whole time.

When it’s time to do conditioning work, just do what you can.
Make special efforts to stay extra-hydrated, and don’t be afraid to
take more breaks than normal while your body attempts to regulate temperature.
You may not get the same “intensity” fix, but it’s just TRAINING.

Focus on movement refinement, and making each rep perfect.

If you have to TEST longer workouts in the heat…good luck.
Drink plenty of water ahead of time, and have extra on hand
to pour on yourself during the workout.

Happy training!



The picture may not look like much, but I’m not one for presentation.

We’re in the middle of our Summer Shred nutritional challenge here at RWS,
and there was only one problem with that…

Pizza tastes fucking amazing.
But it’s absolutely awful for you, generally speaking.
Full-fat cheese, fatty pork-centric meats, and a thick bready crust?
You’re looking at a LOT of fat and carbs, and not enough protein to justify either.

So what do you do when you get a craving for that wonderful savory
Italian import cuisine, and you’re watching your macros?

You do it yourself.

Here’s a breakdown of our first experiment with “Meatza.”
I’ll include our planned modifications for next time at the end.

Prep time: *shrug*
Cook time: *shrug*
Total time: about an hour

1. Mix 3# ground turkey (90% lean), 3 eggs, and Italian seasonings.
This is the crust.
Bake at 450F on a baking sheet, 15 min or so.
It will leak – make sure the sheet has a lip around it or your oven is gonna get messy.
While this is baking, cook up a pound of bacon and 1.25# of turkey Italian sausage.
Chop up the meats (when they’re cooked), and some fresh basil.

2: Dump a whole jar o’ pizza sauce on the crust.
Layer on the bacon, sausage, and basil, along with 3 oz. of turkey pepperoni.

3: Create your cheese blanket.
We used 12 oz. part-skim mozzarella and 3 oz. Parmesan.

4: Add your flavor plants.
I hate vegetables on pizza, but red pepper and pineapple are awesome.
Cut 1 red bell pepper into strips, and pile it on top of the meatza with a can of pineapple chunks.

Broil until cheese is slightly brown, and bubbly.

Final macros (approximate): 310g fat, 50g carbs, 510g protein
Final weight: 6-7 pounds.
This made a total of four meals.

Changes for next time:
-scale it down a bit, basically – 2# of turkey for the crust instead of 3
-nix the sausage and add fennel seed to the crust
-sautee up some garlic, add to cheese blanket
-divide the sauce into two layers – one just above the crust and one just below the cheese
-estimated macros: 220g fat, 50g carbs, 340g protein

Yes, this is a little high in fat blah blah blah…
look, it’s WAY healthier than regular pizza.
And it tastes pretty damn good.



I have refined my meal-prep practices somewhat since I first posted my curry recipe a year ago.

This is partly because I’m not single anymore and therefore have a reason to minimize time spent cooking,
and also because (as mentioned many times before) I am at my core a very lazy human being.
I don’t think this is a negative trait, by the way – after all, it was an evolutionary advantage when
humans had to worry about starving to death – I just get shit done as efficiently as possible.

Also, this recipe just tastes better.

So! Here’s how I make Thai curry these days.

– crock-pot
– non-stick skillet
– rubberized spatula
– …can opener?

– 2.5 pounds of chicken breasts & thighs
– 1/2 small jar of curry paste (red or green)
– 1 can coconut milk (regular)
– 1 cup frozen peas
– 1 cup frozen spinach
– 1 cup frozen bell pepper strips
– 2 cups baby carrots
– 1 cup uncooked white rice (optional, IIFYM)

0. Crock-pot the chicken ahead of time.
1. Throw said chicken into skillet. Cut into chunks using spatula.
2. Add curry paste, toss chicken until relatively evenly coated.
3. Add coconut milk and stir.
4. Add carrots and spinach and stir.
5. Once everything has mixed together somewhat, add peas and bell pepper strips.
6. Cover and simmer until veggies are all cooked.

This makes 5 days’ worth of lunches for me.
I don’t know the macros, but it’s somewhere around 25g fat, 15g carb, and 50g protein.
If you need extra carbs, cook up the white rice and add it in – that gives you an extra 30g carb per meal.


Our name is our goal: Real World Strength.

We want you to build strength and fitness in a way that directly benefits your life.

Since long-term consistency is the single most important factor in fitness success,
we want to make sure our approach to training supports that.

Some people get the idea that fitness means all-in, balls-to-the-wall every day,
no rest, no breaks, and perfect eating all the time.
Maybe they see professional athletes do this and think
“I want to be like ______, I need to do what they’re doing!”

I mean, the logic is sound, right?

People who train and eat like monks all the time are one of two groups:

1- People with a LOT to lose
-getting paid lots of money to be in the best shape possible (professional athletes, movie stars)
-people who have extreme adverse physical reactions to alcohol or junk food (alcohol allergy, Celiac, Crohn’s, autoimmune disorders)

2- People who will burn out FAST, fall off completely, and soon find themselves
right back where they started if not worse

Since you’re probably more likely to be in group 2 than group 1…
Here’s what we advocate.

  • It starts in Fundamentals.
    This is where we get you in the habit of coming to the gym, doing legit work, and not making excuses.
    We’ll also give you movement and mobility tips, recipe ideas, and get you thinking about food as more than just “stuff you put in your mouth that tastes good.”
  • Once you graduate Fundamentals you can transition to group classes.
    As a graduate you’ll have a solid understanding of whatever we might throw at you so you won’t feel “lost.”
    Plus you’ll already have met many of your new training partners, so you don’t have to worry
    about doing something new with a bunch of people you don’t know.
    Quite the contrary – you’ll be refining your movement skills alongside buddies!
  • We want you to come into the gym at least three times per week – most people see the best results that way.
    On other days, do active things OUTside the gym.
    Go out in nature, play with the family, try out new activities or sports, and go on adventures!
    This helps you see the REAL WORLD STRENGTH you’re developing at RWS!

So here’s our code for long-term fitness:

  • Come in the gym and train 3+ times per week
  • Eat clean MOST of the time but loosen up and enjoy yourself 1-2 meals per week
  • Go out in nature and/or play a sport once a week
  • Go on an adventure at least once a year

This will ensure that you’re motivated and ready to kick ass year-round for many years to come!

I still can’t believe how few CrossFit gyms are doing this.

It’s kind of appalling.

I’m referring to one of the main variables involved in any strength-training prescription.

First you have sets, reps, and load.
These are the things that get all the love –
the variables that determine how much total work you’re doing.

But nobody (well, outside of OPEX gyms it seems) thinks of…

It’s so fucking basic it makes me want to shake people by the shoulders.

Why, oh why, do you NOT think to control how each rep is executed?

(I’m also speaking to my younger self – before about two years ago,
I had only a feeling this was important but it didn’t occur to me as to how.)

But this is 2016, people.
That margin for error we used to have, in terms of programming?
It’s gone now.

You need to dial in HOW they do things if you expect them to get the
best possible results.

I will make a few points toward this.

  1. Accuracy:
    This is one of the ten general skills of fitness.
    I consider it akin to “consistency” in terms of movement,
    and helps ensure that progress is built on a solid foundation.
    Every single rep executed exactly the same develops a high degree of mastery.
    This means breathing, bracing, movement speed, all that jazz.
    Plus once you’ve established control at a slow tempo,
    it’s EASY to speed it up – the tension stays the same,
    but the effect of the stretch-shortening cycle (if present) is amplified.
  2. Strength through the entire range of motion:
    Each movement has its own resistance curve, so to speak.
    Take the squat, for instance: You’re generally going to be
    strongest at the top, where you have the most mechanical advantage;
    you’ll be weakest either just above the bottom or about halfway up,
    since that’s where you’ll be at the greatest mechanical disadvantage.
    Going slow on the way down ensures that you’ve developed control
    through the hardest parts of the movement –
    this means better muscle activation and core stability.
    If you just squat “however,” you’ll bounce the shit out of the bottom
    to “cheat” your way through the hard part.
    Which leads me to…
  3. Structural integrity:
    Once you start bouncing the end ranges of the movement,
    rather than use a controlled stretch-shortening cycle,
    you’re relying on the elasticity of your connective tissues
    instead of the actual strength of your muscles.
    When you’re young and you heal quickly, and your tissues’
    collagen content hasn’t completely gone down the shitter,
    you might be able to get away with this.
    But when you’re 50 and things don’t “bounce back” the way they used to,
    how do you s’pose your knees will feel from all that cumulative microtrauma?
    If you guessed “not that great,” pat yourself on the back.
    Not only that, you’re getting more strength stimulus from less weight –
    this means happier joints.
    On that note…
  4. Increased training effect:
    This comes from being acclimated to increased time under tension.
    I discovered this once I started doing all my squats with a 30X1 tempo –
    three-second controlled negative, no pause, stand up as fast as possible,
    exactly one breath at the top before initiating the next rep.
    With sets of 10, you’re forced to figure out how to breathe while moving under load.
    Also with strict press at a 21X1 tempo – controlling the negative at a steady cadence,
    with one-breath pauses at the top & bottom – for high-rep sets dramatically
    improved the fatigue resistance of my shoulders and arms (a big weakness of mine,
    especially since my wingspan is 5 inches taller than my height).
    You think those things might be useful in Fran?
    That’s how my mediocre-athlete-ass broke three minutes, after seven friggin’ years.
    So in a word, doing all strength work with a controlled negative –
    maybe not SUPER-slow like a bodybuilder, but slower than you’d normally go –
    and a fast concentric, helps you build strength in a way that has TREMENDOUS
    carry-over to other activities (like CrossFit WOD’s).
    Not only are you building maximal strength through the movement’s entire ROM
    and at increased time under tension…which means more muscle mass…
    But at higher reps you’re developing positional strength endurance,
    under fatigue, in a controlled setting, WITHOUT the pressure of “3-2-1 GO!!” and a racing clock.

It’s a one-way street – the benefits of training with slower negatives improve your ability
to lift quickly (by virtue of positional stability at each point in the movement
improving your ability to generate maximal tension),
but if you never slow down the negative you have NO control over it when you’re forced to.

Am I saying that you should implement slow negatives in WOD’s?
I suppose you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it for “Nancy” or anything.
Although I have used it for assistance-work-type WOD’s with good success.
But no, this is primarily for skill-based strength development work.

And if you’re an Olympic weightlifter where that “bounce” out of the bottom of the squat
is a necessary part of the lift to perfect, you do need to practice that.
But I would submit that at least during a “hypertrophy” block of training
(assuming you’re following a periodized weightlifting program),
your squatting and pressing movements should include slower negatives.

Anyway. That’s the end of my rant.
Go try squatting with a controlled three-second negative with just 75% of your max.
If you’re not used to it, it will absolutely humble you.

In the past, I’ve gone on record saying that you NEED heavy strength work to be a successful CrossFitter.

I still do think that.

But I’ve come to understand that there’s more nuance to it than just “lift heavy thing get strong oogabooga.”

When you look at the musculoskeletal implications of workouts, there are three main types:

  1. Heavy workouts – emphasis on work over 80% 1RM – low rep (<20 total)
  2. Light workouts – emphasis on work under 50% 1RM – high rep (>50 total)
  3. Medium workouts – emphasis on work at 50-75% 1RM – moderate rep (20-50 total)

If you really want to, you can smash all three types of workout into a single training session…
but I wouldn’t recommend it, at least not at high dosage for all three. You’d be pretty wrecked.

Here’s what each workout type does.
[Note: I’m assuming you’re focusing on one of the three – not like “okay I did one rep at 90%,
then five at 75%, and ten at 50%! I did a super awesome workout!”
No you didn’t. You did three mini-workouts and didn’t really achieve anything.]

Heavy workouts:

  • example: 5 sets of 2-4 reps, all >80%
  • high tension on muscle attachments, tendons, fascial tissue
  • high CNS activation – facilitates neurological improvements in strength
  • main damage: connective tissue
  • frequency: once every 72+ hours if multiple reps >90% 1RM
  • strength training effect: high
  • endurance training effect: low
  • hypertrophic response: myofibrillar (muscle strength; “dense”)

Light workouts:

  • example: 75 reps for time, using 30% 1RM
  • high repetition – helps to thicken tendons & connective tissue
  • main damage: metabolic (decreased blood pH, accumulated waste products)
  • causes inflammatory response – breaks up scar tissue, promotes healing
  • frequency: up to every day if volume and work density are low enough
  • strength training effect: low
  • endurance training effect: high
  • hypertrophic response: sarcoplasmic (muscle endurance; pure “size”)

Medium workouts:

  • example: 4 sets of 8-12 reps, all >60% 1RM
  • moderate repetition – highest volume
  • main damage: muscle fibers through repeated eccentric loading
  • frequency: every 48-96 hours, depending on volume
  • strength training effect: moderate
  • endurance training effect: moderate
  • hypertrophic response: both sarcoplasmic and hypertrophic

So how do we put all this together?

I will borrow from the late great Bill Starr and propose an adaptation of his “heavy-light-medium” model.
We need each type of workout for different reasons, and putting them in the correct order
will maximize the gains we can achieve.

We need the heavy workouts for max strength.
Light workouts help the connective tissues regenerate after being beaten to hell.
The medium workouts build the most total muscle, and prep the nervous system
for the loading of the heavy workouts.
We want more muscle, since a bigger muscle has more strength potential.

For example, using the squat…

  • Monday: Build to 3RM, 5 sets >80% 1RM; max unbroken reps @ 80% 1RM
  • Tuesday: 5 rounds – 10 front squat (40% 1RM), 10 C2B pull-ups
  • Wednesday: Snatch – build to heavy double; “Amanda” (9-7-5: muscle-ups, SN 135#)
  • Thursday: active recovery – rowing, wall-ball practice at easy pace
  • Friday: Build to 10RM, 3 sets >60% 1RM; max unbroken reps @ 60% 1RM
  • Saturday: Clean & jerk – build to max 3-position; “Helen” (3 rounds: 400m run, 21 KBS 53#, 12 pull-ups)
  • Sunday: active recovery

Here we have Monday as the “heavy” day,
Tuesday is a very light day followed by another “light” day on Wednesday,
Friday is our “medium” day, and Saturday is a light-medium day.

This is obviously omitting any heavy upper-body work,
which could also follow a heavy-light-medium pattern offset to complement the squat.

Anyway, to answer the question posed by the title of this article:
Can you, in fact, get stronger with light met-cons?

No. Not by themselves, anyway.
You need them to HELP you stay healthy and in-shape as you get stronger.