Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tests Versus Training

A few weeks ago, my friend started talking about this workout called the 12 Days of Fitness. It was like the song "The 12 Days of Christmas" in the sense that it starts with 1 rep of something, then 1 rep of that same something, followed by 2 reps of something else....rinse and repeat, all the way up to 12. It's also okay to do it in descending order instead: 1; 2-1; 3-2-1; etc. Well, today I did it with him, and two other ladies from the gym.

The 12 Days workout was fun, has the potential to be competitive if every participant is physically healthy and skilled enough to do each of the movements prescribed for each "day". But yesterday, out of the four of us who did it, none of us were doing all of the same movements, nor were each of us lifting the same amount of weight. In a sense, the 12 Days turned out to be a great "test" or benchmark workout--something that could feasibly be performed (with no changes to the previous time, for consistency) once every 4-6 weeks to gauge general fitness levels. A faster time of completion would suggest an improvement.

Below I will outline the workout as it was originally written, and the workout as I modified it to be for myself (I am training for a Strong First level 1 kettlebell certification at the moment, and changed the barbell movements to kettlebell). In retrospect, I believe that what I ended up doing was more difficult (not purposefully) than it would have been with a bar, but I have an impinged left shoulder that wouldn't have tolerated pressing a bar at the moment.

ORIGINAL                                                 MODIFIED                                TOTAL VOLUME (reps) 1. Barbell Deadlift (95lb)                       Double KB Clean (40's)                    12 reps
2. Barbell Front Squat (95)                    Double Front Squat (40's)                  22 reps
3. Barbell Push Press (95)                     Double Press (40's)                             30 reps
4. Hang Power Clean (95)                    Double Clean (40's)                            36 reps
5. Pushup (with hand release)               Pushup (with hand release)                 40 reps
6. Mountain Climber                             Mountain Climber                              42 reps
7. KB Swing (50lb)                              Double KB Swing (40's)                    42 reps
8. Sandbell Slam (30lb)                        Sandbell Slam (30lb)                          40 reps
9. x5 Jump Rope                                  x5 Jump Rope                                     180 reps
10. TRX Inverted Row                        TRX Inverted Row                             30 reps
11. 20m Sprints (lengths of turf)          20m Sprints (lengths of turf)                22 reps
12. Pull Ups                                         Pull Ups                                               12 reps

There was a 25:00 goal time attached to the workout. I'm not sure if this was a number my friend came to after doing it a few times, or if this was something from Crossfit HQ or what. But based on the fact I just missed completing it on time with my modified version, I would say that 25:00 is a very reasonable goal to aspire to.

-The 12 Days of Fitness has the potential to be very challenging. It was for me. The kettlebell skills were the toughest part of it, personally, because I never set the bells down between numbers 1 through 4. Overhead pressing in general is a weakness of mine, so getting to number three every round became tougher and tougher as the circuit went on.
-It's scalable. I was able to modify certain movements right before starting, but still kept them within the same movement pattern.
-It is a great test of both physical and mental toughness. Towards the end when your mind and body want to quit, you look at the clock and push onwards.
-It's a TEST, not a PROGRAM

-As it was written, there are only a handful of people I train who are qualified (FMS scores and knowledge of the barbell exercises) to do the whole workout.
-Volume is all over the place for specific movement patterns. For example, TRX Rows are 3x10 (30 reps), Pull Ups are 1x12 (12 reps), Push Ups are 8x5 (40 reps), and Overhead Presses are 10x3 (30 reps). If a person were to do that workout repeatedly, they would have a big dearth of strength in vertical pulling compared to the other three movements. Horizontal pushing would be overtrained compared to the others.
-It's a TEST, not a PROGRAM

The whole purpose of this article was to touch base on the last PRO and CON, which happened to be the same thing. It is a challenge, a hurdle to be jumped over. Not THE PROGRAM, that's performed 2-3 times per week. The 12 Days of Fitness is not a training program, nor should it be. It has entirely too much volume to lift heavy loads safely (For an average trainee, 95lb on the deadlift, front squat, and power clean is too low too build strength). It also has too much variety to be a valuable tool for skill practice, which is important for big strength gains (because strength acquisition is a skill, remember?) What the 12 Days of Fitness ultimately boils down to is a great test of general fitness and mental fortitude!

The reason I want to make this very clear is because of the amount of interest this particular workout has garnered at our gym in recent weeks. Many of our members have inquired about it because "it looks fun" and because "it's looks intense", etc. Just because there are videos tossed around YouTube of guys bending nails, juggling kettlebells, and doing human Turkish Get Ups doesn't mean they train them daily, nor should they. Sure, they have to practice them occasionally, but doing a human get up is not a program. It's a test; a feat of strength. The real practice comes from doing it with a heavy kettlebell, or maybe a bar. The risk factors involved usually outweigh doing them repeatedly--just as the risk factors (wear and tear to musculoskeletal system and the CNS, as well as the  and risk of overtraining certain movements and under training others because of rep discrepancies make the 12 Days of Fitness a less than ideal program (Ideally, a good program will include balance between movement patterns and reps. It's not necessary to train all movements every workout, but if a program is in an A/B format, it would be wise to train them within two workouts).

In conclusion, the 12 Days of Fitness was fun. I really enjoyed myself, and at one point felt like I was gonna hurl. But it was a fun challenge. Would I do it again? Most definitely. Would I do it again right away? Definitely not. I would continue training diligently on my own program for another 4-6 weeks, then attempt it again to see if I had improved my time at all.

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