Ever wondered why we set time caps to workouts? Is it just a number your coaches pick out of thin air to ensure an adequate time frame to suffer for? Not quite.
There are actually a number of factors at play when determining a workout’s time frame. Firstly, the intended stimulus is the first port of call when designing each workout,
Does the coach want it to be a fast-paced, intense workout or do we want you to be lifting heavy weights that are going to slow you down and force you to take longer breaks? These could be in the forms of AMRAPS or rounds for time.
Another workout option is a longer conditioning piece at a decreased intensity due to the volume of work required over the time domain. This could be in the form of an EMOM.
Regardless of AMRAP, RFT or EMOMs, time caps within each modality provide you with a guideline as to setting your pace to complete the prescribed work. With this in mind, your aim shouldn’t always be to Rx the workout, but to find modifications and weights that require effort, but allow you to complete the workout while working on your current skill set.
Remember,“Rx” means doing the workout at the prescribed weight/height, for the prescribed number of reps, to the full movement standard. Any workout that is completed otherwise is considered a scaled or modified. Remember, there is nothing wrong with completing it as such. In fact, if you are able to modify the workout to get the correct “dose-response,” then you are way ahead of those who simply try to go as close to Rx as possible without considering the workouts intent. Not sure how to do this? Simply ask your coach to help.
So, let's apply the above to a workout
Complete 10 rounds for time:
3 Barbell clean & jerks 5 Burpees over the bar
Rx - 80/55kg
Time cap for this workout is 10 minutes
To start, think about this; What’s really more important in the workout: the load, volume or intensity? In this workout, volume and intensity are the keys, and the weight (load) is a means to an end. This is going to be a super fast workout, with short, planned breaks.
The aim is to complete 10 rounds of 3 clean and jerks and 5 burpees over the bar in 10 minutes. Based on the time cap you would need to complete a round every 60 seconds. The burpees over the bar should be completed within 20-25 seconds. Here is the crunch point though, picking the right weight to use for the clean and jerks.
Knowing your 1-rep clean and jerk max it's always helpful. For instance, if you know that on a good day you can clean and jerk 100kg, then 80kg in this workout equates to 80%of your 1-rep max. Does 30 reps at that weight plus 50 burpees all within 10 minutes sound doable? If your weight selection only allows you to get through 6 rounds of work when 10 are required, then you are missing out on 40%of the workout. As coaches, we don’t expect you to finish every workout but we want your weight choices to get you as close to the finish line as possible
If you choose weights that require 30-60 seconds of rest when it is a conditioning workout, you’re better off saving that weight for a workout dedicated to building strength and power
In an ideal scenario, you should complete the workout under the required time cap while still using loads and movements that are going to challenge you. It might not always happen this way, but everyday is a school day when it comes to how you approach a workout.
Completing the workout, your forearms are pumped, your lungs feel like they are going to burst and you feel a real sense of accomplishment in getting that done.
Reasons for a time cap:
- It's all about intensity. Putting a time cap on a workout forces you to ramp up your intensity so that you get the intended benefit/stimulus of the workout. Let’s take the workout Fran, everyone knows Fran. A workout of 21-15-9 Thrusters and Pull-Ups, this a sprint and should be completed in under 8 minutes. If you’re taking too long to finish the workout then you’re not getting the required stimulus of the workout. You’re probably resting more than you are working and therefore not getting much “intensity”.
- Modify your workout, make the intensity relative. Time capped workouts force you to scale/modify the movements or weights to an appropriate load or volume that will allow you to finish the workout in the intended time and thereby achieving intended stimulus. Of course you might be able to do the Rx weight or movement for a handful of reps but you would not be able to complete the workout with that amount of volume. So then you should scale the Rx weight or movements so that you finish the workout in the allotted time or quicker. Therefore achieving the intended stimulus of the workout and feeling exactly the same as everyone in the room.
The workouts are programmed for specific loads, volume and intensity not just with that session in mind but with what the rest of the week looks like. We calculate the intensity by the amount of time we expect the workout to take with the ability to change. What it comes down to is what we are trying to achieve in the workout and how we want you to feel during and after the workout. Some workouts are designed to take 45-60 minutes (like Murph) and others less than 8 minutes (like Fran). Those workouts with a smaller amount of time required to complete the workout generally mean you will be working at a greater intensity than the longer sessions.
Your goal in every work should be to complete it. Keep it simple, put a process in place that you know is going to be achievable and that you can maintain. Then get after it.
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