Have you been pushing and struggling to get faster during your workout of the day? Do you feel like no matter how many CrossFit exercises you do, you just aren’t seeing improvements? Don’t worry; most CrossFitters inevitably hit the wall and can’t seem to climb over it. Here are some CrossFit drills to improve your WOD times.
BACK TO BASICS
The best place to begin when looking for ways to improve your WOD times is where you started. Even the most advanced lifters fall into the trap of comfort; you perform an exercise so many times that you don’t question your form or posture.
Assuming that you’re executing every squat, every clean and snatch, and every muscle up flawlessly is a mistake. Approach every workout with beginner’s mind and be open to learning new tricks for old exercises such as the following essential CrossFit movements:
- Bodyweight Squat (also called Air Squat)
- Overhead Squat
- Front Squat
- Sumo Deadlift
- Shoulder Press
- Push Press
- Push Jerk
- High Pull
- Medicine Ball Clean
With that said, we recommend reviewing the foundational CrossFit exercises with your trainer or an experienced friend. Have them watch your form and point out any mistakes you could be making. If neither is available, record yourself, play back your performance, and note any mistakes to correct.
IMPROVE YOUR WEAK SPOTS
Continuing with the point above, having a mentor, spotter, or camera watch your CrossFit workout is going to reveal those areas that could use some improvement. If your form is slipping or if you see overcompensation issues, tweak your CrossFit workouts to address the issue. Here are some of the most common weak spots for CrossFitters and how to strengthen them.
Chest-to-Bar: If you find yourself struggling and squirming when performing a chest-to-bar, try the following drill: Perform negative or eccentric-focused pull-ups on rings a few times per week at the end of your workout. Perform as many as you can by elevating yourself with a chair or box. Resist and fight to stay up as you slowly descend.
Snatch: Many CrossFitters find that they are weakest in the overhead position during a snatch. The solution? Trying adding overhead squats to your workout. Starting from a squat rack, you’ll already be in the overhead position. Overhead squats will dramatically increase your mobility and lower body strength, which will help your snatch.
Deadlifts: Regardless if you are a CrossFitter, bodybuilder, or powerlifter, deadlifts are tough to master, but they are one of the best exercises you can have in your workout. A trick to get better at them? Try performing one-legged deadlifts. By isolating the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and hip flexors, you’ll find that your strength and stability will improve when you try a conventional deadlift.
You can also use our deadlifting checklist to improve your form and strength.
FOCUS ON GRIP STRENGTH
Another common weak spot for every type of lifter, especially in CrossFit, is grip strength. There’s nothing worse than knowing you still have a few more reps in you but your grip fails before the target muscle.
There are two easy ways to increase your grip strength that you can start doing today: First, use thicker barbells and dumbbells. Thick bar training has been shown to dramatically increase grip strength, resulting in an overall boost in performance.
If you don’t have access to thick barbells and dumbbells, use thick grips. You can slide them onto traditional barbells and dumbbells for an instant thick grip upgrade.
The other way to increase grip strength is by using grip-focused exercises. Three times per week, complete the following workout after your CrossFit training:
- Thick Grip Farmer’s Walk: Using a thick bar dumbbell or a dumbbell with a thick grip on it, perform 3 sets of 60-second Farmer’s Walks.
- Single Arm Towel Pull-ups: Begin by tying a towel on a pull-up bar. Hold the towel with the left hand and the regular bar in the right hand. Perform 5 repetitions with the towel in the left hand. Then switch, perform 5 more reps with the towel on the right side. Complete 3 sets.
- Thick Bar Hang Holds: Using a thick grip pull-up bar or thick grips on a pull-up bar, wrap your hands around the bar then pick your feet up. Stay in the position for as long as you can. Complete one set.
Outside of improving your WOD times, there are several more benefits of grip strength training including injury prevention and improving functional movement patterns.
GO AEROBIC TO IMPROVE ANAEROBIC
After mastering the basic exercises of CrossFit and correcting your weak points, it’ll be time to focus on your aerobic capacity or endurance.
When performing a WOD, you are primarily relying on your anaerobic capacity. You’re performing quick burst and power-based exercises that burn you out fairly quickly. To last longer and improve your WOD time, you need to focus on increasing aerobic endurance, which is used for sustaining activity over a long period of time such as going for a jog. Here are some great ways to increase your aerobic capacity:
Sprint Hybrids: Performing a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise is a great way to improve both. Set a stop watch or a phone so you can easily track seconds. Jog at a comfortable pace for 50 seconds of every minute. For the remaining 10 seconds, sprint at 90% intensity. Repeat this for up to 10 minutes.
Focus on Holding the Eccentric: During a weight lifting routine or a CrossFit WOD, move slowly during the lowering or eccentric portion of the lift. You can use explode up during the lifting portion, but from here, pause and take up to five seconds to return to the starting position.
Hills and Hikes: An excellent way to see a dramatic increase in aerobic capacity as well as lower body strength is to jog hills or go hiking up a mountain. You’ll easily reach your target heart rate for improving aerobic capacity when you’re on a straight climb up a hill or mountain side. Best of all, hiking requires an extended period of time going up. Keep it steady and keep on the trail.
LIFT FOR STRENGTH
During cardio-focused days or a few WODs per week, you can focus on improving your aerobic capacity but during your serious training days, it’s all about strength. By increasing your level of strength along with your aerobic capacity, you’ll be able to lift more for a longer period of time without risk of injury. In other words, you’ll achieve better WOD times.
To increase strength, you’ll need to use the correct acute variables along with proven exercises such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press. Strength-focused training is usually broken down in the following way:
- Focus on the exercises that demand the greatest number of muscle groups
- Use 75% to 85% of your one-repetition maximum during lifts
- Complete 5 to 8 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions per exercise
- Take longer rest breaks but no more than 120 seconds
- On the last set of compound exercises, end with drop sets (completing a set, lowering the weight, completing another set, lowering the weight again, etc.)
Try using strength-focused acute variables in two workouts per week. Keep a log of how much weight you’re using so you can see your progress over the weeks.
NEVER NEGLECT RECOVERY
Finally, the best way to ensure gains and results? Focus on proper recovery. The results you see in the mirror and in your WOD times happen when you step out of the gym. Here are the top three ways to ensure proper recovery and improve WOD times.
Your choices in the kitchen are 70% of the results you see. CrossFit workouts demand only the best nutrition.
Eat natural and wholefood-based meals. Skip on the processed stuff, but do not skip on complex carbohydrates such as brown rice or sweet potatoes.
Above all, make sure you’re eating enough protein. If you’re training at your box several times per week, make sure you’re consuming one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Not sure what a CrossFit box is? Read our article and learn all of the CrossFit terminology you need to know.
Most of us aren’t getting anywhere near the recommended amount of sleep, and this is really hurting our chances to achieve our fitness goals.
Experts agree that you should be getting 7 to 9 hours per night. Falling asleep between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. is ideal as this is when the greatest release of growth hormone occurs. Growth hormone is responsible for muscle repair and recovery so you don’t want to miss out on this.
Have trouble falling asleep? Power down your electronics an hour before bed, and make sure there is no light in the bedroom. Sip natural valerian or chamomile tea. You can also try a whey protein shake an hour before bed. Many people report it helps them sleep and it has been shown to boost protein synthesis or the creation of muscle protein. (1)
Diet and natural nutrition should be your primary focus; however, supplements can be valuable during recovery.
Whey protein is a highly bioavailable form of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue. Creatine has been shown to reduce muscle soreness and support recovery. ZMA is great for helping you get to sleep and trigger growth hormone production. (1, 2)
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO IMPROVE YOUR WOD TIMES?
Will you start focusing on your recovery and sleep more? Need to change up your workout to include more aerobic exercises? Is there a trick you have to improve your WOD times? Tell us about it our Facebook.
- Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2009;53(3):186-93.
- Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.