About a week ago, T-Nation published an article by Mark Rippetoe entitled “Conditioning is a Sham.” We posted it on our Facebook feed; it’s worth a read, so if you haven’t checked it out already we’ve linked it for you. (It’s also worth noting that T-Nation, not Rip, titled the article.)
After the piece had been published, a few of you grabbed me to talk about it. Certainly, it was provocative in several respects. In the interim I’ve had some time to think about it a bit further and I wanted to approach what I think Rip was doing from a bit of a slant.
Several months ago (just after the 2012 CrossFit Games had begun airing on ESPN2), we had a couple folks in rapid succession who were interested in the gym but not particularly jazzed about our approach. For the sake of brevity and a degree of obfuscation, I’ll composite into one exchange: I would say weightlifting, the potential client would say toning; I would say strength, the potential client would wince and say no big muscles.
Leaving aside the peculiar experience of talking with someone who is actually getting angry that the gym they have not yet joined trains in a manner different from their as yet unarticulated ideal (and that, let me tell you, is a really weird conversation to be a part of), the disconnect here boils down to definition and execution. We say strength, some hear bodybuilding. Others see conditioning, we say unsustainable testing. I see this challenge at the crux of Rip’s article: let’s set out our terms, let’s define them in reasonable ways, and let’s figure out the best way we can attack our goals.
From our perspective, I think Rip’s defintion of ‘strong enough’ is pretty reasonable in a vacuum. The numbers he cites as component parts of a solid dude strength base are absolutely within the reach of a healthy adult male who is willing and able to train and recover properly. It shouldn’t take all that long, either. Unfortunately for some and fortunately for others, life intervenes. We have kids’ soccer games and can’t make it to the gym three times a week; we want to run a 5k so we add in a few miles between our strength sessions, and before long we aren’t talking in best case scenario any longer but instead thinking about ‘strong enough’ and ‘conditioned enough.’
Here is where optimal cedes to practical and we discuss things like a bit of aerobic work to speed recovery, get some fresh air, and yeah, to make us feel better so we *want* to do our squats on Thursday. Or five sets of barbell curls once a week to keep our elbows nice and greezy. Or jumprope on deadlift day because we have to check that cardio box between heavy sets or we’ll go mental. Optimal? Sometimes no. Often times no, in fact. But practical? If it keeps you coming to the gym and you are getting stronger and faster…hell yeah. That’s what it’s all about.