February 18, 2010
Calculating the power output of a workout in foot-pounds per minute can be interesting, but does it really tell us anything about improving fitness?
Power is intensity, and intensity brings results.
In CrossFit, we maximize intensity by using a stopwatch. We apply this stopwatch to a wide variety of functional movements performed with full range of motion. More than any other single factor, this practice is responsible for the unprecedented results of our athletes. Therefore, many believe it logically follows that measuring power will allow us to maximize intensity, and thus results.
Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true because life demands the completion of tasks, not the maximization of power. There is an irony here. Measuring the physical power output of our workouts in terms of foot-pounds per minute is mostly irrelevant to the success of our efforts even though maximizing power output is vital. This distinction may appear contradictory at first but is nonetheless tremendously important.
Counting your reps, weighing your barbells, and timing your workouts is really all you need. If you complete the same workout in less time or do more work (reps) in the same time, you have increased the average power in real terms. No other data is required to maximize results.
Many in the CrossFit community, including Coach Glassman, have dug into measuring the power outputs of different athletes in different workouts. The overwhelming conclusion of these analyses is that tracking times and loads provides as much data as we need to develop elite levels of fitness. Secondly, these investigations concluded that calculating actual foot-pounds per minute didn’t contribute any additional benefit toward that fitness.
In other words, cutting your Fran and Helen times, increasing your max deadlift and getting more rounds of Cindy or Mary is really all you need to know about power. Knowing that you can generate over 20,000 foot-pounds per minute in Fran but just under 10,000 foot-pounds per minute for Elizabeth provides no additional benefit.