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Using Workload to Move to the Next Strength Level by Bill Starr - CrossFit Journal

In Olympic Lifts, Powerlifting

March 12, 2012

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Bill Starr says a logbook and a calculator can help you avoid strength plateaus and keep your numbers marching upward.

When my strength gains hit the wall, my first thought was that I was doing too much, so I cut back on the number of exercises I was doing in a workout. That made matters worse, so I reversed the procedure and added in yet more work. That didn’t work either.

I stumbled on the solution accidentally. For a strength athlete to be able to move from beginner to intermediate and from intermediate to advanced, he must utilize the concept of workload; that is, how much total tonnage has been moved in a session and in a week and month. No one taught me this; it just made sense. If I wanted to improve leg strength, I had to work them harder. Same for all the other muscle groups.

When I was at York Barbell, I kept a record of all my workouts and used those to plan my future routines. Yet it wasn’t done systematically. I went by how I felt more than just the raw numbers. Tony Garcy helped me clarify how to use workload. Tony used what was then referred to as “the European method,” which consisted of figuring out to the pound how much weight was moved in a workout. These numbers were then used in conjunction with the heavy, light and medium concept to keep from falling into the trap of chronic overtraining.

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5 Comments on “Using Workload to Move to the Next Strength Level”


wrote …

Liked the article, but your recommendation to take "mega-doses" of almost every supplement out there seems like an irresponsible generalization. Your protein guidelines were more appropriate, not because I agree with them, but because it was for a single nutrient at a specific dose. I would enjoy the same for supplements and reasoning behind those in another article. Just my 2 cents


Jonathan Gray wrote …

Workload is a great way to track both intensity of specific workouts and to help avoid both over and under training. I suspect that years from now we'll look back on the early days of Crossfit and joke about the time when we didn't track workload. There are a number of websites that allow you to calculate workload and power based upon your height, the movement, etc. Is the most polished logging site that does these calculations for you. What's also very interesting is that you can see the times of many top crossfit athletes, the weight they used, and their total volume performed on a monthly or yearly basis. You'll find that the top athletes are generally doing more workouts and moving more weight then everyone else.


wrote …

So would a light day be considered working up to a heavy single since you are lifting less volume than on a heavy 5 day even though you are lifting a heavier weight. If so this article seems similar to Chris Mason's article about lifting heavy and often.


wrote …

Thanks for the article, I just have one question. How would you adjust your program for us crossfitter types who are training 6 days a week and doing metcon's on top of the 3x/week strength program? Do you think that all of this extra work is going to negatively impact the strength program? Or is there a way that the two can coexist and complement each other?


wrote …

I cant grasp the thing about how to manage intensity and workload into the heavy, light, medium system. I made some calculations and it turns out my light day had a higher workload for the overhead press than my heavy day because i used lower weight but more total reps. (3r9s on the light day, 5r5s on the heavy day)
Am i then not doing the system right? I mean if you do tons of reps of a low weight the workload will soar, but i wouldnt expect it to help me move heavier weights, right?

Another example: After the end of a clean-workout (5r5s) i did a backoff set of 10reps at 65% of my final heavy set. Beacause i only managed 2reps on my final heavy set the workload for the backoff set was wastly higher. That doesnt mean i should be ditching the heavy sets for doing 10reps right?

I would very much enjoy more insight into this.

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