1. Eat More
Many suggestions on nutrition for CrossFit propose the idea of eating to support athletic performance. While I don’t disagree with this, keep in mind that means you’re eating the exact amount of food required to meet your energy needs, based on your training demands. The number one way to make sure you increase your weight due to an increase in skeletal muscle mass, is to ensure that your caloric intake is above that your basic energy needs. Its gets a bit more involved than that, and while there are countless resources on the web to guide you, tracking your food is a great way to start.
The Takeaway? Meat and veggies are good, lots of meat and veggies are better!
2. Embrace BodyBuilding
CrossFit boasts its inclusion of a broad range of training modalities, from Olympic Lifting, Strongman, and Powerlifting, to endurance Sports such as running and rowing, as well as various other forms of fitness. The issue is that it tends to neglect the principles of Hypertrophy, or what we know as standard bodybuilding. While the goal is never to be all show and no go, strategically increasing muscular size allows you to also have the capability to increase muscular strength. Be sure to include a few handfuls of bodybuilding movements after class, we’re talking curls, banded triceps extensions, dumbbell side raises, and other muscle building movements in the 8-12 rep range. For a more specific routine on implementing these movements into a CrossFit based program, ask your coach about supplemental strength work, or seek out personalized programming to tailor it your needs.
The Takeaway? Curls for the girls are still cool, you should look like you lift what you lift.
3. Minimize your Met-cons
This brings me back to concept of eating to meet your energy output. A great way to make sure more of those calories go toward repairing and rebuilding muscle is to cut back on the WODs. If you’re the type of person hitting multiple WODs a day, plus a few weekend runs, pick-up basketball, and some bike riding, it’s not a bad idea to cut back on the activities that require a high level of calorie expenditure in the name of preserving and feeding muscle growth. While you shouldn’t use “bulking” as an excuse to pack on bodyfat, you should limit yourself to 3-4 high intensity WODs a week, while leaving ample time to focus on your lifting.
The Takeaway? Don’t get fat, but don’t be a cardio bunny. Slow and steady growth of only muscle!
4. Add Some Weight
If you love the community atmosphere of hitting a workout against the clock with your buddies at the 5:30 class, don’t worry, you can have your cake and eat it too. (as long as it’s made with protein powder, am I right?) Don’t be afraid to move some heavy weights in the WOD. You shouldn’t be nearing 1RM territory, but you can make anything more challenging by jacking up that dead lift weight, grabbing a heavier kettle bell, keeping your pull-ups strict, or tossing on a weight vest for those body weight movements. Keep in mind that it’s a give and take. The weight goes up, the reps come down. Refer to your coach for appropriate ways to scale up the weight and scale back the reps.
The Takeaway? Heavy Barbells have a place in conditioning, it doesn’t always have to be burpees and jump rope!
5. Hit the Big 3
Make sure you’re finding time to squat, press, and dead lift, every week. These 3 movements give you the largest bang for your buck when it comes to packing on muscle and increasing overall strength. If you did some wallballs this week, sorry that doesn’t count as squatting for strength. A barbell, plus heavy, plus low rep, equals a win. Vary between front and back squat, presses can be any sort that meet your fancy, (yes, even bench). The dead lifts? Those are straightforward, just don’t shoot for a 1 rep max every week! Be sure to refer to a coach for or seek out a program, either a generic one size fits all straight from the internet one, or find a good coach that will write one for you.
The Takeaway? You don’t have to go looking for a singlet and sign up for a powerlifting meet, but there’s a reason theses lifts are referred to as the big 3. Make time.
We all love the community feel of the box, but if you’re serious about adding more strength and size, you need to be making an effort in the right direction.
While these tips can get you headed in the right direction, there is no equivalent to good coaching, so be sure to refer to those have experience, and when it comes to your nutrition or custom programming, experience is invaluable.
Lift heavy, move fast, and don't forget to pack that Tupperware of chicken and rice!