Strength Cycles: The Proof is in the Pudding!

Our First Strength Cycle of 2018 is complete and we saw fantastic improvements!


We had a small group of 6 athletes complete the program this cycle, some with years of Crossfit experience, some with only a few months. Asking athletes to commit to the Strength Program during the Open is….well….always a challenge as we’re pushing athletes to do the Open at the same time. The Open requires us to prioritize your “engine” and the Strength Program requires us to prioritize your strength. It’s hard to do both at the same time!

Also, as you may or may not know, strength gains accumulate faster when you’re new to lifting.  Progress is faster and quicker if you’re not a veteran power or Olympic lifter.  So we saw results for both new lifters and veteran lifters in this cycle.

We recommend our athletes do at least one Strength Cycle a year. At Rebels, we’ve been offering this as a part of an athletes membership for several years now. It’s strategically planned throughout the year so that everyone has the same opportunity to opt in or out. Check out our summary page HERE.

To commit to a 10-week lifting program is a lot to ask.  Life often gets in the way of training consistently but the Magnificent 6 persevered and came out way stronger.

We followed a tried and true Wendler 5-3-1 Program and mixed in plenty of BSG (Boring Strict Gymnastics) for accessory work. Strict Gymnastics is often overlooked because it is…well…boring. Oh Great, 3×8 of strict pull-ups(eyeroll emoji). Consistent work on strict gymnastics builds body awareness and stresses your body in ways a barbell or dumbbells cannot. Strict gymnastics is important and I’m proud of the athletes for sticking to the program. We worked Low Bar Back Squat, Press, and Deadlift. Three essential lifts for a healthy body. We all need to sit on the toilet, push overhead and pick stuff up from the ground.

Alright, let’s do some numbers!

Back Squats: We saw an average of 13% improvement on Back Squats. These numbers range in improvements averaging 22-pound increases, with the highest at a 35 pound increase!

Deadlift:  Three of the six were unable to test the DL at the end of the program due to a schedule conflict or the desire not to re-test*.  The other three saw an average of an 8% or 20-pound increase with the largest at 30 pounds!  (*We don’t push masters athletes to 1 rep max if they’re not “feeling it”. At a certain age the risk versus reward for pushing maximal loads becomes one of less necessity than more time under tension). 

Press:  Shoulder presses are one of the slowest lifts (Google it!) to progress.  Improvements are slow and small.  But on avearge, we saw an overall 10% increase with a 20-pound increase being the highest!

We also saw tremendous improvement in the  Power Snatch and Power Clean – two lifts that we worked only moderately by comparison to the power lifts and yet, we saw incredible numbers. The Power Snatch improved by 12% (top increase was 25 pounds), and the Power Clean went up an astonishing 18% (top increase was 45 pounds).  Large increases typically occur with the strength program when technique is on the rise….which may have been some of the reason here.

So what’s next? The Magnificent 6 are stronger and back in regular class, time for them to get their metabolic conditioning back – it is all but impossible to stay metabolically conditioned while packing on muscle. We’ll be starting another Strength Program in late April. The next cycle will be 8 weeks and focus on building your beach body just in time for Summer. Our sets will be focused on hypertrophy (muscle size). You’ll get stronger of course but the gains will be visible. You’ll look a bit bigger in all the right places. Just time for beach season.

~Coach Phiz


All of the athletes improved by at least 5% per lift, which may not sound like much until you break it down.

If my press is 100lbs and it goes up to 105 after only 8 weeks, that is phenomenal. Take it a bit further, a 15lbs increase on your Deadlift sounds like a reason to celebrate!


Special notes:  Why the “pudding” reference in the title? Like any program where you aim to increase performance (strength, cardirespiratory capacity, and even mobility (we can argue that poorly fed or overly medicated your tendons and ligaments won’t be as supple and your joints won’t be as mobile due to inflammation to allow for increased range of motion)), if you are not properly fed – mainly if you are underfed, but quality matters – you’ll not reach your maximal potential.

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