No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. – Edmund Burke

Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon…

So this bad-boy is the so-called “three bars of death” — a three-ring-circus of bodyweight bench presses, .75 bodyweight power cleans, and 1.5 bodyweight deadlifts done in descending rounds of 10, 9, 8, 7….1; completed as fast as possible.  CrossFit has a similar WOD, though I’m not sure if it goes by the same moniker.  Now, this little beast is for sure a fun change of pace, a nice test of strength-endurance and, well, for me, just a good indicator of all-’round brass-balledness and will to endure.  The 8 and 7 round is just friggin’ murderous, as the fatigue/volume intersection is at its peak.  Anyway, in a Facebook discussion I was asked what the “purpose” of this particular workout is, which caught me rather off guard.  Purpose?  Does every physical exertion have to have an intended purpose?  What about “play”?  And what about the other side of the continuum — the competitive event itself?  I don’t want to wax philosophical/existential here, but is there any life-or-death point to winning a competition?  To be sure, “competition” meant an entirely different thing to our evolutionary ancestors, and modern competition is lasting vestige of that — but is there really any point, now, to “winning”?  Especially from a health/longevity prospective?

Note: no doubt an entire PhD dissertation could be written on this subject, so I’ll cut the discussion here.  Also, if my 20 year-old self had read this he’d friggin’ shoot the guy who wrote it 😉

Of course I know what the “what’s the point?” guy was getting at, even though it wasn’t explicitly stated in his comment.  And I agree that the answer to whether or not one should partake in this particular 3-bar-circus is predicated upon that person’s goals.  In the midst of training for a competition of some sort?  Then this type of endeavor probably wouldn’t fit into your plans.  In this scenario, every workout does have to have a particular focus/purpose.  If you happen to be an open-ended generalist like myself, however, sessions like this can be an exciting way to test your mettle — against friends, or against yourself.  And the intensity can be a variable as well; for example, a good-natured competition is a hell of a lot less taxing (mentally and physically) than a regional-level finals.

But do yourself a favor — if you’re not a competitive athlete, there’s no absolutely need to train like one.  That kind of training is a grind — it’s exhausting, not just physically, but mentally as well.  And, I would argue, it’s not healthy in the long haul.  Nor is training in an athletic fashion in any way necessary for health.  Are you a generalist?  Lighten-up, and have some fun with your training.  Of course you can still be smart about the whole endeavor.  Notice for instance that power cleans were chosen here as the explosive movement as opposed to, say, a more technically demanding snatch movement.  Heavy fatigue means we want to avoid anything too technically demanding.

Here’s another fun test of met-con mettle – Corben Thomas’s 300:

This little burner will get you lit-up in no time…

Any “purpose” to this little beast?  Not one that I can think of off-hand.  It was a hell of a met-con burst, and a fun challenge among friends — but would I do this as a workout designed to make me a better performer?  Well, it certainly didn’t set me back, that’s for sure.  But the point is that sessions like this push the risk-of-injury envelope and, if strung together too closely packed, increase the chance of burnout.  In light of that, I consider bouts like this “events” as opposed to a “workout”.  In other words, “workouts” are (or ought to be) designed so as to make you better at “events”.  “Events” are every now and again expressions of the effectiveness of your “workouts”.  And what the hell — they’re just fun to do.

To stretch this analogy just a bit, during my collegiate football career, we rarely practiced in full pads and with full contact during the season.  Why?  Because there’s a huge difference between training for an event, and the event itself.  Events are extremely taxing — again, both mentally and physically — and there’s a much greater possibility of getting injured due to the combination of all-out effort and fatigue.  Prepping for an event by performing the event itself is one of the most basic of all training fails.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when considering your training regimen is to maintain a proper balance between “workouts” and “events”.  All workout and no play leads to stagnation, whereas to0 many “events” strung together with inadequate recovery leads to injury and/or burnout.

Of course, one’s “workout” is another’s “event”; the ability to generate intensity and the ability to fully recover are highly individualistic traits.  Know thyself and know thy goals are appropriate dictates here.  Also note that, by necessity, an athlete has to push the envelope in his/her training in order to compete at a high level.

Spencer, over at the BodyHack Fitness Blog, recently interviewed OPT’s James Fitzgerald, and I thought the link inclusion fit nicely with the discussion here.  Enjoy.  James is a great guy, and we were stoked to have him as a presenter at PFX12.

In health, fitness, and Ancestral Wellness –






Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.