Time Caps: Is It Good or Bad?

More and more often, we are adding time caps to almost all of our WODs at Battleship CrossFit.  We do have good reasons, I promise.  Read on to learn why…

It’s all about intensity

Every workout is designed to finish in under the allotted time by moving at a pace and at an intensity level appropriate to the workout. For example, let’s look at the benchmark workout “Fran” which is 21-15-9 Thrusters and Pull Ups.  This workout is intended to be a short, very intense workout.  The weight is meant to be light and the pull-ups should be done unbroken or in large sets. The best in the world can finish in under 2 minutes!  If this workout is scaled properly, the workout should take no longer than 7-8 minutes.

We’ve all been there, but if your “Rx” Fran time is 15 minutes, you are not working at the same intensity level as those who finish in a few minutes, as the workout is intended to be.  You would be better off to scale the load, range of motion or reps to finish this workout as a sprint.  The WOD is generally not the best time to try to get stronger or more proficient at movements.  That’s what the strength and skill portions are for.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you SHOULD

We program our WODs at an intermediate to advanced level to challenge he best athletes at Battleship CF.  Not everyone is at that level, which is totally okay, but those who aren’t there yet (or maybe just not quite there on a particular day) should scale the workout accordingly. The time cap is there to make sure you don’t completely wreck yourself, because we care about you and want you to be able to come back in day after day, week after week, year after year!  Just because you CAN deadlift 315 pounds does not mean you should do them in a workout of 21-15-9 if that’s 100% of your 1 rep max.

Energy Systems

There are three energy systems which fuel all human action:

1 – Phosphagen pathway– provides energy for activities that are explosive and high-powered.  These activities generally last less than ten seconds.

2 – Glycolytic pathway –  powers moderate activities which can last up to several minutes.

3- Oxidative pathway – provides energy for low-powered, endurance-type activities.  These would last in excess of several minutes.

Both the phosphagen and glycolytic pathways are “anaerobic”  while the oxidative is known as “aerobic.”  Any anaerobic activities (like a one rep max clean or a sprint) are explosive, muscle building and not sustainable beyond a few minutes, while aerobic activities (like a half marathon) are relatively low-powered, and can be done for long durations.  Simply look at an ultra runner compared to a sprinter and you’ll notice a huge difference in their physiques.

It is very important to vary the training to work all energy systems.  By using a time cap, we can more accurately direct athletes to the proper intensity and the appropriate energy system to create well-rounded athletes who can excel in any type of workout, whether it’s short and intense or long and steady state.

More is not always better

To follow up with the energy systems discussed above, long, grueling workouts are not always better.  A 30 minute WOD isn’t better than an 8 minute WOD.  They just have different purposes.  Of course, it’s important for GPP (general physical preparedness) to train all varieties of workouts.  That’s what is great about CrossFit!

So the next time you see a time cap, check the ego at the door and scale if needed to achieve the intended stimulus for the day.  If you aren’t sure, talk with a coach and they can give guidance or advice on how you should tackle the WOD.