A Tale of Two Crossfit Totals

A Crossfit Total is a simple test of strength: three attempts to find a one-repetition max in the back squat, deadlift and press. Add up those numbers, and you have a Total.

In September 2011, after finishing an eight-week cycle of lifts that tracked (quite closely) the programming prescribed in Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength program, I completed the following lifts (weights in pounds for one repetition):

Back Squat: 265/275/285
Press: 125/130/135
Deadlift: 265/275/290

Comments: I didn’t fail any of the lifts, which would seem to suggest I could have gone a little heavier. Conversely, it also means I planned smart, and did my lifts right. In the squat and deadlift, I began with numbers that were close to the last completed workouts. In the case of the squat, I had done a 250x5x3 workout the week before, and in the case of the deadlift, I had done a 255×5 workout the week before. My back squat and deadlift numbers are too close; this is because my deadlift is my weakest lift. My weak and injured lower back requires me to be very cautious when deadlifting.

In December 2011, after returning to regular programming at Crossfit South Brooklyn, I did another Crossfit Total and this is what I completed:

Back Squat: 255/265/275(Fail)
Press: 135(Fail)/125/136(Fail)
Deadlift: 265/275/290(Fail)

Comments: Clearly my numbers fell off, which was initially disappointing, but in retrospect this was entirely understandable. A strength cycle is dedicated to squatting and pressing (bench or military) three times a week; the heavy squatting aids the deadlift numbers as well. Regular Crossfit programming doesn’t allow for such systematic, week-in, week-out, linear progressions in the lifts. It would have been surprising if I had pulled off the same numbers in the second total. In retrospect my second total numbers are actually quite good.

That said, there a few factors contributed to the lowered numbers.

First, my squatting coming into the total had been a little sporadic and to make things worse, a couple of my workouts had featured some off-color squatting (shallow reps, staggers on coming out of “the hole”). My confidence in the squat was not sky-high during the December total. I was happy enough to make the first lift I had made in the September total.

Second, in the case of the press, I planned badly. I should have started with a 125, gone for a 135 on the second if that had come off, and then tried a lift for a personal record on the third try. Lesson learned. I should know better by now, but there you have it.

Third, in the case of the deadlift, I simply lacked practice; I hadn’t deadlifted enough to be able to go for anything heavier than the 275 I did pull off.

I’ve now started another strength cycle (this past Monday). My starting squat number is 205, my starting deadlift number is 235. I hope to make it past 300 in both lifts, which should be doable if I eat right, and do enough stretching and post-lifting recovery work. A pair of tight hamstrings will sabotage both these lifts, so those need to be supple and limber. (I haven’t forgotten about the press; my starting number is 100, and for now, I’m allowing myself to dream of breaking 150; the press is extremely finicky, so who knows what will happen here, but hope springs eternal and all that.)

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