7 Strength-Building Principles I Wish I Knew Sooner

Hey Instinct Fitness Crew,

We’ve all been there—staring at the barbell, wondering why if feels so heavy today or wishing we could perform better in a heavy barbell workout (or any barbell workout for that matter). I’ve been in the CrossFit for 10 years now, and trust me, the learning never stops. There have been times when I felt like I wasted an entire 8-week strength cycle because on testing week I didn’t improve. Some of the mistakes I made were easily avoidable if I had just stepped back and looked at the big picture.

Today, I want to share some strength-building principles that I wish I knew when I first started. These are lessons that have not only helped me but are also lessons I use for our members at Instinct Fitness.

Today’s Quick Takeaways:

✔️ The importance of leg strength in CrossFit
✔️ 7 Strength-building principles I wish I knew sooner
✔️ How to break through plateaus and keep progressing

1. Don’t Skip Leg Day

Did you know Tia Clair Toomey can back squat 3x her own bodyweight? Strong legs help in CrossFit(!). There was a study done on the predictors of success in CrossFit and the #1 metric that correlated with better Open scores was Front Squat 1RM; So, if you’re skipping leg day, you’re missing out on a lot of gains and placings on the Open leaderboard.

2. Technique Over Ego

We’ve all seen that guy who tries to deadlift way more than he should and ends up hurting his back. Don’t be that guy. Focus on your form and technique first. The heavy lifts will come naturally after that. The best powerlifters and weightlifters in the world will only MAX OUT 1-2x per year at big competitions. The reps in training are all submaximal with a focus on technique and bar speed. 90% of training lifts should be done between 75% and 85% of 1RM

3. Consistency is Key

You can’t expect to get stronger if you’re not consistent. Whether it’s attending classes regularly or sticking to your nutrition plan, consistency is what turns good athletes into great ones. Think in terms of weekly volume rather than per session. This will force you to look at the bigger picture when you feel like adding a few kilos because you “feel good that day”.

4. Listen to Your Body

There’s a fine line between pushing your limits and injuring yourself. Learn to listen to your body. If something feels off, it probably is. Take rest days seriously; they’re crucial for recovery and strength building. A good rule of thumb is the third, third, third principle. A third of the time you should feel amazing, a third of the time happily chipping away, and a third of the time it will feel harder then usual. If you are having more crappy days than good or great days it might be time for a rest day or adjusting the intensity.

Strength training principles

5. Accessory Work Matters

You know those smaller, less glamorous exercises like bulgarian split squats and banded hamstring curls? They’re more important than you think. Accessory work helps improve your main lifts and keeps you balanced, reducing the risk of injury. I’ve found huge success using single leg work and higher rep isolation exercises to bring up weaknesses. I often recommend CrossFitters consider how they can use their metcons are accessory work, it’s not uncommon to perform high rep wall balls, kettlebell swings, explosive movements like box jumps, or single leg work like lunges, step ups, or pistol squats. Work smarter not harder.

6. Nutrition is Half the Battle

You can’t out-train a bad diet. If you’re not fueling your body with the right nutrients, you’re not going to see the strength gains you’re looking for. Period. Protein is essential for growth and repair in the body, aim for 2x bodyweight (kg) if you’re training from strength. Carbohydrates are also key as they help with energy production which will determine the quality of your training. A good rule of thumb is

For any of our members that need specific nutrition advice we set them up with a consultation with our in-house nutrition coach.

7. A Good Coach Makes All the Difference

There is a reason every CrossFit Games athlete has a coach. A good coach can identify your weaknesses, correct your form, and push you to be your best. If you can’t afford one-on-one coaching CrossFit gyms are the perfect place to get support. At Instinct Fitness, our coaches are dedicated to helping members improve their technique and our class programming provides structure and progression to keep building strength.

Strength building is a journey, and it’s one that’s different for everyone. But with the right approach and mindset, you can break through plateaus and keep making gains. Got questions? We’re here to help. Contact us here.

Keep lifting and stay strong! 🏋️‍♀️💪

Luke