Bedrock is a performance program designed for beginners without the bullshit. Start an athlete on Bedrock when they walk into your door on day 1. Selecting a specific program for an athlete to follow is a matter of understanding where they are in their athletic life cycle. In the beginning, they need Bedrock.
Once the appropriate program is selected, the success lies in your ability to implement with the correct intent. A crucial part to the application process is selecting the correct starting place on the lifts. Do so correctly and you set your athletes up with a foundation to continue to build their athletic potential. Miss judge the mark and you negatively affect their long term athletic development. That’s a lot of pressure, right?
Don’t worry, just like with Resets, I’m here to make this process as transparent as possible.
Long Term Negative Athleticism Effects of Getting it Wrong
Bedrock is setup to optimize the various stages of a novice athlete. During the initial stages of Bedrock, the rapid increases in strength are a result of improved neuromuscular coordination. For the first 2-3 weeks intermuscular coordination is being established; this is simply the cooperation amongst muscle groups. Then, for the next 4-6 weeks, intramuscular coordination develops which controls the efficiency and intensity at which an athlete recruits fibers in the muscle groups to produce a movement pattern accurately and powerfully (1).
Risks of Starting Too Heavy
Being smart about what weight you start your athletes at is paramount. If you have started your athlete off at too heavy of a weight and fail within the first 4-6 weeks this causes a whole chain of negative events. At this point the athlete just entered the initial stages of the intramuscular coordination phase. When the athlete fails at this point it isn’t because they aren’t strong enough or don’t have enough muscle mass. They are failing because of lack of neuromuscular coordination which hasn’t been developed yet. They haven’t been given the chance to be successful; they have essentially been set up for failure.
An early reset where they will have to drop the weight back diminishes the time and opportunities they have to attack the limiting factor of a novice athlete. In the example above, an early reset cost the athlete 40-60 lbs on their back squat! Their athletic base is being developed on shaky ground.
Fears of Starting Too Low
Now you might be thinking to yourself: “well shit, I don’t want to make that mistake. I am just going to start my athletes of very conservatively.” Let me stop you right there. Just as you can start off too high, you can start your athletes off too low and potentially face negative repercussions. Starting too low at the beginning catches up to an athlete during their hypertrophy phase. We need to stress to progress. Coordination will be established in the first 3-9 weeks of the program. If they move into the hypertrophy phase with too light of a load, the adaptation of increased myofibrillar density will not be achieved because the working muscle was not overloaded (2).
Remember you get one shot at maximizing the novice window with your athletes, so it is crucial to get them started with the proper weights.
As you can see, there is definitely a Goldilocks Zone when selecting starting weights. Some of you may be expecting me to give you a magic body weight ratio or percentage to start, but we know those are worthless for novice athletes. Overtime you are going to have to develop and fine tune your coach's eye and intuition.
Monitor what week your athletes meet their first failure/reset to let yourself know if you came in too hot, too cold, or just right. You’ll know if you got it just right if the first reset occurs within the first couple weeks of the hypertrophy phase like the example above.
How to pick your starting weight
What I want you to do with all of the lifts is start with the bar. As @John says, “The strongest men in the world start with the bar, so do we.” This approach will allow you to establish your athletes’ range of motion to be challenged while maintaining our standard of posture and position in the lift. Remember: don’t think of the standard as solely getting from a set starting point to a set end point at any cost.
Once you have done this, I want you to start adding 5lbs, 10lbs, 20lbs, perhaps even 50lbs total to the bar. Have them perform 5 reps. How did they move? What did their range of motion look like? Were they able to stick to the standards of posture and position? The incremental jumps that your athletes make will depend on what you have assessed with each one’s movement.
Then perform another set of 5 reps. If movement was good, add more weight, and have them perform another set of 5 reps. Hold your athlete to the same posture and position standards you set with the previous sets.
I want you to continue to repeat this process of incrementally adding weight until you identify a manageable 5 that challenges technique but doesn’t change it. Once you find this weight perform 2 more sets of 5 reps. For power cleans, follow the same template but with 3s. Failure should be nowhere in sight; we are just establishing a platform upon which we will build these lifts.
Think before You Leap
Imagine the Bedrock program as the Mega Ramp from the X-Games. I don’t know about you but if I wanted to give myself the best shot at getting over the gap, I would make sure to get as big of a running start (aka starting at a manageable weight). I would not try to make the jump by standing close to edge (aka starting your athlete near their current limit), giving a few arm swings and just hoping I make it. Think you’d make it?
I’ll give you a hint: you won’t.
This is a crucial conversation that you want to have with your athletes before they start Bedrock. In my experience, this is your chance to reign in those athletes who want start too high and Empower those that are afraid of putting weight on the bar. This is your opportunity to explain and educate them on the journey they are getting ready to start and get their buy in.
Get Started with Bedrock Today
Bedrock is steeped heavily in the principle of Accelerated Adaptation, and a big component of that success is making sure things time up correctly with the phases of the novice window. Therefore, the biggest enemy is mistiming the program’s application. We are working to disturb homeostasis enough to generate an optimal positive adaptation, then keep them coming back for more.
Training stressors must be weighed against an athlete’s ability. Start too heavy and leave them unable to come back for more; start too light and we are unable to drive the desired adaptation. However get it right and you set your athlete up with the greatest gift you can possibly give them: a platform to develop athleticism.
- Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. (2009). Supertraing: 6th Edition. Rome: Ultimate Athlete Concepts.
- Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics.
After an introduction to CrossFit in 2007, Carl became a certified coach in 2009 and co-owner of CrossFit South Bend in 2011. In addition to coaching CrossFit and CrossFit Football classes at the gym, Carl has been coaching high school rugby since 2009. He uses the CrossFit Football and Power Athlete concepts to help his young athletes identify their goals and provides pointed instruction to help achieve those goals.