Joe Rogan, Firas Zahabi, Flow, Volume, and Soreness

I got a great question from Chad about the following video (it is a bit long, but it has some great points from the perspective of a Professional Fighter) and you may want to share this with your community:


Hey Jeremy, any immediate thoughts on Firas Zahabi's training approach?

  • Never sore
  • Consistency over intensity
  • Volume is more important than intensity
  • Bodyweight exercises over barbell
  • Flow state - halfway between anxiety and boredom
  • Bodyweight DL and Squat are enough

My Response:

A LOT of great points! (and a few I haven't found to be true when working with regular folks).

It would be great if we could get people to come to the gym 5-6 days a week, hang out for two hours, and really focus on form (and then do something on their own on the 7th day). But in reality, we have to work around people's schedules and lives... and not to mention that people need to get results a bit faster than someone planning a long professional career!

The training has to fit into an hour, and it has to be potent enough to get results coming in no more than 4 days in a row, and avoiding missing more than two (so 3 days a week up to about 5).

But you will also notice that we do spend FAR more time on the skill development side than just about every other program I have seen. And much less time in the intensity side!

This 'intensity' piece is also why we do "Practice" context about 60% of the time.

Even when we are lifting for example. Those first 4-5 weeks of the strength focus should be at an intensity where aren't getting sore and we are working on mastery!

This is also why we do so many metcons in the 5-12 minute range. This is short enough to prevent a lot of soreness and allow people to train with more consistency. People feel like 7 minutes isn't enough, but they forget that they have been training the entire hour and they discredit the fact that because they aren't destroyed they can come back again tomorrow or the next day!

Side Note: One thing I will say is that I have been studying flow off and on for about 15 years. I do believe that some people hit the flow state during the long workouts and that is one of the reasons why they crave it (and why some people have a real hard time counting reps and rounds). What I am trying to figure out is how to teach people how to reach flow states on the shorter workouts so they don't end up with too much intense volume.

His points on bodyweight/gymnastics vs barbells show a bit of a lack of understanding of training methodologies. As an amateur fighter myself (many years ago) and someone who has worked with professional fighters, I have found that the best way to increase overall performances is to use the 'non-mat' training to work more on explosive power and absolute strength. Fighters are already doing a ton of muscular endurance and aerobic work when they are working on their skills!

As far as bw squats and deadlifts being enough... see above.

I agree with his thoughts on the top performers in CF competitions. They are not putting out 100% on everything all day. I'll add that where people get confused is that they see the performances on their metcons on a daily basis (and the loads they are using) and they are so much 'better' than the average competitor, they assume that these top performers are going 'all out'.

A lot of mid level performers will do a workout in their wheelhouse and put out 100% and get close or even beat a Games competitor. Then they'll think "Oh shit! I am pretty close to making the Games!"

The reality is that the score for the Games competitor is actually closer to 75 or 85% intensity, and it is probably the 6th thing they did that day.

To summarize:

  • It is always better to 'do less' that day, so you can come back sooner and train again.
  • Definitely avoid soreness when you can.
  • The more 'quality' reps you can do, the better your training time is.
  • Challenge your technique as much as possible to reach flow as often as possible.

I hope that explains it!

Follow Up:

Thanks. I really (seriously, really) appreciate you taking the time to write all of that. Just to be clear, I was not calling you or your programming, or even CrossFit out in any way. I just thought it was an interesting discussion and wanted another point of view.

I had in my mind started to point out how our programming is different that a lot of CF you see and closer to his ideas in some regards but I was afraid it was mostly confirmation bias.

Seems like a lot of what we (Thrivestry and Fittestry) do now is hugely different than when I started in 05. Differences like:

  • We don't see as many high rep workouts like tabata this, karen, barbara, angie, murph, cindy, lynne.
  • Inclusion of the scaling guide instead of less skilled athletes doubling or tripling the time it takes to do certain workouts
  • Daily context (competition being rarer)
  • Scaling levels based more on where you want to be instead of how long you have been doing this.

All of that said though, personally, it is near impossible not to push 100% intensity if there is someone else there that I want to beat. Seems like the only way I have found to let my ego out of it is to change the workout so we aren't doing the same thing. Or what we are doing is hard/new for both of us.

Pushing too hard because of someone else is one of the 'dangers' that is for sure!

Some people will say that not logging/whiteboarding, not prescribing loads or using 'Rx', is the answer.

But that also takes away some of the benefits! Logging is important to know where you are at and to see how far you have come. Not prescribing loads can change the programming stimulus and prevent people from having goals to shoot for.

And for some people, the 'push' they get from having others to chase will help them when they aren't feeling it that day, possibly eking out a bit more results over time (while distracting them from the monotony/discomfort of the training through gamification).

All of that said, the competition piece is potent medicine. In the right dose, it has a benefit. The wrong dose and it can be detrimental.

Thrive on.



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