What is Separation Value?: Training Smarter With Training Think Tank’s Kyle Ruth and Brannen Dorman

How do you create separation in a CrossFit workout? You work harder, right? You don’t put the bar down. You drop and do your next burpee. You embrace the pain and just…go…faster.

Sure, that’s part of it, but Kyle Ruth and Brannen Dorman from Training Think Tank and the Corpus Animus podcast believe there are ways to increase performance with intelligence, in addition to fitness, using the concept of separation value.  

We spoke to Ruth, who has been coaching CrossFit for 13 years, to dig deeper into separation value and other concepts to see how they could help us to become better, smarter athletes.

[Related: The Best EMOM Workouts for Strength, Endurance, and Mass]

Defining the Separation Value of Movements

At a recent competitor’s camp hosted by the Training Think Tank team, Ruth hosted a discussion on this subject. The camp was attended by a wide range of athletes, from Quarterfinals-bound athletes to the Sixth Fittest Woman on Earth® in 2023, Alexis Raptis.

Ruth broke down this concept into two categories: global and individual. 

“Global” is defined by Ruth as “The most complex movements in whatever stage you’re competing at, or the movements that take the most time.” These movements are described as “global” because they take the most skill and time for everyone in your peer group. 

An example would be ring muscle-ups, which require a high level of skill and a significant amount of time per rep, compared to double-unders, which require a lower level of skill and take a fraction of the time per rep. 

“Individual” is defined by an individual athlete’s strengths and weaknesses. It can go both ways. They can be movements that create opportunities to separate or movements that require some damage control. This highlights the value of knowing oneself well.

Separation Value Components

Ruth and Dorman explained several components of determining separation value:

Cost of failure: Higher separation value movements typically have a higher cost of failure. To use the ring muscle-up example again: 

“To fail a ring muscle-up, especially in the dip, not only have you wasted time and energy on that rep, but you must rest for an extended amount of time. Compared to a failed double-under, where you can just step over the rope and keep going,” Ruth says. 

Heavy lifts tend to have a high cost of failure, too. A failed lift takes substantially longer to recover from, physically and mentally. This is where Ruth recommends having the “memory of a goldfish.”

Cost of pushing:  All movements have some level of separation value. Double-unders, burpees, and wall balls can all be done faster…but at what cost? It might not be worth it to spike your heart rate to gain a few seconds, especially if there are more complex movements coming. 

Oftentimes, the biggest separator on high-skilled movements or a heavy barbell is going from zero reps to one. Getting that one rep of a strict handstand push-up or heavy snatch can propel you up the leaderboard.

[Related: 15 Exercises for CrossFit Beginners to Learn to Build a Strong Base]

Value of transitions: Ruth believes it is important to view transitions as opportunities rather than rest. He spoke to intraset rest:

Find places within a movement to catch your breath. Rest while making progress.

One movement that stands out in this area is rowing. Instead of taking time to sit, adjust your foot straps, and take a moment to feel sorry for yourself, grab the handles and get to your comfortable pace quickly, then relax. You’ll make progress while others are not. 

How to use this information: So how does all this apply to us daily, and more importantly, when approaching the CrossFit Open and Quarterfinals? 

Take risks during training to gather information and find your capacity. Here is some specific advice from Ruth:

Identify the global and individual separation value of the movements in a workout.

Consider how each movement affects the others. Look at the workout as a whole rather than individual movements. 

Collect your own data. You should know your max sets of each movement and how long each rep takes you. Plan, execute, and review. Use this information to guide your training.

One of the most common mistakes athletes make is performing one large set to start rather than smaller sets with a specific amount of rest. Athletes fall into the trap of  “I feel good. I can do more.” However, Ruth and Dorman agree that that’s the point.

You want to continue to feel good and do more throughout the entirety of the workout, not just one big set. Make a plan beforehand based on your data, and stick to it.

The big picture: When speaking with Morning Chalk Up, Ruth emphasizes that if you don’t have a strategy going into a workout, you will not perform your best. That applies to the WOD and certainly to the three upcoming 2024 Open workouts. 

Ruth: “The unknown and unknowable aspect of CrossFit can lead people to believe that data and analysis don’t have a lot of value. I think the reverse is true. You can out-strategize someone in this sport who is fitter than you.”

Featured image: @kyleruth_ttt / Instagram

The post What is Separation Value?: Training Smarter With Training Think Tank’s Kyle Ruth and Brannen Dorman appeared first on BarBend.


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