There are three main areas in which we commonly see the most elite athletes in functional fitness/CrossFit training and though we don't all need to train at the volume that these athletes work at, it is very beneficial to make sure you're incorporating each one of the "systems" into your own programming.
Strength training is essential for all athletes. Period. However the type of strength training may and should vary depending on what is required of the athlete in their sport or even more specifically to what aspect of their sport needs to be improved upon.
One thing we see a lot in CrossFit is small athletes who are great at body weight exercises but struggle with heavier loads, and then of course the exact opposite for bigger athletes.
For the smaller athletes it’s simple, get stronger. If heavy pulling, pressing, and squatting are incorporated into their programming, they should see consistent improvement.
For larger athletes it’s a lot different. Squatting and pulling heavy does not transfer that well to improving muscle ups and pressing a barbell definitely is different than doing a handstand pushup.
The quickest way to improve strength is to increase load on the movements being performed, gymnastics movements are no different, and so to increase load you must add body weight, hence, the weight vest.
Whether you’re working on handstand pushups, muscle ups, ring dips etc, with a weight vest you can program those movement just like any others that use a barbell. Find out what your weighted one rep max is on your choice of gymnastic movement and then start doing percentage work to bump that max up and get stronger.
That feeling you get during a WOD when your legs are exploding, lungs are burning, and you feel like you’re going to throw up - that is a feeling that needs to be worked on and pushed. At the same time you need to be smart about your loading, listen to your body, and make sure that volume and intensity are not always one in the same.
A great way to improve your anaerobic (lactic acid) threshold is to do workouts like Grace, Fran, or max effort sled pushes where you’re working in small time domains but stepping on the gas the whole time.
A great way to make the workouts even more intense and yield better results is to where a weight vest while doing them.
IT IS IMPORTANT to remember that intensity must be kept high in order to tax this energy system so reps or durations of workouts need to be short fast and intense. The restricted breathing, added load, and general lack of comfort that the weight vest brings to the equation can be very beneficial to breaking past plateaus and increasing tolerance to those types of “sh*tty” workouts.
You shouldn't and can’t always workout with maximum intensity but at the same time there is definitely a difference between a working and a resting heart rate. Whether it’s during a long low intensity AMRAP or a recovery walk or run, throwing on a weight vest and loading the body can bump the heart rate up just enough to where you can get maximum benefits from the work that you’re doing.