A good friend of mine, Carlos Soto (check out his gym here) is fond of saying, "Strength is your problem, and your problem is strength." A bit of a Yogi-ism but it holds true. Many people are being held back by their strength, therefore making strength their problem in the box. The vast majority of people who participate in CrossFit would find it extremely valuable to stop worrying about how fast they do Helen, and worry more about getting their squat, deadlift, clean and jerk, and snatch much heavier.
To illustrate this point, look at this link about the average regional competitor at this past year's CrossFit Regional events. If you follow that link (click the stuff in bold) you'll find that the average male CrossFitter snatches 256 pounds, clean and jerks 318, and back squats 430. Meanwhile, the ladies do 161 on snatch, 203, and back squat 270. This is serious weight, everyone.
Now, this is not to say that they are slouches on conditioning, either. The average Helen time for men was 7:41, women 8:39. That is mooooooving. But this brings me to my main point about this article. Their strength, plus 400 pound back squat for example, makes things like Helen, Fran, and other benchmark workouts way easier. Everything gets easier when you are stronger. For example, let's say you're doing Grace. Grace is 30 clean and jerks for time at 135/95. If your max clean and jerk is 315, literally 2.5 times heavier than that, Grace is probably pretty easy! Conversely, let's take someone who is an insane endurance athlete, but has a 95 pound clean and jerk. Now, let's put Running Rob (that's his name) in Fran and see how he does. Even if his body weight movements are great, that 95 pound thruster is not going to be possible. Point is, being able to lift a heavier weight makes the generally light weights seen in CrossFit benchmarks much easier to handle without fatiguing.
To further my point here, let's look at my own training. I'll admit, I probably over-condition. I just really like how accomplished I feel when I do an extremely difficult WOD and get to lay on the floor after. However, I started following Hybrid Performance (check them out here) and their focus is definitely on strength. The WODs tend to be shorter, and the strength sessions much longer. Well, about 4 weeks in we tested Helen. I PR'd by 55 seconds. This is without the normally brutal conditioning sets I had been following. Even better, a couple weeks after I hit lifetime PR's on my squat, deadlift, and bench. I attribute the better time on Helen to that new strength.
So, how do you apply that in your own training? Stop focusing on WODs to get stronger. Do some accessory work like I talked about in the last blog, and let yourself take a day or two off from conditioning. Perhaps most importantly, stop adding your own work to the scheduled workouts. An off day needs to be an off day, not an, "I think I'll just go run for 30-45 minutes today." That doesn't let you recover. No recovery equals no strength improvements.