Let’s talk programming.
I was recently approached by a member wondering why the hell we do things the way we do? This is a good question. Many CrossFit affiliates operate differently, and a key factor can be their programming. Outside of the community, the coaching, the programming and methodology behind what started it is key.
“The magic is in the movement, the art is in the programming, the science is in the explanation, and the fun is in the community.”
I’m writing this to explain my art, so you can have faith in the programming you’re getting. I should preface this with most gym owners of a CrossFit affiliate have their beliefs, forged by their experience, education, and mentors. I am no different, but those exact things make me different than the gym next door.
Many of the greatest CrossFit programmers (owners/ coaches/ CF HQ) will go back to the roots of CrossFit and where it all began. The farther away people get from the original methods, usually the farther they fall away from Greg Glassman’s intentions.
Let’s give a brief description of some of the foundational pillars. Greg defines fitness as “ Work capacity across broad time and modal domains” aka workouts that vary from short to long, and don’t just focus on one modality. If this is the definition of fitness, what is CrossFit? Its defined as ‘’constantly varied, functional movement, performed at high intensity”.
CrossFit also uses three different standards or models to help evaluate, and guide fitness.
The first model: 10 general physical skills that most exercise scientists would agree with as a standard. Some of the 10 are trained via work or training aka physiological adaptation. The others are improved by sole practice or neurological adaptation.
The second standard is based around the performance of athletic tasks. They refer to this as the hopper model. Essentially they think the fit person could take any workout from the hopper that comes out and perform it above average. They may not be the best at it but the athlete would not lose either. Of course, if a 1 RM Deadlift comes out of the hopper, a strongman athlete, or powerlifter is going to excel at that event, but what if a 10 K run comes outs?… Exactly. The specialty is not specializing but being well rounded.
The third standard used is based on the energy systems that drive your body to produce energy. Without going into great detail, you have 3 main systems, ATP/CP or phosphagen, Glycolytic, and oxidative. The three systems collectively produce energy for your body. A sprinter who runs the 100 m dash at the Olympics has a very advanced ATP/CP system, it’s the first system your body calls upon for energy. On the other hand, a strong oxidative system is found in the long endurance type athlete. While glycolytic falls somewhere between the two. CrossFit athletes need to be competent in all 3, falling short in just one is not in line with the core values of CrossFit metabolic conditioning. Typically, many people over train the oxidative pathway.
Now to train all these different modalities, and meet the standards of fitness that Greg Glassman has set. You have to keep in constantly varied. I can truly speak about my own performance from a collegiate athlete improving overall once I balanced out my fitness. I at one time could back squat 465 lbs., bench 325. Yet I couldn’t overhead squat an empty 45 lb. bar…. Yet I was a collegiate “athlete”. Now my numbers are almost identical, I can OHS 300lbs, walk on my hands, do muscle ups. Etc.…. The point is, I believe I am far more athletic and well rounded.
CrossFit prescribes 3 days on and 1 day off, however, in a business model this is hardly run, but you will see “ rest” or lighter days programmed in an affiliate often
When it comes to strength CrossFit doesn’t traditionally follow the back and Bis. Chest and Tri typical bodybuilding format. We still do proven strength sets, and reps like 5×3, 3×3, 7×1, all sorts of strength and power schemes that are known to produce results. We also follow conjugate methods, bands, chains, speed days, max effort days, accessory work after.
The other scenario is training time, and training population. The athletes that come to a CrossFit gym land on a huge spectrum. From overweight clients to some clients that want/need to gain muscle, some just want to stay in shape, others have big goals for competition. The CrossFit methods preach GPP (general physical preparedness). This is what our 1-hour classes will provide, broad, inclusive fitness. This is what 99.99% of experienced CrossFit coaches will tell you a CrossFit Class should provide. The athletes that have bigger, or more specific goals can and should seek out me or other coaches for 1 on 1 programming or coaching to help reach those, and expect to commit additional time inside the gym. Then comes the battle of not wanting an additional cost to get extra 1 on 1 attention. Apply it to any other business and it may help. If you go to a restaurant and you order a base meal on the menu, you pay X dollars, if you add an additional side, you get charged extra. If you build a home, you get a bid for x amount. Halfway in the process you decide you want granite countertops, and a marble shower instead of laminate tops, and fiberglass shower insert. The builder is most likely cool with it, but guess what, it is not free. The point isn’t the pricing; the point is the CrossFit class is broad and inclusive. With consistency and intensity, the program provides results time and time again if you stick to the plan. (Remember that plan includes eating well like mentioned above in the world-class fitness in 100 words).
This is a rabbit hole that continues to circle in a downward spiral. Programming has always been one of the biggest topics to help athletes move the needle. This blog post truly is the finest needle scratching the surface. If you cant see it can be quite confusing and complex.
When it comes to my philosophy, I try to stick to tried and true strength and condition principals, while maintaining the constantly varied aspect of CrossFit to maintain a well-rounded balanced athlete. The fewer stones unturned the better. If I find a weakness in athletes, I look forward to the challenge, because we now have an additional item to work on. A good quote is “ you are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.” If you ever want to speak to me about programming more in person, my door is always open.
Hope this has cleared up why we do what we do, etc. The results will come if you put in the work!