Last month, we brought our programming back in house. After a few years of relying on programming from various services, we ultimately felt it was the best move for both our athletes and coaches to write the workouts ourselves.
For our athletes, we’re able to plan farther ahead, provide more context around the specific programming, and ultimately ensure we’re providing a balanced program.
For our coaches, they now have more space within a class to coach technical movements and provide individual feedback. This is only possible when a class time has some breathing room, and you’re not rushing from one thing to the next.
Today, we wanted to share a peek at how the programming comes together. Why? Because we want you to understand the intention behind what you’re doing in the gym! By understanding the WHY, you can get the most out of every workout.
We’ll break this down going from the macro (yearly) view to the micro (weekly). Let’s dive in!
At the yearly level, we’re able to plan out quarterly themes based on several factors including the local weather and upcoming events. These themes help to tailor our training in a certain direction.
For example, in the winter, we’re often limited in what we can do outside. So, we choose to focus on barbell movements (strength and Olympic lifting cycles) during those times. In summer, we take advantage of the season and get outside as much as possible.
This doesn’t mean we neglect strength in the summer or longer pieces in the winter. It’s just providing a certain tint to the time of year.
Broadly, we break the yearly quarters out like this:
- Jan-Mar: Olympic lifting focus
- Apr-June: Conditioning focus indoors
- July-Sep: Conditioning focus outdoors, Odd object work
- Oct-Dec: Powerlifting focus
Now that we have a focus for a designated quarter, we pencil in specific benchmarks we want to use to measure progress. Ultimately, programming should be judged by how effective it is. Benchmarks help us to gauge effectiveness.
We select benchmarks that directly or indirectly test the quarterly focus. For example, in Oct-Dec, we have a powerlifting focus. Our benchmarks will lean towards the barbell with Linda, Diane, and the CrossFit Total. We’ll still test other benchmarks, but we’re looking specifically for improvements in these as they’re tailored towards the quarter.
We also have benchmarks that are automatically built in (Murph, for example) that we want to make sure our athletes are prepared for.
We now have the scaffolding setup for writing specific workouts. We have a specific focus for each quarter. We’ve also gone through and scheduled related benchmarks. Now, we go through and plug in the actual workouts.
Here’s where many core elements of CrossFit programming come into play. We strive to vary the workouts around the following elements:
- Modality: Without getting too far into the weeds, there are three basic modalities in the CrossFit methodology:
- Weightlifting—This would be any time you’re using an external load (i.e. Back Squat, Snatch, Kettlebell Swing, Wall Ball, etc). The primary goal of this modality is to increase strength and power.
- Gymnastics—This refers to any kind of bodyweight movement (i.e. Push-up, Pull-up, Muscle-up, Toes-to-Bar, Burpee, etc). The primary goal of the gymnastics modality is to improve body control (balance, coordination, agility, awareness of body in space, etc).
- Monostructural—You could refer to this as “cardio” since it incorporates main staples like running, rowing, biking, and swimming. The main purpose is to improve cardiorespiratory endurance.
- Duration: Some workouts should be short and intense. Others should be longer. There’s no need to overcomplicate this with talk of different energy systems. We just make sure a week includes a variety of short (0-10 min), medium (10-20 min), and long (20+ min) workouts.
- Movement patterns: Again, our goal is variance, which means we shouldn’t be doing barbell back squats every single day for our workout. We vary both the equipment (barbell, kettlebell, wall ball, etc) and movements (squatting, hinging, pressing, pulling, etc).
- Format: A rep scheme or format can play a huge role on the intensity and overall workout experience. For example, there’s a huge difference between the following options. They include the same movements and general timeframe, but one places larger sets at the front when you’re fresh and the other gets more difficult the longer you progress.
21-15-9 reps for time of:
- Deadlift (225/135)
- Handstand Push-up
Complete as much as possible in 8:00:
- 1 Deadlift (225/135)
- 1 Handstand Push-up
- 2 Deadlifts
- 2 Handstand Push-ups
Continue increasing by 1 rep.
We can vary formats between rounds for time, AMRAPs, decreasing/increasing reps, EMOMs, etc to manipulate the effect of a workout.
You’ll see these elements defined in our weekly preview posts here on the blog and on Instagram where we break down the aspects of the week including format, modality, and duration.
Pulling It All Together
CrossFit programming is often misrepresented as “random.” In actuality, it’s not random at all; it is varied. There’s a big distinction.
“Random” implies there is no rhyme or reason to the specific workouts, movements, or rep schemes. There’s actually a ton of thought that goes in behind the scenes! The programming is varied. It’s meant to expose your body to high rep/low rep, heavy/light, long/short, etc so you continue making progress.
Hopefully, this post helps to shed some light on our approach to programming. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!