Get with the Program:
by Najeeb Reyes and Corey Goodman
One of the most controversial things in a box is the programming. We listen to the whispers, the cries, the smiles and the comments about programming, and it’s time we share about what goes into making these WODs we all love to love, and love to hate. Hopefully this will bring more awareness to all of us at the box regarding what we are doing, and why we are doing it.
First, let’s begin by talking about what is programming. Programming are the exercise schemes which we come up with to train CrossFit. We don’t generally pull this stuff out of a hat (unless its Coach Corey’s Birthday), and we don’t just let each Coach decide class by class, something different to punish athletes with. We actually structure workout programs weeks in advance. This takes into account the general level of our athletes, their skills, their weaknesses, etc.
Second, what is the structure of CrossFit Programming? In a great CrossFit Journal Article, Greg Glassman (Founder and CEO of CrossFit Inc.) states that the general CrossFit “…template is engineered to allow for a wide and constantly varied stimulus, randomized within some parameters, but still true to the aims and purposes of CrossFit…to ideally blend structure and flexibility.” What does this mean? We aim to change things up on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and we do so using three modalities – Gymnastics, Metabolic Conditioning, and Weight Lifting. On tomorrow’s blog we will be exploring and explaining the three modalities and the idea of balancing them throughout our work load in a CrossFit setting.
Our workouts include different variations of time interval, different loads (weight), and different skills. Not everything is ‘GO GO GO’, not every workout is just weightlifting, and not every workout is running long distances. The theoretical CrossFit model is to be efficient at the different metabolic conditioning ranges – in ‘sprint’ WODS (sub 3-5 minutes), in medium ‘metcon’ WODS (5-12 minutes), and in the ‘long-haul’ WODS which are generally 12 plus minutes.
Many of you reading this bit might ask, ‘well, every workout takes me 20 minutes plus!’ The reality is many athletes try to push themselves with a higher load (weight), than they should be handling. Certain WODs have ranges of time they should take. Most WODs are designed to keep going without having the 30+ second breaks.
Take FRAN, our immortal beloved! as an example. FRAN is a WOD, which, in case you have not met, I will briefly introduce you by name, but you will have to meet her in person to really know. This workout includes Thrusters (Front Squat and as you come up to standing position you press bar over head) and Pull Ups, with a rep scheme of 21, then 15, then 9 of each of the movements. All this with a 95# loaded bar, and no assistance of any kind on the pull ups.
Fran should take no more than 8 minutes. Once it is above 8 minutes, it isn’t really giving you what the WOD is designed to. And you say – “it takes me 12 minutes plus!” Yes, we know. If it takes you this long, two things are happening – One, The bar is set too heavy. Even if you do it with an empty bar, it is still too heavy if it takes you upwards of 10 minutes. Two, you need to work on pull up technique and strength.
Competitive athletes complete this WOD sub-3 (under three minutes). What is our goal? To find out which weight each athlete is able to handle to do Fran in under 7 to 8 minutes. Not all of us are going to the CrossFit Games, however, we need to do the WOD in a time which is the norm. It is like saying, “I ran a mile today in one hour flat!” That is not only a horrible time, but it simply isn’t running! As your strength, metabolic conditioning, and skills (pull ups) increase, your time will decrease, and you will reach that 95# weight that is originally prescribed.
We will touch more on the subject of over-loading the bar in later blogs, as this is key to understanding proper CrossFit training. Sometimes (more often than we all might think), you get more by loading the bar with less.
So now, ‘what about OUR programming?’ You might ask. At Riptide our programming is generally broken up into three components – First comes The Warm-up, which can include a short run and some stretching, or an active warm-up with body weight movements, jump ropes, etc.
Second comes the SWOD, which means either SKILL WOD, or STRENGTH WOD. This session is very important as it includes lifting to develop strength (deadlifts, squats, presses, cleans, jerks, snatches, etc.), or developing skills through training movements, usually gymnastic in nature (pull-ups, handstands, HSPUs, ring dips, muscle-ups, etc). The SWOD is generally carefully schemed in cycles. Ever heard of a “Strength Cycle”? We will be talking about what that means on this Sunday’s blog. The SWOD session is to prepare you in strength and skill for the actual WODs. Of course it tires you to have to do this session right before a WOD, but in the long haul, you are developing these S’s in order to get the faster FRAN time, or any other WOD’s you tackle.
Third comes the WOD. The WOD is generally a workout which has a few movements combined, with some type of time implications. Sometimes we layout a list of movements which need to be done for time, meaning as fast as possible. At times we set a time domain, say 12 minutes, and say “let’s complete As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP),” or you can also find WODs such as TABATA, which are 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for X amount of minutes of certain movements. All these WODs aren’t only to trick your mind, because many athletes think that is what they are designed to do – no, these are to train the athlete under different metabolic conditions, at different paces, different intensities.
How do we come up with all of these daily WU+SWOD+WOD’s? Usually we have rules of thumb we like to follow, such as: A good balance between the three modalities mentioned above, Gymnastics, Metabolic Conditioning, and Weight Lifting; not overtraining certain movements (we won’t be doing pull-ups 5 days per week); and just having good fun. It is great to program a WOD that everyone likes, and even better programming the WODs people hate. As long as WODs are diverse, well matched movements, with appropriate weight schemes, and appropriate repetition schemes, they tend to work well for training athletes of all levels, ages, sexes, etc.
We try to keep our athletes safe while having lots of fun wodding (working out). To give a small idea to all of our athletes, it takes about 4 to 8 hours, on average, per week, to program an entire week. We do all our own programming, with the exception of borrowing a “cool” WOD we see either at another Box, online, from competitions, or any of the Benchmark WODs.
We love to hear more insight from our clients, and love to educate as well. This is the reason for this blog effort – to educate our athletes on their own bodies. Why do we program what we program? Why eat what we suggest? Why why why? Please feel free to either ask ANYTHING about programming, suggest changes to programming (include valid reasons please), or suggest a WOD you either think of, or see anywhere (online, other boxes, etc) and like. We will be very happy to work a WOD that one of our clients suggests into our programming. We would do it weekly if we had any, so please, speak up. Let’s make this box all of ours, let’s work together!
We will be posting more in depth blogs on our programming, for any questions please see contact info below.
To find the “CrossFit Journal Article – A Theoretical Template for CrossFit’s Programming” please visit:
For any blog suggestions please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
7 Deadlifts (135/95)
7 Hang Power Cleans
7 OH Barbell Lunges (each leg)