As many of you may have already noticed, I’ve adjusted our programming from a strength biased to a conditioning biased program.
Here is a little background as to why.
I never believed we were a strength biased gym because I would run reports inside of beyond the whiteboard said that we were very balanced between heavy and light, gymnastics and weightlifting, and metcon vs. absolute strength. However, the very definition of strength bias means that strength exercises and heavy Olympic lifts are performed FIRST while fresh to get the most out of them.
We were getting strong, very strong, BUT when 20.1 rolled around with all of its light ground to overhead and burpees, we only had two people (and no men) finish the ten rounds in the time cap. No matter what anyone says, the reason they didn’t finish that workout in the time cap had little to do with strength (don’t get me wrong, I still believe that being ape shit strong makes up for a variety of technical sins) but has everything to do with not moving fast enough.
Consider this; if you could do the first two rounds in 4 minutes, you were fast enough and strong enough to finish the workout. If not speed and strength IS your issue, BUT if you could complete the first two rounds in 4 minutes, your problem was your conditioning was lacking. For that reason, I saw a need to change direction. I won’t go into detail here, but the open and games have a history of individuals and teams who believed that getting as strong as possible would make them better at CrossFit. The best example was Samantha Briggs.
Therefore it is often better to lighten the weight and scale back the gymnastics movements so you can finish workouts either within the time cap or better yet closer to what the elite can do. One reason we are doing practice rounds is to let you discover what weights, movements, and even reps you need to choose to get the most out of your workout. Starting heavy or Rx and having to drop weight because it got too heavy or we got to slow is not a good strategy for both long term performance and longevity in CrossFit in general.
For example, Grace (30 clean and jerks for time at 135/95) should take around 3 minutes. If you used the Rx weight and finished in say six or 7 minutes, you really didn’t get the intended metabolic stimulus. So if you are in the six-minute Rx club, you should drop to say 85/55 and get a sub 3 minute time, and as your capacity improves, add weight until you have a sub 3 minute Grace. On the other hand, if you are a fire breathing CrossFit athlete who can do the Rx in say 1:40, you’re getting a different stimulus and need to get heavier until you’re around 4. Say something like 185/125. The list can go on for all of the benchmarks.
After delving deep into the sacred texts of CrossFit for my level 3, I discovered the “theoretical development of an athlete” which says,
Development from the bottom up, starts with Nutrition, Metabolic conditioning, gymnastics, weightlifting, and throwing and finally sport-specific training and movements.
Frankly, this has been the CrossFit model from day one. What happened in the community at large was getting distracted with the competitive aspect of CrossFit and the belief that the overriding goal and holy grail of CrossFit was to Rx everything that honestly required people to get stronger. I’m personally guilty of this in programming and practice.
A quick caveat is that while the overall model now follows the pyramid above, that doesn’t mean I’ve moved to a cardio junkie program, far from it. We will have Conditioning biased days, gymnastic biased, and of course, strength biased days where we lead with some very heavy stuff. Lifting heavy weights is 100% necessary in building overall inclusive fitness with wellness as its ultimate goal. And of course, lifting something heavier than you’ve ever lifted before is very emotionally satisfying.
Indicators of wellness are but not limited to:
Blood Lipid panels
Fasting glucose levels
The goal of all great CrossFit programming is to develop the nine components of fitness equally without giving any preference or bias to any of these ten items.
1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance – The ability of body systems to
gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
2. Stamina – The ability of body systems to process, deliver, store, and
3. Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units,
to apply force.
4. Flexibility – The ability to maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
5. Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units,
to apply maximum force in minimum time.
6. Speed – The ability to minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
7. Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
8. Agility – The ability to minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
9. Balance – The ability to control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
10. Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity
Our programming is now in line with the original objectives of CrossFit as a fitness or exercise modality.
Are the open and games still a good thing. Of course. When CrossFit first entered the scene, it made the bold claim that its best were the fittest in the world. At the time, people believed the ultra-endurance athlete should bear that title. Still, the Games have proved otherwise and also demonstrated the efficacy of the fitness methodology we now call CrossFit. CrossFit, as an organization, is redirecting itself corporately back to wellness from competition because it’s proven itself as the best way to achieve overall fitness and wellness.
On a final note, all of the workouts with warmups and after-parties should take no more than 55 minutes, better yet 50. So let me know where you think this isn’t possible, but either way, I know I’m challenging your time management skills to the max. Another reason is that we still need our strength work. It’s just often that it’s at the end not at the beginning of the workout.
I hope that helps you understand how and why the workouts are programmed a little better.
Scott Lofquist, CCFT, RKC
Head Coach CrossFit I35