Programming for the CrossFit South Arlington Athlete (Part 2)

In this second-part of a two-part series, we talk about the main ideas behind CFSA programming year-long and, specifically, for the next few months. You can find Part 1 here.

In the first installment of this 2-part blog series, we discussed some of the history of CrossFit programming and the importance of a strength-bias in any gym’s training plans. So how does CFSA incorporate strength work for its members? Well, the easy answer would be to make sure we have strength work, 5 days a week, year round. But that’s not as sustainable as we’d like.

First, anytime we have strength work on the whiteboard, we end up with less time left over for the metcon*. Having short and fast workouts is great and an essential component of a comprehensive training strategy; but at some point in the year, we also need to target medium and long time-domain workouts in order to build a complete athlete.

Second, around late February, the CrossFit Open comes around. It is an opportunity for thousands of CrossFitters around the world, including us, to test themselves at the sport of fitness. It is an important milestone for any box, especially for gauging the fitness improvements of its members. For those of you who have done the Open, you know that those 5 weekly workouts thrown at us by CrossFit HQ do not involve very heavy weights; instead, they are medium to long range workouts with a bias towards a high volume of repetitions. What does that have to do with strength training? It means that, in the 3-5 months leading up to the Open, we cannot afford to focus solely on strength. Other fitness skills such as stamina, cardiovascular endurance and gymnastics in higher volume (to name a few) become the main target of our efforts.

So we have a need for a strength bias, but we cannot sustain it all year. What’s the solution? It’s simple and you probably have guessed it already: the training year starts out right after the Open with plenty of strength development and continues that way during the summer. In some instances, training might take the shape of a defined cycle (e.g. 3-month long) with progressive loading and a peaking/testing week at the end. In other instances, training might gradually shift into a phase of frequent strength work plusshort metcons, then gradually shift out of it toward the end of summer. The former is what we all saw this past summer: a well defined strength cycle with a performance week.

As we move forward through 2017 and early 2018, what you’ll see is a combination of longer workouts, higher repetitions and increased gymnastics volume. You will still see strength work 2-3 times per week, the purpose of which is maintenance of the gains you made over the last few months. You will also be hit by another day or two of Olympic weightlifting (snatch, clean or jerk.) One technique that allows us to pack more training into the hour is to superset movements, i.e. to alternate between two movements so that we’re working on one muscle group while another rests. Look for supersets in your training during the fall months.

One last thing: CrossFit as a fitness regimen is great at developing General Physical Preparedness (GPP). At any point in time, it makes you ready for anything: you can go for a long hike, carry heavy groceries or help a friend move furniture. This is how we want you to be year-round; always ready for the known, unknown and unknowable in life. For that, we have to keep the stimulus constantly varied, at a high intensity, using functional movements. Even when we’re favoring strength work, we won’t completely give up on the conditioning. Conversely, when we’re going into “Open season”, we won’t give up on the strength work. The CFSA athlete is a complete athlete who is just as capable inside the gym as they are outside of it.

* metcon = the Metabolic Conditioning piece of the daily workout (it typically comes last)