Programming for the CrossFit South Arlington Athlete

In this first-part of a two-part series, we talk about the history of CrossFit programming and the ideas behind planning out programming for a crossfit gym year-round. Next week, we will discuss the main training focus of the next few months at CFSA.

Most of you have just completed our summer strength cycle, crafted by Coach Bobby and designed to develop peak strength and power. You went through progressively more challenging strength work, five days a week, for a good 12 weeks, culminating in the explosive performance week where you got to test out all your new strength gainz (we hope you PR’d!).

This leaves you wondering, what’s next? Is the strength work going to end? Are you going to lose out on your hard earned contractile potential? Will all workouts going forward be just jumping jacks and mountain climbers led by coach Spandy? The prospects are terrifying. In this post, we hope to clarify what comes next as well as how we got here in the first place.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Back in the Paleolithic age, Man used dumbbells made of chiseled stone to do Push Presses and Snatches. Just kidding, we’re not going back that far. We’ll just rewind time back to the mid-2000s. Bear with us, it’ll make sense in a second. Back in 2005, only 13 CrossFit affiliates existed worldwide. All programming happened on, everyone used it, everyone called it the “main site”. This main site followed the original pure CrossFit formula “constantly varied, functional movement, executed at a high intensity”. It evenly targeted all 10 general fitness skills: Strength, Speed, Power, Endurance, Stamina, Agility, Balance, Coordination, Flexibility, Accuracy. One day you would see Fran posted as the WOD, the next day would be a Deadlift 1RM and the following day would be a 10K row. It was 3 days on, 1 off, with not much more design beyond that. No cycles, no training focus, not even for a few days. Everyone thought it was the sh*t.

(Actually, the main site still follows the same formula to this day and it is adhered to by thousands of athletes. Don’t let this blog post fool you, the programming there is still a gem and one could be a successful crossfitter for a very long time just following the main site workouts. Check it out.)

Fast forward a few years to the late 2000’s. By now, a few dozen or hundred gyms exist, several of which have been experimenting with their own programming for a while now. One thing seems to become clear to many: strength matters. It doesn’t just matter like all the other 9 fitness skills matter, it matters quite a bit more. Why is that? Two reasons: First, strength has numerous benefits: increased force production (obviously), weight loss, bone density, cardiovascular health, injury prevention, combating aging, diabetes, you name it. Strength also supports almost all other movements in crossfit: Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, running. Yes, even running. Mark Rippetoe once famously quipped: “Stronger people are harder to kill … and more useful in general”. What better reason do you need to be strong?

The second reason for investing in more strength training is simpler: building strength takes time. Weeks and months of blood, sweat and tears. It needs so much time, in fact, that you probably need to find a way to incorporate it throughout your entire year of programming as a CrossFit box. Because, if you ignore it for a while, you’ll need a long time to build it back up. We hear you asking: isn’t that the case for all the other “domains” of training? Actually, not really. Strength endurance, cardiovascular endurance, stamina, volume gymnastics, all of these can deteriorate quickly but can be re-built fairly quickly. Don’t believe us? Skip working out for 3 weeks, then come back and do 3 rounds of 400m runs, 20 thrusters and 15 pull-ups. Let us know how it goes. In the meantime, however, we would bet you your deadlift will not get weaker. Actually, you might unexpectedly PR on your first day back! Lost your wind and need to get it back? Give us 4-6 weeks of CrossFit couplets and triplets in the 5-15 min range and we’ll get you all sorted out.

The point is: a CrossFit gym’s programming needs to prioritize strength. How do you do so? We’ll talk about that in next week’s post. Stay tuned!