I have ‘sat on’ this post for quite a while. I was trying to think of the best way to put it in my own words. However, the CrossFit Level Two Training Guide and Workbook is so well written, in parts, that it’s best I share big chunks of it with you and then elaborate slightly in my own words.
Hopefully, the previous three instalments of ‘How it All Works’ have gone some way to ensuring you know we have your best fitness interests at heart and that there is at least a clear method to how we program. In the ‘THE LAST WORD ON PROGRAMMING’ I would like to go one-step further down the rabbit hole to answer some oft debated points.
THE MAIN TAKE-AWAY ON PROGRAMMING.
What the Guide Says: ‘Programming, whether “good” or “bad,” is secondary to effective coaching, appropriate scaling, using sound mechanics, and a group dynamic conducive to pushing oneself (i.e., highest intensity brought to the work). Even with less-than-optimal programming, a trainer with a good eye for movement mechanics, and who develops a good rapport with his clients, will help clients improve their fitness for years. Functional movements performed at high intensity, regardless of how well they are combined and varied, are powerful enough to elicit dramatic changes in one’s health and performance, particularly for the unaccustomed.’ ‘For any level of athlete, a well-varied program should cover many different aspects of fitness. As an athlete becomes more advanced (e.g., CrossFit Games competitor [regionals and beyond too]), additional time may be needed improving weaknesses in addition to regular programming.’
What Shapesmiths Say: In short, we really hope that you guys value the coaching quality and know that every day the growing team is striving to develop as coaches and improve our knowledge, to help you all. Weaknesses shouldn’t be shirked away from. If you know that you need to improve a basic skill like running, don’t avoid those types of workout when they pop up. Instead relish the opportunity to improve. Check in with your coach if you don’t feel suitably challenged, it may be that we need to work a skill more to unlock a new intensity or you are indeed ready to modify up, to make things a little harder.
What the Guide Says: ‘A weakness is a certain skill that is lacking relative to an athlete’s proficiency in other areas. By improving one’s capacity in these weak areas, the athlete’s overall fitness increases. Effective CrossFit programming by itself is weakness development. With well-varied, unbiased combinations of loads, time duration, movements, etc., clients inevitably see improvements in their fitness for years. Over the months and years, just performing the elements one struggles with will improve one’s proficiency in these movements. An athlete may choose to do additional weakness work to accelerate progress and will likely find this also improves strengths. It is also a good consideration for a client that has reached a plateau.’ ‘It is unlikely that the programming needs to change drastically to address weaknesses, particularly for an affiliate or large group setting. Further, trying to tailor the program to every individual weakness is impossible. The best the trainer can do is to observe and respond to the general trends in the gym and provide well-varied programming consistently.’
What Shapesmiths Say: In our box, Shapesmiths coaches get a real kick out of seeing its members come in on their first day a little nervous and over a few months end up making huge progress. If you ever feel like you have ‘plateaued’ come and talk to your coach and we will talk it through and see whether that is actually the case. Personal bests come in many forms, not just in kilos or seconds. If you have time, using open gym could be a great shout for you! We have an open gym guide that is housed in our Facebook Members Page. It has an excellent supplemental strength program, gymnastics program and engine program. All three of these are also covered off in regular class programming too in the form of the Weightlifting Class, Engine and Shapesmiths Gymnastics.
Also, don’t underestimate NUTRITION to help you through plateaus. It is the BASE of the fitness pyramid, after all. Get in touch if you are keen to address this.
What the Guide Says: ‘These are those that can perform all workouts and movements as prescribed in the workout of the day (Rx). Typically, these athletes either came to CrossFit after years of performing some functional movements at high intensities (e.g., collegiate gymnast) or they have been doing CrossFit consistently for years. There are times a trainer needs to scale this athlete due to sickness, injury, personal problems, or a recent string of difficult/demanding workouts. Occasionally suggesting a variation with lower loading and/or repetitions benefits the advanced athlete both physically and/or mentally.’
What Shapesmiths Say: Our aim, via appropriate scaling, is to get everyone to a point where they can Rx workouts. However, this is not at the expense of having fun and enforcing correct mechanics. As the gym’s ‘training age’, defined here as: ‘the gym’s members total time, exposed to the elements of CrossFit’, increases you will look around the gym and see more and more people Rx-ing WODs. This Advanced level, should not be confused with Elite Level, which is those that would be going to Semi Finals, (formerly sanctionals and Regionals) and the CrossFit Games. That is less than one percent of the whole population of CrossFitters and although a nice thing to have in a gym is not Shapesmiths primary focus. We hope that the more advanced athletes at Shapesmiths know that we will continue to apply the same principles of athlete development to them and that sometimes it is totally OK to scale a workout back, no matter who the athlete is.
ONE OF THE 4 MAJOR PROGRAMMING PITFALLS.
What the Guide Says: ‘CrossFit programmers may be tempted to use excessive volume. This occurs with more than one training session a day (i.e., double days). In some cases, athletes may even attempt more than two sessions. This pitfall affects those trying to emulate the volume sometimes used by CrossFit Games athletes. Games athletes’ training is not representative of what CrossFit programming should look like. Multiple sessions a day are not appropriate for 99 percent of CrossFit athletes (less than one percent of those who participate in the Open go to the Games). ‘ ‘Even multiple workouts in one extended “session” should generally be avoided. Extra sessions and/or extra workouts may help performance in the short term but often lead to overtraining, higher risk of injury, and burnout in the long term. Double days help Regional or Games athletes prepare for high-volume competition and can help them get in more volume so they can advance certain skills relative to their competitors. Generally, however, there is actually a decrease in intensity across sessions. ‘
‘ “Be impressed by intensity, not volume.” If a client is looking to be competitive, very gradually and cautiously increase volume. For example, start with additional skill sessions (e.g., double-under practice) in areas in which the athlete is not as proficient, not multiple workouts. Look at CrossFit.com and assess what the athlete cannot complete, then add “volume” by way of working on these skills. The volume should gradually increase over the long term.’
What Shapesmiths Say: Nothing to add.