One of the biggest links missing in CrossFit programs across the world is a lack of coaching and a misunderstanding of how and when to apply intensity. We measure our fitness and results. Those results are driven by intensity. Expressing intensity is dependent upon mastering and refining technique. You learn, refine and master mechanics of functional movement, then you go as hard as you can until those mechanics start to fail. Refine and push, rinse and repeat. These are the two most important factors in progress. This is the path to virtuosity.
Affiliates are messing this up in their programming by adopting the idea that more is better. If one CrossFit workout gets you fit, then two will get you twice as fit? There is a programming epidemic in affiliates. Coaches are getting lazy, and instead of filling the class up with coaching, skill progressions and development, they are just filling it up with a laundry list of stuff. This most commonly happens by over programming, putting too much stuff in each day and not focusing on excellence in the basics, and intensity in the workouts. Gyms will often program two portions in a workout such as strength and then a conditioning section. To athletes, it may look like they are getting more, but here is a case to support that they are actually getting less: less technique, less intensity, less progress, less coaching and less commitment to virtuosity.
Here is an actual example of todays program from a very popular affiliate in New York City:
Every Minute, on the Minute (EMOM)
- 0-4 Power Snatch 2 reps
- 4-8 Power Clean 2 reps
- 8-12 Push Jerk 2 reps
- 12-16 Power Clean and Jerk 2 reps
5 Rounds for time of:
- 50 Double Unders
- 5 Deadlifts 315/225
- 10 Strict Handstand Push Ups
Let break this class down time wise and identify where the potential hurdles are in this style of programming:
- General warm up: 5 min
- Strength Workout: 16 min
- Conditioning Workout: 12-15 min
- Time to lead up in weights, set-up logistics , allow for transition: 12 min
- Put equipment away, collect scores, cool down: 5 minutes
- Total: 53 minutes
- Time left to teach mechanics and skills, scaling and progressions for 6 movements (HSPU, Double Under, Power Snatch, Power Clean, Push Jerk): 7 Minutes
Here are the top three biggest arguments against this style of programming:
#1) There is no time in the hour to do any meaningful coaching and skill development.
As you look at the breakdown, you can see that the class only allows for 7 minutes to teach and refine 6 movements, 5 of which are highly technical. In reality this probably looks like less than 1 minute to cover each movement. Where can you put in a handstand push-ups progression or cover scaling options? Where can you work on double under technique and do some practice? Where can you work on positions and patterns in the snatch and clean and jerk with a PVC pipe? The coach would inevitably just become a time keeper or a crowd herder without the ability to do any meaningful coaching and development with athletes.
#2) Intensity Gets Sacrificed, Results Get Sacrificed
With this habitual style of programming, there is not enough time to get to enough of a stimulus out of each element and/or one element gets sacrificed for the other. To get results you must push intensity. Measurable, observable and repeatable means PR’s guide the effectiveness of the program. Increased work, decreased times, increased weight means you are getting fitter. Would you be able to build up and PR your snatch in 4 minutes? Would you be able to go as fast as you could in a conditioning workout after lifting for 16 straight minutes prior? Athletes typically bias one section of the workout ie. The lifters go for it in the EMOM and then go through the motions in the conditioning, or the people who love met-cons save it for the conditioning workout.
#3) This is Not Variance, Athletes will Break Down and Get Injured
If you are always doing a 15 minute lifting session followed by a shorter conditioning portion, the program is not varied, it is routine, and there is a blueprint for failure based on the missing elements. Where do athletes get to go longer for 30 or 40 minute efforts? Where is the gymnastics or long monostructural practice? As coach Glassman said…“Routine is the enemy, our specialty is not specializing”
Variance allows for a wide breath of different stressors. Repetitive programs can lead to breakdown. CrossFit recommends doing a dedicated heavy day every 3 day cycle. This allows for tissues and joints to recover from high load for health and intensity the next time you lift. You may have noticed there are very few 30 and 40 year old Olympic lifters, that is because they breakdown from the repetitive stress of lifting daily. If the goal is fitness over a lifetime, variance allows athletes to recover from a broad series of stressors to keep training and progressing.
When it come to programming, more is not better, better is better. Better is defined by results, PR’s, skill acquisitions. “Don’t be impressed by volume, be impressed by intensity.” –Glassman
For 99% of people who do CrossFit, a single dose of constantly varied, functional movements executed at a high intensity has the ability to provide astonishing results for long term fitness, longevity, quality of life and avoiding chronic diseases. Virtuosity in CrossFit does not just apply to moving, it applies to coaching, programming, and the continued example of self development. It is the pursuit of excellence.