Tier system programming is based on the premise that a training program can be “Written for the best, and scaled for the rest.” In order to capture an effective program that drives results for all, as well as provide achievable options to “meet athletes where they are at”, tier systems can provide a responsible framework for grandmas to elite athletes to get the most from a program.  Avoiding certain skills, capacities and movements, creates an exact blueprint for a program’s failure.

If increasing fitness in a comprehensive manner is the goal, than the skills, moves, or capacities that people are most intimidated and challenged by are also the areas that they stand to gain the most in terms of their fitness. Therefore a true fitness program should include all elements presented in an achievable yet challenging format that drives skill development and progression. People love getting their first muscle up, kipping pull-up, or handstand push up. It is these results; doing something that you truly did not believe that you could do, that make the CrossFit program an effective, enduring, and powerful life experience for people.

Program Examples:

Workout: “Cindy”

20 Minute AMRAP

  • 5 Pull ups
  • 10 Push Ups
  • 15 Air Squats

Tier 1: As Rx’d

Tier 2: 20 Minute AMRAP

  • 5 Banded Pull ups
  • 10 Push-ups from the knees
  • 15 Air squats

Tier 3: 20 minute AMRAP

  • 5 Jumping Pull ups
  • 10 45-degree push-ups
  • 15 Air Squats

Workout: “Diane”

21,15, 9 Reps of

  • Deadlift (225/185)
  • Handstand Push ups

Tier 1: As Rx’d

Tier 2:

  • Deadlift (135/95)
  • Pike Push ups

Tier 3:

  • Deadlift (95/65)
  • Seated Dumbbell Presses

Another important part of this process is skill work, which creates solidarity in the group because it can be done as a whole class and serve to develop technique as well as come up with scaling options. This is done in conjunction with the warm up and is critical for refining technique of advanced athletes while driving progression for novice and intermediate athletes. This should be “fun” composed of drills stemming from very basic foundations to advanced progression. Here, no one is left out and the coach can address athletes individually to get them familiar with the next step.

Example of Skill work for “Diane”

Option 1:

  • Tripod headstand
  • Tripod headstand to extended legs
  • Tripod headstand to kipping handstand or a plank

Option 2:

  • Wall walk as high as athletes are comfortable going
  • Inverted handstand hold on a wall or pike pushup hold
  • Handstand negative to an ab-mat
  • Full handstand push up

Deadlift PVC Skill work

  • Empty Barbell
  • 5 minutes to work up to a weight you can perform for 15 unbroken reps

In both these options all athletes can get exposure being upside down with an option for infinitely more challenging scales down the spectrum. The bottom line is that if athletes are not practicing the skill in some way, or challenging themselves wherever they may be at, progress will cease and they will never acquire the skill.

Most CrossFit workouts are 15 minutes or less, which leaves coaches upwards of 45 minutes to develop these skills on a daily basis. Very few gyms have athletes walk in the door with muscle ups or the ability to do workouts at Rx’d weight. Strong programs have most athletes acquiring all skills at the 1-3 year mark with the process outlined above.