CrossFit PHIT – Our Progamming Philosohy, Why we are the best!
My guess is that if you had to define good Crossfit Programming with one word, you would say “results”. I would agree with you if you did, but the devil is in the details. In dealing with the human subject what gets you results at one point of your progress will not necessarily elicit similar results during other periods of your progress. Often you need to temporarily trade gains in one area for plateaus, or perhaps even slight drops, in other areas.
The simplest example of this is focusing on strength for several months while worrying less about endurance performance. This is often necessary as strength and endurance are on opposite ends of the force production spectrum – for advanced athletes it is near impossible to substantially improve both at the same time. This necessitates periodization in their training programs.
Lets discuss what we feel makes for good programming here at CrossFit PHIT. I will try to keep it as simple as possible, but provide enough detail so you can understand why we take things seriously with programming.
Understanding this information will also help you set some realistic goals.
I. Good CrossFit programming demonstrates an understanding of the General Adaptive Syndrome (GAS) and how to use super-compensation to drive progress and achieve results.
A. Adaptation – “Adaptation is the adjustment of an organism to its environment. If the environment changes, the organism changes to better survive the new conditions.”  However, if the conditions change to quickly or drastically it will harm, irrevocably damage, or kill the organism. A small amount of stress allows you to recover from that stress and be able to resist that stress better than before.
There are structural and functional adaptations. Structural adaptations consist of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments improving their material properties. Calluses, and hypertrophy (muscles getting bigger from lifting weights) are physical manifestations of this phenomenon. There are also functional adaptations, which consist of things like V02 max and lactate threshold.
Good programming controls the amount of stress we introduce to you so that we avoid harming you. Remember, while you are at the gym you may be building skills, but you are tearing down your body and applying stressors to your energy systems, central nervous system, and physical structures.
We approach adaptation at CrossFit PHIT by using scientifically proven; progressive loading schemes, max effort (ME) prescribed intensity (percentage of 1RM) reps, max reps (MR) to failure sets, dynamic effort (DE) work, work capacity development interval training, and prescribed volume (number of reps), to drive positive adaptations in your performance. We use specific time caps (durations) and limiting rep schemes to prevent you from doing too much and eliciting a negative adaptation like injury or overtraining. Our percentage work allow you to scale and customize to your needs and level whether it be weights for strength or pace for conditioning.
B. Recovery – After stressing your body with your workout, you enter the recovery phase. There are many things that contribute to your ability to recover as well as the rate of recovery, but the most important include sleep, nutrition, and rest days.
Good programming contains adequate rest days, de-load periods, periodization, and time between workouts allowing you adequate time to recover. It should also allow for people with different goals, abilities, and propensity for recovery to participate at a level that is commensurate with their abilities. Having a gym that is allied with or has qualified nutrition coaches, nutritionists, on staff is a plus as well.
We address recovery at CrossFit PHIT by first talking with our members as an individual and determining their goals. Then we make recommendations based on their assessed level of fitness, goals, and time available for:
Which bias to follow in our programming,
How many days a week to work out,
What days to take as rest days (This does not mean lay around all day)
Which days are critical (based on the programming template)
Our programming is periodized with a yearly plan that breaks down into four quarters with 12 weeks and a 13th de-load week. These 12 week cycles have different focuses and contain three to six-week meso-cycles that support the goals of training for that time frame. We do this for not just weightlifting, but conditioning, and skill development as well.
C. Super-compensation – “In sports science theory, super–compensation is the post training period during which the trained function/parameter has a higher performance capacity than it did prior to the training period.”
Good CrossFit programming properly sequences different types of stresses and recovery for the different domains of fitness and balances out a program to allow us to take advantage of this super-compensation to build on our successes.
Not getting enough recovery will lead us into decreased performance, overtraining, and injury, as in the second example below. The third example explains why you feel so good after hitting it too hard and then taking a couple days off, but is not the optimal model to follow as it takes us too far into the negative range with the possibility of doing more harm than good. The fourth example below shows what happens when you are not training as often as you should.
D. Over Training – Many of you may be overtraining by not getting enough recovery time, nutrition, or other recovery factors and not necessarily realize it. Some of the symptoms of overtraining are:
Unexplained poor performance and high fatigue ratings
Prolonged recovery from training sessions or competitive events
Disturbed mood states characterized by general fatigue, apathy, depression, irritability, and loss of competitive drive
Persistent feelings of muscle soreness and stiffness
Elevated resting pulse and increased susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections (altered immune function)
Loss of appetite, weight loss, and inability to maintain proper body weight for competition
If you experience these or have any doubts or concerns, talk to Coach about it.
So all you need to know is your optimal recovery time and then you have good programming, right? It’s a good start but there are other variables to account for:
– Good CrossFit programming needs to take into account different recovery times for:
Your different energy systems
Your body’s physical structures
– Good programming takes into account the difference between novice, intermediate, and advanced exercisers or athletes.
A. Your Body’s Energy Systems – I’m going to keep this as simple as I can, because there is a lot that goes on here. If I leave some things out or over simplify, please forgive me. Your body uses ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adenosine_triphosphate to power everything it does.
It does this by breaking it down to ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) and a single phosphate group and using the energy that is liberated by the reaction. You also have to replenish that ATP by rebuilding ADP and single phosphate groups. Your body has three different ways to do this, that all have benefits, limitations, and different recovery times. The three main energy systems are:
1. ATP stores and Phosphagen System
2. Glycogen-lactic acid system
3. Aerobic System
You are never using only one of the energy systems – it is always a combination of the three. The percentage of each system that is being used for a given activity depends on: 1) the intensity and 2) the duration of the activity. Good programming takes these limitations, benefits, and recovery differences to form the order in which exercises are done, what is exercises are done following one day to the next, and what days should be rest days for different people with different goals.
Additional Reading on Your Body’s Energy Systems
B. Your Body’s Physical Structures – your body’s ability to rebuild muscles and physical structures that are torn up during exercise are dependent on multiple variables to include:
The Intensity, Volume, and Frequency of your training
Your individual genetic and acquired (trained) ability to recover
How well you take care of your recovery process with proper rest, nutrition, and other restorative processes.
The amount of other stress in your life
Good programming will deliver a proper moderated and balanced approach to #1 while you are responsible for the other three.
C. Your Central Nervous System – Just like your energy systems and physical structures, your CNS takes time to recover. While we can speed energy systems and physical structure recovery with diet and good supplementation, the CNS generally just takes time to recover from intense exercise and is influenced by variables 1, 2, and 4 from above.
Good programming takes CNS recovery into account by structuring rest intervals, rest days, and ordering, prioritizing, and periodizing training days and activities. Good programming also requires athletes to properly communicate with coaches about how they are feeling and on occasion taking unscheduled rest days if they feel like they are over trained. Other options are to modify exercises (use less weight than what is prescribed) or going easy on the workouts. Not every day needs to be a PR day. There may be some days when the percentages feel harder than usual and its ok to play “defense” and not go all out.
Typical Periodization Model
good crossfit programming 01
Additional reading on Understanding of exercises effects on the Central Nervous System
At CrossFit PHIT our programming takes into account differing recovery times for multiple activities and energy systems. Generally we do our lower intensity skill-building work first while our bodies and minds are fresh. Then we do activities that utilize our fastest recovering energy system (The Creatine-Phosphate anaerobic sytem) like Olympic and Powerlifting weightlifting movements so that we are not worn out for our conditioning which can lightly, moderately, or intensely tax our glycolytic and aerobic pathways, depending on the stress prescribed for that day in keeping with our periodization model. Rest days are prescribed for individuals depending on their goals, abilities, and training focus.
D. What’s the difference between novice, intermediate, and advanced athletes?
Novice athletes can make progress from work out to work out. Novices will see a result from just about any training protocol as they are going from doing nothing to doing something.
Intermediate athletes take longer to make progress (set new PR’s).
Advanced athletes track their progress in much smaller increments over a longer time frame that may take months to see progress. Truly elite level athletes have to use an annual or even multi-year approach to setting new benchmarks.
Good group CrossFit programming offers a scaleable and periodized approach that allows different levels of athletes to make progress regardless of where they fall on the continuum.
This creates unique challenges in a mixed-modal training situation like CrossFit. You can’t just take a stock weightlifting program, slap a standard endurance program on top of it, and then do a full gymnasts workout to build all of the requisite skills for the gymnastics piece of CrossFit. It will tear your body down quickly. You will drive yourself to injury very quickly.
At CrossFit PHIT our approach takes into account the accumulated wear and tear of combining strength, power, endurance, and specific skill building protocols. We also take advantage of the fact that we can vary the specific movements to minimize specific wear and tear related to overuse of a specific movement or exercise.As you move from novice to intermediate athlete you can add specific accessory work, that supports the daily programming and will help drive your progress. Taking the step to being an advanced athlete allows you the opportunity to add additional work that complements the standard workouts and accessory work at a time where you can handle the additional volume and higher-level skill work.
Trying to tackle the additional work before you are ready for it can have a deleterious result. If you aren’t sure of when to make the transitions, make sure you track all of your workouts and then talk with Coach.
III. In Addition – Some additional things that make for good programming
A. Injury Prevention – This should be a gym’s number one priority. Injury prevention includes but is not limited to:
1. Sufficient and appropriate warm-ups, pre-habilitation, and mobility work,
2. Post-workout stretching,
3. Having a legitimate bio-mechanical or performance goal for everything that you program
4. Minimizing, Mitigate, or completely remove inherently dangerous movements,
5. Minimize, mitigate, or remove ridiculously high-rep movements in workouts (the definition of “high-rep” differs from movement to movement at different intensities and volumes).
6. Proper form on all movements makes you safer and able to do more work more efficiently and continue on injury free.
Please report any injuries you have to a coach and if a movement hurts, you don’t need to do it. Ask a coach how to modify the movement, or substitute with something else, so that you don’t injure yourself.
At CrossFit PHIT our number one pillar of training is Safety. We utilize all of the above injury prevention measures and more. If a coach makes a call based on your safety or others around you, listen to them. If you disagree with their call we can talk about it later…in an uninjured state.
B. All Encompassing – Good CrossFit programming takes into account the breadth and range of human movement. It exploits agonist and antagonist muscle groups and movements to provide safer progressions, build supporting structures for the range of human movement, and drive quantifiable, consistent gains while minimizing the occurrence of injury.
C. Balance and Variation – Good CrossFit programming balances out the ten domains of fitness and allows for enough variation to keep it interesting and not hammer away at the same body parts or movements for multiple consecutive days.
D. Critical Thought Process – Good programming evolves with the needs of it’s population of members. It builds on its successes and discards things that don’t produce or support results. Good programmers continually educate themselves and expose themselves to new thoughts and open investigation.
Good CrossFit programming gets you the results you are looking for in conjunction with your recovery protocols, rest, and nutrition. To maximize the return of investment of your time and energies make sure you communicate with your coaches your specific goals and follow their recommendations. Be aware of your goals, constantly record your results, evaluate your progress, and communicate your questions, concerns, and needs with your coaches.
It helps to have an experienced Coach.
 Zatsiorsky, V., & Kraemer, W. (2006). Science and practice of strength training. (2nd ed.). Champaigne, IL: Human Kinetics.
How to choose the right CrossFit Gym
It is easy for the untrained eye to look at CrossFit programming and deem it as being completely random. They see different movements being put together alongside various rep schemes and load variations and feel it is just pulled out of a hopper every day. Some less experienced programmers are at fault of doing this. They either lack the education or see CrossFit mainly as a brand that can make them money. When Choosing a crossfit WOD They may think as long as they keep the workouts “hardcore,” stick to the CrossFit main site, or program a “Hero” or “Girl” workout on a regular basis that will suffice enough to keep them relevant. Often these programmers do not account for a proper warm up, nor do they have the background knowledge when it comes to teaching essential skills and lifts needed to properly do the movements.
One of the things I love about CrossFit is that from one day to the other you should not know what to expect. There is always a skill you need to get better at and a lift you need to get stronger in. The more technically sound you are in your lifts the more you replace fat with muscle. In addition, you will gain more out of your workouts due to being more efficient with your movements, therefore being able to raise your intensity level.
In some cases you may see a weight gain of a couple of pounds but find that body fat has dropped by a few percentages and your clothes fit significantly looser. Now in saying this, that does not mean it will happen to everyone. I have witnessed many fit people maintain their current weight and size but get significantly stronger. It all depends on the genetic makeup of that person. Personal trainers who claim they can get weight loss with nifty machines and gimmicks really have no idea what they are doing. They just know a patron will pay them more money because they have those nifty machines. Just like an uneducated CrossFitter will pay for CrossFit even though it’s not well thought out programming. To them CrossFit is CrossFit, right?
Over the years, I have heard several statements in regards to why certain movements have been programmed. I have listened to people say they do not want to bulk up, afraid that too many weight-lifting workouts will put them in some hulk-like state. I have heard statements that a workout was not hard enough, wanting a “soul crusher” every day. I have witnessed people overtrain and take themselves out of commission for weeks, working the same muscles over and over again.
CrossFit programming should be far from being random. Everything should be well thought out weeks or sometimes months ahead of time. CrossFit workouts need to account for many different domains. The “unknown and unknowable” is one of CrossFit’s key concepts. However, this is only in regards to the client. The programmer should know everything being thrown at an athlete and why. If you’re constantly crushing people that is not good for the body and can most likely lead to an injury. If you’re working the same muscles over and over again and do not take the time to prehab and mobilize you will also be more prone to injury.
In programming, rep and load counts for the week are extremely important. Understanding volume versus intensity also is. CrossFit encompasses many different time domains in its system. Short domain workouts tend to range three to ten minutes in length and are often high in intensity and low on volume and reps. Long domain workouts tend to last more than twenty minutes and are often lower in intensity and high on volume and reps. There is an in-between to both long and short domain workouts that tends to encompass both variations and often ranges ten to twenty minutes in length. In addition to time domains, you also have strength- and skill-based workouts. One that focuses largely on lifts with higher loads is considered strength-based. While skill-based workouts tend to focus on gymnastic elements or high-skilled weightlifting movements, like the overhead squat or snatch.
These concept examples are general, however, due to the fact that the variables can change drastically based on an athlete’s level of expertise. A short duration workout for an elite CrossFiter can very well be a long duration workout for the average CrossFitter. The same is also apparent when it comes to strength- and skill-based workouts. Solid CrossFit programming will hit all these different domains, while also stressing the body’s different energy systems. It is a programmer’s job to be aware of how the workouts affect the masses, and track accordingly to encompass everything for everyone, even if it means adjusting to individual levels. CrossFit works because it is constantly varied. Good programmers understand this and this is why you see certain CrossFit’s demonstrating better results than others. (PHIT)
There are a plethora of gyms out there these days calling themselves CrossFit. Be aware of their programming. Search for it and pay close attention to it. Here are things to look out for when searching for a solid CrossFit to join:
Does the gym have original programming, if so, who is doing the programming? what gives them credibility to do so, because they say so? Because they have a CrossFit certification? Or because they “own” the gym? Do they program “Hero” and “Girl” workouts or just stick to the main CrossFit site on a regular basis? It is okay to program these workouts on occasion, but using them as a main source of workouts shows a lack of experience. Chances are that box has no real grasp of how to program. More importantly, who does the programming? What qualifications and what level of experience do they have. If they have only been a “trainer” “coach” for a short amount of time (5 years or less) and they are designing the Affiliate programming, chances are your a guinea pig.
Check to see if the CrossFit you are looking into programs skills to work on or lifts to get stronger in. If they only program a workout without training skills or strength, then how are you supposed to get better? Just doing a workout will only take you so far.
Is your trainer / coach an example of what they preach? Do they “walk-the-walk” or just dress in CrossFit gear and “talk-the-talk? are they constantly injured? Are they fat,
And suck at everything aside from a heavy lift now and then? or are they constantly seeking virtuosity in all of the fitness domains? Demand that they lead by example! Your worth it!
Do they have a beginner program, often called an on-ramp or elements course? If they do not have one then that is a major red flag they definitely do not know what they are doing.
Do they discuss and go over recovery and mobility with their athletes? Everyone gets injured and although CrossFit is an amazing way to get and stay fit it is still a sport. Proper recovery is always key.
Is nutrition discussed? No matter how hard you workout, if you are not eating properly then you will never see the results you truly desire.
Do they post their programming online for everyone to see? If a CrossFit truly is confident in their programming then they will allow everyone to see it. If an excuse is used that they do not want anyone to steal it, therefore it is hidden, then they most likely have no idea what they are doing. CrossFit is not rocket science. There area ton of gyms out there posting workouts.
These are all questions you should be asking yourself when choosing a CrossFit gym that is right for you. Anyone can kick someone’s butt in a workout, and that’s a big reason why the masses love CrossFit. Real CrossFit programming, however, is about intelligent progressive proven strategies. Constantly varying movements and domains are only one component. It’s about educating yourself as a programmer and coach on a constant basis. Most importantly it’s about always being open to new ideas. There are many amazing CrossFit facilities out there and chances are many of them are fancy. Do your research and come to an educated conclusion on what is best for you.
CrossFit: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly
by Mark Rippetoe | 12/02/13
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Here’s what you need to know…
• CrossFit has done an incredibly good job at popularizing tough training using barbells.
• CrossFit is fine “Exercise” but it’s not “Training”. The undoubtedly impressive CrossFit Games athletes don’t use CrossFit programming.
• There are good and bad CrossFit coaches, but the certification farm CrossFit has become often produces more bad than good.
I was associated with CrossFit for about three years beginning in 2006, providing weekend seminars and instructional videos that demonstrated technique on the five basic barbell exercises. I ended my formal association with the organization in 2009 due to ideological and personal differences, and The Aasgaard Company started our own seminar product in January of 2010.
During this seven-year period of time I’ve become quite familiar with the system and the people who developed it, I’ve watched it change significantly over these years, and I’ve come to hold several opinions regarding CrossFit. Some of them I will share with you here.
CrossFit is the greatest thing that has ever happened to barbell training, bar none, unequivocally and absolutely.
Since the invention of the equipment a hundred years ago, nothing has placed more hands on more barbells than CrossFit. This is what motivated my involvement with them in 2006 – I saw a huge amount of potential for the advancement of strength training.
Now, it must be said that P90X broke the ground with their infomercials, the first of their kind, showing people getting results with exercise that was actually hard. Previously, the primary criterion for exercise advertised on TV was that the DynoIsoThighMaster2000 folded up and stored under your bed. It was fun and took five minutes a week. And it was easy.
So P90X comes along and says that you have to get sweaty and tired if you want to get stronger and lose bodyfat, and it will help if you do their diet too. After a period of development that began in 2002, they started airing millions of infomercials in 2004, and within a couple of years every human being on Earth had been exposed to the idea that “hard” was productive, and that muscles needed to be “confused,” an idea first popularized by the Weider organization in the 70s. With the broad general public exposed to the ideas of “hard” and “random/muscle confusion,” the field had been plowed.
CrossFit began to get popular about this time. It has been called “P90X with barbells” – it confuses the muscles with random exposure to a variety of movements and equipment that P90X does not use, and it is very hard. CrossFit had an appeal that has subsequently ballooned into the fastest-growing business opportunity for gym owners in the history of the industry.
Each of these gyms (I’m sorry, but I cannot call them “boxes”) has bars, bumper plates, racks of some sort, and the platform space to do the basic exercises that comprise effective strength training. And each of them also offers a place to do the WOD that all the other CrossFitters around the world are doing that day. But if they’ll let you, each gym also is a place where you can do very productive strength training.
CrossFit also constitutes nothing less than a total revolution in the potential for the development of Olympic weightlifting in the United States, so far in excess of Bob Hoffman’s wildest dreams that the English language fails to describe its importance.
For example, in 2004 there was one place to do the snatch and the clean & jerk in the entire Dallas Ft. Worth Metroplex: Tom Witherspoon’s garage. Before, six million people/Tom Witherspoon’s garage. Now, 10 years later, there are no less than 40 CrossFit affiliates – probably 41, since I’ve been typing a while. USA Weightlifting has yet to capitalize on this unique opportunity, for reasons beyond the scope of this article. Nonetheless, the amazing opportunity remains in place.
So, no matter what other derogatory stuff I or anybody else says about it, CrossFit has provided more people with access to barbells and the motivation to lift them than any other single factor in the past hundred years. Our company (Aasgaard), Rogue Fitness, York Barbell, Lululemon, Robb Wolf, ten or so shoe companies and chalk and tape manufacturers, several dozen Olympic weightlifting coaches, hundreds of grass-fed beef suppliers, and tens of thousands of commercial space landlords have all benefited from the existence and phenomenal expansion of CrossFit.
We will all be forever grateful for the work.
CrossFit – the program on the website and the methods taught at their “certs” – is Exercise, not Training. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you’re through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal.
Exercise is fun today. Well, it may not be fun, but you’ve convinced yourself to do it today because you perceive that the effect you produce today is of benefit to you today. You “smashed” or “crushed” or “smoked” that workout… today. Same as the kids in front of the dumbbell rack at the gym catching an arm pump, the workout was about how it made you feel, good or bad, today.
In contrast, Training is about the process you undertake to generate a specific result later, maybe much later, the workouts of which are merely the constituents of the process. Training may even involve a light day that you perceive to be a waste of time if you only consider today.
CrossFit is a random exposure to a variety of different movements at different intensities, most of which are done for time, i.e. as many reps as possible in a stipulated time period or a stipulated number of reps done as fast as possible. As such, it is Exercise, not Training, since it is random, and Training requires that we plan what we are going to do to get ready for a specific task.
Different physical tasks require different physical adaptations; running 26.2 miles is obviously a different task than squatting 700 pounds, and the two efforts require completely different physical adaptations. If a program of physical activity is not designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don’t get to call it training. It is just exercise.
For most people, exercise is perfectly adequate – it’s certainly better than sitting on your ass. For people who perceive themselves as merely housewives, salesmen, or corporate execs, and for most personal training clients and pretty much everybody who can afford a CrossFit membership, exercise is fine. CrossFit sells itself by advertising the random part: random is not boring, and not-boring gets people to come back. Coming back while doing the diet at the same time gets you abs. CrossFit is largely about abs.
CrossFit is also about the concept of “community” – the reinforcement of behavior through group participation and group approval. I understand this quite intimately, because I have met some of the best people I have ever known through CrossFit, the vast majority of whom are still friends even though I’m no longer associated with CrossFit formally. A better-than-average group of people that likes you and helps you be better is a very powerful motivator for improvement, and CrossFit: The Community provides this in abundance.
These two very powerful motivating factors – non-boring and in-group social dynamics – working together, do the best job of reinforcing workout adherence that has ever been brought to play in the fitness industry. In fact, CrossFit operates, in this important respect, in a way that is completely opposite to the industry paradigm of sell-’em-and-run-’em-off.
But this active retainment of members actually using the gym creates a unique problem for CrossFit facilities that no one else in the standard fitness industry has to face: the post-novice trainee.
As you are obviously aware (since you have memorized my books), a novice trainee is one for whom recovery from each workout is possible within a very short timeframe – 48 hours or so. This is because untrained people are unadapted people, and for unadapted people anything that’s harder than what they’ve been doing causes an adaptation.
Crossfit Back Shot
This is why CrossFit works so well for the vast majority of the people that start it: for the first time, an exercise program causes them to experience rapid improvement… at first. Then the problem with CrossFit becomes obvious.
CrossFit is not Training. It is Exercise. And exercise – even poorly-programmed random flailing-around in the floor for time – causes progress to occur, for a while. For the novice, CrossFit Exercise mimics the effects of Training, because it’s hard and because stress causes adaptation. Then, progress slows, since the Laws of Physiology cannot be ignored. The more you adapt to physical stress, the stronger and fitter you become. And the stronger and fitter you become, the more difficult it is to get more strong and more fit, because the easy part of the process has already occurred.
This is called the Principle of Diminishing Returns, and is evident throughout nature and your own experiences, if you have paid attention. Once the low-hanging fruit have been picked, you have to get a ladder, and then you might need a helicopter – and each increase in complexity yields less fruit, dammit.
And this is precisely where CrossFit: The Methodology falls apart. Once a person has adapted beyond the ability of random stress applied frequently under time constraints to cause further improvement, progress stalls. And increasing the intensity of the random stress doesn’t work either – that just gets you hurt because you haven’t gotten stronger, and your heart and lungs can only work at about 200 BPM and about 50 RPM.
Further progress must be based on an analysis of the adaptation you want to create, and a program of Training for the purpose of causing that adaptation to occur must be correctly designed and followed. Beyond a certain point, random physical stress fails to continue to elicit a favorable adaptation.
CrossFit appeals to many people because it claims to be about doing everything well and nothing perfectly. Humans cannot excel at everything, as evidenced by the individual performances within the Decathlon as compared to the specialists’ performances in those events. But at some point, even people who don’t want to excel at anything in particular realize they aren’t really improving at anything in general. People motivated to get this far are also motivated to continue improving, and even if you want to be merely good at everything, there must be a way to continue to improve this general competence. “Mainsite CrossFit” cannot drive this improvement beyond a certain point.
This is precisely why the advanced athletes who win and place at the CrossFit Games do not use CrossFit website programming to achieve advanced levels of the strength and conditioning necessary to perform at that level. None of them. This is widely known and freely admitted by everyone not involved with the company. All athletes at advanced levels must Train intelligently to advance, and CrossFit: The Methodology doesn’t do the job.
Strength is an excellent example of a physical characteristic that drives improvement in other athletic parameters. More strength means more power, more endurance, better coordination, and better everything else. This is why, all other things being equal, the stronger athlete is the better athlete.
You can get stronger for a while doing random exercise, but everyone who has tried it knows that at some point you have to put more weight on the bar and lift it on a regular, programmed basis that obeys the rules of adaptive physiology and logic. You have to plan to get stronger by doing things that require that you be stronger, while not doing things that interfere with the process. Random WOD CrossFit is not good at making this happen – or even allowing it to happen.
So, the program that’s very good at getting people to stay involved is also very good at getting people to the point where the same random exposure to hard physical stress no longer works, and must become non-random in order that progress continues to be made. For many CrossFitters, exercise will always be enough. But for many others, CrossFit takes them to the point where CrossFit isn’t good enough anymore. For them, Exercise leads to Training, and CrossFit is merely Exercise.
In other words, CrossFit has an inherent problem that it cannot seem to solve.
Crossfit Funny Face
Why can’t CrossFit: The Business Model solve the problem? Because it doesn’t want to. Hell, it doesn’t need to: at eight to ten completely sold-out Level I “certs” every weekend, each of which may enroll 50 participants at $1000 each, it would be very difficult to convince any sane person that CrossFit has any problems at all.
Here’s one aspect of the problem: how many of these approximately 500 people failed? How many certified CF Level I “coaches” are actually qualified to coach CrossFit or anything else? How many have the experience to understand The Bad – the limitations of WOD programming – and how to correct it?
Any organization which grows this fast will have problems. Among the more serious problems that CrossFit has are the injuries. Shoulders, Achilles tendons, rhabdomyolysis, and all the other things that are the potential result of overtraining an athlete who cannot continue to adapt to randomly applied and sometimes very intense physical stress. These are potentially life-altering exposures to needless trauma that can be prevented by not doing stupid shit to people who don’t know any better than to do what they’re told.
NFL players get injured. So do almost all professional athletes. In fact, every competitive athlete faces the prospect of injury, because that is the price paid for shifting the focus from merely doing to winning. The risk/reward ratio has been calculated and allowed for.
CrossFitters get injured while exercising in the gym. Most are upset when this happens, but some of them regard these injuries as a marker of status – as though the injury itself confers some elite level of athletic accomplishment to a set of pull-ups. It may be a torn callus or a torn cuff tendon – any injury represents a setback in an actual training program, while for a CrossFitter it may be regarded as evidence that something wonderful has been achieved.
People working very hard at high-intensity high-volume physical tasks are going to get hurt, no matter why they’re doing the work. One of the reasons that Training results in long-term improvement is that it properly assesses the current state of the athlete and logically plans for improvement in a way that is sustainable, safe, specific to the goal, and therefore productive. Random exposure to varying levels of volume, intensity, rest, technical complexity, and power output cannot be sustainable, safe, specific, and productive.
You know the Hamill study, published in the JSCR that evaluates the risk of injury in various athletic activities? The one that found that “weight training” was one of the safest activities in the spectrum? CrossFit actually has the potential to change this.
The Ugly is that some freshly-minted CrossFit coaches recognize this Training/Exercise problem, even if they can’t articulate its cause, and attempt to address the situation by simply adding to the intensity. Adding weight to already fatiguing ballistic movements is dangerous, and you’re not being a pussy if you recognize the fact that this is not always a good idea.
Weighted high-rep 24-inch box jumps for time are a potentially very dangerous dose of stress, from both a metabolic and structural perspective, made even more dangerous in combination with several other high-rep movements that can fatigue the athlete in the short-term and produce high levels of tendon and muscle inflammation in the long-term.
Is everybody who passed that CF Level I Cert last weekend actually capable of evaluating which of the people in the class should do this workout, even if they can?
The Ugly is that one of the best things that has ever happened to strength and conditioning is also one of the worst things that can happen to some very good people. People who are committed to you because you have shown them progress and because they are part of your group will do things because you tell them to. This is unfortunately true, people being people, and it has gotten some of them badly hurt.
A Coach is supposed to know better than to place people in a position to get hurt by asking them to do things they can’t or shouldn’t do. The fact that everybody all over the world is doing these things today should not matter to a Coach.
There are hundreds of very good CrossFit affiliates across the country and around the world, staffed by very good coaches with more-than-adequate experience and excellent judgement about all matters regarding exercise and training, which to use, and who to use it with. I know many of these people, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that they know what they’re doing.
The Ugly is that there are many thousands of CrossFit affiliates around the world and hundreds of new “coaches” each weekend. Think about this very carefully.
The habit of gossiping is one that is entirely destructive, and can be likened to an addiction to smoking cigarettes, easy to catch and difficult to get rid of. Both gossiping and smoking provide opportunities to superficially meet and bond with others and also present alternatives to quality conversation. In much the same way as lighting up a quick cigarette fills an awkward silence, telling a rumor also replaces good, wholesome conversation. They also share the obvious similarity of being a habit that is known to be harmful both to ourselves and to others, and yet we often still choose to indulge in it, even though the consequences can be severe and the damage irreversible.
One of the main problems with gossiping is how easily it can ruin the reputation of another.Trying to squash a rumor is like trying to unring a bell. Once something is said, you can neither take it back nor guarantee that it will not be repeated. It doesn’t have to be much, just enough to create suspicion–an idle comment implying that someone is a hopeless flirt, or a careless story told of how badly someone acted while drunk, and the damage is done. Although many times we try to justify ourselves doing this by saying that that it is our duty “as a friend” to enlighten someone else, and we are “helping” others by telling them the truth, we sometimes forget that we also owe others compassion and mercy as well. Whether the information is true or not, it is not our job to pass it on.
In addition, gossiping tends to go hand in hand with hypocrisy because the act of judging others makes us feel like we are more righteous and less sinful than those we talk about. We find a way to blind ourselves to the fact that we often are committing the same sin as those who we gossip about–we even gossip about others who gossip, pretending that, somehow, it isn’t bad when we do it, only when they do it. It is this same deceptive attitude that allows us as gossipers to pretend that no one ever talks about us, as if we were somehow safe from gossip ourselves (because there is clearly nothing about us deserving of gossip, right?). As a Spanish proverb goes, “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” We of all people should know that is true, and that, again, gossiping doesn’t have to be true to be told and repeated.
Gossiping also unfortunately encourages a delight over other people’s sins and failings, conditioning us to view those bad actions as far more “valuable” than good actions. We don’t make it our business to know how virtuous people are being–we only want to know about the evil in their lives, and we want to know all details so that we can fully enjoy it (that is, “sympathize”). It is not right that we should be more excited and pleased to hear of a nasty divorce than a peaceful resolution to a friend’s marriage issues, for instance. There is a spirit of greed in gossiping, a savoring of someone else’s sorrow or pain, which is poison to those involved.
Remember, gossip is a vice that inherently involves multiple people: the person who is talked about, the person who is talked to, and the gossiper. After all, what is the point of telling a rumor if there is no one to hear it? It is important to point out that, while smoking is a choice that we have the right to make, we do not have the right to choose to carelessly hurt the reputations of others or invade their privacy. Just like second hand smoke, gossiping also does harm no matter who is exposed to it, regardless of whether they are willing participants or not. And although smoking zones may have be an answer to secondhand smoke issues from cigarettes, there should never be “zones” where gossiping is allowed. In fact, I like to believe PHIT is a “no gossip zone” and, we should strive to make wherever we ourselves are a “no gossip zone” and to do all we can to speak only words of kindness and compassion, so that when they leave us, they do only good.
“Humor me by trying to figure out my programming. Since you cannot, try to question it’s merit?
It takes at least ten years, and ten thousand mistakes learned to become an expert in any field.
I have been developing workout programs for athletes since before you were born..Pay your dues!”
There’s a principle in business which basically espouses the merits of “stop trying to be all things to all people”, boldly exclude. It sounds great when all the high powered CEO’s and owners of fortune 500 companies say it in the mags I read . But it can be scary for a small business owner in a competitive market to be so confident in his/her actions. Nonetheless we are working hard to be different. The same is so boring! And not just different, better. I can tell you right now it’s a little unnerving to write this post and openly speak about some of these things. But I aspire to have the courage to do it. I think there are other small business owners/gym owners that might resonate with some of this. I think there are clients at our gym that find a lot of value in being at a place that asks more of everyone, a place that gives more to everyone. And I think there are some prospective clients out there that do/will over time appreciate being a part of something other than the status quo. The current state of affairs is that a new CF gym pops up every weekend. You barely have to throw a rock to hit one. And of course most new folks (with no frame of reference or body of experience) figure they are all the same. From the perspective of an owner/operator I have both participated in (truth) and observed as commonplace, a number of things that I have either come to no longer be interested in doing or flat out believe are low quality practices/concepts. What does interest me is pursuing QUALITY – a better more meaningful experience for our clients and our coaches. For instance… We have a HIGHER barrier to entry at our gym. You can’t sign up online. You have to make an appt., come down and talk to us so we can get to know each other and see if it’s a good fit for everyone. We actually ask for SOME form of commitment and engagement on the part of our clients. Members are obliged to complete a fundamentals curriculum that takes longer than 1-3 hours (usually around 1 month). Why? Because you can’t appropriately prepare for an all levels group class in 1-3 hours! It’s a disservice to clientele and only caters to those who don’t have the attention span for any kind of real, meaningful learning and development or to people who are just looking to sign up as many folks as possible as quickly as possible. Clients also write down their training each day so they can LEARN HOW TO DEVELOP AND PROGRESS THEMSELVES. We encourage them to engage and reflect on past training sessions, how the movement or weight feels and looks that day and where they are heading. They are an active participant in their own education. There is no one size fits all training session, with “prescribed weights/loads”. Why? Because one size DOES NOT FIT ALL! Of course. The “RX” is merely a target. Who is this fictitious person that the prescription is based upon? Clients need to discover the proper load for themselves dependent on the task, volume, and their ability/individual situation. Each person can then work at the level that is appropriate for them. Lots of times everyone shouldn’t even be doing the same movement! So we take the time to coach and actively make the distinction from person to person. Putting a bunch of deadlifts and handstand push-ups on the board, telling everyone that’s what they are doing and if they can’t to “just scale it” is ridiculous. Completely. I will say it has taken us years to figure this out. I’m just glad we have. We cap our classes at 13. We are NOT interested in 40 person classes. We don’t care if another gym counts their customers as dollar bills. We are far more interested in actually COACHING our clients, whose names we know, whose strengths and weaknesses we know, whose motivations and idiosyncrasies we are familiar with, than running a clock and herding cattle. We are boutique, high-touch, client centric and that’s how we like it. We hope you will too. And for anyone reading this that is so inclined…in their business, in their passion, in their life (none of which are mutually exclusive ), you are not alone in your quest to be more than what popular convention has to offer. We should all strive for something better.
Disclaimer: The following post is in response to multiple recent occurrences at CFPHIT, and is meant mostly to athletes who want the “Rx” next to their scores, are interested in competing, or want their scores posted on our leader board. It is not directed at any one individual.
I love my job. I love seeing people make incredible transformations. I love seeing people hit PR’s. I love helping people achieve things they never thought possible. I love the fact that our athletes are great at fundamentals and that that greatness gives CFPHIT a solid reputation around the Crossfit community. What I don’t love is when someone’s ego gets in the way of me loving my job. Your ego has no place inside a Crossfit gym, and definitely not inside CFPHIT. No matter how bad-ass you think you are, there will come a time where you will have your ass handed to you by someone far superior to you. What sense, then, does it make to let your ego get in the way of your training? The whole reason you are at the gym should be to improve yourself, not to have bragging rights. Here are some ways that your ego gets in the way of improving yourself:
-Cutting corners to improve your score. There are a lot of ways to cut corners. Range of motion is one of them. If you are not completing full range of motion on every rep, you are cutting corners. You are not doing the same workout as the person next to you. Remember, we can always scale the load of a movement, but range of motion (barring special circumstances such as injury) is not negotiable. Another way to cut corners is by not completing the prescribed amount of reps. This has become a problem recently (you think we don’t notice, but we do). This is cheating. There is no place in Crossfit for cheaters. Now every so often, mid-workout, your mind might slip and you may not know whether you’re on rep 43 or rep 53. In that case, you have to suck it up and assume it’s 43. That way you know your score is legit. Cutting reps is extremely disrespectful to me, the other coaches, your fellow athletes, and the entire Crossfit community. For those of you interested in competing and being on the leader board, you have to get serious about it. Pretend Coach Glassman himself is watching every single rep. You must leave no doubt that you are completing each rep as prescribed. If it wouldn’t fly in competition, redo it. If you’re not sure you did it as prescribed, then you probably didn’t. Redo it. Make yourself better. Your training should be as difficult as possible in order to make you perform better in competition. If we find you cutting corners, we will not include your scores on the leadboard unless they are verified by a coach, which means we have to count every rep.
-Neglecting your weaknesses. Just because you’re not good at something doesn’t mean you should avoid doing it. Quite the opposite, in fact. You should be concerned with working on your weaknesses to improve your game. In 2010, Rich Froning lost the final event, and therefore 1st place, because he couldn’t properly climb a rope. 2009 Games Champion Mikko Salo got slowed down by double-unders. Do you think they ignored those movements the following year during their training? Absolutely not. They fixed the holes in their games, and Froning went on to win in 2011. “Work your weaknesses! Better to struggle in your own box in front of people who know and like/support you than struggle in front of a crowd of strangers. If you have a weakness it will be exposed!”.
-Getting personally offended by a “no rep” call. Just because a coach calls a no rep on you doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or aren’t working hard enough. Everybody gets no-reps called on them. It’s part of Crossfit. Watch any Games competition video from last year. Do you see any of those athletes throwing a fit about no reps? No. They just redo it and move on. This is the integrity of a champion. And make no mistake, if you’re fit enough to make the Games, you’re already a champion. When you see people throw a fit from a no rep, they have way too much ego. These are the people who cut corners in the gym on a regular basis. These are the people who post incredible scores on their own but bonk when it comes time to do it for real. Don’t be one of those people.
-Neglecting technique and fundamentals. When I first began Crossfit I would repeat over and over something Glassman said while suffering through a WOD: “Proper form is more efficient.” More efficient means less wasted energy. This is a good thing. The fact that you can muscle clean 95# with poor form won’t matter when going for a 1RM or when the prescribed weight is double that. Technique is everything. Been Crossfitting for a couple years and still can’t do overhead squats, or Double-Unders? This is your fault for not working your weaknesses, which probably means mobility. (I see this one all the time). Neglecting technique and fundamentals will lead to injury and will ultimately cause you to plateau in your training.
Like I said, I love my job. I love working with you guys on improving yourselves and your quality of life. Please don’t let your egos get in the way of that. Have some integrity and take your training seriously. You’ll thank me for it later. CFHollywood