steve's headshot

Bust A Move CrossFit Programming

January – 2020

This is the first installment of what we hope to be a regular monthly overview of our CrossFit programming.  Going forward, our goal is to publish this at the beginning of month so that you have a better understanding of the why’s and how’s of what we do. Since this is our very first such blog, it’s important that we start with our overall philosophy and drill down to January. 

OUR PRIMARY AIM IS BALANCED LONG-TERM HEALTH AND FITNESS.

Read that again.  Then reread it.  CrossFit gyms are full of hard charging athletes who train with reckless abandon without concern for the long-term effects of their actions.  Their admirable training intensity is very effective in the short-term but often results in injuries that could have been avoided.  Our goal is that our athletes are able to continue training CrossFit with intensity well into their 80s!  

What is balanced health and fitness?  We are not very exotic in our ideas here.  We believe that a healthy body should be strong, flexible, enduring, aerobically fit, able to produce power and so forth.  This is nothing new to the CrossFit model, but it is often not applied well in practice. Humans gravitate towards their natural gifts and what they enjoy.  Often, our limitations are self-imposed because we will not consistently work on our areas of weakness.

Warning – Fitness Nerd stuff

Concurrent Fitness Model

A concurrent fitness model (often incorrectly called conjugate) means that one is training multiple qualities at once such as strength, endurance, speed, etc.  In the sporting world, training was traditionally linear or based on distinct training blocks, i.e. one month of general fitness, one month of hypertrophy, one month of strength, etc.  Often called Block Training, this is done because most elite athletes cannot accumulate enough training stress to any one physical trait in a concurrent program to cause further adaptation. 

In other words, to take their squat from 800 to 900 lbs, or their marathon time from 2:10 to 2:08, they must spend most of their training energy focused on that one goal.  If you wonder if you are an elite athlete, you are not.  99% of the athletes in the world are either novice or intermediate athletes.  An advanced athlete would be someone who competes on a national stage (NCAA sports, USA Nationals weightlifting, gymnastics, yoga, powerlifting, etc. or CrossFit Sanctionals) and an Elite athlete is someone who gets paid to compete or competes on a world stage (the Olympics, CrossFit Games, NFL, etc.). While these elite athletes likely need a Block Training fitness model to keep improving, novice and intermediate athletes thrive on a concurrent fitness model where many fitness qualities are trained simultaneously.  Hence the success of CrossFit.  Not only is Constantly varied, mixed modal fitness effective, but it’s really fun!

Our Application of the Concurrent Fitness Model

There aren’t many limitations on how to apply a concurrent fitness model in practice.  Traditionally you see this manifest as some sort of heavy lifting, high rep strength training, bodyweight movements or gymnastics, Monostructural aerobic work all done each week.  We like this model as well because it allows for frequent practice of technical movements and more importantly its very mentally stimulating.  Another beauty of the concurrent fitness model is that you never get too far away from any one fitness trait so that it significantly detrains (e.g. Max Strength), even though you maybe emphasizing another trait (endurance). 

Unfortunately, in traditional CrossFit we often don’t see any significant work done in the transverse or frontal planes and to a lesser degree Unilateral work.

The frontal plane is what is happening on your right and left.  Think of lateral lunges or lateral slides as moving in the frontal plane.  Linebackers and basketball players live in the front plane! The transverse plane is rotating around you such as a Russian Twist or rotational throw. Baseball players, tennis players, golfers and discus throwers are transverse savants!  The reality is that humans are meant to move and rotate in 360 degrees, not just straight forward and backward.  You don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from training in these planes.  Not training these planes means we are not training all the body’s functions.

Unilateral work and the Bilateral deficit

The bilateral deficit is a very interesting human phenomenon.  It basically means that the sum of the force created be each limb individually is greater the force created when those two limbs are used simultaneously.  Say what?

As an example, athlete A has been working very hard and as a result now back squats 200 lbs for 5 reps.  She then begins to train Rear Foot elevated Split Squats for 8 weeks which results in a back squat of 210 lbs for 5 reps but a rear foot elevated split squat of 150 for 5 reps on each leg!  If each leg can squat 150 lbs, why can’t she squat 300lbs on both legs? This is the bilateral deficit and has been demonstrated ad nauseum in the research.  If effectively means that if you are ONLY training bilateral squats, odds are that you not are training your legs as well as you could.

We also feel that many of our athletes have significant side to side asymmetries that when unaddressed increases the odds of injury. In the above example, maybe athlete A squats 150 x 5 on her right leg but only 150 x 1 on her left. While there is a lot of research to be done in this area, common sense tells us that while perfect balance is unlikely, we want to close that gap.

Ok, Steve we get it, it’s important to train each leg, and move side to side, blah blah blah.  What does this mean?

This means at various points of the training year; we are going to emphasize certain qualities.

We are in the process of finishing our end of 2019 early 2020 benchmarking.  These tests have included Max Strength (CrossFit Total – Squat, Press, Deadlift), Strength Endurance (Upper body gymnastics like pull-ups, dips), Work Capacity (benchmark wods like the Helen, the Filthy 50, DT, and Karen) and power or rate of force development (the Power Clean).  You will see these tests again and we expect us to improve!

January & February

As we are wrapping up some of these benchmarks, you will be able to use the results to guide you in your workouts for January and February.  For the beginning of 2020, we will be working hard on our strict gymnastics.  Many of our clients would love to get their first pull-up, then their first muscle up and so on.  Traditionally, many athletes have skipped steps in this progression moving past strict and controlled work and diving headfirst into riskier kipping work.  There is no doubt that kipping allows the athlete to do more work in less time, but often at an orthopedic cost.  We believe that the athlete should be able to demonstrate proficiency in the strict versions first.  This demonstrates they have enough strength and mobility to then complete the movement at higher speeds (i.e. more joint stress), more dynamic ranges of motion and more training volume (reps).

As a secondary emphasis, we are working on unilateral work.  We trained hard in 2019 and worked through two CrossFit Opens.  We have a great opportunity now to address some weak points and imbalances. 

So, what does this look like in a January training week?

Monday – Lower Body Unilateral + lower body WOD emphasis – Split Squats. We progress from holding the weight in the goblet position to when holding the weight becomes the limiting factor.  From here you progress to holding them suitcase style.  When holding the two 70 lb KBs is too light for your split squats you progress to rear foot elevated split squats.  You will likely have to reduce weight once you make this move.

Tuesday – Strict Upper body Pull and Handstand Push-up Training + WOD.  Dedicated focus (usually in an EMOM) working on your ring rows/chins/muscle ups and handstand holds/HSPU negatives/handstand push-ups/Deficits).

Wednesday – Oly variation + Horizontal Push + WOD.  Think Power Cleans/derivatives, push-ups, dips, etc.

Thursday – Chipper. Time to go long and get sweaty.

Friday – Sumo Deadlift + WOD – We’ve spent a lot of time working on the conventional deadlift and the body will respond well to changing the stimulus.

Saturday – Partner WOD.  Typically, long and fun.

Sunday – more variety – this will often be some more endurance-based work and/or some of the classic WODs.

New Twists – We are trying to add more core and mobility work as part of the class.  We know that we need to do more core and mobility work, but rarely do it consistently.  We feel that integrating these in official class segments will carry over to both positive health and performance outcomes in the long-term.

We look forward to reassessing for improvement and feel that we need to do that on a more regular basis. What gets measured gets managed!

This is the Way….