Category

CrossFit Open

Programming 201

In the previous instalment we went over how to create the starting point to build your own gym program. Today we’re going to look at how you can use the data you collect to inform decisions about how to adjust the program going forward.

If you can take 10 minutes go back and read through the Programming 101 article to understand this in context. If you’ve already read it, well done, I’ll quickly remind you what the key points are so your memory is refreshed

  • Get assessed – hire someone or do it yourself. Figure out where and what your problems are
  • Know what adaption it is that you want to make – Have A, that is 1, clear goal.
  • Volume and Intensity – Make sure the total number of repetitions you do fall in the right zones (to start with) and the weight on the bar is in the right area to achieve the adaption you want.
  • Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity. – simply put, pick exercises which fit the above criteria.
  • Keep going until it stops working.

Because you guys are manifold there is no way I can guess what your program looks like so instead I’m going to talk about the next step in terms of principles.
Let’s make a few assumptions:

  • You followed the structure I laid out for creating a program
  • You kept track of the data in a spreadsheet
  • You kept going until you stopped seeing your numbers increasing at the same Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Which puts you at the point where you’ve kind of stalled. You’re not seeing an increase in the weights you’re using whilst maintaining the same RPE. We’ll work from this point.

Step 1: Take a transition block.

You’ve probably heard about this importance of “deload” weeks. That is regularly planned blocks of time where you back off from higher intensity work in an effort to manage fatigue. If you’re fatigued, you aren’t recovered, and you won’t recover as well workout to workout.

A transition block is a similar method of managing fatigue but instead of being at an arbitrary time, an arbitrary length, and an arbitrary decrease in volume/intensity you’ll look at refining it just as much as you do the developmental blocks.
Let’s take a step back and address how we control the block lengths.

In Programming 101 Step 5 was to stick with it until you stopped progressing. In other words, keep going until you find out how many weeks it takes you to stop seeing results from a certain training stimulus.
For example if we use an arbitrary 6 week developmental block where you train using the same stimulus (program) for 6 weeks it will work for some people. But what happens if you stop seeing improvements after 3 weeks, you adapt really quickly? The last 3 weeks are wasted time where you could have transitioned and almost completed another development block. What about if you would of kept seeing progress if you’d stuck to the program for 9 weeks? If you stopped after 6 weeks you’re missing out upon 3 weeks of potential gains.

Neither scenario is great.

That’s why I’m asking you to track the data and have an actual time frame which is personal to you. For the sake of argument lets just say we hit it on the head with the 6 weeks.

You have a 6 week window to peak adaptation. So you can work about 6 weeks before you plateau.

We then take approximately 30% of the your window to peak adaption time as a transition block, 2 weeks in this case. If you took 9 weeks you would have a 3-week transition block etc. etc.

In terms of what happens on the transition block, the goal isn’t just to reduce fatigue. The key is to re-sensitise to the desired training stimulus. If you’re been working hard to create a strong signal to your body to grow muscle, then the stop in adaption means you are desensitised to that stimulus.

Whilst then we can manage fatigue through dropping the volume and intensity there is a call to change the stimulus as well. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, just something that allows the body to recover a little. For example, if you’ve been working purely on strength in the transition window you might look a little more at explosive power work or being more athletic overall, if you were looking purely at increasing size then your transition might be some kind of strength work?

Transition Protocol:
Length: 30% of window to peak adaptation length

For Strength goals reduce the average training intensity by 30%, the volume by 10%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, hypertrophy, speed)

For Size goals reduce the average training intensity by 10%, the volume by 30%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, strength, capacity).

Once you’ve completed the allotted time for the transition block you can go back into a development cycle (or peaking block).

NB – just because you’re changing the training stimulus slightly doesn’t mean that you can ignore the sports skill. If you’re a powerlifter or a weightlifter, then you still need the competition lifts (or close variation) in the transition block but you’ll just have them in a slightly different place.

Step 2: Making a new Development Block with changes

This means going through steps 1 through 5 again of Programming 101. The changes come however by making small changes based upon your training data. To understand what changes you should make comes down to understanding your weaknesses and where you’re failing.

In turn this comes down to the assessment step.

In “Programming 101” I mentioned how we take videos and observe lifts to find out where they fall apart and from this infer where what areas and exercises might be best. You should be running this exact procedure again.

Variables you might want to look at altering might include

  • Intensity ranges
  • Volume
    • Daily
    • Weekly
  • Exercise Selection (including variation)
  • Lift phase emphasis (eccentric focus, isometric focus, concentric focus)
  • Unilateral vs Bilateral

Etc. To get the most out of this you’ll need to spend a lot of time on it and on your spreadsheet (which is why you should really have a coach). With this type of data collection and analysis we must take something of a Bayesian approach. Bayesian inference, in a very basic way, says the more data we collect the higher the probability a correct inference can be made. Or, the more data we collect the clearer the picture becomes.

The classic example is firing photons at a “target” through slotted paper. At first the results appear random. They show up on the target in no clear pattern. But as more and more photons are “fired” the outline of the slots appears progressively more defined. Basically you’re more data increases your resolution.

In real words what’s this means is the more data we collect, the more development cycle you run, the better picture you can build up of what works.

Take a look this snapshot of training data:

This is a macro view of a few squat variations (we didn’t start running good mornings until later in the year) and their relationship with the competition lift.  As you can see this is a VERY small sample size but we can probably that in this situation pause squats help and eccentric squats help. Potentially blocks of paused squats FOLLOWED BY eccentric squats help more.

Now lets say we have 20 or 30 cycles of training data we’d have a very clear picture of what works and what doesn’t. Knowing this you can then program being able to make strong inferences to what will work. This being said the human body is an open system so just because you do “A”  and it works really well in January doing it again in November doesn’t ensure the same.

Considerations

This way of programming takes time and for the first few blocks isn’t any clearer than traditional programming. The key is consistency to one goal over time, collecting the data and making sure you then look at it to see what’s working.  If you see that every time you add in heavy deadlifts your deadlifts goes down then you know that may be high intensity deadlifts aren’t the key for building your deadlift no matter what people say. Likewise, if every time you add in a paused bench press you hit new maximal numbers then maybe you every time you plan to hit a new record the block before should include paused bench press?

If you really want to make the most of the effort you put into the gym you should make the effort to stick with the programming and learn what works for you. We live in an age now where no one has the time to do this which leaves you two options

  1. Make the time
  2. Pay someone to do it for you

If you have the expertise and time then it’s very much worth learning for yourself. If you don’t you should hire a coach whom understands the training process but remember when you hire a coach they’re the expert, but you are the boss. If it’s not what you want or how you want there is always another coach out there.

Programming 101

The goal of getting in the gym and working out is to change your body. It doesn’t matter what the change is, you just need to understand that you’re there, primarily, to see a change to your body in one way or another.

Typically the goal for most people is to look great naked. For others it is to be strong or improve sports performance. Maybe even a combination of all the above.

You need to figure out what your reason for being in the gym is before you even start thinking about writing your own program. Only once a goal is in place can you start planning how to achieve it.

And that is all programming is.  A long-term plan, structured in such a way to bring about (or at least advance towards) the stated goal. It can be as complex as the below to take Hikaru to the IPL Worlds

Or as simple as do 5 sets of 5 reps and each week add 2.5 kg.

Both are legitamate programming style and effective for the right person. What we are interested in though is giving you the tools to let you build the right program for you to get you to your goal.
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Disclaimer: Whilst the will be as simplied as possible it is expected that you understand some basic programming principles

What you will need:

  • Excel or another spreadsheet software to track your numbers (at a push you can go pen and paper but it’s going to get complicated VERY quickly).
  • The patience and self-belief to stick to the plan you wrote
  • Self-awareness to admit to yourself what has and has not worked. You will not ever write the perfect program, best realise it now.

For the sake of ease, we’re going to assume that this program is being written with the goal of building maximal strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. I’m choosing this because even if the goal is merely to look good naked or as complex as building sports performance you can do much, much worse that getting brutally strong.

Whenever you’re looking at planning anything it’s always worth measuring twice and cutting once. Know what you’re dealing with to start with, where your faults and weaknesses (both physically and technically) are, and be realistic about it. Very few people are going to go from not being able to execute a competent bodyweight squat to a 100kg back squat in 12 weeks.

Step 1: Assess yourself (or hire someone to):
If you don’t know what this means its best that you hire a great coach with a track record of producing high level athletes to do this for you. If you have an idea what you’re looking for but aren’t quite certain then I’ll suggest:

  • Video 3 to 5 doubles (2 reps) of squat, bench press, and deadlift above 90% of your max. The goal here isn’t to impress yourself with half reps but to give you a realistic idea of where your lifts are falling apart
    • Squat
      • Watch out for your chest and bar staying still but your hips raising. This is a very common fault and usually can be attributed to a technical understanding issue or weak quads.
      • Not reaching depth, it’s not down to poor ankle mobility or tight hips. You’re just weak or lazy. Drop the weight and work for the long-term results
      • Are you rounding your upper or lower back? Then your need to address how strong your trunk is. If you’re not strong enough to keep a position constant through the lifts then something needs fixing there.
      • Knee collapse, a lot of people are very quick to jump in and shout weak glutes at this but more likely you’re letting your feet do something wrong. Work on planting your feet strongly and screwing them into the floor.
    • Bench Press
      • Are you not managing to reach the bar t your chest every single rep. Lower the weight sunshine. You’re just not strong enough for that weight yet. It’ll come but for now focus on moving a load that you can do well and recover from.
      • Missing or grinding reps halfway up could be down to a weakness of the chest or lacking speed off the chest.
      • Not quite being able to lock your arms out at the top. This would be an unusual issue to come across in a normal gym but it could be down to weak or fatigued triceps.
    • Deadlift
      • Can’t even get the bar off the floor
        1. It’s too heavy
        2. Your set up is wrong
        3. Your core is too weak
        4. It’s probably too heavy
      • Can’t squeeze your hips through to stand up straight at the top means that your butt is weak, or you’ve taken too much time to get the bar that far. You have the video make the call
      • If you drop or feel like you’re going to drop the bar then your grip strength is letting you down.
      • And obviously any deviation from a long, straight spine position means that all of the first points fixes AND you need to check your ego because it’s going to get you hurt.

Step 2: Know what adaptation you want to create

The most common error I see in watching amateurs (and most professionals) do their own programming is that they program by exercise. You MUST program by adaptation. I’m going to say it again so you really get it

YOU MUST PROGRAM BY ADAPTATION

To explain what this means. You need to understand that the exercise isn’t important, what is important is getting to the goal. The goal is the goal. The goal is always the goal. So if my goal is to have the best squat I can but what’s holding me back is quads so week I’m not even being able to hold a good position to squat then whilst my skill work might be looking at building a great squat at a lower intensity (utilising whatever technical squat progressions you adhere to) the strength work doesn’t have to be based on squatting it can just be building quad strength in whatever way works for you.

To bring this back to programming by adaptation. In this case the change that we are looking for in increasing quad strength, how we get there is completely up to you. You are not tied to any exercise, you don’t have to do any exercises. You HAVE to do what gets you the changes in your body which gets you closer to your goals.
In step 1 when I explained the common faults in the squat, bench, and deadlift it should have given you some clues to what adaptations you are trying to create.

Step 3: Volume and Intensity

This can be thought as simply as sets, reps, and weights. You need to be using the right ones for the right adaptations. There is a few ways to do this. Something like Perilipin’s table:

Where there is up and down sides. Upsides it’s super simple to use and laid out in convenient blocks based upon adaptation and % intensity. Downsides, just because a % intensity is written in at these sets, reps doesn’t mean that is the adaptation that works for you personally.

The other option is to go back to the work of Helms and Morgan where the prescribe doing a total of 40 to 70 reps per muscle group per session and hitting each muscle group 2 to 3 times a week (so 80 to 210 reps per muscle group per week). If the goal is strength 65 to 75% of these reps should be at a greater intensity than a weight you can lift 6 times (that’s 52-60 reps and the bottom end and 136 -168 reps at the top end per week at above 6 rep max).  And the rest of your numbers at between your 6 and 12 rep maxes. Conversely if there goal is for muscle size then there proportions of sub and supra 6RM is inverted.

My personal preference is to use Helm’s method and a baseline and build from there.

Step 4: Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity.

This is where you can start considering exercise selection. But you must be clear about your personal selection bias as well as what exercises are appropriate at what rep, sets, and intensity ranges. Furthermore, there must be consideration as to what the crossover in terms of muscle groups used in different exercises throughout the week. It’s very easy to overload the lower back when you forget that it’s a significant player in the majority of lower body movements.

To work through some short examples. It might sound great to consistently use a back squat for all your movements. After all it covers most of the lower body and lower back. Practically however have you ever tried to do multiple sets of 12 rep max set of squats at the end of a week where you have already done 150 heavy reps. The injury risk and just plain uncomfortableness makes it a bad choice. Maybe at this point you might be better off adding in some quad isolation work or leg press.

This lean towards machine and isolation work becomes even more noteworthy when you start adding in other movements, such as deadlifts, and, as previously mentioned, the lower back starts being used more. It suddenly becomes extraordinarily easy to do 300 reps of lower back work inevitably running into soreness and injury.

Step 5: Repeat the week until you stop improving

This is where you need the tracking and self-control. If you have followed the above instructions and used a little bit of good judgement, then you’ve made a pretty solid week-long program. The only to do now is to repeat it until it stops working.
This might sound counter-intuitive to do the same thing but if it’s working and you’re getting better than it’s nonsensical to discontinue. There is, however, a caveat. The sets, reps, intensity and exercise selection stay the same, but the weight should go up as needed.

This needs the introduction of a paradigm shift.

Intensity, whilst guided by % now becomes a how hard you’re trying. Say you must do 3 sets of 5 reps of squats in the first week at 80% you need to rank on your spreadsheet how hard you tried. The next week you should try work at the same difficulty but hopefully with more weight. I have people rate between 1 to 5 AND from “Easy” to “Pushing the limit” but it’s just as good to say you worked at an 8 out of 10 difficulty or a 7 out of 10 difficulty.

Please bear in mind that learning how hard you’re working out of 10 in a skill just like squatting and will take you a long time to learn. If every week the weight doesn’t go up that’s ok, if one weeks it goes down that’s also okay the trend however should be upwards (track this on a graph on your spreadsheet for ease).

When the trend stops going upwards you can consider these exercises spent for the time being and it’s time to redo the whole process again.

  1. Sale, D.G., Neural adaptation to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exercise, 1988. 20(5

Suppl): p. S135-45.

  1. S tone, M., S. Plisk, and D. Collins, Training principles: evaluation of modes and methods

of resistance training–a coaching perspective. Sports Biomech, 2002. 1(1): p. 79-103.

  1. S choenfeld, B.J., et al., Effects of Low- Versus High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle

Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res, 2015.

  1. S choenfeld, B.J., et al., Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading

strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, 2014.

  1. G entil, P., S. Soares, and M. Bottaro, Single vs. Multi-Joint Resistance Exercises: Effects

on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy. Asian J Sports Med, 2015. 6(2): p. e24057.

  1. R obbins, D.W., P.W. Marshall, and M. McEwen, The effect of training volume on lowerbody strength. J Strength Cond Res, 2012. 26(1): p. 34-9.

Elite Open Preparation

As of writing there is roughly 250 days until the 22nd February is upon us. More precisely 252 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes and 27 seconds.

This date probably seems somewhat inauspicious to most but for those with something resembling memory you’ll know that this was the opening date of the 2018 CrossFit Open. That gives us only 36 weeks to prepare. In the grand scheme of things this is no time at all.

If you really want to improve your CrossFit and make a competitive run and the Open then it’s time to start considering how you’re going to train to prepare your body for it. As I’m sure you know that there is a manifold number of ways to get to any destination, but I want to give you some thing actionable that you can put into practice to help yourself out.

Have a structure that lends itself to success.

Programming within a structure that gives you the direction to have a winning performance is the biggest part of making Open prep easy. Making the right decision is hard when you have to think about what to do all the time. If you have a structure which guides you and tells you what decisions to make over and over again then the process becomes simple and you can practically fall towards success.
This is fairly useless without guidance upon how to set said structure up.

You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been (Assessment and Testing; Weeks 1 and 2)

This means testing and assessment. You need to know where you’re strong, you need to know more where you’re weak. More importantly you need to test what’s important to CrossFit (which is pretty much everything) or at the very least figure out what the key performance indicators in CrossFit for you are.

A non-exclusive list of what you might want to test look something like:

  • Low threshold movement quality
  • Low threshold fatigued movement quality
  • High Threshold movement quality
  • Aerobic Capacity
  • Aerobic Power
  • Lactic Capacity
  • Lactic Power
  • Alactic Capacity
  • Alactic Power
  • Heart Rate Recovery
  • Postural Analysis

Once you have all this tested (and maybe a few other things) you should have a better idea of where you’re starting.

If it’s not broke don’t fix it
(Introduction Block: Exploration of Individual Time to Adaptation)

I was doing my client calls today and I was lucky enough to speak to three of the strongest people in the world in their respective sports:

Travis Ortmayer, Hikaru Komiyawa, and Katrishia Lee.

Travis is, literally, one of the Worlds Strongest Men (you know the ones you watch on TV at Christmas)  and professional strongman. Hikaru and Kat are but International Elite Powerlifters. They are however very different athletes. Travis is something of a lightweight in WSM at 6 foot 4 and, currently, 315 pound (22 and a half stone or 143 kilo) but he is also pushing the envelope age wise (also worth noting a male of western Bavarian heritage). Roo and Kat are both sub 56kg and 5 foot on a good day and of Japanese and Korean backgrounds respectively. You could not think of a more different trio of people. It should seem self-evident that Travis should work the same way as the girl (even putting aside the sports differences).

It’s way simpler even than gender differences. The whole point of any kind of training is to challenge the body to adapt to a stimulus. Too much or too little of a stimulus and we don’t adapt or may even have a negative change. On top of this each person takes a different amount of time to before a given stimulus, of exercise protocol, stops eliciting a change in the body. For example, there would have been a time when you were a baby that walking would build and strengthen muscle. Now you’ve walked so much that it’d very unlikely that just walking would build muscle.

To go back to our diversity trio Travis has to change his exercise selection every 3 weeks, if he spends more time on it he doesn’t see any greater benefit. Hikaru however takes 9 weeks to cease adaptation. Kat, as similar as she seems to Roo takes only 5 weeks to stop seeing improvement from one thing. Let’s compare Hikaru to Travis, if Roo relied of just assuming Travis’ program was right she would miss out of 6 weeks (!) of improvements she could see. Likewise, if Travis tried Roo’s programming he would stop seeing improvement after 3 weeks and potentially waste 6 weeks he could be spending doing something else that would bring improvement.  

The same lies both ways for Kat although she isn’t closer to the norm (4 to 6 weeks) but then if you look at the actual amount of work Kat does she keeps improving under a total stimulus that’d crush a less genetically gifted person. This point being that it’s not just how many weeks you do the program for before you stop seeing improvements but also how often you do each exercise and exercise “family”. Kat has about between 12 and 15 “exposures” to a movement, I’ll let you figure out how often that means she is doing each lift.

With all that prelude, now it comes to the implications to your training. If you know and test how long it takes you to can makes the most of every single on of these short 36 weeks count. You won’t have wasted weeks or even wasted days. Every week will be one week closer to your best CrossFit Open performance.

A castle is only as strong as it’s foundation
(Forge Block: Building the engine and structure that you need to perform)

The Open is, for most, the pinnacle of their CrossFit life each year. It’s the time of the year where performance matters the most and isn’t just a case of recording a benchmark to judge or measure themselves by.

In regard to creating a program structure this mans everything that isn’t the open (i.e. the next 36 weeks) is a chance to build up the capacity to work at a higher level in the open. In the context of CrossFit working at a higher level often means in a higher amount of force output in a given time. The problem, or at least potential problem, here becomes that training consistently becomes trying to display peak output rather than working to develop peak output.

If you take the below graph we are looking at a theoretical work output (just using Arbitrary Units for power output) against Heart Rate. Bearing in mind this is just an example to demonstrate the importance of building general aerobic work capacity base and that red indicates reaching past anaerobic threshold (where the performance stops being aerobic and becomes unsustainable) look at “what the  “pre-training” curve tells us.

  • Anerobic threshold occurs at 150 beats per minute and at 60 Arbitrary Units of power.
  • Work below 150bpm and 60AU is sustainable
  • Work Above 150bpm and 60AU is unsustainable

 


Figure 1

Now let’s consider briefly how aerobic training works:

If we are smart and precise about how we combine the different ways we approach aerobic training there is a ton of different variables we can manipulate to keep improving our work capacity even after 2 years of consistent training (Fig 2. is modified from the work of Saltin, B et al.)


Figure 2

The result of this smart and precise approach to aerobic work capacity is shown in the the “post-training” curve in Fig. 1. If we follow the same process as with the “pre-training” curve and look at what it tells us:

  • Anerobic threshold occurs at roughly 160 beats per minute and at 90 Arbitrary Units of power.
  • Work below 160bpm and 90AU is sustainable
  • Work Above 160bpm and 90AU is unsustainable

Please remember these are just example numbers and not wouldn’t necessarily mean a 50% increase in power output at threshold. But, if you look at the cumulative effects of all the different systemic adaptations of smart aerobic training a 50% increases over a 6 to 12 (up to 24+) month period isn’t unreasonable.
On top of building this general capacity to perform work time the “Forging” blocks are the ideal time to start building structural integrity and resilience. I’ve written a short amount upon the importance of structural integrity already but to quickly sumarise: Unless you have the muscle mass and strength to hold a position statically you have no busines trying to lift near maximal weights dynamically. This time away from the open is best used to development size, mid-range strength, and movement skills so when it comes to the point swhere you want to sharpen yourself and abuild to a peak performance you are capable of, not only, much more but doing that heavier and higher level work in a safer and more efficient way.

Hitting a target consistently means a lot of reloading
(Tempering Block: Re-sensitising to the primary training stimulus)

As mentioned earlier each individual has a certain amount of time or exposures to a training stimulus before they stop having a positive change. Once this adaptation window is closed the body needs a chance to re-sensitise to the training stimulus.
In this case it is a very positive opportunity for you to practice more some of the more esoteric aspects of CrossFit. When we’re looking what we should do whilst re-sensitising to the main training goals it’s everything different; a chance to brush up on multi-planar movements, dedicate more time and recovery to skill-based exercises like weightlifting and gymnastics, maybe even have a foray into more game-based training.  In short, you’re doing things that will undoubtably benefit your main Forge blocks but are different enough that they won’t challenge the same systems in the same way.

Please don’t let the briefness of this summary detract from the importance of each Tempering Block. This is still training for the open. Just because you might be training at a slightly reduced intensity or volume it doesn’t mean that you’re not working towards something or progressing towards a serious goal.

Refining the process
(Sharpening Block: Maximal Strength, Power, Lactic and Alactic Capacity and Power)

This is where you get to see the reward for the patience and perseverance you’ve put in. When the time is appropriate and you’re ready move into learning to display everything you’ve been working for. This might only happen 2 times in the 36 weeks and then again in the direct lead up to the open.

It’s where you’ll focus on the hard work; maximal strength, maximal power, short duration capacity work at high intensity. It’s intensity driven and therefore recovery demanding. You need to coordinate the drive to go heavy and the mental resilience to keep learning how to work within your new work output capacity.

When you switch into the higher threshold work the adaptations that your asking your body to adapt to switch from being structural to being neural. Without going too in depth it turns into coordinating and using what you’ve built more efficiently.
On paper this block is the most fun, in reality it’s the hard work and grind that sets you up to peak. The downside is that after the session being “tired” turns into being “fatigued”. Think of this a soft and hard tiredness. When you’re “tired” the chances are you’re starting to move fairly quickly into a state where you can recover, when fatigue hits it’s you digging yourself into “recovery hole“ and you then need to be actively working to fill in that hole with recovery work and extra.

Conclusion

You have all the info now to build your own plan to get the best possible physical preparation for next years CrossFit open or critique the any program that you’re doing so you can understand the reasoning and purpose around what you’re doing.

If you do have any questions on any of the above please just drop me an email (alex@crossfitlondonuk.com)

If this way of coaching makes sense and you want to prepare for the open with me keep you eye’s open for the my Open Prep Class where you’ll go through all of the above from an in depth assessment all the way through individualised programming within the classes.

The 2018 CrossFit Open at CrossFit London

You can’t have helped but notice that the 2018 CrossFit Open is just around the corner. Here’s what you need to know about the 2018 Open at CrossFit London.
When?
The CrossFit Open runs for 5 weeks from Feb 22nd to Mar 26th. The WODs are released very early on Friday mornings and you have the weekend to complete them.
As previous years, Friday evenings will play host to the main event Open WODs. There are two slots to book into, an early and a late, but as per usual timings are at the mercy of Dave Castro and whatever he programmes. Don’t worry, we can be flexible if you need to arrive early or leave late.
Can’t do Friday? Not to worry, this year, we will have coached Open Gym slots throughout the weekend, which will be able to book into any of those to complete the workouts (or just use as you normally would if you don’t want to do the Open). At CFL, the Open Gym slots are all in 10 MP so lines on the floor won’t be an issue. The coach on duty will see to it that everyone is properly judged.
As there is no Open Gym slot on Friday morning (and we know a lot of you like to get it done out of the way and away from the big Friday night crowd), Kyle’s Fri 7:30am WOD class in 10 MP will be the only other Open WOD class on the schedule.
If you can’t make Friday nights or the Open Gym slots, the coaches will be available to book for special 1-2-1 PT sessions for £20 per workout. They will take you through your own mobilisation, warm-up, strategy, and coach you through the workout as they judge at a time which is convenient to you.
(NB: Friday’s Heavy Metal Club has been moved to Wednesdays at 19:30, so you can continue to follow the HMC programming and do the Open)
Final Friday and Social
As ever, the final Friday on 23rd March will finish with a social, awards and probably beer-pong, This year’s (totally optional) theme is ‘Drag Queens’ – or ‘Cross-dressing-Fit’.
We’re currently looking for a venue to move onto afterwards. More on this later.
Teams
Last year, you were sorted into teams. This year, your coaches will head up their own Tribes (sorted at random when you sign up).
If you sign up for CrossFit London, Mike, Joe, Kyle and Carolyn will lead teams (team names at coach discretion). To be part of a team you will need to be signed up for the Open on the Games Website, but you do not need to be signed up on the Games website to participate (you just need to book into the workouts).
Or if you sign up for SE11, Nick, Juan and Tim will lead teams.
Prepping for the Open
Between now and the 23rd February keep an eye on the blog and the Facebook group for news, updates, tips, and special events.
Email support@crossfitlondonuk.com if you have any concerns or questions.

Skills for The Open

With The Open a little under three weeks away, I have been receiving many questions on how best to approach it. Upping your training will increase your fitness levels and is an easy way to squeeze out an extra 10% performance, but what is the best way to improve your Open result in such a short space of time?
The biggest difference between CrossFit and other training methodologies is the need for skill acquisition. Being able to perform a snatch while under fatigue is incredibly difficult, which is why CrossFit is equally rewarding and frustrating. If you look at the past few years of The Open, there are certain movements that consistently appear:

  • Handstand Push-Ups
  • Double-Unders
  • Muscle-Ups
  • Snatch
  • Chest to bar Pull-Ups
  • Toes To Bar

The difference between having one of these movements and not can be tens of thousands of places. Remember, one rep RX is worth more than a million Scaled, so just being able to go RX will place you much higher in the standings. Focusing on any of the above movements if you don’t have them will be a much better use of your time and energy than just focusing on your metabolic conditioning. I have listed these movements in no particular order.
Double-Unders
The bane of many CrossFitters, double-unders are a skill that can be incredibly frustrating. Requiring inhuman coordination and nimbleness of the wrists, there is no easy way of developing them. However, developing this skill in a three week timeframe is achievable; it will just require lots of practice.  The best advice I can give is practice EVERYDAY until The Open. Attempting double-unders in class WODs rather than falling back to singles will also help immensely. I have seen some people attend the gym for several years, always scale to singles, and unsurprisingly still only do singles. You might have to “sacrifice” some WODs and just dedicate a bit of time to developing that coordination!
Handstand Push-Ups
The handstand push-up requires strength, balance, and the fearlessness to fling yourself up and down while inverted. For athletes looking to improve their HSPUs there are two aspects of the movement that need to be developed: strength and coordination/balance. The strength component is conceptually easy to fix but takes time and dedication. It’s a matter of spending the time training and developing the strength. This can be done in our CrossFit and CrossFit Gymnastics classes but also during Open Gym or even at home! For the coordination and balance aspect of the movement, you also need to practice. You need time upside down and getting your central nervous system used to finding that balance. The kipping handstand push-up is especially challenging, as your centre of gravity changes when you bring your knees down to your chest. If you have the strength to do a strict handstand push-up, spending a bit of time these next weeks developing your kipping technique will help immensely and propel you up that leaderboard.
The Snatch
The Open last year demanded that athletes perform squat snatches at the relatively heavy weight of 60 kgs for men and 43 kgs for women. Not only technically demanding and heavy, this movement requires a high degree of flexibility of the shoulders, hips and ankles to reach the required depth comfortably. There is no quick fix for any aspect of this lift as strength, technical ability, and flexibility all take time to develop. While the technical aspect can take years to finesse and to perfect, our coaches at CFL can usually get someone to lift with relative competence in a few sessions depending on athleticism and background. However, there are no easy fixes for a lack of strength and flexibility, so we would encourage you to continue developing these as a longer term goal.
Chest to bar pull-ups
The Open rarely sees a regular pull-up, only the more demanding chest to bar version. Our programming has and will continue to focus on the chest to bar version on the run up to The Open, so you will get practice if you attend regularly. Again there is no quick fix here (this is a running theme!) but you can improve your kip efficiency, which will help reduce the demands of the movement. We have also been focusing on the butterfly and chest to bar butterfly pull-up in our CrossFit Gymnastics classes, which is less demanding metabolically and strength wise but more demanding technically. Practising and perfecting this movement regularly before “gameday” will mean you’ll shoot up that leaderboard.
The Muscle-Up
There are many people in the gym who have the strength and the ability to get a muscle-up but haven’t realised it or even tried it yet. As of this week, you will have had the opportunity to be coached through progressions in both the bar and ring versions. This will continue twice a week in our CrossFit Gymnastics classes through The Open. Even getting one rep in a WOD will mean tens of thousands of places on the leaderboard and is worth developing if you have strict pull-ups and ring dips. It also looks awesome and is a badge of honour for many CrossFitters. Personal Training is also a fantastic way to accelerate the process of achieving this movement, especially if you feel you’ve been “close” for a long time.
At CrossFit London we offer an array of classes, options and personal training. Our coaches are on hand to help you achieve your Open goals. With The Open only three weeks away, we can’t perform miracles, but we can help you make the improvements needed to be the most efficient and top performing athlete you can be.

Programming reflections

Developing our programming at CrossFit London is about merging the best of consistency with the benefits of variation; all topped off with obvious short and long term objectives.
It’s also about creating establish structures that deliver training gains.
Currently, we have a 3-day structure
Day 1) is titled All Elements and features the full squat version of the clean or the snatch. In the workout any elements can appear. As a regular skill we include some kipping practice
Day 2) is No Shoulder day where we alternate between the front squat and the Bulgarian split, and the back squat cycling with the deadlift plus the 1 legged Romanian deadlift.  The workout is limited to moves that do not include the shoulder. A shoulder rest day our skill focuses on the double under and the pistol.
Day 3) is No Squat day, currently upper-body orientated. We work through weighted pull ups/dips and cycle through the press, push press push jerk. The workout will not include a squat element- it needs a rest. Our regular skill is handstand based. It can be a 45 degree wall walk hold as your first step in getting upside down, to your first handstand push up, to handstand walking.
If you are following this programme, Day 4 is a rest day. However, as a gym with a big community, Day 4 is entitled Off Programme day.  We still schedule a great WOD, skill and strength for those who want to work 5 days straight through,  or it’s the only day they can make.
We are currently testing July’s  draft programme (about 2 weeks ahead of where you are) and are deep in designing the August/September programme. Interestingly, the 2 targets nudging our thought processes are Cindy and Isabelle. This has thrown up 2 issues
Issue 1 . Push-up homework
To achieve 20 rounds of Cindy, you need 200 push ups. It’s that simple and stark. We will prepare you by having push ups scattered throughout our preparatory workouts, but the reality is that you probably need more push-ups that we can ethically put in our sessions.
By ethically, I mean we cannot drag you, our beloved members, across London- often in rush hour- to charge you to do push-ups that you can do at home. Our dips, presses etc support this work. We set them, as in our mind you go to the gym to play with stuff you cannot reasonably have at home.
I have a plea. Over the next few week, please do push-ups at home. I’m hoping this week do 75 push-ups a day, the week after 100, 150, then 200. I need you to own 200.
This can be done as a hardcore task: three sets of 66! But it’s better to think about creating an easy habit. Five before you get in the bath, five in the  Starbucks queue, 10 while waiting for the bus, five before you brush your teeth. Why not post a clip of you  pushing up 9n public on the facebook group. Its now a thing.

When you come to do Cindy, I need you to know, know you can do 200 push ups.
Issue 2 Power snatch/power clean on day 3 WOD
The next issue is the power snatch versus squat snatch. I want to create 2  distinct pathways for these moves.  I want us to consistently pursue the squat snatch as a  thing of beauty, but develop the power/split snatching as the go- to workout move.
Day 1 will alternate (as it has done) between the squat snatch and squat clean. The focus will be on enough reps to develop the best form possible within the  20-30ish minutes allocated. For most, this is enough time to make substantial improvements (self-training and our Olympic lifting classes accommodate those who need more). Sometimes this will be delivered instructionally, other times as reflective individual feedback while you practice.  Often I suspect you’ll be sharing a bar and feeding back to fellow members as you watch them move. Peer coaching, under coaching supervision, can be very very useful as is using your phone’s camera to analyse and check form and spot weird habits in your classmates.
However, in the weeks  leading up to our Isabel test,  on day 3 in the workout, I  will often include a power snatch or a  power clean.
Yesterday we tested Isabel (30 snatches for time) as a day 3 WOD, therefore two days after the squat snatch element on day 1. It worked.  The next experiment will be to have squat cleans on day 1 followed by power clean in the WOD on day 3.  So over the next few months, note the pattern
Day 1  Squat Snatch dedicated session / Day 3 Power snatch in the workout
followed by
Day 1 Squat clean dedicated session / Day 3 power clean in the workout.
Obviously, we will vary the stimulus; different weights, different time domains, dumbbell versions.
Enjoy!