CrossFit Programming - CrossFit London

The week that will be : the Crossfit London overview

It looks to be an exciting week at Crossfit London UK in Bethnal Green E2. In this quick overview, we hope to give you an insight into the Crossfit programme over the next weeks along with a heads up about events and  other forth coming nice things.
CFLDN Partner Comp 2.0 is on Saturday, Sept 21 at 12pm. Mark this is your calendar as it promises to be THE event for the year!
And please invite friends, family, foes etc.
Crossfit Open rolls around again, with 19.1 dropping in on October 11.  Check out The Games Website and think about registering. We will expand our arrangements over the coming months
Last week saw the completion of the 531 strength cycle that we were working through for the past four months. We’ve seen terrific results from this cycle, with the PR bell ringing hot in the last two weeks. With these added strength gains, you’ll notice that your efficiency in WODs will improve (particularly when there’s a barbell involved), as strength is a key determiner in our ability to produce repeatable efforts.
Conditioning wise you may have noticed that we’re doing shorter, more intense workouts with dedicated rest intervals inserted. Reason being is that we’re working on an energy system called the lactic/anaerobic system, where we look to develop our ability to produce short bursts of energy and recover well. With this added intensity, we’re taking a break from strength BUILDING work, and will work more with strength MAINTENANCE – less sets and reps but high %’s. For example, we’re going from AMREP sets of back squats to 3×3 @85% This is designed to give your body a rest from the progressive strength work you’ve been doing, while still having the ability to move heavy weight around (without the cost of high reps).
We’re also adding in more skill work… This work is to be done at a lower heart rate, where we can work through their progressions. While working skill, it’s important that you master your progression for each movement here before taking the next step. For example, when we’re doing handstand walking, it’s important that we master the wall walk before moving onto the free standing walk.
We’ll continue with this cycle right up until the Crossfit Open in mid October, before moving on to another strength cycle and aerobic base building in December/January.
In the meantime, why not brush up your rowing technique. You should look like a noble viking, not a demented chimpanzee on speed. Here are some pointers. Its easy, but requires you to be relentless!

The Art and Science of Programming, Part 1

Part 1 of 3:

Programming plays an important role in your health and fitness. A program that’s built on sound principles of strength and conditioning can help guide you a lifetime of fitness. Neglecting these principles can lead to plateau, injury and a decrease in performance. Whatever is programmed should always be explained with the “why” behind it. There’s always a purpose to training, and the answer is always more than just intensity. Thus the purpose of these articles is to explain this “why”, so that you can get a better of idea of how to structure your WODs.

At CFLDN, our programming is guided by three ideas:

  1. Scientific principles of strength and conditioning.
  2. The GPP methods that Crossfit is founded on.
  3. The philosophy and vision of CFLDN.

The scientific principles of strength and conditioning:
It’s said that “methods are plenty but principles are few.” This can easily be seen in the fitness market where we’re flooded with different methods to get to the same goal. Some methods are highly effective and are backed by research, while others are new and shiny but not necessarily effective. At CFLDN, we choose methods that have proven to be effective, and are backed by established principles of strength and conditioning.

The GPP principles that Crossfit is founded on.
In Crossfit, the goal is General Physical Preparedness, or GPP. GPP aims to prepare you to tackle a wide range of physical tasks, and be fit across a series of modalities. Founder of Crossfit, Greg Glassman reflects this in his definition of Increased Work Capacity Across Broad Time and Modal Domains. This is a fancy way of saying, get more, different stuff done.

The philosophy and vision of CFLDN.
At CFLDN, we want to make you fit for life. We want to teach you not just how to sweat, but how to move, and to draw the lessons you learn in the gym to make you a better person outside of the gym. And, taken from our mission statement: CFLDN is held up by our powerful pillar of individuals that unite over a common goal for higher order health.

We believe that this approach works, and makes you better, fitter human…. Want to run 5km? Easy. Can you help me move this couch? Absolutely. Can you keep up with your kids? Sure, can they keep up with me? Can you keep your cool in traffic? Well I just did that WOD so this is easy. We believe that this style of training is the most effective for all round fitness, and it creates a greater way of life.

Adding to the Intensity Paradigm…
At CFLDN, we have our own spin on Crossfits original ideas set in the mid 2000’s. While we believe in Glassman’s mantra of Constantly Varied Functional Movement performed at High Intensity, we acknowledge the pitfalls that constantly working at high intensity can bring. We emphasise the need for planning, periodisation and prioritisation within the programming to ensure sustainable improvement.

Likewise, training should vary in terms of intensity – gone are the days of going as hard and as fast as possible, all the time. Training, like life, should incur cycles of intensity, from low, medium and high. Want to run be a bull in a china shop every day? Have fun with that. Want to unleash the bull sometimes when you’re really ready for it? That’s a game worth playing.

High, Low and Reload Days:
Though high intensity training has its merits, we need to create space for intensity to flourish. This being so, an effective program should include re-load days and weeks to let the body recover, grow stronger, and be ready for the next workout. Many fitness programs neglect this fundamental biological principle in an effort to GO HARD ALL OF THE TIME, but we know from years of experience and research, that reload days and weeks are critical for lifelong health.
Reload days will look like gymnastics EMOM’s or longer aerobic workouts. These days aim to achieve a few things… refine motor patterns, promote blood flow through staying in the aerobic zone (avoiding lactic threshold), nourish the nervous system, enhance recovery from training and life stressors. You should feel GOOD after these sessions. You should leave energised, sleep well, and be ready to hit the next day.

Why we move the way we do…

Crossfit is not defined by a repertoire of movements, rather, it uses a variety of exercises to get better at a wider range of activities.
This being said, we do follow the key functional patterns of:

  • Squatting
  • Bending
  • Lunging
  • Gait
  • Rotating
  • Pushing
  • Pulling

A typical week will involve an a mixture of these primal patterns, as we look to achieve balance in the body.
We use these exercises as this how how you move your body in the real world. Eg. If you need to pick something up, you’re not going to perform a bicep curl, you’re much likely to perform something that resembles a deadlift (bending).

Focussing on functional movements has been proven to help build lean muscle mass and promote fat loss. This is due to the metabolic stress, muscle tension and damage that takes place when you do these movements. Everyone knows the feeling after lifting a heavy deadlift…. There is substantially more work being done that doing bicep curls.

Variation is critical to keeping the body and mind growing, it truly is the “spice of life!” Crossfit makes use of this idea and ensures that every day you’re facing a new physical challenge. Not only does this keep things interesting and engaging, it ensure that you’re given access to a wide range of movements that leads to a well balanced body and General Physical Preparedness.

Variation is not gospel! We still acknowledge the need to have planning, periodisation and prioritisation within the programming (we’re not drawing workouts out of a hat). So every workout has a purpose or a “why” that’s supported by the overall goal at that time.


Stay tuned for part 2 of the Art and Science of Programming!

Steve Hennessy-Maia is a Senior Coach at CFLDN. You can find him working the floor at Crossfit London, and helping clients. if you want effectiove help fill out the contact form

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.


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.

Programming at CrossFit London – October 2017

Starting next week, you’ll be seeing some changes in the CrossFit Level 2 programming. Don’t worry, there isn’t going to be a radical overhaul; we’re just simplifying and returning to the basics.  We are doing this because CFL offers a wide range of specialty classes. These speciality classes can be organized into three main categories: weightlifting, gymnastics, and metabolic conditioning. We offer some hybrid classes, too, such as Competition Focus, Benchmarks, and Heavy MetCon, but in general, they all focus on one of these three domains. So where does this leave our CrossFit Level 2 class?


The main focus of the CrossFit Level 2 class at CFL is general physical preparedness (GPP). The class is intended to be the basis of your training, giving you the opportunity to then specialise based on interest, training needs, or sport specific training. Therefore, our intention in each and every class is for you to learn a cool skill, build your strength, and have a hard, yet fun, WOD.


CrossFit separates itself from other high intensity training methodologies in that it requires skill acquisition. If you are just starting CrossFit at CFL, we will automatically direct you to our CrossFit Level 2 class, which will help you to acquire the necessary skills and strength as you develop your metabolic conditioning. After several months, you may find that you need to go on a strength programme or improve your Olympic Lifting to increase your performance in the main class. In these cases we would direct you to our specialty Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, or Heavy Metal classes, which follow periodised strength programmes. Alternately, you may find that your gymnastic strength or skills lag behind your weightlifting ability, in which case, we’d direct you to our large array of gymnastic classes. What separates us from other gyms is that you have the freedom to tailor your training to your specific interests and needs.


CrossFit Pyramid


Therefore, we have come up with the WEEKLY blueprint below for our CrossFit Level 2 classes:


2x Gymnastics skills/strength/complex
2x Olympic lifting strength/complex/technique
2x Barbell Strength
Other day will be taken up by longer WOD


1x Benchmark (rotated on schedule)
1x Longer WOD
A good variation of AMRAPs, EMOMs, for time, for reps/intervals, for quality etc.
1x Partner WOD
Variation in time domains, rep schemes and weights
Not have more than 2-3x repeat movements unless for a specific reason


Rest Days:
Rest days are crucial in allowing you to recover, make gains, and avoid injury. As a gym, we encourage you to take rest days as you need. As we are based in London, with many busy clients working off their own schedules, we run a rolling programme with no rest days. This means that it’s up to you to plan out your training. We have endeavoured to randomise the programme such that, for example, if your schedule requires that you can only train every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you’ll be getting a diverse array of movements and WODs. Every Monday, therefore, will not be a squat day or a “long WOD day.” As ever, all our coaches are at hand to help you structure your training and rest based on your goals.


RX/Scaled: What does this mean?
RX is a term used by doctors in the US to prescribe medicine. In CrossFit, it means the athlete performs all modalities using the prescribed weight and reps. In practice, the RX weights or reps are what we expect our top athletes to be able to perform. Depending on your sporting background, it could take a year, two, or longer to reach this level. We will also provide a “scaled” guideline. These weights are a benchmark for athletes who have the basic skills, technique, and strength to complete WODs efficiently and safely. Depending on each athlete, it could take somewhere between 0-6 months to reach the scaled weights/reps/movements. You may find yourself stuck between Scaled and RX in some WODs and this is perfectly fine. The more you train and discover your athletic capabilities, the sooner you will find where you lie. Our coaches are on hand in every class to help guide you in this process.


It goes without saying that the above follows a common sense policy. You may find that not all the above criteria are met, and that could be due to many different variables and factors. For example, in the run-up to The Open we might have Open-specific training, and then other months we may have little challenges to keep everyone on their toes. So be on the lookout for these developments! Keep in mind, if you attend our CrossFit Level 2 class consistently, you will increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains.


Coach Nick