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:
- Scientific principles of strength and conditioning.
- The GPP methods that Crossfit is founded on.
- 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:
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
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
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.