The attraction to CrossFit lies in its ability to produce results, build communities, and actually WORK as a fitness program. There is no denying the ability of CrossFit to generate results in all athletes. It’s the intensity, and when properly programmed it can do incredible things for people. But how do you get true intensity out of your athletes? How do you produce results in various areas of fitness. How do you target areas of weakness? The answer is, you practice. And while this seems self evident, the best program design principles need to be applied in order for you to “practice” fitness. Coaching of course plays a huge role in determining how effectively a fitness program is applied, but our program design leans on itself to allow the athlete to come to know who they are as an athlete and begin to seriously target and practice both their strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s look at 18.1 as a great example of a longer CrossFit Test workout.
20 minutes – As many rounds/reps as possible
8 Toes to Bar
5 Single Arm Clean and Jerks per side 50/35#
14/12 Calorie Row
This workout screams a steady state maximal AEROBIC effort to get the best out of your body for optimal performance. How do you know what your sustained paces should be on the rower? How do you know what you can sustain for sets on Toes to bar in an aerobic state? And how do you know how it will feel if you “tip” the bucket and go lactic during your dumbbell clean and jerks?
The answer lies in your training history. If your program design has allowed you to practice Toes to Bar in both an Aerobic state AND an Anaerobic or Lactic state then you know how it “feels” to perform these movements in each state. And in knowing how it should feel to be aerobic in these states you are then able to perform optimally on this workout and better than you would have, had you just “gone hard” and saw where you ended up after 20 minutes.
Here is an example of how we would train AEROBIC efforts on Toes to Bar:
3:00 on / 1:30 off (2:1 work rest ratio while doing aerobic training @ 75% Aerobic effort)
4-6 Toes to Bar (sustainable rep range for the given athlete, good coaching required to determine this)
6 Box Jump Step Downs (helps limit pace with the step down to stay aerobic)
8 Kettlebell Swings (Light, relative to athlete, stay aerobic with some weightlifting in mixed modal aerobic training)
While seemingly simple, and the best programs generally are, this workout can be a good guide to help you progress your training of the Toes to bar, and see when and where the aerobic state becomes lactic. Coaching and understanding the intent of this workout is where the magic will happen. Athletes must know that they should feel like it is a difficult but oxidative, and sustainable pace on this workout. They should track their toes to bar reps, and amount of total reps completed each round, and should reflect on their performance at the end of their workout. If we see rounds and reps shoot up at the beginning and then plummet, this was not an aerobic effort, it was lactic and unrepeatable across all rounds. Therefore the athlete can begin to know and understand how their pace impacts their output and sustainability. If the program design and coaching co-exist to allow the athlete to know themselves, then they can begin to progress and push the boundaries of their thresholds in various metabolic states of aerobic, anaerobic/lactic.
In order to progress the understanding of the athlete’s ability to do Toes to Bar, we repeat workouts with Toes to Bar as the predominant stimulus under training and shape the workouts around the movement to ensure they are able to be targeted in the desired metabolic state, in this example an aerobic state.
Eventually, and over time, with the right program design and coaching, we can bring up the effort level, to 80%, 85% and 90% aerobic efforts. This combination of quality coaching, and program design with progression is what allows athletes to grow and develop beyond just going hard in the gym. Athletes come to know themselves, their gears and their paces relative to the time domains that are eventually tested: 3-5 minutes, 5-9 minutes, 10-15 minutes etc. The options are endless and we can train to reflect as large a spectrum as required of the athlete.
Here at Chimney Rock CrossFit, our program design reflects these principles, and our athletes are able to learn and grow in a new way relative training the targeted energy systems (aerobic/anaerobic of different time frames), movements/skills/techniques, and paces.
Over the next few months we will explore program design principles as they relate to the way we strength train and condition all of our clients to get the very best results in their fitness and body composition goals.