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Coaches Corner

Programming 1.0

By March 19, 2016No Comments

Let’s talk about heavy days.  I specifically want to talk about heavy days followed by a short METCON of some sort.  In the past several months we’ve had numerous people walk into our box and tell us how their old box always did a heavy lift then a little something spicy afterwards.  In other words “We are just lifting today?”  Let me be clear and say that I don’t have a problem with this.  We do it quite often, and from an affiliate owner stand point I can tell you that gyms that don’t do this will see lower attendance on those days that are programmed with only a heavy barbell.  Sometimes you have to move with the market. But not all the time…

I think for the most part the strength day/short WOD combo’s have become the new standard for “good programming”.  I’ll go out on a limb and disagree, respectfully of course.  You don’t need to have a heavy lift everyday to see strength days.  I can give you countless examples of gyms that don’t use that methodology and their members get stronger while also making gains in GPP.  You can’t hit every skill every, everyday.  It’s not possible when training and it’s not possible when programming.  If you want real strength gains then you need to learn to give heavy days the respect they deserve.  There has to be big picture variance with specific concentration each day.  If you have a 5 minute warm up, 10 mins of mobility, 25 mins of lifting, then a 15 min WOD, where lies the priority?? You’ve now created a program with all aspects of training getting less than 30% of your attention.  It’s not a bad thing to do this strength+WOD occasionally but if your entire program consists of this then it is missing the mark completely when put side by side with the definition of CrossFit and being “Constantly Varied”.  The assumption might be that if I do more things more frequently I’ll get better faster?  Fair argument, but flawed logic simply due to the fact that GPP and strength gains take time; plain and simple.  Hitting 4 aspects of fitness with each getting 25% of your intensity will actually prolong your gains.  If you have a heavy lift every day and then a short WOD after it, that makes it the same every day and there are a couple things that I can assure you are not happening within your fitness development.

1)     It’s no longer varied and your GPP will drop

2)     You aren’t hitting WODs that stretch past the 15-20 min mark

3)     You aren’t getting what you should out of those lifting sessions

4)     You don’t understand what intensity is

Does that sound like something you call “good programming”?  Again I’m not bashing people who are programming this way because we will do it on some of our lifting days, but I don’t think most people understand what is happening here.  We have to ask some simple questions and open some eyes here.  Most often the response from the athletes is “I want to sweat and feel like a worked out, so I like the WOD after!”  Not an unreasonable response by any stretch of the imagination, I get it.  But here is what I will tell you, you aren’t taking that lifting session seriously and you aren’t lifting heavy enough.  Then I’ll ask you what kind of strength gains you’ve made over the past 6-12 months. This answer will vary and can be predicted by simply knowing how long someone has been doing CF.  For the newbie the gains will be substantial, for the intermediate CrossFitter (who should still be seeing gains) they will almost always tell me they have hit a plateau.

This is all due to a simple misunderstanding of intensity.  Intensity is commonly defined by sweating and heavy breathing, which I will admit could be partially correct but clearly not what we are after.  You can sweat and breathe heavy using a shake weight, but that isn’t increasing the area under the curve that defines my overall fitness.  If you want gains in strength, which will translate into GPP, then some days you need to walk into the box and give everything you have to that 5×5, that 3×3 or that 20 rep max.  If you truly do that, then you will start to understand the emotional, neurological and physical demands that are required to lift heavy sh!t.  During a 20 rep max set you will see Jesus and question decisions you made in the 3rd grade! (maybe eating paste wasn’t a good idea..)

In a true 5×5 set your mind set should look something like this on your BEST Day:

Set 1: Wow… that was heavier than I would have like it to be!?!

Set 2: Ok that’s better, I don’t feel like a weakling anymore.

Set 3: Nice! that’s what I’m talking about, that felt good.

Set 4: What in the Holy F#ck of all F#cks just happened, did I load the bar with the wrong weight????

Set 5: I want nothing to do with this set, I feel like I’ve never lifted weights before……

(Remember this is your best day! On a bad day you will want to give up on life because you have somehow now become a bad person for not be able to crush your 1RM for a set of 5) **side note: this is why all weightlifters are grumpy.

If you want those METCONs to get easier and that weight to feel lighter you need to get serious about your heavy days and stop worrying about what the WOD is afterwards.  If you walk in and hit those weights with everything you have then I assure you that you will be more than happy to forgo that little 6 min AMRAP afterwards because you will feel like you just went 15 rds with Soda Popinski.  The intensity that you hit 20 min WODs with should be just the same as when you get in for a heavy press day or heavy front squat or whatever lift you are doing that day.  Your focus should be on those sets and only those sets and getting as much out of yourself and the barbell as possible.


1) Broad spectrum variance with daily specialization.

2) Give everything you have to those heavy days under the barbell, they should be mentally draining!

3)  Every so often sprinkle in something after your strength session, it helps to keep it fun.

Keep training hard and hit your weaknesses.


P.S.  I ate paste and I turned out fine J