Exercise Programming - Keep It Simple, Have Some FUN!

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Exercise programming is an interesting topic.  It is a beautiful thing when done well - truly an art form.  Science based programming is important for progression and knowing when to back off, go hard, go heavy, go long/short etc.  Variance is absolutely key to the success of an athlete as well.  There are many, many things to consider when approaching a general exercise program built for the masses.  Below are answers to commonly asked questions and comments.

"Why are the WODs not longer?"

The main event, as I like to call it - usually Part B on the whiteboard - should be anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes with a very small percentage outside this range (shorter or longer). The shorter the WOD, generally the higher the intensity. Once the 20 minute mark has been exceeded, the intensity level will decrease significantly.  Most of the potential gains to be made past this point will be mostly mental - not to say there isn't any point in going past this timeline, there are benefits, but it doesn't need to be done frequently.  Frequently working past the 20 minute mark could translate to sloppy movement, more potential for injury, copious amounts of repetitions that could be hard on the body and require even more recovery and rest days.

70% of your conditioning workouts should fall between 8-12 minutes, 15% up to 8 minutes, and 15% over 12 minutes. 

Many people are quick to judge a quality program because it doesn't play to their strengths or their desires.  Attending the gym only on the days you like the look of the workout will not help you to become a better well rounded athlete.

"We seem to be doing a lot of repeat movements... Why is that?"

Progression is very dependent on practice and variance.  We usually spend about 3 months on a single movement using variations (hang power, power, full, pulls etc.) to keep challenging the body and working on specific components to the same lifts.  The movements will be rotated from week to week, day to day, so anyone with a static work/life schedule will be able to get some time on a specific movement as well (i.e. Week 1 - Power Clean on Tuesday, Week 2 - Power Clean on Friday etc.).  EMOMs (every minute on the minute) workouts are really great for hitting a small amount of quality reps on difficult movements with built in rest times. EMOMs work really well with gymnastics movements as well as barbell lifts. It is important to stick to these as best as you can to truly reap the benefits.   Progression takes time.  Be patient and try to have some fun with it.

"Why are the 'prescribed/Rx' weights so heavy?"

CrossFit WODs usually come with a lbs/kg # listed per weight lifting movement. This number is not to be exceeded unless otherwise instructed by the coach. As mentioned above, there is science being performed here.  The weights listed are not 'just because' but more help to create the stimulus we are trying to achieve with a given workout.  They are also based on the top athletes at the gym - therefore, you may need to scale.  This has been the same since the dawn of CrossFit.  If it isn't safe for you to use the 'prescribed/Rx' weight loading, scaling is absolutely necessary.  Your coaches at CFO always have and always will be very clear with you on what kind of pacing should be used, how you should feel during, and even give you ballpark percentages to work with when deciding your weights.  If you are ever in doubt, ask your coach.  They will either have the answer or they will get it for you.

"The TIMECAPs are so short!  I always have trouble making it in the allotted time..."

Scaling is so important.  I like to use "Fran" as an example here:

21-15-9 For Time:

Thrusters 95/65#

Pull-Ups

TIMECAP: 7:00

Fran is the most iconic CrossFit workout ever made.  If scaled and modified correctly, it should be very fast and end with you feeling like you got hit by a truck.  If not properly scaled, it will likely result in a lot of standing around and resting.  The thrusters and pull-ups should be performed very close to (if not) unbroken with any rest or transition times being extremely quick.  If your max front squat or push press is anywhere near the prescribed weight loading of 95/65#, you should be scaling generously.  I have completed "Fran" with a PVC pipe and jumping pull-ups before and I can assure you, it is a beast no matter how you slice it.  

The point here is that scaling/modifying will both improve the chances of maintaining the desired intensity level as well as movement quality. Leaving your ego at the door is a must if you are looking for a safe and effective fitness journey.  Do yourself a favour and try scaling absolutely everything for a week or two.  Then ask yourself if you feel like your fitness has been short changed.  I would hazard a guess and say it wouldn't.