The Art of Workout Design
“Who’s Giving You Your Medicine?”
I’m sure most of you have wondered it as you’re looking at the whiteboard or reading the workout of the day online the night before. You see the posted workout and it’s nothing like you thought it would be. You expected pulling, but lo & behold, it’s pushing. You were sure today would be squats, but you’re deadlifting instead. And it’s this confusion… this unpredictability… this seeming lack of a rhyme or reason to what’s being written each day as a means to help you achieve your health & fitness goals… that has athletes inside the CrossFit community wishing their coach would answer the million dollar question:
“How In the world do you come up with this stuff?!”
It’s a fun and simple question, one that’s based off pure curiosity… But shouldn’t you be taking your health and fitness a bit more seriously? Don’t you think you should be asking for a little more information…
Is the person writing your workouts even qualified to do so?
What training and education do they have?
What accredited certifications do they hold?
What scientific principles do they apply when designing your training cycles?
Do they have your safety in mind?
Are they programming the workouts for you, or for themselves (gasp)?!
These are real questions you should discussing with your CrossFit coaches on a regular basis.
You want to make sure your coaches have your best interests at heart AND they actually know what the heck they’re doing.
Think about it…
You wouldn’t just take a medical prescription from some guy off the streets would you (I sure hope not)?
The next thing you need to ensure is that your coach is asking himself the proper questions when designing your workout program.
Any monkey can randomly pick exercises from a hat and write them on a whiteboard…
But an experienced professional should have a specific, meticulous approach to WHAT workouts you’re doing and WHY you’re doing them.
Here’s the top 3 things your coach should be asking him/herself when writing your workouts:
1) What is the purpose of this workout?
A week’s worth of “Hero” WODs may seem like a good idea at the time, and it will definitely be brutal… but what’s really the point? At Frequency Fitness, we understand the importance of cycle training and we’ve nailed it down to a science. Our programming is based on a 10-day template that’s divided into three sections.
- Training / practice (60%)
- Competition (30%)
- Mental Toughness (10%)
This distribution of training days allows us to stay varied, yet consistent. With a class full of individuals, this format gives us the flexibility to develop each athlete at his/her proper speed.
You wouldn’t expect a professional athlete to perform at “game day” intensity every day would you? No way – they MUST train smart in order to prolong their careers, and they cycle their training just like the rest of us.
Each day will be a challenge in and of itself, but you shouldn’t leave the gym writing a DNF (Did Not Finish) next to your name on a regular basis.
2) How will this workout impact my community of athletes?
- Will a high volume of squats leave their legs fatigued for days to come?
- If everyone rips their hands, will it influence their effectiveness at work?
- How will they feel psychologically if they get their first pull-up?
- Does my general population need to be squat snatching on a regular basis?
These are all questions your coach should be thinking of when it comes to the day-to-day grind of writing your workouts. CrossFit was designed as a longevity program for lifelong fitness, but somewhere along the way many people have forgotten that principle.
For 99% of the population, CrossFit is a way of staying fit and being active… and your coach need not lose sight of that. Your workouts should leave you feeling accomplished and challenged – NOT deflated.
3) Why is this workout being programmed?
This is the easiest of all the questions, because there is only one logical answer:
All workouts should be designed to safely and effectively get your members stronger, healthier, and fitter!
If you want your community to be able to do muscle-ups, the last thing your coach should do is just start programming WODs with tons of muscle-ups. Instead, they should build a program with a muscle-up being the end goal, and then work intelligently backwards from there. Your coach should make a checklist outlining the prerequisites to executing the movement properly.
- Shoulder mobility
- Shoulder stability
- Shoulder strength-to-weight ratio
- Movement skill / technique
Once these things have been addressed, and you’ve checked one after another off the list, then muscle-ups should start to happen. Until then, pull ups, dips, and variations of the two should dominate your practice / training.
Now imagine this for every other movement we practice… can you see how detailed the thought process needs to be? (Crazy, right?)
Remember that fitness is a marathon and not a sprint. In a society where we want everything right now, we have to remember to be patient when it comes to our health and wellness. Lifestyle changes take time, and there are no quick fixes when it comes to fitness – only hard work and SMART work.
Ultimately, it’s your coach’s job to enroll you in The Journey and help you safely navigate the various obstacles that stand in the way of your goals. If they can successfully do that, then there’s no doubt that you’ll be happy, healthy, and reaching your goals for years to come!