Programming Philosophy: Part 1

I´ve created this blog to help our athletes understand where our programming comes from – in order to help everyone understand how our goals for the gym are really the same as your personal goals!  Having been around the sport of CrossFit (elite level athletes trying to compete) and the “normal” side of CrossFit gyms (everyday people trying to get in shape) for more than 5 years, I know that our goals and how we get there vary by degree and not by kind.

Here are some of the basics that everyone should know and understand well:

  1. CrossFit is an all-inclusive, general and broad strength and conditioning program that aims to improve your GPP (General Physical Preparedeness).
  2. CrossFit is defined as Constantly Varied, Functional Movements executed at High Intensity with the overall purpose of increasing fitness.
  3. Fitness is defined as an increase in work capacity over broad times and modal domains. Work capacity can be measured by how much weight you move, how far you move it and how fast you can move it.

Now – take a step back from all that information and remember that in CrossFit we look to improve your strength, power, speed, cardiovascular endurance, stamina, agility, balance, flexibility, coordination, and accuracy.  All 10 of those general physical skills are equally important and weigh in on how we program for our athletes.

SO, how do I program for CrossFit COMO? Here it goes….

First, I believe in the CrossFit methodology whole heartedly.

Step 1: The Metcon (Metabolic Conditioning, or “WOD” as most know it) is the focal point of the overall class, and I program around them.  I vary everything we do, tracking it in an excel spreadsheet and I program week to week.  I vary the time domain, how many movements, the types of movements, and relative loading of the weightlifting.  Here´s a clip from my files that illustrates how I track a week worth of programming:

one week program_programming

I of course take into account if movements are taxing on the shoulders, back, legs, etc and try to not overload one body part.  So if one day we push press, the next day we are likely not going to do handstand push-ups.

Step 2: Programming the strength and assistance work we do before the metcon is secondary and meant to be used to complement our training.   I program either strength, gymnastics, technique or core work before the metcon everyday.  For strength, I alternate between squatting (back, front and overhead), pressing (strict, push press, jerk, bench) and pulling (deadlifts, power cleans, weighted pullups, etc).  The gymnastics work is usually in an EMOM format, alternating between things like strict pullups, toes to bar, handstands, pushups, L-sits, pistols, hollow body rocks, etc.  I use 15 minute technique sessions to practice either the cleans or snatches, and finally the core work is meant to develop strong mid-sections, which help with anything in life! I try and vary the days we do certain things, so that, for example, we aren’t always training strength on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.  Here is an example of the way I lay out a month of training for our gym:

one month template_programming

Step 3: Cycling the assistance work is important and lets us translate the strength we´ve been building into the Olympic lifts.  I´ll use the above template for a few months, and then transition to a template that puts more emphasis on cleaning and snatching, and makes the squatting/pressing/pulling more of a side note.

Step 4: Using the Level 1 and Level 2 template is great – because no matter when you start training at CrossFit COMO, we have an option for you so that you never feel like you “missed” a cycle and won’t get the same benefit out of the programming as the rest of the gym.  If you are a new athlete and come in on the day that I change the above template to a more Olympic lifting bias, you will still have the Level 1 option to help gain strength and technique.  If you have been doing CrossFit for 2 years and just came off of our strength bias, you´ll have the Level 2 option which will give you a chance to work more complexes and advanced movements.


At the end of the day, our goals are all important and can be reached using CrossFit.  Remember that what we do is CONSTANTLY varied.  The idea is to not know what is coming at you, but to get to the point where you are prepared for everything and anything.  Don’t think that you need to squat more, when in reality deadlifting and pressing are just as important.   I read an article one time that said that the gym that has multiple people deadlifting over 500 pounds is probably one of the LEAST fit gyms.  It probably means that they put a huge bias on deadlifting and would suffer in any of the other tests of physical skills that are important.

In the famous words of Greg Glassman (Founder of CrossFit)….”routine is the enemy.”


Stay tuned for Programming Philosophy Part 2: Programming different levels

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