How do we programme?

Hey everyone, Coach James here, and I just wanted to kick start the DISTRICT Press blog page by giving everyone an insight into my thought processes, focuses and focal points of the programming over these past few months.

One key focus I have spent a lot of time on is building a good foundational strength element for everyone. It’s a key issue for a lot of people in CrossFit; that strength is the underlying weaknesses. Not everyone, just the majority.

This is quite normal – it’s not saying that people are ‘weak’, it’s just that they haven’t got a substantial foundation of strength developed for the volume and intensity that CrossFit demands. Strength takes time to build, and requires patience, especially to build a solid base of strength. However, once that strength reaches a good level, it is just a case of maintaining that level, and actually becomes a lot harder to lose.

Foundational strength is very different to your conditioning/aerobic base, which fluctuates more and is much more undulating in how it works within the body – it can be built up quickly, but also lost fairly quickly.

However, simply having a barbell used in workouts does not mean you are guaranteed to get stronger. For example, Olympic lifts, these aren’t really strength movements, they are power and dynamic based lifts. Don’t get me wrong, Olympic lifters performing cleans and snatches, for example, will still enhance some element of strength and still require high strength foundations, but the velocity of the lift is predominately down to power output.

This stems from the baseline of strength they have obtained throughout the years – from squats, deadlifts, presses, and many other accessory movements – of which are performed at slower velocities, to work on this max strength.

Let’s look at the clean. The first pull, which is essentially a deadlift to the knee, is often at a slower velocity, emphasizing a key strength movement. Then the transition and 2nd pull are much faster, as the barbell magnitude is now less than the force being produced, thus causing the upward movement and that ‘weightless’ feeling.

Now take the bottom of the catch, where it can be a grind to stand back up. It is important to have that strength element of what is essentially a concentric front squat, often performed at a lower velocity than that mid-portion of the lift. Yes, this is just an example and obviously for movements such as Olympic lifts and gymnastics, such as muscle-ups, etc. strength is a big factor, but technique in these areas is also key.

So back to the programming, I digressed slightly there… The programming has been a focus of ‘practice’ moving towards ‘training’. This means getting used to increase the intensity in the compound lifts in order to obtain a good amount of strength. Then pushing them with supersets, thus causing that extra bit of fatigue, whilst also supplementing the lift.

Then the technique side of things; pistols, ring muscle-ups, split jerks, snatches, etc. These have often been more technique focused, in a closed environment of learning; breaking the movement down and focusing on each area individually. Once a solid technique is developed it is then gradually paired with the strength, meaning the different elements of the movements coincide a lot easier. We can then start to practice then in a more open environment (in WOD’s), but also under more intensity (load).

Then we push into the training facet, which has happened more so over these past 4 weeks, from adding in some of these more complex gymnastics movements into WOD’s or EMOM’s, to allow us to work on them in more of a fatigued state – assisting our cognitive ability to remember movements under stress. This, in line with a cardio element, gets our heart rate up and causes the movement to be challenged, of which we would experience in the Open or any other CrossFit competitions.

So to conclude, this right now is the phase in which we ‘train’ these movements. Then, come September, we will be preparing for the Open (ALREADY!). This will involve re-visiting past open WOD’s, and increasing the intensity and focus on any particular weaknesses we may need to tighten up, whilst still maintaining key, foundational strength levels, but maybe in a more ‘fun’ fashion!