Behind the WOD

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Glossary

Before I begin to give you a little glimpse into what goes into programming our workouts, I thought a little glossary of some common terms as they pertain to this post would be appropriate. Those of you who have been at this for 6+ months are probably super familiar with these…

AMRAP: As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible.
CrossFit: Constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. If you haven’t committed this to memory yet, I recommend doing so. People will ask, and since you most likely are following rule #1 of CF: always talk about CrossFit, you’ll want to be prepared with this catchy little phrase.
Girls: CrossFit benchmark workouts with female names. They are not named after specific girls, but when Coach Glassman was asked why girl names, his response was: “anything that leaves you on the floor looking up at the sky and wondering what the hell just happened should have a girl’s name.”
Heroes: CrossFit benchmark workouts that are named after fallen military personnel, law enforcement officers and firefighters. These workouts are a way of honoring these heroes.
Hopper: Think lottery ball style selector, but instead of lucky numbers, it delivers different kinds of fun torture.
Met-Con: Short for metabolic conditioning
Oly: Olympic Lifts – Snatch, Clean, Jerk, and often accessory lifts relating to the main olympic lifts. In the case of this post, can also mean the first portion of a typical WOD.
PR: Personal Record. In Australia they use PB – personal best. Crazy aussies. No wonder their toilet water spins the wrong way.
Skill: A movement requiring practice and technique, not only power/strength. In the case of this post, can also mean the first portion of a typical WOD.
Strength: In the case of this post, it is usually the first portion of a typical WOD (see below). Obviously also refers to having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.
Unknown and Unknowable: What we’re preparing for. Basically the idea that we may someday be faced with any number of tasks, and we would like to be as proficient as possible in accomplishing those tasks.
WOD: Workout of the Day

Back Story

Once you’ve sunk your teeth into CrossFit, it’s natural to start thinking about why we do what we do. As in, where do the workouts come from and how do we pick them. Though we’re trying to prepare for the unknown and unknowable, that doesn’t necessarily mean the preparation is random. Though it may seem that way from time to time, and it’s certainly valuable to do a hopper style workout occasionally, the reality is that the preparation has to be well rounded.

We approach programming the workouts from many angles in terms of movements, time domains, pacing, variance (and sporadic lack of), cns affects, recovery, and audience to name a few. It’s really an endless juggling of factoring a plethora of variables to generate hopefully the best results.

Even results can mean so many things. There are physical results which could be broadly described as how your body changes, adapts, and improves. There are mental results which generally speaking affect how you become more mentally tough as you put your body under physical stress. There are joyful results which I would describe as the level of fun you’re having in performing the workouts and acquiring new skills or improving/refining old ones.

So all of these factors play a role in the goals of programming, let’s take a closer look at some more detail on how that programming and scope of goals gets put into action.

Strengths, Oly, Skills, and Much More

A typical WOD will be broken into 2 or more parts. In most cases, the first portion will be working on either a strength or skill. These are broad categories that cover a whole bunch of movements and ideas. Here’s a little break down.

Powerlifting

Squats, deadlifts, bench press. There are many variations within these. You’ll see us program back squats, front squats, overhead squats, all of these with a tempo, wide leg and narrow leg versions, box squats like yesterday, and many more. The name of the game is usually variety. We’re trying to be well rounded, remember.

In the case of the squat, and just how important it is, we will go in and out of cycles. These squat cycles can last from 8 to 16 weeks, and their main goal is to get you stronger in the squat, which definitely has carry over to so many things.

Deadlifts are super important on many levels. They are great for developing your posterior chain, and are also incredibly practical. Think moving (many, many boxes and large furniture), lifting a heavy object that is trapping someone, etc.

The bench press might be the least practical of the powerlifting movements, though certainly has its place in strength development. As far as bent arm pushing goes (which is what the bench press represents), there are many ways to train this strength, and often times the bodyweight counterparts (push-up, dip, hspu) prove to be more beneficial in terms of carry over to other tasks (I’m sure I may have just pissed off some bench press die hards – sorry). This is one of the reasons you won’t see the bench press come up as often as squats or deadlifts.

Oly

The olympic lifts consist of the Snatch and Clean & Jerk. They might be the most technical movements we do in CrossFit, and also the ones which require the most power. They are great for developing explosive power, and that’s why any athlete who needs power of any kind will train them often and hard.

Skills

There are many movements that fall into the category of skills. From rope climbs to kipping pull-ups, handstands to pistols. Basically movements which require as much technique as they do strength, sometimes even more. There are no shortcuts for establishing proficiency at these. In just about every case, they require a bunch of practice and a dedicated effort to improve. In some cases they also require curing some mobility issues, which can require some practice in a different manner.

Programming

We give a lot of thought into what we program to give you enough exposure to all of the above, and some unique movements which fall a little outside of what I’ve mentioned. The idea is to practice the major lifts often in many variations, pepper in skill work so that you’re progressing with your technique, and throw some curve balls at you from time to time. All to get you moving better, getting stronger, and becoming healthier. Not to mention while PR’ing all over the place.

Met-Con

The met-con is probably what a lot of people love about CrossFit. It’s where the clock comes in to play. Met-cons can vary from as little as 2-3 minutes, up to over an hour. It’s really important to test so many things to improve conditioning. The magic of a well programmed met-con is often difficult to see in the programming stages. It’s not until it’s tested that you get the real feel for how sucky and awesome it can be.

Personally I’m a big fan of the short and sprinty type of met-cons. But I know that’s only one small part of the met-con world. There are so many things to test. Heavy and short. Light and long. Intervals with longer rests to create super high output, and intervals with very little rest to improve pacing and cardiovascular conditioning. Really, the combinations are infinite, and I suppose that’s one of the things that makes it so much fun.

Besides all the fun, new combinations programming met-cons can present, there are the classics. The girls, heroes, and some of the other benchmarks (filthy fifty, fight gone bad). They are benchmarks because they have been proven to illicit a certain demand and result. We will do these from time to time to measure our progress, and because they can be a sick CrossFit style version of fun.

Typical Week/Month

In any given month you will see a wide variety of the above. Combinations of strengths and met-cons which will test your ability to recover day to day and even within a single session. You’ll see that we give a lot of thought to hit all the major lifts in many varieties. We pair them with met-cons that we know will test your abilities in many time domains and modalities, not to mention improve your mental fortitude. There is quite a bit of magic to programming well, and now you have a glimpse into what goes into it. Truth is that it’s a complicated process that goes far beyond a simple blog post. It takes experience, knowledge, and a real firm grasp on the combination of the two.

Workout of the Day 9/3/2014 – Wednesday

Athlete

Skill/Strength.
3 Sets:
Max Effort L-Sit Hold
Rest as needed
60′ Banded KB Overhead Carry With PVC (.75 pd @ red/.5 pd @ purple)
Rest as needed

Time to complete: 15 minutes. See demo video below.

Met-Con.
AMRAP 12:
6 Hang Power Snatches (85#/55#)
6 Overhead Squats
20 Double Unders

Competitor

Skill/Strength.
3 Sets:
Accumulate 30s Ring Support Hold (externally rotated shoulders, arms locked, rings turned out)
Rest as needed
60′ Banded KB Overhead Carry With PVC (1 pd @ blue/.75 pd @ red or blue)
Rest as needed

Time to complete: 15 minutes. See demo video below.

Met-Con.
AMRAP 12:
8 Hang Power Snatches (105#/75#)
8 Overhead Squats
30 Double Unders